Monday, 30 June 2014

Nixie Clues #4 - Answers

And now for the big reveal — answers, with explanations, for the latest set of clues. The definitions are underlined.

1. Shame about poison for humans (4,7) = HOMO SAPIENS. Anagram (indicated by about) of SHAME + POISON.

2. Row of bushes missing first side (4) = EDGE. This is a deletion clue. Row of bushes = HEDGE. Missing first = remove the first letter (H). Which leaves you EDGE.

3. Citrus Mole misbehaving in post office (6) = POMELO. An anagram, indicated by misbehaving. The fodder is MOLE + PO (for post office). 

4. American city’s sample of  tomahawks (5) = OMAHA. A hidden word clue, indicated by sample of. It's in clear view, inside tomahawks.

5. Khan plays test in Uzbek capital (8) = TASHKENT. An anagram (indicated by plays) of KHAN + TEST.

6. Adhesive from grated tapes (5) = PASTE. An anagram (grated) of TAPES.

How did you get on?

Friday, 27 June 2014

Nixie Clues #4

Cold foggy morning
Image courtesy of dan |
I've finally got a new set of (easy) cryptic clues for you to solve. Just the thing for a chilly winter's day. So get a cup of hot <insert favourite hot beverage name here>, and a pen, and let me know how you get on!

  1. Shame about poison for humans (4,7)
  2. Row of bushes missing first side (4)
  3. Citrus Mole misbehaving in post office (6)
  4. American city’s sample of  tomahawks (5)
  5. Khan plays test in Uzbek capital (8)
  6. Adhesive from grated tapes (5)
I will post the answers, with explanations, on Monday morning. Please don't give away the answers in your comments, just say 'I got it!' or similar — thanks :)

Monday, 23 June 2014

The dawn of jigsaw puzzles

Jigsaw puzzle pieces
I don't know about you — but there's only so many words I can take. I wrote Word Searches For Dummies on a challenging deadline. (Actually — let's face it, all my Dummies books were written on 'challenging deadlines'. Hmmm.) My brain was getting a bit melty from all the words ... but jigsaws saved me. I kept a jigsaw next to my computer, and took regular short breaks to work on it.

It got me out of my chair, away from the screen, and thinking of something other than word searches. A bit of visual fun and thinking, rather than endless wordy stuff. I got through at least three large jigsaws while writing the book, including an almost impossible one of  Escher's Relativity drawing.

Nowadays there are squillions (it is so a word) of jigsaws. They may have a few simple pieces or multi-thousand pieces. 3D shaped puzzles. Jigsaws without straight edge pieces. Jigsaws with 'extra pieces'. Double sided jigsaws. Online jigsaws. All white jigsaws! How did we get to this alarming point?
First jigsaw puzzle, of the British Empire. 1766
The first jigsaw puzzle, by John Spilsbury 1766
British Library
People have, naturally, been playing around with images for thousands of years, and mosaic art could possibly be seen as a type of early jigsaw.

But the first true jigsaw, where a picture is cut up with the intention of being put back together, is credited to engraver and map maker John Spilsbury. He started with his 'dissected map' of the British Empire around 1766. He quickly moved on to include maps of other regions. The maps were glued to wood, and pieces were cut around the shapes of the countries. These dissections were used as a teaching aid for the children from wealthy families. You can find out more about the first jigsaw on the British Library website.

Sadly John died young, so his idea passed on to others to develop. The popularity of dissections grew in the 1800s. They were mostly maps, cut along country borders, with an educational focus. After 1820, the subject of dissections also moved on to religious and moral teaching for children. And around this time some more daring types started to make non-educational (gasp) puzzles, with scenes from fairy takes and nursery rhymes. For fun (gasp again).

In 1880 the treadle saw invented, and the puzzles then came to be known as jigsaws, rather than dissections. Which was admittedly a pretty uninspiring name ...

Initially all jigsaws were wooden, but eventually cardboard was used, by the late 1800s. Cardboard was a popular material once die cutters were developed (like large, complicated and excessively sharp cookie cutters). With the move to cardboard, jigsaws became more affordable to all and sundry,  the 'target age' was expanded to include everyone, not just kids, and their popularity exploded:

New York Times headline from May 1908 warns:

NEW PUZZLE MENACES THE CITY'S SANITY; Young and Old, Rich and Poor, All Hard at Work Fitting Cut-Up Pictures Together. SOLITAIRE IS FORGOTTEN Two Clergymen, a Supreme Court Justice, and a Noted Financier Among the Latest Converts to the Craze.

A lady writing to The Australiasian, from London in 1909 wrote "I do not fancy that the "Jigsaw" will have a lengthy life. Doubtless, it will soon be banished to the limbo of departed games, as "diabolo" was banished."1

Even royalty got in on the act. The Queensland paper, The Warwick Examiner and Times (July 1910) reported that "The late King Edward was bitten by the craze, and was admitted to be one of the speediest puzzle solvers in England, having beaten all records by producing a complicated picture in the space of five minutes. At every house-party to which he went, the hostess made a point of having a good supply of Jig-Saws for his especial benefit."2

The Golden Age of jigsaws was during the 1920s and 1930s. They were especially popular during the Depression, proving to be an inexpensive entertainment for families, that could be done by many people, pulled apart once completed, passed around, reused and shared.

In the mid-1930s manufacturers started to include a picture of the finished puzzle on the cover of the box. Jigsaw 'loaning libraries' were set up, and jigsaw parties, with prizes for the fasting solving times, were popular.

Over time, the designs of what we now think of as the 'classic' jigsaw pieces were developed. There are many sorts of puzzle shapes, though, from colour line cutting (cutting along the edges of a shape, like with the dissected maps, cutting along the edges of countries) to special figure pieces (which can be shaped like animals, people, letters, numbers, and so on). This article goes into detail about the cutting techniques on old jigsaws.

And nowadays there are so many new designs and ways of doing jigsaws ... but that's a story for another time! But it's clear that the Lady who wrote from London in 1909, predicting a short life for these enjoyable puzzles, was way off!

If you are really into jigsaws, I can recommend reading the book The Jigsaw Puzzle: Piecing Together a History, by Anne D. Williams.


1 A LADY'S LETTER FROM LONDON. (1909, May 15). The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 - 1946), p. 47. Retrieved June 20, 2014, from

2 "JIG-SAW" PUZZLES. (1910, July 2). Warwick Examiner and Times (Qld. : 1867 - 1919), p. 2. Retrieved June 20, 2014, from

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Gemini Cryptic 7014

Here is my analysis of the Gemini Cryptic Crossword from Monday 16 June edition of The Canberra Times. The definition is underlined (except in cryptic definition and double definition clues).

Cryptic crosswordACROSS

1. Philanthropists throwing coins in the water? (4-7) WELL-WISHERS
Cryptic definition.

9. A support this returned is appropriate (7) = APROPOS
A charade clue with a reversal — A + PROP (support) + OS (this returned = SO reversed).

10. A moss-strewn island of Greece (5) = SAMOS
Anagram (strewn) of a moss.

11. Misfortunes we keep well away from (4) = ILLS
Cryptic definition. We keep well by staying away from ills!

12. Agreeable countryman about fifty (8) = PLEASANT
Container clue — PEASANT (countryman) gets put about (or around) L (fifty, in Roman numerals).

14. Take some back to quarters (6) = ENTRAP
Reversal and charade. Some (PART) goes back to become TRAP. And it also goes on the back of quarters = EN (east and north).

16. Very much the opposite (6) = LITTLE
Cryptic definition. The opposite of very much.

18. Agree to fight the case (8) = MATCHBOX
Charade. Agree can be a verb meaning MATCH, and fight = BOX (also as a verb).

19. Prune spruce (4) = TRIM
Double definition. They're not really completely different meanings of the word, though.

22. Find answer to love's torment (5) = SOLVE
Anagram of loves, indicated by torment.

23. Little Sarah always gets in a few (7) = SEVERAL
Container. A little or short version of Sarah = SAL (although I don't know of any Sarahs who use Sal as a nickname — I've always thought Sal as a short version of Sally. Anyway. I'm sure they exist somewhere!) So, always gets in means EVER is put inside SAL. SEVERAL.

24. Giveaway merchants who don't want custom? (4,7) = FREE TRADERS
Cryptic definition.


2. Record membership (5) = ENROL
Double definition, of sorts.

3. They may part with a smile (4) = LIPS
Cryptic definition.

4. Offence committed in sunlit setting (6) = INSULT
Anagram of sunlit, indicated by setting.

5. I can ship out from Spain (8) = HISPANIC
Anagram of I can ship, indicated by out.

6. Fierce sheep starts to breathe heavily (7) = RAMPANT
Charade. RAM = sheep, and PANT = starts to breathe heavily.

7. For him it's mostly filling in time at work (11) = TAXIDERMIST
Cryptic definition. These can be hard to get until you have more letters filled in, in the grid.

8. Mother sails out in signs of similar weather (11) = ISOTHERMALS
Anagram of mother sails, indicated by out.

13. Fabric obtained for ready money only (8) = CASHMERE
Charade. CASH (ready money) + MERE (only).

15. In France you change later for protection (7) = TUTELAR
Charade + anagram. You, in France = TU. An anagram of later (indicated by change) = TELAR. I wasn't familiar with this word: TUTELAR is an adjective meaning 'serving as a protector, guardian or patron'. I'm not sure the form of the word protection is strictly correct here, as that's the noun form, and strictly speaking, it ought to be an adjective, the same as the answer.

17. Cat lands us in more trouble (6) = MOUSER
Container + anagram. Put us inside (in) an anagram (trouble) of more.

20. Two kings embracing are not seen so often (5) = RARER
Container. Two kings indicates two abbreviations for kings, R (Latin for king = Rex), in this case. And they're embracing, or going around, are, which is in the clear = R(ARE)R.

21. Keen to upset a singer (4) = AVID
Reversal. A singer might be a DIVA. And when upset, or reversed, this gives us AVID.

How did you get on?

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Train wreck?

Well, moving house (no we haven't unpacked all the boxes yet, shut up), followed by two indexing jobs (Income Contingent Loans, and Born Bad) in close succession kind of occupied all my attention and energy for a few months there. My apologies!

I had a train trip to Sydney in April, and was amused by this crossword in the 'in train' magazine, The Link.

1 Across is supposedly a 4 letter word for 'leap' ... except in the grid it's 1 Down, and there isn't a 1 Across ... and so on. I'm sure the setter was well and truly pissed off to find out the designer put the wrong grid in with the clues (or vice versa)!