Quiz: Can You Solve These Word Puzzles?: HowStuffWorks
Can You Solve These Word Puzzles?
By: Ian Fortey
5 Min Quiz
Image: Mel Yates/ Cultura/ Getty Images
About This Quiz
Everyone loves a puzzle. We love a little mystery to solve where the stakes are low and the reward is just our own sense of delight at having solved it. The answers can range from deviously clever to insultingly obvious, but the journey to get to them is where the fun is. From a simple "fill in the blank" type puzzle to a silly pun to a mysteriously worded riddle that plays on metaphor and symbolism, there are no end to the word puzzles language lets us set up.
Riddles have likely been told as long as our ability to communicate has existed. They play on linguistic parallels when words and meanings can be confused with one another, or jokes where meanings have different layers and applications. Other times they present mysteries, offering just enough misleading clues to take you to many false answers. You'll only find the correct one if you're clever enough to catch where the riddle misleads you. They are witty and fun because they actually make us think instead of just offering up answers right away. They tease and entice because we get into them knowing there is a trick involved, but unaware of what it may be. It's like visiting a magic show or an escape room. Just because you know you're being fooled doesn't mean you know how it's happening.
If you consider yourself a puzzle expert and a master of tricky riddles, it's time to put yourself to the test. Take the quiz and puzzle through!
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What's a 5-letter word that can be read the exact same way forward as it is backward and upside down?
Your average palindrome has to be read forward and backward to fit the definition of the word. The word "swims" is only a palindrome when you flip it upside down though. Thanks to M looking like W, it becomes a palindrome.
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Your father is my father's son but I have no brothers or sisters at all. How does that happen?
If your father is my father's son then you are my child and I am your father. My father is the father of your father, so I don't need to have any brothers or sisters at all to make us a family still. No idea where mom is in this equation, though.
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Can you figure out this puzzle? "COMOMURT"
This little puzzle means "mother in law." If you take the word "mom" out of the center of the letter jumble, you have "court" leftover. Mom means mother and the courthouse is a place of law. Hence, mother in law.
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Joe has five donuts, 10 muffins and 15 Danish. If we assume all his donuts are Danish, how many Danish does he have?
Joe has 15 Danish and pretending his donuts are Danish doesn't really make a difference in the grand scheme of things. Assumptions aren't facts, after all, so he has five donuts, 10 muffins, and 15 Danish. Joe has a lot to eat.
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Your best friend says "I am lying." Are they telling the truth or lying?
"I am lying" is a paradoxical statement that can neither be true nor false. If you're being honest you cannot honestly say you're lying. If you're lying, you can't admit to it in an honest statement. Thanks to the vagaries of language, you can say it and have no meaning behind it.
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This word is the same forward, backward and upside down. What is it?
This one has a twist to it. The word "noon" fits the bill but it has to be "NOON" in all caps. It's an obvious palindrome like "peep" and "bib" and it also is the same upside down like "swims" but it's the only one that covers all the bases.
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The world record for going without sleep is 264 hours. Tom hasn't slept one day in the past 12 and feels fine. How?
Wordplay is the crafty reason for the answer in this one. Tom hasn't slept in 12 days because Tom is sleeping at night, not during the day. All things being equal, it's not healthy to skip sleep for very long.
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Which word fits if you refuse to show someone respect and are trying to figure out an answer?
If you break down the word "dissolve," you have everyone's favorite slang term for disrespect which is "diss" and of course "solve" is what you're trying to do when you need to figure out the answer to something.
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Double meaning time! What word are you looking for when you have a handful of dimes that turn into nickels?
If you have a large quantity of dimes in your possession then you clearly have a lot of change. If the dimes turn into nickles then they just underwent a change of form. Change is a versatile word like that!
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When you're in the garden, what kind of fluffy-tailed plant is keeping your hands toasty?
When it comes to garden-based wordplay the only plant that's keeping your hands warm while also showing off a fluffy tail is the foxglove! Foxes are known for their puffy tails and a glove, of course, is used for warming hands.
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If your butcher is 6'1" tall, his hair is shoulder-length, he wears size 12 shoes and a size 10 ring, do you know what he weighs?
While it sounds like the butcher is a big guy, the only thing you know for sure that he weighs is meat. He is a butcher, after all, and that is a big part of what his job entails if he's doing it correctly.
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Do you know which word is spelled incorrectly almost all the time?
Generally speaking, most people spell the word "incorrectly" incorrectly because that's the proper way to spell it. They even spelled it incorrectly in the dictionary. Of course, some people might spell it the wrong way, too.
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What idiom are we talking about if we say HAABIRDND?
An idiom is a saying that has an understood meaning apart from the explicit meanings of the words in it, kind of like a metaphor. In this case, we're using "a bird in hand" from the idiom "a bird in hand is worth two in the bush" which means it's better to have one sure thing than multiple maybes. The actual words "a bird" are in the middle of the word "hand."
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Do you remember the story of the ark and the great flood? Science has come a long way since then, but if Joseph really had two of every species, how many animals were on his ark?
No matter what you believe about the story of Noah's Ark, the answer to this question is a solid none since we asked about Joseph's ark and, as far as we know, no one named Joseph ever had an ark full of animals.
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I'll come to you one day and stay until you lose me. Then I'll come back just once more. If you lose me again, only an impostor can replace me. What am I?
This riddle is all in your head, which is to say it's about your teeth. Your baby teeth are meant to be lost and then your adult teeth come in. If you lose one of those, the only way to replace it is with a fake tooth of some kind.
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Do you know how many bags of sand it takes to complete a sandbag wall to hold back a river that is rising by 2 inches per hour?
There are a lot of factors to consider when it comes to building one of those sandbag walls in a flood situation, and how fast the river is rising is just one of them. That said, regardless of how many bags it takes to make the wall, only one bag, the very last one, is needed to complete it, which is what we asked.
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Crossword time! Ten letters. The child of Mr. Naismith: _ a _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _.
It was back in 1891 when Canadian physical education teacher and physician James Naismith created the sport of basketball. When he came up with it, the baskets were literal peach baskets and the hole in the bottom was so small a broom had to be used to poke the ball back up and out.
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Which lunch meat do most people enjoy periodically?
You can enjoy any lunch meat any time but if you want to enjoy one periodically, as in the Periodic Table of Elements, then you're likely reaching for the Spam. Spam = (S)ulfur, (P)hosphorus, (Am)ericium based on the abbreviations on the Periodic Table.
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I live in the shadows; in sun I would be shunned. I'm the last thing in your stomach but the first in your heart. What am I?
The letter H is the answer to this one. It's in the word "shadow," but if you add it to "sun" you get "shun." It's at the end of the word "stomach" and it's also the beginning of the word "heart." It all fits together quite nicely.
Wikicommons by Mathew Brady
What word is going to link "The Scarlet _______ Kenny?"
In this example we're mixing a classic novel and a popular Canadian TV show. "The Scarlet Letter" was written by Nathaniel Hawthorne back in the year 1850. "Letterkenny" is a Canadian sitcom that's been in production since 2016.
Wikicommons by Pikawil from Laval, Canada
How well do you know your anagrams? You could call this hero "DNA Primes." Who is it?
It's Peter Parker, the Amazing Spider-Man himself who fits this anagram. If you rearrange the letters in the word "Spider-Man" you get DNA Primes. You can also get "damp resin," "name drips" and "mend Paris."
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You can have three of these or two of these but if you only have one you really have none. What is it?
This tricky bit of wordplay is about choices. If you have three choices then you can choose between three different options. Likewise, two choices mean you have two options. But if you can only make one choice then you really don't have a choice, since it's the only option.
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The English language can be very puzzling indeed. Is "the yolk of an egg is white" correct or is it "the yolks of an egg are white?"
Neither of these options is going to be the correct thing to say and it has nothing at all to do with your understanding of grammar. The statements are not factually correct. Egg yolk is not white, it's yellow.
Which three-letter word can you spell in 14 letters?
The answer to this little word trick is cow because, if you spell cow out phonetically you get "see oh double you." That combination has 14 letters in it, making it somewhat less efficient if you're spelling in a time crunch.
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There's a house facing north. On the west side is a palm tree. On the east side is a cherry tree. Which side of the house gets the most sun?
This is 100% a bit of a trick question but the answer is obvious when you think of it, right? The side of a house that gets the most sun will always be the outside, because that's where the sun is located.
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Can you figure out what JJJJJOOOOOHHHHHNNNNN means?
You need to wear long johns when it's cold outside but if you want to make it long on the page then you can pull out the letters to mmmmaaaaakkkeee iiiitttt rrreeeaaallllllyyyy lllooonnngggg.
Wikicommons by Willy Stöwer, died on 31st May 1931
Imagine that you're on the Titanic just after it hits the iceberg. All the lifeboats are gone. What's the best way for you to escape?
Getting off the Titanic after the lifeboats are gone would be no easy task unless you choose to just stop imagining that you're on the Titanic since we started with the premise that this was all in your imagination.
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Where will you find today ahead of yesterday, the afternoon before the morning and always ahead of never?
Today is ahead of yesterday in the dictionary, the afternoon is well before the morning and always definitely comes before forever when you're following the standard English method of keeping words in alphabetical order
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I+I+N+N+S+J+U+U+L+R+T+Y means what?
Our little code here means "adding insult to injury" since the word "insult" is broken down, letter by letter, and interwoven with the letters of the word "injury" to complete the word equation for the idiom.
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What are the missing letters in the sequence _ F _ A _ J J _ _ O _ D?
The letters we're missing from the sequence we've listed here are JMMASN. Why? They stand for January, March, May, August, September and November. The sequence is just the months of the year with six of them missing.
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What word links TREE to CAR?
In this example the linking word is "trunk." The base of a tree where it grows out of the ground is called a tree trunk, while the rear of a car in which you store things is known, in North America anyway, as the trunk.
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Chihuahua is to dog as ______ is to _______ ?
A Chihuahua is a specific kind of dog just like horror is a specific kind of movie, so that's how the analogy works here. These questions used to be all over SAT tests but several years back they were dropped because it was deemed both irrelevant and biased to ask analogy questions that might be based on vocabulary a student would have no reasonable knowledge of.
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Do you know what "12" Other" means?
When you have 12 inches in front of the word "other" you have one foot in front of the other, which is a reasonable way to go for a walk or sing the song "One Foot In Front of the Other" by '80s band Bone Symphony.
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A sundial can tell time with no movng parts at all. Watches and clocks use gears to do so. What kind of timepiece has the most moving parts?
An hourglass likely has the most moving parts of any timepiece thanks to the thousands of grains of sand that have to fall from the top of the glass to the bottom when you turn it over. Even the most complex watch can't compete.
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What does "WA_____T___E_R" mean?
That's the word water and it has some gaps in it or, put another way, it's full of holes. So that's effectively holy water. In the Catholic faith, you're not supposed to put holy water down regular drains, incidentally.
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