David Astle

Australia's most popular word-smith.


David Astle is best known for his work as The Dictionary Guy on SBS’ Letters and Numbers, a role that combined word-umpire with anagram-meister, unlocking origins, from slang to jargon, from diesel to mountweazel: words weird and true.

Off the box, David’s passion lies in smaller boxes, namely the cryptic crosswords that appear each week in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. Adored or dreaded as the setter DA, David is a verbal wizard, playing with puns, codes, themes, double-meanings and every other cryptic formula in the book of spells.

David’s knack for wordplay is ideal for tailor-made puzzles, riddles, clues and other creative challenges for any occasion. An exuberant speaker, David can offer a spark-filled crash-course in cryptic solving, enthralling a room in word games. With 30 years as Australia’s leading puzzler, David has also many offbeat tales of language and inspiration to share. David believes that puzzle play is a surefire and pleasurable way to keep your brain agile, to spur lateral thinking, and encourage spark and creativity, his sessions filled with games, challenges, and plenty of laughs.

As a dynamic teacher at all levels, David is gifted in the area of mobilising the imagination, exploring your creativity through language, as well as creating games as tools of learning.

Current work

David is also a weekly columnist for the Spectrum section of the Herald, chewing on language topics as diverse as polly-speak and endangered words, kid-talk and buzzwords, clich├ęs and misnomers. Wherever words are found, David is nearby with a few words and unique insights to offer.

Previous experience

Author: His first book, Puzzled: Secrets and Clues from a Life Lost in Words (2010), captures this craze through his life, and wordplay through history too, from Pompeii’s magic squares to the rude acrostic of Governor Schwarzenegger. Built around a central crossword, Puzzled is a book you unravel as you read, clue-by-clue, chapter-by-chapter. A joyous and contorting ride, just as David can offer in person. His latest, Puzzles and Games (2012) captures the other wordy side of his nature: a medley of puzzles and surprising word stories in one pocket-sized volume, featuring over 170 original brain teasers from anagrams to word pyramids to keep all levels and ages challenged and amused. Accompanying these are some 200 of David’s entertaining word stories that unlock the secrets and origins of everything from what a charnie is, to where Google’s name came from and how Spanish roosters crow.


Talking Points
Puzzle-Making for Every Occasion
Puzzle Solving as a Creative Challenge, and Icebreaker
Clue Clinics to Unravel a Crossword
Verbal Trends - and Verbal Mind-Bends
Word Secrets and Puzzle Stories
Game-Playing as a Means of Learning
Using Words and Puzzles to Launch Imagination
The Creative Trance