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: 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.

WoW: Chaulmoogra

15 June, 2020

CHAULMOOGRA [chawl-MOO-gruh] - tree found India and SE Asia whose seed yields an oil valued for its treatment of leprosy. [From Bengali, cāul rice, plus mugrā hemp.] Modern medicine may have eclipsed the pharmacological allure of the chaulmoogra.

WoW: Feuilleton

8 June, 2020

FEUILLETON [FULL-it-on] - newspaper segment devoted to lighter themes and entertainment; a novel published by instalments. [From French, feuillet (page), via feuille (leaf) - ultimately from Latin, folium] Wordwit, crosswords, Target and comic strips  appear in the Nine-Fairfax feuilleton.

WoW: Scopperil

1 June, 2020

SCOPPERIL [SKOP-purr-uhl] - a spinning top; perforated bone serving as a button; folk name for a squirrel; slang for a hyperactive child. [From skoppa, Icelandic - to spin] Swigs of red cordial will convert any demur child into a turbocharged scopperil.

WoW: Jumentous

25 May, 2020

JUMENTOUS - smelling like horse urine [From Old French jument, originally Latin iumentum - beast of burden; pack animal] Home-brewers can admit to the odd jumentous potion in their quest for a craft elixir.

WoW: Epikeia

18 May, 2020

EPIKEIA [air-PICK-aya-ah] - a principle in ethics stating that a law can be broken in order toacheive a greater good. [From Greek, epieíkeiareasonableness.] Civil disobedience can often enshrine epikeia.

WoW: Textrovert

11 May, 2020

TEXTROVERT - one who feels more comfortable in communicating via SMS than face-to-face [Neologism - based on extrovert, (variant of extra-, more) + -vertere to turn] The modern Cyrano de Bergerac, a maestro of the written word, is likely the textrovert.

Huh 61

6 May, 2020

Owing to the Iso Age, I've been doing a bit more clue-wrangling, gobbling grids in ill-advised numbers. Hence the surge in Huh posts over the the last month or so. 

Most of these bafflers hail from an old Times collection, unless otherwise stated. Their logic hovers just within my grasp, needing your nudge be fully grabbed. 

I'd appreciate any insights you can add. For the more spirited buffs, see what alternative clues you can devise for the same answers. 

1. Bloomers made here in Coventry = OVEN [Clearly a hidden recipe, but bloomers?]

2. Film director with a good score when shooting = WINNER [Times 11769 - since when is a director a winner?]

3. Pale nut found under tree = ASHEN  [Sunday Times 1198 - en as nut?]

4. Serious art making money? = EARNEST [Same puzzle - different quandary]

5. One being short of training is a firing offence = ARSON  [Ditto]

6. Dope runs across grass becoming increasingly active = SPRYER [Times 11776 - SP as dope?]

7. Diamond-shaped tablet is a success = ACHIEVEMENT  [The what?]

8. Location for play people without exception remember = RECALL [Times 11799]

9. Picture latter half of a trip to Santiago? = IMAGE [Same puzzle, and I remain at sea]

WoW: Drogulus

4 May, 2020

DROGULUS - something that exists, and yet its existence is unverifiable owing to its intangibility; plural - droguli [Coined by British philosopher AJ Ayer, in association with dracunculus - dragon in Latin.] Faith is an evident drogulus for its want of hard evidence.

WoW: Ribazuba

27 April, 2020

RIBAZUBA - walrus ivory [From Russian words fish + tooth] Scrimshaw pieces in ivory are likely to be works of ribazuba.

WoW: Finneskoe

20 April, 2020

FINNESKOE - a soft-hide boot designed for winter travel. Traditionally, reindeer hide is used, insulated with grass for water absorption. [From Norwegian - Finn (Lapp) + skoe, or shoe.] The finneskoe is superior to hard leather as the boot can survive subzero temperatures overnight.


14 April, 2020

Covidiot. Quarantini. Ronavations. Isoholic.

COVID-19 is fast creating its own glossary, and thanks to SK - decorated cluesmith both here and in The Big Issue - the virus can brag its own cryptic crossword. Perfect diversion while passing your lockdown hours.

Hard to single out my favourite clues, but 5ac, 7dn and 23dn would be jostling on the podium. As would most SK samples. You're in for a treat.

In fact, please subscribe to the Big Issue on the same link, as sales have dipped since our streets have emptied. Make a small difference for those who need a hand, with a fine crossword your karmic reward.

Feel free to share your feedback and oblique hints in the Comments below.

pdf 48KB

WoW: Zabernism

13 April, 2020

ZABERNISM - abuse of military power; unwarranted aggression from an officebearer. [From Zabern, the German name for Saverne, where a subatlern executed a cobbler for smiling in 1912.] As executive powers shift during COVID times, citizens must be watchful of a zabernism rise.

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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