David Astle

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David Astle
Born (1961-11-09) 9 November 1961 (age 56)
Sydney, Australia
Nationality Australian
Occupation Writer, crossword compiler

David Astle (born 9 November 1961 in Sydney, Australia) is a Melbourne-based writer of non-fiction, fiction and plays. He also cohosted the SBS show, Letters and Numbers, as the dictionary expert, in company with Richard Morecroft and Lily Serna.[1]

His cryptic crosswords, appearing under the name "DA" in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, have developed a large following which includes musician Holly Throsby[2] and actor Geoffrey Rush. Rush called him "the Sergeant Pepper of cryptic crosswords."[3] In 2011, his portrait called DA was shortlisted for the Archibald Prize, painted by artist Amanda Marburg.

His 2013 book Cluetopia: The story of 100 years of the crossword celebrates the centenary of the crossword with a chapter for each year. He won third prize in the 1990 The Age Short Story Award and his first novel, Marzipan Plan, was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award. In 2001 he won the James Joyce Suspended Sentence Award for short fiction.[4] His play Cowboy Humour was part of the Short and Sweet play festival in 2008,[5] which has previously featured Astle's plays including The Gentleman Had An Axe in 2007[6] and The Mercy Kitchen.[7]

He has taught journalism at RMIT University and in 2004 was awarded a DSC Teaching Award for best sessional teacher.[8] In 2013, he helped create the word phub (a portmanteau of phone and snub, used when someone is ignored in favour of a mobile phone).[9]

Since 2015 he has been a fill-in host on ABC Radio Melbourne as well as a regular word expert on ABC TV's News Breakfast. He writes the Wordplay column for the Sydney Morning Herald.



  • Marzipan Plan
  • The Book of Miles (Minerva, 1997) 1-86330-589-0


  • "Riddledom: 101 Riddles and Their Stories" (Allen & Unwin, 2015) ISBN 9781760112608
  • "Cluetopia: The story of 100 years of the crossword" (Allen & Unwin, 2013) ISBN 9781743314531
  • "Puzzles and Words 1" (Allen & Unwin, 2013) 9781743318546
  • "Puzzles and Words 2" (Allen & Unwin, 2013) 9781743318546
  • Puzzled: Secrets and Clues From a Life Lost in Words (Allen & Unwin, 2010) ISBN 9781742372785
  • Cassowary Crossing (Penguin Books, 2005) ISBN 0-14-300169-8; (re-jacketed as Offbeat Australia (Penguin Books, 2007) ISBN 978-0-14-300742-5)
  • One Down, One Missing (Hardie Grant Books, 2003) 9781740661416

For children[edit]


  • The Gentleman Had an Axe (2007)
  • Cowboy Humour (2008)
  • The Mercy Kitchen (2008)


  1. ^ http://www.sbs.com.au/shows/lettersandnumbers/cast/detail/id/642
  2. ^ Carew, Anthony (2008-07-11). "A way with words". Melbourne: theage.com.au. Retrieved 2010-01-31. 
  3. ^ "Rush Hour www.theage.com.au". Melbourne: Theage.com.au. 2007-03-08. Retrieved 2010-01-31. 
  4. ^ "A mind field of puzzling pleasure - theage.com.au". Melbourne: Theage.com.au. 26 May 2002. Retrieved 2010-01-31. 
  5. ^ "Week 3 program | Short and Sweet". Shortandsweet.org. Archived from the original on 21 July 2008. Retrieved 2010-01-31. 
  6. ^ http://assets.theartscentre.net.au/shortandsweet/rscs/2007%20Files/070828;%20S&S%20Season%20Outline%2021107.pdf
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ "DSC Teaching Award Winners 2004". RMIT. 1 October 2004. Archived from the original on 12 September 2006. Retrieved 2010-01-31. 
  9. ^ http://www.abc.net.au/local/audio/2013/12/24/3917113.htm

External links[edit]