Puzzles, posts, news and general word-chat.

Diabolically Arcane

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WoW: Vapourware

16 October, 2017

VAPOURWARE - new product, especially software, that is announced or promoted, yet is still to be produced or made available [Latin vapor - steam, heat - plus -ware] Consumers will stall on IT purchases in constant wait of the latest vapourware.


11 October, 2017

Contest time on the DA blog, your chance to win your own Gargantuan Book of Words - an omnibus of brain-games, quizzes, riddles, word stories and a list like the one below. 

The Impasta List, as I call it. Said aloud, with the right Roman rhythm, each double sounds like a type of pasta, from plasma telly to Monday lotto.

For a chance to grab Gargantuan, your challenge is twofold - and molto piccante. First, can you provide any more additions to the list - bona-fide or bogus couplings that mimic pasta? And second, can you contrive a classy clue for any of the impastas already listed here? No need for definition - just wordplay only.

To ensure fairness, choose a pasta-flavoured alias. And to ease admin, please assemble your best TWO examples, from the TWO categories, before this Sunday at 5pm. I will announce the winner late next week. Dig in.











WoW: Abderian

9 October, 2017

ABDERIAN [ab-DAIR-ee-uhn] - prone to incessant or idiotic laughter [From Abdera, a town in Thrace, where Democritus - the Laughing Philosopher - was born.] When one chuckle ripples through a group of friends, the mood soon turns abderian. 

WoW: Matutolypea

2 October, 2017

MATUTOLYPEA [mah-TOOT-uh-LO-pee-ah] - waking in a bad mood; ill-humour in the morning [Hybrid of Matuta Mater, the Roman Goddess of the dawn, plus Greek lype, grief or sorrow'] Those who habitually get out of the wrong side of the bed demonstrate matutolypea.

WoW: Synderesis

25 September, 2017

SYNDERESIS [sin-duh-REE-sis] - the innate capacity to understand ethics; the human disposition to morality; also SYNTERESIS (From Greek synteresis a guarding). Our conscience - the guiding voice within - underpins the notion of synderesis.

Brand Place/ment

19 September, 2017

On the back of this week's JETTATURA - a Volkswagen model beside a southern NSW beach - this Storm is out to continue the feat. Somewhere, somehow - let me explain.

Showing no shame, and getting parochial, your clue needs to enlist both a brand and a placename. Maybe that's GREECE evacuated, combining with NIVEA to spell GRIEVANCE. Or perhaps it's HAMPSTEAD boycotting AMP to create DEATHS. (Seems I'm tapping my inner Goth this morning...)

Global or local. Big brand or car model. However you can fuse the two elements, using sound or deletion, the whole thing working as a viable clue.

Of course, other wordplay elements may be involved. Or perhaps your answer carries its own place/brand combo, much like JETTATURA. So long as a trademark and something-like-Denmark get a gig.

Tricky? Sure. Here's a few whirls:

Bendigo's ultimate pet food a gem = OPAL

Around outback, IKEA prepared food = I(NT)AKE

Bizarrely Anita defends back in Africa = T(ANZ)ANIA

Maybe US and I brewed this! = BUDWEISER

Start your combine-harvesting, and let's see who wins the brief.

WoW: Jettatura

18 September, 2017

JETTATURA [jett-uh-TOO-ra] - the evil eye; bad luck [From Southern Italian, iettatura, hoodoo or jinx] Rankle a Sicilian and traditionally you may cop the jettatura, or a horse's head in the queen-size.

WoW: Kolinsky

11 September, 2017

KOLINSKY [koh-LIN-skee] - a dark brown weasel with bushy tail, found from Siberia to Japan; Siberian weasel. [Derived from Kola, a port in NW Russia, +plus faux-Russian suffix of -insky.] Do Siberians spend kopecks to play whack-a-kolinsky?

WoW: Mazeppa

4 September, 2017

MAZEPPA [mah-ZEPP-uh] - person bound to a wild force against their will [Named after Ukrainian Cossack Ivan Stepanovyc Mazepa, and Byron's subsequent poem Mazeppa.] In that poem, Ivan Mazeppa is punished for his affair with Countess Theresa, lashed to a wild horse by the Cossack's cuckold.

Would-Be Words

29 August, 2017

This week - at the Melb Writers' Fest - I rejoice in Shakespeare words (gloomy, scuffle) and Shakespeare quotes (insert favourite here) with gallant teens. Though let's not forget The Bard saw several of his coinages splutter, never reaching the popular lexicon.

Hence we toast those would-be words for this week's Storm, a dozen words Bill built, only to collapse soon after. Can you create a clue for any of these, using both wordplay AND definition this time? To quote King John, you 'can play fast and loose.' For the play's the thing...

BOGGLER - one who hesitates

CARLOT - churl; boor; bumpkin

CONGREEING - agreeing en masse

FAP - sozzled

FOXSHIP - wiliness, cunning

INCARNADINE - bright crimson

NEAR-LEGGED - of a horse with narrow stance


QUATCH - chubby

TANLING - either one seized with hopes of unattainable pleasure or sunbather [scholars can't decide - take your pick!]

VASTIDITY - magnitude

WAPPENED - corrupt

WoW: Flivver

28 August, 2017

FLIVVER - hand-propelled railway cart; jalopy - or inferior car; any item of poor quality; child' scooter [Originally a failure, blending flopper and fizzler] Historical TV ads remind me that travelling by flivver is hard yakka.

WoW: Noolbenger

21 August, 2017

NOOLBENGER [NOOL-ben-guh] - small nectar-feeding possum of SW Australia, also known as the honey possum, or tait [From Nyungar, nulbungur] The giant jarrahs of Pemberton often harbour the most diminutive noolbenger.

Meh 25

15 August, 2017

Not every clue can be a zinger. Some galumph, while others need orthopaedic shoes. Like this bunch, if I'm being honest. For different reasons (explained in brackets), I reckon these offerings could do with a refit.

Do you agree, or am I being harsh? Feel free to air your thoughts or craft some nimbler alternatives, using the same answers as your own.

1. Piqued person who helps actor for TV = CROSS-DRESSER [A few flaws from Times 10947 - dresser is dresser in both senses, and where's the definition?]

2. Dressing from clinic = MAYO [Philistine etches a neat picture, but I reckon the Mayo Clinic needs a stronger definition. Love the seaming; not sold on the def.]

3. No holding boy in battle = NASEBY [Seriously, SEB is boy? Why not LUC or ELI or GAZ. You feel me, Times 10926?]

4. Leap by black fighter = JUMP JET [Jump jets jump, hence their name. From Monk]

5. Former president getting paper's gossip = BUSH TELEGRAPH [Again from Monk, beset by a second hookworm]

6. I don’t believe a chap who thinks god exists = ATHEIST [More a paraprosdokian - or twisted sentence - than a clue, from Sunday Times 1039]

7. Ruler’s operation in wartime = OVERLORD  [The Normandy landing was called Overlord after overlord, the word, or ruler. Times 10811]

8. Settle for salary increase? = PAY UP [Orlando pushing the envelope of a double-def, but not far enough for mine.]

Agree? Dispute? Share your own views & clues.

WoW: Linsey-woolsey

14 August, 2017

LINSEY-WOOLSEY - a thin fabric of linen and coarse wool; slang for nonsense [From Lindsey, Suffolk village where the fabric was first made, plus wool with a rhyming suffix.] World leaders need to speak plain truths, avoiding bigotry or linsey-woolsey.

Back In Biz (and WoW)

9 August, 2017

COBWEB PAGE - any web page that hasn't been updated in ages [Earliest citation 1995, by US gamer-writer Steve Jackson.] From the day DA missed paying his domain annuity, his home site resembled a cobweb page. 

The Burn List

1 August, 2017

Time for some Storm fun, manipulating the names of people recently gazumped by Trump. Whether they've been sacked, or demoted, or denounced, the souls are many, with so many ripe for some cryptic shenanigans.

No call for defintions, unless they happen to serve your wordplay. Former press secretary SEAN SPICER, for one, could just be: Increases parking blitz. Or: State fleeced chef at times. Or whatever wordplay takes your fancy, just as Trump runs amok in the Oval Office. Have fun, and may the best administrator endure.










Hope you're feeling fired.

WoW: Plafond

31 July, 2017

PLAFOND [plah-FON] - vaulted or ornate ceiling [From Middle French, platfond - ceiling, literally 'flat bottom' - or underside] Rococo atria are notable for their jaw-dropping plafonds.

WoW: Quersprung

24 July, 2017

QUERSPRUNG [KVAIR-sproohng] - jump turn where a skier lands at right angles to the pole/s [German - diagonal jump] Deep in winter, abandon your crosswords and go cut the odd quersprung amid the moguls.

WoW: Fearonomics

17 July, 2017

FEARONOMICS - the use of fear to sell products and services; the negative impact of fear on economic activity [Hybrid first cited by US journo Stefan Holt in 2008] Panic-mongering among key leaders can foment fearonomics.  

Two-Way Works

11 July, 2017

In case you missed the omem - oops, memo - this week is Palindrome Week (yay!), with every abbreviated date capable of reading two ways.

A prime chance then to consider some palindromic shenanigans. Instead of craftig cryptic clues, this week's challenge relies on you choosing an actor or author as a means of presenting their latest title. For the full effect, add a short synopsis, like these timid entrees, to whet your etiteppa:

Ruffalo - 'Olaf Fur' [dram-rom tracing the Viking monopoly of the ermine trade]

Tara Moss - 'Soma Rat' [Brave New World meets Room 101]

M. Drabble - 'LB Bard' (M) [Lyrical biopic of Australia's cruciverbal pioneer]

David Tennant - 'Nan Net Diva, D' [Searing exploration of 'D', a crochet-loving troll]

Soduk to the best book & funniest (or finest) film. Feel free to push the formula in maverick directions, using initials or adding a few extra details, as this week we celebrate a timeless form.

Gargantuan News

Yep, my Gargantuan Book of Words is big & full of words. Not just English but secret codes, Papuan pidgin, Zulu worms, sound FX, funny goldfish, letter origami. You get the drift? It's big. It's fun. And it's out now


Gargantuan Book of Words

Sneeze words. Fake pasta. Viking slang. Gargantuan is a jumbo jumble of puzzles & games, mazes & quizzes, tailor-made for that wordy wonderkid in your life. Or anyone in love with letters, secret codes, puns, rhymes, emoji & all things languagey. More here 

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Packed with games, pickles, codes and cheesy puns, Wordburger is your chance to be a champion puzzler in 20 quick bites. Ideal for wordy kids keen to open a new language door, or grown-ups who want to cut their cryptic teeth. Click here. 

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Riddles in song, in code, in pictures. From Ireland & Wonderland, Einstein & Pompeii. Riddledom reveals 101 wry questions from 50+ languages & shares their secrets. A book to unlock culture via conundrum. Order here.

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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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