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Diabolically Arcane

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Brainstorm (R)

23 August, 2016

R stands for Registered. C stands for Copyright. While TM represents Trademark. So what would happen if we sprinkled any of this commercial shorthand among some well-known brands? How would these new ingredients (one, two, or all three) influence a clue's wordplay?

This week we find out, as we strew the world of car models, airlines, cameras, shampoos  etc with their customary warnings. MINOLTA, say, could become MINOLTAC, allowing for the clue: Bubbly mint cola?

Or MINTMOLTA, inserting the TM: New island sound [MINT + 'Malta']

See the sleight? You have one of three symbols to add (or a combo), and may add them wherever you like in the brand, to aid you wordplay. No need to include a definition, unless it benefits the clue overall. Not sure if this crazy idea will fly, but there's only one way to try!

PIRELLITM - I'll permit frolicking

TOSHRIBA - Rubbish joke opening act

COMO - Cleaner singer?

See who can command the expanding brands. 

WoW: Mahurat

22 August, 2016

MAHURAT [MEH-hyu-ret] - an auspicious time for an event, enterprise or ceremony to begin; inauguration ritual that often opens a Bollywood film in production. [From Hindi, linked to Sanskrit muhÅ«rta 'a division of time' (approx 48 minutes, or one thirtieth of a day).] In traditional Hinduism, a devotee will consult a pandit to learn the mahurat for a planned wedding. 

Oxford Arrivals

16 August, 2016

You may have missed the fanfare, given the general chaos of 2016, but the Oxford Dictionary accepted some 1000 new words in late June, with the list below a random sampling. And a red rag for cluemongers as well, a chance to weave some brand-new threads, from boteh (Persian paisley) to corrido (a Mexican ballad).

Please excuse the simplified definitions. If you'd like to explore the nuances in greater depth than hit the link and see the hardcore Swedish music of gabba is an audio assault with its own strange history, etc.

But otherwise, see if you can make sweet boteh of these fifteen, splicing both wordplay and definitions elements. Ole'.

AGENDER - person who doesn't identify with either gender

BAO - Chinese bread roll

BOTEH - Persian paisley

BOTIJO - clay pot

CONVERSATE - to chat

CORRIDO - Mexican ballad

DIVEY - Hinglish label for a seedy venue

DOPIAZA - Indian meat dish with onion garnish

DUDETTE - see ladette

FLAUTA - long deep-fried tortilla

GABBA - frenetic hard-core techno

GIANDUJA - rich hazelnut chocolate

KAYFABE - the unspoken pretence of wrestling [love this word]

SPOACHER - thief who sifts through your personal belongings 

TROUT POUT - supermodel's moue

Who can concoct the tastiest dopiaza, the crunchiest flauta? Dig in.

WoW: Cenobite

15 August, 2016

CENOBITE [SEE-noh-bite] - member of a religious order living in a monastery or convent; social bee [From Latin 'coenobium,' convent, which stems from Greek 'koinobios,' living in community.] And yes, I told the nun with an audio bent, cenobite really does sound like 'see no bite'.

WoW: Accismus

15 August, 2016

ACCISMUS [akk-SIS-mus] - feigned rejection of something you deeply desire; coyness [From Greek, akkismos, prudery]. 'I couldn't possibly accept another glass of wine' is bibulous accismus.

Sevens Fever

12 August, 2016

Well, our blokes were duds, but the women shone. I'm talking sevens rugby, the gold-snaffling squad that built their own franchise in 14 hasty minutes of a tough final. In tribute to the team - and lending us a chance to hone our clue skills - here is the player list for your manipulation.

Wordplay only please, as we know you'll be referring to one of these sizzling, stud-footed, mouth-guarded, limb-pumping sisters. Congratulations from a Sunday-park touch-tragic. It was a brilliant campaign.













Who can find the gold in this medal mob?


9 August, 2016

As shooters shoot, swimmers swim and goalies go for gold, I thought you'd appreciate a slice of brain food to offset so many TV dinners. Not that I'm the chef de mission. Rather we have SK to thank for this hyper-themer.

Yes - this is an extraordinary puzzle where every clue is influenced by one theme, that's likewise identified in one of the solutions. And you thought pursuit cycling was difficult? This is a puzzle that surrenders its rewards slowly.

Here on the DA site, I'm happy to host regular guest grids from forum cluemongers: a chance for all of us to enjoy Stormers' more sustained work. (If you'd like a grid considered then send a link, as platform sites work better than unpostable A4 formats.) 

By the same token, I encourage all of you to suss out and sustain the vibrant zine, The Cruciverablist, kick-started by our own CB and SL. Indeed, within the latest issue you will also encounter their work, plus someone called Lancelot (aka SK).

Enough preamble. Enough caveats. Enjoy Rio. Enjoy SK. (And feel free to offer hints and huzzahs and feedback in the forum.)

WoW: Maecenas

8 August, 2016

MAECENAS [mee-SEE-nus] - generous patron, especially in the arts [After Gaius Cilnius Maecenas (c. 70-8 BCE) who patronised the careers of Horace and Virgil.] Without a steady stream of revenue, most artists desire their own unstinting maecenas.

Clues of Repute 56

2 August, 2016

Instead of our usual Storm, the time seems right to share some sublime clues from recent months. Treat the list below as your amuse-bouche menu, with 8 distinct flavours from 7 different setters. Savour them at leisure, and see how many you can solve. And by all means, feel free to share hints or blab answers in the Comments.

As a bonus challenge, of course, can you craft a clue that's anywhere near as dandy to match any of your 8 answers? Enjoy the offerings, but be warned: you're about to face one gruelling duel of wits!

1. Sweet way to turn one on! (4) [Screw]

2. Highest cost to figure in equal value (3,6) [Anax]

3. Rival in tavern finally shot cowboy (11) [Anax again]

4. Criminal charge extremely heavy after one's put in can for life (9) [Picaroon]

5. Unwind with large one in pub (8,4) [Toro]

6. Vehicle fitted with ABS? (6,3) [Sunday Times]

7. After sex change, cleavage becomes goal (7) [Donk]

8. Two legs - where to break one? (7) [Paul]

Sip, slurp, slowly. Can you solve them? Or even go close to matching these marvels?

WoW: Pfeffernuss

1 August, 2016

PFEFFERNUSS [FEFF-uh-nuhz] - small biscuit flavoured with ginger, cardamom, cloves, black pepper, etc., and typically eaten during the Christmas season. [From German, literally pepper-nut.] Baked in a humanoid shape, the pfeffernuss will transmogrify into a gingerbread man.

Raunchy Results

31 July, 2016

Hot off the sheets, the news is in - the podium finale to last week's Lewd Clues. To remind you, this was a Brainstorm that put the Bra In Storm, inviting all comers to twiddle their wordplay towards the blue end of the spectrum.

Over 50 entries made it hard for me, that's for sure, trying to determine the winner of the double-entendre book prize: It Just Slipped Out, by Russell Ash.

So without knowing who's actually who, here are the pick of the posse, from fine through to finest:

DISMANTLE - Royal adulteress laments scandalous break-up [Less lewd, than sleek, this early effort from Joe Blow had news cred.]

SPLENDOUR - Beauty softly pinched by naughty old nurse [Love the Carry-On rompiness effusing from Ben Dover's work]

PETROLEUM - Stroke part... um... it comes from pumping? [OK, now we're diving down to the bottom, with a top piece of smut from Hugh Jass - both wordplay and definition.]

PETROLEUM: Let me pour massage oil after crude treatment [Classier exectution from Roger the Cabin Boy, clearly a smoother operator off the streets.]

DISMANTLE: Pull down pants and let miss finish off [Wait, let me rethink that. Here's Roger again, a player who may consider him/herself unlucky not to score the swag.]

Because the winner won me over with two brilliant bits of wickedness that also gloats the advantage of spooning into an intimate overlap. Congratulations True Blue, you are the Go-To Lothario of this week's maelstrom. Here's the eye-catching pair:

GRAVITATE: Get pulled off, give a tart... 
SPLENDOUR: ...fifty in pay, wanting head for an "Around the World" - that's something special!

Well done all clue-mongers, inlcuding Brock Landers, Khrimi Jakov & the Callipygean Contessa - thanks for the smirks. If True Blue, you can out yourself in theforum, and email me you snail mail address, I'll ensure to send this hot title your way. 

Lewd Clues

26 July, 2016

Got nothing on? Feel like a hard one? Cor, that's a bit saucy - and so's this week's prize-offering Brainstorm, where we get a chance to lace a little blue into each clue. Innuendo. Wink-wink. Raunch or steam. Anything that errs on the prurient side - so long as the clue is capable of appearing in a mainstream paper

(That proviso alone should cause mass debate....) But let's give the salacious a whirl, using the target words from last week's Targetism - your ten proper answers we get to make improper this week -

The prize? Why, a collection of double entendres called It Just Slipped Out by Russell Ash. So please create a louche alias - to ensure clean judging - and try your hand at  blue clues, where the best pair (of course) wins the book.

Both wordplay and definition are required. And please - to help my umpiring - select your own best double and file them as your submission before Thursday, 6pm. Enough of the oral. Let's get down & dirty to thrash things out:













Your dirty dozen awaits ravaging. Enjoy yourselves.

WoW: Doryphore

25 July, 2016

DORYPHORE [DOR-uh-for] - persistent critic or heckler; grammar Nazi [From French doryphore (alias Colorado beetle) from Greek doruphoros (spear carrier). Writer Harold Nicolson lent the insect its current sense.] Working on radio, you grow familiar with every doryphore who wishes to amend your expression.


22 July, 2016

There's a Facebook group called TARGETISM which wangles the daily Target puzzle. The game is to ignore MOUSTACHE, if that's the intended answer, and offer a surreal alternative, with its own definition.

ACME SHOUT, say, is a yodel. While OUCH TEAMS are rugby squads, just as MOUSE CHAT is eek-speak. Beware: the game is as silly as it is addictive. 

Bruce Ashley, who hosts the site, sent me some of the recent smile-worthies:

CORGI OMEN - dogstar

HILLICKED - conquered a knoll

I FLY ERECT - you can't keep a good man down

As you can see, you own the licence to coin a word, or fudge a phrase of any word count. The art lies in combining a fresh find with a comical definition.

Your Friday Folly is a two-parter in fact, where you can seek the genuine 9s in each mix below, as well contriving an alternative. Get cocktailing.














Who will prove the GEM ARTIST of TARGETISM?

Has#tags of 2015

19 July, 2016

Like me, you may well feel nostalgic for 2015, back when chaos seemed almost finite. So it is, in a retro Storm, we consider the top nine hashtags of last year. Can you clue them, or create a joyous distraction from this year's lot? Mind you, the more I muse the list below, the more I wonder whether anything has really changed?

Enough gloom. Let's light it up with some cryptic dazzle! Who can make the most heavenly hash of today's Net-nonet?




istandwithahmed (after schoolboy Ahmed Mohamed who was arrested for making a clock for his science project)


FIFAWWC (the women's world cup)



lovewins (marriage equality in USA)

The nine are all yours to clue. So #gowild.

WoW: Evitate

18 July, 2016

EVITATE - to avoid; to escape [From Latin evitare, to shun] Debtors are prone to evitate their creditors.


12 July, 2016

Perhaps you are among the few un-swept-up by the PokemonGo mania. (Where's your civic esprit, damn it?) If that's the case, then aim your hunting skills onto this Oddish batch of first-wave Pokemon, to see where the best wordplay potential lies.

No call for a definition. We know what they are (sort of). And if you'd like to plunder a longer list, then PokemonGo here. Here's the dozen I hunted down as our own quest's kick-off:













Don't have to clue'm all. But let's see who wins the Pokemon d'Oro.

WoW: Scoville scale

11 July, 2016

SCOVILLE SCALE - the pungency measure of chillis, peppers and curries [Named after US pharmacist Wilbur Scoville who devised his potency index in 1912.] HP22B - alias the Carolina Reaper - is rated as the hottest chilli pepper (at 1.57 million!) on the Scoville scale.


5 July, 2016

This may not work. We can only try. But due to the finely balanced shemozzle we now own for a federal parliament, let's split words down the middle and clue both halves. As with this post's title - marg/inal - choose words that divide evenly, and don't create a smaller word or words.

So no pig/eon, or ances/tries etc. But more parli/ament and stu/dio stuff. Once you make the split, your challenge is to create the neatest pair of wordplays for both bits. Like so:

DISG/ORGE - Digs Gaga / fake leader fled

RAMSH/ACKLE - Sheep squash boundaries / expert grasps folklore by heart

Like I say, the game is flaky, and may not appeal to every appe/tite, but I reckon there's some fun in the format. Not to mention the scope to be creative with potential splicings of the two halves in your clueplay.

And again, speaking of that stu/dio, I will be a tad cameo this week due to more radiophonic duties on 7774ABC Arvos. If you get a chance between 1-3, tune in. Or text in if you dare. Enjoy the exper/iment.

WoW: Uberisation

4 July, 2016

UBERISATION - conversion of existing jobs and services into discrete tasks that can be requested on-demand [After the ride-sharing business model created by US entrenpreneurs Garrett Camp & Travis Kalanik in 2009.] Owners of dress boutiques decry the uberisation of their industry, thanks to online rental services.

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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