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: 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.

WoW: Ananym

6 April, 2020

ANANYM - a word or alias derived from reversal, such as Harpo - Oprah's media company - or mho, a reciprocal ohm [From Greek, ana - backwards, plus nym - name] British crossword setter, Jonathan Crowther, derived his Azed alias from the Spanish inquisitor, Frey Diego de Deza.

WoW: Kirigami

30 March, 2020

KIRIGAMI - a style of origami where paper-cutting is allowed. [From Japanese - kiri (cut) and gami (paper)] Rather than creasing, the school of kirigami is sharply increasing.

WoW: Marcescent

23 March, 2020

MARCESCENT [mah-SESS-unt] - withering without shedding [From Latin marcere - to wither] Autumn leaves are often marcescent for weeks, shrivelling without dropping off their branch.

Huh 60

19 March, 2020

In these strange days of self-exile, I thought I might pigeon-post some more baffling clues from UK puzzles past. Below I present ten mind-bogglers, where I can grasp elements of each, but never the entities. 

In contemplative self-isolation, can you fathom how these clues operate? And for extra sport, can you devise a clue for any of these same solutions?

1. Borrow, say, from one who may have some cheques = TRAVELLER [I know about George Borrow, but can't cotton onto Part II]

2. Hog a lot of time available for business = PIGEON [The charade is clear but not the secondary element]

3. Temporary relief from wild plant? Not always = ESCAPE

4. It enables one to get the message - after reflection, naturally = HELIOTROPE

5. Support for growing girl’s need = CAKE STAND [I hate to think...Is there more to this?]

6. Shaking violently following wild creature – no end of quest = ROCKING 

7.  Many an Anglo-Saxon runner needing a drink = MANHATTAN [Get the drink, just not the chaser]

8. Justice of the Peace? = BENEFIT

9. He came to a dreadful end, in agony = BAKER  

10.  Shortly about to run off without paying for this orange = NAVEL 

WoW: Gyges Effect

16 March, 2020

GYGES EFFECT [guy-JEEZ] - phenomenon whereby internet users become far less inhibited owing to the web's invisibility [Named after Greek shepherd Gyges whose magic ring enabled him to vanish at will.] Using zombie accounts or phony names, many trolls are emboldened by the Gyges effect.

WoW: Biarritz

9 March, 2020

BIARRITZ - [golfing slang] any green divided by a deep groove or swale [Named after a notorious example at Le Phare Golf Club in Biarritz, France.] The secret to mastering a biarritz is ball placement, removing the groove's treachery from the equation. 

WoW: Majolica

2 March, 2020

MAJOLICA [mah-JOLL-uh-ka] - decorated tile, coated in enamel or tin glaze, originally imported into Italy from Majorca [From 16C Italian for Majorca] A frieze of majolica tiles is sure to enliven any corridor.

WoW: Casspir

23 February, 2020

CASSPIR - armoured troop-carrier used in South Africa, capable of resisting attack and landmines. [Anagram of initial clients, South African Police and designers CSIR: Council for Scientific and Industrial Research] First produced in 1980, during the apartheid era, the casspir weighs some 10 tonnes and can carry some 14 passengers.

WoW: Eigengrau

17 February, 2020

EIGENGRAU (EYE-gairn-GRAU) - dark light; uniform grey that people report seeing in the absence of light; also called BRAIN GREY. [From German 'own grey'] Genuine blackness is often compensated by the viewer, the brain relaying the 'visual noise' of the lighted world into the void. 

Huh 59

12 February, 2020

Been a while since a Huuh post - as there ten bewildering clues suggest - or at least these clues threw a spanner in my ointment.

All of them hail from the Times, including some historic collections that lack an identifying number. If you can shed any light on these eel-like creations I'd be very grateful.

And feel free, if the muse stirs, to devise your own clues for any of the listed answers. Maybe I'll be able to fathom those! Thanks in advance.

1. Pink belt = KNOCK

2. Leaf disease initially increasing in volume? = FOLIO [Times 11,710]

3. Fighter plane operator repeatedly an associate of thieves = ALI BABA [same puzzle!]

4. Seven-stone pauper? = BEGGARMAN

5. Weight up and down a little bit with fashion = DROP HAMMER

6. Widow, for example, can set tongues wagging = IN VINO VERITAS

7. One has matter in hand? Shilling on tax = ABSCESS [Times 11,630]

8. Prudence given help in training = FORESIGHT

9. Fight round roadblock, initially = SET-TO

10. Made the grade as a priest in ceremony? = COPED

WoW: Fardage

10 February, 2020

FARDAGE - wooden platform - or absorbent material - placed along a ship's hold in order to keep cargo dry; also DUNNAGE. [Origin unknown] The universal pallet is the contemporary fardage. 

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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