Word games in Swindon

Monday 14th May 2012

BLOG Standard event coming up at the Swindon Festival of Literature this week, discussing with Hilda Sheehan the questions of how to do it, why some of us do it, what, if anything, we get out of it, and who, if anyone, reads the outpourings of those who have more to say for themselves than Twitter allows.

Here’s a word game called Platform Alterations, or This is Swindon; change here for…

Take the word Swindon. Change one letter. You now have an anagram of a different word; for example, replacing the D with an M gives you S W I N M O N, an anagram of MINNOWS. Do the same with SWINDON thrice more to complete:

_____________ Street
____________ 95 or 98
Mount ____________ *

The event will be at the local Arts Centre, where I interviewed Tony Augarde, author of the Oxford Guide to Word Games, the day after the 2005 General Election.

“Not your first time at this festival, Tony?”

“No. I have been here twice before. So you could say I’m here for ‘an unprecedented, historic third term’.” Another Tony had used the exact same phrase a few hours earlier.

We had a gentle lunchtime natter about puns, charades, riddles, and Lewis Carroll. My favourite quote from that book is the Guardian Christmas crossword clue, set by Araucaria:

O hark the herald angels sing the boy’s descent which lifted up the world (5,9,7,5,6,2,5,3,6,2,3,6)**

After the event we were approached by a member of the audience, who confessed to ‘having done a bit of thinking and scribbling’ that morning, and duly presented us with a doublet, the rules of which Carroll outlined in 1879:

Two words are proposed, of the same length; and the Puzzle consists in linking these together by interposing other words, each of which shall differ from the next word in one letter only.

The resulting list is not only prophetic, but also delightfully apt in its choice of words:

BLAIR
FLAIR
FLAIL
FRAIL
TRAIL
TRAIN
BRAIN
BRAWN
BROWN

* Downing; Windows; Snowdon

** An anagram of: While shepherds watched their flocks by night all seated on the ground

 

 

 

 

 

 

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