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Diabolically Arcane

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Crosswords emerged 100 years ago. Cluetopia is one mad time-trip from jails to jungles, in search of the best crossword stories.

Let Us Pray

April 22, 2014 33 comments

muezzin Easter is not the only religious festival in town. Across the Islamic world, the call to prayer (or AZAN) is equally vital to believers.

As I read things, a faithful Muslim must pay respects to Allah five times a day. And these five windows lend us a chance to break new ground by clueing some exquisite terms.

Spelling may differ, depending on culture, but according to the Macquarie Dictionary, the five prayer windows are below, from crack of dawn till bedtime:

SUBUH (dawn prayer)
ZUHUR (after midday)
ASAR (late afternoon)
MAGHRIB (4th prayer, after sunset)
ISHA (final prayer at night)

There’s the call-out, the azan of Islam: five prayer times to convert into your own cryptic scripture. Who can compose the best set of five, without any call for definition? Together I’m sure we’ll amass a perfect quintet. I have faith in you.

Salon 11 - Easter Edition

April 21, 2014 9 comments

chips Morning word lovers. A sad one for lovers of pugnacious spirits, with RUBIN ‘HURRICANE’ CARTER and NEVILLE ‘NIFTY’ WRAN both taking their final count. In fact I’ve been spending far too long trying to wrangle either warrior into a fitting anagram. In vain, unless you consider IRATE CRUNCHER BAR RUIN to be any good. No, nor did I. Can you do better?

On the Times tally, after a brain-fade lapse last week with Andy Warhol, I’m quietly putting my 15 minutes of brain-work into the crossword this week. Today’s has been solved already, jacking my score to #3. Nothing too arduous to report, though I’m unfamiliar with the first of the 15s.

For dictionary demons, a puzzle: the word ARSENAL derives from Arabic, dar Sina-a, or workshop. Yet what workshop derives from a French word meaning pile of wood chips?

Have a verbaholic holly…

WoW: Lammergeier

April 21, 2014 6 comments

LAMMERGEIER [LAM-uh-GAY-uh] – large black-winged vulture of Southern Europe, Africa and Asia [From German, Lammer – lambs + Geier, vulture, owing to the bird’s ability to seize lambs] Climbers in Nepal often see the lammergeier spiralling in thermals over Sherpa farmland.

Pule Puzzle [BB456]

April 20, 2014 10 comments

SIGN We’ve plucked two matching letters from common words. THEATRE, say, may lose its Ts to be HEARE, or its Es to be THATR. (Some words may offer alternative outcomes, though not if your consider that twelve different letters have been removed overall.)

  1. EDIU
  2. SUUR
  3. ITUL
  4. IDO
  5. UNI
  6. ELET
  7. EDERY
  8. HAI
  9. DIUS
  10. ENORE
  11. RAD
  12. ABU

BB455 SOLUTION: Parent; transparent; belligerent; deterrent; incoherent; recurrent; irreverent; indifferent; current, torrent, Trent. Other rents could rate.

Any Hitch With Cock?

April 17, 2014 8 comments

mae Back when the silver screen was lustrous, matters of lust and language were tightly monitored. In 1933, the Motion Picture Production Code (otherwise known as the Hays Code after Hollywood’s chief censor) composed a list of words forbidden to be heard in film.

Most make a prudish sense. God or Christ was off the script, if spoken in vain. Then there were the bodily taboos of fanny and nuts, along with the business of getting down to business. Whore and slut seem starker than alley cat (female) or tomcat (male). Others leave me stumped. Here’s a sample:

broad/bat/hot (for a woman)
chippie – what, no carpenters?
cocotte – no cookery?
goose – huh? Seems a bit bird-ist…
hold you hat or just hats!?
louse/lousy – can you believe that?!
nance/fairy/pansy – is this affirmative action?
nerts – meaning what?

So what’s your take on such a table? Can you flesh out the vaguer offences? You reckon such bans make the least scrap of difference? And what possible words might offend the modern audience now?!

Tri, Tri, Tri Again

April 15, 2014 51 comments

tri Today’s Times is a pangram delight, with a surplus of Ks, and a lovely interlacing of the quaint and the new. (And yes, I cracked #8.) Sitting amid this Scrabbly challenge is possibly the best triple-meaning clue I’m encountered. Here it is:

Hear rally vehicle (4-2)

Not just a compact clue, but each meaning of PICK-UP is distinct, the whole combining to tell a watertight story. Which clears the road for this week’s challenge, if you wish to tri. Who can compose the neatest triple-meaner? If anyone can reach the pick-up pinnacle: oh what a feeling.

Some of my early bids:

Sheep strike memory (RAM)
Jargon is unable to incline (CANT)
Remote location for HG, the singer? (MERCURY)

Nowhere near as stylish, highlighting the hurdle before us. Proper names are OK. So too heteronyms, where BOW can be a weapon, or prow, etc. Who will pick-up this week’s triple crown?

Salon 10

April 14, 2014 5 comments

pod Just hopped off the phone, chatting to ABC Radio about bommy knockers. If you don’t know the term, you may know those spiky liquidambar pods by a different name. A good friend calls them prickle bombs, while my family dubbed them maces, or doobs. Did your clan call them something else?

Here’s a another conundrum: What 4-letter word can be duplicated – without its head, then without its tail – to spell a common 6-letter word? for example, if ORDWOR was a WORD, then WORD would be your answer. (I’m pretty sure the answer is unique.)

Aiming for double figures this week on the Times Tally. If I can ‘conker’ today’s puzzle, that adds up to #7. The century is in sight. Feel free to join the challenge at any stage, resisting the temptation of any search engine or reference book.

Or be my guest, and dabble in the clue comps, Birdbrains and Guardian goss here at DA Central. Have a wordilicious week, won’t you?

WoW: Adiaphorous

April 14, 2014 8 comments

ADIAPHOROUS [ad-ee-AFF-er-uhs] doing neither harm nor good, especially of a neutral medicine. [From Greek, adiaphoros, indifferent] A placebo (or a middling Fantasy Football pick) is adiaphorous.

Rental Market [BB455]

April 13, 2014 2 comments

_ If a follower has to fork out ADHE-RENT, and a born natural pays INHE-RENT every week, then what RENT do these lodgers face, using the same linguistic logic? (And can you annex to our rent roll to any extent?)

  1. Mum or Dad
  2. Invisible man
  3. Warmonger
  4. Security guard
  5. Mumbler
  6. Déjà vu sufferer
  7. Parodist
  8. Cold fish
  9. UK river rafter (3 possible answers)

BB454 SOLUTION: Chameleon, chrysalis, aplenty, repechage, forget, cabana, repayable, beryl, imago, bloat

Meh 20

April 10, 2014 9 comments

mud You know I’m a fan of Paul (or Mudd as John Halpern is known in the Financial Times.) But even he can stray into the realm of Meh, those crummy clues which should remain on the drawing board.

Take a look at this latest batch, culled from Brit sources. See if my beefs are warranted, or whether I’m just Mudd-slinging. Give us your counter-arguments too, by all means. (And can you compose sweeter clues for any of these same solutions?)

  1. Dalmatians aren’t so clean = UNSPOTTED [Mudd slips into the mire with this lazy double-def, I reckon.]

  2. Decorator working in part of Paris = TROCADERO [Picaroon insists that ‘working’ works as anagram indicator. Maybe it does. I’m not so quickly sold.]

  3. Dancing king sealion that’s sold by charlatan = SNAKE OIL [Welcome to the cryptic fold, Alchemi – but this surface sense is up the spout.]

  4. As lice sing badly, there are limits! = CEILINGS [Not sure the setter, but this is another stinker – a silly tale, and a redundant ‘as’]

  5. Catch one buried in a book in concert = AT ONE TIME [While Times 9836 sees fit to repeat ‘one’ in the clue. Boo.]

  6. South American sound of person making mark = INCAN [I loathe to speak ill of the dead, but Cinephile – aka Araucaria – oversteps his homophone licence here.]

  7. Possibly Nancy’s unauthorised absence? = FRENCH LEAVE [Yes, I know Nancy is a French town, but I thought this wile needed more guile. From Times 9295]

Argue or agree in the Forum. And who can make a zingier clue for any of the seven answers?

This Month's Winner

Well done to Sam for his Emmy makeover in our latest Storm, turning Best Actresses into the best wordplay, and winning a copy of Superstar Crosswords.



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Recent Comments

Gayle on Salon 11 - Easter Edition

on April 24, 2014

DA2 on Salon 11 - Easter Edition

on April 24, 2014

jpr on Salon 11 - Easter Edition

on April 24, 2014

Sam on Let Us Pray

on April 24, 2014

DA2 on Salon 11 - Easter Edition

on April 24, 2014

Jon on Let Us Pray

on April 24, 2014

Jeanett on Pule Puzzle [BB456]

on April 24, 2014



Quick heads-up. Fair bit of tranny work over the next week, with a lunchtime chat (12:30 or so) this Wednesday on Triple R just the start of the domino chain. Tune in there, and drop in here for more alerts.

Breakfast TV


Early birds, you can catch me on ABC News Breakfast this Wednesday (24/10), vouching for Cluetopia with Virginia and Michael. And for afters, I’m nattering with Natasha Mitchell on RN’s Life Matters. A full menu to savour.

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