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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.

Huh 45

19 September, 2014

No folly this week. (I think MonKeys is filling that niche.) But a bunch of Huh clues that have been bugging me lately. If anyone can throw light on how these bad boy operate, I'd be in your debt. (And doubly impressed if you can conjure a clue for any of these same answers.)  

1. Homer, for one, used very little Greek, finally shunning it = SIMPSON [Times 10020]  

2. Cheers up when visited by one's relative = AUNT [Same puzzle.  I get the TA reversed, but don't we need an exotic marker for UN?]  

3. A posh lady, darling = ANGEL [Sunday Times 909]  

4. Having confined space, tear-gas a nuisance = MENACE [Times 10041]  

5. Dupe about to get tungsten instead of uranium is made to look small = DWARFED [Times 10025]  

6. Subject to search out mostly in a place dons gather = SCOUR/SPOOR? [Times 10034. As you can see, I'm only guessing off the plan, with 3 cross-letters.]  

7. Out of ministry, one inspiring run for presiding officer = MODERATOR [Imogen]  

8. Budge had fine one back in thirty-four = FOREHAND [ST 907. Is this just a reference to tennis player Don Budge, or am I losing my grip?]


16 September, 2014

Right now I'm hip-deep in riddle research. And one common riddle style is what I call the MON-KEY type. You know them too well:  

What key eats bananas? A monkey  

What uncle is underfoot? A carbuncle

A variation on the formula is a little looser in the spelling. The gag is the same, but the payoff has a homophone element: 

What pony is sweet? Mascarpone  

What teller is schmoking hot? A panatella  

So now let's make our own - the strict or the sonic. Be careful of the Liberace Trap, where a muscial race is not a Liberace, as the sound fails. But a valuable dart (objet d'art), or belligerent debtor (vendetta) is fine. Name and number your originals. We can keep them succinct - like below. And let's avoid the far-too-fertile ANTs and NATIONs, to name but two! Have fun.

DA1 - Lethal lock?  

DA2 - Linguistic thong?

DA3 - Radioactive noble? 

DA4 - High earner?  

DA5 - Eerie strain?  

DA6 - Fertile fate?  

Share your answers, and new mon-key ideas below.

Salon 32 - Teething Pains

15 September, 2014

Sorry for the fits & starts of the last week online. A simple tweak always seems to need a week when it comes to website renovation. Normal spam-free services will resume shortly, with added extras and free air. I hope. Please keep the faith, and the verbal pulse.

Word Question: what do you call an ambiguous cluster such as mungolives (which could be Mungo lives, or mung olives)? You see the curse played out in penisland and kidsexchange. So what's the term?

Conundrum: Mix a four-letter mammal, and place beside another four-letter jumbled mammal to spell a word. (And is this answer unique?)  

Here's the place to share the cream of the Brit clues too. Like the bell-ringer from Qaos last week: I heard dancing about the finale of Fred and Ginger (3-6)  

Have a loquacious week. 

WoW: Serein

15 September, 2014

SEREIN [suh-RAN] - a fine rain that falls after sunset, often with no clouds visible [Middle French - serain, nightfall] One Scot's evening mizzle is another Parisian's serein.

Short Change [BB477]

14 September, 2014

Answers are largely familiar world currencies (some suspended), with one or two letters short. Mr Draper, say, is DON/G (Vietnam). Can you scoff the ‘shortbread’ and ID each nation of origin? And idiom-wise, are there any other word lists out there that warrant a clip or shortening?

  1. RN’s Kelly (4)
  2. Sean of Milk (4)
  3. Rellies (3)
  4. Figurine (4)
  5. Artisan set (5)
  6. Get by (4)
  7. Bled (3)
  8. Cynical snap (3)
  9. NSW river (4)
  10. Racket (3)
  11. Archfiend… (5)
  12. …and his home (4)

BB476 SOLUTION: Gool logo, plied lepid, frees sfere, loft folt, mule’s musel, German merang, reseev severe, denies desine, spaceman campanes



11 September, 2014

A cute idea from a recent Sunday Puzzle on NPR - perfect fun for a pre-emptive Friday Folly. The gimmick salutes echoes, clueing such phrases as Roma aroma, or Peter repeater. Note the spelling doesn't need to be precise, just the sound. Feel free to switch the sequence, though let's adhere to a three-syllable word echoing its two-syllable ending.  

How will you fare with these, a mix of originals and the NPR quiz?  

DA1 - More reasonable sailor (6,8)  

DA2 - Ecuadorean pest (5,8)

DA3 - Rancid librarian (7,5)

DA4 - Gas-powered tool (9,7)

DA5 - Three-wheeled tool (8,6)  

DA6 - Old pope gag? (9,6)

Blab below, with impunity in unity. 

Conundrums R Us

9 September, 2014

Morning dabblers, and welcome to a brand-new DA website. Well, a tighter and tidier forum anyhow, thanks to the new chat host in DisQus. (And thanks for your patience if the upload blocked your access for a while.)

Now, onto puzzly matters. I've discovered a Chicago guy called Sandy Weisz, alias The Puzzler. A lofty moniker, but Sandy fulfils the brief with a great archive of diverse brain-scratchers here. Take a dip and enjoy.  

Two of his wordier teasers that still await solutions are below. Any inklings?  

1.  What geogrpahical trait do all these words have in common? 

  • COOK
  • THIN
  • BINS
  • MOCK
  • SCAD
  • LOAN
  • MAID
  • CULTS  

2.  Take a common English word. Write it in capital letters. Move the first letter to the end and rotate it 90 degrees. You’ll get a new word that is pronounced exactly the same as the first word. What words are these? [There may be two solutions.]  

Any other conundrums - original or imported - you wish to share? You know we love a good mind-melt in the morning. (Share your ideas, breakthroughs and forum feedback below.)

Salon 31 - Letters of Note

8 September, 2014

I'm launching a cool new alphabet book tonight. Two in fact, both enlisting letters as graphic tools to illustrate what the letters spell. Confused, then peek here at Melbourne Style - and you may be more confused! In short, see how bed also outlines itself. So now draw the Eiffel Tower, using the scaffold of EIFFEL TOWER....

Speaking of letters, to answer last week's conundrum, let me introduce you to Eric Gill, sculptor, typeface designer, printmaker and CALLIGRAPHER. As for his notoriety, that will happen if you sleep with your sister, and your pet dog... He was a weird one, but a gifted lettersmith.

As a new conundrum, what word sounds like its opposite? (This won't take the seasoned puzzler too long, as the pair does gets its share of limelight. But is the pair unique? Can you argue other pairs - like pare and pair - that could be viewed as antonyms in certain contexts?)

Thanks to Anthony for the Times tipoff. Mark you diaries - October 6 is a zinger, with a brilliant Nina message too. Meanwhile, your own messages will be newly handled by a website reno today - don't panic. The change will thwart spam, at least, as well as give us new options as forum contributors. So message away, offer feedback, and rejoice or resile from the week's crosswords here. Have a wordy week.

WoW: Moghrabieh

8 September, 2014

MOGHRABIEH - rolled balls of semolina, resembling large couscous [Arabic - 'dish of Maghreb', the region of NW Africa, inc Morocco, Algeria & Tunisia, where Maghreb translates as 'the West'] Last night, for father's day, I had Tassie salmon with beetroot, pumpkin & moghrabieh.

Gnome Moaners II [BB476]

7 September, 2014

If YACHT mimics YOT, then ‘child’s sailboat’ might by TOY YOT. Keeping with phonetic spelling, can you mix the made-over (more logical) version to create the other word?

(From memory, this puzzle was derived from a Friday Folly a year back – but how good is your memory?! Some of these are very tuff.)

  1. Vampire symbol (4,4)
  2. Fed wildcat (5,5)
  3. Releases ball (5,5)
  4. Upstairs defect (4,4)
  5. Smuggler’s ab (5,5)
  6. Black Forest cake (6,6)
  7. Get harsh? (6,6)
  8. Ignores plan (6,6)
  9. Astronaut crusades (8,8)

BB475 SOLUTION: Toy yot, tan nat, fine nife, bom mob, skool looks, depo dope, glee leeg, solem moles


Life of E's

2 September, 2014

When it comes to cluing words with only E as their vowel, you are defenceless. Beseech all you like, but so many standard recipes are out of reach. Anagrams sputter. While charades can struggle too. You often need to turn to puns, or something just as extreme

Let’s see who shows the keenest strength by crafting clues for these seven – or any lengthy word list in this E-list. As you’ll come to realise, inventing wordplay for all-E entries can be helter-skelter.


Pleez freshly render these, or any other lengthy E-term here.

Salon 30 - Spring Clean

1 September, 2014

Come Wednesday this week, the website will have a fresher look, thanks to the team at Liquorice (not to be confused with LiquorLand.) The main difference shall lie in the forums.

Nothing too drastic. More a better means of blocking spam, and allowing all of us more options in terms of responding, or creating threads, or playing watchdog if a problem flares. The new regime is called DisQus and I’ll be glad to hear your responses in the first weeks about how the system is treating you.

For those who like brain-busting conundrums, here are two:

1 – If DETECT = 1x6, JACKET = 2x3, and EQUITY = 3x2, name any word that’s 6x1. (This puzzle stems from US constructor Jeffrey Harris.)

2 – I have in mind a notorious English genius whose surname lies backwards within one of his many professions. Name him.

In the meantime, with The Oz cranking up to $2.50, I’m relieved to have completed the Times Ton. So what say we turn our attention to the G’s gems? Or any other verbal treasures you find. Share’m here.

WoW: Mytacism

1 September, 2014


Gnome Moan [BB475]

31 August, 2014

If GNOME mimics NOAM in sound, then ‘pixie sigh’ may be NOAM MOAN. Adhering to phonetic spelling, can you mix the made-over (more logical) version to make the other word?

Share or blab answers in the Comments. And can you devise your own Noam Moaners, playing around with how words sound, and what their new phonetic selves can hold?

  1. Child’s sailboat (3,3)
  2. Brown insect (3,3) [and not TAN ANT!]
  3. Classy cutter (4,4)
  4. Pepper crowd (3,3)
  5. Class glances (5,5)
  6. Terminal twit (4,4)
  7. Joy Division (4,4)
  8. Gravediggers? (5,5)

BB474 SOLUTION: Wolf Creek, Ten Canoes, Happy Feet, Little Fish, Evil Angels, Two Hands, The Dish, Shine, Dirty Deeds, Snowtown, Candy (or maybe Babe!), Red Dog


Clues of Repute - August

29 August, 2014

You may have missed them, but the last month of Times puzzles has delivered some divine clues. I’ve handpicked a batch below, where you have to figure out the answers. And if you’re feeling game, please try to invent your own clues for the same answers.

Feel free to share insights in the Comments, giving fellow solvers that toehold if they need it. My favourite has to be the five-star Clue 5. Relish:

  1. Country – pre-eminent one involved in drug crop (5,4) [Times 10007]
  2. Being on the fiddle, maybe, one’s shady (5) [Times 10027]
  3. Squatter raised objection – the last stand? (7) [Times 10027]
  4. Stick hairpiece on back to front (4) [Times 10015]
  5. Open marriage making one the object of ridicule (8) [Times 10013]
  6. Who’s ultimately handy in reversing colour? (4)
  7. One’s pipped by the shortest possible distance (6) [Times 9998]

Share-n-solve. And can you clue any answer otherwise?

Clambers of the Scramble

27 August, 2014

Sure, I know it’s not Friday, so why the Folly? This seems too cute an idea to ignore, given the quiet this week’s quiet Storm. Besides, this idea is funner. I can’t wait to see the list we cobble.

The game combines anagrams with bogus book titles. Each title you make has to follow the pattern: X of the Y, where Y is a jumble of X. Sounds like algebra? Relax. It’s mental floss. A chance to contrive some hokey books, giving each anagram title a straight subtitle to seal the gag.

Did I say hokey? Maybe I meant Hockey:

GIRTH OF THE RIGHTThe Rise and Growth of Joe Hockey
BOREDOM OF THE BEDROOMHow Tantric Sex Can Ease the 7-Year Itch
PRESENT OF THE SERPENTA Short History of Apples
HATRED OF THE THREADNaturism For Dummies

Two-Way Hideaway

26 August, 2014

Andrew Lorimer-Derham is not ambivalent about ambigrams. These are the contrived pieces of script that can read the same either way. To get a closer feel, visit the excellent Wiki page. Better still, to get your own name manipulated by Andrew, you can check out his ambigram YouTube here, and tell them DA sent you.

So in the spirit of such a revolutionary idea, our challenge this week is to hide a word one way, then another, in the same sentence. Short words are easy, but how will you cope with the 6+ candidates? My early bids:

TOMATO > It’s our custom at office to shoot a moth.
CANASTA > New zoo beats an actor with toucan as taipan.
ADELAIDE > Citadel aided crash when employee dialed ambulance.

As you can see, your hidden word – or name – can first appear one way or the other, so long as there’s both examples in one neat sentence. Kcul doog.

WoW: Macushla

25 August, 2014


Salon 29

25 August, 2014

QWERTYUIOP occupy a keyboard’s top row, as does TOP ROW, or TOP TO TOE for that matter. What other names and phrases lurk in those 10 letters? There are numerous of single word candidates, from REPERTOIRE to PUPPETEER, but what of the multi-word possibles?

TOY TERRIER? TIP OUT? TOO-WIT-TOO-WOO. Then there’s the Australian POET, PETER PORTER. I’d love to gather some names and phrases to enrich the standard list. QUERY being, can YOU WRITE IT?

Speaking of writers, I must read some Meg Wolitzer. Had the pleasure of meeting this prolific NY novelist on the weekend, and she confessed to an unpatriotic passion for cryptics. Anyone who loves twisted language must be worth a read. But which Meg to start? The Interestings looks interesting…

All in all, another busy week looming, with a literary trivia quiz, a website makeover, and a handwriting hoedown on Friday. Hope you can navigate your own mayhem, with a some verbal diversion as you REQUIRE.

Cinema Paradiso [BB474]

24 August, 2014

Olhar Tanto Maneiras is Look Both Ways in Portuguese. Likewise a dozen more Australian films have been given a Brazilian, so to speak. Can you look to intuit the lot?

(And for the polyglots out there, who can slip another familiar list into some unfamiliar jackets?)

  1. Lobo Enseada
  2. Dez Canoas
  3. Féliz Pé
  4. Pouco Peixe
  5. Mal Anjos
  6. Dois Mãos
  7. O Prato
  8. Brilhar
  9. Sujo Ações
  10. Neve Cidade
  11. Doce
  12. Vermelho Cão

SOLUTION NEXT WEEK BB473 SOLUTION: Erratic drunk (Cartier), Caught spies (c-ASIO), Part 10 (Role-X), Lley rebac (Tissot, reversed), Paper mine outside (Pi-Age-t), Backrower grabs diamond (raDo), Top slots backed (p/okies reversed), Switch opposites (Om/ega), Swell dock by Paris strip (Bulg/e + p/ari/s)


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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Puzzles and Words 2

pocketbook packed with 250 word stories – from Aga to Zemblanity – plus 175 new puzzles for all comers, this is a word nerd’s summer necessity.

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Puzzled combines memoir, wordplay history and a how-to guide for solvers. With bizarre crossword stories, example clues plus mini-puzzles to test your skill – and nerve. Buy here.

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News Wrap

Tune into ABC 774 this Friday [19/9] after 5 for Raf Epstein and I, plus another news junkie, hanging out the week's headlines and singling out the stories.

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