The Puzzle Drawer

Nineteenth-century Americans loved puzzles: solving them, or composing them. Robert Merry's Museum was one of the premiere puzzle magazines; it printed puzzles composed by adults and children, for birthdays, as payment for a magazine subscription, or just for fun. One algebra problem not reprinted here actually helped to create one of the earliest online communities in American history!

Some of these puzzles are masterpieces of obscure clues and obsolete words; H. B. P.'s was written to stump an expert, while Calvin Crane's puzzle was so tough, no subscriber to the Museum ever solved it!

Puzzles are divided roughly (and not at all scientifically!) according to format: word puzzles, riddles, and puzzles in which visual format is key. Answers are on a separate page. (While I've tried to leave "spoiler space" between the answers, you might want to make your browser window shallower, so you won't accidentally see an answer you're not ready for.) When the answer is brief, the link itself will show it to you on hover.

Have fun!



Word puzzles


by Fanny (from Robert Merry's Museum, April 1842, p. 126)

I am a word of 6 letters.
     My 1, 2, 6, 5, is what Oliver Twist asked for.
     My 3, 2, 1, is a nickname for a boy.
     My 4, 2, 1, 5, every one loves.
     My 1, 2, 3, 4, every good house-keeper dreads.
My whole is my dearest friend.

[Answer]


by Clarina (from Woodworth's Youth's Cabinet, September 1855, p. 144) My 2, 3, 7,is another name for falsehood. My 6, 3, 8, is used to curb horses. My 5, 2, 7, is a kind of drink. My 5, 8, is a preposition. My 2, 7, 8, implies permission. My 1, 5, 8, is what we do every day. My 8, 9, 5, 8, is an adjective. My whole is the name of an English queen. [Answer]
by "A Black-eyed Subscriber" (from Robert Merry's Museum, April 1842, p. 126) I am a word of 14 letters. My 5, 9, 13, 6, 13, is an important article best found in Ireland. My 2, 6, 13, is a very useful fowl. My 14, 9, 10, 11, is a very unpleasant state to be in. My 9, 10, 12, is very pleasant in summer. My 7, 2, 3, 8, 12, is also very pleasant in summer. My 7, 2, 3, 4, 11, is a very large fish. My 2, 3, 4, 14 is a useful vehicle. My whole is the name of a celebrated author. [Answer]
by Carolus (from Robert Merry's Museum, January 1846, p. 29-30) My 7, 9, and 2, is a town in Hindostan. My 9, 2, 8, 3, is a species of grain. My 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, is what we often need. My 1, 5, 8, is dangerous, if not properly used. My 6, 5, 7, 4, 8, is a time for rest. My 7, 5, 6, is a machine used for various purposes. My 4, 5, 6, is a measure formerly used. My 3, 5, 6, 7, 5, 6, 7, is a great accomplishment. My 3, 5, 6, is what we are all liable to. My 8, 5, 6, is a valuable metal. My 3, 2, 1, is a carpenter's tool. And my whole is a distinguished man. [Answer]
by "Cimon Cinnamon," Charleston, SC (from Robert Merry's Museum, May 1850, p. 159) I am composed of 28 letters. My 17, 26, 15, 4, 21, 3, 23, is a part of my whole. My 8, 22, 2, 5, 9, 23, is the name of a celebrated English poet, who lived in the seventeenth century. My 23, 11, 25, 9, is the name of a cruel tyrant. My 12, 7, 9, 13, 28, 3, 26, is one of the United States. My 24, 9, 23, 1, 19, 14, 10, 20, is the name of a celebrated king of France. My 15, 18, 13, 4, 22, 17, 3, 19, 6, 7, is a part of speech. My 27, 9, 23, 12, is a Chinese instrument of music. My whole is a celebrated exclamation of a general in battle. [Answer]
by Lucinda and Mary (from Woodworth's Youth's Cabinet, October 1855, p. 193) I am composed of twenty letters. My 1, 2, 6, 7, is a star in the constellation Cetus. My 6, 15, 10, 12, 3, is one of the signs of the Zodiac. My 11, 6, 8, 4, is a star in Argo Navio. My 6, 20, 13, 19, 11, 6, is a star in Gemina. My 1, 6, 7, 16, 10, 5, is a star in Serpentarino. My 1, 12, 15, 6, 17, 18, is a star in Andromeda. My 9, 14, 8, is one of the constellations. My whole is the name of one who rendered Astronomy no inconsiderable service. [Answer]
by Calvin D. Crane (from Robert Merry's Museum, October 1855, p. 128) I am composed of 144 letters: My 3, 20, 22, 8, 6, 15, is the name of an animal and its fur. My 1, 28, 17, 31, 4, 27, 13, is a tool for making rings. My 25, 34, 67, 5, 81, 18, 44, is the spume of sugar. My 29, 4, 68, 85, 10, 2, is a miry place. My 9, 85, 35, 42, 18, 47, is to fondle. My 11, 45 24, 7, 21, 39, 26, is the name of one of the prophets. My 41, 73, 56, 48, 33, has a great deal of power and use. My 16, 54, 46, 59, 38, 80, 85, 74, is a lover or wooer. My 12, 50, 23, 37, is a musical instrument. My 14, 70, 40, 58, is a part of the body. My 19, 79, 76, 51, 63, is a river in Michigan. My 32, 90, 116, is a vegetable. My 36, 143, 69, 115, 117, is a boy's name. My 49, 65, 75, 66, is a ruler. My 90, 52, 84, is an adverb. My 53, 61, 98, 92, 64, 62, 125, is a conjunction. My 93, 83, 89, 55, 123, is a preposition. My 96, 114, 57, 103, is a verb. My 88, 67, 104, 107, 132, is an article of furniture. My 60, 106, 105, is to yield. My 135, 111, 71, 110, is to throw. My 78, 128, 77, is a boy's nickname. My 43, 133, 110, 88, 97, 137, 113, is a man's name. My 82, 124, 121, 123, is a bird. My 91, 90, 103, 130, 115, 106, is a sacred book among the Hindoos. My 140, 86, 87, 127, 130, is a flying rumor. My 95, 100, 99, 94, is a preposition. My 102, 101, 103, is a quadruped. My 109, 119, 124, 23, 12, is a small boat. My 112, 122, 124, 55, 123, is a fragment of flax. My 118, 120, 4, 16, 136, is a kind of fairy. My 141, 129, 5, 126, is a jag. My 131, 140, 134, 144, 142, is obligations. Of my whole, the first 29 letters is the name of a well known piece of poetry; the next 12 letters is the name of the authoress, and the last 103 letters is the first stanza. [Answer]
by H.B.D. (from Woodworth's Youth's Magazine, January 1857, p. 188) I am composed of 29 letters. My 18, 14, 29, 3, 12, 21, 16, was a celebrated jurist and legal writer. My 8, 24, 4, 12, 26, 5, 9, is a musical instrument used both in ancient and modern times. The bee is said to sleep upon the fragrant blossoms of the 11, 28, 5, 2, 24, 19. My 1, 9, 27, 15, 25, 20, may be either theoretical or practical, adequate or inadequate, distinct or confused, common or uncommon. My 15, 5, 13, is a river in Europe. The exquisite flowers and shells of my 22, 2, 21, 14, 28, were permitted to adorn the paintings of Domenichino and Dolci. My 27, 4, 10, 17, 21, 10, is so fleet a racer, that he is hunted on horseback and taken with the lasso. My 7, 6, 15, is of the order of Capuchins. My whole is the name of a hero. [Answer & a note on the puzzle]
by G.W. Muir (from Robert Merry's Museum, February 1860, p. 64) I am composed of 26 letters. My 14, 7, 1, 10 is a troublesome insect. My 3, 21, 13 is a numeral adjective. My 2, 6, 4, 5 is a streamlet. My 17, 11, 19, 26, 18 is a very useful animal. My 5, 15, 9, 25 is a name applied to a girl. My 16, 24, 23, 1, 10, 22 is a vegetable. My 8, 6, 12 is a liquor. My 14, 15, 20 is in common use. My whole is an adage. [Answer]
by Frank (from Robert Merry's Museum, January 1861, p. 30) I am composed of 17 letters: My 8, 12, 10 is a mineral spring. My 3, 9, 2, 11 is a sailing vessel. My 4, 15, 14, 16, 15 is to be compact. My 17, 1, 7, 6 is to float. My 5, 10, 17, 13, 8 may be found in a desert. My whole is an adage which I think requires qualifying. [Answer]
by Mollie C. Jacobs (from Robert Merry's Museum, September 1857, p. 95-96) ENIGMATICAL STORY We 12, 9, 22, 5, in a 22, 5, 18, 25, 12, 1, 18, 7, 5, house, 1, 14, 4, we 1, 18, 5, a 22, 5, 18, 25, 12, 1, 18, 7, 5, family 20, 15, 15, 3, 15, 14, 19, 9, 19, 20, 9, 14, 7, of 15, 21, 18, dear 21, 14, 3, 12, 5, 6, 18, 1, 14, 11, and 15, 21, 18, darling 1, 21, 14, 20, 19, 21, 5, and a 8, 15, 19, 20, of 9, 14, 14, 21, 13, 5, 18, 1, 2, 12, 5, 3, 15, 21, 19, 9, 14, 19. 15, 8! 23, 8, 1, 20, tine 20, 9, 13, 5, 19, we do 8, 1, 22, 5! During 12, 1, 19, 20, 23, 9, 14, 20, 5, 18, we 23, 15, 21, 12, 4, all 19, 9, 20, around our 12, 1, 18, 7, 5, 20, 1, 2, 12, 5, cracking 10, 15, 11, 5, 19, and 14, 21, 20, 19, and 20, 5, 12, 12, 9, 14, 7, 19, 20, 15, 18, 9, 5, 19, 18, 9, 4, 4, 12, 5, 19, and laughing 19, 15, 12, 15, 21, 4, as to 6, 18, 9, 7, 8, 20, 5, 14, 5, 22, 5, 18, 25, 15, 14, 5, but our 15, 23, 14, 8, 1, 16, 16, 25, selves. Well, 19, 16, 18, 9, 14, 7, came 23, 9, 20, 8, 1, 12, 12, her 2, 21, 4, 19, and 2, 12, 15, 19, 19, 15, 13, 19, and we 23, 5, 18, 5, just the 19, 1, 13, 5, 8, 1, 16, 16, 25, 3, 18, 5, 1, 20, 21, 18, 5, 19, still. But 15, 14, 5, 6, 9, 14, 5, sun 19, 8, 9, 14, 25, 4, 1, 25, in 1, 16, 18, 9, 12 there 23, 1, 19, a 7, 18, 5, 1, 20, 19, 8, 15, 21, 20. 23, 8, 15, do 25, 15, 21, 20, 8, 9, 14, 11, has 3, 15, 13, 5? Well, 9, 12, 12, just 20, 5, 12, 12, you. It 9, 19, 21, 14, 3, 12, 5, 13, 5, 18, 18, 25, and 21, 14, 3, 12, 5, 8, 9, 18, 1, 13, and another 12, 15, 20, of 16, 18, 5, 20, 20, 25, cousins. And now 4, 5, 1, 18, 16, 1, 18, 5, 14, 20, 19, and 6, 18, 9, 5, 14, 4, 19, we can 10, 21, 19, 20, tell you 20, 8, 1, 20, we 1, 18, 5, 9, 14, 4, 5, 5, 4 the 8, 1, 16, 16, 25, 13, 5, 18, 18, 25 family. [Answer]
Riddles by Adelbert Older (from Robert Merry's Museum, July 1857, p. 31) I am a fruit often eaten; leave out my first and fourth letters, and I am a bad passion; leave off my first two and my fourth letters, and I am a portion of time; leave out my third and fourth, and place my fifth before my second, and I am a monster; leave out my second, third, and fifth, and I am a number; leave off my first, fourth, and fifth, and place my sixth and third before my second, and I am a part of the human body. [Answer]
by Oliver Onley (from Robert Merry's Museum, August 1862, p. 63) My second, which, by the way, I hope you have, took my first after using my whole at dinner. [Answer]
by Mary A.E. (from Robert Merry's Museum, August 1862, p. 63) Find a word of six letters, something that many people laugh at; subtract one letter, and leave what many worship. [Answer]
by Henry A. Danker (from Robert Merry's Museum, August 1862, p. 62) In my first, relations most generally find An interest of a peculiar kind; My second, an adverb of humble degree, Combined with my first names a beautiful tree. [Answer]
by Adelbert Older (from Robert Merry's Museum, August 1862, p. 63) My whole, I lightly swim The smooth lake's sparkling brim, Or down the river skim. Transpose me, all around The wide world's endless bound, In every clime I'm found. [Answer]
by "Guilielmus" (from Robert Merry's Museum, September 1868, p. 370) Entire, I belong to the tree or the water; behead me, and I am what every one should do; again behead, and I am a fish; again, and I am an affirmation; again, and I am an interrogation. [Answer]
by "Tempy" (from Robert Merry's Museum, September 1871, p. 145) I am a word of letters four, At least when fully dressed; Yet by my first and fourth my whole Is full as well expressed. Two letters thus for four may stand, And spell the rest that all demand. [Answer]
by Fleta Forrester (from Robert Merry's Museum, June 1857, p. 191) The soft sun is beaming, The white snow is gleaming, My pure first is sparkling, bewitchingly fair; The sleigh-bells are dancing, The bright skates are glancing, And gay shouts are filling the clear frosty air. The plow hath been wielded; My second hath yielded A bounteous crop to the sons of the earth; And from their redundance, Their lavished abundance, They're now gladdening hearts around many a hearth. Its green garment flinging, Where'er it is clinging, My third is o'erwreathing yon giant oak dead; While one kind nutritious, My whole so delicious, Is plucked from the mountains and made into bread. In what land benighted, My first two united, Will name it--the land of the reindeer and sledge? Its people ungainly, Who can fare but plainly, Search oft for my whole on the wild mountain ledge. [Answer]
by M.C. Fletcher (from Robert Merry's Museum, July 1868, p. 285) My first is in the teapot hid, My third in sugar seen; My second likes good coffee best, My fourth is drowned in cream. And in October, you will see My whole, on many a laden tree. [Answer]
by Celestia D. Hoyt (from Robert Merry's Museum, March 1855, p. 94) A RIDDLE WITHIN A RIDDLE Moce ye inugeison nose hist dilerd suesg, Ti si ton cufidlift ony liwl socfeus, Thaw si hatt burmen--hiwhe fi ouy ivdedi, Ouy hent liwl hington veale no theire dics? [Answers]
Format puzzles by Jim (from Robert Merry's Museum, November 1861, p. 158) 500o100150e [Answer]
by "Wilforley" (from Robert Merry's Museum, January 1862, p. 28) 3 6 old i e R S 1 ce with 4 2 d B A 4t T L. It i 7 sai 500 that they 4 2 we 5050 an 500 fe 50 1 500 e a 500 fr O 1000. 10 ertion. [Answer]
by Fleta Forrester (from Robert Merry's Museum, January 1862, p. 29)
  TgEooNdt 5a50ue500 stoo5000
A         ;         ,
      I       but     100is
[Answer]
by Lionel (from Robert Merry's Museum, July 1870, p. 49) & & & & & &. [Answer]
by Ixia (from Robert Merry's Museum, April 1868, p. 160) There is some good advice contained in the following letters, if you can only get at them: O R T U N E S B Y F N T T H E M U I S U O M R U S T E I M O T T O N D L [Answer]

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