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.