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: Pooktre

20 January, 2020

POOKTRE [PUHK-tree] - the art of tree shaping; arbour sculpture; topiary [The word is blend of Australian artists Peter Cook and Becky Northey] Pooktre germinated in 1987 when gardening pioneer Peter Cook wondered if he could fashion a sapling into a living chair.

WoW: Ostranenie

13 January, 2020

OSTRANENIE [aw-STRAH-nuh-nee] - the practice of presenting a common item in a strange way in order to enhance perception of the familiar; defamiliarisation [Coined by Russian literary critic, Viktor Shklovsky, in 1917, after the Russian word for 'strange'] Cryptic clues can heed ostranenie, maing a solver see 'parable' - for example - as something which can be pared.

WoW: Struldbrug

6 January, 2020

STRULDBRUG [STRUHLD-bruhg] - a person who can never die but who is destined to be declared dead at the age of 80, and thus persist wretchedly at state expense. [Coined by Jonathan Swift, naming one of a class of inhabitants of the imaginary Luggnagg, in the book Gulliver's Travels (1726)] You can be forgiven for deeming the aged care sector has more than a few struldbrugs in their safekeeping.

WoW: Umbratile

30 December, 2019

UMBRATILE [UM-bruh-tile] - given to staying indoors; keeping in the shade; private, out of the public gaze. [From umbra in Latin - shade or shadow] Given summer's brutal temperatures, is it any wonder most of us turn umbratile? 

WoW: Akratic

23 December, 2019

AKRATIC [ah-KRAT-ic] - Showing weakness of will that leads to acting against your better judgment. [From Greek akretes (powerless), from a- (without) + kratos (power, strength)] As Christmas looms, we can succumb to akratic conduct, from carol-humming to chocolate gluttony.

Knight Moves

19 December, 2019

SK is SLEEK in the extreme, a setter in need of a mainstream place, no question. You can Steve Knight's guile in the weekly WoW threads, as well as his elegrant play-nice puzzles in the Big Issue every third issue. 

But until a deserving home can be found, he's always welcome here on DA.com, where this week's crossword puts 2019 in the rearview mirror. I'll be smuggling the challenge in my luggage, taking a break from radio and column duties for a little while. Enjoy the brain-trip. 

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WoW: Fourchette

16 December, 2019

FOURCHETTE [FOR-chet] - the strip running along glove fingers to connect the front and back panels. [From French: a little fork, from Old French forche , via Latin furca] Owing to its fork root, fourchette can also apply to anatomy, a synonym of wishbone included. 

WoW: Dundrearies

9 December, 2019

DUNDREARIES - Long sideburns worn with a clean-shaven chin. [Named after character - Lord Dundreary) in the 1858 farce 'Our American Cousin', by UK playwright Tom Taylor.] Male hipsters are as likely to parade dundrearies as sideburns or Ned Kelly beards.

WoW: Tongzhi

2 December, 2019

TONGZHI [tong-SHEE] - Chinese word for 'comrade'; a member of any sexual minority group within China. [Literally 'same will' or 'same purpose' in Mandarin.] Since 1990, the LGBTQIA population of Macau has adopted tongzhi from the Communist playbook as their own gesture of solidarity. 

WoW: Cernuous

25 November, 2019

CERNUOUS [SUR-nyuh-uhs] - wilting; given to drooping. [From Latin cernuus (bowing)] Dozy TV watchers soon turn cernuous.

WoW: Bothsidesism

18 November, 2019

BOTHSIDESISM - tendency to treat all policy debates as if opposing sides present equally sound arguments; whataboutism [Neologism generated by Trump's ambivalent response to the violent Unite the Right rally in Virginia, 2017] False balance - ensuring every news story includes a counterview - falls into bothsidesism.

WoW: Quaquaversal

11 November, 2019

QUAQUAVERSAL [KWAR-ka-VER-suhl] - radiating outwards in all directions from a common centre. [From Latin quāquā in every direction, plus versus towards] Daisy petals - whether 'they love you or not' - are quaquaversal. 

WoW: Feghoot

4 November, 2019

FEGHOOT - Humorous story often ending in a pun, or rejigged version of a familiar phrase; a shaggy-dog tale [From sci-fi writer Reginald Bretnor - under his anagram of Grendel Briarton - who developed the format in a series of stories - 'Through Time and Space with Ferdinand Feghoot' - from 1956-1973.] Each elaborate tale told by Denis Norden and Frank Muir on 'My Word' was essentially a feghoot.

WoW: Malaphor

28 October, 2019

MALAPHOR - a mangled metaphor, or flawed idiom blend, such as 'spanner in the ointment' or 'that's the way the cookie bounces' [Fusion malapropism + metaphor, attributed to Lawrence Harrison in Washington Post article "Searching for Malaphors" (Aug. 6, 1976).] Finding malaphor examples is not rocket surgery.

Huh 58

22 October, 2019

Another dose of cryptic dypepsia - at least those British clues inflicting unrest and unease in my system. While I can glimpse the general sense behind most of these, all eight clues possess an element I've yet to plumb in full. So if you can diagnose my aggravations, I'd be one grateful inpatient. 

And as some extra bout of rehab, see what clues you can craft for the same answers. Treat the therapy as extension of the weekly WoW regimen. Cheers, and thanks in advance.

1. Dumb, forms words silently in turn, picking Oscar out = SHTUM  [Times 11, 598]

2. Parisian refusal put on commune eating aristo food, say = COLLECTIVE NOUN [Times 11, 594]

3. Adherents of cleric, last out of church, first to enter coach = BUDDHISTS [as above]

4. Novel campanologist the Sunday after Easter = QUASIMODO [ditto - that puzzle was a delightful house of pain]

5. Are you wearing a tie? So dine perhaps = A LA CARTE [Times 11,608]

6. Woman briefly recalled what may be top of volcano = ISLE  [Times 11,605]

7. Share Jill Masterson's fate? Cheerio! = ADIEU [Times 11,619]

8. Hearing warning of attack, left =AURAL [Times 11,630]

WoW: Genethliac

21 October, 2019

GENETHLIAC - relating to birthdays [From Greek genethlē race, family, offspring, from the stem of gignesthai to be born] Household candles remain relevant for blackout measures and genethliac duties.

WoW: Snoutband

14 October, 2019

SNOUTBAND - someone who rudely and continuously interrupts in order to assert their own opinion. [Bridle strap allusion to nosiness.] Mansplaining is common outbreak of the everyday snoutband.

WoW: Eustress

7 October, 2019

EUSTRESS [YEW-stress] beneficial stress [Coined by endocrinologist Hans Selye in the 1950s. From Greek eu- (good) + stress, linked to Latin stringere: to bind.] At its optimum, eustress hones focus and effort, as any cryptic devotee can report.

WoW: Untourism

30 September, 2019

UNTOURISM -  practice of seeking out destinations seldom visited by tourists in the hope of having some real cultural exchanges. [Tourism -  from old French tor, tourntourn "a turn, trick, circuit" from Latin tornos - lathe.] While overseas, leaving a train at random stations will improve the odds of untourism.

WoW: Clathrate

23 September, 2019

CLATHRATE - lattice-shaped; a compound wherein molecules of one component are trapped inside the crystal structure of another [From Latin from clathri - lattice bars - via Greek klēthra] Icecream pools into the sockets of clathrate waffles.

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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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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