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Kids puzzles prove perplexing for The Paper’s puzzled people

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In our never-ending quest to add young readers to The Paper, we (the editorial team) recently added Jumble for Kids puzzles to our pages.

These warped brain-twisters, invented by the same Chinese wizards who created the finger trap, were not around when I was watching Mr. Magoo cartoons. I had more in common with Magoo than any puzzles anywhere at that time, what with feeling blind and oblivious to my surroundings.

But, in case, just in case, dear reader, you too were watching Magoo, I will describe Jumble as best I can.

Regular Jumble: Take an everyday word, ‘phenomenal,’ for example. Scramble the letters into a bag of vowels and consonants: “oealhnemnp.” Then ask some gullible idiot to embarrass themselves by attempting to unscramble the letters into a real word. Put a stopwatch to it.

If I was the fool who tried it I’d need about a 38,000 seconds, and then I’d shout, “hempforreal” and order up a chicken dinner for the winner.

The Kid’s Jumble is supposed to be easier. It’s typically three, maybe five letters. Normal words. It’s for kids ages 7-12 who can crack it in a couple of minutes tops.

Before we published Jumble for Kids, our Editor Angela Copeland tested the puzzles. She solved them in a snap. While I watched.

She gave a different Kid’s Jumble puzzle to Bill Poteat (recently promoted to Editor Emeritus) and me to try. (Puzzler’s note: Poteat’s title, scrambled, is “tstEmEidorurei,” which, in Chinese means, “I Lost My Keys in the Sofa.”)

There were four challenges Angela used in her test: “CNA, OLKO, CABK, and RAMF.”

Bill and I looked at them. We looked at Angela. We looked at each other and at the puzzle again. Bill said, “What am I supposed to do?”

Angela, clearly forgetting (or maybe remembering) she was dealing with a couple of Yosemite Sam and Mr. Magoo fans, paused for a beat and said, “CNA. What word is that?”

“CNA is not a word, Angela,” Bill said. “I don’t understand what I’m —”

“CANADA!” I said with a victory grin. “Nailed it. Poteat, you gotta get with —”

“Three letters, Allen,” Angela said. “Canada is more than three letters.”

“Tell that to the French,” I said, not knowing where that piece of wisdom came from.

"So,” Poteat said, “Tell me again what do I do? And where’d he get Canada from?”

Angela explained that you rearrange the letters so that those letters, and only those letters, create a word.

“CNA,” she said, “is CAN. Like, Can Do. Let’s try another. OLKO.”

Bill and I fell quiet while we pondered this monster. I heard Angela breathe deep. I rubbed my forehead. Bill said, “Okay, let me get this straight. I take those letters, whatever they are, and somehow come up with a word. Is that what we’re doing?”

“Not just any word, Bill,” Angela said. She said it ever-so-slowly, as only she can. It’s the special-ed teacher delivery, a sweet, patient, and respectful tone that doesn’t betray any of her astonished bewilderment of the alarming lack of mental agility exhibited by the ranking executives of Burke County’s leading newspaper. “It has to be THE word using only those —”

“OKLAHOMA!” I said and slapped the desk. “Chicken dinner!”

“I see, I see,” Bill said. “I think I got it now. KOOL.”

“‘Kool” is not a word,” I said. “Aren’t you some kind of editor emeritus dude? Aren’t you supposed to know WORDS, at least?”

“Well, Mr. Publisher,” he fired back, “‘Oklahoma’ has QUITE A FEW more damn letters than ‘kool,’ last time I checked.”

Diplomatic to the end, Angela said, “I can see you guys are getting the hang of this. Let’s try one more. RAMF. Remember, you can only use the same —”

“FRAME!” I said, smacking the desk. “Emeritus that, Poteat.”

Angela said, “Too many letters. Think of, oh, cows.”

“Cows?” Bill said. “How’d you get ‘cows’ outta RAMF. I don’t get this damn game.”

Angela looked at us with what could be called, politely, disbelief. “How about ‘farm.’ See?"

“And this game is for who?” Bill said.

“Kids,” Angela said.

“What kids?” I said. “Okay, Angela, let’s run that puzzle, this Jumble Kids deal. Let’s see how many people complain. You’re gonna be the one taking the phone calls.”

The only call we’ve received is from a reader who complained that the puzzles were too easy.

Maybe too simple for you, dear reader, but your sheribluP and tstEmEidorurei have some catching up to do.

Allen VanNoppen is publisher of The Paper. He may be reached at 828-445-8595 or via email at allen@thepaper.media.