Three well-known games (using American rules/gameplay) are being played on a table...

  1. What is the game? What is the table? (Bonus: find a sugar)

noses, pons, cons, transit, worries, postbase, embrown

  1. What is the game? What is missing?
   m. gone  
  nab Ben  
 heal flip  
  1. What is the game? Who won?

sa?, t?e, ta?, s?b, po?, bi?, ?i, ?rb

  • $\begingroup$ @Stiv #1 is larger. While all are well known in the US, I lack the knowledge as to if any of these are immediately recognizable in the presented form outside the US, particularly 2. $\endgroup$
    – Amoz
    Commented Apr 14, 2022 at 11:51

1 Answer 1


The key thing to notice about this puzzle is that all parts relate to:

the Periodic Table! This is the 'table' referred to in the title and sub-puzzle 1.

Sub-puzzle 1:

This game involves:

finding areas in the Periodic Table where horizontally/vertically adjacent symbols can be anagrammed together to form the given words.

The given words can be derived like so:

Periodic Table with relevant symbols coloured

NOSES = Red + grey (N, O, S, Se),
PONS = Orange + grey (N, O, S, P),
CONS = Yellow + grey (N, O, S, C),
TRANSIT = Light green (I, At, Rn, Ts),
WORRIES = Dark green + grey (W, Re, Os, Ir),
POSTBASE = Blue (As, Sb, Te, Po),
EMBROWN = Purple + grey (W, Re, Nb, Mo)

And to answer the bonus question, here's the sugar:

FRUCTOSE in the Periodic Table

...with the sugar in question being FRUCTOSE! (Fe, Tc, Ru, Os)

So what game is it? Well, each word comprises:

exactly four adjacent blocks (i.e. a tetromino) - and, in fact, between them all we have a complete set of the different possible one-sided tetromino shapes: NOSES = the L-tetromino, PONS = O, CONS = J, TRANSIT = T, WORRIES = I, POSTBASE = S, and EMBROWN = Z. What game is dependent on these shapes and these shapes alone? That would be the video game, Tetris!

Sub-puzzle 2:

At first glance, this game appears to involve:

trying to form sets of words using an increasing number of symbols among the first 15 elements of the Periodic Table, without repetition.

The word sets already given correspond as follows:

SIC = Si (14) + C (6) = 2 symbols
M. GONE = Mg (12) + O (8) + Ne (10) = 3 symbols
NAB BEN = Na (11) + B (5) + Be (4) + N (7) = 4 symbols
HEAL FLIP = He (2) + Al (13) + F (9) + Li (3) + P (15) = 5 symbols

Periodic Table with elements already used shaded accordingly

The question marks must therefore stand in for:

the only unused single element among the first 15 elements of the Periodic Table, i.e. H (element 1).

But what is really going on here, and what game is it? Well, look at this a different way...

...using the atomic numbers of the elements instead - particularly bearing in mind that the atomic number of Oxygen in the centre of the third row of the triangle is 8. What's occurring here is a game of eight-ball pool! The elements in a triangle shape represent the balls racked up in a triangle at the start of a game:

Eight-ball pool set-up example
Source: Wikipedia

(NB Note that while in some parts of the world pool balls are traditionally arranged according to a few set rules, here the players' main priority is just making words and phrases from the symbols of the elements represented by the number of each ball.)

Sub-puzzle 3:

This game makes use of:

a very specific 3x3 sub-grid of the Periodic Table - that with Tellurium (Te) at its centre (thanks to @Gahja in comments for putting me on the right track here). Note that all of the letters that appear in this part of the grid appear in the text of this question, either forwards or backwards:

3x3 section of the Table, centred on Tellurium

Recall the question text: sa?, t?e, ta?, s?b, po?, bi?, ?i, ?rb

This involves As backwards, Te, At backwards, Sb, Po, Bi, I, and Br backwards.

What exactly is happening in the game?

Two players are taking it in turns to spell real words using the symbols in this part of the grid, either forwards or backwards, and adding either an 'X' or an 'O' into the spot marked by a question mark. Specifically, Player 1 is adding an 'X' to the symbols on their turns, while Player 2 is adding an 'O':

saX, tOe, taX, sOb, poX, biO, Xi, Orb

And if we plot these plays on the grid, it would look a little something like this:

Noughts-and-crosses played out

So what game is it?

It's the pen-and-paper game, noughts-and-crosses! (Or tic-tac-toe...) And the second player has won by placing three O's in a row (despite not noticing they could have done so a turn earlier by playing Oi on turn 3!).

  • $\begingroup$ Good start! Note that for all 4, we are looking for the actual specific name of each game... $\endgroup$
    – Amoz
    Commented Mar 4, 2022 at 0:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Amoz You know what, I had wondered that just before bed last night, as I sussed what #3 actually is (although not yet where it is...). I'll continue thinking...! $\endgroup$
    – Stiv
    Commented Mar 4, 2022 at 7:33
  • $\begingroup$ @Amoz To let you in on my thinking for #3, I've been pretty sure this is rot13(abhtugf naq pebffrf, jurer purzvpny flzobyf jvguva n 3k3 tevq pna or vafregrq va gur dhrfgvba znexf cebivqrq gb znxr erny jbeqf - ubjrire, qrfcvgr ybbxvat V pnaabg svaq n fhvgnoyr 3k3 fcnpr...) $\endgroup$
    – Stiv
    Commented Mar 6, 2022 at 22:40
  • $\begingroup$ @Stiv You might want to rot13(ybbx ng gur 3k3 tevq jvgu Gryyhevhz nf vgf pragre. V guvax vg'f gurer naq gur jvaare vf gur frpbaq cynlre ohg pna'g svther bhg jul fbzr ryrzragf ner "onpxjneqf" naq bar cynlre vf fyrrcl.) $\endgroup$
    – Gahja
    Commented Mar 30, 2022 at 20:23
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Amoz Noted - will tweak the content of my answer to reflect that there are now only 3... $\endgroup$
    – Stiv
    Commented Aug 1, 2023 at 22:57

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