Saturday, 22 December 2012

15th Birthday Clue Writing Competition!

Today is the 15th birthday of my business, Sutherland Studios. And it's Chrissie time. So to celebrate, I'm giving you pressies — no other course of action else makes sense!

Here's the challenge, should you choose to accept it!

Write a cryptic clue of your very own, using an anagram, for the answer word CHRISTMAS. Write your clue, and an explanation of how it works, in a comment, below this post.

Don't be scared, you can do it. It's even fun (honest)! Your clue can be quirky, surreal, funny, serious, whatever you like. It needs to read well, like a mini phrase or sentence (not just a random assortment of words stuck together). Creativity and clue accuracy are what I'll be looking for.

Here are some tips to help you get started. Your cryptic clue will need:

1) A definition for CHRISTMAS — this can be as simple, as oblique, or as silly as you like. The definition needs to be at the start or end of the clue (not stuck in the middle).

2) An anagram — this needs to be an anagram of the word CHRISTMAS. Something like 'arch mists' — there are heaps of possibilities, and it can run over 2 or 3 words. This is called the anagram fodder.

3) An anagram indicator — this is a word that tells the reader to jumble up the letters of the fodder. This can be a word like cooked, confused, inebriated, or upset. There are thousands of possibilities! Look for a word (or two or three) that matches well, and makes sense, with your fodder.

More help:

That's it! You've got a fortnight, so entries close at midnight 5 January 2013, Australian Eastern Summer Time (+11 hours GMT).

I will choose my three favourite clues, and winners will be announced on 6 January 2013.

First Prize

 A signed copy of Solving Cryptic Crosswords For Dummies :D

Second Prize

A copy of Bradford's Crossword Solver's Dictionary, 7th edition, which has heaps of cryptic references, abbreviations, and other useful stuff. Extra good for solving cryptics!

Third Prize

A 1 Across crossword beanie, my original design, knitted by me, as featured on 100% pure wool. It's the actual beanie featured in the third photo on the Knitty page. Fits an adult.

ETA: I'm happy to take people's prize preferences into account when allocating the three prizes. So, if you're hankering for the beanie, but not the crossword dictionary, for example, let me know  :)

I look forward to reading your clues!

Friday, 14 December 2012

Gemini 6466

My analysis of the clues from the Gemini Cryptic Crossword from The Canberra Times, Friday 14 December 2012.

As usual, the definitions are underlined (except in double definition and cryptic definition clues).


1. Son of Susie? (5) = ISSUE
An anagram that doesn't really have an anagram indicator, although it could be argued that the question mark serves that purpose. I don't think it's fair, though. The anagram fodder is Susie. ISSUE is defined here as progeny/children (hence son).

4. Constitutional nature's changed (7) = SAUNTER
Changed is the anagram indicator, and nature's is the fodder. A constitutional is a rather old-fashioned term for a regular walk (good for the constitution, don'tcha know).

8. Dad's silent partner (3) = MUM
Cute double definition clue. Mum is Dad's partner, but it's also a word that means to be quiet.

9. An order without speech (9) = TRAPPISTS
Cryptic definition. The Trappist monks are an order of monks where speech is not allowed most of the time.

10. Rushed to fire rifle (7) = RANSACK
Charade clue. Rushed = RAN. Fire = SACK (as in "Fire all the staff!"). Rifle is the definition, meaning to rummage through stuff (not a gun).

11. Having no occupation (5) = EMPTY
Cryptic definition, occupation doesn't mean a job here, but the state of being occupied or full.

13. Not put out when one did some hoarding (4,2) = LAID IN
I don't think the definition of this clue is correctly matched to the answer. Surely hoarding should clue LAYING IN, and LAID IN should be clued as hoarded. Cryptic definition? Not sure about this one. I guess the opposite (not) of LAID OUT (put out) is LAID IN?

15. Unions strangely in agreement (6) = UNISON
Anagram clue, indicated by strangely. Unions is the fodder.

18. Ascended a small hill to the north (5) = RISEN
Charade clue. A small hill = RISE + N (North).

19. Thicken stew in cook's place (7) = KITCHEN
An anagram (stew) of thicken.

21. Betrayed — like a bride in church maybe (5,4) = GIVEN AWAY
Double definition. If someone gives you away, you may either be a bride on her wedding day, or a plotter being betrayed!

23. A bishop's responsibility is to make observations (3) = SEE
Double definition: a bishop's responsibility (Dictionary definition: the place in which a cathedral church stands, identified as the seat of authority of a bishop or archbishopand to make observations.

24. He looks after someone's wardrobe and sideboard (7) = DRESSER
Double definition - a dresser is both a piece of furniture, and a man who helps actors get dressed and looks after theatrical costumes.

25. Very small driving area close to New York (5) = TEENY
Charade clue - very small is the definition. You can get to it by putting TEE (driving area) next to NY (New York).


1. Dissolute, but I'm getting the message (7) = IMMORAL
Charade clue, IM (I'm) + MORAL (the message, as in the message of a story).

2. I can't mess around with the meanings of words (9) = SEMANTICS
Anagram of I can't mess, indicated by around.

3. Speechless player (5) = EXTRA
Cryptic definition — a player / actor in a movie or play who doesn't say anything is an extra.

4. Is lazy, resulting in a deficiency on board (6) = SLACKS
Container clue. On board = SS (for steamship). A deficiency = LACK. Put LACK inside SS.

5. Numerous men put in place around the East (7) = IMMENSE
Anagram and container. Anagram of men put.

6. Sit up when it is abbreviated (3) = TIS
Cute little reversal - sit written up (backwards) is TIS, an abbreviation of it is.

7. Out of practice but try us anyway (5) = RUSTY
Anagram (anyway) of try us.

12. Assembled the pots as speedily as possible (9) = POSTHASTE
Anagram, indicated by assembled. The fodder is the pots as.

14. Games period (7) = INNINGS
Cryptic definition. Innings are a set period in a game of cricket.

16. Community centre for retired ladies (7) = NUNNERY
Cryptic definition. Retired here means 'retired/retreated from everyday life', not retired from work, so retired ladies can be nuns.

17. A joint stake (6) = SKEWER
Cryptic definition. A skewer is something you might use to stake a roast joint (eg a leg of lamb)?

18. Stiff clothes I'd put on (5) = RIGID
Charade clue - clothes  RIG + ID (I'd).

20. Test the patience of a good man at a meeting (5) = TRYST
Charade clue. Test the patience = TRY + a good man = ST (for saint).

22. Contend it's a quarter past six (3) = VIE
Charade clue. Put one of the quarters (of the compass, ie N, S, E, or W) after VI (Roman numeral for six).

Let me know if you have any better thoughts on these clues  :)

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Crosswords for my foodie friends

At last, there's a crossword app just for us foodies! My new Gourmet Crosswords app has just been launched, for all iOS devices (apart from very old devices, as Apple no longer supports them in new apps, unfortunately).

There are 25 crosswords, all 15 x 15 grids, for only 99¢. As with our QuickBreak apps, the crosswords are completely customisable: you can change the backgrounds, grid colours, letter colours, highlight colours, and choose between five different fonts. We've added a nice new script fancy font.

The graphics feature one of my watercolours, a still life with figs.

So — just how good a gourmand are you? Test out your knowledge of cooking techniques, international recipes, ingredients, wines, and spirits on the Gourmet Crosswords to find out! Can you score 100%?! 

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Gemini 6441

It's been a while, sorry! Anyway, here is the analysis of the Gemini Cryptic from The Canberra Times, Monday 19 November.

The definition is underlined, except in double definition and cryptic definition clues.


1) Oversight the foreman's responsible for? (11) = SUPERVISION
Cryptic definition. 'Over sight' is sort of a coined definition for 'super vision'. What the foreman is responsible for is the definition.

9) Threatens to finish in bad spirits (7) = IMPENDS
Container. Finish = END. Put it in IMPS (bad spirits). IMP(END)S.

10) It limits the field to insure against betting losses (5) = HEDGE
Double definition. A HEDGE can limit the field (as in bordering a garden or field), and a HEDGE fund is one that insures against betting losses (speculation losses, rather than race track betting losses).

11) Rent is said to have been raised (4) = HIRE
Homophone, indicated by is said. As is common with homophone clues, it's not very clear which word of the homophone pair is the definition and which one's the wordplay. The letter count count helps here ... Rent is HIRE, and to have been raised is HIGHER. HIRE is the only one with 4 letters, which will fit in the grid.

12) Distribute or secure aid (8) = RESOURCE
Anagram, indicated by distribute. The fodder is or secure.

14) The wrong time's right for him (6) = MISTER
Anagram clue, indicated by wrong. The letter to be jumbled up (the fodder) are time's (ignore that apostrophe) and R (abbreviation of right).

16) Present causing pain (6) = TENDER
Double definition. TENDER meaning to formally offer or present something, and causing pain.

18) Scandinavian of manner so strange (8) = NORSEMAN
Anagram clue. Manner so is the fodder, and strange is the anagram indicator.

19) Bird in difficulty (4) = KNOT
A tricky one for us Aussies! Double definition - a knot is a British wading bird, as well a term for a difficulty.

22) Throw out or reject right away (5) = EJECT
Subtraction / deletion clue. Take reject, and take R (abbreviation of right) away! R-EJECT.

23) Review on thug's weapon (7) = SHOTGUN
Anagram clue, indicated by review. On thug's is the fodder, and they certainly do create a weapon when muddled up!

24) Anyway it's where papers like to have reporters (2,3,6) = AT ALL EVENTS
Nice double definition clue. Anyway is the first definition, and it's where papers like to have reporters is the second one.


2) Superior kind of cut (5) = UPPER
Double definition. Superior is the first definition, and a kind of cut (UPPERcut) is the second. What a blow!

3) A girl from Aden (4) = EDNA
Unfair anagram clue. I always think that clueing any name as a girl (or a boy) is rather unfair on the solver. So the definition in this clue is a girl. Which means that any 4 letter girl's name could be the answer. Yeah. There's a lot of them. Anyway, on to the rest of the clue. From Aden is the wordplay. It's an anagram of Aden, but there is no anagram indicator, which is also unfair.

4) Container ship (6) = VESSEL
Double definition. I bet you can figure out which are the two definitions, seeing as there are only two words in the clue!

5) Vessel sunk at the bar (8) = SCHOONER
Oooh cheeky ... using vessel in this clue, directly beneath the clue where VESSEL was the answer! Double definition clue. A SCHOONER is a vessel (sailing ship). And it's also a type of glass for alcohol, served and maybe drunk (or sunk) at the bar!

6) Regulated as instructed (7) = ORDERED
YADD! Yet Another Double Definition. Something that is regulated can also be said to be ORDERED. And if you were instructed to do something, you may have been ORDERED to do it.

7) Just a privilege objected to (5-6) = RIGHT-MINDED
Charade, not a frightfully good one. Just, as in fair, is the definition. A privilege = RIGHT, and objected to = MINDED.

8) Discerning writer and French sailor (11) = PENETRATING
Charade clue. A writer is a PEN. Add on and in French (ET), and then another word for sailor (RATING - a British term for a non-commissioned sailor in the navy). Discerning is the definition.

13) It gives the sculptor's work some standing (8) = PEDESTAL
Cryptic definition. A sculpture can definitely stand on a pedestal!

15) Fit and sure maybe but altogether too much (7) = SURFEIT
YAA! Yet Another Anagram! Maybe is the anagram indicator, and the letters to jumble up are fit and sure. An anagram of FITSURE is SURFEIT!

17) Lashes out in a quarrel (6) = HASSLE
Anagram, indicated by out. Lashes is the fodder. I wasn't sure about quarrel as a definition for HASSLE, but my Oxford Dictionary tells me that HASSLE can mean a disagreement or quarrel in the USA, so fair enough.

20) Dark disturbing thing (5) = NIGHT
Final anagram clue, indicated by disturbing. Thing is the fodder, and dark is the definition.

21) He does keep talking well (4) = BORE
The tenth double definition clue in this crossword — what a lot! He does keep talking is the first definition, and well is the second one (as in a well in the ground!).

How did you get on?

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Fuck yeah - Quick Break 2!

Because I've written so damn MANY crosswords over the last few years, we've already got Volume 2 of our Quick Break app up and running!

So - same awesome interface - 50 new crosswords - with a supercool red look, instead of purple. As with Quick Break 1, you can customise the interface in roughly a trillion ways.

Check it out! It's shiny!

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Clever reCAPTCHA

Thank you! Thank you so much for helping to correct thousands, if not millions, of pages of scanned text!

What? You aren't doing anything of the sort? Oh, yes you are ... read on!

Optical character recognition (OCR) is the method used to digitise printed material — old newspapers and book, for example, can be scanned using OCR technology, and then we can access them online. The National Library of Australia uses this technology for its massive Trove database, for example.

The problem with OCR is that it's not always that accurate, especially from older printed material with yellowing paper and faded or smudged ink. It is a lot better than it used to be, but is still far from 100% accurate — 80% accuracy is more typical. So the resulting scanned texts have a lot of errors!

Here's an example:

We can read the top sentence of scanned type (This aged portion of society were distinguished from ...), because us humans are fucking brilliant, but a computer has a lot of trouble distinguishing the letter patterns. The human eye is just better at seeing those letters!

So, there's a problem. We have millions of pages of inaccurate scanned text, with 20% errors. Which makes it damn difficult to read and use, needless to say.

Now, you'll be familiar with CAPTCHA technology already. CAPTCHA stands for 'Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart'. It's those range of 'verification' boxes that pop up when posting on a blog or registering for something online, for example. You might need to type in some letters, deciphering a mangled or warped picture, or do some sums, or something which proves that you're a real person using the site, and not a computer being used by spammers to abuse online services. You're doing something that a computer can't do.

Some bright lads over at the Computer Science Department at Carnegie Mellon University (PA, USA) came up with a clever tool to help solve this problem of old OCR-ed texts, called reCAPTCHA.

This is a variety of CAPTCHA entry box, where one of the two 'distorted' words presented for you to retype is a word from actual scanned texts, which was unrecognisable by OCR. The other word is a 'control' word, to assess how accurate you are when typing in entries. Readings for these distorted words need to be agreed on by several users before they are cleared as being accurate.

In their Science paper reCAPTCHA: Human-Based Character Recognition via Web Security Measures (which you can download from this page)the scientists say that reCAPTCHA is used by more than 40,000 websites in 2008 (and presumably many more by now), and is proving to be highly effective and accurate.

You can read more about reCAPTCHA on Google and Wikipedia.

So whenever you enter text into a word verification box with this logo on it, you're helping to correct the vast quantities of old scanned texts, for all! I think it's so bloody clever; we're all helping to improve information and assisting in a massive complex process. And every one of us is contributing, whether we know it or not!

Images from

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Quick Break

I'm very excited to announce that my first app is up for sale on the iTunes App Store!

My husband Ralph and I have been working on this for ages — he is the expert code monkey, and I've done the graphics and written all the crosswords.

My Quick Break crosswords have appeared for years in The Cairns Post. They are 13 x 13 quick crosswords (not cryptic), and mostly quite easy to solve, with the occasional tricky word.

I am no longer doing syndicated puzzles for newspapers (a rapidly dying field), so apps are the way forward.

This first volume contains 50 of my Quick Break crosswords. Volumes 2, 3 and 4 are in production.

Here are some screen shots to entice you!

 Just tap on the grid to bring up the keyboard, then start typing in your answers:
You can choose from four fonts and nine background papers, including dark papers and crumpled paper with coffee stains!
And you can choose the colours for everything - the grid, the text, and the highlight colours.

As I have vision problems, we have been very aware of accessibility issues. Some people with visual impairments find white text on a dark background easier to read, for example — with this app, you can do that. You can also zoom in on the grid, and set the app to do this automatically for you, if you wish.

Other options are marking wrong letters in red, having a timer, and locking correct letters. Typing a '?' will reveal the letter for the selected square. These 'cheated' letters have a red triangle in their corner.

It works on iPhones (including the 5), iPods, and iPads. It's waiting for you now!
ETA: Android versions coming in 2013!

Monday, 15 October 2012

Missing in Action

Apologies for the silence here — I'm doing a short contract as a publications editor for Early Childhood Australia, and don't have the time to write for the blog. Normal service shall resume in two weeks!

xo Denise

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

The Quirkology Index

As well as writing puzzles, I am also an editor and indexer (cos, let's face it, writing puzzles is no damn way to earn an income!).

As an indexing exercise, I recently finished writing an index for the book Quirkology, by Richard Wiseman. An interesting book that suffers from the lack of an index. It's beyond me why authors of non-fiction pass up indexes for their books ... Anyway, that's a rant for another time.

You are welcome to download the PDF of the index for free, and print it out. Then you can refer to it when reading your copy of the book!

There are two versions of the file:

A4 Quirkology Index
This index is a straight forward layout, on A4 (will resize to US Letter easily), and you can print it either single or double-sided as you prefer. Staple them together.

Quirkoogy index slotted into the back of the book

Booklet Quirkology Index
This file has been designed to make a little booklet that can be slotted into the back of your copy of Quirkology. To use this file, you need to be able to print double-sided, and to trim pages to the size of your copy of the book (using a ruler and blade, paper guillotine etc).

The pages are laid out in imposition, so they may look in a funny order, but once the pages are folded in half, and the booklet is put together, trust me, it will work out.

You may need to flip every second page by 180ยบ to get the printing to work correctly, it depends on how your printer does double-sided printing.

After printing, fold the pages in half, place them together in the correct order (you'll be able to tell from the alphabetical order), and trim them to size (there are trim marks on the pages to guide you). Then simply plonk it into the back of your copy of Quirkology, and you're set to go!

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Lesson 8: Reversals

So. Reversals. I bet you have already figured out how this cryptic wordplay works! Yes indeed, some letters or words are run backwards to help get to the answer.

In English, some words are perfect reversals of each other - TIPS / SPIT, SERIF / FIRES, GUM / MUG, and KEEP / PEEK are just a few. These sorts of words are called anadromes.

And you will know what palindromes are no doubt, those tricky words which read the same backwards and forwards! EVE, RADAR, TOT, and so on.

In cryptic clues, either the whole answer word can be clued with a "perfect" reversal (eg WOLF reversing to give FLOW), or as is more common, (let's face it, not that many words form perfect anadromes), the reversal forms part of the wordplay, in combination with another device (especially charades). They also have reversal indicator words, so you get some instruction on what to do.

Here's an example of a "pure" reversal clue:

Pam runs back to get a chart (3) 

Pam is the word that you're going to reverse, runs back is the reversal indicator, and a chart is the definition. MAP is the answer (PAM reversed).

More often than not, though, you won't be given the word to reverse 'in the clear' (as in the clue above). You will need to find it by locating a synonym for a word in the wordplay part of the clue. such as:

Keen opera singer is going the wrong way (4)

In this clue, keen is the definition. This means that opera singer is going the wrong way is the wordplay. Is going the wrong way is the reversal indicator, and opera singer is what to reverse ...

But, this doesn't lead to anything that's sensible (REGNIS AREPO, although it sounds like something Captain Kirk might use to name a new planet). So let's look for a synonym for opera singer that is 4 letters long. ALTO? Hmm, OTLA isn't promising. How about DIVA? Reverse this word, and you get AVID, which nicely matches with the definition!

One more example, of how a reversal can be used in combination with another device (fairly commonly with a charade clue, with an abbreviation tacked on somewhere).

Diana ran back to get Iranian currency (5)

In this clue, Iranian currency  is the definition. Diana is abbreviated to DI, and then add on ran back = NAR (backwards). DI + NAR = DINAR!

Reversal Indicators

As you can see, reversal indicators are words or short phrases that give a sense of something being turned over, reversed, sent back, returned, or pushed over.

All reversal indicators can be used with both Across and Down clues - however ones that give a sense of 'rising' or 'going up' can only be used with Down clues (as the words are written into the grid from top to bottom, therefore a reversal would effectively be written from bottom to top).

Here are just a few reversal indicator words. There is a more complete list on my website. The Down-only clue reversal indicators on this list are marked with an ^.

  • about
  • arising ^
  • back-to-front
  • climbing up ^
  • contrariwise
  • from the East
  • go back
  • in retrospect
  • keep back
  • knock over
  • looking up ^
  • overturned
  • recoiling
  • reflected
  • reject
  • rising ^
  • send up ^
  • set back
  • take up ^
  • turn back
  • upset ^

Practice Reversal Clues

Now it's your turn! Remember that each of the these clues has the definition, at the start or end of the clue, and the wordplay (which you know is a reversal).

1. Boast - lifted up attire! (4) (Down clue)
2. Have a quick look both ways (4) 
3. Wind, backtracking, to get to swimming place (4)
4. Round feline and tenor show discretion (4)
5. A young boy and Sal return to Texan city (6)

As ever, there is a cute puppeh guardian, looking after the explanations and clues. Scroll past Griff (who just turned 1!) when you're ready. It'll be easy,  he's neglecting his duties!


1. Boast - lifted up attire! (4) (Down clue)
Lifted up is the reversal indicator here. Attire is the definition. You need to find a synonym for the word boast (which starts with B) and reverse that, to get the answer. 

2. Have a quick look both ways (4) 
Both ways is a palindrome indicator - the answer reads the same in both directions. Have a quick look is the definition. There isn't a word to find a synonym for, as it's the same as the answer when reversed!

3. Wind, backtracking, to get to swimming place (4)
Did you spot the reversal indicator? Yes, it's backtracking. Swimming place is the definition, and wind is the word to find a synonym for and reverse, to get to the answer. The synonym for wind starts with L.

4. Round feline and tenor show discretion (4)
This clue is a little tricker! This clue combines a reversal with an abbreviation, in a charade (one bit after another). The reversal indicator is a bit harder to pin down - it's round (as in turning around, not the circular shape!). Discretion is the definition here. A feline is also a CAT. Tenor is often abbreviated as T. You know how to do the rest!

5. A young boy and Sal return to Texan city (6)
This clue is a charade of two reversals put next to each other! A young boy = LAD, and Sal = SAL. Return  is the reversal indicator, and Texan city is the definition.



Monday, 3 September 2012

Gemini 6361

This is the Gemini Cryptic from Friday 31 August's Canberra Times. And what a freezing cold snowy day it was! Best to be curled up inside with a hot cup of something and a nice cryptic to work out.

As usual, the definition is underlined, except in double definition and cryptic definition clues.


1. Has second thoughts about a hundred workers (7) = RECANTS
Charade. About = RE + a = A + hundred = C + workers = ANTS

5. Approaches a listener in two directions (5) = NEARS
A container clue. A listener = EAR, put in two directions (North and South) > N(EAR)S

8. Dead Roman exchanged for wife of Perseus (9) = ANDROMEDA
An anagram (exchanged) of dead Roman.

9. Left with a thousand to beat (3) = LAM
Charade. Left = L + a = A + thousand= M

10. They take turns on and off (4) = TAPS
Cryptic definition. Taps turn, and turn on and off ...

12. Plant it in haste (8) = CELERITY
Container. Put it in a plant (CELERY) - CELER(IT)Y

14. Display by top-class band (6) = AIRING
Charade clue. Top-class = AI (from A1, and the 1 looks like an upper case I) + band = RING (not a musical group!)

15. Published and is prosecuted (6) = ISSUED
Double definition, with some clever language abuse.  Published = ISSUED. And is prosecuted is also IS SUED (so therefore, ISSUED, groan  ;) Clever, though. Thanks to Peter Biddlecombe for revealing the "is sued" meaning of this clue to me, which I confess I had missed!

17. Sticking together he said no changes are needed (8) = ADHESION
Anagram of he said no, indicated by changes are needed

18. Ring maker (4) = BELL
Cryptic definition - a bell makes ringing sounds!

21. A religious palindrome (3) = NUN
Palindrome. Someone who is bound by monastic vows, such as a nun, is also known as 'a religious'. And nun is a palindrome, reading the same way in both directions!

22. It may help to rescue a country from mad policy (9) = DIPLOMACY
Anagram clue, which is unfair. There is no anagram indicator. The anagram fodder is mad policy, and the setter has used mad twice (what's called 'double duty') - as part of the fodder, and (unfairly) as the anagram indicator as well. A fairer clue would read along the lines of It may help to rescue a country from insanely mad policy, where insanely is the anagram indicator.

24. Cask Edward put into good order (5) = TUNED
Charade. A TUN is a large beer or wine cask. Add on ED for Edward, shortened.

25. He has something to say on the radio (7) = SPEAKER
Double definition. The first definition is He has something to say, and the second one is [something you can find] on the radio.


1. Respond - to an encore call? (5) = REACT
Double definition. The first definition is respond. The second one is a bit of language abuse, indicated by the question mark. If you get an encore, you might be being asked to act again, or RE-ACT.

2. Fish paid for at the door (3) = COD
Double definition. A COD is a type of fish, and C.O.D. is Cash On Delivery, or paid for at the door

3. Either way it's high time (4) = NOON
Palindrome. High noon!

4. Embarrassing moments in parts of the play (6) = SCENES
Double definition. The first definition is embarrassing moments, the second one is parts of the play

5. Possibly ten areas mostly in southwest Asia (4,4) = NEAR EAST
Anagram, indicated by possibly. The fodder is ten areas.

6. Not occupied? There's no hurry (2,7) = AT LEISURE
Double definition. I think these two definitions are really a bit too close in meaning, though, to be a good double definition clue.

7. Breed of dog that will change some day (7) = SAMOYED
Anagram, indicated by change. The fodder is some day.

11. Separate layer on ruined temple (9) = PARTHENON
Charade. Separate = PART + layer = HEN + on = ON

13. It could be indeed so unfair (3-5) = ONE-SIDED
Anagram of indeed so, indicated by it could be.

14. Opposed to making a profit. Good man! (7) = AGAINST
Charade. A profit = A GAIN + good man = ST (for saint). Ignore the punctuation!

16. Manages adequately round a bend in two-door cars (6) = COUPES
Container. Manages adequately = COPES. Put it round the letter U (a bend - a u-bend, like in a sink) = CO(U)PES

19. A better bed (5) = LAYER
Double definition, I think ... a better is someone who lays a bet, therefore a layer? Bit of language abuse there. And a bed can also be a layer (especially in geology).

20. Knows the sound of an organ (4) = NOSE
Homophone clue - the sound of 'knows' is the name of an organ.

23. Put a question like 'the capital of Kenya?' (3) = ASK
Charade. Like = AS + K (the capital [letter] of Kenya)

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Lesson 101

On Friday 31 August I was interviewed by Louise Maher on ABC 666 Canberra's Drive program, for their "Lesson 101" slot.

You can read about and hear the interview here.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

The Books' Launch

On Saturday 25th August we all gathered at Paperchain Bookstore in Manuka to celebrate the launch of Solving Cryptic Crosswords For Dummies and Cryptic Crosswords For Dummies!

My second technical editor, Deborah Green came from interstate for the event, and stayed with us overnight. We all got dolled up — the crossword corset had its first outing — and headed for Manuka, with a car full of nommy goodies!

This was a really exciting day for me, as — although I have written 5 books now — these are the first ones I've had a proper book launch for.

The place was packed — 50 or 60 people came along, many of whom were long-lost friends, as well as many new friends and family. Indexers and BookCrossers were well represented!

My high school English teacher (now principal of Narrabundah College) Kerrie Grundy gave the introductory speech. I won't mention how long ago it was that she taught me!

I then gave my 15 minute talk. No-one dozed off, so I think I'm ahead there!

And then we cut the cake, and chat, food and drink flowed freely!

I spent the rest of the launch behind the front counter, signing books ... so I didn't get to chat with everyone or mingle as much as I'd have liked, but that was par for the course. Deborah did a sterling job of managing the food table.

Paperchain and Wiley are very impressed that we sold 60 books at the launch - 35 of Solving Cryptic Crosswords For Dummies, and 25 of Cryptic Crosswords For Dummies!

It was a really wonderful event, it was great to see so many friends and family, some of whom had driven from afar, and to launch these two little books into the world with such fun and love! Thank you Troy for the Olympic teatowel and autographed copy of his bookPenny and Alex, and Margaret for the gorgeous flowers, Kirsty for the champagne, and Kate and Tilly for luscious yarn gifts (and a leaf, don't forget the leaf!).

Thank you everyone!

Photos by Barry Newell, Rodger Sutherland, and Ralph Sutherland - thank you guys!

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Spotted in the wild

This week I've spotted my books in several book shops - very exciting! It never gets old  :)

At Kinokuniya in Sydney ...

At Paperchain in Canberra (excuse the blurry iPod Touch photo), where they are already selling well ...

And I signed the sole copy at Dymocks Tuggeranong, so it got a special sticker!

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Gemini 6343

Here's my break down of the clues from the Gemini Cryptic Crossword from The Canberra Times, Monday 13 August 2012. I solved this one on the train up to Sydney (the only civilised way to travel!),  on a very foggy wintery morning:

As usual, definitions are underlined (except in double definition and cryptic definition clues).


1. Tries to correct extreme spin (11) = EXPERIMENTS
An anagram (indicated by correct)  of extreme spin

9. Reversion to type puts Mavis at variance (7) = ATAVISM
An anagram (variance) of Mavis at.  Atavism is a less common word (I had to look it up). Its dictionary definition is: "reversion to something ancient or ancestral"

10. Issue foreign coins (5) = SCION
An anagram (foreign) of coins. A scion is a descendant from a notable family, so issue here has the meaning of "children".

11. Touch with an oral greeting (4) = KISS
A double definition clue. Billiard balls can kiss, meaning to lightly touch. And I'm sure you know the other meaning!

12. Honest deal? (8) = STRAIGHT
A cryptic definition (indicated by the question mark). If you're honest, you're straight. And a straight is a continuous sequence of cards in poker, so you could be dealt those cards ...

14. Changing planes in Italy (6) = NAPLES
Another anagram! It's indicated by changing, and planes is the anagram fodder. In Italy is a rather oblique or imprecise clue for Naples ... there are a lot of things in Italy, after all! In this case, the definition part of the clue really only gives you a pointer.

16. Closely connected with German revolutionary (6) = MITRED
A charade clue; one bit comes after the other. With German = MIT (the German word for with) + RED (revolutionary).

The definition part of this clue is not well-written. The dictionary definitions I found for mitred all refer to an angled join or seam at a corner. OK, such seams are closely connected, but so are tons of other things. It's not a fair definition in my book.

18. Reliable mathematical term (8) = CONSTANT
Double definition. If you're constant, you're reliable. And a constant is a mathematical parameter that doesn't change its value.

19. Turning knocks into a pole (4) = SPAR
A reversal clue. Knocks = RAPS. Turning is the reversal indicator. Run RAPS backwards, and you get SPAR!

22. Quick way to take the air between flights (5) = STAIR
A charade clue, with a word in the clear. A quick way is also a short name for a way, or street. So we get ST. It takes AIR, giving us ST+AIR. You'll be familiar with flights of stairs. The word between doesn't really have a good purpose here, and is a bit misleading (I wouldn't have used it, if it was my clue).

23. A light case (7) = LANTERN
A cryptic definition. A case for light, get it?

24. Suits oneself? (4,7) = GETS DRESSED
Another cryptic definition clue. In this case, suits refers to a suit that you wear, or the act of putting on a suit, not that something is convenient.


2. They show bones of unknown number of fish (1-4) = X-RAYS
A charade clue, with an abbreviation. An unknown number usually refers to the letters X or Y (used in algebra a lot). In this instance, it's X. Fish = RAYS. And X-RAYS definitely do show bones!

3. Ancient Mariner's story upset an Arab prince (4) = EMIR
You need to know a little about literature to get this clue. The Ancient Mariner's story is the famous Rime of the Ancient Mariner poem by Coleridge.

4. Resident is at home with his wife (6) = INMATE
Another charade clue. If you're at home, you're IN. His wife = MATE. So we have IN+MATE, who is also a resident, although this meaning is archaic. (The more common meaning for INMATE is of a person living in an institution such as a prison or hospital.)

5. Note a hundred still in a trance (8) = ECSTATIC
A charade clue. Note = E (as in a musical note) + a hundred = C (Roman numerals) + STATIC (still). I'm not thrilled with in a trance as the definition for ECSTATIC. It is the rarer definition of "involving an experience of mystic self-transcendence".

6. How happy gunslingers might be? (7) = TRIGGER
Cryptic definition. They have guns, and they're TRIGGER happy — look out!

7. Pedestrian injured? (7,4) = WALKING CASE
Another cryptic definition (that question mark is often a good pointer to these clues). I must admit I had WALKING DEAD in here originally (well, the pedestrian was very badly injured!). I'm not familiar with the term WALKING CASE, but gather it is synonymous with 'convalescent'. Anyway, a pedestrian is clearly someone who is WALKING. And if they were injured, they could be a WALKING CASE.

8. It will be presented by a group at one (6,5) = UNITED FRONT
Cryptic definition again. The trick here is that at one doesn't mean a time, and isn't an abbreviation for I (1), but is part of a group at one — a united team. And what they present is a UNITED FRONT.

13. Reprimands for rules etc. being broken (8) = LECTURES
An anagram clue, indicated by being broken. Rules etc is the anagram fodder.

15. It gives accommodation inside a speed boat (7) = PINNACE
Another word I didn't know! A PINNACE is a small boat. This is a container clue. It gives accommodation = INN. Put it inside another word for speed (PACE).

17. Aggressive branch of the animal kingdom (6) = ANTLER
Yet another cryptic definition clue (they are a little overfond of these clues in the Gemini series). An ANTLER can be said to be a branch, on an animal. And it's often used aggressively.

20. Not all the pianist plays (5) = PIECE
Double definition clue. A PIECE is not all of something. And a PIECE of music is what a pianist could play.

21. We bear it (4) = ONUS
Oh, rather clever this one. Could be an &lit clue, what do you think? We bear, or carry, it, so it is ON US. Plus ONUS is something that it our duty or responsibility that we have to bear.

How did you get on?

Monday, 6 August 2012

Creating Crossword Cookies

Well, Crossword Biscuit. But I couldn't resist the alliteration  :)

Here is my method of how to make crossword biscuits. It's adapted from the decoration technique outlined on the Cake or Death? website.

You will need:
  • plain smooth biscuits / cookies
  • fondant icing (comes in a box, usually)
  • icing sugar
  • a little sugar syrup or sieved, warm jam
  • black paste food colouring
  • black edible ink pen

  • a rolling pin
  • pastry brush
  • a small knife
  • a very clean ruler, or a chef's knife
  • a thin paint brush
  • a tiny dish
  • a crossword grid design from a newspaper or online

How to do the crossword decoration

Dust the bench with icing sugar, and roll out a little of the fondant thinly.

Coat the biscuit with a swipe of warmed, sieved jam, or the sugar syrup. This helps the fondant icing to stick to the biscuit.

Carefully lift the piece of fondant icing, and press it onto the biscuit. Trim around the edges with the little knife. 

Repeat for the rest of the biscuits.

Press a grid design into the top of the icing, with the back of the chef's knife, or a very clean ruler edge. Just press lightly, you just need faint indent marks. You should be able to just eye-ball it to get a square grid (that's all I've done). Close-enough is good enough  :)

Leave the biscuits to dry for a good long while — at least 4-5 hours, but a day is better.

When the icing is firm, put some of the black food colouring paste into the tiny dish, and moisten it with a few drops of water. Mix well with the brush. Use the brush to mark the lines of the grid (or use the pen). Steady your hand by leaning your elbow on the bench, and holding your painting-hand wrist with the other hand.

Following a crossword grid, colour in the black squares with the brush and food colouring 'paint'. 

If you go over the lines, you can rescue the design by using a clean damp brush to wipe away the excess paint, and then a clean damp cloth to wipe the surface of the icing. Be careful not too add anything very wet, or the icing will dissolve and the ink will only spread further!

Leave to dry for a good few hours!

When everything is really dry, write the grid numbers into the appropriate squares, using the edible ink pen (fine tip). You can write words into the grid if you like, too (a special greeting for someone, perhaps?!).

Ta dah! You're ready to impress your friends and influence people!

Friday, 3 August 2012

Lesson 7: Double Definitions

Double definitions are cute little cryptic clues. They break the usual Definition + Wordplay = Answer cryptic equation. With these clues (as you may have already surmised) the equation is Definition + Definition = Answer.

English is a language with masses of redundancy. There are multiple ways of saying most things, and many words have multiple meanings. So with this sort of cryptic clue, the clue simply presents two definitions of the same word, one after the other. Indicator words are not usually used (if they are, they are words like and, or, but, gives, provides, or though, or some punctuation such as a comma, dash, or apostrophe S).

Here's an example:

Baby cow's leg part (4) = CALF
As you can no doubt see, CALF is the name of both a baby cow, and a leg part. 

While they seem ridiculously simple in essence, these clues can be very difficult to spot 'in the wild' amongst a bunch of cryptic clues with a crossword. You are all keyed up to looking for indicator words, anagrams, containers, reversals, homophones, and the whole catastrophe. This simple device can quickly trip you up.

Say you come across Wretched fluffy feathers (4); it would be perfectly reasonable to think that wretched is an anagram indicator, only there's nothing there that's four letters long to be the anagram fodder, argh ...

The trick with any clue that you suspect might be a double definition is to mentally insert a comma or break between the words in a clue, to see if two definitions suddenly fall out.

Wretched fluffy / feathers? Nope ... unless Fluffy is your naughty cat!
Wretched / fluffy feathers ... Aaah, there we go. A four letter word for fluffy feathers  is DOWN. And if you're feeling wretched, or depressed, you're also DOWN!

Double definition clues can be very short, even just two words. So if you spot a very short clue, check it for double definitioness!

Another thing to look out for is that the pronunciation of the answer may be slightly different (think of WINDY, as in a winding road, and WINDY, as in blustery weather). Or one meaning may be a noun, and another may be a verb (or adjective, or whatever). One of the definitions can also be archaic or a rare usage (you have been warned!).

Here are some double definition clues to try:

1. Abandons fronds (6)
2. Hawthorn blossom's month (3)
3. Abandon the wasteland (6)
4. Loud noise from a tennis bat (6)
5. Glide over ice, Ray (5)

Griff is the noble guardian of the explanations and answers ... And isn't he just looking extra noble today?


1. Abandons fronds (6)
This one is (hopefully) easy, as there's only two words, and only one place to put that 'mental comma'. 

2. Hawthorn blossom's month (3)
This double definition clue uses a less-known definition for one part (hawthorn blossom). The other definition is a name of a month of the year.

3. Abandon the wasteland (6)
In this clue, the two answers for the two definition are pronounced differently (but must, of course, be spelled the same way). The break goes after abandon.

4. Loud noise from a tennis bat (6)
This is a more wordy double definition clue. Loud, noise from a tennis bat? No ... Loud noise from a tennis, bat? Nope. How about Loud noise (from is an indicator/linking word here), a tennis bat. There you go.

5. Glide over ice, Ray (5)
Bit of a trick here, the comma is actually in the right place for you already! Ray isn't Raymond, as I have blatantly tried to trick you into thinking, but a type of marine creature ...


2. MAY

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Delicious Alphabet

I've started baking for the books' launch next month!

And my crossword corset is nearly done too!