It’s the Friday Puzzle!


You are trapped in a prison cell, and the evil guards have set a challenge.  They have written one letter of the alphabet on each of nine pieces of card, and placed the cards in the following order on the floor of your cell:

S  P  A  R  K  L  I  N  G

You have to take away one of the pieces of card, ensuring that the remaining pieces spell a word (and you are not allowed to change the order of the remaining pieces of cardboard), and post it under the door of the cell.  And then you have to repeat the process again and again until there is just one letter left.  In what order should you remove the letters?

As ever, please do NOT post your answers, but feel free to say if you have solved it and how long it took.  Solution on Monday.








77 comments on “It’s the Friday Puzzle!

  1. Abi says:

    Took about three minutes…can’t wait to double check my answers!

  2. Steven says:

    Good one. Took about a minute.

  3. Uranoggin says:

    Took about 3 mins. Like these puzzles

  4. Wolf Martinus says:

    Sorry, that’s the first time I’m not interested in a puzzle. That’s just tedious work.

  5. significance says:

    First go, much to my surprise. This sort of puzzle is often hard, but I got this in under a minute. I did need to look up a couple of the words to verify that they were real, though.

  6. Pseudonym says:

    Seems like a pretty trivial puzzle, since there are (as far as I can tell) no dead ends.

  7. Navneeth says:

    I’ve seen this before.

    • Simon says:

      Thanks for sharing. Your contribution is much appreciated, and we all respect you a great deal more for it.

  8. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Richard Wiseman, Phill up North, Abi Richardson, Andrea Daly, RSS and others. RSS said: -R. Wiseman- : It’s the Friday Puzzle!: You are trapped in a prison cell, and the evil guards have set a challen… […]

  9. Israel Girón says:

    Took me about a minute…

  10. M says:

    I used google’s tanslator:|nl|sparkling
    I just removed letters and saw if it became a dutch word.

    Is that cheating?

  11. Lyvvie says:

    Hooray I finally got one!!

  12. I got it eventually. Learnt two new words while exploring a dead end: sarkIng and sparling.

  13. florayG says:

    That was quite easy. it took as long as it takes to write the word down 9 times and maybe think for ten seconds on each one

  14. I had it quickly but wasn’t sure if the word counted–it’s a slangy word.

    • Berber Anna says:

      I think I have the same solution. One of the others is a mathematical concept — still a word, I hope…

  15. Steven says:

    Did it in a couple of minutes. Yes, there are dead ends and no, there are no slang or weird words required. There’s only one (4 letter word) that I would say isn’t greatly used these days.

  16. moopet says:

    About two minutes. Can’t think of any alternate solutions.

  17. Ann Kittenplan says:

    Started at one letter and worked up. Took 30s. Came up with one solution using fairly common words. I suspect close reading of Official Scrabble Words may generate others, but that’s not in the spirit of things. Surely. Bonus Question for Anoraks:
    #1 Which is the longest word where the second half of the word is an anagram of the first half?
    #2 What is the longest word you can type using only the top letters of a QWERTY keyboard?

  18. Tessa K says:

    Hoorah! An easy one for a change. You don’t say if you’re then released from prison or if the guards are just amusing themselves.

  19. Idiot mathmo says:

    Maybe a minute? Went down a blind alley, but recovered by thinking how to work through the -ING and fitting the rest around that.

  20. JimC says:

    I don’t have the answer yet, but what I would like to know is what it is I keep doing that results in me being thrown into a prison cell guarded by evil puzzle addicts.

  21. allegoricus says:

    Found one dead end, but it was pretty straightforward.

  22. Martha says:

    And in what way will I be horribly killed if I fail this time?

  23. Daniel says:

    Got it, but it took me about 15 minutes … I had to use a dictionary. As an excuse I may say, thet I’m not a native speaker and I don’t have too much training in english 😉

  24. JohnF says:

    Wow, I got this one almost as soon as I looked at the sequence of letters (and knew what I had to do with them). This must be what it feels like when all those maths nerds post their “Easy! Got it in 0.0253 seconds!” and I’m still staring at the thing three hours later and wondering if I should use addition or division.
    But then… I did give up my job and go do a degree in linguistics just because I love words and language so much so I suppose I’m somewhat inclined to think in wordy ways. Ha! Take that, maths nerds!
    For once.
    Probably only once.

  25. Niels says:

    three minutes, but the six letter word is one that i can’t look up in a dictionary. i tried a different tack (one minute) but the six letter word is still the same.
    Maybe it’s just because i’m not a native english speaker ?

  26. Emlyn says:

    It doesn’t say that you don’t have a PC with python and the sowpods wordlist in your cell, so I didn’t cheat 😉

    With that I found 144 solutions in 2.5 seconds! (plus about 3 minutes to write the program)

  27. philmryan says:

    Got it after about 3-4 minutes. Much easier after I realised to do the method in reverse…

  28. LilithOnTop says:

    took me less than a minute but I m not sure it s 100%correct…we ll see on Monday…like Niels I m not a native english speaker so I think I m fairly good 🙂

  29. rmb says:

    Those who have completed the quiz with SPARKING may now start trying with STARTLING.

    • JohnF says:

      Ooh, thanks! Got it in about 10 seconds, but still a good challenge because there are a few wrong turns you could take at the beginning to take you into dead-ends. The challenge for me was to think ahead as quickly as possible and see if I was leading myself into one of them, and finding the alternative if so.

    • Emlyn says:

      I got 50 solutions 🙂

    • M says:

      It started with sparkling not sparking…

    • Nice. I actually discovered a more systematic way to solve it when trying this one. Maybe five minutes, and I got two solutions (ending in two different one-letter words).

  30. Rob says:

    Got it!
    Took approximately 1 minute 30 seconds to go through the sequence.
    Couple of dead ends, but not too many.
    Good fun.

  31. mickeyd says:

    Needed a dictionary but took about 5 mins and think I got two alternative endings!

  32. Chantal says:

    About 5 minutes – just hope my two letter word is allowed!

  33. Darren says:

    Got it pretty much straight away. Yay!

  34. Bletherskite says:

    Great a puzzle without number (well okay one of the answers is a number but you know what I mean).

    Took me about 5 mins with a couple of dead end. All straightforward words, 1 probably not in common usage but still not recognisible to most.

  35. Joao Pedro Afonso says:

    Resolvido. 10 minutos. Usei um dicionário electrónico para verificar as entradas uma vez que o meu Inglês não chegava a tanto em duas das palavras.

  36. Richard B says:

    At least six different solutioins? Four of which use commonish words. Anyone got any more than this?

  37. Richard B says:

    Given that the prisoner probably doesn’t have a word list …

    Got to 10 solutions with commonish words

  38. Rick says:

    nice on – used a bit of SCAMPER to solve – ie reversed it
    took just over 1 min

  39. Lakia Gordon says:

    I think I got it 🙂 🙂

  40. Paula says:

    It took me about two minutes! I’m ashamed to say this is the first Friday puzzle I’ve attempted :$

  41. Sander says:

    Easy as 3.14
    Well not really actually, as a non-native speaker I didn’t recognize some of the words in my solution, so I ended up bruteforcing the dictionary each step of the way..

    I do hope there’s a more elegant solution available than mine.

  42. About 15 minutes, using a fairly unsystematic approach. Only found one solution.

  43. Kya-chan says:

    Nope… I’m still stumped. I can get down to the six-letter word, or up to the four, but I can’t connect the two.

  44. Richard says:

    Finally… a Friday Puzzle I can solve!

  45. elevenses says:

    So wonderful puzzle indeed, hope “i” will be able to solve it, it isn’t easy though.

  46. Took my about 4 minutes to solve it. Will post my solution on Monday.

  47. Ana Paula Waaijenberg-Leitao says:

    Gosh, it took me something like 20 minutes… Was again and again stuck between the 6 and 5 letter words.

    I did learn a new 5 letter word to be able to solve it! English used to be my second language, but after 10 years living between France and The Netherlands, it has become a bit rusty.

    Had to use MS Word spellchecker… shame on me 🙂

  48. Suzanne says:

    A couple of dead ends but it took a couple of minutes to find a solution. Refreshingly different this week.

  49. Waldo says:

    Got it in no time and with no wrong turns. Just need to confirm that “prkling” and “klg” are words.

  50. SG says:

    Yay, a non arithmetic one! I’ll admit it took me about 10 minutes but in my defense I did it before breakfast. I only found one solution, am looking forward to seeing LordManley’s three.

  51. B says:

    a piramid puzzle. Thats no fun at all

  52. Maggie says:

    I started by just brainstorming all the words I could think of using the letters given, without trying to connect them. Once my brain was warmed up (~2 minutes) I ended up writing down a solution in one fell swoop in under 20 seconds, using only common words. Very satisfying!

  53. erica says:

    one false start, then got it. perhaps 90 secs

  54. nick says:

    Might have helped if the phone hadn’t gone and I wrote down Twinkling without checking back-any one able to do it-answer appreciated if doesn’t give too much away?

  55. slightly_skeptical says:

    A couple of minutes.

  56. fluffy says:

    I wrote a program to solve it because I suck at word games. It found a few minor variations for the shorter bits.

  57. […] It’s the Friday Puzzle! You are trapped in a prison cell, and the evil guards have set a challenge.  They have written one letter of the […] […]

  58. Eddie says:

    Dang….Most of the time whenever I take away a letter I always wonder if I end up with a real word or not….

  59. Cassie says:

    Surprised I got it in about 1 min. Tried to find another solution but got stuck.

  60. Tom McMillen says:

    Cool, part if the answer is also a clue!

  61. Mort Canard says:

    I found a solution ending in one of the vowels as a word. Is there a separate solution for both vowels since both vowels are words in themselves?

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