How do I solve this riddle? "A word that consists of 7 letters: _ r _n_ed." Hint: "tensed up because of embarrassment?"

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The most important thing to consider when solving a puzzle like this is the context. For example, does this riddle accompany a reading of some kind? Is it part of a larger puzzle that has a specific theme? Once you get your brain situated and thinking about the words, clues,...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

The most important thing to consider when solving a puzzle like this is the context. For example, does this riddle accompany a reading of some kind? Is it part of a larger puzzle that has a specific theme? Once you get your brain situated and thinking about the words, clues, text, or pictures surrounding the puzzle, you can start to think of the terms that most appropriately fit around your clue.

The second thing to help you explore the context of the word and to make some helpful associations would be to search for synonyms of words given in the clue. Here, look for some synonyms for "tense" or even "tensed up" to see if anything might fit.

Finally, you will want to look at the construction of the word itself. You know more about this word than you might think!

For example: you know the word is a verb, and that it is a regular verb (e.g. it has the ending "ed" to make it past tense, as opposed to a word like "to give" which would be "gave" in the past). Knowing the conventions of building the past tense of a regular verb, you can pretty safely assume that the last blank will be a consonant, not a vowel. It's a probability game to start. You also know that the middle blank will likely be a vowel. Finally, the first letter cannot be h, j, l, m, n, q, r, v, x, y, or z. Think about it - these letters don't go well with "r," especially when they precede "r"—at least in English.

One thing I like to do, then, is go through some preliminary possibilities:

I might try: arinved—ok, not a word; or bronped—nope; or cronzed—nope again . . .

Let's commit to a vowel in the center, since we are 99% sure it'll be a vowel. Let's pick "i". . . _rin_ed. Hmm . . . that looks like it could be something. Let's roll with it . . .

Brinced? Nope, but I know that certain letters don't make sense or are not likely to be in the last blank—b, f, h, j, l, m, q, r, w, x, y, z. I can omit these because they don't play well with "n" in the middle of words.

Ok, so let's start at the beginning of the alphabet and add a letter to the first blank to see what might pop up for us.

"a" makes arin_ed—not ringing any bells.

"b" makes brin_ed—hmm, brinned, bringed, brinzed. None of those work.

"c" makes crin_ed. Let's look at the letters that really wouldn't fit here (listed above) and skip over them as we consider the possibilities for this final blank.

Crinced, crinded, crinfed, cringed . . . wait a minute! That might work!

You see how much guessing and working through possibilities and playing with probabilities we have to do when we don't consider the context? We were just lucky to have chosen the letter "i" to go in the middle early on!

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Before I solve this word-riddle, let me give you a few hints on how to attack such a problem: first, every syllable needs at least one vowel or the letter “Y”; next, certain letters never or rarely touch others in a certain order in English: bt, nl, etc. Third, English has some seldom-used lettrs: z, j, x, q, for example. Last, it only takes twenty seconds or so to go through the alphabet in your mind, letter by letter. If you write down these letters one by one and cross out the ones that simply don’t occur in English, you will be left with a manageable bunch.

Now let’s take your riddle: _r_n_ed

The first missing letter could be many, so leave that for later.

The middle two could also be many, so leave it.

The last missing letter cannot be a, b,f,g,h,j,l,q,r,s,u,v,w,x, so must be c,d,e,i,k,m,n,o,p,t,y,z.

"Trounced" -- does that fit the clue? No, because it is 8 letters and "trounced" means to be beaten severely, not tensed with embarrassment. Try c-r-i-n-g-e-d.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team