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Diabolically Arcane

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WoW: Rasceta

26 June, 2017

RASCETA [rah-SEET-au] - the wrinkles that traverse your inner wrist. [From Late Latin, wrist.] Palm readers possibly view rasceta as your fate's footnote, so to speak.

Eclipsing Picaroon

20 June, 2017

A brainstorm with a novel tweak this week, blending with that other blog category: Clues of Repute. Rather than parade the cream of clues from recent weeks, as I typically do in the COR mode, I'm offering nine answers, each one plucked from a recent Picaroon grid.

Picaroon, in case you haven't struck the scoundrel, is a relative newcomer to the Guardian stable, and a classy compiler into the bargain. Here's a mini-profile on the enigmatic one, as well as some of his favourite clues. 

Yet none applies to this list words below, nine words souvenired from more recent Picaroon puzzles. Each own stylish clues that I'll share next week. Before then however, can you compose your own clues for this same bunch, to see whether your own creations eclipse the nova in question?










Who'll outshine whom? Let's see, with Picaroon's original clues to appear next week, once you've given these words your own wrangling.

WoW: L'appel du vide

19 June, 2017

L'APPEL DU VIDE [lah-PELL-doo-VEED] - irrational urge to engage in destructive behaviour, such as leaping off a cliff, or swerve into oncoming cars [French: the appeal of the void] Existential angst is often typified by l'appel du vide. 

WoW: Hanafuda

12 June, 2017

HANAFUDA [HAN-uh-FOO-dah] - Japanese playing cards divided into 12 suits to represent the months, where each suit is symbolised by a flower [Literally 'flower cards'] The hanfuda deck comprises 48 cards, with two standard cards, and two special cards, per floral suit.

Fake Clues

8 June, 2017

This week's Friday Folly (early edition) was inspired by an SK clue due to hit the Big Issue soon. And if you're not buying the BI for the goodness of your soul, then do it for the wordplay pleasure. Three regular wranglers on this site - SK, CB and SL - are the inhouse stable, inheriting the gig from the graceful RK a year back.

So anyway, SK's clue:

Notices errors with 'True' instead of 'False' = DETECTS (where DEFECTS - errors - changes its veracity from F to T)

Neat clue, and a fruitful idea for some fun. But rather than cook up crossword clues, let's just present hints to the T/F or F/T double you've contrived. For example:

Puzzle fight = BAFFLE BATTLE

Analysing session = SIFTING SITTING

Answers can transfer either away, adopting the F or the T. Just as the makeover need not be complete, such as SK's clue - where one or both relevant letters may switch. So long as the couple captures that fidelity flip-flop. To warm you up for your own creations:

DA1 - Flimsy path

DA2 - Tender swimmer

DA3 - Alternative to Eucharist wine?

DA4 - Introduces Wotif to Singapore?

WoW: Wisenheimer

5 June, 2017

WISENHEIMER [WISE-en-HI-muh] smart alec; brainiac [Comical early 1900s coinage, splicing wise and the Jewish suffic common to Oppenheimer & Guggenheimer]. Any lab-coated boffin or IT Poindexter could be classified as a wisenheimer.

Consonant Jam

30 May, 2017

The right balance of vowels and consonants is vital in the anagram racket. Look at our current WoW entry of SEMELPAROUS - perfect for cocktailing - compared to a nightmare like SYZYGY or ESCHSCHOLTZIA - a plant family including the Californian poppy.

In fact the technical name for a shortness of breath is tachydysrhythmia, which gives me tachydysrhythmia every time I consider its anagram potential.

That's why this week's Storm highlights words like highlight, where the anagram option is not so handy, obliging you to create other means and recipes to forge a clue.

Of course, you may defy the odds to resort to anagram, or a reductive anagram (adding a letter or two and then mixing.) Or plump for a different formula altogether.

No need for a definition, unless that suits your clue's surface sense. Here below are the horrors:












WoW: Semelparous

29 May, 2017

SEMELPAROUS [SEM-el-PARIS] - producing only once in a lifetime [Coined by evolutionary biologist Lamont Cole, via Latin semel (once), plus pario, to beget] Mayflies, squid and Pacific salmon are semelparous species. (The antonym is iteroparous.)

WoW: Oniomania

22 May, 2017

ONIOMANIA [on-EE-oh-MAY-nee-uh] - compulsive urge to buy things; acquisitive obsession [From Greek onios - for sale - via onos (price), plus mania] Shopaholics suffer oniomania.

WoW: Shpadoinkle

15 May, 2017

SHPADOINKLE [shpar-DOINK-uhl] - splendid, fabulous [Coined by South Park's Trey Parker in Cannibal! The Musical (2001),  later used in Buffy the Vampire Slayer by Joss Whedon, so popularising the superlative.] Every week we seek to wow the WoW forum with the most shpadoinkle clue.

Grid, Set, Sam

8 May, 2017

If you heard the forum murmurs in the last few weeks, you'll know there's a treat in store. As part of a sporadic series of guest puzzles, our own Sam has set a maverick challenge for you to savour.

The pattern alone will trigger alarm bells: this is a crossword with a universal gimmick, as hinted in the lone two clues untainted by the theme. Beware a few obscurer answers (such as 12-across), but that's not detracting from the engineering feat of interlocking. 

Not to mention a very neat trick, or what I called DIWITOT (Damn I Wish I'd Thought Of That). Download and have a crack. And share your feedback and hints in the Comments. I'm sure Sam will enjoy your responses as much as you'll relish the puzzle.

Sam's Puzzle: https://goo.gl/qxzAGH 

WoW: Baisemain

8 May, 2017

BAISEMAIN [BAIZ-main] - the formal kissing of hands, as afforded a revered figure [From French 'to kiss' plus main, or hand] Parisian smoothies execute an instinctive baisemain on meeting a young woman.

Sunday Times 1044

2 May, 2017

If I had to point the finger, I'd single out Anax - the alias of crossword maven Dean Mayer - to be the mind behind Sunday Times 1044, published 10 days ago in the Weekend Oz.

Originally this week I'd aimed to run Sam's debut puzzle (a tech issue still needs to be sorted), so please see how you fare in unravelling these seven zingers, each steeped in subtlety, and all drawn from the one beautiful torment.

To ease the squeeze, I've provided each answer's initial:

1. Promoting material that pig feeds on (6) - A

2. One way of singing 'Beat It' (4) - S

3. To call, but not ring (4) - S

4. Frightening clue I had to cut (12) - I

5. Being cosy? (8,7) - C

6. Piece of land needs flowers (7) - L

7. Dirt road in our village (far end of it) (6) - O

Share or plead hints in the Comments below. 

WoW: Claddagh

1 May, 2017

CLADDAGH [KLAH-dah] - amulet or ring in the form of two hands clasping a crowned heart [Named after the Irish fishing village - literally 'stony shore' in Gaelic - that first forged the trinket.] The claddagh is a traditional Irish token of friendship. 

Pirate Brands

26 April, 2017

You have to admire the ingenuity of Asian pirates, tweaking well-known Western brands into pseudo-known imitations. Here's a list of my favourites, from Johnny Walker Red Labial to IVIKE (do not adjust your screens).

Fakery of course also invites a burst of cryptic makery. With no call for the definition element, who can rip off the best piece of wordplay for these bazaar rip-offs?

Michaelsoft Bindows

(Johnny Walker) Red Labial

Sunbucks (Coffee)



Pizza Huh

Specialman (as in Clark Kentish)





Who will best foster the impostors?

WoW: Ikat

24 April, 2017

IKAT [EE-kat] - Indonesian dyeing technique relying on sealed bundles of thread in dye-resistant wrapping [From Indonesian - to bind] Many hall runners display the vibrant outcomes of the ikat technique. 

The Old Ways

18 April, 2017

Remember that title. The author is Robert MacFarlane, and I've not read a finer book about landscape, and our own place in it. 

Phrases like: '...where the sea shampooed the rocks...'

Or: '...the moor has the appearance of chamois leather.'

Or: '...yachts white as toothpaste.'

It's divine, and diverse, with MacFarlane trekking and sailing the faint paths of earlier pilgrims and traders, describing his progress from the Orkneys to Tibet. Truth be told I'm growing steadily reluctant to reach the journey's end.

Though by way of compensation, the book's endpages include a splendid glossary of terrain terms, which I've sampled below. See who can clue these geo-gems the best, serving up both definition and wordplay. Set the pace:

bealach - pass between two hills

carr - fen with low bushes

currach - wickerwork boat

eoliths - stones bearing evidence of ancient workings

ghillie - fishing guide

guga - young gannet

immram - wonder-voyage

machair - coastal grassland

mycelia - fungal network of delicate filaments

qasr - stone tower

sarsen - isolated boulder on a chalk down

stravaig - to meander

zawn - sea-cliff's fissure

Enjoy your clues - and the views (if you get round to MacFarlane's stravaigs).

WoW: Skiagraphy

17 April, 2017

SKIAGRAPHY [SKEE-a-gruhf-ee] - (a) use of shadowing to create depth in artwork; (b) historical use of X-rays as diagnostic tool; (c) craft of sundial-making (From Greek skiagraphia, skia ‘shadow’, plus graphe - writing or drawing.) Fans of the S-Town podcast will know that John B McElmore is adept in skiagraphy of the (c) kind.

WoW: Sclaff

10 April, 2017

SCLAFF [rhymes with naff] - to strike the ground immediately behind a golf ball; the poor stroke itself [From Scottish 'sclaff' - to strike with a flat surface'] If you need to replace a divot before the ball, then you're guilty of a sclaff.

Noah's Arkiv

5 April, 2017

Noah Webster (1758-1843) was a curious sausage. Or make that curius sorsage, the US lexicographer intent on altering the spelling of dozens of aberrant English words, trying to bring some kind of fonetik order into the Anglo-Saxon bedlam.

With some words he succeeded, such as jail, color, plow and center. While others, like the 12 below, never quite found their place in the dictionary.

But that doesn't meen we can't make merry with Noah's offcuts, presuming all 12 made the big leeg. In fact the new orthography opens the way to fresh cryptography, beleev me. So let's wangle these Websterisms, with both wordplay and definition as part of each clue. Should be kwite a hoot.













Hoo will make the best Noah aha?

Wordburger Awaits!

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Recent Comments

Riddledom Rave

If you missed my riddle chat with Richard Fidler, then feel free to slurp the podcast at http://ab.co/1I9t1x5

Text-speak is creeping into Scrabble. Where do you sit?
OBVS I'm fine with it
Entrenched stuff - like LOL and OMG - but no more.
Words With Friends, maybe. Scrabble, no
Let the 'real' dictionaries decide first
Just the handy stuff, like FAQ and EUW
I mean, WTF?! No way
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