Puzzles, posts, news and general word-chat.

Diabolically Arcane

Bingo. You’ve reached David Astle dot com, a carnival of words, puzzles and more words. Welcome aboard, and have fun.

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WoW: Minyan

19 March, 2018

MINYAN [MIN-yun] - quorum of ten men (or elsewhere men and women) over the age of 13 required for traditional Jewish worship. (From Hebrew, literally 'reckoning'). You'd need to pass over Passover without a minyan.

Clues of Repute 60

16 March, 2018

Had to share the joys of this week's Paul crossword, one of the year's best. Lots of classy 4s, but so many other things to love.

My fave is Clue 4 below, the last one into the grid. While Clue 5 calls on a less than common word, but worth the getting with the cool wordplay.

You can download the joy here, but in the meantime, see how you fare with these staggering seven clues I'd ticked:

1. Criminal admits licking something fried (7)

2. Best man didn't notice a formality in speech (2,5)

3. Group rooted to the spot, force people to speak? (5)

4. Hearing case, figure in dock (8)

5. Two characters together, like sheep (6)

6. Tube from Chelsea, or taxi? (5)

7. Land seen in charming drawing? (8)

Enjoy the brain-bending. 


14 March, 2018

A puzzle to warm your cryptic engines, based on a simple switch. LOAF can swap its 'crusts' to make FOAL, paving the way for a clue like this:

Horse-head? (4,4) = LOAF FOAL

Stretching the word length, you could clue:

Colander coaches (8,8) = STRAINER TRAINERS

You get the drift. A teaser to reset the neurons. See how many of these you can snaffle, and feel free to add your own [with initials and your own clue numbers] in the forum.

DA1. Staggered footballer (6,6)

DA2. Tantrum? (6,6)

DA3. Said "Dithmith"? (6,6)

DA4. Again went through bowl? (7,7)

DA5. Waterbirds swipe (5,5)

DA6. Waterbirds bolt (5,5)

DA7. Gaga gloves? (7,7)

DA8. Spongy plant (4,4)

Can you crack all eight? And can you compose your own?

WoW: Bashwagon

12 March, 2018

BASHWAGON - a group of people sharing a dislike for someone or something, often assembled both virally and virulently. [Neologistic twist of bandwagon.] When a public figure fails in their duties, they are often beset by a bashwagon.

WoW: Bullimong

5 March, 2018

BULLIMONG [bool-lee-MONG] - blend of oats, peas and vetches used as cattle fodder; slang for foul language [Origin unknown] Mrs Brown's cows are thriving on a bullimong regimen. 

The Nagging Nine [Huh 56]

28 February, 2018

For those who missed my recent Wordplay column, I talked about crossword-cracking as the equal of keeping a crypto-journal. When I travel, I solve, and solving is a sly avenue to seeing and recording what's around you. 

But along the way, working through the old Times collection I carried, there remained nine clues I've yet to fully unravel. (Several solver-readers rejoiced to hear about this hurdle, I should add. It's called Schadenfreude.)

So here they are. Some with 'speculated answers' and other solutions left blank. Two challenges: can you confirm each answer; and can you parse how the wordplay works? Your contributions are as close as I get to travel insurance.

1. Holmes booked a table for this despot = 'AUTOCRAT'

2. The drone of woodworking (6-2)

3. Where light may be located, in secret = 'UNDER THE ROSE'

4. Stone frigate (8)

5. Cut grass = 'SPLIT'

6. No cooker for a consumer = 'EATER'

7. Voice strong objection to fashion (6)

8. A lot of men take retaliation on club = 'BATTALION' [It must be BATTALION, since the answer fits. Club = BAT, but what's going on with TALION? Is that a Middle-earth allusion that's over my noggin?]

9. Lord of the jungle = TARZAN?  [Where's the cryptic element - or have I guessed wrongly?]

WoW: Quicquidlibet

26 February, 2018

QUICQUIDLIBET [quick-QUID-lee-bet] - person who does whatever they please. [From Latin 'quicquid, quidquid' for 'whatever,' plus  'libet' meaning 'it pleases.'] Deranged tyrants are classical quicquidlibets. 

Clues of Repute 59

20 February, 2018

Next weekend's Wordplay column is how travel and crosswords go hand-in-hand. Late last year in Hungary and the Balkans, I cracked 2 or 3 puzzles per diem, using each grid as a covert journal in buses and coffeehouses. The same habit also lent a random supply of English, more fuel for future clues and column ideas.

A self-sustaining circle really. As for the book to offer nourishment, I found an old 1998 Times collection beside the Houdini museum in Budapest. This week I'm sharing the book's best clues for you to solve. While next week, as the Wordplay column outlines, I aim to showcase the nine clues I'm still struggling to fathom.

Enjoy the column - in Sydney's Spectrum this Saturday. And enjoy these superlative clues, as I did in transit. (Beware - Number 2 is a lulu!)

1. Attempt to reform some liar? (8)

2. Either part of Sinai? (5)

3. Saw result of one footballer being off? (5)

4. One may get loaded, playing poker with cash (9)

5. Ruined volume needs fresh cover (9)

6. Part-time medic? (6)

7. What perhaps to do with poodle (French miniature) (5)

8. Supporters of Napoleon guillotined despicable people (7)

Can you crack all eight, with possible hints to be found among fellow solvers in the Comments? And can you compose your own clues for any of the same solutions?

WoW: Druxy

19 February, 2018

DRUXY [noun, adjective] - (of) something which looks good on the outside, but proves to be rotten within; of timber with streaks of decay.  [Alteration of earlier dricksie, from drix, decayed part of timber.] Beware: many a druxy presents as flawless on Tinder.

WoW: Hashmagandy

12 February, 2018

HASHMAGANDY [hash-MAR-gan-dee] - bland stew; any insipid army dish [WW1 ANZAC slang, a corruption of salmagundi - dish of spiced meat & beetroot] Army base cooks - or bait-layers - were notorious for their hashmagandy du jour.

WoW: Groak

5 February, 2018

GROAK - hungrily look at another eating; staring with palpable envy [Via Scottish, including the variants growk, grook, grouk, groak, groke or groach] Labradors are the habitual groakers of the mammal kingdom.

Huh 55

30 January, 2018

Late last year I skimmed the Balkans, savouring Sarajevo while a book of Times crosswords as I went. Dated back to 1998, the book was damn fine company, offering plenty of wry clues, as well as handy notepaper in the margins.

Yet some clues resisted scrutiny. Or a quick parsing at least, such as the octet on show, all drawn from the same book: The Times Crosswords Book 21. Any help on my huhs would be welcome. And see who can compose the wiliest alternative clues for any of the same solutions.

1. First road turns into railway station = VICTORIA

2. Marx, nonetheless, unwanted in party? = HARP [I get the HARP/o trick, but why so unpopular at parties?]

3. It describes the investment of a decade = ILIAD [Classical reference over my bronze visor?]

4. Partner to lead? = ESCORT 

5. A seat that rider initially gets into with legs apart = ASTRADDLE [Where did ADDLE come from?]

6. Voice strong objection to fashion = CREATE

7. Metal ship = BRITANNIA

8. Compare edges of iron coin found in a bit of China? = COFFEE-CUP

WoW: Telestich

29 January, 2018

TELESTICH - tuh-LEST-tic - short poem where the last letters of each successive line combine to spell a word or message. [From Greek telos - end, plus stich - line] Embedding a word in a rhyming telestich is ten times tougher than a free-verse example.

WoW: Witzelsucht

29 January, 2018

WITZELSUCHT [VIT-sell-sookt] - neurological impulse to make puns or tell inappropriate jokes [From German  witzeln, to joke, plus sucht - addiction or desire] Any card-carrying member of the Dad Union suffers a degree of Witzelsucht.

WoW: Kiasu

22 January, 2018

KIASU [key-AR-su] - person ruled by self-interest, often manifesting in the dread of missing out on something. [From Chinese (Hokkien), lit. ‘scared to lose’] FOMO fever is embodied by Beijing's own kiasu.

WoW: Sainfoin

15 January, 2018

SAINFOIN [SANE-foyn] - pink-flowered plant of the pea family, grown widely for livestock fodder. [From French saintfoin, after modern Latin sanum foenum, or ‘healthy hay’, in reference to its purported medicinal properties.] "Hey Madeleine, your bovine looks divine after her sainfoin regimen."

See Ya Later, 2017

9 January, 2018

Regular clue-whiz and Big Issue compiler Stephen Knight (alias SK) has devised a crossword saluting a few moronic, sardonic & tonic moments of 2017.

Who knows? The grid could exhume a certain inauguration fizzer, the odd Brexit-gate, or maybe Sam Kerr's aerial somersault. Feel free to download the PDF below and test your wits, with all solvers invited to share their feedback in the Comments section. SK would be delighted. Enjoy the retrovision. 

pdf 70KB

WoW: Tantivy

8 January, 2018

TANTIVY [TAN-tee-vee] - at full tilt; a quick gallop; sound of a hunting horn imitating a speeding horse [Arguably deriving from onomatopoeia, echoing the sound of a hunting horn or galloping hooves.] The man from Snowy River rode tantivy down the spur.

WoW: Alveoliform

1 January, 2018

ALVEOLIFORM [al-vee-OH-lee-form] - shaped like a honeycomb [From Latin alve(us) - concave vessel + ole (diminutive) + form] Open-plan offices are alveoliform.

Clues of Repute - 2017 [4]

27 December, 2017

Your final tranche of ab-fab clues, harvested from the year's crop of British cryptics. Some you may have met, if you're an addict, while other will test how deep your addiction goes. Note: the final pair are both intended for DOWN solutions.

See how many you can crack solo, then consult the Comments for the hints of fellow travellers. Or relish the alternative clues for any of the same eight answers. Savour'm.

1. Attire worn by bishop? (7) [Times 11026]

2. Congestion likely here: take train (5,5) [Times 11031]

3. He wanted bottle of cordial, only laced with whisky (8,4) [Picaroon]

4. Like Inspector Clouseau's awful jewelry? (8) [Puck]

5. Axes cut perfect instrument (9) [Times 10960]

6. Competition winner awarded an Apple iPod, or the alternative (9) [Beet]

7. Transient supporter turned up to invade pitch (8) [Arachne]

8. Lie with young woman on top (8) [Vlad]

Dole out condolences, or braggadocio, below. And who can craft the niftiest alternative clue? 

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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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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