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: Quaxing

13 February, 2017

QUAXING - shopping without involving a car, but rather relying on walking, cycling or public transport [Named after NZ Olympic runner Dick Quax, whose 2015 Tweet insisting Western shopping implies a car sparked the ironic verb in response.] One way to erase writer's block is to practice quaxing for your daily groceries.

January Jewels II

7 February, 2017

Ten more splendid clues for you to chew, all encountered in British puzzles over the last five weeks, plus one local setter you may recognise. A mixed bag too - with a few gimmes, and some major brain-burners, such as the final quartet, which may well call for teamwork to undo. See how many you can nail.

1. Too many gluttons ask for seconds (4) [Gila]

2. Reversing, say, a spacecraft's docking procedure (7) [Brummie]

3. Royals are corrupt? Time for a revolution (5,4) [Toro]

4. Futile swimming in central European river, one that's deep (10) [Nestor]

5. The Cure perform without guitarist? (7) [SK]

6. As swine in decay, they can't fly (11) [Paul]


7. Brooding opening piece, involving piano (13) [Picaroon]

8. Media editor not oddly involved in his work? (3,8) [Screw]

9. Handle not normally used to open or close? (6,4) [Vlad]

10. Animal amongst camel's ancestors, for example? (7) [Puck]

If you seek wisdom, ask. If you are wise, share.

WoW: Surnape

6 February, 2017

SURNAPE - a second tablecloth laid over the larger base cloth, often exclusive to the VIP's setting at a banquet [From Latin, sur - extra, above - plus nape, tablecloth - or source of napery, nap/pe and napkin] Presidential settings may demand an immaculate surnape.

January Jewels

2 February, 2017

2017 began with a bang, and I don't mean Trump's firecrackers, or Mike Baird stepping down. Instead let me introduce you to eight cracking clues drawn from British sources, all published in January, or just a little earlier.

See how many you can solve - with hints encouraged in the Comments. (Numbers 4 and 5 are extra gnarly.) And look for another eight to drop next week. Get cracking.

1. Dated briefly, making move (4) [Screw]

2. Regularly avoided trouble by withdrawing smear (4) [Times 10764]

3. Miss cue on air - sorry! (9) [Vlad]

4. Need to go to France, you said? Maybe everyone needs accommodation (4,2,6) [Vlad]

5. Advised not to go swimming in lake at deep end (8) [Can you tell I love Vlad?]

6. Novelist's career to come to an end (7) [Nutmeg]

7. Asian film stars in contest (10) [Paul]

8. Magic words - turned out hiding something up one's sleeve? (5,3) [Times 10758]

Begging, hinting & ultimately blabbing encouraged below.

SK Esquire

31 January, 2017

He's back - that forum stylist and frequent Storm champ, the one they call SK. (Cue Ennio Morricone score...) Back with an entertaining themeless puzzle to savour instead of a Storm this week. 

So hit this link, and feel free to share your thoughts, or beg for hints, in the Comment section below. My hunch however says you'll unravel this little gem in good time, as I sense SK is playing nice (3dn, 13dn, 22dn...) now and then.

Plenty to like, including a couple of silky segues between wordplay and definition, the sort of sleight that marks a polished compiler. Hope you enjoy the solve.

And I look forward to  hosting a few more guest puzzles this year. (Regular players, feel free to send in your best example, or perhaps another style of word puzzle, to see if you can join the sushi train.) And of course, if you're keen for more homegrown diversions, then head across the the cruciverbalist site, run by our own CB and SL.

And last up - if you didn't know - the same classy trio (CB, SL and SK) is also the crossword pool for The Big Issue: an extra reason to snag the magazine. Making a positive difference, and solving some excellent puzzles as well.

WoW: Zetitic

30 January, 2017

ZETETIC [zair-TET-ik] - a skeptic [From Greek, 'I seek'] This may sound pathetic, but student-funded universities makes me zetitic of a degree's intrinsic worth.


24 January, 2017

Good word-lists demand a Brainstorm, and this one augurs well for some quality corruption. Below is a sampling of words first uttered in a US President's Inauguration speech, from BLEED to WINDSWEPT. (For the full list, check this link.)

Just to up the ante, let's include a definition this time around, and see whose clue can trump the wannabes. Or losers, as His Eminence Number 45 would insist.














Please attach your citizen number and taxation records with each post. But seriously, which cluemonger will be stealing the DC limelight?

WoW: Alnaschar

23 January, 2017

ALNASCHAR (al-NAZZ-kar) - person given to unrealistic dreams or plans, especially regarding wealth or success [Named after the beggar in Arabian Nights who destroys his own life in pursuit of grandeur.] Fixated by the high-life, a young day-trader can soon become an Alnaschar.

Happy 50th, Man

17 January, 2017

Tad quiet on the blog over the silly season, as only makes sense. And this year will err on the quieter side, as new books and projects demand more of my attention.

Hence Brainstorms will now become monthly - often the first Tuesday of the month: our chance to generate the cream of clues as a pack - to see who rises to the top. And of course these clue frenzies will float among the usual fare of WoWs, the odd Friday Folly - plus some UK clues to unpick. So same Astlesque antics, just a steadier pulse is all. 

To kick off the Stormy year, here's a grab-bag of words coined, born or realigned in 1967, back when peace was an amulet, and acid a tab. With no call for a definition, unless it benefits your clue, which flower child will wangle the best 'pieces' of wordplay from this Kombi-load?


DOOBIE - joint, reefer









CURSOR - in the computing sense





WoW: Mithridatise

16 January, 2017

MITHRIDATISE [MYTH-ree-DATE-ise] - to protect yourself against poison by taking small and regular doses of toxin [After Mithridates V, the King of Pontus, whose fears over poison compelled him to ingest venoms to develop immunity.] Can you blame the young kind from trying to mithridatise, after his mother poisoned his old man?

WoW: Padiddle

9 January, 2017

PADIDDLE - a car with only one headlight; also known as a Popeye [Origin unknown, believed to be first cited in an Archie comic in 1948]. A popular game among Canadian and US kids while travelling at night was to yell 'padiddle' on seeing the first failed headlight. 

WoW: Bonnyclabber

2 January, 2017

BONNYCLABBER - thick, sour milk [Irish Gaelic where bainne clabair literally means 'milk of the clabber (i.e. the churn)] If you leave your Pura carton too long in the sun, you'll end up with two litres of bonnyclabber.

WoW: Electuary

26 December, 2016

ELECTUARY [uh-LEK-choo-uh-ree] - medicine composed usually of a powder mixed into a pasty mass with syrup or honey [Ultimately from Greek ekleichein lick up (in passive, be taken as an electuary] Kids reluctant to swallow tablets could well be convinced to nibble an electuary.

Clues of Repute 58

22 December, 2016

Here's a bunch of delicous clues drawn from a Guardian collection, a volume I solved while touring India over the last month. Can you crack the lot? (Some will need a bit of brainstorming in the forum to unravel, believe me!) And feel free to compose your own clues for the same solutions. 

More importantly - merry X and have a great 2017. My thanks for all your genius and levity over 2016 as well, as the DA blog enters its slowdown mode across the summer holidays. Ready for some finery? Here we go:

1. Making light of swimming centre with two shops (14) [The late, great Taupi]

2. It's not this that's exceptional (9,4) [Orlando]

3. What makes whiskies all the same? (5) [Araucaria]

4. Garment of polyester, not cotton (7) [Araucaria - a clue I praised in Puzzled]

5. Daffy Duck waddles at a funeral pace (4,4) [Brummie]

6. They'll shift cases, so one may arrive at Skye (5,4) [Puck]

7. Sleuths retreating in wind will part (7) [Araucaria]

8. Schedule back-breaking crash at movie's finale (10) [Taupi]

Savour the set, and have a peaceful, puzzleful festive season.

WoW: Hikikomori

19 December, 2016

HIKIKOMORI [hi-KEE-kuh-MAW-ree] - person who's severely reclusive, especially a youth who sleeps through the day and spends the night watching TV and playing computer games [From Japanese - no surprise - meaning 'pulling inward, being confined] Anyone with a reclusive nocturnal teen under their roof will know first-hand the ways of the hikikomori.


13 December, 2016

Over the years I've been collecting words that sound like sneezes. (Hey, we all need a hobby.) The idea kicked off with cashew and has proven pretty much contagious ever since. 

Anyway, here's my roll-call below. What other words can be added? And can you create a crytpic clule for any of the entries. (A bonus point if you can relate the wordplay to the act of sternutation.)











Who will rule the drool?

WoW: Dhrupad

12 December, 2016

DHRUPAD [dhroo-pahd] -  form of north Indian classical vocal music, typically in a slow tempo, which develops various parts of the raga. [From Hindi dhruv (poem) + pad (verse)] Traditionally the dhrupad is performed by a solo singer in unison to the beat of the pakhavaj (or mridang), rather than the tabla.

Clues of Repute 57

6 December, 2016

Here are some splendid bits of business drawn from recent Brit xwords, from The Guardian to The Independent (my new cryptic fix of choice, esp Punk, Donk, Anax & Nestor). Anyhow, you know the drill: can you solve them, and who can compose a fine alternative clue for any of the same solutions?

1. Bottom of flask in pocket [Sunday Times 1017]

2. River's current between banks (4) [as above - among the COTY]

3. Rasher gnarl? (8,3,4) [Nimrod - starts with T, ends with D....]

4. Condemned equal rights dispute (7) [Vlad]

5. Futile swimming in central European river, one that's deep (10) [Nestor]

6. One going down for a long time, a reviled criminal in prison, is on for release (5,5) [Paul]

7. Potty-trains baby, ignoring books on hygiene (8) [Bogus]

8. Hateful how satellite cable may be connected (7) [Times 10710]

WoW: Pop Shuvit

5 December, 2016

POP SHUVIT [POP SHOVE-it] -  a skateboarding manoeuvre where the rider jumps into the air while the board spins beneath their feet [Pop as in burst, plus shove] The pop shuvit requires the skater to kick her board's tail down on leaping, so making the board airborne, and spin.

Troppo Post Strategy

29 November, 2016

This week we skip the cryptic cookbook and look to make music with one big restraint. Can you build a plausible phrase, or complete sentence, where a two-letter overlap applies from word-to-word? 

This post's heading is a tame example, as is:

Often English shaped editorial allusions. 


Llama made delightful ululations.

Remember: length ain't everything, not when you can craft a seamless semantic unit, a little classier than my opening salvos. Simple on the page, but one God-forsaken enigma, mate.

Who will be our overlap overlord?

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.



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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