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An assortment of logological riddles for your bemusement. A few are nonsenses but most are "serious" quizzes and research questions. Indicative time limits: twenty minutes for #1-8 combined, one day for 9-11, two hours for 12-19. Get out your atlas (ie, break your neck!) for the last ten. Answers are out back.

1. What word becomes its opposite in the plural? I know one example but would love to hear of others.

2. Which number gets larger when beheaded?

3. Which odd number becomes even when beheaded?

4. What's the next number in this endless series and its rationale: 1 2 3 6 7 8 10 15 16 17--?

5. "Gives a lot and keeps none yet is a totally selfish person." What kind of monster is this?

6. Which building is not a building?

7. What is the ridiculously useless golf term for a hole-in-one on a par five hole?

8. Is a person being agreed with an agreeee?

9. What sound has the most rhymes in Merriam-Webster's The Essential Rhyming Dictionary of 2002? It lists all sounds under the commonest spelling, vowel first, so the answer starts with a vowel. They start with the last accented syllable, not necessarily the last syllable. Thus, the listing for--ity does not count--ality or--ility, which are separate contenders for the Title. I've counted proper names but not acronyms. Other sources with more or no proper names may give a different result How many of M-W's top ten can you name? Try to put them in order.

10. I had planned to work out an Eckler style network or geographico-logological "chain letter" linking every nation in the world to a neighbor sharing a common letter in its name. But this turned out to be too easy as almost every country has an A in its name! Of the 202 nations or territories in the 2008 Olympics, only 31 lack an A in their short or map name. Can you name them? And to complete the network, name for each an adjacent country bearing an A in its map name that also has a letter in common with it. Much tougher, name the mere 6 of them which lack an A in their full official name and their local language name and any recently replaced but generally better known map name.

11. Of these 31, how many have a neighbor with whom they share no letters in their map names? Ditto in their official names?

12. Which United State name has a letter in common with all the other 49?

13. Which slate has a letter in common with the least other states?

14. Is there any pair of contiguous states which fail to share a letter, preventing the US map from being a totally connected geographico-logological network?

15. What is the only US state that can be spelled on a single row of the standard keyboard?

16. Name the nine states that are heterograms, ie, have no repeated letters?

17. Fifty-seven countries' English map names are heterograms. You don't need an answer list to see how many of these you can name. I merely ask you to name the longest of them, at 11 letters.

18. Which two countries are panvocalic, containing all five vowels once each. One has 14 letters, the other has 10 and is also the second longest heterogram.

19. Which US states if any are panvocalic?

1. nerve (nerves) 2. six (IX) 3. seven (even) 4.21 (It's a list of those integers spelled with an odd number of letters.) 5. a frequent and insincere promise giver 6. the UN-building 7. condor 8. No, according to most dictionaries, and Scrabble, even "agreer" isn't a word. These august authorities are, shall we say, dis-agreers. But I'm a dis-agreeee. H. W. Fowler in the equally august Modern English Usage (Oxford 1926) states that "the agent termination -er can be added to any English verb." Sadly, -ee is not listed there at all. Shucks, the whole point of the question was an excuse to use four e's in a row. But even there I should perhaps settle for threee, modelling on "agreed" rather than "agreeed". Agreee? 9. Rhyme endings, with approximate word counts: -ation 1100, -ate 975, -ism 845* (Who said Ismism is dead?), -ize (including -ys/-ies) 775, -ay (long a) 615, -ility 440, -on (as in con) 415, -ow (as in low) 400, -ee 390 [but not -er!], -ar(r)y 385. / * For almost every -ism I'd expect an -ist, yet surprisingly -ist didn't come close to making the list, at a mere 52 rhymes. M-W obviously has no truck with communists or Methodists, thus indicating the arbitrariness of these answers. Another example that M-W failed to list is the large numbers of-ess endings whose ultimate syllables have primary or secondary accents, both -less and -hess. They list 120 -ess rhymes but include no -ness and only 3 -less (un-, none- and nevertheless). Add this carelessness to the deficiency of-ist endings and the Merriam-Webster Essential Rhyming Dictionary's definitiveness is looking shaky. Can you think of other major suffixes that have been slighted? There are only 23 listings for -able, for example, but most of the -ables I could think of have antepenultimate accents, which disenables them. 10. The 6 (with a common-letter A-neighbor each): Burundi (Tanzania), Republic of the Congo (Dem. Rep. of the Congo), Lesotho (South Africa), Niger (Mali), Seychelles (Madagascar), Turkey (Iraq). The other 25: Belgium (France), Belize [Brit. Honduras] (Guatemala), Benin IDahomey] (Nigeria), Brunei (Malaysia), Chile (Argentina), Comoros (Madagascar), Cote D'Ivoire [Ivory Coast] (Liberia), Cyprus (Syria), Czech Rep. (Slovak Rep.), Djibouti (Ethiopia), Egypt (Libya), Fiji (Solomon Is.), Greece (Bulgaria), Hong Kong (China), Liechtenstein (Austria), Luxembourg (Germany), Mexico (USA), Morocco (Algeria), Peru (Brazil), Philippines (Taiwan), Puerto Rico (Dominican Rep.), Sweden (Norway), Togo (Ghana), United Kingdom (Ireland), Yemen (Oman). 11. Surprisingly, only 4-7 pairs of truly contiguous nations lack a common letter in their map names: Chad-Niger, Egypt-Sudan, Peru-Colombia, Yemen-Saudi Arabia, [+ or -] Togo-Benin [but not Dahomey], Albania-Greece [but not Hellas/Ellas/Hellenic Pep.] and Ghana-Cote d'Ivoire [but not Ivory Coast]. However 10 more ill-letterate pairs are neighbors directly across an expanse of water: Cyprus-Lebanon, Djibouti-Yemen, Latvia-Sweden, Morocco-Spain, 2 for Tanzania--with Comoros and Seychelles, and a whopping 5 for Fiji--with Vanuatu, Tuvalu, Samoa, Nauru and Tonga. Combining the two lists, Yemen also has two. But not a single pair of neighboring countries anywhere lack a common letter in their official names, largely because so many are named Republic of. 12. This was a trick question. There are 19 states sharing one or more letters with all the others, 20 if you count Washington DC. Fifteen (AZ, CA, IN, LA, ME, MI, MN, NH, NC, PA, RI, SC, VA, WA, WV) contain the letters A, N and I (occuring in 36, 33, and 28 states respectively), at least one of which letters occurs in every state. Three of the other four (GA, MT, SD) contain an O, occurring in 27 states, plus A. MA needs six letters to connect to all: A, S (in 21 states), E (20), T (15), H (14) or M (13). 13. The most out of touch state is OH, which nonetheless misses only twelve. Ten others miss more than three: AL, KY and UT miss 9, MS 8, TN 7, AK and OR 6, NJ 5, HI and ID 4. 14. Yes. The unconnected neighbours are: AL-TN, KY-OH and UT-WY. Add UT-NM if they be taken as contiguous at a mathematical point. One might arguably count OR-AK and OR-HI, although both Alaska and Hawaii are nearer to another state that to Oregon. 15. Alaska 16. Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, New York, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Wyoming. 17. Switzerland 18. Slovak Republic; Mozambique (+ Belorussia before it became Belarus). 19. There is none.


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Publication:Word Ways
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2008
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