Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Jumbles and anagrams


I’ve always liked doing those Jumble puzzles in the paper. And I’ve found them to be very easy.



I don’t really set out to do them, actually. I see them somewhere, and I just idly look at them, and do them in my head while I’m standing there.



I might see one sitting on a nearby table at a coffee shop, and look at it upside-down while I’m stirring sugar into my coffee.



And, really, in the time it takes to put a little sugar in and snag a few paper napkins, I’ll have the thing done. My mind just happens to work that way, so that they mostly seem to fall right out for me. Not always, but more than 90% of the time.


Anagrams, though, are different. Here, we just have jumbled-up letters that you have to un-mix and turn into a word. But anagrams are all words — two words or phrases that make sense, and that have the same letters but in different orders.

The words “stop”, “spot”, “pots”, “post”, and “tops” are a set of anagrams.

And back in January 2008, BoingBoing showed us that “subtext” and “buttsex” are anagrams — they both fit as solutions to the jumble “euttsxb”. Who’d have imagined?

The best anagrams, riffing off the subtext of “buttsex”, are ones that have some sort of connection to each other. Preferably an amusing connection.

For example, “woman Hitler” is an anagram of “mother-in-law”. (Yes: punctuation and capitalization usually don’t count, and can be altered to suit.) In a similar vein, “he bugs Gore” is an anagram of “George Bush”.

And, while we’re on political figures, I’ll note that humourist Dave Barry pointed out, in one of his long-ago columns, that “Spiro Agnew” can be anagrammed into “grow a penis”. (OK, there’s no connection there: it’s just funny.)

These take much more creativity than just solving jumble puzzles does. And some anagrams that members of the National Puzzler’s League have come up with are quite different, involved, and truly amazing.

On the simple side, “beneath Chopin” becomes “the piano bench”, “moon starer” is “astronomer”, and “the desert oasis” “does ease thirst”.

Moving a step up, we have these:
I’d trust to these men in a scrape  =  the United States Marine Corps
oh, what stunning memento  =  the Washington Monument
theater to harmonious people  =  the Metropolitan Opera House
gem which cleans in a trice  =  electric washing machine
North hit a snag in career  =  the Iran-Contra hearings

One of my favourites:
inhaled, contrary to ban  =  tetrahydrocannabinol

One of the truly amazing ones:
can tell thee Hester hath worn an “A” bitterly  =  “The Scarlet Letter”, by Nathaniel Hawthorne

And, finally, one that’s absolutely unbelievable:

In one of the Bard’s best-thought-of tragedies, our insistent hero, Hamlet, queries on two fronts about how life turns rotten. an anagram of...

To be or not to be; that is the question. Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

The Jumble words early in this post are from the Jumble puzzle that was in the newspaper on 13 Jan 2010.

1 comment:

Nathaniel Borenstein said...

I love anagrams. I particuarly always loved the fact that

George Herbert Walker Bush


Huge Berserk Rebel Warthog

and I take an odd pride in the match between

Nathaniel S Borenstein


The non-essential brain

and that spelling out my middle name (Solomon) yields

Noble men strain to inhale soon.

I recommend to anyone who enjoys these silly games.