You'll Find This Column Puzzling

Rob Kyff on

Some of my readers are posers. No, they're not pretentious phonies. They simply enjoy posing word puzzlers like these (answers below).

-- Four Play -- There are many three-way homophones (three words that sound alike) such as "rays, raise and raze," but Ron Peterson of New Britain, Connecticut, challenges us to come up with eight FOUR-way homophones. To help out, he provides the starter word for each quartet. No. 1: sense; No. 2: laze; No. 3: write; No. 4: carrot; No. 5: medal; No. 6: ore; No. 7: buy; No. 8: air

-- Chain Letter -- David Saunders of Manchester, Vermont, shares a nifty little game to pass the time in the waiting room. Beginning with the one-letter word "a" or "I," attach a letter one at a time to create a new word with each addition. Example: i, in, sin, sing, singe, singer, singers (seven words). He dares you to find an eight-letter sequence starting with "a."

-- M.C. Grammar -- Occasionally an initialism such as "D.J." (disk jockey) or "M.C." (master of ceremonies) evolves into a fully spelled-out word ("dee-jay," "emcee"). Jay Davidson of Palo Alto, California, asks you to come up with four other initialisms that are sometimes spelled out as words.

-- Mad Hadders -- Robert Meyer of Berlin, Connecticut, sends this puzzler: Punctuate this sentence with commas, quotation marks and a semicolon so it makes sense: John where Mary had had had had had had had had had had been preferred by the teacher.

But Seymour Block of Walnut Creek, California, one-ups him with an 11-"had" challenge using the same punctuation marks: Jill where Jack had had had had had had had had had had had the teacher's approval.


Four Play -- No. 1: sense, cents, sense, cense (to spread incense); No. 2: laze, lays, leis, lase (to use a laser); No. 3: write, right, rite, wright (someone who constructs or repairs something); No. 4: carrot, carat, caret, karat; 5. medal, meddle, metal, mettle; No. 6: ore, or, oar, o'er; No. 7: buy, bi, by, bye; No. 8: air, ere, heir, err (though often pronounced "ur")


Chain Letters -- a, an, ran, rang, range, grange, granger, grangers, for one

M.C. Grammar -- "Sea-bee" from C.B. for construction battalion; "Jaycee" from J.C. for Junior Chamber of Commerce; "kayo" from K.O. for knock-out; "okay" from OK for "Oll Korrect" or "Old Kinderhook," depending on what theory you believe about its origin.

Mad Hadders -- John, where Mary had had "had," had had "had had"; "had had" had been preferred by the teacher. Jill, where Jack had had "had," had had "had had"; "had had" had had the judges' approval.

"Had" enough? Me too!


Rob Kyff, a teacher and writer in West Hartford, Connecticut, invites your language sightings. His book, "Mark My Words," is available for $9.99 on Send your reports of misuse and abuse, as well as examples of good writing, via email to or by regular mail to Rob Kyff, Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, California, 90254.

Copyright 2023 Creators Syndicate Inc.




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