Puzzles, posts, news and general word-chat.

Diabolically Arcane

Bingo. You’ve reached David Astle dot com, a carnival of words, puzzles and more words. Welcome aboard, and have fun.

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WoW: Kotov syndrome

26 October, 2020

KOTOV SYNDROME -  when a [chess] player thinks for a long time, only to make a blunder at the last minute. [Named in honour of Soviet chess grandmaster Alexander Kotov (1913-81), pictured, who put opponents under immense pressure.] Unless you can combine poise with brainpower, then your solving is prone to the Kotov syndrome.

WoW: Junoesque

19 October, 2020

JUNOESQUE [jew-NO-esk] queenly; regal; of an elegant statue. [After Juno - the Roman god of marriage, and queen of the gods.] Parisian models will often stand Junoesque at the catwalk's extreme.

WoW: Architourist

12 October, 2020

ARCHITOURIST - a traveller planning their itinerary around notable buildings and other structures [Hybrid of architecture and tourst] No architourist worth their salt would whine about an ABC tour of Europe: Another Bloody Cathedral.

WoW: Oobleck

5 October, 2020

OOBLECK - cornstarch-and-water mix used in chemistry classes to demonstrate the behaviour of non-Newtonian fluids. [Named after the sticky slime threatening the Kingdom of Didd in Dr Seuss's 1949 book, Bartholomew and the Oobleck.] 

WoW: Negroni sbagliato

28 September, 2020

NEGRONI SBAGLIATO [nair-GROW-nee sbarg-LEE-ar-toh] - cocktail comprising Campari, sweet vermouth and prosecco [Literally 'wrong Negroni' in Italian after a Milan bar-owner added brut prosecco rather than gin to a client's Negroni.] Believe me, a Negroni sbagliato is a sippable piece of serendipity.

WoW: Sabrage

21 September, 2020

SABRAGE [SAY-bredge] - the act of opening a champagne bottle by quickly sliding a sword's dull edge down the neck [From German (dialect) Sabel - or sword] Who needs to pop a Veuve cork when sabrage is all the suaver?

WoW: Alphonse

14 September, 2020

ALPHONSE [al-FONCE] - the younger boyfriend of a wealthy or powerful older woman. [After the title character of Alexandre Dumas's 1872 novel, Monsieur Alphonse] One era's toyboy is another epoch's Alphonse.

WoW: Mateotechny

7 September, 2020

MATEOTECHNY [MAT-ee-oh-TEK-nee] - a futile or unprofitable field of research [Greek: vain art/science] Cynics might view cryptic crosswords as mateotechny, failing to see how rewording they can be.

WoW: Greeble

31 August, 2020

GREEBLE - elaborate details added to an object's surface so as to make it more visually intriguing - a common ruse applied to sci-fi props; also called a nurnie [Origin unknown] Lightsabres and spacecraft in the Star Wars films abound in greebles.

WoW: Vinculum

24 August, 2020

VINCULUM - horizontal line that divides a fraction; (in anatomy) any narrow structure joining two parts; a ligament [Latin: bond, from vincire to bind] Place numbers above and below a hyphen, and you make a vinculum.

WoW: Thalweg

17 August, 2020

THALWEG [TAHL-veg - or THARL-weg] - the line of fastest flow or deepest water along a river's course [From German valley-way] Along some riparian borders, a river's thalweg can determine which abutting nation owns what islands en route.

WoW: Rancio

10 August, 2020

RANCIO [ran-SEE-oh] - nutty flavour peculiar to sherry and other fortified wines. [From Latin, rancidus - rancid, rotten] Next time you savour a Madeira, feel free to detect a rancio depth amid the leather and tobacco notes.

WoW: Flehmen

3 August, 2020

FLEHMEN [rhymes with 'stamen'] - response among male mammals when they detect particular female smells, typified by lip-curling and head-raising. [From Upper Saxony dialect, flemmen to look spiteful] A female pug's piddle will trigger a flehmen even within a male mastiff.

WoW: Irredentist

27 July, 2020

IRREDENTIST - person advocating the acquisition of territory that was once part of their own nation. [From Italian, irredentista, via the phrase 'Italia irredenta' - Italy unredeemed.] No surprise, given the historic scope of the Holy Roman Empire, that Italy is rife with irredentists.

WoW: Chadband

20 July, 2020

CHADBAND - unctuous hypocrite [Named after the self-serving preacher of Dickens' Bleak House, 1853] Your typical yes-person is a latter-day chadband.

WoW: Rocaille

13 July, 2020

ROCAILLE [rock-EYE] - pebbles and shells used as ornamentation, especially within grottoes or fountains; moulded scrollwork of the 1700s that mimics water-worn stone [French 'pebble-work'] Rocaille is seen as an artful alternative to stucco or generic pebbledash.

Huh 62

7 July, 2020

Eight more clues that still puzzle me, half of them drawn from a Times book, published 2016.

On paper, I might have solved them, yet somehow their wordplay continues to gnaw me. What have I missed? A classical allusion? A bit of UK vernacular? Only your insight will ease my plight. 

If you can see what I'm not seeing, let me know. How does each clue work? And can you craft your own clue for any of these same answers? Cheers.

1. Take away copper and half of lead from rear of toy? = MINUS [Times 11,800]

2.  Duty that could be tinier possibly? = RESPONSIBILITY [Times 11,800]

3. Military ruler’s command to soldiers about bad error in the field = SHOGUN [Times 11,816]

4. Cover case before dispatching a dozen in box = SUM UP [Times book]

5. Networks = TOILS [Times book]

6. Fast runner often in form = HARE [Times book]

7.  Cooler sort of house where shades may close on boy = PRISON [Times book]

8. Ape downs energy drink = MEAD [Sunday Times 1212]

WoW: Bagasse

6 July, 2020

BAGASSE [bah-GAS] - the leftover pulp from refined sugar cane, used as fuel or paper stock [From French via Spanish bagazo - dregs - from baga (husk), and further back, Latin's baca, or berry] You can't make sugar without generating a little bagasse.

WoW: Mouldy Fig

29 June, 2020

MOULDY FIG - strict adherent of older jazz genres. [Origin unknown] Hepcats and beatniks are a tad too ad-lib for the trad-loving mouldy fig.

WoW: Chonmage

22 June, 2020

CHONMAGE [CHON-maij] - traditional topknot sported by sumo wrestlers and samurai warriors [Japanese] It's believed the chonmage (or 'mage') style arose in the 600AD period of Japanese history.

Rewording The Brain

Focus & memory, lateral leaps & logic - every aspect of cognitive health is lit in Rewording The Brain, a book revelling in how puzzles boost your brain. Part 2 equips your brain to conquer any twisty clue, plus the wild crossword finale. Pop science meets neural gameplay, Rewording is rewarding, and out now.


Rewording The Brain

Care to renew your noodle? Rewording The Brain explores the latest neural studies, seeing how puzzles (and twisty clues) boost your neurons. Part 2 helps you crack such clues, and prep the grey matter for the crossword showcase to finish. More here

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101 Weird Words (and 3 Fakes)

From Ambidextrous to Zugwang, this mini-dictionary teems with rare or alluring words, plus bonus riddles, puzzles and fun word-facts. Dictionary detective will also nab the collection's three fakes. Ideal for late primary schoolers, or word-nuts in general.

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Gargantuan Book of Words

Sneeze words. Fake pasta. Viking slang. Gargantuan is a jumbo jumble of puzzles & games, mazes & quizzes, tailor-made for that wordy wonderkid in your life. Or anyone in love with letters, secret codes, puns, rhymes, emoji & all things languagey. More here 

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Recent Comments

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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