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Diabolically Arcane

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Translation Troubles

14 June, 2013

SCHOPSTOEL in Dutch may well mean a chopping block, a breadboard, a deckchair or something called a kick-seat. I can’t say for sure, yet I need to be certain very soon. The word is part of Cluetopia, my forthcoming crossword book, serving as the answer to this Dutch cryptic clue:

Familie van trapkast en klaptafel?

According to my reckoning, that translates as Family of stairway cupboard and folding table? I’m hoping there’s a dabbler out there with a splash of Dutch DNA in their blood, or you know a friend who can come to the rescue. What’s the gag? What’s the wordplay?

And for those with a more Romantic heritage, perhaps you can shed light on this Italian ditty. Again, I have the answer. And once more I’m stumped to unpick the rhyme’s reason. See if you can, even with the English version offered. Here’s the original:

Un direttore pedante
Come capo ha inver ragione…
Ma che barba venir fa…
Allorquando lui ti espone
Le sue estreem volontá

By my lights, that translates as the following:

A director pedantic
As chief reason winter…
But that beard is be…
When he exposes you
His extreme desire.

The solution is TESTA/MENTO, whch means will, though it couples two smaller words – TESTA (head) and MENTO (chin). All of which is testament to crosswords defying glib translation, from one culture to another. If you have any clue or insight into either brain-scratcher, consider yourself sainted.


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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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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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