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2008 Edition of the
Online Guide to the Engima

Preface to the Guide
History of the NPL
Membership Information
Sharing the Puzzles
      Sharing the fun
      Combining Talents
Editorial Verses
      Acrostical Enigma
      Apt. . .
      Baltimore Deletion
      Baltimore Transdeletion
      Bigram. . .
      Brookline Letter-Change
      Change of Heart
      Combination Padlock
      Diastichal Enigma
      Enigmatic Rebus
      False derivative
      Group flat
      Head-to-Tail Shift
      Heart Transplant
      Letter Bank
      Letter Change
      Letter Shift
      Order Takeout
      Overloaded. . .
      Phonetic. . .
      Phrase Shift
      Picture. . .
      Progressive. . .
      Redro takeout
      Repeated-Letter Change
      Repeated-Letter Deletion
      Reversed. . .
      Sound Change
      Sound Shift
      Telestichal Enigma
      Terminal Deletion
      Trigram. . .
      Welded. . .
      Word Deletion
      Word Substitution
      Solving the Rebus
      Browse the Flat Pages
Introduction to Forms
      From A to O
      From P to Z
      Form Modifiers
      Constructing Medium Crypts
      Solving Cryptograms
      Other Solving Approaches
      Solving Cryptics
      Composing Cryptics
Reference Books
      Non-Guide Flats
      Non-Guide Forms
      Non-Guide Extras
      Where to Find It
      Form Notation
      Italian Picture Puzzles
      Abbreviated Guide to Flats
      Mobile Guide to Flats

© Copyright 2013 by
the National Puzzlers' League
 A Glossary of NPL Terms 

Bamboozled by "Bausing" and "bang"? Flummoxed by "Franklinable" and "favelist"? Here's a glossary of NPL jargon to help you decode the sometimes mysterious language found in the pages of The Enigma and other NPL forums. We've tried to include all the unusual words and phrases that come up in the NPL, including most abbreviations and nicknames for puzzle types and common reference books. We've left out, however, the standard names of NPL puzzle types, which can be found alphabetically here.

 & lit.

a cryptic clue that is, in its entirety, a cryptic indicator of the answer, and also literally a definition of the answer. Pronounced "and lit." Link to cryptic crosswords article.


an acrostical enigma, a type of flat.


short for ambigram -- an anagram, a type of flat, that is either apposite to the solution or is directly opposite to the solution, depending on your political or philosophical point of view.


short for anagram, a type of flat.


short for antigram -- an anagram whose meaning is the opposite of the solution.


the top favorite puzzle in a list of favorites, indicated on the list by an exclamation mark (!), which is called a bang in printers' slang. Also used as a verb: "I'm going to bang that stealth enigbus."

 base, baseword

the word or words that are the solution to a flat; that is, the words the flat is based on.


as a verb, to look up in Baus -- the reference book The Master Crossword Puzzle Dictionary, by Herbert M. Baus. Also Bausable: gettable using Baus.

 big bang

the flat in an issue that received the most bangs.


a British dictionary (Chambers 20th Century Dictionary), often the reference for British cryptic crosswords. Though not used as an NPL reference, it occasionally pops up in GotS discussions.


a light verse form invented by Edmund Clerihew Bentley, and seen from time to time in the pages of The Enigma. A clerihew is a quatrain rhyming aabb, usually with a person's name as (or sometimes ending) the first line. The charm of a clerihew lies in the clumsiness of the meter, the grotesqueness of the rhymes, and often the incongruity of the plot.


a flat with more than one creator; often one provides the base and the other the verse. More generally, combipuzzle. Link to Combining Talents article.


a nom built from pieces of two or more noms, used to sign a combiflat. Usually the base supplier's nom provides the initial part of the combinom and the versifier's nom provides the final part, but variations for comic effect are sometimes seen.


to solve together, particularly if submitting a joint solution list.


a complete set of solutions to all the puzzles in a particular issue (all but the KUs and Ralfs). Also used in combination with the name of a given type, as in "flat complete." A completer is someone who achieves a complete. The monthly solvers report appearing near the end of The Enigma contains a list of completers and flat completers.

 con, Con

short for "convention," often used in combination: "TorCon" for "Toronto convention," for example, or "Concouver" for "Vancouver convention." Also an obsolescent short form of "contribution": a puzzle of any type.


a cryptogram, one of the four major classes of puzzles appearing in The Enigma. There are usually seven crypts per issue, all on the back page.


used as a bare noun, this is short for a cryptic crossword, a type of extra.


a word within a flat, such as ONE or TWO, that replaces a solution word. The cueword is in all capitals. Link to the puzzle guideline article.

 Doc Hotshot

see Hotshot, Doc.

 double dactyl

a light verse form, invented by Anthony Hecht and John Hollander, sometimes used in flats. A double dactyl is an eight-line poem in two stanzas. Each line is two dactyls except the fourth and eighth, which are each a single dactyl plus one stressed syllable and are the only rhyming lines. Traditionally, the first line is "Higgledy-Piggledy" or another nonsense (or, sometimes, topic-related) phrase; the second line identifies the subject of the poem (as, "National Puzzlers' League," "Edward M. Kennedy," etc.); and the sixth line is a single double-dactylic word. Also called a Higgledy-Piggledy.

 easy list

a list of puzzles (usually flats) that someone thinks are likely to prove easy. The editor usually includes an easy list somewhere in the front matter of The Enigma.

 E-Krewe, e-Krewe

Krewe who communicate by e-mail. See also npl-folk.


an abbreviation for Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition. Previous editions are known by their corresponding numbers. Merriam-Webster updates the collegiate dictionary yearly and puts out a major revision every ten years (9C came out in 1983, and 10C came out in 1993). 11C is an official NPL reference, and any untagged solword in a flat can be found therein. Link to puzzle guidelines article.


see MWED.


short for enigmatic rebus, a type of flat.

 entry phrase

a sequence of words that can be found together as a phrase in boldface in a dictionary.


the number(s) in parentheses or brackets following the title of a puzzle giving the lengths of the words in the solution (and sometimes other information, such as capitalization). Link to puzzle guidelines article.


any puzzle in The Enigma besides flats, forms, and crypts. One of the four major classes of puzzles in The Enigma. Cryptic crosswords and forms, anaquotes and piecemeals are the most common extras.


A team competition composed of a large number of puzzles in several stages, having a theme or storyline, and usually with a final puzzle incorporating information from all previous stages. Smaller puzzle sets with this pattern are oxymoronically called 'miniextravaganzas'.

An extravaganza is usually the highlight of Saturday night puzzling at conventions. The Intercoastal Altercations events have an extravaganza like program as well, but are played with teams from all over collaborating on the internet. Other examples would include the MIT Mystery Hunt or the Microsoft Puzzle Hunt.

Added Sept/2004


a list of favorite puzzles, particularly one sent to the solutions editor for inclusion in the monthly solvers report. Also favorites list or kudos list.


a word puzzle in verse whose answer can be expressed as a flat row of letters. The largest of the four major classes of puzzles appearing in The Enigma. Almost all flats except for anagrams are in verse. See flats for a full discussion.


a word puzzle whose answer is expressed as a set of letters having a particular shape, like a square or a . One of the four major classes of puzzles appearing in The Enigma. See Forms for a full discussion.


the Franklin Crosswords Puzzle Solver, a pocket-size electronic solving aid. Also a verb meaning "to solve with a Franklin," whence also Franklinable. Also, fondly, Frankie. Link to references article.

 good taste kudos

kudos awarded to a flat because its author had the good taste to mention the kudizer in it.


Graffiti on the Sphinx, a newsletter edited by Treesong that contains members' contributions, their reactions to recent flats, and news of interest to members; the NPL's official unofficial fanzine.


a puzzle so devoid of useful clues as to be solvable only by guessing. Also clueless guessogram, a term originated by Rayle Rhoder.


an unsolved puzzle from an issue of The Enigma, as in, "Flat 43 was my last hole in December."

 Hoozoo [in Puzzledom]

biography of an NPL member. First appeared in the 1920s (an unsigned Hoozoo of Sherlock Holmes in 1923, presumably written by Arty Ess), reinstituted by Sibyl in 1989.

 Hotshot, Doc

a continuing character in flats. Originally appearing in a Larry/Mangie flat, he often shows up when a composer's verse calls for a doctor, especially a quack.


a (joke) plural of suber. See rebi.

 Icelandic, Icelandic zoo

a misstatement of fact within a flat that does not impede its solution. A flat once appeared that referred to a zoo in Iceland, whereas in reality there was at that time no zoo in Iceland. Newrow coined the term "Iceland zoo" to describe this, and over the years this became "Icelandic zoo." The adjective "Icelandic" is now used to describe any flat that contains an Icelandic zoo.


an abbreviation, coined by Kray, for "I Got It But I Don't Get It." Frequently seen in GotS discussions, this means "I have a solution that fits the enumeration and fits grammatically in the verse, but I haven't figured out how it is supposed to have been clued." Pronounced "idgy-bidgy."


the collective name for the members of the NPL. A krewe is also a group of people that put on a carnival parade for the Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans. The NPL term (which is capitalized) is believed to be independently derived. An individual member of the NPL is sometimes called a Krewemember, Kreweperson, etc.


an abbreviation for knight's-tour crypt, a type of extra.


an abbreviation for Kreweland Unusual. The designation for a puzzle that is out of the ordinary and therefore not counted in the scoring. This pun (on "cruel and unusual") was coined by Nightowl. Such a puzzle is numbered separately from the rest of the puzzles in the issue. A KU puzzle might be especially hard, it might take a form not usually found in Enigma puzzles, or it might involve nondictionary words or phrases that are not widely known or easily researched. The term KU can also be used as a verb, meaning "to designate [a puzzle] as a KU."


a vote for a favorite puzzle, as in "She gave that flat kudos," meaning that she included it on her list of favorites that she sent with her solutions. The verbal form is kudize, which is transitive: "He kudized that flat." Although the proper plural of "kudos" is simply "kudos," other joke plurals are sometimes seen (chiefly in GotS): "kude," "kudoi," "kudea."


an abbreviation for letter bank, a type of flat. Not to be confused with LB, Lunch Boy.


in a cryptic crossword, the spaces in the diagram where a particular answer is to be entered; also the letters actually entered in the diagram for a particular light. In variety cryptics, the lights may not always be identical to the clue answers. Primarily a British usage.


To research a puzzle using the tools on the NPL Web page under "resources": the word-list searcher and the base-finding tools. Named for Lucifer, the NPL member who designed the pages.


a mini convention of NPLers; any unofficial meeting of some subset of the Krewe for puzzle-related purposes.


a set of representative NPL puzzles with accompanying explanations used as a recruitment aid, available as a four-page pamphlet or here.


an abbreviation for "Merriam-Webster," meaning "any of the three Merriam-Webster dictionaries (NI2, NI3, 11C) that are official NPL references." Can be used as an adjective: "an MW word." Most often used in the negative: "not MW," or the adjective "non-MW."


the Merriam-Webster Electronic Dictionary, a useful reffing tool. It allows searches by words in a definition or etymology, provides matches for a cryptogram pattern, and produces lists of words in a letter bank. Also called 11CE.


an abbreviation for Webster's New International Dictionary, Second Edition, an official NPL reference.


an abbreviation for Webster's New International Dictionary, Third Edition, an official NPL reference.


by analogy with nickname: an abbreviation or modification of a member's nom.


not in any of the standard MW dictionaries, specifically, 11C, NI3 or NI2. Usually means the term is too new to be in the dictionary but common, too pop-cultural, or an NPL term. See also the official NPL references. Errata


the nickname an NPL member chooses to be known by in the League. An ancient shortening of nom de plume. Link to Membership article.


an electronic mailing list of people in the Krewe, maintained by the NPL Postmaster at npl-announce@puzzlers.org. There is a short, restricted list of people authorized to send to this list. Everyone in the npl-folk list (below) also receives posts on this list. Errata


an electronic mailing list, npl-folk at puzzlers·org, of people in the Krewe, maintained by the NPL postmaster (postmaster at puzzlers·org). See e-Krewe.


The Oxford English Dictionary. Not an official NPL reference, but sometimes seen in puzzle tags or GotS

 page complete

solving all the puzzles on a page: an enjoyable personal goal for those who find a flat or issue complete out of reach or not worth the trouble. Adaptable for any range of ambition: a non-Ucaoimhu complete, an easy-list complete, a column complete, ad absurdum.


a word that provides one of the pieces of an acrostical enigma


The New York Times Crossword Puzzle Dictionary, by Pulliam and Grundman. After Baus, the most useful (and most frequently referenced) crossword puzzle dictionary.


short for phonetic enigmatic rebus, a type of flat.


by analogy with pseudonym: an assumed nom, used by a puzzler to achieve anonymity or just for fun.


a particularly outrageous or ludicrous puzzle used in a special section of each year's April issue of The Enigma. Ralfs (or Ralves) are purported to be written by one Ralf P. Olio as an April fool, but like Santa Claus, Ralf P. Olio has many Earthly helpers. Ralfs are known for their off-the-wall bases and for ignoring, twisting, and blatantly flouting Guide rules. The derivatives Ralfish and Ralfy are sometimes applied to non-Ralf flats. (For the transposally challenged: "Ralf P. Olio" is an anagram of "April Fool.") Errata


the description of a rebus rubric that is a heteronym of the solution. In phonetic rebi, the reading may contain phonetic elements, and in a purely phonetic rebus, the reading is a homonym of the solution.


a joke plural of rebus used by some Krewe who know rebus is the ablative plural of res and don't care.


short for "reference book." As a verb, it means "to look up in a reference book." Many derived forms are seen: reffable, for example. " 'I solved flat 56 reflessly,' the solver beamed."


The Random House Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, Second Edition. Not an official NPL reference, but sometimes seen in puzzle tags or GotS discussions.


the group of letters or symbols in a rebus, usually above the verse, that indicates the answer. This is far from a complete definition -- a rubric can also be the absence of something, a misspelled word, and lots of cetera. Please refer to the description of the rebus and Solving and Composing the Rebus and Rebade for complete explanations.


a "sledgehammer" hint, one that can drive a solution through the thickest skull. Compare tackie.


short for "solution." A solword is one of the words in a solution.


the patroness of the NPL. Also "Madame Sphinx." [Also recently, especially with respect to the traditional logo used on covers of The Enigma, "Old Stony". -- web/dart]


The annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in Stamford CT. The number of Krewe attending, though a minority of those present, is comparable to that at a regular NPL con, and some people treat it as a con.

 stealth flat

a flat that masquerades as a flat of a different type to befuddle solvers. Most often a stealth flat will be a rebus, where the mangling of the puzzle title is the rubric (or part of the rubric), but other types of stealth flats exist as well, using the words in the puzzle's title deceptively as cuewords.


a "tackhammer" hint, one that is useful but not blatant. Compare sledgie.


an indicator, such as "+" or "NI3" or "not MW," given with the enumeration of a flat to indicate that a baseword is something outside the usual: foreign, dialectal, not in the basic reference (11C), etc. Link to puzzle guideline article.


an abbreviation for "The Error That Can Not Be Named," a humorous term coined by Trazom for a flat's verse containing a significant word (or a form of a word) from the solution. It "can not be named" because pinpointing the error would give too great a hint to the answer. Such errors should, of course, be caught and fixed by the editor, but sometimes they find their way into print anyway.


puzzledom; the collectivity of dedicated word puzzlers. It is short for "Puzzledom" by way of "the 'dom," but rhymes with "freedom."

 Tootsie's Bar and Grill

a continuing location in flats. Originally appearing in a Windjammer flat, it can be used whenever a composer wants to set a flat in a ptomaine parlor.


short for transposal, a type of flat.


a transposal dictionary: a dictionary arranged for easy solving of . Link to references article.


an abbreviation for 12,000 Words, the collected addenda to NI3. The Addenda section of NI3 has a copyright date at the start; if the date is 1986, its contents are identical to 12W. This used to be a standard MW reference, and occasionally words in puzzles are still tagged "12W."


Underground Enigma, a publication that has come out three times at intervals of about a decade when someone felt like doing one, dedicated to puzzles and bases too R- or X-rated for The Enigma. Bases of questionable taste may be called UEish.


an unchecked letter in a cryptic crossword light: one not occurring in a crossing word.


the sense of a solword used in a flat. "Usage" is often used in tags; for example, if a flat referred to "Harrison ONE" and the sol for ONE were "Ford," there would be a tag "ONE = not MW usage."

 variety cryptic

a cryptic crossword with a gimmick in addition to the normal cryptic clueing, such as altering some answers before entering them in the diagram.


a technique useful in solving cryptograms, in which statistics are used to try to determine which of the ciphertext letters represent vowels in the plaintext. Link to Solving Cryptograms article.