Riddle Me This, Riddle Me That

It’s Amazing Words Wednesday, the day we enter the labyrinth of the English language, peek around the shrubbery, and see what we can find.

This past week I was perusing my Fun Encyclopedia, the one I previously mentioned in a post about word games. You’ve got to love a book published in 1940 with the subtitle “An All-Purpose Plan Book for Those Interested in Recreation for Clubs, Schools, Churches, and the Home.” This was my grandfather’s book which has found its way down to me, much to my ongoing delight.

RiddleI came across a section of riddles. You know, those wordplay conundrums like, “What’s black and white and red [read] all over?” A newspaper.

Riddles often make use of interesting wordplay to stump us or make us laugh. Sometimes the riddle uses a word that can be understood in more than one way, sometimes it’s a fresh way of looking at a word, and sometimes it’s just a silly observation about a word. You can see what I mean by looking at a few more riddles from the Fun Encyclopedia that you might, or might not have, heard.

  • What is the smallest room in the world? A mushroom.
  • Why wouldn’t mother let the doctors operate on father? Because she didn’t want them to open her male (mail).
  • What is it that you ought to keep after you have given it to someone else? A promise.
  • What is the longest word in the English language? Smiles, because there is a mile between the first and last letters.
  • What starts with a T, ends with a T, and is full of T? Teapot.
  • What asks no questions but requires a lot of answers? A door bell.
  • What is the oldest piece of furniture? The multiplication table.
  • What has four legs but cannot walk? A chair or a table.
  • When is a clock dangerous? When it strikes one.

Funology also offers a slew of riddles. Could you answer these?

  • What can you catch but not throw? A cold.
  • What has one eye but cannot see? A needle.
  • How many months have 28 days? All twelve of them.
  • What goes up a chimney down, but can’t go down a chimney up? An umbrella.
  • What travels around the world but stays in one spot? A stamp.

Some riddles are longer, more challenging, more outside-the-box. For instance, this classic riddle:

A young boy and his father are in a car accident.  The father dies at the scene. The boy is transported to the hospital and taken immediately into surgery, but the surgeon steps out of the operating room and says, “I can’t operate on this boy: He’s my son!” Who is the surgeon?

In previous years, this one tripped up plenty of people. It was featured in both All in the Family and The Cosby Show (with Clair stumping Cliff). But apparently, in today’s world, most children have no problem coming up with the correct answer: The surgeon is the boy’s mother.

Try out another one from Buzzle.com:

A magician was playing some smart tricks across the street. A boy approached him, and the man said, “I will just touch your forehead and write your actual name on this yellow paper. If I am wrong, then I will give you some of my magic stuff; otherwise, you have to give me $10.” The boy agreed, for he thought that no matter what name he writes down, he will deny it. But it was the boy who lost the bet. How is this possible? 

Did you guess? Were you stumped? Take the magician at his word:

The magician wrote “your actual name” on the piece of paper.

Riddles like these rely on how you tell them–the words chosen to relate the story, the order in which they are spoken, the set-up to lead you into a way of thinking that you must break out of to solve the puzzle.

Other riddles are less about the words and more about the circumstances (e.g., this Sherlock Holmes riddle). Although a word gal through-and-through, I am often perplexed by a good riddle. As soon as the answer is revealed, however, I feel like an idiot for not getting it sooner.

Riddles were a part of my childhood–not so much from friends and family, but from the villain of a campy superhero series. Indeed, this was one of my favorite memories of childhood:

The Riddler from Batman (Frank Gorshin)

I’ll leave off with some of The Riddler’s gems:

  • What do you call a sleeping bull? A bulldozer.
  • What does no one want to have, but no one wants to lose? A lawsuit.
  • How many sides has a circle? Two–inside and outside.
  • What has neither flesh, bone, nor nail, yet has four fingers and a thumb? A glove.
  • How do you divide seventeen apples among sixteen people? Make applesauce.
  • What kind of machine has ears? A train–it has engineers.

Yep, I ate that stuff up as a kid. I was ecstatic if I solved one before the Dynamic Duo. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen often.

Do you like riddles? What are your favorites? Do you get stumped easily?

23 thoughts on “Riddle Me This, Riddle Me That

  1. Love the applesauce riddle and I must admit I can never solve any of these. My mind doesn’t work that way I suppose and after I read the answer I wonder why I can never, ever figure them out beforehand.

  2. I’m relatively good at riddles, because the question usually contains clues as to the answer – much like Jeopardy and Trivial Pursuit.

    It may count more as a joke than a riddle, but this one has stuck with me since childhood: Pete and Repeat were sitting in a boat. Pete fell out. Who was left? The answer, of course, is Repeat, which leads the deliverer to repeat him/herself until their victim gets a clue. 🙂

  3. Riddles usually stump me. I just don’t have the kind of mind to pick up on the right answers. I have a feeling that I’d have died when I encountered the Sphinx.

  4. This is a great post! I could read these types of riddles all day. I love to try to solve them and I too feel really stupid when I finally hear the answer. The surgeon one got me. And some of these I have heard and I’m pretty sure if given enough time, and not the answers, I would have been able to come up with a few of them.

    Thanks for making me smile this really llooooooooong Wednseday.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

  5. I love riddles, but I’m really bad at them! I think we’re all the slap-the-forehead kind of audience – that’s what makes them so fun! We used to do a lot of Halloween and Thanksgiving riddles when my kids where younger (from books we had). Silly, goofy ones!

    Q: What is the difference between a chicken and a turkey?
    A: Chickens celebrate Thanksgiving!!

    Q: Why do turkeys eat so little?
    A: Because they are always stuffed!

    Thanks for the laugh!

  6. I just had a blast stumping the wee beasties with the ones you posted here!

    Oldest wee beastie’s favorite right now (from Family Guy):

    Q: If Pro is the opposite of Con, what is the opposite of Progress?
    A: Congress

    Thanks for the laugh!

  7. After reading the comments I don’t feel so bad not figuring out the riddles. lol Thanks for the smiles.

  8. One of my favorite Riddler riddles:

    Q. Two men are in a boat with three cigarettes and no matches. How can they both smoke?

    A. Throw one of the cigarettes out of the boat and make it a cigarette lighter!

    Frank Gorshin is one of my heroes, by the way. All those voices he could do, and the guy was always working.

  9. Oh Julie, I had forgotten about the Riddler in Batman. Hey, thanks John Holton. Yes, Frank Gorshin that who the Riddler was. He was a very talented man btw. Loved your riddles Julie. I, on the other hand, not so good at them. Great post!

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