What's That Flat?

Altered state

A two-letter state abbreviation is replaced by another. Examples: spa sky ; provide provoke . (Answer keys in the form of “s-pa/ky” or “prov-id/ok-e”.)


A word or phrase is divided into two or more others by taking alternate letters in order. For example, schooled shoe, cold ; or lacerated let, are, cad . The shorter parts need not be all the same length. (In the example, the asterisks indicate capitalized words.)


In *ONE’s the world’s most famous mausoleum;
Hawaii’s where they garland you with TWOs.
The nomads (I would rather see than be ‘em)
Of ALL remove Saharan sand from shoes.

=Corn Cob

The solution: Algeria Agra, lei .

When the shorter parts are single words-as in the above example-enumeration is given only for the longest part; it’s easy to deduce the lengths of the shorter parts from this.

The alternade was introduced by L’Allegro in June 1917.

Because there seem to be few good bases for alternades, this type has never been very common. However, it forms the basis for the more popular rebus alternade, or rebade.


A word or phrase is turned into an appropriate comment or description when its letters are rearranged. For example, THEY SEE is a good anagram of the eyes . One-word anagram bases are not enumerated; phrases are. If a dictionary entry-phrase forms all or part of the solution, its enumeration may be [bracketed] at the editor’s option. Some more examples (asterisks indicate capitalized words):





GEE, TALKER, I’M LOST! (2’1 3 *5 2 2)




The solutions:
IS TEMPO, SIRS prestissimo
BENEATH CHOPIN the piano bench
GEE, TALKER, I’M LOST! it’s all Greek to me
SNUB I USE FOR NOSY ONE ”none of your business”

An anagram is usually given without any verse, the anagram itself providing the necessary clues.

An antigram is an anagram whose meaning is the opposite of the solution. For example, GREAT HUGE BIRD (3 10) (=Wabbit) is an antigram of the budgerigar (parakeet).

Anagrams have long been used for satirical and political comment. Sometimes, then, whether a particular puzzle should be called an anagram or an antigram is a matter of opinion. Sibyl termed this sort of puzzle an ambigram. For example, YOUR RULES CLONE ATOMIC NIGHTMARES (=Te-Zir-Man) is an ambigram of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission .

A mutation is a rearrangement of letters that is only vaguely appropriate or even entirely irrelevant to its solution. It is always accompanied by a verse that provides the clues. Mutations are not popular, but they still appear on occasion, usually with very good or very funny verses.

Some Guidelines for Anagrams

Good anagrams need good bases (solutions). Anagrams frequently refer to a specific event, person, or object, often currently in the news. If the base is a phrase, it should be a dictionary entry-or a proverb, title, quotation, or other familiar phrase-never just a random group of words. Newspaper correspondents , for example, is a fine base. Correspondents of the newspapers is much less good: the phrase is seldom said that way. Our experienced hometown newspaper correspondents is unacceptable, since it drags in several irrelevant words. Avoid unnecessary words: Ivanhoe, by Sir Walter Scott is a good base (and in fact was once anagrammed as A NOVEL BY A SCOTTISH WRITER ), while Ivanhoe, the beloved historical novel by Sir Walter Scott is not. Unless an anagram phrase is truly familiar or easily found (in the news, for instance), it is probably unfair to solvers.

Long anagrams burden the solver with too many possibilities to consider; the shortest base on a given topic generally makes the best anagram. If an anagram is very long-say, thirty letters or more-the solver is faced with so many thousands of possibilities that the anagram must be very apposite indeed if it’s to be a fair challenge. (And with that many letters to work with, the composer ought to produce perfect apposition.)

A good anagram refers clearly and directly to its base. These examples are unacceptable: DEATHSMEN BE beheadments (only vaguely and indirectly related), and HI, POMPOUS PAT! hippopotamus (wholly irrelevant).

An anagram must match its base in tense, number, and person. More bad examples: DOZES ON snoozed (wrong tense), and THAT QUEER SHAKE the earthquakes (wrong number). Even if the part of speech differs, as in an adjective or adverb describing a noun base, it should be correctly inferable (as BENEATH CHOPIN the piano bench ).

An anagram should not include any forms of the words in its base. EDITED REVISION is a singularly pointless anagram for “revised edition”. Even the repetition of a short word like “by” in the Ivanhoe anagram above is a flaw, as is the similarity of “Scott” and “Scottish”. The editor is the final judge of whether a flawed anagram is still fine enough to merit printing.

Every word not directly relevant to the solution is a flaw. Short “junk words” like O, la, and ha are particularly common, because they are easy ways for an anagrammer to use up a few leftover letters; but they are still flaws. Eliminate them if you can: O, CONES EVICT LAVA is a flawed anagram of active volcanoes ; but changing the base slightly to the active volcanos allows CONES EVICT HOT LAVA .

The single most important thing to remember: the connection between the anagram and its base must be instantly clear when you see them together. It follows that the anagram is the most paradoxical of puzzles: the better it is, the easier it is!


A word or phrase becomes another when its first letter is removed. Examples: factor ; or usable . If the parts of the solution are all single words, the length of only the longest is given; if any part is a phrase, all parts are enumerated.


I wonder if this SHORTER stole,
Though slightly tattered, still is WHOLE.


The solution: usable sable

Beheadments occasionally include more than two words. A famous example is aspirate, spirate, pirate, irate, rate, ate .

In a bigram beheadment, a word or phrase becomes another when its first two letters are removed: delivery .

In a phonetic beheadment, a word or phrase becomes another when its first sound is removed. All parts are enumerated. Example: basalt assault . For discussion of what constitutes a single sound, see phonetic flats.

In a reversed beheadment, after beheading the first word, reverse it to get the second. Example: petal late .

Bigram puzzles

Instead of single letters, bigrams (two-letter groups) are the basic units of these puzzles. An example is the bigram reversal seraph phrase . A bigram deletion: impetuous . For more information, look up the next word in the puzzle’s name.

Change of heart

Two words or phrases are each divided into three pieces; then their middle pieces are switched to form two others. Example: share, colt sole, chart . (This would appear in the solution list as “s(har)e, c(ol)t.”) Another example: wine steward, FDR windward, fester (“win(e ste)ward, F(D)R”).

A change of heart is similar to a DOUBLE-CROSS, except that the pieces that are switched come from the middles of the ONE and TWO rather than the ends. Note that as in a double-cross, ONE and THREE have the same beginnings, as do TWO and FOUR. (See also the HEART TRANSPLANT.)

The change of heart was invented by Lunch Boy and named by Xemu.


A word or phrase is broken into two or more shorter ones.

scar + city scarcity

The spelling of each part remains the same, though pronunciation may change.

outré + ached outreached


A box of fudge, some gingersnaps
(Or other tasty ONE), a gay
Corsage (an orchid — WHOLE, perhaps)
Might well have won her-yesterday.
But in this modern TWO, old ways
Of wooing leave her bored and cold.
You need a gimmick nowadays —
Though diamond rings still work, I’m told.

=Windjammer and Uncanny

goody + era Goodyera

Only the enumeration of the longest word or phrase (WHOLE) is given. The solver has to figure out the lengths of the shorter parts. However, it is noted if any shorter part is capitalized, hyphenated, or a phrase.

Phonetic charade

The pronunciation of each part remains the same, though spelling may change.

haste + axe . haystacks

Reversed charade

The parts are assembled and then reversed to produce the whole word or phrase.

red + rum murder


Two or more words or phrases share the same consonants in the same order, with any number of vowels. Y is treated as a vowel. Example: acorn, crayon, ocarina .


Each time I play a polka, all the girls pelt me with peonies.
I start a samba—snowdrops, if you please!
Before I’ve run a rumba through, it rains down rhododendrons,
And when I ONE the TWO they throw me THREEs.


The solution: ONE = begin, TWO = beguine, THREE = begonia.

The consonantcy was invented by Newrow in 1991.

In a reversed consonantcy, the consonants of the second word or phrase are reversed with respect to the consonants in the first word or phrase. Example: syzygy, gazes.

In a consonantcy deletion, consonants are deleted one by one from a starting word, and the basewords are consonantcies of the result. Examples: consonant, consent; amounting, untongue, Antigua. The consonantcy deletion was invented by Newrow.

A consonantcy word deletion works like a word deletion, except that only consonants are considered. That is, the inner word to be deleted is a consonantcy for some central section of the main base word; the remaining consonants are used in the outer word. Examples: quartz; rote, quiz and situation comedy, tonic, esteemed. It was invented by Newrow.

In a consonantcy palindrome deletion, delete a palindromic set of three or more consonants. Example: Matterhorn, mutation (delete rhr).


A word or phrase becomes another when its last letter is removed. Example: stingy sting .


I’m a young LONGER chemist, but so far I’ve failed
To discover a drug that’s as good as CURTAILED.
My motives are pure: to make the world healthy
And in the process become really wealthy!

=Mr. Tex

The solution: aspiring aspirin .

A curtailment may consist of more than two words, though these are rare. An obscure but dazzling example: chorizont (one who ascribes the Iliad and the Odyssey to different authors-look it up in NI2 if you don’t believe it!) C-horizon (a particular layer of soil) chorizo (a kind of spicy sausage) .

In a bigram curtailment, a word or phrase becomes another when its last two letters are removed. For example, satiety Satie .

In a phonetic curtailment, a word or phrase becomes another when its last sound is removed. For example: qt (as in “on the qt”) cute queue . For discussion of what constitutes a single sound, see phonetic flats.

In a reversed curtailment, after curtailing the first word, you reverse it to get the second. Example: stinky knits .


Each word in the base consists of two parts. The first part is identical to the second part of the preceding word; the second part is identical to the first part of the following word. The chain wraps around: the second part of the last word is identical to the first part of the first word. For a three-word base, the pattern is AB, BC, CA. Examples: mica, case, semi and ingle, legroom, grooming .

The cyclegram was invented by Badir and introduced in October 2007.


A word or phrase becomes another when an interior letter is removed.

simile simile smile

DELETION (*7, 4-2)

We found a TWO for shelter from the sun-
So unrelenting was the summer heat-
And looked out at the sparkling Gulf of ONE,
Where long ago the Turks had met defeat.


Lepanto Lepanto lean-to

A deletion may include more than two words.

startling startling
starling starling
staring staring
string string
sting sting sing

(Do you want to go on to THREE = sin and TWO = in? In NPL terms, those are not deletions but one curtailment and one beheadment. You could still use all eight words in one puzzle, but you’d have to warn the solver that two-unspecified-steps were a curtailment and beheadment, not deletions.)

Baltimore deletion

Each letter in turn is removed to form a new word.

peat peat eat
peat peat pat
peat peat pet
peat peat pea

Bigram deletion

A word or phrase becomes another when two consecutive interior letters are removed.

catenary catenary canary

Repeated-letter deletion

A word or phrase becomes another when one letter is removed wherever it occurs.

bassist bassist bait
prospered prospered rose-red

Reversed deletion

After you’ve deleted a letter from the first word, you reverse it to get the second.

espalier espalier espaler relapse

Phonetic deletion

A word or phrase becomes another when an interior sound is removed.

revelry revelry reveille

For discussion of what constitutes a single sound, see phonetic flats.

More Examples

All sorts of combinations of these elements are possible.

Repeated-bigram deletion

derrières derières dries

Repeated-trigram deletion

card-carrying card-carrying drying

Repeated-tetragram deletion

George Orwell George Orwell Well


Two words or phrases are each divided into two pieces; then their second pieces are switched to form two others. Example: maids, rapture mature, rapids . (This would appear in the solutions list as “ma/ids, rap/ture.”)

DOUBLE-CROSS (8, 5, 4, *9) (*9 = NI2)

With a slim, steely ONE,
The foul deed was done;
The client was given the sack.
From offstage, a noble
Sang “Woman is mobile.”
So-who could FOUR have on his back?

A dread hunch had he
When he felt the sack THREE:
Of what burden was he the carrier?
Gilda set up a din
(TWO had not yet set in)
And bade FOUR farewell with an aria.

=Pen Gwyn

The solution: stiletto, rigor stir, Rigoletto . (This would appear as “sti/letto, rigo/r.”)

The enumeration of all four parts of a double-cross is given.

When composing or solving a double-cross, be careful not to mix up THREE and FOUR: note that ONE and THREE have the same beginning, as do TWO and FOUR.

In a phonetic double-cross, the parts are rearranged phonetically and not by spelling. For example: Hall of Fame, gurneys Holofernes, game .

In a reversed double-cross, after switching the second pieces of ONE and TWO, you reverse the results to get THREE and FOUR. For example: red rover, Erebus suborder, revere . (This would appear as “red ro/ver, Ere/bus.”)

Based on an idea by Stilicho, the double-cross was introduced by Nightowl at the 1980 convention.

Even exchange

Two words or phrases exchange all their letters in even positions to form two new words. Examples: fare, cost fort, case and gorges, cannot garnet, Congo’s . It was invented by Dandr and introduced in January 2001.

Head-to-Tail Shift

A word or phrase becomes another when its first letter is moved to its end. For example: emanate manatee ; or brand R and B .

HEAD-TO-TAIL SHIFT (5 3, *3 *5)
   (HOO = *3 *5 = not MW)

The HOO is best seen in this scene we’ve all seen:
Poor Scarlett refuses to let her man go.
“Another day, Tara, I’ll win my Rhett back!”
Against disillusionment Scarlett OHO.
Genteel men like Butler and ladies like her
Inhabit plantations and wear fancy clothes.
So as for Miss Scarlett — her Butler is gone,
But Tara survives, and the cotton still grows.


The solution: holds out Old South .

In a head-to-tail sound shift, a word or phrase becomes another when its first sound is moved to its end. For example: ciao ouch .

In a reversed head-to-tail shift, a word or phrase becomes another when its first letter is moved to its end, and then the whole is reversed. For example: flatcar latcarf fractal .

Heart transplant

In a heart transplant, a letter or series of letters is taken from inside one word and transplanted to another. Example: clear, wild car, willed (transplanting the LE). (This would appear in the solution list as “c(le)ar, wil-d.”) Another example: ger(ry)mander, car-away.

The heart transplant was invented by Xemu and introduced in June 1997.


Two words or phrases with the same spelling are used with different pronunciations and meanings. Examples: tarry , tarry ; Mount St. Helens, mounts the lens; mustache, must ache. Unlike most flats, heteronyms need not have bases that are dictionary entries—in fact, long, contrived phrases are welcome as long as they are well clued in the verse.

“Heteronymic” also refers to changes in word breaks, even if pronunciation doesn’t change: cargo/ car go. Examples may be found in cryptic clueing, picture puzzles, and the heteronymy of a rebus’s reading and answer. A base in which sounds, letters, and spacing remain unchanged, as in bear (carry), bear (ursine), and Bear (CA river), is called an identity homonym, and should be avoided.


Two words or phrases sound like two other words or phrases that are antonyms. Examples: knights, daze ; or plane, fan see . Unlike most flats, homoantonyms need not have bases that are dictionary entries.

Enumerations are given for both parts of the solution (though not for the antonyms they sound like).

Both parts of a homoantonym must be spelled differently from the antonyms they sound like. The antonyms are tagged if necessary, even though they don’t themselves appear in the puzzle.

The homoantonym was introduced by Quefanon in September 1938.


Two or more unrelated words or phrases are pronounced the same but spelled differently. Example: hair, hare . Unlike most flats, homonyms need not have bases that are dictionary entries. Example: we pause, wee paws .

A mynomoh is a reversed homonym; the phonemes of one solution provide the second solution when read in reverse order. Example: lutetium mushy tool .


Two or more words or phrases are interlocked to form a longer one; unlike the ALTERNADE, the parts aren’t combined in a regular pattern. Example: fig + rebus firebugs . The part whose first letter appears first in the longer word (fig in the example) is called ONE, and the other parts are numbered in the order their first letters appear.


ONE, gee whiz!
A nasty night it is.
Rain pelts down.
The tavern’s two blocks down.
Shucks, why not?
Some TWO would hit the spot.
Muddy street.
I’ll put on my COMPLETE.

=Corn Cob

The solution: COMPLETE = galoshes, ONE = gosh, TWO = ales.

All words in an interlock must in fact interlock. None may appear unbroken, as urn does in tome + urn + ant tournament ; this is not an acceptable base.

In a reversed interlock, after interlocking the parts, you reverse the result. The parts are numbered in the order that their first letters appear in the unreversed result. Example: ONE = late, TWO = circle, ALL = electrical.

Even with easy words in the base, the interlock can be difficult to solve because the letters can be ordered in so many ways. In kindness to solvers, composers should be sure interlock parts are especially well clued.

The interlock was proposed as early as June 1945, but it caught on when Brutus introduced it in April 1977.


All words have the same cryptogram pattern, so that if they were encrypted it would be impossible to tell them apart. Examples: fulfil, Ionian; usually, fifteen; and actually, thirteen.

The isomorph was invented by Treesong.


Has no cuewords. Instead, each stanza provides clues, more or less obliquely, to one solutions word or phrase. Italian-style flats also have a secondary title that refers to the overall subject that makes the puzzle appear to hang together (but which, of course, is another layer of subterfuge that the solver must try to see through). Hot introduced Italian-style puzzles, and the following example was written for the article that introduced these flats and picture flats to the modern NPL in the August 1999 issue of The Enigma.


To a Young Boxer
When training, you must choose a coach —
A famous name will help a bunch.
A bell will sound; you’ll see approach
A man. What does he bring? A punch!
If then you find you’re laid out flat,
Just rise again. It’s true, I see,
You weren’t that good, but what of that?
Now you can sting just like a bee!

= Lunch Boy

The solution: Amtrak, karma.

Letter bank

A word or phrase (the “bank”) is chosen that has no repeated letters. One or more longer words or phrases are formed, each using all the letters in the bank at least once and as many more times as needed. At least one word must be three or more letters longer than the bank. Examples: lens, senselessness; and law, Walla Walla. The bank can produce a number of longer words or phrases. Examples: larch pines, pencil sharpener, Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin; and manicures, Neiman Marcus, American sumac, marine insurance.

Not surprisingly, it’s harder to make long words and phrases from a bank than short ones. For example, you can make several six-letter words from field, including fiddle, filled, and defile, but only one twelve-letter word, fiddledeedee, and no longer words at all. The longer words produce a more interesting puzzle; as long as you have one word that’s three (or more) letters longer, it’s all right to add very well clued shorter ones.

The letter bank was invented by WILLz, who introduced it at the 1980 convention.

In a letter bank with interest, some or all of the long words are paired with “interest” words made from the “excesses,” over the bank, of the longer words. Example: stale; Seattle, ET; tasteless, sets; lattes, T. The bank is “stale”; the long word “Seattle” is paired with “ET”, since those are its letters minus the bank; the long word “tasteless” is paired with “sets”; and the long word “lattes” is paired with “T.” Another example: magnet; magnate, a; management, mean.

In a bank loan, one word, the “bank,” has no repeated letters. The remaining word(s) contain any or all of those letters, as frequently as needed, but no others; they may thus be longer or shorter than the “bank” word. All words put together in enumeration order form a phrase of strong dictionary nature, which is not clued as part of the solution but may or may not be clued tangentially. Thus the entire solution is a letter-bank phrase that banks to part of itself. If the “bank” word is not the longest of the solution words, that fact will be made clear by the enumeration, cuewords, or tagging. Examples: split, personality and signature, tune.

A letter bankless is a letter bank where the minimal set of letters is not includedcin the base. This is most likely to be done because the minimal set will not transpose into a word. For example, princelet, Peter Principle. The letter bankless wascinvented by ΧΕΙΡΩΝ.

In an apt letter bankless, the unique letters in a phrase are the bank for the solution. Example: “that ol’ Camille Saint-Saens favorite” → The Carnival of the Animals.

An inapt letter bank leads to an answer that implies the opposite of the bank itself. Examples: “Cuts! Lower pay!” → Occupy Wall Street; is not café, instant coffee.

Letter change

A specified letter is changed to make a new word or phrase. Example (a third-letter change): pastry, pantry.


B we’ll get some rain today
Or all my garden flowers will A.


The solution: A = wither, B = either. (The solution would appear as “w/e-ither.”)

Letter changes can have more than two parts. Example: boast, beast, blast. If the last letter is being changed, the flat is called a last-letter change. Example: molts, molto is called a last-letter, instead of a fifth-letter, change. In a reversed letter change, a letter is changed in a word or phrase and the result is then reversed to make another. Example (reversed second-letter change): twanger, regnant.

In a terminal-letter change, the first and last letters of a word are changed to different letters. Examples: Spider-man, epidermal and grimace, primacy.

In a palindrome-to-letter change, a group of three or more letters that form a palindrome are replaced by a single letter to form a second word or phrase. Examples: C(ana)da, c(o)da and Can(ada), can(e).

In the Brookline letter change, a word or phrase changes each one of its letters in turn to make others. Example: BASE = rice, ONE = nice, TWO = race, THREE = rile, FOUR = rich.


He C not to BASEWORD the girls any more;
That A of his life was now over, he swore.
But looking? To B that would leave a great E.
The very idea could make a man D.


The solution: BASEWORD = chase, A = phase, B = cease, C = chose, D = chafe, E = chasm.

The Brookline letter change was introduced by Newrow (from Brookline MA) in 1991.

In a Redmond letter change, change each letter of a word in order, forming a new word at each step. Example: risk, disk, desk, deck, deco.


Letter Shift

A word or phrase becomes another when one letter is shifted to a new position. For example: trollop roll top .


When ONE was just a little TWO,
In Illiers he lived and played.
Then, as those times began to fade,
He went in search of temps perdu.

=Belles Lettres

The solution: Proust sprout .

If the letter is shifted only one space (as complaint compliant ), the puzzle is traditionally classified as a metathesis instead.

If the letter is shifted from the beginning to the end of the word, the puzzle is a special type of letter shift called a head-to-tail shift.

In a reversed letter shift, a word or phrase becomes another when one letter is shifted to a new position and the result is reversed. For example: ignited gniteid dieting .

In a sound shift, a word or phrase becomes another when one sound is shifted to a new position. For example: umber bummer .


A word or phrase is broken into two or more shorter parts, which overlap by one letter. Examples: philately Phil, lately and libraries Libra, Aries .


A word or phrase becomes another when two letters are interchanged. Examples: converse, conserve and fine arts, fire ants .

In a reversed metathesis, a word or phrase becomes another when two letters are interchanged and the result is reversed. Example: oompahs, shampoo .

Mutual replacement

Two letters replace each other whenever they appear. Examples: sell, less and travail, trivial.

Order takeout

From a longer word, every sequence of two or more adjacent letters in consecutive alphabetical order is removed to form a shorter word. Example: defenders en .

In a redro takeout, sequences in reverse alphabetical order are removed. Examples: debuted deb ; opponents open ; and postponing sting .

Overloaded flats

Overloaded flats are puzzles in which a cueword can stand for any of two or more solution words.


It’s time to start the bacchanal;
Everyone disrobes. I count
Eleven folks (an odd amount)
Who’ll cause the bed to rock, in all.
I’m feeling just a little shy,
So I check out the dinner spread.
It’s just some veggies on a bed
Of stir-fried noodles, which I try—
It stinks! But it’s the only food,
So I fill up a plate and wander
Back to the bedroom, where I ponder
What to do. It might be rude
To cut in on a busy pair,
And everyone seems occupied …
Back to the kitchen. I must confide,
I’m not enjoying this AFFAIR.

=Lunch Boy

The solution: lo mein, love-in .


A letter moves from its original position in a word and takes the place of another letter; the letter that has been “pasted over” is deleted. Example: Ian Fleming, inflaming.


Puzzle variations in which sounds are the basic unit instead of letters.


Phonetic beheadment

quest quest west

Phonetic charade

lox + myth locksmith

Phonetic curtailment

cute cute queue

In a phonetic curtailment, TWO can be longer than ONE; what counts is the number of sounds, not the number of letters. In fact, the greater the change in spelling, the more interesting the base.

When to Label

A flat is phonetic if any part is phonetic, even if some parts are not. For example, this phonetic charade:

weigh + ding wading

No flat is labeled phonetic if it can also work as a letter-based puzzle.

mite mrite rite

’Mite’ to ‘rite’ is both a first-letter change and a first-sound change, but it is called a first-letter change.

mite mrite right

’Mite’ to ‘right’ has to be a first-sound change.

Sound Identification

The underlined letters, as pronounced in the following words, stand for single sounds: loud, chin, whale, joke, sing, coin, ship, thin, this, vision. These sounds are indivisible. On the other hand, these represent two sounds: few and curable. The y and oo sounds are separate.

Modern pronunciation varies widely; you’re likely to encounter phonetic flats that don’t work in your speech. They are still legal and valid as long as MW substantiates their pronunciation. These pronunciation variations are common enough to be acceptable without comment in flats:

w = hw. For most Americans, where and wear are homonyms.

For many Americans, T and D have the same sound between two vowels if the second vowel is unstressed; latter and ladder are homonyms.

ä = ŏ. For most Americans, bother rhymes with father. For a minority, cot is a homonym of caught.

Before a vowel sound, ar = er = ār. Many Americans pronounce Mary and merry the same, and a large minority pronounce marry the same as the other two. 11C is not consistent on this point; NI3 explains it. Phonetic flats based on this pronunciation are not tagged “NI3 pronunciation.”

r = schwa or nothing. For many r-droppers, card and cod are homonyms, as are manners and mannas.

schwa = short i, most often unstressed. For many, language and languid are a last-sound change.


A word or phrase becomes another when reversed. For example: desserts stressed .

REVERSAL (2 4, 6) (TWO = NI3+ usage)

“But Ham, Daddy told us to place in the Ark
A unicorn, minotaur, griffon, and snark.”
“Those critters are ONE, and they cannot be TWO.
There’s too many now, Shem-we’re taking the shrew,
Giraffe, monkey, elephant, lion, and lamb.”
If you mourn for the loss of the dragon-blame Ham.

=Dumbo, A.

The solution: de trop ported .

In the bigram reversal, two-letter chunks are reversed instead of single letters. There aren’t many of these; one example is se-ra-ph ph-ra-se .

If one or both parts are not dictionary entries, the puzzle is not a reversal but a mynoreteh.


A phrase (or, less commonly, a word) becomes another when the initial consonant sounds in its component words (or stressed syllables) are swapped. Spoonergrams are always phonetic; spelling may change. Examples: Morse code, course mowed; or key ring, reeking. Note: unlike most flat bases, those of spoonergrams don’t have to be dictionary entries.

SPOONERGRAM (9, 5 *4) (*4 not MW)

“That TWO bit, no-good grouchy cuss
That he is, is at the door.”
“Oh, Henry, is he suing us?”
“Why, no, pet, fret no more.
He called to say he’d bring us, dear,
A ONE he took of me
The day that twister threw me clear
Into the apple tree.”


The solution: telephoto fella Toto .

For a list of sounds considered single and indivisible, see PHONETIC FLATS.

Although the spoonergram usually involves swapping two sounds or sound clusters, sometimes only one sound actually moves. Examples: four inches or finches ; or trained seal strained eel . Since the spoonergram is purely a phonetic flat, word boundaries needn’t be preserved. For example, if ONE is White Plains, TWO may be either plight wanes or ply Twain’s, since the two are phonetically the same. Another example: deer wakes, weird aches.

Not every word in the spoonergram need change. Example: rake over the coals cake over the rolls . Words that don’t change are noted with the puzzle.

Sometimes more than two words are involved in the swapping of sounds. Example: cold sailor rowed the tipping boat bold tailor sewed the ripping coat .

Many possible spoonergram variations are made by swapping sounds other than the initial consonants. (Example: light red, let ride, swapping vowels.) Provide an example with each puzzle of this sort, so that the solver knows which sounds are swapped.

In a phrase spoonergram, a familiar phrase (which does not appear in the verse or the solution) is spoonerized to form a new phrase. The original phrase is in some way hinted at by the verse. Example: the shaming of the true The Taming of the Shrew .

The spoonergram was introduced by Emmo W. in March 1945.

Terminal rotation

A pair of words becomes another pair of words when all four terminal letters shift position, in a manner analagous to rotating tires on a car: each front letter moves to the end, while the back letters move in front and switch words. Examples: tend, bums sent, dumb ; dapper, sought tapped, roughs ; taps, lair rapt, sail .

The terminal rotation was invented by Bartok and introduced in August 1998.


A word or phrase becomes another when one letter is deleted and the others are transposed. A transdeletion must have at least four parts, each part one letter shorter than the one before. The cuewords are the lengths of the parts. For example: NINE = righteous, EIGHT = roughest, SEVEN = troughs, SIX = sought, FIVE = ghost, FOUR = shot. Another example: carfares, carafes, fracas, scarf.

Letters should be shuffled in each step. Avoid any simple deletions (or beheadments or curtailments). When unavoidable, they must be noted.

In the Baltimore transdeletion, a word or entry phrase is turned into a series of others by removing each letter in turn and rearranging the rest; the first letter is removed to form ONE, the second letter is removed to form TWO, and so on. For example: TOTAL = baker, ONE = rake, TWO = kerb, THREE = bare, FOUR = bark, FIVE = beak. Another example: WHOLE = store, ONE = rote, TWO = rose, THREE = rest, FOUR = toes, FIVE = sort.

The letters should actually be shuffled each time. Avoid simple deletions; note them with the puzzle if they do appear.


A word or phrase becomes another when divided into two parts, which are interchanged. Examples: rock-hard, hard rock ; or fast break, breakfast . Answers must be dictionary entries (or well known) but the parts need not be: for example, alloy, loyal .

A transpogram is most interesting if the parts have substantially different meanings. Houseguest and guest house, for example, are a dull base. Since interesting bases are hard to come by, the transpogram has always been an uncommon type.

In the phonetic transpogram, the two parts that switch remain true to sound but not to spelling. Examples: welfare, farewell; or Dear John (a kind of letter), John Deere (a brand name); or zero, rosy.


A word or phrase becomes another when its letters are rearranged. Examples: sleuth, hustle ; Earl of Coventry , olfactory nerve . A transposal can have more than two parts, as in this example: blamed, beldam, ambled, bedlam, lambed .

Certain special types of transposals have their own names: the head-to-tail shift (the first letter becomes the last), the letter shift (one letter moves to a new place), the metathesis (two letters exchange places), the reversal (the letter order is reversed), and the transpogram (a word or phrase is divided into two pieces, which exchange places). These are described under their own titles.

When a transposal contains more than two parts, two of them might form a special kind of transposal without that being noted. For example, in one of the preceding examples beldam and bedlam form a metathesis, but this needn’t be mentioned with the puzzle.


Altered state
Bigram puzzles
Change of heart
Even exchange
Head-to-Tail Shift
Heart transplant
Letter bank
Letter change
Letter Shift
Mutual replacement
Order takeout
Overloaded flats
Terminal rotation