Please do NOT post your answer, but do say if you think you have solved the puzzle and how long it took. Solution on Monday.

A non-mathematical one this week.  What four-letter word is the same when it is read forwards, backwards and upside down?

If you have not tried to solve it, have a go now.  For everyone else, the answer is after the break.

The answer is …… NOON. Did you solve it?

I have produced an ebook containing 101 of the previous Friday Puzzles! It is called PUZZLED and is available for the Kindle (UK here and USA here) and on the iBookstore (UK here in the USA here). You can try 101 of the puzzles for free here.


    1. Yeah, me too. Looks like “upside down” was ambiguous, and Richard specifically meant “when rotated by 180°, rather than reflected. Which is a better puzzle, admittedly.

    2. I wouldn’t say ‘upside-down’ is ambiguous at all. The keyboard in front of you. Turn it upside down. Do you get your mirror out? No, you turn it by 180 degrees.

    1. Well, how do B and D work back to front. This whole puzzle is poorly stated. Are we reflecting, rotating, and if so, about which axes?

  1. D’oh! why did I skip the N?

    BOOB DEED and KOOK were my answers with mirroring. And I had another, but I realize it is false.

    In Dutch SOOS would work as rotating, and EBBE DEED DOOD KEEK and KOOK would also work as mirror.

  2. No mention was made in the puzzle of using a mirror. Just backwards, forwards and upside down. So – the only one (in English anyway!) that works is NOON. But then – Richard didn’t state that it only works if capitals are used. Needs to be a bit more care in exactly how the puzzles are worded – and maybe how they’re read as well. 🙂

  3. I read far too much into the original question and was aiming for really obscure words. Somehow I had also formed the opinion that capital letters were not allowed, although it says nothing of the kind. I guess my mind wasn’t on it much on Friday. 🙂

    1. @Alma and Ken. Depends on the definition of upside down. If you place a mirror along the top of a word containing N, the word in the reflection is upside down but N will be reversed and no longer be an N if trying to read the reflected word as it is displayed.

  4. I thought it was a trick question so my answer was “book” – a book is the same whether read forwards, backwards or upside down.

  5. Re John – not tryi g to be a smart arse a nd I like your thinking but a book readd backwards aint the same as oneread normally 😉

  6. This only works if you specify that the word is rotated upside down and order switched backwards. A mirrored N would look like this I/I. These conditions make the most sense as when you picture reading a book upside down, you would rotate the book and reading text backwards you would read right to left. Under these conditions BOOB and DEED do not work as solutions.

  7. Yes, I figured it was going to be NOON, but that doesn’t work for all modes of rotation. If you invert it through a central axis like a strike-through, the Ns don’t work. Only rotating it around a point placed between the two Os will be identical. Only words with symmetrical combinations of H, I, O, and X would seem to work for all, but I’m damned if I can come up with any.

  8. As a read geek, I created two little programs to find the solution (I first tried it manually, but I missed the character N ad I did not find a solution).

    In the first program, I use an online wordlist and search for words that contain the characters

    H I N O S X Z

    and which an be read forward and backward. The solution is NOON.

    The second program generates all possible words (excluding words with only consonants and with only the same letter). It comes up with this list:

    1 HIIH
    2 HOOH
    3 IHHI
    4 INNI
    5 ISSI
    6 IXXI
    7 IZZI
    8 OHHO
    9 ONNO
    10 OSSO
    11 OXXO
    12 OZZO
    13 NIIN
    14 NOON
    15 SIIS
    16 SOOS
    17 XIIX
    18 XOOX
    19 ZIIZ
    20 ZOOZ

    Here you need to bee a really good native speaker to be sure that none of the words is a legal english word….

  9. I’m going to get out of bed soon and have a shave.
    I usually use a shaving mirror for this procedure, but having read all of the comments I think I will do it upside down and stand on my head instead.

    1. What is an illegal word?and why do I have to be a native speaker, good or otherwise to be able to use a dictionary, many many native speakers, as evidenced by the internet, do not know what one is are they illegal?

  10. Andreas, I think there is no english word with only consonants nor is there one with 4 times the same character in a row. Hmm, just looking up in wikipedia:, they consider ZZZZ a word. So, my assumption may be false.

    Choose a language you do not speak, and find a word that starts with ‘a’ and ends with ‘b’. Using a dictionary manually may be difficult. if you speak the language, doing it in your head it may be easy …

    1. Any chance of you sharing your two answers with us?
      You must remember this from Friday – one requires capitals, the other works in lower case, your Lordship.

  11. The comments about “upside down” and “backwards” being ambiguous are not totally out of line, however, the most common interpretations are; Read right to left and rotate 180 degrees.

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