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: Codon

4 December, 2023

CODON -  a sequence of three adjacent bases on a DNA strand; a trumpet's flaring mouth; a hand-bell used to summon monks [Code-on for meaning 1; and codon - mediaeval Latin  for handbell - for meanings 2 & 3] Monastery crypts may hold the codon of the original codon-ringer. 

WoW: Algospeak

27 November, 2023

ALGOSPEAK - coded language - where sex is seggs, say - used on social media in order to sidestep moderation systems [Short for algorithm-speak]. Suicide in algospeak is unalive - as a verb - to keep platform alerts quiet. 

WoW: Sphexish

20 November, 2023

SPHEXISH [SFEX-ish] - wasp-like; fixed in one's behaviour. [From Greek sphex, sand wasp. Coined in 1982 by US scientist and literary scholar, observing the robot-like determinism of the solitary digger wasp.] Those held hostage by their own instincts are deemed to be sphexish.

WoW: Barani

13 November, 2023

BARANI - an aerial front flip followed by a half-twist, or 180-degree turn; also called a BARANI FLIP. [Named after Italian acrobat, Alfonso Barani who performed the trick in 1881.] The barani is a dazzling staple of circus, snowboarding and trampoline routines. 

WoW: Trunnion

6 November, 2023

TRUNNION - a cannon's mounting, allowing the weapon to pivot or adjust its elevation. [From Old French, trognon - or trunk, stump.] Without its trunnion, a cannon would only serve if the target matched the muzzle's direction and angle.

WoW: Sprezzatura

30 October, 2023

SPREZZATURA - the art of doing a difficult task with effortless grace. [Italian for 'nonchalance', a quality popularised in the 1520s by diplomat, Baldassare Castiglione, seen here in Raphael's portrait.] More recently, sprezzatura has been aligned with the carefree flow of masterful artwork.

WoW: Filemot

23 October, 2023

FILEMOT [FILL-eh-mo] - dull or yellowish brown [Anglicised version of French feuillemorte - a dead leaf] Autumn is a hymn to the filemot spectrum.

WoW: Canary Trap

16 October, 2023

CANARY TRAP - ruse designed to expose an informer, whereby suspected leaks are supplied differing information [Popularised by Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan novels - also called the barium meal test.] Language use as much as particular data are integral to the canary trap. 

WoW: Patagium

9 October, 2023

PATAGIUM - translucent membrane extending between a bat's or sugar gliders forelimbs to create the mammal's wing [From Latin: the edging of a woman's tunic.] The fruit bat would go 'splat' without its trusty patagium.

WoW: Cacafuego

2 October, 2023

CACAFUEGO [kar-kar-FWAY-go] - braggart; volatile person prone to outburst [From Spanish, literally one who shits fire, from cagar to defecate + fuego fire.] Gordon Ramsay in the Hell's Kitchen series is a classic cacafuego. 

WoW: Yealm

25 September, 2023

YEALM - to prepare straw for thatching; a straw bundle ready for the cottage roof [Old English - also yelm - via gelm, or handful.] Thatchers must tamp each yealm tightly to keep a cottage rainproof.

WoW: Dolce far niente

18 September, 2023

DOLCE FAR NIENTE [doll-CHAY fah nee-ENT-ay] - the pleasure of doing nothing [Literal translation of Italian] Leisure allows for the option of active recreation, or dolce far niente.

WoW: Gish gallop

11 September, 2023

GISH GALLOP - rhetorical device where a person swamps their opponent in uncited evidence with no regard for veracity. [Coined by anthropologist Eugenie Scott after US creationist Duane Gish] President You-Know-Who was a virtuoso of the Gish gallop.

WoW: Hellscape

4 September, 2023

HELLSCAPE - any infernal environment, typically the result of disaster or devastation. [Hell + scape] As global crises multiply, from climate shifts to the Crimean conflict, the Oxford Dictionary chose to register hellscape as a key intake for 2023. 

WoW: Elozable

28 August, 2023

ELOZABLE [eh-LOH-zah-behl] - susceptible to flattery [From French eloge - praise or eulogy] Sales staff across the industry can spot an elozable customer.

WoW: Abjad

21 August, 2023

ABJAD - any writing system - such as Arabic - where only consonants, or consonantal phonemes, are depicted, leaving vowel sounds to be inferred by readers. [The word is based on the Arabic alphabet's first four letters, corresponding to a, b, j and d]. PRN, perhaps, in the abjad mode, may denote APRON, PERONI or PARANOIA. 

WoW: Scorp

14 August, 2023

SCORP - woodworking tool used for roughing out hollows in such items as bowls and chairs. [Etymology uncertain. Perhaps an allusion to a scorpion's upright tail.] Bush furniture artisans are scorp-reliant.

WoW: Ovcharka

7 August, 2023

OVCHARKA [ov-CHAR-kah] - massive Russian sheepdog, weighing up to 70kg, used as guard dog for livestock and property, as well as bear-hunting [Lit. Russian: shepherd dog] With thick fur, barrel frame and powerful jaw, the Caucasian ovcharka might well be mistaken for a bear. 

WoW: Utah Teapot

31 July, 2023

UTAH TEAPOT - virtual ceramic vessel helping to gauge a computer program's 3D fidelity; a Newell teapot [After Utah Uni, 1975, where Martin Newell - a computer  graphics researcher - selected the utensil for its curved base and  sheen.] Look twice, and you may discern a Utah teapot in many 3-D programs as a coder's in-joke.

WoW: Auxesis

24 July, 2023

AUXESIS [og-ZEE-sis] - rhetorical phrase of mounting intensity; hyperbole; overstatement [From Greek auxesis (growth), via auxein, to increase] To call a political opponent as "inexperienced, ill-suited, inept and irresponsible" is an example of auxesis - and alliteration.

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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