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: Aunt Emma

1 March, 2021

AUNT EMMA - croquet slang for a player more focused on hindering an opponent's progress, rather than trying to progress themselves; risk-averse individual [Unkind allusion to a possible kinswoman, though as likely to be a bigoted figment] For more croquet jargon, from Aunt Emma to Whaarad turn, try here.

WoW: Tongue-Hero

22 February, 2021

TONGUE-HERO - a braggart; an exaggerator of minor achievements [Figurative, based on a blowhard's claimed feats.] Your typical tongue-hero is bound to magnify their least deed.

WoW: Exergue

15 February, 2021

EXERGUE - space below a coin's central design, often containing the date or origins [Mediaeval Latin exergum, from Greek ex - outside, plus ergon - work] A medal will carry its own exergue with the honoree's details.

WoW: Zeigarnik Effect

8 February, 2021

ZEIGARNIK EFFECT - whereby people tend to remember unfinished or incomplete tasks better than completed ones [Named after Bluma Zeigarnik, a Soviet psychologist who observed how waiters better recalled the details of unpaid bills than settled ones.] To prove the Zeigarnik effect, can you retrieve the last clue to stump you?

WoW: Apophenia

1 February, 2021

APOPHENIA - tendency to make meaningful links between unrelated things. [Coined by German psychiatrist Klaus Conrad in 1956, from Greek apophaínō - to appear] Patients living with schizophrenia, as well as QAnon conspiracy theorists, are prone to apophenia.

WoW: Whelve

25 January, 2021

WHELVE - to overturn a dish (or other vessel) in order to cover another item [From Old English gehwielfan, to arch, bend over - akin to Old High German welben to vault] In summer, you're wise to whelve the chinaware to cover a platter of antipasti.

WoW: GLOMAR response

18 January, 2021

GLOMAR RESPONSE - evasive parry to a question, often expressed as 'neither confirm, nor deny' [Coined in 1975 owing to the LA Times inquiry into a covert CIA operation to salvage a Soviet submarine, under the guise of Howard Hughes's Global-Marine (GLOMAR) exploration vessel] In text-ese, the GLOMAR response is NCND.

WoW: Smeuse

11 January, 2021

SMEUSE - small hole in a hedge used as a thoroughfare for animals. [Sussex dialect] A wombat smeuse would naturally outsize a bandicoot smuese.

WoW: Zoombomb

4 January, 2021

ZOOMBOMB - to trespass another's videochat - by design or accident. [Variation on 'photobomb'] No question, the most beloved zoombomb was performed by Marion, the four-year-old daughter of BBC interview, Robert Kelly, in 2017.

WoW: Blandscape

28 December, 2020

BLANDSCAPE - generic, lacklustre scenery, often occupied by tasteless public buildings or vanilla kit-homes [Bland/landscape hybrid] Shopping malls, office blocks and McMansions infest the modern blandscape.

WoW: Deuterogamist

21 December, 2020

DEUTEROGAMIST - someone who marries for a second time [From Greek deutero-, akin to Greek dein to lack, plus gameîn - to marry] Comedians call a deuerogamist an irrepressible optimist.

WoW: Spoilmonger

14 December, 2020

SPOILMONGER - person prone to disclosing key plot points in any film, book or TV series. [Modern variant within the -monger (or merchant) family.] Work colleagues take pains in avoiding the office's spoilmonger.

WoW: Immelmann

7 December, 2020

IMMELMANN - aerial manoeuvre comprising a half-loop, used to gain height while turning in the opposite direction [Named after Max Immelmann (1890–1916), German aviator of WWI who devised it.] Pigeons can perform an impromptu immelmann to elude a hawk.

WoW: Balkanise

30 November, 2020

BALKANISE - to subdivide a region into smaller, hostile states. [After the Balkan Peninsula's fracturing,  following the Ottoman Empire.] One way to ensure more heat than light is to balkanise any caucus.

Huh 63

25 November, 2020

Eight more brain-curlers for you. These Times clues hide their secrets closely. While I can parse most in part, there remains some elements I'm still not grasping, needing your help to seal the deal.

What allusion has eluded me? Which nuance has missed my radar? And for those feeling extra-cluey, can you compile a rival clue for any of these eight solutions? Thanks in advance.

1. Fetch strong drink = DOUBLE [Times 11916]

2. Getting back, having left bed for cat = PUMA [same puzzle]

3. One shoe, not quite the pair, going with it = SABOT [11917]

4. Go off melon, maybe, unpleasant at first for the tongue = URDU [11940]

5. Do this after start to alarm and confuse = ADDLE 

6. Statements to the press not allowed in Israel = HANDOUTS 

7. Our lot, blue at the extremities, are freezing! = SUSPEND  [11958]

8. In a sorry state, having failed to rise = SAD 

WoW: Smaragd

23 November, 2020

SMARAGD [smah-RAG/d] - any trnaslucent green gem, especially the emerald. [From Greek smaragdos - emerald]. Dorothy, Toto and her three friends wended towards a city build of smaragd.

WoW: Mooreeffoc

16 November, 2020

MOOREEFFOC - the act of seeing something dull or familiar with fresh eyes [Dickens' coinage based on the mirrored letters of COFFEEROOM.] Biographer GK Chesterton noted this 'mooreeffoc' moment in Dickens' diaries, claiming how Dickens had the knack for seeing London anew.

WoW: Creance

9 November, 2020

CREANCE [cree-ONZE] - lightweight leash used to restrain a hawk or falcon during a training flight. [From French for faith, a shortening of peu de créance (‘of little faith’, suggesting a bird which is yet to be reliable] No hawk is spared the master's creance in its pilot flights. 

WoW: Eszett

2 November, 2020

ESZETT [ess-ZAIRT] - the B-like symbol of German grammar - ß - that denotes a sharp-S in sound, as seen in Straße - otherwise strasse, or street. [Literally 'S-Z' in German, after its distinct sound] For an ach-hack, to create the eszett on the page, press the right 'alt' key and hit the s-key simultaneoußly.

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.

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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