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Diabolically Arcane

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False Friends

31 January, 2012

Learning a new language, you will encounter what teachers call false friends, or faux amis on the Seine. In Spanish, speaking from red-faced experience, I can tell you that embarazada doesn’t mean embarrassed, but pregnant, while finger in Yiddish means toe, and korn in Swedish means barley.

Cryptopia has false friends too, where a clue seems to answer to one formula, only to operate by another. A wonderful example in the Times – as toasted by The Guardian’s excellent crossword blog – looked for all the world like a homophone clue:

Tailor may destroy suit with this, we hear = AUDITORY SYSTEM [Anagram of MAY DESTROY SUIT]

Another may suggest anagram, and yet be a homophone:

Villains rendered so in the ear? = ANTIHEROES

Or then again, you may encounter what looks like a Spooner clue, only to be ambushed by a hidden:

Softball caught in Spooner family = NERF

To file your false friend, please supply the solution too, as the red herring can be more promptly enjoyed. Keep your eye on brevity, and authentic ambiguity – where each recipe can be argued. Likewise an answer of suitable length – for either approach – will also impress.

Let’s create a coterie of bogus mates this week, with a deadline by 8pm this Thursday, where all players are invited to submit their favourite three (with or without friendly tweaks and edits from this forum’s genuine friends.)

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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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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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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