Puzzles, posts, news and general word-chat.

Diabolically Arcane

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Wordburger is the finger-licking way to crack cryptic clues. Packed with puzzles, codes, stories, jokes and how-to grids. Perfect snack for any wordy kid, or curious adult.  


23 November, 2015

If you see this post in time, why not tune your tranny to the ABC at 11am,? For anyone outside Victoria, you may just catch your blog host yapping riddles and other word riffs with Richard Fidler. The spot is live, though a podcast will bob up later in the week.

Still in cane toad country, I'm launching Wordburger at the perfect inner-city store: Where The Wild Things Are. No podcast I'm afraid, but your cue to check the burger book at your own local hangout. Ideal for that wordy munchkin in your life, or maybe an intrigued adult who wants to learn the cryptic arts one wet weekend.

A few other chats & events north of the Tweed - I'll let you know when more become available for slurping. In the meantime, to pass the time before I return midweek, try these gorgeous clues from recent Brit teasers:

1. Escort a minimum of three people (5) [Times 10391]

2. Make water boil for Earl Grey etc (7) [Brummie]

3. Wave of excessive euphoria, dropping Es (10) [Arachne]

4. Germany extremely inept as a nation (5) [Paul]

5. Litter mounts up after English proms (10) [Bonxie -  a Down] 

6. Literary type charges Kindle outside (10) [Bonxie again]

7. Soldier, died with no protection (8) [Loroso]

8. Being sacked, or I must leave business? (7) [Times 10350]

At the very least, I sense Storm potential in Clue #4's trick: any takers? Or feel free to give tips, share answers, or craft clues for matching solutions, as good as these are. Catch youse soon.

WoW: Pareidolia

23 November, 2015

PAREIDOLIA [par-ay-DOLE-ee-ah] - tendency to see facial features or a familiar pattern within a stimulus, where no such thing exists. [Greek para, 'concurrent' + eidolos 'image'] If you see contorted faces in a halved capsicum, you may well suffer paraidolia.

Claims To Fame

20 November, 2015

Folly time - a playful reward for such serious monkeying. (Congratz to Ray and Sam - alias Ronald & Extra Pickles - for scooping Wordburger. And a major huzzah for Jon whose brainteasers powered our Clayton's storm all week.)

So what's the game? When I realised Andy Warhol made an OPUS of SOUP, I began musing of other people, and places, and products, that could make equivalent claims to fame, using anagrams or other manipulations.

I'll show you what I mean:

Philip Glass - the man who made us LISTEN to SILENT

Christian Dior - the designer to put ESCORT into CORSET

Bill Leak - the man to find ART in CARTOONING

Adele - the pop star who MADE LEADING her own

Got the gimmick? Think word magic as motto. Feel free to pick a product too, a time in history, perhaps a location. So long as you apply a literal tweak to your claim. Enjoy the diversion after all the week's wondrous perversion.

Word Burghers

18 November, 2015

Hit the lights. Cue the fanfare. The time has come to go, ahem, testing, testing. And once the sound is sweet, to say, 'Here are the results from last week's Word Magic storm, with the top entrant - or two - set to score their own new Wordburger.'

Seems the mike is good. I'll proceed: 'Thanks for so many snazzy ideas, with over 50 submissions from such a snackable crowd as Dead Horse and Ronald, Extra Pickles and Vegie, Pattismith and Son of Bun, Sausage Sanga and Onassis Army Cede Bun - to name ten!'

My shortlist in order of arrival:

MUSTARD + RELISH with a tweak = MUST ADD, DELISH [Fries With That]

PAT on the back is a TAP on the back, ad infinitum [Meet Patty]

RAP = LASH, while WRAP = SHAWL [Extra Pickles]

A tale entangling PARTY - PAIR - PAR - PARITY [Pickles again]

Don't P in POOL - that's for the LOO [Vegie]

The odd of THOUGHT = HUH [Extra Pickles]


SANCTIONS = LEGIT, or LEG IT! [Pattismith]

Regular STOUT? SOT! [Vegie]

COLONEL in a CORPS, while KERNEL is a CORE [Ronald]

Grocers' APOSTROPHE is A SHOP TROPE [Fries With That]

Rowers in ARRAY looking backwards at the YARRA [Stephen Fries!! via Sam]

To quote a platitude, I'm in gratitude of your wild-minded attitude. But please step forward Ronald (my pick among the pickles), and the Extra Pickler himself, who notched three honourables. Let me know your ID on the forum, and your snail mail via email. And for those dabblers who dipped out, there's a bright yellow book going for $15 this week that Santa recommends.... Dig in.

Conundrum Now - Burger Soon

17 November, 2015

Morning word-lovers. Been a little cray-cray this week, with a family gala, then a certain baby daughter completing her secondary education. Plus a new writing project on the simmer....you get the picture.

So while I sift last week's Word Magic results to see who snaffles the new Wordburger book (or two), I thought you'd enjoy these gnarly conundrums to mull. Too difficult by Wordwit measures, but not you lot:

DA1 - What brain disorder of 12 letters can be disordered with an extra letter to spell a major tourist attraction in Europe?

DA2 - What profession can lose two letters to spell an Australian coastal town, or lose its first syllable to spell a second?

DA3 - What word can lose AF for X to spell its synonym?

DA4 - Lastly, a recent birthday clue sent by an emailer known as KSSoap and water? Ha! Borneo's chaotic and lovely (3,3,2,4,2,9)

Any clues? It may be fighting dirty, but I'm stumped.... (And can you add your own brain-bender to the forum? No kidstuff. No Wordwit niceties. Just a chewy word-quest to derail the working day.)

WoW: Supellectile

16 November, 2015

SUPELLECTILE [soo-pah-LEK-tile] - relating to furniture, or household ornaments [Latin supellex - household utensils] People who feel as though they genuinely belong can fairly describe themselves as supellectile.


13 November, 2015

Thanks for the Wordburger entries this week. I'll sift the forum over the weekend for the tastiest morsels - and announce winners on Monday. While look out for the real-life book, due to hit the shelf on Wednesday, November 18.

Meanwhile, to make Friday the 13th, let's scare up a folly idea, adding BOO to any word, phrase, name or title. Not sure if this fright will fly, though I know some comical sabotage can be had.

Just bung in your BOO and lend your amendment a fresh definition. I'll start the spooktacular with this terror cell:

BONOBOO - amorous monkey of rock

BOOHOODOO GURUS - retro-emo outfit

HOTTENTOBOOT - additional tribesman

WARRNAMBOOBOOL - Vic town humpbacks visit by accident

DEEP FREEBOOZER - philosophical bludger with a drinking problem

Bring on your best boos, and have a great weekend.

Word Magic

10 November, 2015

Prize time, dabblers - with a succulent new Wordburger to win. Two in fact, as I'm happy to forward a Burger to the top two entries in this week's contest. (The book won't be out in stores until November 28, so this is a coup of a scoop.)

Our game is pretty open-ended. Choose an alias relating to hamburgers, and cook up a piece of word magic. By that I mean a simple manipulation or two that reveals some amazing quality about the word or name you choose. 

Like what, you ask. Like a trick that opens Wordburger:

FEAST can lose its evens to spell what happens to over-feasters - they become FAT. So why not remove an E to FAST? Or drop F and S to EAT normally?

Or: TAUT means STRAINED, which can lose its initial to make TRAINED, which means TAUGHT

Or: When I dance with LUDICROUS, I become RIDICULOUS, which means LUDICROUS.

Or: The odd letters of arch-feminist GERMAINE GREER spell out the modern literary feminist of (Hermoine) GRANGER.

You get the hang by now. Reveal some intriguing transition in a word or name, where one tweak, or a fresh perspective, wows your audience. Stick with burger-ish bylines, to keep things fair, and may the best two dazzlers enjoy the pre-sizzle of Wordburger: How To Be A  Champion Puzzler In 20 Quick Bites. (Contest closes this Thursday, 7pm. Get cooking.)

WoW: Kayfabe

9 November, 2015

KAYFABE [KAY-faib] - portrayal of events and storylines within wrestling as real [US carnie slang, likely based on pig Latin for 'be fake']. Among the golden rules of showbiz wrestling is 'Thou Shalt Never Breach The Kayfabe."

Obesity Bites

6 November, 2015

Folly time, good people, and this time we sift & sort seven-letter words, looking for the ideal heart to manipulate. Inside BIOLOGY, say, is the makings of IGLOO, but the ultimate phrase of BIOLOGY IGLOO doesn't make much sense.

OBESITY BITES, on the other hand, could be clued as Extra-fat snacks. While a Junior rowing team may be a LIGHTER EIGHT

I'm guessing these may be tough to solve, so let's not be too obtuse in our clueing. And likewise, please restrict your picks to seven-letter words only. No other lengths, and only proper nouns if you tell us so. Here are my openers:

DA1 - Zestful cerebrum

DA2 - Soviet athlete

DA3 - Constant pachyderm

DA4 - Cover book

DA5 - Dishevelled scoundrel

DA6 - Trash shop

See if you crack these, or create your own. (For new players, please post any clues with your byline beside a clue number, as I've done here. Just makes the forum easier to follow.) Who will transcend the DENSEST SENSE?

Horse Sense

3 November, 2015

OK clue-mongers, a Storm with a twist this week. Instead of devising wordplay recipes for these fine steeds, as we often do come November, see if you can incorporate any of these names into your wordplay in order to usher in another answer.

For example, Snow Sky may inspire: Recognised Snow Sky cavorting off-limits = KNOWS. Or perhaps you may treat the galloper as a phrase, such as: Rapt creed ruined 'fame game' rollout? = RED CARPET

However you slice or dice the name, use each horse within your clue to reach an alternative solution. Meanwhile, from a crossword POV, may Almoonqith (with that renegade Q) go well, joining the ranks of At-Talaq. And feel free to box Big Orange (great letters) and Max Dynamite (an explosive 11). Happy clueing, and viewing.

Snow Sky


Fame Game

Our Ivanhowe

Big Orange


Hokko Brave

Max Dynamite

Red Cadeaux

Trip To Paris

Who Shot Thebarman

Sky Hunter

The Offer

Grand Marshal


Quest For More



Prince Of Penzance

Bondi Beach


The United States

Excess Knowledge

Gust Of Wind

WoW: Ploce

2 November, 2015

PLOCE [ploh-SEE] - repetition of a word or phrase for emphasis, or to extend the term's meaning. [Greek - ploke, akin to plekein, plaiting] An 80s ad campaign used ploce to good effect, claiming: 'If it wasn't in Vogue, it wasn't in vogue.'

Meh 22

29 October, 2015

For those unfamiliar with the Meh category (and it has been over a year!), then this is where I parade a set of clues that seem weak or wanting in some capacity.

I know it's a risky practice, speaking as a compiler, but just as I can cop my lumps, so should other setters get their tut-tuts. All in the name of making better clues, of course, which is what you're invited to do, using the same solutions below. (As well as decide whether I'm being overly harsh in any case.) Enjoy the debate, and the create.

1. What a Saudi adulterer wouldn’t volunteer is WOW = STONE ME  (This from Sunday Times 928 fails both the taste test & hookworm test, where the wordplay echoes the definiton.)

2. Extremely stupid of the French doctor in face of clot = DUMBASS  (Same puzzle. Taste test, just. Hookworm - problem.)

3. Juggling item taken from delhi nightspot, maybe = INDIAN CLUB  (Times 10165 gives us Indian twice - another hookworm. In fact, this whole post is worm-eaten.)

4. European office workers sample food from bakery = DANISH PASTRY (See? This from Nutmeg in the G)

5. Basket Alaskan malamute finally used in irish pound = PUNNET (Overstraining surface  story from the Times 10249)

6. Use any method to be awkward = UNEASY (Not sure the puzzle, or the signpost.)

7. Temporary bypass in gridlock is only partial solution = PASSING (Clunky hidden from Gazza on Big Dave's blog.)

8. Board are agreed in France and Germany = OUIJA (Phssthpok in the Financial Times gives us the etymology of the answer as wordplay.)

Unfair? And who will deliver the flair?

World Cupworthy Clues

27 October, 2015

In case you haven't twigged, I'm something of a rugby nut. Well, any football really - NRL, AFL, ETC. The grunt & dazzle help to leave language behind for an hour, to turn the white noise into white-line fever. Tragic, but word nerds need an off button.

So this coming weekend, spoiler alert, sees the final of the World Cup being played: the Wallabies vs All Blacks. And in the name of equity, I've listed the latest playing squads for both powerhouses. That's right - a riot of some 46 names to choose, seeing which players, from which mob, can produce the finest wordplay clue when the moment counts. 

Carn you gold men, and may be the best cluemonger win the sudden-death.


James Slipper, Stephen Moore, Sekope Kepu

Kane Douglas, Rob Simmons

Scott Fardy, Michael Hooper, David Pocock

Will Genia, Bernard Foley

Drew Mitchell, Matt Giteau, Tevita Kuridrani, Adam Ashley-Cooper

Israel Folau


Tatafu Polota-Nau, Toby Smith, Greg Holmes

Dean Mumm, Ben McCalman, Nick Phipps

Matt Toomua, Kurtley Beale


Joe Moody, Dane Coles, Owen Franks

Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock

Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw, Kieran Read

Aaron Smith, Dan Carter

Nehe Milner-Skudder, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Julian Savea

Ben Smith


Keven Mealamu, Ben Franks, Charlie Faumuina

Victor Vito, Sam Cane, Tawera Kerr-Barlow

Beauden Barrett, Sonny Bill Williams

That's right - FOUR Smiths in one showdown. What are the odds, SportsBet? Have fun this week, and at witching hour on Sunday (if you're that way bent).

WoW: Accismus

26 October, 2015

ACCISMUS [akk-IZ-muhs] - affected coyness, often feigning to want something you desperately desire [From Greek, akkismos, prudery]. To ardently refuse a gift you readily want is Accismus 101.

Sex Change Sequel [BB525]

24 October, 2015

As promised, here are more sex-change teasers, where an F turns to M, or vice versa. Shopping slip, say, is MALL FALL, while a spotted stack is a FOUND MOUND.

Warning: some operations this involve a doubled M (or F)! And should I overlook any other candidates, from last week and this, then feel free to pose your own clue.

DA1 - Put up with heat (6,6)

DA2 - Dull Ex-Wiggle (4,4)

DA3 - Nanny agent (6,6)

DA4 - Fake flautist (5,5)

DA5 - Paddy rumour (6,6)

DA6 - Cereal port (6,6)

DA7 - Cocktail bar (7,7)

DA8 - Eases letdowns (7,7)


BB524 SOLUTION: Found mound, faster master, merry ferry, moray foray, mellow fellow, midget fidget, calm calf, meat feat


21 October, 2015

If you haven't been following our latest forum, turning otter shit into gold, then head for SPRAINT just below this post. There you'll find the cool in lutrine stool.

You'll also encounter this Storm idea, hatched by SK, furthered by jpr, and now available for all clue-mongers to amplify. The idea involves splicing, based on SK's devious clue for SPRAINT:

Flick about trainspotters' crap

To parse the trick, try:

Flick about [anagram signpost] trainsp/ [fodder] otters' crap [defintion]

Inspired, jpr offered:

Rock star in Potter production?

Again, the clue entails splicing the wordplay with definition, like so:

Rock star in P/otter production?

To etch the formula in memory, SK added ANTECHAMBER:

Can meat with herb, mushroom

So that's our clue-crafting peak to scale this week, dabblers. Because it's there. Because it's a superb idea. And because someone will own bragging rights by Friday if they create the perfect splice. Let splay.

WoW: Spraint

19 October, 2015

SPRAINT - otter shit [From medieval French espraintes otter's dung, via espreindre to press out] Elusive as otters can be, fauna surveyors rely on spraint to help calculate a habitat's population.

Sex Change [BB524]

17 October, 2015

Conduct a sex change (tweaking an M to F, or F to  M) in your first word, and you’ll spell your second. Wood spirit, say, is ELM ELF.

Enumerations should give you an extra help, as should a smatter of kinder clues....compared to the sex-change agonies scheduled for BB525. Perhaps you can anticipate other pairings on the horizon, by creating your own clues.

DA1 - Spotted heap (5,5)

DA2 - Quicker guru (6,6)

DA3 - Blithe craft (5,5)

DA4 - Eel outing (5,5)

DA5 - Relaxed bloke (6,6)

DA6 - Dwarf squirm (6,6)

DA 7 - Chilled veal? (4,4)

DA8 - Turducken? (4,4)


BB523 SOLUTION: Punchbowl (chow), bobbysoxer (boxer), newsletter (setter), choirgirl (corgi), cheerleader (heeler), bedraggled (beagle), flapdoodle (poodle), spritzer (spitz), collide (collie)

Pasta Joke

14 October, 2015

I wish I'd win a hot meal every time LASAGNA or LASAGNE bobs up in a crossword. Along with a side dish of RAVIOLI, and the occasional SPAGHETTI.

Time to put that household pasta in the insinkerator as this week we get a chance to twril and spin different pasta names and shapes. All twelve hail from The Gutsy Gourmet site, complete with pix if you don't believe me.

No need for defintions, just an invitation to get bent with letters, and see what wordplay you can conjure. A blue ribbon to our best chef du jour.













By all means - play with your food.

This month's winner

Well done to Sam & Michael (alias 'Ray') for their mesmerising pieces of word magic in this month's Storm contest. Both players win a copy of Wordburger, now available at all good greasy spoons. 



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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Cluetopia roams the planet – and century – to find fresh crossword stories in 30+ languages. From shipwrecks to hoaxes, Cluetopia is a holiday for the head. Buy 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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