What makes a great riddle?

[Image courtesy of PNG Find.]

I have always suspected that riddles were our first experiments with puzzles and puzzly thinking. Long before crosswords, Sudoku, codebreaking, and magic squares, the potential for wordplay and outside-the-box thinking would have appealed to storytellers, teachers, philosophers, and other deep thinkers.

Who doesn’t enjoy unraveling a riddle, parsing the carefully constructed sentences for every hint and nuance lurking within, and then extracting that tiny purest nugget of a solution from the ether?

Riddles appeal to our love of story and adventure, of heroes with wits as sharp as their swords. Riddles are the domain of gatekeepers and tricksters, monsters and trap rooms from the best Dungeons & Dragons quests.

And so, for centuries upon centuries, even up to the modern day, riddles have been a challenging and intriguing part of the world of puzzling.

We can trace them back to the Greeks, to Ancient Sumeria, to the Bible through Samson, and to mythology through the Sphinx. Riddles abound in literature; we find riddles in Shakespeare, in the works of Joyce, Carroll, and Austen, all the way up to the modern day with The Hobbit and Harry Potter. Every locked room mystery and impossible crime is a riddle to be unraveled.

[Image courtesy of Campbell County Public Library.]

But this raises a crucial question: what makes a good riddle?

At first glance, it should be confusing or elusive. But after some thought, there should be enough information within the riddle to provide a solution, either through wordplay/punnery OR through looking at the problem from a different perspective.

Let’s look at an example. In this instance, we’ll examine the riddle from Jane Austen’s Emma, which is posed to the title character by a potential suitor:

My first displays the wealth and pomp of kings,
Lords of the earth! their luxury and ease.
Another view of man, my second brings,
Behold him there, the monarch of the seas!

The answer is “courtship.”

The first half of the riddle refers to the playground of royalty — court — and the second half to the domain of her suitor — ship — and when combined they form the suitor’s desire. This riddle is confusingly worded, to be sure, but it makes sense when analyzed and it’s totally reasonable when the clever Emma figures out the answer… and turns down the suitor’s attempt at riddly courtship.

[Image courtesy of Yale.edu.]

So, what’s an example of a bad riddle? Well, unfortunately, we don’t have to look too hard for an example of one. Let’s examine Samson’s riddle from The Book of Judges in the Old Testament, which he poses to his dinner guests (with a wager attached):

Out of the eater,
something to eat;
out of the strong,
something sweet.

The answer, bafflingly, is “bees making a honeycomb inside the carcass of a lion.”

This is borderline nonsense unless Samson actually told you the story of killing a lion with his bare hands and later returning to the corpse to find bees building a hive inside. So, basically, this riddle not only screws over his dinner guests — who lost a wager to buy fine clothing if they couldn’t solve the rigged riddle — and serves as an excuse to brag about killing a lion. Samson is a jerk.

This is a bad riddle, because it’s designed to be confusing, but does not offer enough information to get to the desired solution. It’s purposely unsolvable, and that sucks. Riddles shouldn’t be arbitrary or nonsensical.

James Joyce pulled this in Ulysses. Lewis Carroll pulled it in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. And each of these examples give riddles a bad name. (Even if they do serve a literary purpose, as scholars claim they do in the Joyce and Carroll examples.)

Even if you want the hero to seem (or be) smarter than the reader, the riddle should still make sense. When confronted with five riddles by Gollum in The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins solves four of them (and answers the fifth through charmingly dumb luck). It doesn’t hurt his character or make the reader feel like they’re being cheated when these riddles are resolved.

That’s another quality of a great riddle. Even if you don’t solve it, when you DO find the answer, it should feel like you were outwitted and you learned something, not that you were involved in a rigged game.

Oh, and speaking of learning, that reminds me of another example of a challenging yet fair riddle, one that comes from Ancient Sumeria (now, modern-day Iraq):

There is a house. One enters it blind and comes out seeing. What is it?

The answer, as you might have puzzled out, is “a school.”

Riddles can be devious or tricky; they can rely on misdirection, our own assumptions and biases, or careful word choice to befuddle the reader. But they should always be learning experiences, like the house you enter blind and leave seeing.

What are some of your favorite riddles, fellow puzzlers? Let us know in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you!


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We’re Number Pun! We’re Number Pun! — The ReHASHtag Game

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You may be familiar with the board game Schmovie or hashtag games on Twitter.

For years now, we’ve been collaborating on puzzle-themed hashtag games with our pals at Penny Dell Puzzles, and this month’s hook was #PennyDellPuzzleSports. Today’s entries all mash up Penny Dell puzzles with teams, athletes, famous quotations, and more things associated with the world of sports!

Examples include: Seventh Inning Stretch Letters or Basketball For One.

(The entries leaned heavily towards baseball — understandably, since it only returned a few weeks ago.)

So, without further ado, check out what the puzzlers at PuzzleNation and Penny Dell Puzzles came up with!


Puzzly Athletes!

CrackerJackie Robinson

Simone Biles Says

Tara Blipsinski

Wayne Grepsky


Puzzly Teams!

Arizona Diamond Ringbacks

MilwauKeyword Brewers

Minnesota Twin Crosswords

Philadelphia Fill-Innies

Tampa Bay Sunrays

Washington Wizard Words

Orlando Magic Squares

Chicago Bull’s-Eye Spiral


Puzzly Sports Terminology!

FenWord Ways Park

Doubleheader Trouble

A Few Fielder’s Choice Words

Box Scoremaster / Lucky Box Score

Perfect Dart Game / Perfect Fit Game

Right of Way field

End Zone of the Line

End of the Line drive

BaseLine ‘Em Up

Base Pathfinder

Baseball Diamond Mine

Grand Tour slam

Draw the Defensive Lineman

False Start and Finish

Game, Set, Match-up!

Hall of Framework

These Three-Pointers

Super Bowl Game

Scramble Across & Touchdown

Picker-Upper Deck Home Runs


Puzzly Famous Quotations!

“Are you ready for some Quotefalls?!”

“…The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Delete”

“I never said most of the Everything’s Relative I said.” – Yogi Berra

“This is like Deja vu All Four One again.” – Yogi Berra

“It ain’t Overlaps til it’s over.” -Yogi Berra

“Window Boxes isn’t everything, it’s the only thing” — Red Sanders

“…it seems to me they give these ball players now-a-days very peculiar names… Well, let’s see, we have… Guess Who’s on first, What’s Left on second, You Know the Odds is on third…”


Several of our puzzlers went above and beyond, crafting calls from the announcers at these puzzly events!

The Call of the Game presented by Hall of Framework puzzle announcer Neil Simon Says:

“There’s two Drop-Outs here in the bottom of the Nine of Diamonds, One & Only one man on base, and Wade Mind Boggler steps up to the plate for the Tampa Bay Sunrays. This will be his First and Last at bat of the Word Games World Series. The Pitcher Sleuth looks to his What’s Left, then checks his Right Angles, sets his feet and Square Deals the pitch. It’s swung on by Mind Boggler and holy cow it’s a walk-off Home Run! That Baseball for One was crushed to Bits & Pieces! The Scoreboard says it all folks with a Three-to-One victory for the Sunrays. Who in the world could Picture This kind of ending? Just wow!”


Wide World of Sports reporting from the National Figure Skating competition:

Today, during the synchronized figure skating event, The Ice Chips team, sponsored by Penny Dell Puzzles, began their program divided up into Pairs and glided out onto the ice Two at a Time, and Step by Step taking their positions Face to Face. They gracefully began their number, first skating in a Mirror Image, then dividing up into Odds and Evens. A Small Change in the pace of the music brought a sequence of fast mohawks, turns, spread eagles, swizzles, lifts, and a Shuffle.


Have you come up with any Penny Dell Puzzle Sports entries of your own? Let us know! We’d love to see them!

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You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!

Puns: What Sweet Music They Make

Wordplay Wednesday 599

There’s nothing like a bit of shameless punnery to improve my mood. Sure, a deftly crafted and immaculately executed pun can be a delight, but there’s something about a labored, ridiculous pun that just brings me joy.

You know, like the one about going into surgery and being given two options: an old anesthetic or a paddle to the face.

It was an ether/oar situation.

BAM. Silly punnery afoot.

You can find it in many forms, like crossword clues and Tom Swifties. There’s even the O. Henry Pun-Off competition each year where punsmiths from all over the world gather to show off their linguistic limberness.

And what a treat it is when the puns are packaged in a song.

malinda 1

I recently stumbled across a wonderful example on YouTube when I found the channel belonging to singer, musician, and actress Malinda Kathleen Reese. Her channel, simply called MALINDA, has over 250,000 subscribers, and features not only her lovely voice and impressive musical chops, but a wide variety of creative endeavors involving music.

She’s crafted songs about subjects both joyful and sad, often incorporating submissions and suggestions from her viewers. One is made up entirely of old Facebook statuses she posted. Another features compliments she’s received online, while a third is composed from hate comments.

MalindaKathleenReese

Whether she’s singing what she sees, composing a symphony with a deck of cards, testing the reliability of the website RhymeZone by using it to write a rap, or performing with an orchestra of singers and musicians assembled for a virtual performance, Malinda is as ambitious as she is innovative.

And, as you might expect from this blog post’s introduction, she has a song made up entirely of shameless puns.

Enjoy, won’t you?

What a treat!

You can check out Malinda’s works on her YouTube page and stay up-to-date with her current projects on her Twitter account, and if you’re feeling so inclined, support her on Patreon so she can continue making marvelous musical melodies like the one above.

Thanks for brightening our days, Malinda!


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Don’t Be a Square! Check Out These Puzzly Theme Park Ideas!

Long-time readers know that we often host in-house wordplay contests. Not only do we invite our friends at Penny/Dell Puzzles to participate, but our fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers as well!

This month, the challenge was to envision a Penny/Dell-inspired theme park!

Participants could create rides and attractions, provide slogans or ads, and whatever else came to mind for this imaginary puzzly paradise! Bonus points for any punny references to Penny/Dell puzzles or magazines!

With both text descriptions and art submitted, covering everything from individual rides to entire brochures, let’s check out what some clever puzzly minds came up with!


PENNYDELL PARK DIRECTORY

RIDES

BURIED TREASURE: Ahoy, mateys! Arrrrrr you ready for adventure? Do you have what it takes to locate the pirate’s booty? Come aboard your own private galleon on the BURIED TREASURE ride, me hearties!

TIME MACHINE: Crafted by Emmett “Doc” Brown himself, this DeLorean TIME MACHINE presents a once-in-a-lifetime chance to visit any time in the past or future. The opportunity to change history or view what is yet to come is all yours!
*Pennydell Park takes no responsibilty for any detrimental consequences that may occur due to your actions during your time-travel adventure.

TOP TO BOTTOM: In this thrill-seeking ride, you will ascend to the top of a tower that overlooks Pennydell Park. Enjoy a relaxing moment or two as you take in the scenery from above. Then, without warning, you will plummet to the bottom of the tower at frightening speeds. You will be taken from TOP TO BOTTOM again and again, resulting in either the excitement of a lifetime or the need for a family-sized package of motion sickness medication.

GAMES

A TO Z MAZE: Are you up to the challenge of this labyrinth of letters? In this game, you will enter a complicated maze in which each of the 26 letters of the alphabet are hidden. Upon finding each letter, you will receive a specially-marked token. Players who collect all 26 tokens win the a-maze-ing prize of a year’s supply of ALPHABET SOUP.

WHEEL OF FORTUNE: In this simple game of chance, players will spin the WHEEL OF FORTUNE to reveal what they’ve won. Prizes range from the terrific to the horrific. Will you walk away with a fist full of cash or a can full of trash? A tropical cruise or an old pair of shoes? Try your luck now!

FOOD AND DRINK

Don’t forget to stop by one of our famous snack stands for our delicious specialties! Now featuring ooey-gooey BROWNIE BITS AND PIECES, the classic popcorn treat CRACKERJACKS (with good prizes like they used to have!), and the ever-popular BANANA SPLIT PERSONALITIES – now with even more personalities than ever before!


puzzleopolis


UNAPPROVED ADVERTISEMENT

Welcome to Penny’s Easy & Fun  Variety Puzzles   Queasy & Fun Ride-It-Free Puzzles Theme Park!

Here you can enjoy some of our famous puzzly rides and games like:

  • Anagram Tragic Squares
  • Mine of Diamonds
  • Keep on Grooving
  • Cheat the Clock

Also, don’t forget to catch the Blinkwords 182 concert and enjoy a free slice of Domino’s “tastes good in Theory” pizza before you leave!


double trouble ride


WELCOME TO PUZZLYWOOD

With the postponement of this year’s Kentucky Derby, an exciting alternative would be to check out the Puzzle Derby at the newly opened Puzzlywood Theme Park, located at the Crossroads of Pigeonhole, which may be in Tennessee or Kentucky, nobody is really sure, but You Know the Odds.

Su and her husband Sum Doku created Puzzlywood Brick by Brick to celebrate their love for all things puzzly. As guests Zigzag into the main area of the park, known as the Circles in the Square, they are met by the Scoremaster who directs them to the Digital Display, where guests can select their Place Cards for the Puzzle in the Round or Pair Off for a little Double Trouble at the End of the Line.

Also at Right Angles from any of the Escalators, and in The Shadow of the Four Corners, solvers have the Right of Way on the Word Trails where they may come Face to Face with the Quote Calculator or the Number Sleuth, each of whom will offer a little Give and Take to help guests make Heads & Tails of the attractions under Camouflage. Decisions, Decisions, you will need a Strategy.

Puzzlywood also boasts a vibrant nightlife, as guests are continually Spellbound by the Throwbacks at the park Disco. For a quieter evening guests may enjoy the sweet bluegrass sounds emanating from the Fiddler’s Frame.

All Four One is the friendly motto of Puzzlywood where Three’s Company and the Letterboxes are always overflowing with Secret Messages penned by happy visitors, including many Guest Stars!


Did you come up with any puzzly theme park ideas, fellow puzzler? Let us know in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you.

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!

Janie’s Got a Pun: The ReHASHtag Game

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You may be familiar with the board game Schmovie, hashtag games on Twitter, or @midnight’s Hashtag Wars segment on Comedy Central.

For years now, we’ve been collaborating on puzzle-themed hashtag games with our pals at Penny Dell Puzzles, and this month’s hook was #PennyDellPuzzlyBands, mashing up Penny Dell puzzles with musicians, singers, bands, and more!

Examples include: The Beat-the-Clock-les, Brick by Brick Astley, or Kris
Krossword.

So, without further ado, check out what the puzzlers at PuzzleNation and Penny Dell Puzzles came up with!


U2 at a Time

Sheryl Crows Soundgarden

Sheryl Letter Crow

Men at Framework

Framebjork

Patchwork Swayze

Alphabet Bowling for Soup

Mixmaster Flash and the Furious Five / Grandmaster Flash and the Fancy Fives

Fancy Jackson Fives

The Cracker Jackson 5 / Cracker-Joe-Jackson

Fill-In Collins

Wilson Fill-Ins

Fill-INXS

The Four Topsy-Turvy Fill-In / ZZ Topsy-Turvy Fill-In

ZZ Top to Bottom

Tina Turnabout

TurnabOutkast

Danzig-Zag

Zigzag Marley

RadioHeads & Tails

The Lemon Heads & Tails

The Lemon Headings

Bobby V-Words

Scramb-Led Zeppelin Words

Diagram-Les Paul

Mixed Nikki Sixxes

Throw-Burt-Bach-arachs

Neil Sudoku

Siouxsie Sioux-doku and the Banshees

Hüsker Sudokü

Kenkenny Rogers

Paul Simon Says / Carly Simon Says

Crypto Graham Nash

CryptoGram Parsons

Sly & the Crypto-Families Stone

Sly and the Family Ties

The Partridge Family Ties

Ringo Starr Words / Ringo Starrspell

ABBA-cus

Bay City Rollers of the Dice

Derek and the Missing Dominoes

Grand Funk Railroad Ties

Earth, Windowboxes & Fire

Tower of Letter Power

Flower Power Station

Rufus WainRight of Way

Point the Wayland Jennings

Steve Cropperfect Fit

Susan TedeschiWord

Green Daisy

Sum Words 41

KC and the Sum Words Band

Mathboxes Twenty

Hearts and Flowers

Stepping Rolling Stones

Alice in Chain Words

Sir Mix-and-Match-A-Lot

Busta Pairs in Rhymes

Dexy’s Midnight Punners

New Kidz On The Letterboxes / New Kids on the Blockbuilders

Bull’s-Eilish Spiral

Simple Minds Tickler / Simple Minds Boggler

Right Angles Said Fred

Quote Questlove

Mariah Carry-Overs

AccorDionne Warwick Words

Ella Four-Fitzgerald

The Blackout! Crowes / The Blackout! Eyed Peas / Blackout Sabbath!

Roberta Flack-out!

LudaCrisscross / Kiss-Kross

Chaka Khancellations

Fats Domino Theory

Neil Diamond Mine / Neil Diamond Rings

Alphabet Soupertramp

Cros-Styx

The Lucky Clovers

Miles Around the Block Davis

End of The Skyliners

The Who’s Calling / The Guess Who

Charlie Watts’ My Name

Duke Skellington Key

DartLorde

“My Sudoku” by The Knack

Dell Amitri / Dell La Soul

Tom Penny Publications and the Heartbreakers

Daily Iggy POP Crossword


One puzzler even paired puzzly bands with puzzly songs and albums!

MegaSudokuDeth (“Peace Sells . . . But Who’s Calling?”)

Sonny & Share-A-Letter (“The Beat the Clock Goes On,” “I Got You Know the Odds Babe”)

FleetWord Math (“LandSlide-O-Gram,” “Go Your Own Word Ways”)

Guns N’ Rows Garden (“Sweet Child O’ Diamond Mine,” “Live and Let Diagramless”)

Bingo Crosby (“White Crisscross”)

The Rolling SteppingStones (“Rhyme Time Is on My Side,” “Paint It Blackout!,” “Ruby Cluesday”)


One intrepid puzzler went so far as to rewrite the lyrics to Bungle in the Jungle by Jethro Tull! So please enjoy Bungle In The Jumble…

My friend says she’s bored, yeah she’s lonely and older
I thought, “She needs puzzles.”, and that’s what I told her

With fun illustrations they’re hers for the taking
She can finish several while her cookies are baking

Now she is hooked; she is terribly spellbound
She quickly deciphers and shares whatever she’s found

Bungle in the jumble, well for her that’s a breeze
Don’t give her easy puzzles, ‘cause she’ll say they’re a tease


Our readership also got it on the fun!

Laura Campbell offered up SyllacroSTYX and Bananaramagram Magic Squares. (Judy Schumacker on Twitter also pitched Bananaramagram Magic Squares!)

Sandra Halbrook posted Christopher Cross Sums, and Roni Gunn shared Slay-er-cros-tic.

Terrific puns all around!


Have you come up with any Penny Dell Puzzly Bands entries of your own? Let us know! We’d love to see them!

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!

A Punny Costume Challenge Full of Tricks and Treats for Halloween!

Happy Halloween, puzzlers and PuzzleNationers!

One of the best things about Halloween is guessing what people’s costumes are. Clever costumes can be great fun, and I’m a huge fan of costumes that only cost a few bucks to put together, because they really let your creativity shine through.

Punny costumes lend themselves to the low-budget costume genre brilliantly. So it’s only appropriate that we celebrate Halloween in the puzzliest way possible by looking at some punny costumes!

It’s simple. I post a picture, and you guess what the costume is.

For example:

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It’s BEE-yonce!

I’ve compiled ten costumes for you to figure out. Let’s see how many you can get!


PuzzleNation’s Punderful Halloween Costume Game!

#1

2019punderful1

#2

2019punderful2

#3

2019punderful3

#4

2019punderful04

#5

2019punderful5

#6

2019punderful6

#7

2019punderful7

#8

2019punderful8

#9

2019punderful9

#10

2019punderful10

[Note: credit and sources for all images will be given in our answers post tomorrow!]


How many did you get? Have you seen any great punny costumes we missed? Let us know! And Happy Halloween!

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!