This puzzle is inspired by the What is a Word/Phrase™ series started by JLee.

If a word conforms to a specific rule, I call it a rising word. If it conforms to a different rule, I call it a falling word. Here is a list of examples:

yellow green black
oil vinegar water
small large more
good evil intermediate
ten two twelve
come go protect
peach tree fruit
river ground sky
flat rice wine

Here's a CSV:

yellow, green, black
oil, vinegar, water
small, large, more
good, evil, intermediate
ten, two, twelve
come, go, protect
peach, tree, fruit
river, ground, sky
flat, rice, wine


As usual, the associations through rows have nothing to do with the rules; that is, a word being in a group is independent of other words in other groups. (Forgive my failed attempts at making some of the row patterns coherent)


The two rules are related to each other.

Don't overthink it.

Bonus puzzle: Find a word which is both rising and falling. (I myself am actually not aware of any, but there almost definitely should be at least one based on my knowledge.)

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Don't overthink it. Welp, too late. Haha $\endgroup$
    – JLee
    Commented Jul 21, 2022 at 19:24
  • $\begingroup$ Balancing puzzles from the writer's point of view is surprisingly hard, I guess. In hindsight, knowledge tag makes things very difficult from the massive search space $\endgroup$
    – Auride
    Commented Jul 21, 2022 at 19:27
  • $\begingroup$ I think i've crossed off Fpenooyr naq gur crevbqvp gnoyr, so that is something $\endgroup$
    – JLee
    Commented Jul 21, 2022 at 19:30
  • $\begingroup$ Jnvg, ubj jbhyq lbh rira rkgenpg crevbqvp gnoyr qngn sebz gurfr jbeqf? V'z vagrerfgrq (: $\endgroup$
    – Auride
    Commented Jul 21, 2022 at 22:39
  • $\begingroup$ I was thinking maybe you could spell the words with the symbols-- some fwd, some bkwrds, and some not at all. Nope. $\endgroup$
    – JLee
    Commented Jul 21, 2022 at 22:41

1 Answer 1


I guess that the rules are:

Rising: The word, when translated to Mandarin, results in a word with a rising tone (2nd tone of rising or 3rd tone of falling then rising)
Falling: Ditto, but results in a falling tone (4th tone)
Neither: Ditto, but results in a flat tone (1st tone), no tone (aka 5th tone), or multiple tones/words

This requires an understanding of the four tones used in Mandarin pronunciation. I will list the translated words using Pinyin which uses diacritics to denote the tones.

Examples: flat = mā, rising = yú, falling-rising = wǒ, falling = bù

The rules applied:

Yellow, Green, Black
Huáng, Lǜ, Hēi

Oil, Vinegar, Water
Yóu, Cù, Shuǐ (water should be considered rising?)

Small, Large, More
Xiǎo, Dà, Duō

Good, Evil, Intermediate
Hǎo, Huài, Zhōng

Ten, Two, Twelve
Shí, Èr, Shí'èr

Come, Go, Protect
Lái, Qù, Bǎohù

Peach, Tree, Fruit
Táo, Shù, Shuǐguǒ

River, Ground, Sky
Hé, Dì, Tiān

Flat, Rice, Wine
Píng, Fàn, Pútáojiǔ

Note that there may be multiple ways to translate these words, and in particular, "water" doesn't fit the rules so I may be missing something.

I mostly used a translation app, so maybe a native speaker could double check the translations and pronunciations to see if there are any errors.

  • $\begingroup$ Indeed, “wine” can be one word too. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 1, 2023 at 16:11
  • $\begingroup$ I think you might be onto something. Curious to see the op's reply. $\endgroup$
    – JLee
    Commented Oct 3, 2023 at 0:13
  • $\begingroup$ @jlee I don't think the author is active any more, so we may never know. It's too much of a coincidence for 26 of the words to work out that way. I just wish I knew whether "water" was a mistake or whether there was something else (a dialect, different translation, etc)? If not for that one word, I would be 100% confident of the answer. $\endgroup$
    – JS1
    Commented Oct 3, 2023 at 4:37
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, way too many coincidences. +1 -- I don't know Mandarin, but I found this. Would Shuǐsè be considered neither rising nor falling? I notice that Bǎohù has similar diacritical marks and it is "neither". Apparently aqua is another word for water, although I don't think I have heard it used interchangeably. $\endgroup$
    – JLee
    Commented Oct 4, 2023 at 10:06
  • $\begingroup$ @jlee Those words "shuǐsè" refer to a color (shuǐ meaning water and sè meaning color = aqua/water color). Most of the words translated to a single Mandarin word/syllable, although different translations could be made. For example, yellow = Huáng, but you could also translate it to Huángsè (i.e. yellow color). I chose the simplest one-word/syllable translations for the most part. I don't think there is a one-word/syllable translation for "Protect" or "Fruit". However, "wine" could be just "jiǔ" (generic alcoholic drink) as opposed to "Pútáojiǔ" (grape alcoholic drink). $\endgroup$
    – JS1
    Commented Oct 4, 2023 at 19:01

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