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Diabolically Arcane

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Motor-Mouth Clues

4 November, 2010

All this week we’ve been crafting short and punchy clues. That’s the art, right? Keep It Succinct, Stupid. But now and then, setters gush. They blab. They go on.

If you find one of my clues exceeding ten words, there’s a good reason. Maybe the answer is lengthy, and just needs a few more elements to get there. Or the wordplay is snaky. Or maybe the clue needs an extra beat, a cosier phrase. Or maybe, like now, I’m banging on.

So that’s the topic of Saturday’s Wordplay – good clues getting to the point, while disguising the point. But the real fun in writing the column is exposing some long, long clues. A quote clue from Araucaria tops the bill at 37 words, while a real clunker is a 26-worder for ICE-PICK.

If interest is high, I’ll run the column here next week. Meanwhile, enjoy these four talkathons from the past. The first stems from a 1935 Guardian:

Nothing keeps the backward fellow from the main point of the argument as the student of the understanding shows = NOOLOGIST [one versed in the science of thinking]

From LB in the Herald, late 1950s:

The territory of the emperor’s sovereignty is cut short by one little US state known only by experience = EMPIRICAL

Next two from 1965 collection by John Sullivan:

Mother intervenes between her pet and a nervous complaint and sticks to her principles in doing so = DOGMATIC

Sounds like the dwelling place you let someone have temporarily. Try taking milk of magnesia! = FLATULENT [which says it all]

Have you come across a long-long clue in your solving? Don’t be shy. Share the gabfest here! Or choose a horse (just ONE please – OK, two only) from this week’s Storm and go large with invent your own clue!


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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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
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