Monday, March 10, 2014


We're in the midst of moving house, I will be back on deck eventually!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Cookbook Indexing

My goodness, what happened to the last month?

Well, what happened was an indexing job. These tend to be very intense, on a short deadline, and don't leave much time or mental energy for anything else.

I've just written a double index for a vegan cookbook, Edible, by Angela Flack. As the book is roughly half recipes, and half nutritional & health information, I wrote two indexes. One is a recipe index, and the other is a topic index.

When indexing cookbooks, it's important to keep in mind that there are two sorts of people using the book.

The first group are people who haven't used the book before, so they don't know the names of recipes. They need to be able to search on main or unusual ingredients ... I've got a bunch of chia seeds here, what can I make with them?

For these readers, it's important to list any given recipe in several places, as a subheading under main/unusual ingredients. An example from the book :

   Mussaman Curry, 167

sweet potatoes
   Mussaman Curry, 167

It also needs to be listed under types of recipes, as a reader might be searching for something to make for dinner :

 main dishes
   Mussaman Curry, 167

   Mussaman Curry, 167

The second group of people are those who've used the cookbook a fair bit, and know the name of the recipe they want to make. For these readers, it's important to include the name of the recipe in full, as is.

It needs to be listed under its full name, in alphabetical order:
Mussaman Curry, 167
Mustard Madness (dressing), 73

So, in most cases, a recipe will appear at least twice in a cookbook index, and sometimes even 5 or 6 times, depending on the number of main or unusual ingredients.

And that's a little tiny bit about cookbook indexing! Now you know!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Gemini Cryptic 6860

It's been a while since I dissected a Gemini Cryptic; here's the first one for 2014 ...

This one appeared in the Monday 13 January issue of The Canberra Times. The Gemini Cryptic is a British cryptic, set by two people. More detail here. As ever, the definition is underlined (except in double and cryptic definition clues). 


1) He requires staff for the spring (4-7) = POLE-VAULTER
Cryptic definition. Nothing to do with hiring people, this guy needs a pole to spring up with!

9) Vindication of French miscreant (7) = DEFENCE
Charade clue. Of French = DE ('of' in French) + FENCE (a miscreant, as in someone who received stolen goods).

10) Cool courage is never shattered (5) = NERVE
Anagram (shattered) of never.

11) She's not improved by the golden touch (4) = LILY
Cryptic definition. Reference to 'gild the lily' and a girl's name.

12) In use can turn into a problem (8) = NUISANCE
Anagram (turn into) of in use can.

14) A ship wreck holds nothing for her (5) = SOPHIA
Anagram (wreck) of a ship + O (nothing). Her is the definition, indicating (a little unfairly) any girl's name.

16) It checks the growth of population (6) = CENSUS
Cryptic definition. Nothing to do with prophylactics or population control, but checking as in recording!

18) Sense there's agreement among rowing men (8) = EYESIGHT
Container clue. You need some knowledge of rowing as a sport to get this one! Agreement inside (among) rowing men = YES in EIGHT. 

19) Call used in boxing (4) = RING
Double definition. Call someone on the phone, or ring them. And a boxing ring.

22) Oft repeated ceremony on the third of October (5) = TRITE
The third of October = T. The third letter of October, get it? With RITE (ceremony) tacked on.

23) Royal symbols from Algeria (7) = REGALIA
Anagram of Algeria. This clue is unfair, as there is no anagram indicator. A fairer version would be something like Royal symbols from Algeria in disarray.

24) Order for weapons now (7,4) = PRESENT ARMS
Cryptic definition.


2) Refuse organic food? (5) = OFFAL
Cryptic definition. Refuse is a noun here, meaning stuff that's thrown away, rather than the verb.

3) Bird from another nest (4) = ERNE
Hidden word, in another nest. A bird that mainly resides in crosswords nowadays, ERNE is a literary term for the sea eagle.

4) Place to meet after a drive (6) = AVENUE
Charade clue. VENUE (place to meet) after A.

5) They call out at court? (8) = LINESMEN
An apt clue to appear during the Australian Open ... cryptic definition, referring to the tennis court, not a legal court!

6) Jobs for the boys? (7) = ERRANDS
Another cryptic definition. Errands being small jobs you might get boys to run for you (if you're lucky!)

7) Young people arranged to see Scotland (11) = ADOLESCENTS
Anagram (arranged) of see Scotland.

8) It's selected by a backer (7,4) = REVERSE GEAR
Cryptic definition. Not a financial backer, but someone who is driving backwards!

13) They share an item in a geometry set (8) = DIVIDERS
Double definition. People who share are those who divide things up. And dividers are a measuring compass, often seen in geometry sets at school.

15) PM has about a thousand in support (7) = PREMIER
Container clue. Put RE (about) + M (thousand) in PIER (support).

17) Greek ferry operator (6) = CHARON
Slightly cryptic definition. Greek mythology. Refers to Charon, the old man who ferried souls into Hades, across the Rivers Styx and Acheron.

20) Mails sorted out for the Muslim world (5) = ISLAM
Anagram (sorted out) of mails.

21) Site of beautiful marble mausoleum in Panama graveyard (4) = AGRA
This clue gets the 'longest definition' prize for this crossword! Hidden word clue, the answer is in Panama graveyard. Agra is where the Taj Mahal is located.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Centennial Winners

Happy New Year all!

I'm pleased to announce the winners of the last cryptic clue writing competition, for the word CENTENNIAL.

First prize: For the hundredth time Len, nice tan job (GrizNHeph) — A lovely concise clue, with LEN NICE TAN as the anagram fodder, and job as the anagram indicator.

Second prize: Celebrate one hundred years by shaking 50 Romans in canteen (sandbox74)— an anagram of 50 Romans (L) with IN CANTEEN, indicated by shaking.

Third prize: CNN late in e-broadcast, spoil 100th year anniversary (Asuquo) — an anagram of CNN LATE IN E. Broadcast and spoil could be the anagram indicators (although only one is needed).

I know that sandbox74 and Asuquo are both outside of the regions where I can gift apps, sorry people ... but you can have that peaceful inner glow and smugness of knowing you did good  ;)

GrizNHeph, drop me an email to let me know where you live, and hopefully I can send an app to you!

Saturday, December 21, 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, December 16, 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!

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.