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Puzzles and Words

Puzzles and Words

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by David Astle

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A quirky dictionary and puzzle book in one pocket-sized volume

Word nerds and puzzle nuts welcome: this is a book to keep your mind tickled. With more than 400 word stories and 160 original brainteasers, this collection has something to keep all ages amused for hours. From agenda to zumba, it explains how words


A quirky dictionary and puzzle book in one pocket-sized volume

Word nerds and puzzle nuts welcome: this is a book to keep your mind tickled. With more than 400 word stories and 160 original brainteasers, this collection has something to keep all ages amused for hours. From agenda to zumba, it explains how words came to be, and it also offers puzzles such as anagram challenges, riddles, rhymes, and brain teasers.

Product Details

Allen & Unwin Pty., Limited
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.60(d)

Read an Excerpt

Puzzles and Words

Over 170 New Puzzles and 200 Word Stories

By David Astle

Allen & Unwin

Copyright © 2012 David Astle
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-74343-139-9



Let's toy with two toys that both rely on blocks. The first is a global craze that goes by the name of LEGO. At some stage, every kid has played with these tiny bricks, building a city, a fairy palace, a pirate ship. Each vivid plastic block has bumps (or nodes) designed to interlock.

A Danish carpenter called Ole Kirk Christiansen dreamt up the idea in 1954. The name 'Lego' echoes the Danish phrase Leg godt, or 'play well'. It's a lovely fluke when you consider that lego is also Latin for 'I collect' — surely what most parents end up saying as they gather the pieces after playtime.

Our second game has more to do with destruction than construction. Yet, strangely, JENGA arises from a Swahili word meaning 'to build'. The game was created by a Tanzanian-born Brit named Leslie Scott, and launched in the 1980s.

To win at Jenga you need to pull out the wooden blocks from a rickety tower, piece by piece, without the whole thing toppling over. Chaos often follows, as hinted at by Jenga's other names around the world. Israelis know the game as Mapolet, or avalanche. Danes prefer Klodsmajor, alias klutz. In Rio, meanwhile, the challenge is called Torremoto, a play on words meaning 'tower-quake'.

1. LEGO is a jumble of OGLE (meaning 'to look at wolfishly'). Can you look at these eight other words for look (or looks), and scramble each one to make a total of 15 words, where every letter is used once only?

scan notes spot study
search notices regard observe
____________ ___________ ____________
____________ ___________ ____________
____________ ___________ ____________

2. Squeeze a T into LEGO and you spell LET GO. Now do the same with the clues below, adding a T to the first answer to reveal the second.

(a) droop/male deer (3/4) _ _ _ / _ _ _ _
(b) run off/naval unit (4/5) _ _ _ _ / _ _ _ _ _
(c) decreasing/desiring (6/7)
_ _ _ _ _ _ / _ _ _ _ _ _ _
(d) out of practice/reliable (5/6)
_ _ _ _ _ / _ _ _ _ _ _
(e) showy shells/pens together (7/2-6)
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ / _ _- _ _ _ _ _ _
(f) went zzz?/went harrumph? (6/7)
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ / _ _ _ _ _ _ _
(g) educates/packing box (7/3,5)
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ / _ _ _ _ _ _ _
(h) hospital operator/fish (7/8) _ _ _ _ _ _ _ / _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _



Water has timeless links to information. These days, office workers hear murmurs at the WATER COOLER, or maybe after work, drinking at the local WATERING HOLE. Long ago the rumour mill was the PARISH PUMP, where villagers would chat as they collected the day's supply.

FURPHY is a great Australian word for a false story. No word of a lie, this term stretches back to World War I when diggers in Egypt and Palestine milled around a water cart to drink and wash — and, presumably, tell tall tales. The cart was called a furphy after its inventor, blacksmith John Furphy from Shepparton, Victoria.

The word SCUTTLEBUTT has similar origins. In this case the idle gossip arose from a drinking cask (or butt) aboard a sailing ship. The barrel had a hatched hole (or scuttle, from Spanish escotar, to cut out), allowing sailors to dip their ladles.

And to disprove the notion that watery words only offer dubious news, we finish our story in the Islamic world. To lead pure lives, Muslims obey SHARIA LAW, a set of rules founded on the Koran. The water link? Sharia is Arabic for the 'path to the well', where the holy word of Allah is viewed as the believer's fountainhead.

1. Ironically, what succulent salt-water crustaceans swim in the letters of SPRING WATER? Every letter is used once only.

_ _ _ _ _ / _ _ _ _ _ _

2. MOUTH-WATERING contains all five vowels once, as does CARRIED OUT. Supplied below are the first halves of nine more such terms, where every vowel appears once only. See if you can figure out the second word. (The number in brackets shows the omitted word's length.)

(a) QUESTION (4) _ _ _ _
(b) BATHING (7) _ _ _ _ _ _ _
(c) UPWARDLY (6) _ _ _ _ _ _
(d) VAULTING (5) _ _ _ _ _
(e) FOUNTAIN (3) _ _ _
(f) LOUNGE (6) _ _ _ _ _ _
(g) PIANO (5) _ _ _ _ _
(h) PLASTIC (7) _ _ _ _ _ _ _
(i) AU (6) _ _ _ _ _ _



The Greek word for spiral is helikos. With a minor twist, the word gives us HELIX (plural 'helices' or 'helixes'), the shape of a spring. Our bodies are full of helices, from the raised swirl that makes up the outer ear, to the double-helix shape of our DNA molecules.

HELICOPTER is another offshoot of helikos, combined with pteron — the Greek word for wing. (A chopper therefore is a spring-wing.) Mind you, the next chopper you come across may be a HELICOPTER PARENT, a mum or dad obsessed with their child's safety and happiness, always hovering in reach. The phrase was coined in a 1990 self-help book by Foster W. Cline and Jim Fay called Parenting with Love and Logic.

So, any stabs at what the word HELICULTURE might mean? If you guessed the growing of spirals, you were close. It's the farming of snails — or escargots — for French dinner tables; this time the helix is the spiralled shells.

Finally, one more twist: ESCARGOT is the French nickname for the @ SYMBOL, due to its resemblance to the snail shell. Dutch people know @ as a monkey's tail, while Swedes call the symbol an animal's trunk, and Norwegians call it a pig's tail. To come full circle, Turks call @ a kulak, or ear.

1. The answers to the clues below are all seven-letter words that can be found hiding inside HELICOPTER. (Voter, for example, is ELECTOR.)

(a) jug — or baseballer _ _ _ _ _ _ _
(b) 'See you in a while, crocodile!' _ _ _ _ _ _ _
(c) crocodile or cobra _ _ _ _ _ _ _
(d) laugh _ _ _ _ _ _ _
(e) sales docket _ _ _ _ _ _ _
(f) better mannered _ _ _ _ _ _ _
(g) group of friends _ _ _ _ _ _ _
(h) religious rebel _ _ _ _ _ _ _

2. HELIX hides in COUGH ELIXIR, just as GOSH is contained in CARGO SHIP. What two-word terms are 'bridged' by the words below? (The clues in brackets may help.)

(a) MOW (Japanese heavy) ____________________
(b) TOWED (big chip) ____________________
(c) ZEBU (mobile RBT unit) ___________________
(d) NICHE (simple pasta) ____________________
(e) CONCH (first byte) ____________________
(f) CINEMA (shaman) ____________________
(g) COMET (worker's duty) ____________________
(h) ERASING (diva) ____________________
(i) SHYSTER (panic) ____________________



Shedding all your clothes in public is known as going the FULL MONTY. Most of us adopted the expression from the 1997 British comedy film of the same name. The story follows six retrenched steel workers who drop their gear for dough, but the slang has a tangled story that long precedes the movie.

One tale implicates Field Marshal Montgomery. This World War II leader, known as Monty, was a rigorous English soldier who swore by the benefits of a full cooked breakfast. After the war, in cafés across Britain, a 'full monty' was a plate with all the lashings.

Gambling provides another possible origin. The card game MONTE (Spanish for 'mountain', after the heap of cards that pile up while playing) can attract large jackpots. Win the lot, and you claim the monte. Then again, if you dominate a Monaco casino, you could be described as raking in the full Monte (Carlo).

Though I've saved the strongest theory till last. From the early 1900s, a tailor shop in Leeds was noted for offering deals on three-piece suits. Demobbed soldiers sometimes received certificates to acquire such apparel — trousers, jacket and waistcoat — from this tailor, whose name was Montague Burton. A plausible explanation, though only one thing is sure: for a phrase suggesting nudity, there are plenty of backstory threads.

1. We are thinking of two major movies of 2003 — one created by the Pixar team. Strangely, the hero of this film becomes the hero of the other when a single letter is stripped. With no mixing needed, can you name both characters (and films)?


2. Weird how a word like STRIPTEASE, As this Full Monty story describes, Also conceals a ten-letter T-word Possessing its own textile vibes. What's the word?

_ _ _ _ _

3. What two items of female clothing — one generic, the second the sash around a kimono — can be rearranged to spell an eight-letter word meaning 'removes clothing'? Every letter is used once only.


-_ _ _ _ _ _ _



Grab your metal detector, as here we seek the best stories among the elements. COBALT is a whitish-grey metal that often combines with other elements. That's why German miners, on finding the mineral spoiling the purity of silver, nicknamed the pest Kobold, or goblin.

Another element that likes mingling is ANTIMONY, a whitish metal with the tricky symbol Sb — short for stibium, its old Latin name. Alchemists in the Middle Ages had a different take on matters, observing that antimony seldom appears in its purest form, so dubbing the substance antimonium, or 'opposed to solitude'.

Other elements whose names whisper their attributes are CAESIUM (meaning sky-blue in Latin), IRIDIUM (after the Greek goddess of the rainbow, Iris), and the extra-light HELIUM (named for helios, the sun). There's also the strange (xenos) XENON, and the idle (argos) ARGON.

The element that best declares its key characteristic, however, has to be the pungent reddish liquid used in pesticides and flameproofing, namely BROMINE (from Greek bromos, or stench).

1. There are five elements on the periodic table with only four letters, and four with five letters. You already have ARGON and XENON. Can you name the other seven?

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
_ _ _ _
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

2. MUTILONUP What nine-letter element is hiding in the mix above? And how many five-letter words can you list? Good players will find at least ten — with 12 in total to track down.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _



Australians are addicted to the utterance YEAH-NO. Next time you ride a crowded bus, or sit anywhere in earshot of a conversation, listen for the yeah-no habit. 'Yeah-no, I had a pretty good weekend ...' So why do we say it? Surely the pairing of opposites makes no sense, one half cancelling out the other?

Well, yeah-no. We depend on the expression for several reasons. First is the case where you agree and disagree with what is being said. ('Yeah-no, the movie was okay.') A kind of tepid approval, where you touch on the good and bad.

Sometimes the cluster serves as a genuine two-part reply: yes (I heard you) and no (the movie wasn't good). Linguists also label the term a fluency device, used as a means of picking up a neglected topic or looping back to where the conversation may have started. ('... Yeah-no, my mum's going well. Thanks for asking.')

Yeah-no also allows the speaker to save face, or soften bad news. ('Yeah-no, we should be finished a month late.' Or: 'Yeah-no, the food wasn't much chop.') It's also a type of squelch, a coded warning against taking a particular topic further. ('Yeah-no, that crossword was murder.')

1. What archaic form of yes can be scrambled to create another archaic form of yes?


2. An OXYMORON is the pairing of two opposites, such as bittersweet or firewater, or even Hell's Angel, or leisure industry. (The word stems from a Greek example, where oxus is sharp, and moros means dull — literally, a sharp dullness.)

To prove your sharpness, what common four-letter word (starting with N) could be viewed as an oxymoron?

_ _ _ _

3. You may find the answer elusive, But with morality in mind Smart solvers will find Two opposites within INTRUSIVE. (Every letter is used once only.)

__________ __________



In Latin, angere is to squeeze. From this spring several English words, including ANGINA (an acute spasm in the chest cavity), and ANXIETY, a common trigger of the condition. ANGUISH is a third offshoot; the similar-sounding ANGER, however, is more closely aligned to a Norse word, angr, meaning sorrow.

Adding a new initial, and soothing the stress in a heartbeat, we get LANGUISH, a word with a different root system. Here the link is laxus, the Roman source of LAX and RELAX, as well as the more surprising pair of RELEASE (to let loose) and RELISH, from the French relaisser (to leave behind, in the sense of aftertaste).

In another quirky turn, RELAY has a similar history. During hunting expeditions, the relay was the reserve pack of hounds 'left behind' on the trail. You can see from that story where we get the idea of fresh legs, ready to pick up the chase.

As bizarre as it sounds, there's a fake language called ANGUISH LANGUISH. Sound is the key word, in fact, as the playful tongue uses homophones (words that are pronounced similarly but have different meanings). Anxiety, say, becomes 'hangs higher tea', and 'relax' is 'real axe'. Anguish Languish was invented by a Miami professor named Howard Chace (or 'how arch ace') during the 1950s. His best known book is Ladle Rat Rotten Hut — about a girl, a wolf and her grandmother in a 'lodge dock florist'.

1. If attempt + sated = TRY + FULL (or the cake, TRIFLE), can you trifle with these other dessert choices in Anguish Languish?

(a) average golf score + comic Tina
________ + ________
(b) Magi gift + called
________ + ________
(c) caribou
(d) swear + played a major role
________ + ________
(e) watch + holler
________ + ________
(f) scatter + boring
________ + ________
(g) spotted + cove
________ + ________
(h) level + wrong + litigate
________ + ________+ ________

2. A six-letter word starting with S has a five-letter homophone also starting with S (such as SAVOUR and SAVER). But — this five-letter word can be shuffled to form a synonym of the word you began with. Name the unique trio. (And if you need a firmer hint, the longer word is found on these two pages.)

_____ _____ _____


Excerpted from Puzzles and Words by David Astle. Copyright © 2012 David Astle. Excerpted by permission of Allen & Unwin.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

David Astle is a full-time word nerd. His mania shines in his weekly Wordplay column in the Sydney Morning Herald and his cultish blog, www.davidastle.com.

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Puzzles and Words 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book but my nook would not allow me to answer the questions bummer huh but now I have a sample that I dont want to buy taking up my storage space !!! Sound familiar? Pleases tell me if you have these problems.