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Mind-Boggling Word Puzzles

Mind-Boggling Word Puzzles

4.2 4
by Martin Gardner, V.G. Myers (Illustrator)

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Ready to have your mind boggled? World-famous puzzle master Martin Gardner has provided more than 100 ways to give your little gray cells a workout. These unusual puzzles, many of them original, include palindromes, anagrams, rebuses, and logic puzzles. Their whimsical illustrations contain occasional clues and plenty of humor. If you're stumped, you can consult the


Ready to have your mind boggled? World-famous puzzle master Martin Gardner has provided more than 100 ways to give your little gray cells a workout. These unusual puzzles, many of them original, include palindromes, anagrams, rebuses, and logic puzzles. Their whimsical illustrations contain occasional clues and plenty of humor. If you're stumped, you can consult the back of the book for complete solutions. 
Martin Gardner was renowned for his "Mathematical Games" columns in Scientific American, which he wrote for 25 years. Acclaimed by Newsweek as "The Magician of Math," he published more than 70 books on subjects ranging from science and math to poetry and religion.  

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
Kids will love this unique collection of more than 100 challenging word problems, palindromes, crossword puzzles, anagrams, fill-in-the-blanks, matching games, visual puzzles, and much more. These entertaining word puzzles offer a great opportunity for youngsters to stimulate their minds and practice important critical thinking skills. In order to successfully solve the mind-boggling exercises in this fun book, kids will need a good sense of humor, a bit of common sense and patience, and a good dose of logic. Organized into seven chapters (Warm-Ups, Family Talk, What Did You Say?, Creatures, Getting It Right, What Do You Have in Mind?, and Toughies), these brainteasers are accompanied by humorous illustrations (many of which provide visual clues) and helpful diagrams. The author, a world-famous puzzle master, also provides a comprehensive answer section. An "About the Author" section and index are also included. Young puzzle fans will treasure this book. Not only will it boggle their minds, but it will also keep them busy for hours (not to mention all of the giggles it will elicit and skills it will strengthen). 2002, Sterling Publishing,
— Debra Briatico

Product Details

Dover Publications
Publication date:
Dover Children's Activity Books Series
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range:
8 Years

Read an Excerpt

Mind-Boggling Word Puzzles

By Martin Gardner, V.G. Myers

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 2001 Martin Gardner
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-14568-6



1. William's Preferences

William likes apples better than oranges, and vanilla ice cream better than chocolate. He would rather watch a baseball or football game on TV than hockey, enjoys summer and fall more than spring and winter, thinks Newsweek a better magazine than Time, and is convinced that High Noon is a greater Western movie than Destry Rides Again.

Can you explain why William has these preferences?

2. The IDK Band

Six college students, all musicians, decided to form a rock band that they named the IDKers. The group consisted of five men and a lead singer named Matilda, who was tall and had red hair. The men were all from New Jersey, but Matilda came to the college from New York.

When members of the band were asked what IDK stood for, they agreed that they would always answer, "I don't know." Can you guess why they said this?

3. Snowballs

"A snowball sentence," said Mr. Jones to his daughter, "is one in which each word is one letter longer than the preceding word. Do you think you can construct such a sentence?"

The daughter thought for several minutes before she said, "I am not that smart, father."

Prove that the daughter was smarter than she said she was.

4. Name the Month

What month is indicated by these strange symbols?

5. Wrong caption

The caption seems not to fit the picture. You can make it fit by changing one letter.

6. A Tennis Player

What is this tennis player saying?

7. four Suits

I______ my dog.

I______ my cat.

I carry a ______.

I would love to own a ______ mine.

If you were to insert in the blanks a symbol for each of the four playing-card suits, each line would make sense.

8. Name the Student

The sum on the blackboard is correct. Can you find in the picture the first name of the student?

9. What Letter?

This is a picture of a letter. Can you decide what letter it is?

10. The Sad King

What's so remarkable about the caption below the picture?

11. A Short Teaser

There is a familiar word of five letters that becomes shorter if you add two letters to it. What's the word?

12. Name the Book

In what book are the months listed with April appearing first and September appearing last?

13. Where?

There is a familiar saying that lists all the months, with September coming first and February last. What saying is it?

14. The Two Doors

The words on the two doors seem to be written in a strange script. See if you can translate them into English without adding any words to the page. There is a ridiculously easy way to read the two words.


Family Talk

15. The Palindrome family

Here you see a drawing based on a photograph of Blake de Kalb, his wife the former Norah Sharon, their three children, and their young dog, Otto.

Your task is to identify each person and the pet with a three-letter word that is a palindrome — a word that spells the same in both directions, like the name of the parents and the dog. For example, the three-letter palindrome for the dog would be PUP.

What kind of car does the family own?

And at what time of day was the picture taken?

16. Name the Girl

Mary's father has three daughters. The oldest is named April. The second oldest is named May. What's the first name of the youngest daughter?

17. Three Sisters

There are three blond sisters named Dinah, Betty, and Marilyn. Of the three, only Dinah might dye her hair red.

Concealed in the two previous sentences is something that could explode. Can you find it?

18. How Many cookies?

Jim and his sister Joan discovered ajar of cookies in a kitchen cupboard.

1. Can you interpret the picture's caption?

2. If the jar contained 10 cookies, and Jim and Joan ate all but three, how many cookies would be left in the jar?

19. Stop and Snap

Mrs. Rendrag and her son Nitram had finished washing and drying the dinner dishes.

"Now that the dishes are done," said Mrs. Rendrag, "let's do the STOP AND SNAP."

The words STOP and SNAP don't make sense. Do you see how a simple change of their letters will let you know what Mrs. Rendrag actually said to her son?

After you have solved this puzzle, you should have no difficulty learning the real names of Mrs. Rendrag and Nitram.

20. Tommy's Tumble

Little Tommy fell off his tricycle and bumped his head so hard that he was knocked unconscious. When he came to, he spoke perfect French. How come?

21. How Many Peaches?

Joy's father brought a paper sack home from the supermarket. It contained a certain number of peaches.

Joy took no peaches from the sack, and she left no peaches in the sack.

How many peaches were inside the sack?

22. A Baby crossword


1. Uncle ___

2. Cherry ___

3. Fine ___


1. Health ___

2. Fresh ___

3. Have we ___?

If you solve this easy 3 x 3 crossword puzzle, you'll find that in addition to the horizontal and vertical words, each diagonal provides two other words. It is not known whether such a word square, with eight different common English words, can be made without duplicating at least one letter.


What Did You Say?

23. What's the Question?

The clerk in the railroad station is responding to the lady's question. Can you guess what she has just asked him?

24. Crazy Words

Professor Letterman is holding a sheet on which he lettered what he claims are seven common English words.

It's easy to find out what the words are if you perform a simple operation. What must you do?

Z O – Z O


Z O – N

X – Z



Z O – Z C

25. Day's End

Is it true that day begins with d and ends with e?

26. Lisping Verse

"You can't," says Tom to lisping Bill,

"Find any rhyme for month."

"You are wrong," was Bill's reply.

"I'll find a rhyme at _____."

27. In the Middle

Professor Letterman claims that P is the middle letter of the alphabet. How can he be right?

28. A Missing Letter

An electric sign in the window of Mom's Restaurant is missing a letter. What letter is it?

29. A Missing Word

In each of the eight sentences below, there is a word missing. Professor Letterman says it's the same word in all eight places.

Can you supply the one word that makes sense of each sentence?

___ I hit him in the eye yesterday.

I ___ hit him in the eye yesterday.

I hit ___ him in the eye yesterday.

I hit him ___ in the eye yesterday.

I hit him in ___ the eye yesterday.

I hit him in the ___ eye yesterday.

I hit him in the eye ___ yesterday.

I hit him in the eye yesterday ___.

30. A Puzzling Door

What in the world do these strange words on the door mean?

31. Correct the Spellings

If you change one letter in each word, it will make a sentence that is a well-known proverb.

32. SH!

Is there another common English word, aside from SUGAR, in which S, as the first letter, is pronounced SH? Can you name it?

33. Four Arrows

Each arrow points to a word. If you rearrange the letters properly in each word, the picture will make sense.

34. Three-Letter Words

In this sentence there are neither more nor less than __ words with three letters. What can you put in the blank space to make the sentence correct?


When Susan asked Tom what the letters on his T-shirt meant, his reply was, "Will you kiss me if I tell you?" After Susan kissed him, Tom explained the letters. Tom then asked Susan what her letters meant. See if you can figure out what the letters stand for on both T-shirts.


What is the basis for the sequence of strange three-letter words printed above?

37. What IS Santa Saying?

Can you figure out what this department store Santa Claus is saying to the little girl who has just climbed onto his lap?

38. A Yuletide Rebus

The picture represents a line from a well-known Christmas song. Can you guess the line?

39. Three Students

At a party at Wordsmith College, three students were asked to pin their first names on their clothes. Instead of names, it looks as if these three wrote down numbers instead.

Can you guess their first names?

40. Ruth's Cipher

Ruth numbered the letters of the alphabet as follows:

A = 1

B = 2

C = 3

and so on to Z = 26.

She sent the following code message to her friend:


Can you decode it?



41. Monkey Talk

1. This clever monkey has been taught how to speak. To learn what she is saying, insert the same letter five times in the letter sequence shown.

2. After you have solved this puzzle, see if you can insert the same letter four times in LBM to learn where the monkey is living in a zoo,

3. And insert the same letter three times in BRBR to learn the monkey's name.

42. Concealed creatures

The word "pig" is hidden inside the word "pigeon." Can you find the names of four other creatures concealed in the sentence above?

43. A Horse Jingle

I was a racehorse.

2 was 12.

111 race.


Can you make sense of this poem?

44. Spell the Creature

Put your finger on a letter in the square. By moving the finger left, right, up, or down — but never diagonally — from one square to one next to it, see if you can spell a familiar sevenletter word that stands for a living creature.

45. Nagging Question

Can you think of an animal whose name begins with N?

46. A Freezing Frog

This poor frog is freezing on a cold winter day. The words FROG and COLD are closely related by the positions of their letters in the alphabet. Can you determine how they are related?

47. Three Bunnies

Why are these three rabbits called the three musketeers?

48. Old Mother Hubbard

Old Mother Hubbard
Went to the cupboard
To get her poor dog a bone,
But when she got there,
The cupboard was bare,
And so her poor dog had none.

Professor Letterman says that word-play buffs find something very strange about this old nursery rhyme. Can you determine what it is?

49. Name the Poodle

What's the name of Mrs. Letterman's poodle.

50. Where's the comma?

Did you see the lion eating Herman?

Actually, Herman was not injured by the lion. See if you can place a comma in the above sentence to make it read properly.


Getting It Right

51. Who Does What?

On the left are the first names of sixteen women. On the right is a list of sixteen professions. Each woman has one of these jobs. For example, Sue is a lawyer.

See if you can match each name on the left with the related profession on the right.

Bridget Upholsterer
Patience Engineer
Carlotta Dancer
Ophelia Physician
Octavia Magician
Used car salesman

52. Name the Time

See if you can guess the correct times for the following situations:

1. A tiger ate a postman. Let P.M. be an abbreviation for a man who delivers mail. What time is it?

2. What time is it when you have a severe toothache?

3. Three cats are chasing a mouse. What time is it?

4. If your antique clock struck thirteen times, what time would it be?

53. Spell a Name

The six shapes shown here have been cut from cardboard. Can you rearrange them to spell a girl's name?

54. A Ribbon Loop

Put a word in the blank space so that the sentence makes sense when you read it around the loop.

55. A Puzzling Landscape

Somewhere in the above scene there is something with a name that begins with S. What is it?

56. Guess the Pseudonym

Armand T. Ringer is an anagram of the name of a writer with whom you are familiar. Who is he or she?

57. An Ode to Apricots

Janet bought some stewed apricots on a cold
February morning for her three children,
Mary, Julie, and Junior.
Apricots are delicious when stewed.
Maybe you don't think so?
Junior doesn't like stewed apricots, but
Julie and Mary believe that they
Augment the taste of cereals and ice cream.
Separately, stewed apricots are also tasty.
Octopuses would surely find apricots a
Novel kind of fruit, but they might
Decline to eat an apricot once they tasted it.

This peculiar free-verse poem by Armand T. Ringer has something remarkable about each line. Can you discover what it is?

58. Fill the Blank

In this square there are __ e's.

What number word from 1 to 10 would make the statement in the sign accurate?

59. Do You Deny It?

No expert on word play can deny that there is a familiar English word of four letters that ends in ENY. What is it?

60. Where to Draw the Lines?

By adding slash marks between the letters of HESITATE like this:


you can make three words. Now see if you can add six slashes to INDISCRIMINATION to make seven common words.

61. He! He!

Can you name a common word that starts and ends with HE?

Can you name a common word that contains the letters ADAC in that order? It may give you a headache to answer both questions!

62. Guess the Punchlines

This is a test of your ability to make jokes. Each opening remark is followed by a funny punchline. Try to supply the missing line before you check the answers.

1. FATHER: The man who marries my daughter will get a prize.

BOYFRIEND: ______________________________

2. WOMAN (in restaurant): Is there soup on the menu?

WAITER: ______________________________

3. TEACHER: Where was the Declaration of Independence signed?

STUDENT: ______________________________

4. JUDGE: Order! Order in the court!

PRISONER: _______________________________

5. WOMAN (to psychiatrist): I need help. Nobody pays any attention to me. I feel like I'm invisible.

PSYCHIATRIST: ____________________________

6. PATIENT (after a physical examination): How do I stand?


7. PSYCHIATRIST: Do you have trouble making up your mind?

PATIENT: ________________________________

63. The Wrong Words

A man who couldn't read English was attending a convention in the United States. He asked a friend to tell him how to distinguish the men's washroom from the women's.

"It's easy," said the friend. "Just go to the room that has the shortest word on its door."

The man did as he was told, but found himself inside a washroom with a bunch of screaming ladies. How come?

64. A Typewriter Teaser

Using only the letters on the second line of the typewriter or computer keyboard, see if you can spell a familiar ten-letter word.

65. Professor Letterman's Revenge

Because of his wife's sudden illness, Professor Letterman wrote on the blackboard, "Mr. Letterman will be unable to meet his classes today."

As he left the room, a student approached the blackboard and erased the first letter of "classes." Everybody laughed.

The professor turned around, walked back to the blackboard, and erased another letter. What letter did he erase?

66. The Marrying Bachelor

Tim Rines is a respected bachelor in this hometown, even though he married more than fifty ladies who live there. Rearrange the letters of his name to spell his profession.

Now rearrange the letters of PEPSI-COLA to spell the name that goes in the blank of "The First _____ Church," where you will find Mr. Rines every Sunday morning.


The letters above, when properly understood, stand for a common liquid. Name it.

68. An Unusual Word

Can you think of a familiar word with three U's in it?


Excerpted from Mind-Boggling Word Puzzles by Martin Gardner, V.G. Myers. Copyright © 2001 Martin Gardner. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Martin Gardner was a renowned author who published over 70 books on subjects from science and math to poetry and religion. He also had a lifelong passion for magic tricks and puzzles. Well known for his mathematical games column in Scientific American and his "Trick of the Month" in Physics Teacher magazine, Gardner attracted a loyal following with his intelligence, wit, and imagination.

Martin Gardner: A Remembrance
The worldwide mathematical community was saddened by the death of Martin Gardner on May 22, 2010. Martin was 95 years old when he died, and had written 70 or 80 books during his long lifetime as an author. Martin's first Dover books were published in 1956 and 1957: Mathematics, Magic and Mystery, one of the first popular books on the intellectual excitement of mathematics to reach a wide audience, and Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science, certainly one of the first popular books to cast a devastatingly skeptical eye on the claims of pseudoscience and the many guises in which the modern world has given rise to it. Both of these pioneering books are still in print with Dover today along with more than a dozen other titles of Martin's books. They run the gamut from his elementary Codes, Ciphers and Secret Writing, which has been enjoyed by generations of younger readers since the 1980s, to the more demanding The New Ambidextrous Universe: Symmetry and Asymmetry from Mirror Reflections to Superstrings, which Dover published in its final revised form in 2005.

To those of us who have been associated with Dover for a long time, however, Martin was more than an author, albeit a remarkably popular and successful one. As a member of the small group of long-time advisors and consultants, which included NYU's Morris Kline in mathematics, Harvard's I. Bernard Cohen in the history of science, and MIT's J. P. Den Hartog in engineering, Martin's advice and editorial suggestions in the formative 1950s helped to define the Dover publishing program and give it the point of view which — despite many changes, new directions, and the consequences of evolution — continues to be operative today.

In the Author's Own Words:
"Politicians, real-estate agents, used-car salesmen, and advertising copy-writers are expected to stretch facts in self-serving directions, but scientists who falsify their results are regarded by their peers as committing an inexcusable crime. Yet the sad fact is that the history of science swarms with cases of outright fakery and instances of scientists who unconsciously distorted their work by seeing it through lenses of passionately held beliefs."

"A surprising proportion of mathematicians are accomplished musicians. Is it because music and mathematics share patterns that are beautiful?" — Martin Gardner

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Mind-Boggling Word Puzzles 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just got the sample, and it gave three warm-up puzzles...im guessing that the full book would be a lot better.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Its cool.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Theese are too difficult