Riddle Me This!

64 Arts

30: Riddles

Utilizing formulas in which the sound and meaning of the words are uncertain.

Back a couple of arts ago we did Conundrums, which we defined as short riddles with a pun-based answer. So what’s a riddle? A riddle is a cryptic set of clues, sometimes in rhyme, sometimes not, that describe the answer in a multitude of ways. There’s a lot of metaphor and simile in a riddle, and a lot of thinking outside the box.

I’m not terribly good at riddles.

That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy them, I do, just when someone else is solving them 🙂

I was reading Emma not too long ago and they spend an awful lot of pages on Harriet’s project of constructing a book of riddles. Apparently taking on such projects was a bit of a thing in the Regency era, something nice young ladies did to keep themselves occupied and to expand their mind.

Of course there was ample opportunity for schemes (Austen liked that word for any sort of plan, good or ill-intended, which leads me to believe it’s only in modern times that scheming has become purely negative) in a pursuit like this, since to collect riddles to expand on the ones everyone already knew, you had to ask people to contribute to them. The girls naturally got one from Mr Elton, the local clergyman, and, of course, it was taken the wrong way.

Scratch that, it was taken the right way, but for the wrong girl.

The riddle in question?

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!
But ah! united, what reverse we have!
Man’s boasted power and freedom, all are flown;
Lord of the earth and sea, he bends a slave,
And woman, lovely woman, reigns alone.
Thy ready wit the word will soon supply,
May its approval beam in that soft eye!

The answer, a compound word of court (the spectacle of kings) plus ship (monarch of the seas), hinted towards marriage. Too bad the girl he was wooing wasn’t looking for affection.

Another famous riddle is the Riddle of the Sphinx, which the legendary hero Oedipus solved to remove the scourge from Thebes (Sphinxes were not limited to Egypt).

What goes on four legs in the morning,
on two legs at noon,
and on three legs in the evening?

The answer to the much simpler riddle is “a man”. In the morning (the early part of one’s life) he crawls, in the middle he walks upright, and in the later years (golden twilight anyone?) he’s granted a third “leg” via a cane or walking stick.

Of course, today’s title was inspired by the Riddler from the Batman television show. Maybe it was the context of the riddles (or maybe the show just led you down the right path), but those seemed a lot more obvious than the classical riddles mentioned above.

Maybe I should just stick to kids riddles. You know this one, right?

What’s black and white and red all over?

Leave your answer in the comments!

Fun with Answers!

64 Arts

Awww, no one felt up to the task of the Conundrum Quiz? That’s too bad, really, I was looking forward to gifting something to the winner! Guess I’ll just keep it for myself, for now.

I was especially looking forward to the creative wrong answers! They would have been worth a chuckle, at the very least.

Were they too hard? I know a lot of them will make you go ‘oh, right! that makes perfect sense!’ when you read the answers.

Which one of the United States is the largest and most popular? The state of matrimony.

Why is the map of Turkey like a frying-pan? Because it has Greece at the bottom.

Why is New York City like a flash light? It has a Battery.

What American poet may be considered equal to three-fifths of the poets ancient and modern? Poe.

Why are unsuccessful contestants for a prize like Shakespeare? Because they have made Much Ado About Nothing.

What word is it of only three syllables which combines in it twenty-six letters? Alphabet.

Why are hot rolls like caterpillars? Because they make the butterfly.

Why are the pages of a book like the days of a man? Because the are numbered.

What sort of a day would be a good one to run for a cup?A  muggy one.

When is a wall like a fish? When it is scaled.

Or maybe you just don’t like puns? If that’s the case we’ll have some un-punny riddles coming up in a near-future art.

Whether you guessed at them on not, there’s something we can learn from the concept of conundrums.

Lessons from a Conundrum

  1. Make time for something fun.
    Being a grown-up doesn’t mean every moment has to be meaningful or of great importance, taking a break for a minute or three is a great way to get some distance from your problems, take a deep breath and maybe even smile.
  2. Try. Just try.
    I really hoped at least one person would have taken a shot at the conundrums I posted.  Yoda is the man, you know, but in this case it wasn’t do or do not, try was totally acceptable. Encouraged even! Trying new things, even if we muck it up royally, teaches us new things and makes pathways in our brains. We need those pathways to stay head-healthy!
  3. The answer may be write in front of you.
    Okay, okay, that was the last pun (for this post), but it’s true: conundrums can help teach us critical thinking skills. Look at the poets one as the best example of this concept. The question was a visual math problem that breaks down to 3/5 of the word poets. The answer is Poe! And we all say ‘Doh!’ when we see it. It’s like the “tongue twister” that’s posed as “betcha can’t say this three times fast.” And you, being the smart-ass we know and love, say “this three times fast” or “this this this.” It’s the one-step-to-the-left answers that keep us on our toes.

Have you embraced your inner smart-ass, today?

Tis a Puzzlement!

64 Arts

Yul Brenner as the King of Siam… awesome movie. I’ve got the Rex Harrison version playing behind me via Netflix, but it’s just not the same.

At any rate, it’s time for our next art!

28 Conundrums

Presented as a game or as a subject for discussion.

Oh, let’s go with a game, shall we?!

I don’t know about you, but so far this year has been full of ups and downs and I could use a little light-hearted fun, perhaps even in the shape of a pun.

Because that’s all a conundrum boils down to:

A conundrum is a riddle in the form of a question, the answer to which involves a pun. Originally the term was applied to any quaint expression. It is thus, in its modern form, a union of the elaborate riddle and the impromptu pun.

from The Handbook of Conundrums by Edith B Ordway

Here are a couple of examples that tickled my funny bone:

What herb is there that cures all diseases? Thyme.

What evidence have we that Adam used sugar? Because he raised Cain.

Those are pretty simple because it’s not much of a stretch between thyme and time, Cain and cane (as in sugar cane).

Others might be more of a stretch, requiring you to even say the answer out loud before it “clicks.” For instance,

The name of what character in history would a person mention in asking the servant to put coal on the fire? Phillip the Great.

Takes a moment to kick in but when you say Phillip the Great it can sound like “fill up the grate,” which is, of course, the point!

So I have a challenge for you:

I’ve pulled together 10 conundrums, below, all with the punny answer missing. It’s a handy-dandy web form (make sure to click over to the post if you can’t see it via RSS) and I encourage you to fill them out with your best guesses. I’ll leave the form up for a week before posting the answers and announcing a winner.

The winner will be the one with the most correct answers or, if there is a tie, I’ll draw one of the names out of a hat.

Ready? Set? Puzzle!

What will the winner get? I’m still deciding, but probably one of my hand-bound journals.

I do hope you’ll play along!