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: Sphenisciphile

11 December, 2018

SPHENISCIPHILE [sfen-ISS-ee-file] - lover or ardent defender of penguins [Derived from the penguin's zoological order, Sphenisciformes + phile (lover)] Curiously, a sphenisciphile is also deemed to be an admirer of nuns.

WoW: If-By-Whiskey Speech

5 December, 2018

IF-BY-WHISKY SPEECH - political address where the speaker's position is contingent upon the listener's opinion; a relativist fallcy [Based on a 1952 speech by Noah 'Soggy' Sweat Jr, a Mississippi lawyer who demonised and canonised liquor, dependent on the audience's views] "If by whiskey," orated Soggy in this recreated video, "you mean the devil's brew, the poison scourge..." 

WoW: Menehune

29 November, 2018

MENEHUNE [menn-uh-HEWN] - a mythical dwarf race who lives in the hinterland valleys of Hawaii [From Hawaiian] Stonemasons of the highest quality, the menehune are shy, secretive and adore bananas.

WoW: Voldemorting

22 November, 2018

VOLDEMORTING - choosing alternative words or code-names to denote a certain celeb or site, in order to subvert their status or avoid data-mining. [After JK Rowling's evil wizard, 'he who shall not be named'] Birdsite (Twitter) and the Human Cheezel (Trump) are both examples of Voldemorting.

WoW: Apotropaic

15 November, 2018

APOTROPAIC [app-oh-TROH-pay-ick] - perceived as having the power to ward off evil influences or bad luck. [From Greek apotropaios ‘averting evil’, from apotrepein ‘turn away or from’ + -ic.] Jennifer Egan in Manhattan Beach describes wedding rings (on conference weekends) as apotropaic.

WoW: Rückenfigur

2 November, 2018

RÜCKENFIGUR  [ROO-ken-fig-uh] - compositional device in painting, graphic art and film where a person is seen from behind in the foreground of the image, contemplating the view before them. [German - back-figure] The rückenfigur can highlight the beyond as well as deepen the depicted viewer's own mystery.

WoW: Anemotropism

22 October, 2018

ANEMOTROPISM [aah-NEE-moh-trop-iz-uhm] - change in the growth or shape of an organism due to the wind's influence. [From Greek anemo - wind, plus tropism, a variant of tropos, or turn.] Anemotropism is in ample evidence along the ridges of gust-prone peaks. 

WoW: Tussenvoegsel

15 October, 2018

TUSSENVOEGSEL [tuhs-en-FERG-zel] - the intermediary name in Dutch that lies between a person's first name and surname, such as the von in Vincent Van Gogh, or the van in Martin van Buren. [From Dutch, literally, between-grout.] Often the tussenvoegsel enters sharp focus in English when debate surrounds capitalisation.

WoW: Xerostomia

8 October, 2018

XEROSTOMIA [zeer-oh-STO-mee-ah] - excessive dryness of the mouth [From Greek - xero (dry) + new Latin - stomia (of the mouth)] Poor salivary function, due to ageing, disease or hangovers, will result in xerostomia.

WoW: Parablepsis

1 October, 2018

PARABLEPSIS [par-ah-BLEP-sis] - sample of a ill-copied piece of transcript, where the scribe has misread the original text, skipping a word or line. [From Greek - paraleipsis, to look askance at, literally beside-sight.] While recording this definition from a lexical source, I took pains to avoid a parablepsis.

WoW: Jenny Haniver

24 September, 2018

JENNY HANIVER [jair-NEE HAN-uh-vuh] - any mummified stingray or skate that's been manipulated to mimic a demon or dragon. [Possibly a corruption of 'jeune d'Anvers' - or 'youth of Antwerp' - by Cockney sailors during the 1500s.] The macabre Jenny Haniver is part of the broader scrimshaw tradition. 

WoW: Barathrum

17 September, 2018

BARATHRUM [BAH-ah-THRUM] - abyss; hell; glutton - one with a bottomless stomach. [From Latin barathrum, from Greek barathron; akin to Greek bibroskein to devour] Any winner of a hotdog-scoffing marathon is a card-carrying barathrum. 

WoW: Agelast

10 September, 2018

AGELAST [adj-AR-luhst] - one who doesn't laugh; serious or overearnest soul. [From Greek agélastos - “not laughing, grave, gloomy"] Going by the arid prose of Hegel, the German philosopher was liable to be an agelast.

WoW: Enantiodromia

5 September, 2018

ENANTIODROMIA [ee-NANT-ee-oh-DROMA-ee-uh] - the tendency for things to become their opposites; the concept that an abundance of any force can cause an opposite reaction. [From Greek, literally ‘running in opposite ways’.] Carl Jung coined enantiodromia, identifying how one mental state is as likely to suggest or manifest the other.

WoW: Zaibatsu

28 August, 2018

ZAIBATSU [tsai-BAT-soo] - any large Japanese business conglomerate [Japanese zai ‘wealth’ + batsu ‘clique’] The traditional zaibatsu existed prior to WW2, with colossal wealth owned by familial monopolies. 

WoW: Culf

20 August, 2018

CULF [rhymes with 'gulf'] - loose feathers that fill a cushion of mattress. [Cornish dialect, etymology unknown.] Slapstick movies depends on custard pies, banana skins and culf-packed pillows. 

WoW: Austringer

13 August, 2018

AUSTRINGER [oss-TRIN-jah] - keeper of hawks; a falconer who uses hawks and other raptors for hunting; also ASTRINGER [From late Middle English, ostringer, derivative of Middle French ostour, hawk.] It will be hard to resist TREASURING when devising a clue for AUSTRINGER. 

WoW: Whoop-De-Doo

6 August, 2018

WHOOP-DE-DO - [woop-dee-DOOH]  a hump of earth, usually one in a series forming an obstacle on a BMX track; similar obstacle in an off-road car race. [Onomatopoeia of a kind, based on rider's reaction.] No life is spared a few chicanes and hazards, and the occasional whoop-de-do.

WoW: Mumblety-Peg

30 July, 2018

MUMBLETY-PEG - [also MUMBL(E)Y-PEG] - early US game in which players take turns to toss a knife or pointed stick from a series of positions, continuing until it fails to stick in the ground. [From the phrase 'mumble the peg' as the losing player was once required to pull a peg from the earth with their teeth.] To see the cowboy caper of mumblety-peg clarified, go here.

WoW: Springerle

23 July, 2018

SPRINGERLE [SHPRING-uh-lah] - anise-flavoured Christmas biscuit of Germany, boasting an embossed design made with a special rolling pin. [From German dialect, Springerle, literally ‘little jumping horses’.] This December, add a tray of springerle/s to your Yuletide buffet.

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

read more +

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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