Saturday, 21 December 2013

Crossword Centenary!

Today's the day! 

One hundred years ago, on 21 December 1913, Arthur Wynne published the first crossword (you can try solving it here!). He called it 'Wordcross' ... But a few weeks later, a typesetter made a mistake and wrote Crossword ... And we've called them that ever since! This puzzle has grown in that time to be one of the most popular puzzles around, worldwide.

To celebrate this special occasion, Google and famous American setter Merle Reagle got together and created this interactive crossword
And from me, here is a new cryptic clue competition for you all to enter!

Rule Thingies

1) Write an anagram clue for the word CENTENNIAL. Your clue has to contain a definition for CENTENNIAL, an anagram indictor, and the anagram fodder (an exact anagram of CENTENNIAL). See below for more information.

2) Submit your clue as a comment on this post. Please sign your clue with your first name or alias (especially important for those of you posting Anonymously!).

3) Submissions are limited to one clue per person.

4) Entries close on Friday 3rd January 2014, at 12 pm (local Canberra time, +11 GMT).

5) The judges' decision is final.


1st, 2nd, and 3rd winners will win their choice of one of my apps ... There are limited countries I can gift these from (Apple has region restrictions on App store gifting), so I can send prizes to people in Australia, USA, and the UK. 

If you live outside these areas, you are of course welcome to enter, but I can't award prizes (apart from the everlasting fame and glory, naturally), sorry.

Help for writing your anagram clue

Your cryptic clue will need:

1) A definition for CENTENNIAL — 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 (fodder) — this needs to be an exact anagram of the word CENTENNIAL — for example, 'ace lent inn' or 'nil canteen'. There are a fair few of possibilities, and it can run over 2 or 3 or even 4 words. You can use up to one abbreviation for one or two letters (so 'north' or 'noon' could = N, for example). This is called the anagram fodder.

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

NB: The anagram indicator isn't allowed to do 'double duty' - so you must not use your definition for centennial as the anagram indicator. 

Your clue needs to read well, like a mini phrase or sentence (not just a random assortment of words stuck together). It can be funny, surreal, or serious, whatever you like. Creativity and clue accuracy are what I will be looking for.

Remember that the basic anatomy of a cryptic clue is:

Wordplay + Definition = Answer


Definition + Wordplay = Answer

So, the definition can't be stuck in the middle of the wordplay. The definition has to sit at the start or end of the clue, and not be interrupted by the wordplay.

In an anagram clue, the Wordplay = the fodder + the anagram indicator  (or indicator + fodder, or some fodder + indicator + rest of the fodder).

More help:

Off you go! I look forward to seeing your submissions  :)

Monday, 16 December 2013

Murdoch is Evil Puzzle

If you live in Australia, you may have noticed a bit of a media flurry in the last week about the message MURDOCH IS EVIL running backwards through a word search puzzle for kids. It appeared in the Sunday Telegraph — a Murdoch-owned paper! Oh my!

The offending word search, in the Sunday Telegraph
Image source:
This caused rather a storm on Twitter and online.

So — this is the big question : is this one of those accidentally created messages, like the faux pas we saw with the Woolies word search a few months ago?

The short answer: NO.

The long answer:

This hidden message was put there intentionally by the setter (and personally, I'd give them a medal). Yes, it's possible for words to be accidentally created in any grid of random letters — but these are almost exclusively 3, 4, and 5 letter words (and the 5 letter words are rare, at that). This is why swear words — those infamously 'four letter words' – can easily be accidentally created in a word search grid.

For a short phrase like MURDOCH IS EVIL to occur by accident, the chances are roughly 26 (number of letters in the alphabet) to the power of 13 (how many letters are in the phrase).


1 in 2613 = 1 in 2,481,152,873,203,736,576

That's one chance in roughly 2.5 QUINTILLION (or TRILLION, depending on where you live).

(This is a rough calculation, I've not taken into account things like the higher distribution of vowels etc, but regardless, it's basically impossible that this message would have occurred by chance.)

So no. This message was not created accidentally! It harkens back to the crossword lashing of Rebekah Brooks by the News of the World setter.

Subversive puzzle setters of the world unite! Well done, mate.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Nixie Clues #3

A new set of cryptic clues for you to try out.

  1. Dithering about narration topics (15)
  2. Wound’s nasty to the German editor (9)
  3. Frond cut short for meadow (3)
  4. Shallots regularly stuffed with seasoning (4)
  5. One who escapes north in ripped brocades (9)

Let me know if you got them!