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I made up a bunch of riddles over the weekend and wrote them on a stack of cards. Unfortunately, I dropped the stack outdoors. The cards blew everywhere and one of the riddles is missing. Can you please give me the answer to the riddle I lost? (The numbers just reflect the order in which I picked up the cards - which was pretty random.)

Thanks very much,
Hugh

  1. Urging on at every race
    Embarrassment upon your face
    Every beggar has me, then
    Ragged, I go back again.

  2. A palindrome when lacking height
    The upper dogs may well have sight
    And back behind, well, from the sound
    They're hunting mammals underground

  3. I was applied to clocks of old
    The answer's mine as singers told
    I'm named by from, not going to
    When out of me your race is through

  4. Fusion powered monster glaring from above
    Margarita eyes him, feeding on his love
    Healthy green her body, yellow is her heart
    Blazing is the monster, fire in every part.

  5. A ray I was, I rocked the place
    Yes, I had soul. I played the bass
    A man of scales, my angle's good.
    Reveal my name? Well, if I should...

  6. Many sizes, many names
    I've inspired many games
    Many climates, many states
    Tall and mighty, made by plates

  7. Nothing to look at, delightful to hold.
    The key to my nature is written on gold.

  8. I might be applied to a tally of years,
    A steed or a horseman or, yes, even beers.
    I may well be named as the cause of ho-hos
    As he who examines the calendar knows.

  9. I write my name to rule the song.
    Go back, give out. I say how long.
    I may be called, I may be cut.
    I may be done when bars are shut.

For those who would appreciate a fairer riddle for 7 here are two added lines:

Though seeming new-minted, I'm actually old
I sound like a bell and in fire I'm cold.

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  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I suspect typeplay. Many references here relate to symbols. $\endgroup$ – humn Jul 17 '17 at 20:02
14
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Tying together all the answers, the solution to the missing riddle is

Fish on a little one-legged table, man at table sitting on a three-legged stool; the cat gets the bones.

Explanation:

The solution to each of these riddles is also the solution to one of the riddles posed in the fifth chapter of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, titled "Riddles in the Dark". There are a total of 10 "riddles" posed in that chapter. The only one that doesn't have a corresponding answer here is the following:

No-legs lay on one-leg, two legs sat near on three legs, four legs got some.

The solution to this (rather unsatisfying) riddle is mentioned above. Please refer to the link above to see the rest of the riddles from the book.

We can also determine that the title of the puzzle likely stands for "Tricky Tolkien Tribute (or Humble Hobbit Homage)".

The solutions to Hugh's 9 riddles (with thanks to others for most of them -- please upvote their answers):

  1. Urging on at every race
    Embarrassment upon your face
    Every beggar has me, then
    Ragged, I go back again.
  1. A palindrome when lacking height
    The upper dogs may well have sight
    And back behind, well, from the sound
    They're hunting mammals underground
  1. I was applied to clocks of old
    The answer's mine as singers told
    I'm named by from, not going to
    When out of me your race is through
  1. Fusion powered monster glaring from above
    Margarita eyes him, feeding on his love
    Healthy green her body, yellow is her heart
    Blazing is the monster, fire in every part.
  1. A ray I was, I rocked the place
    Yes, I had soul. I played the bass
    A man of scales, my angle's good.
    Reveal my name? Well, if I should...
  1. Many sizes, many names
    I've inspired many games
    Many climates, many states
    Tall and mighty, made by plates
  1. Nothing to look at, delightful to hold.
    The key to my nature is written on gold.
  • Solution/Explanation:

    The solution to this is The One Ring. The ring referred to in The Hobbit renders the wearer invisible ("nothing to look at"). Other interpretations: the ring appears to be a plain gold band, and rings are circular like the number zero. Once someone possesses it, it is very hard for them to give it up ("delightful to hold"). The ring is golden, and contains an inscription describing its nature.

    In the extra lines, the One Ring was forged long before the events described in The Hobbit but it appeared absolutely unblemished. The sound a bell makes is a ring. In the first book of Lord of the Rings Gandalf throws the ring into a fire (revealing the writing on it), yet it remains cool to the touch.

  1. I might be applied to a tally of years,
    A steed or a horseman or, yes, even beers.
    I may well be named as the cause of ho-hos
    As he who examines the calendar knows.
  • Solution/Explanation:

    The solution to this is Dark. The Dark Ages are a "tally of years". A steed is a horse, hence "dark horse" a knight is a horseman so "dark knight" and "dark beer". Dark humour might be the cause of "ho-hos" (laughs). One who "examines the calendar" may be overly preoccupied with death, a common subject of dark humour. There may be a reference to "dark days" or perhaps OP is merely struggling with the difficulties of rhyme and meter. The solution is also hidden in: "calendar knows".

  1. I write my name to rule the song.
    Go back, give out. I say how long.
    I may be called, I may be cut.
    I may be done when bars are shut.
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12
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Partial Answer

1

Riddle 1's answer is an egg. It refers to "egging on", egg races, and "an egg on your face", and is hidden in the word "beggar" and backwards in "ragged".

5

Riddle 5's answer is a fish. You can see fish names in the text (ray, bass), fish have scales, and "angling" is another word for fishing. Also, "fish" is hidden in "if I should".

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  • $\begingroup$ Well done so far. Also for 1 to urge is "to ... on". 5 contains puns at the end of the first line and the fourth word word of the second line. (With the hidden word that @ffao pointed out.) $\endgroup$ – Hugh Meyers Jul 17 '17 at 14:41
  • $\begingroup$ Apologies. I see now that plaice is pretty much confined to the UK. I didn't realize it is almost unknown in America. Sole is common though. $\endgroup$ – Hugh Meyers Jul 17 '17 at 19:08
11
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Another partial answer:

2

Teeth: Without the H, it's a palindrome; the upper dogs with sight are the canines or eye teeth; molars sounds like molers, or mole hunters.

3

Wind: Old clocks must be wound up; Bob Dylan sang The answer's blowin' in the wind; winds are named for the direction they blow from; if you are out of wind or out of breath, you'll have to give up the race. (Found by Tom.)

4

Daisy: The fusion powered monster is the sun. Daisy means the day's eye, because the flower opens when the sun comes out, and another name for a daisy is marguerite. The stem and leaves are green, the "heart" is yellow and the petals white.

9

Time: In music, time is a measure of how fast a song is played and one of such times is the cut time; time backwards is emit, which is to give out; time is called by the landlord before closing time; to do time is to be in prison or behind bars.

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  • $\begingroup$ Absolutely correct on 2 and 4. 3 and 9 require answers that fit more exactly. $\endgroup$ – Hugh Meyers Jul 17 '17 at 17:27
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the feedback. I think I've got a better match for 9 now. $\endgroup$ – M Oehm Jul 17 '17 at 17:39
  • $\begingroup$ Exactly right on 9. Partly my fault. I got a bit tired towards the end and wasn't as exclusive as I should have been. $\endgroup$ – Hugh Meyers Jul 17 '17 at 17:45
  • $\begingroup$ Not your fault, I think. I didn't explain the "emit" clue, which now is obvious. In fact, I wasn't entirely sure when I suggested staff. $\endgroup$ – M Oehm Jul 17 '17 at 17:47
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ 3) can be r13 jvaq $\endgroup$ – Tom Jul 17 '17 at 18:20
8
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Another partial answer:

6 might be

Mountain. Mountains come in many sizes, can be found in just about any state or climate, and have a variety of different names; Mount Olympus in Greece is the namesake of the Olympic Games; they're tall and mighty; finally, they're often created by the movement of the earth's tectonic plates.

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  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Correct! In fact there's a track meet or something that's named after one that's located in Greece $\endgroup$ – Hugh Meyers Jul 17 '17 at 17:40
  • $\begingroup$ Oh duh, of course. The word "games" is what set me on this track in the first place... and then I went ahead and forgot what the namesake Olympus is! $\endgroup$ – puzzledPig Jul 17 '17 at 17:43
8
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Wrap-up: The Making Of Tricky T Tribute (or: Humble H Homage)

This is not a solution to the puzzle, but provides notes from its poser. This type of answer has been approved by the community.

Caution: This post may contain spoilers.


I hadn't thought about this one much since I wrote it and then today I got a message saying it had passed the 1,000 views mark. Thanks!

When I looked at it again, I thought that maybe there were some lessons to be learned here.

Inspiration

I do a lot of my puzzle creation while I'm travelling. I was on a train one day and a phrase popped into my head: "Can you answer the question I didn't ask?"

That seemed like a cool premise for a puzzle to me. I couldn't let go of the idea: how could I create a fair puzzle where the reader has to answer a question I didn't ask?

Creative steps

I thought of a few ways I might be able to do this: maybe hide a question in a piece of text somehow, maybe have a series of puzzles whose answers form the final puzzle when put together, or maybe have the answers form some sort of set or sequence from which the missing piece could be deduced.

I wanted to keep it as short and simple (for me) as possible. Famous last words. Cue ominous background music.

I told myself that using steganography of some sort would lead to a huge, ugly wodge of text. I threw out that idea. Similarly, I threw out the second idea because I'd have to make up a puzzle for each word in the final puzzle. I might have to create multiple puzzles with the answer "the" or "a". I'd have to create the final puzzle from scratch and I didn't have any ideas offhand. Simpler! Simpler!

So I decided to go with a set or sequence. It had to be something that would be familiar to many or most pse members and yet not immediately recognizable. Something fairly easily found if it was not recognized. I watched the hills and mountains go by and I thought of...

the riddle game in The Hobbit.

It's been many years since I read it but I figured it was fair game. I had done a couple of Tolkien-themed puzzles around that time. The book was fairly well-known, and the movies were reasonably popular. The game itself has been mentioned in chat a time or two. I could just do riddles with the same answers as those ones and leave the last one for the readers. Easy peasy! (The background music grows louder.)

Logistical steps

Well, the first difficulty was that I hadn't read the book for quite a while and I was not able to access the internet at that time. I wasn't worried because I could remember five right off the bat which had to be just about all of them, right? I mean, it's a novel, there's a story going on, it's right in the middle of an escape: how many riddles could there be. So I had:

Fish, mountain, time, teeth, daisy, and ring (which I knew was last, so I figured I would leave that for the reader).

Hey! These were easy! I wanted each riddle to have a different sound and a different gimmick. A little tweaking, some minor changes... done! I'd be at the hotel soon and I could verify the order of the riddles as soon as I was on wifi. The only nagging doubt was that I was I was missing...

one of Bilbo's riddles which meant I was missing one of Gollum's as well. So two more riddles. Oh, well.

When it comes to composing riddles, I take a word and run through a list:

  • What does it mean?
  • How is it used?
  • How is it spelled? (Does it contain another word or word parts? Is it an anagram? Etc.)
  • What does it remind me of?
  • What does it do? What is it made of? Why is it interesting?

When I have half a dozen interesting and/or unique aspects of a word, I just jumble them together. I like rhyming so I nearly always make them rhyme. That's just me, though. I'm not sure how much it adds to the result.

Resources

At the hotel, I did a quick google of the answers to my riddles. Instant success! There were several sites with all the riddles and their answers. Just about every subset of three answers pointed to a list when they were entered into google. The solution was readily accessible on the web, you could get there with google even if you hadn't read the book, and I had all I needed to complete the puzzle.

Evolution

Uh oh.

TEN RIDDLES? What was this guy thinking of? I'm not almost done, I'm just barely over halfway. To make matters worse...

The answer to one is "fish on a one-legged table next to a man on a three-legged stool with a cat nearby".

How on earth could I come up with a new riddle with that as an answer???

If I didn't, what was I supposed to do with these five riddles I've already written? Grr! I found myself cursing Tolkein's editor. How could that idiot have left so many riddles in there? What was he thinking?

It was rewrite, rethink time. I could either write off the work I had done so far or come up with a plan for completing it on the return train trip (which I had hoped to spend polishing). By the time I got on the train I had come up with the idea of the mixed up cards so I didn't have to write a riddle for the "problematic" answer and I had some ideas for the missing riddles. Two and a half hours of writing and polishing and I was done but I have to admit I wasn't entirely happy.

Your thoughts/mental process

The thing with a puzzle like this is that there is always a risk that someone will google two of the terms or will have just read the book and will solve the puzzle in a tenth the time it took to create. This isn't terrible, necessarily, but I wasn't sure how much more work I wanted to put into the project. How much, after all, would people enjoy it? What if the first guy who sees it solves it and it gets buried under new submissions and practically no one else even reads it?

At this point I was thinking that I should probably have done something completely different. Maybe some way of making it into a series. Maybe alternating riddles with something else. Maybe... I don't know. I just couldn't come up with a good idea.

In retrospect I think I was overreacting. The extra riddles thing was not such a big deal. The sudden increase in work took me by surprise and I made too big a deal of it. In the end it really wasn't all that much time.

Takeaway

A big takeaway for me was to do your research up front before you invest time.

In a kind of an opposite sense I think that this puzzle's success shows that at a certain point you should stop second guessing yourself and just go with it. Make your puzzle the best it can be. Put in the work and don't worry about the consequences. Lots of people viewed, eighteen of them upvoted... that's great! A whole bunch of my favorite puzzlers contributed to the final solution. I really should have put in the time to make every one of the parts as clever as it could possibly be.

Next time!

And, really, I have enjoyed making every one of my puzzles. I always come away thinking that I ought to do more of them. You're not rid of me yet. :-)

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