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Diabolically Arcane

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Crossword World

21 December, 2010

The phone rang. It scared the cat. The cat bolted and knocked over a water bottle. The water spilt. The cat freaked. I picked up the phone, still laughing, and a voice said, ‘Doing anything special for your 97th birthday?’


December 22, said the voice. Belonging to a journo, I discovered, by the name of Sarah Collerton. On this day, 97 years ago, the crossword was born.

So it was. By Arthur Wynne for the New York World, a criss-cross diamond called a Word-Cross that soon triggered a social craze. Imagine Facebook, but with checks. As for doing anything special, I was thinking of hiring a Dalmatian and eating a lamington on a chessboard. Aside from that, not much. Maybe wear my brand-new Scrabble cufflinks – A on the left and Z the right – but otherwise, keep a lid on things.

Coz really, the big, big day will be in 2013, or C-Day, when Arthur Wynne’s wunderkind cracks the ton. Maybe now’s the time to start up the subcommittee. Plan the black and white tickertape, the chequered flags, the penguin parades….

But not this year. Ninety-seven is a good innings, a Shane Watson occasion – enough to raise a glass of Black & White and say chin-chin, Wynne.

What about you? Any anniversary suggestions for now – or the biggun? The committee is keen to log your suggestions.


Welcome to the new forum. Looks scary? It’s not. Feels iffy? It ain’t. The DisQus platform is here to block spam and lend us more chat options. That’s all. Please note, you don’t have to create a DisQus account to make a comment. If you do, however, it will speed your future visits. Be assured no details are abused, misused or reused. Let’s fight spam as one, and get back to the grand conversation. Thanks, DA

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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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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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