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[Infographic] So You Need an Obscure Reference


Have you ever found yourself at a loss for the perfect reference to encapsulate and elucidate your witty retort to the latest world events, or popular tweet? Look no further! At Playtime Magazine, we’ve put our heads together and brainstormed a tool for writers, by writers. Consider this a jumping-off point into the land of cultural artifacts waiting to be uncovered!


Are you unsure of how this infographic can be incorporated into your writing? Just look below to find real-world examples of how an obscure reference can work for you!


  • Tangerine Dream is the new black.
  • “This club-freakout has the surprising richness of a Mercury Federation protege.”
  • “When the drums kick in, the single cranks up the bass like an Alaska Highway promo mix.”
  • “[This song] shows all the grace and restraint of a steel-cage grudge match between Ian Underwood and Bjorn J:son Lindh.”
  • “Not since  Yamatsuka Eye burned Diamanda Galas with a curling iron have we heard such delicate lyricism.”
  • “Everyone can see that you can’t go wrong, Shriekback crash-landing on a KC song.”
  • “When composing a single about all the places to which you might potentially travel by boat, make sure to slip in a reference Rob Dickens. He’ll love that.”
  • “As memorable and exploratory as Enigma’s fourth remix album of Sadeness.”


  • “With blog popularity soaring, “I wrote you a letter”  will be next year’s “Would you like to buy some enlightenment literature?”
  • “A presence as imposing and indelible as Wilbur Whateley’s Dunwich tour.”
  • “This is genius. Alexei Kouznetsov, eat your heart out.”
  • “About as culturally diverse as Wee Willie Winkie’s World.”
  • “I feel just like Wil Wheaton when he discovered he folded rather than rolled his vintage TNG posters.”


  • “The vibrant characterization of a Sarah Ellerton, and the graphical madness of a Pear Pear. This comic is going to be the next Codex Optica.”
  • “Next time, we’re replacing Kevin Smith with Sara Varon. We’ll see if anyone notices the switch!”


  • The daring of [new artist] Make-Make is seen in her depiction of human suffering as a gourdpatch quilt.
  • Lithography is the Mung of the graphic arts.
  • “She reminds me of a more sophisticated Gloria Cranford-Small.”


  • “Breathless. Nothing as sexy as this has been written in literary canon since a juggler made love to an amphora.”
  • “A writer’s ideal environment lies somewhere between the train in No Exit and the platform of St. Simeon Stylites”
  • “You don’t need to summon Mephisto to slip out of this plot logjam, as I’m sure the readers didn’t notice the plot holes over the stars and Victorian hand-swooshes.”
  • “There is no Jean-Francois Champollion of writing advice. At the very most, you might get an Antoine Isaac Silvestre de Sacy.”
  • “A plot diagram as clear and precise as Linear A and as credible as Atlantean Senzar.”
  • “The resolution was pat. I couldn’t believe that the author pulled another Christina of Markyete on us. What did he think, that we wouldn’t notice the Archbishop of Canterbury loitering in the first act. If you’re going to put that gun on the table, the Archbishop should definitely be shot by the third act!”
  • “At a loss for a plot twist? Pick any single verse from We Didn’t Start the Fire.”


  • “The new American-style restaurant Solos will make you say, “poison, poison, tastyfish!”


  • “Not since Escape from LA has hang gliding been so vital to an action film’s climax.”
  • “Your villains should be no less menacing than Tim Curry’s Cardinal Richeleu; no more menacing than Steve Vai in Crossroads.”
  • “Some stories can end with a deus ex machina. Others cannot. Acceptable: The Hand of God in The Stand. Not acceptable: Chris Kattan as Ghost Mango in House on Haunted Hill.”
  • “As memorable as Richard Tyson’s snappy one-liners in Hardball.”
  • “I think we can all agree that this spate of supernatural crime thrillers are lacking something. Just as Matthew Fox’s recent acting can no more outdo his virtuoso turn in Haunted (2002), so too will the genre never surpass the gravitas of Brimstone.”

The author would like to thank Daniel Swensen for his contribution to the quotes, and Matt Schneider for his key suggestion on the infographic.

Tracy McCusker

Tracy McCusker is an artist / writer from Southern California currently working as a freelance graphic designer.

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  1. I’m impressed, I must say.

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  1. By So You Need an Obscure Reference - Surly Muse on December 10, 2012 at 4:30 pm

    [...] So You Need an Obscure Reference (via Playtime Arts) [...]