A MAN that looks on glass
On it may stay his eye;
Or if he pleaseth, through it pass
And then the heaven espy.
Geroge Herbert (1593-1633)
‘The Elixir’
Stories
Two-minute tales and grammar games
Puzzles
Games with words and numbers
2 two-part story
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Discovery and Invention
For December 14th
Alan Blumlein files the world’s first patent for stereo
Alan Blumlein
Railway enthusiast, music lover, and the man who gave us stereo sound.

IN 1935 Alan Blumlein, an avid railway enthusiast, made a five-minute film of trains running through Hayes in Middlesex.

There was a serious purpose to Blumlein’s subject. A maddening feature of early talkies was that as actors moved around the screen, the sound of their voices and movements appeared rooted to one spot.

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No. 1
Henry Purcell
Greek and Roman Myths
The Gordian Knot
Alexander fulfilled the letter of a prophecy and he did become ruler of the world, but it wasn’t quite fair.

A PEASANT farmer from Phrygia named Gordias was ploughing a field when an eagle came and perched on the yoke of his oxen, a sign, he was told, that he was destined to become a father of kings.

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No. 2
Sir John Blackwood McEwen
Extracts from Literature
Taken for a Ride
Richard Hannay sees for himself how political activists trick decent people into supporting their quest for power.
By John Buchan
(1875-1940)

“TELL me, Dick, what do you think of her?”

“I thought she was about two parts mad, but the third part was uncommon like inspiration.”

“That’s about right,” he said. “She runs the prophet just because she shares his belief. Only what in him is sane and fine, in her is mad and horrible.”

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No. 3
2 two-part story
Sir John Blackwood McEwen
Stuart Era
The Darien Scheme
The Parliament of Scotland tried to liberate itself from London’s strangling single market.

IN 1603, King James VI of Scotland became James I of England too, and he and his son Charles I held two crowns and summoned two Parliaments, Westminster and Edinburgh, until 1649 when Westminster had Charles summarily executed.

Two years later, the newly republican English Parliament then passed the first Navigation Act, shutting out Dutch competition in the belief that imports made the country poorer.

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No. 4
Anonymous (English)
Christmastide
His Bright Nativity
Northumbrian poet Cynewulf wonders at the mystery of the Bethlehem manger, where all the light of heaven was shining.
By Cynewulf
(8th century)

O EÄRENDEL! Brightest messenger sent to men of middle-earth, radiance of the Sun, steadfast and true, outshining the stars, ceaselessly lighting from thyself the ebb and flow of all things!

Shine thy bright Sun upon us, come thyself and light us, who have sat in darkness, in gloom of endless night, these long years, wrapped in sin, enduring the dark shadow of death.

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No. 5
2 two-part story
William Byrd and John Dowland
Modern History
The Voyage of ‘Mayflower’
A crackdown on dissent in England’s established Church drove a band of Nottinghamshire townspeople to seek new shores.

AT the Hampton Court Conference in 1604, King James I insisted that the English Church would never adopt the more extreme views of Swiss reformer John Calvin. Some hardliners dubbed ‘Puritans’ were bitterly disappointed, and resolved to leave the country.

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No. 6
Francesco Geminiani
Liberty and Prosperity
Folly and Freedom
Britain’s colonies were founded to supply her Government with gold, but instead they supplied her people with liberty.
By Adam Smith
(1723-1790)

FOLLY and injustice seem to have been the principles which presided over and directed the first project of establishing those colonies; the folly of hunting after gold and silver mines, and the injustice of coveting the possession of a country whose harmless natives, far from having ever injured the people of Europe, had received the first adventurers with every mark of kindness and hospitality.

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No. 7
2 two-part story
Francesco Geminiani
Liberty and Prosperity
The Empire of Enterprise
Adam Smith credited the British Empire’s success not to the policy of her Government, but to the character of her people.
By Adam Smith
(1723-1790)

THE policy of Europe has very little to boast of, either in the original establishment, or, so far as concerns their internal government, in the subsequent prosperity of the colonies of America.

The conquest of Mexico was the project, not of the council of Spain, but of a governor of Cuba; and it was effectuated by the spirit of the bold adventurer to whom it was entrusted.

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No. 8
John Garth
Georgian Era
Portrait of a Lady
Edmund Burke takes time off from campaigning for liberty to reflect on the delights of captivity.
By Edmund Burke MP
(1729-1797)

SHE has a face that just raises your attention at first sight; it grows on you every moment, and you wonder it did no more than raise your attention at first.

Her eyes have a mild light, but they awe you when she pleases; they command, like a good man out of office, not by authority, but by virtue.

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No. 9
George Frideric Handel
Extracts from Literature
At a Solemn Musick
John Milton shows his appreciation for noble words and music in uplifting harmony.
By John Milton
(1632-1704)

BLEST pair of Sirens, pledges of Heav’ns joy,
Sphear-born harmonious Sisters, Voice, and Vers,
Wed your divine sounds, and mixt power employ
Dead things with inbreath’d sense able to pierce,
And to our high-rais’d phantasie present,
That undisturbed Song of pure concent,
Ay sung before the saphire-colour’d throne
To him that sits theron.

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No. 10
Polywords (182)
Make as many words as you can from the letters of a nine-letter word.
Latest: Path
Added on Monday December 11th, 2017
Doublets (34)
Turn one word into another, changing just one letter each time.
Latest: Stardust
Quickwords (46)
A mini-crossword of everyday vocabulary and general knowledge.
Triplets (23)
Find one common letter that will turn three words into three new ones.
Latest: Triplet No. 23
Guess these words letter by letter – before the cats are gone!
See how ingenious you can be in combining three randomly chosen words in one sentence.
Compose sentences showing the difference in meaning, grammar or usage between these words.
Practise your basic arithmetic, from multiplation tables to percentages.
Latest: Target Number
Take command of English grammar and composition with these traditional exercises.
Latest: Letters Game
A word search game with a dash of strategy.
Today in History
1931 Alan Blumlein files the world’s first patent for stereo
From our Archive
Britain never knew she was a nation of voracious readers until printing entered the steam age.
A young Indian student from Cambridge was selected for England’s cricket team after public pressure.
By The Revd Alexander Scott
(1768-1840)
High praise from someone who knew him better than most.
Music by George Frideric Handel
(1685-1759)
Handel called it ‘Air and Variations’, but by Charles Dickens’s day everyone knew it as ‘The Harmonious Blacksmith’.
By Cynewulf
(8th century)
Northumbrian poet Cynewulf paints a word-picture of heaven and the seraph-band that swoops and soars before the throne.

A to Z Index

Top Topics
History (394)
Polywords (182)
Georgian Era (107)
Fiction (84)
Quickwords (46)
Doublets (34)
Triplets (23)
Railways (23)
Stuart Era (16)
Adam Smith (10)
Polyword ‘Prince’
Make as many words as you can with the letters below. All your words must be at least four letters long, and must also include the highlighted letter. What’s the nine-letter word?

SEE how many words you can make using the letters below. All your words must be at least 4 letters long, and must include the letter (change).

We found commonly used words, plus one 9-letter word. Can you do better?

Use each letter only once. But if there are e.g. two As, you can used them both.

Don’t count proper nouns such as April, Zeus, or Newcastle (pretty much anything that has to be spelled with a capital letter at the start), or acronyms like HMRC.

Don’t just add -S for plurals or third person singular verbs, e.g. CAT → CATS or SPEAK → SPEAKS.

More Word Games
A word search game with a dash of strategy.
Guess these words letter by letter – before the cats are gone!
Do you know ‘warm covering’ (7 letters), and ‘2,240 lb’ (3 letters)?
Changing one letter at a time, see if you can start with SPIT and finish with FIRE.
Find the magic letter that can change three words into three different ones.