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: 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.

WoW: Bottomry

10 July, 2017

BOTTOMRY - not what you think, but rather a maritime contract enabling a shipowner to finance a voyage, pledging the ship as security for the loan [From Dutch bodemerij, from bodem - ship's hull] Let's waive freeway tolls on the proviso we obey the implicit bounds of vehicular bottomry.

WoW: Wappenshaw

3 July, 2017

WAPPENSHAW [WHAP-en-shore] - a muster of local men (in Scotland) to demonstrate they are adequately armed and primed for battle [From Northern English wapen, from Old Norse vápn weapon + schaw show] Nowadays, a pre-march gathering of fanatical protestors is the nearest thing we get to a wappenshaw.

Picaroon Clues Revealed

29 June, 2017

Here they are, the nine Picaroon clues hoisted from recent Guardians. As you'll recall from last week, I'd provided the answers only for a Brainstorm exercise, daring you to out-dazzle each of these genuine articles. 

Gotta say, in several cases, that was the case. CB's PLASTIC say, developed on the back of Mauve's spadeword, was one of many gems to pass comparison. Take a look at Picaroon's fine work, most of them deft containers in fact. As you browse, take a quick jump-back to the Storm's drawing board, and you be the judge over who outshone whom.

OBESITY - Follow clothing model's size problem

PREVENT - Bar where spin doctors congregate?

MAGENTA - Two spies together with a red

GOALIE - Banks maybe withdraw a false statement

OPULENT - Mostly work fast to get wealthy

DIRT CHEAP - Very economical price had struggling stores close to debt

PLASTIC - Photo frames hang on synthetic material

LOINCLOTH - Look inside church securing good deal for organ cover

MATADOR - He makes a killing beginning to market gold stocks a bit

Either I'm a sucker for a fine container, or Picaroon is the recipe's prince. Or both. Clue for clue, how did we rate as a clue-monger guild? 

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?

OBESITY

PREVENT

MAGENTA

GOALIE

OPULENT

DIRT CHEAP

PLASTIC

LOINCLOTH

MATADOR 

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:

WATCHSTRAP

KNIGHTSBRIDGE

CATCHPHRASE

MATCHSTICK

SIGHTSCREEN

TSK-TSK

SPHYGMOMANOMETER

SYMPTOM

STRYCHNINE

SCYTHING

FIGHTBACK

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. 

Wordburger Awaits!

Welcome all puzzle-lovers, including any chompers of the Wordburger book or app. (Check them out if you enjoy words & trickery.) And if you still crave more alphabet mischief, click on the burger icon above for a fresh serve.

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Wordburger

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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Riddledom

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

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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