# Three columns of words with weird spacing

I recently discovered among some old papers a page that I'd printed out. I'm pretty certain it's a puzzle, but I don't have the answer for it and cannot guarantee that I have all the rules for it complete (see below).

It consists of three columns of words. I'm reasonably sure that the spacing is not relevant, because it was probably not originally a fixed-width typeface; the spacing itself supports that theory. But I want to include it just in case, since that's how I printed it. My best guess is that I printed this out and scribbled down the rules so I could work on it offline. I'll add that the dashes in the lines are also an indicator to me that this was not something I invented, but got from somewhere else, since I would not format it that way if I'd created it.

Column A-------Column B-------Column C

LAMP------------SPIN ------------- SMILE
AGILE------------ORB --------------KNEW
ART---------------RAN---------------REVOLVER
GALLERY--------OMAHA------------TIME
WING------------STONEWARE-----TRUTH
AIL---------------TRAIPSE----------VAGRANT
SPOKANE-------RWANDA----------MEASURING
BELIE------------CHIN--------------APPLY
GRAPH-----------HOGGING---------RESEARCH
MANTRA----------MERIDIAN--------DISEASE
GLAND-----------WORTH-----------CHANT
HURRY-----------REGRET-----------PAY
RODE------------DETERMINE------SEAL
PEACE-----------CAME-------------PONDER
TREE--------------HERRING---------MANGE
GRANGE---------YACHTS-----------FIN
JOKES------------PIE----------------MALT
SEASIDE--------CUB----------------PIRATES
GERANIUMS-----TOO---------------IDES
TOGA------------SWAPS------------GLANCED
ALMS------------ASSAULT----------ILL


On the printed page, I had already crossed out some of the words, and that hints to me what I think the actual puzzle is meant to be — eliminate all but one word in each column.

Handwritten below the printed list is what I believe are the conditions for crossing out a word. Here they are, slightly formatted from my own writing -- the last rule specifically has the words 'cross off any two...' which is why I think the rules are what they are. They are in this order on the page, one per line. I've added the numbers here for reference.

1. Any two that can be a president
2. Common fruit by changing one letter
3. Add one letter to form a country
4. A word that can have QU added to it
5. A one-syllable word that can form a three-syllable word with one letter added
6. ?achievement? in common
7. Any two words that are anagrams

Rule #6 is the one that's the most questionable in what it says. I'm pretty sure it just says 'achievement in common' but it could possibly be another word there. It almost certainly starts with a and ends with t; the 'ch' is fairly clear as well, so I don't know what else it could be. I'd consider the possibility that it could be 'a ch...t in common' as well.

Interpreting the rule is another question. Could it be that 'determine' and 'measuring' indicate a common achievement? Or is there some deeper connection the two words might share which is meant by 'achievement'? Some words have portions of them in common, but I don't see any that I'd consider an 'achievement'.

Rule #1 is also an odd one, as I'm not sure how you should combine two to be a president. I can say that this is most likely indicating American presidents, but I can't guarantee that. Would 'GERANIUMS and VAGRANT' count since you can find U.S. GRANT in them? I don't know. It's also highly likely to pre-date Trump and Biden, and maybe even Obama, although if I had to guess it's more on the order of 5-10 years old.

There are a few other rules that might be questioned -- can we add 'N' to GLAND to form En-gland? I've been wondering at that, and whether the president clue might amount to mixing sounds together. I do suspect that each word can only have one rule applied to it, but there's nothing additional I can really say in that regard.

I think these rules are the complete set, and it is probably possible to come up with an answer, if the rules can be properly interpreted. Since the word list is printed, there's no reason to believe it has any errors in it. I don't really know if the answer is three words that fit together in some way, or if that is even what the answer should be (maybe it's only one word, or none).

I'd appreciate any insight into what the other rules might have been. Of course, if anyone happens to recognize it from somewhere, I'd be quite grateful as well. So far it's been tough to search on the words, and the rules as well, since they may not be in their original phrasing.

Below is my incomplete attempt at solving it. I've noted the number of the rule I applied to each word, with changes marked by lower-case letters.

LAMP, 3 SPaIN, 5 SiMILE AGILE, ORB, KNEW 4 quART, 3 iRAN, REVOLVER 7 GALLERY, OMAHA, 2 lIME WING, STONEWARE, TRUTH 4 quAIL, 7 TRAIPSE, VAGRANT SPOKANE, RWANDA, MEASURING 3 BELIzE, 3 CHINa, 2 APPLe GRAPH, HOGGING, RESEARCH MANTRA, MERIDIAN, 7 DISEASE GLAND, WORTH, CHANT HURRY, REGRET, PAY 5 RODEo, DETERMINE, 4 SquEAL 2 PEACh, CAME, PONDER TREE, HERRING, 2 MANGo 2 oRANGE, YACHTS, FIN PENSIVE, 4 SquAD, NEEDLES JOKES, 4 PIquE, 3 MALTa 7 SEASIDE, 3 CUBa, 7 PIRATES 3 cHAD, 7 LARGELY, 4 SquIRE GERANIUMS, 3 TOgO, 5 IDEaS TOGA, SWAPS, GLANCED 4 quALMS, ASSAULT, 4 quILL

• Welcome to Puzzling, take our tour! Do you have any more specific sourcing information than "some papers"? e.g. do you know the name of the publication this is from, or the author? Jun 25, 2021 at 2:42
• The print-out is a single page with no title, and the papers it were with are unrelated other than gauging the age. It almost certainly was originally from the internet. I likely copied it into a text editor to work on it, and then printed it from there, but I don't have any more info than that. Jun 25, 2021 at 2:57
• I'm not sure about the achievements, but "measuring" follows rule 7. And "mantra" and "hurry" can use the same mechanism to get first and last name (but not the middle initial) of the 33rd President. Jun 25, 2021 at 6:12
• That makes a lot of sense for Rule 1! I was trying to find similar matches ('Rwanda' looks suspicious) but hadn't yet. I also realized 'came' matches Rule 5. Jun 25, 2021 at 6:31
• "Rwanda" goes with "herring". I've found six US presidents, but it's probably not much fun to try to find them without help from a script. That still leaves a third of all words unaccaounted for. Jun 25, 2021 at 8:09

I have located the source of this puzzle (along with the solution)! It was from the Straight Dope Message Board, posted by Biotop in April of 2015. A big thanks to all who helped out in the comments, especially M Oehm who found the puzzle that inspired this one.

Here is the original thread:

https://boards.straightdope.com/t/puzzle-cross-off-words-as-the-clues-eliminate-them-what-is-left/718045

For reference, here are the original rules:

Blockquote

The Clues:

1. Cross off any two words in the same column that can be anagrammed together to form the name of a former U.S. President (first and last names).

2. Cross off any word which can become the name of a common fruit if one letter is changed to a different letter.

3. Cross off any word that can become the name of a country if a single letter is added somewhere to the word.

4. Cross off any word that can become another common word if a “QU” doublet is added somewhere to the word.

5. Cross off any one syllable word that can become a common three syllable word if a single letter is added somewhere to the word.

6. Several of the remaining words in each column have something in common regarding an achievement. Cross off all of those words.

7. Cross off both words when any of the remaining words are anagrams of each other.

The final un-crossed off words can be read from top to bottom to reveal some others that recently were not crossed off. They are the answer to this puzzle.

Rule #6 is probably the tough one

They are names of Kentucky Derby winners.

The solution is

KNEW + WING + GLAND + PAY + TREE + YACHTS (New England Patriots)

• Well done! The "achievement" rule is strangely different from the other rules: It doesn't involve any wordplay and it is vague, even misleading with the reference to each column. The sentence about the "final un-crossed off words" is not very clear either; the instruction at the top of the original post ("The remaining words, correctly interpreted, are the solution to the puzzle.") is much better in my opinion. But I like the general idea of the puzzle. Jun 27, 2021 at 7:46