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An Enigma – Children Solved It; Can We?

By: Ardis E. Parshall - December 12, 2008

Children’s letters to the Juvenile Instructor at the turn of the 19th/20th centuries often included puzzles for other children to solve. A favorite format – variously called an enigma, a charade, or a starpath – asked the reader to solve a list of clue words. These clue words formed an acrostic; reading the first letter of each word formed a name or phrase which was the real goal of the puzzle. Because the solutions were nearly always Mormon-related, it is clear to me that the children made up these puzzles themselves, rather than copying them from some generic Gentile source.

Here is one such puzzle constructed by Reuben McBride of Moab and solved by Alice Starband of Cedar City. It is actually a double acrostic – the first letters of each clue word form one Mormon-related term; the last letters of each clue word form another Mormon-related term.

I admit that without the answer key I would have found this quite difficult. If it’s easy for you, answer just one or two clue words, leaving the rest for others to play, or give additional clues to help solve especially difficult pieces.

1 is an animal related to the dog and wolf, found in Asia and Africa

2 is a town and county on Green Bay, Wisconsin

3 is one who saves or delivers; the Son of God

4 is the king of birds

5 is a place in New Jersey where Washington defeated Cornwallis

6 is a great physicist of the nineteenth century

7 is a dry starch or paste prepared from several plants and used as a diet

8 is the financier of the American revolution

9 is the native American

10 is a vine and its fruit

11 is a kind of tree or bush, or a hesitation in speaking



54 Comments »

  1. Children? Really?

    Obviously, children in those days were getting a different kind of education.

    5: This should be Princeton. Cornwallis was in direct command there, whereas he wasn’t at Trenton (although I think he was commanding the part of western New Jersey that included Trenton).

    (Or what about Monmouth–who won there, and was Cornwallis in command on the British side?)

    8: If the answer isn’t Robert Morris, they’re wrong. (Both names, or just the last? We do have to keep him separate from Gouverneur, don’t we?)

    Otherwise, I just have some guesses.

    Comment by Mark B. — December 12, 2008 @ 8:57 am

  2. Full names, or just last names?

    Physicists? British or German?

    Comment by Mark B. — December 12, 2008 @ 9:04 am

  3. 11: haw

    Comment by Justin — December 12, 2008 @ 9:32 am

  4. I drafted this a couple of weeks ago and no longer remember much of the solution — I can recall only the acrostic made from the first letters — so I’ll be guessing right along with you. The solution to each clue was, I think, only a single word, so “just last names” is the probable answer to Mark’s question.

    Based on what I do remember, 5 should start with a P, so “Princeton” must be right, Mark. 8 must also be right, because that should start with M. And 11 should start with an H, so Justin is right there.

    1
    2
    3
    4
    5 PRINCETON
    6
    7
    8 MORRIS
    9
    10
    11 HAW

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — December 12, 2008 @ 9:53 am

  5. I’ve hemmed and hawed, but never thought about just hawing. And about hawthorns, but not haws alone.

    Good one, Justin.

    Comment by Mark B. — December 12, 2008 @ 9:58 am

  6. While I’m sitting here on hold with the telephone company, trying to figure out why my email is not making it through the servers, I will do something much less frustrating than dealing with the phone company: a puzzle from the Juvenile Instructor! Hooray!

    I’ll guess number 4: Eagle.

    (Seems like we need some vowels.)

    Comment by Researcher — December 12, 2008 @ 10:19 am

  7. I’ve done hemming, and ha-haing, but not hawing alone.

    4: Eagle fits, Researcher.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — December 12, 2008 @ 10:21 am

  8. Is 10 a grape?

    Comment by JimD — December 12, 2008 @ 10:25 am

  9. I confess that I solved the acrostics before I figured out several of the clues, including haw.

    Comment by Justin — December 12, 2008 @ 10:29 am

  10. No, Jim. It is not.

    I tried that for quite a while until I saw the light.

    Researcher: Can you get hold of Vanna White for us?

    Comment by Mark B. — December 12, 2008 @ 10:33 am

  11. Jim, “grape” fits the clue exactly as well as the word the puzzlers had in mind, but it’s a different vine/fruit.

    Justin, that’s fair, isn’t it? It’s the only way I can remember whether the solutions that are being offered are right!

    1
    2
    3
    4 EAGLE
    5 PRINCETON
    6
    7
    8 MORRIS
    9
    10
    11 HAW

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — December 12, 2008 @ 10:35 am

  12. 10: Mark, does that mean you’ve solved the whole thing now?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — December 12, 2008 @ 10:35 am

  13. With a little help from Justin (I wasn’t getting Haw), and a little help from Google Maps. Based on Justin’s #3 and #9, I think he’s the winner.

    Comment by Mark B. — December 12, 2008 @ 10:42 am

  14. Is #3 Jesus or Messiah?

    Comment by iguacufalls — December 12, 2008 @ 11:41 am

  15. No

    Comment by Mark B. — December 12, 2008 @ 12:00 pm

  16. Well, right person but wrong title.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — December 12, 2008 @ 12:07 pm

  17. Justin and/or Mark, why don’t you give some more clues for the hardest words that you solved after figuring out the acrostics?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — December 12, 2008 @ 12:09 pm

  18. Well, It’s certainly no proper to include the answer in the definition, but I’m going to guess Savior, now. If I’m wrong, do I have to go through the whole list of titles in Isaiah?

    Comment by iguacufalls — December 12, 2008 @ 12:30 pm

  19. 7: former Japanese video game consule manufacturer

    Comment by Justin — December 12, 2008 @ 12:45 pm

  20. Atari?

    Comment by iguacufalls — December 12, 2008 @ 12:49 pm

  21. No.

    Comment by Justin — December 12, 2008 @ 12:53 pm

  22. 18: That’s it. (Atari is not :) ). I’m going to throw in one, which I remembered only because I know the acrostic.

    1 JACKAL
    2
    3 SAVIOR
    4 EAGLE
    5 PRINCETON
    6
    7
    8 MORRIS
    9
    10
    11 HAW

    Try reading down the first letters, and reading down the last letters. It may be a little early, but eventually you’ll solve the acrostic, which will let you figure out which clue words were wanted.

    And yeah, this was composed by and for children! Except that it has two acrostics instead of just one, it is typical of those that appeared in the Juvenile Instructor a hundred years ago. Go figure.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — December 12, 2008 @ 12:53 pm

  23. another clue for 7: early Utah pioneers munched on these bulbs.

    Comment by Justin — December 12, 2008 @ 1:12 pm

  24. For 7, do you mean sago? Or sego? It probably doesn’t really matter since the first and last letters are the same, but they are different plants: metroxylon sagu vs. calochortus nuttalli. Both edible.

    Comment by Researcher — December 12, 2008 @ 1:18 pm

  25. clue for 9: If he hadn’t been the native American, he might have been a native of Mumbai

    clue for 10: I think they used to call this a “love apple”

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — December 12, 2008 @ 1:20 pm

  26. I should add that the answers to my clues for 7 are close to the real answer.

    Comment by Justin — December 12, 2008 @ 1:21 pm

  27. I got the accrostics, but don’t have the time to contribute to the actually questions (I always was better at wheel of fortune than jeopardy)

    I won’t give them away, just in case some one doesn’t want me to spoil it.

    9 is indian.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 12, 2008 @ 1:28 pm

  28. Sugar Beats for 7?

    Comment by Matt W. — December 12, 2008 @ 1:29 pm

  29. ooh! ooh! ooh! 10 is pomme d’amor – or rather, Tomahto

    Comment by iguacufalls — December 12, 2008 @ 1:31 pm

  30. @Matt- no, it would have to be Sega Beets – that’s the Gaming Console referenced earlier, I think

    Comment by iguacufalls — December 12, 2008 @ 1:33 pm

  31. #2 = Oconto

    Comment by Last Lemming — December 12, 2008 @ 1:33 pm

  32. BTW, #30 was a joke, not a serious guess. forgot my smiley :)

    Comment by iguacufalls — December 12, 2008 @ 1:35 pm

  33. It looks like #6 is the only one outstanding. Come on people, try harder!

    Of course the best known candidate for the #6 slot (there is more than one answer that fits), is famous for making the other guy try harder.

    Comment by Last Lemming — December 12, 2008 @ 1:43 pm

  34. #26. Whew, Justin. I’m glad to see this. I had begun to fear that your spelling had gone completely to the dogs.

    As to the Wisconsin towns, I’d recommend Google maps. Go to the city of Green Bay, which is at the head of the bay, and then up both sides. Pick the most obscure sounding town name and begins and ends with a vowel.

    For 1, try my favorite Frederick Forsyth novel (and his first big hit). But I see that Ardis already wrote the answer.

    As to 19th century physicists, I just drew on my large store of knowledge of the history of science in that century (which would all fit in a thimble). But think James’s metaphor for the tongue, preceding Lou, the former Notre Dame football coach. My apologies to all you ESPN non-watchers out there.

    Comment by Mark B. — December 12, 2008 @ 1:56 pm

  35. How silly, in my head the s in one name lined up with the s in the other…

    Comment by matt w — December 12, 2008 @ 1:59 pm

  36. Interesting: a quick trip to Wikipedia about the physicist hinted at by Last Lemming shows that he was a student in Berlin of the physicist I hint at in #34.

    And their names begin with the same letter, and end with the same letter.

    Comment by Mark B. — December 12, 2008 @ 2:03 pm

  37. 1 JACKAL
    2 OCONTO
    3 SAVIOR
    4 EAGLE
    5 PRINCETON
    6 H_______Z
    7 SEGO [or whatever version we're using]
    8 MORRIS
    9 INDIAN
    10 TOMA[H]TO
    11 HAW

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — December 12, 2008 @ 2:18 pm

  38. Now I guess the question is –

    Are we smart enough to COMPOSE an “enigma” like this, or are we going to let those 10-year-olds of our great-grandparents’ generation trounce us?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — December 12, 2008 @ 2:20 pm

  39. SAGO

    Comment by Mark B. — December 12, 2008 @ 2:25 pm

  40. 6: Heinrich Hertz

    Comment by Jacob J — December 12, 2008 @ 2:46 pm

  41. 1 JACKAL
    2 OCONTO
    3 SAVIOR
    4 EAGLE
    5 PRINCETON
    6 HERTZ [or HELMHOLTZ]
    7 SAGO [OK, Mark!]
    8 MORRIS
    9 INDIAN
    10 TOMA[H]TO
    11 HAW

    JOSEPH SMITH
    LORENZO SNOW

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — December 12, 2008 @ 2:49 pm

  42. I chose Hermann von Helmholtz for 6.

    Comment by Mark B. — December 12, 2008 @ 3:33 pm

  43. OK, this has already wasted my day, so here’s my off the cuff (meaning, don’t expect brilliance) shot at this. The acrostic does have a Gospel theme:

    1. To pull along
    2. former Spanish colony off the coast of Morocco.
    3. New Jersey city where the big decisions are made
    4. Former king of Judea
    5. Purplish hue
    6. Imminent
    7. Stunningly Beautiful

    Comment by iguacufalls — December 12, 2008 @ 3:35 pm

  44. 41 edited to reflect Mark’s 42.

    iguacufalls, I’ll work on this over the weekend — my boss is meaner than yours (I’m self-employed) and I’ve *got* to get some work done!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — December 12, 2008 @ 3:44 pm

  45. You didn’t need to do that Ardis.

    Now, get to work!

    Comment by Mark B. — December 12, 2008 @ 4:24 pm

  46. Look what happens when I don’t check in all day. Ardis, will you pay me to stay away more often? :)

    Comment by Ray — December 12, 2008 @ 10:51 pm

  47. First I don’t make any money because I’m playing with the ‘ninnies all day, and now you want me to pay you on top of that?? I declare! :)

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — December 13, 2008 @ 7:47 am

  48. 43#3 must be Trenton, unless the big decision is to put it all on the double zero for one last spin.

    Comment by Eric Boysen — December 13, 2008 @ 10:01 am

  49. 1 tow
    2 i____i
    3 trenton
    4 herod
    5 indigo
    6 now
    7 gorgeous

    Comment by clever hans — December 14, 2008 @ 3:50 am

  50. clever hans doesn’t give me any clues to his identity (are you a regular reader?) by his email addy, so all I can say is that he is indeed clever, and that iguacufalls is too!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — December 14, 2008 @ 6:57 am

  51. any guesses on #2? I wracked my brain trying to think of what would fit between two “i”s. A sound came into my head, so I googled it and Lo! and Behold! there was a small island off the coast of Morocco with my sound! I think I first heard this word in some sci-fi novel, where they used it as the name of the accepted generic deity, which was a contraction of the word “infinity,” but not exactly.

    By the way, clever hans, everything else is correct. Good job!

    Comment by iguacufalls — December 15, 2008 @ 11:25 am

  52. iguacufalls, I admit to having scanned a few maps of Morroco trying to figure it out, but I haven’t found it.

    I was impressed that you took the challenge to create a puzzle, that you chose the double acrostic rather than a simpler one, and that you related the two words so closely together — I think they’re even better-related than the names in the original puzzle. As I keep boasting, Keepa’s readers are the best in the Bloggernacle!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — December 15, 2008 @ 11:37 am

  53. *blushing now* Thanks, Ardis :)

    The former province may not be on any maps any more. Here’s a quote from the wikipedia article on the subject:

    ______ was a Spanish province on the Atlantic coast of Morocco, south of Agadir and across from the Canary Islands.

    Spain returned ______to Morocco on January 4, 1969.

    Hopefully this will help

    Comment by iguacufalls — December 15, 2008 @ 11:44 am

  54. Well, sure, now that I can google an exact phrase!

    “Ifni” is now on my list of places to vacation before I’m willing to have the Millennium start.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — December 15, 2008 @ 11:54 am

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