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Diabolically Arcane

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Original Origins

17 November, 2012

Still feeling jet-lagged from the week’s mystery tour. I had a hoot sifting the yarns and trickery, doing my best to reduce the list to six gems – no picnic. In ascending order, then, here are the best clues, followed by the best origin stories:

TOXIC: Fell back into bed around 9 [Even if Rob T has only part-nailed the engineering of this evil idea, I still adore its misdirection. A drop-dead clue.]

YHWH: “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” explains how Harry returned gutless [The very nerve, attempting to clue a vowelless Hebrew antiquity, conflating scripture with Potter-ana. Congratz Anthony.]

GOOGOL: A great number were game to sign up [SK pizzazz in spades. All Golden, and no Rough. Millions would agree.]


CALL A SPADE A SPADE: We should be calling a bowl a bowl, as Erasmus mistranslated the original Greek for bowl as the stem of the word ‘to dig.’ [I love hearing about words arising from mishap. Thanks Sam. Another is Jacuzzi, which was how an Ellis Island clerk interpreted the Iacuzzi brothers when migrating.]

CAPTCHA: A puzzle you solve online to prove you’re a human. It stands for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart”. [DC captures my imagination. I suspected this was a backronym, but he speaks the amazing truth.]

SOSUMI: the Apple Mac ‘chime’ – named because of the litigation between Apple Records and Apple computers. Also known as Let It Beep! [A mock-Japanese neologism built on a pun? How could I resist ML’s opener? You had me at ‘Hello to iPhone’.]

Thanks for all players, in particular the valiant tome-diver, Em, and the scripture-trawling Anthony. All of you unearthed great gold, precious but familiar – unlike our three winners. ML – please email your best snail mail, and here’s to more Puzzles and Words next week.


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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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
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