TRANSPOSAL

A word or phrase becomes another when its letters are rearranged. For example: ONE = sleuth, TWO = hustle; or ONE = Earl of Coventry (a children's card game), TWO = olfactory nerve. A transposal can have more than two parts, as in the following:

TRANSPOSALS (6)
B Bo-Peep, at eighty-three,
Rued, as round the cote she C,
That distant day, detailed in rhyme,
When all the ewes E at one time.
The D of mamas' maas en masse
Made dads decamp. All A the lass-
Punished her, too, despite the fact
The rams romped home with tails intact.
=Arbutus

The solution: A = blamed, B = beldam, C = ambled, D = bedlam, E = 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 the flat above, B = beldam and D = bedlam form a metathesis, but this needn't be mentioned with the puzzle.

 METATHESIS

A word or phrase becomes another when two letters are interchanged. For example: ONE = converse, TWO = conserve.

METATHESIS (4 4, 4 4)
This oil by Picasso,
You'll notice, has rings
Of yellow that cross -- oh!
What was that? That stings!
Those great painted bronzes
That -- yikes! -- I'd say -- ugh!
Are -- ouch! -- Jasper Johns's
Best -- eek! It's a bug!
Renoir might have done this
When -- yip! ow! ee! ooh!
Forget about ONE -- this
Museum's got TWO!
=Hudu

The solution: ONE = fine arts, TWO = fire ants.

In a reversed metathesis, a word or phrase becomes another when two letters are interchanged and the result is reversed. For example: ONE = oompahs, TWO = shampoo.

 ANAGRAM

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):

IS TEMPO, SIRS
=Ulk
BENEATH CHOPIN (3 5 5)
=Manx
GEE, TALKER, I'M LOST! (2'1 3 *5 2 2)
=Wabbit
SNUB I USE FOR NOSY ONE ("4 2 4 8")
=Famulus

The solutions: prestissimo; the piano bench; it's all Greek to me; "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 for beheadments (only vaguely and indirectly related), and HI, POMPOUS PAT! for hippopotamus (wholly irrelevant).

An anagram must match its base in tense, number, and person. More bad examples: DOZES ON for snoozed (wrong tense), and THAT QUEER SHAKE for 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 for 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!


This page was last updated on Friday, December 17, 2010. /webmaster