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Welcome! You hold in your hands a special introductory edition of The ENIGMA, the monthly publication of The National Puzzlers’ League. We hope this “minisample” will be your ticket to joining us in a world of enigmatic artistry and brain-teasing entertainment.

The NPL offers many opportunities for puzzling camaraderie. The league holds a four-day summer convention, while individual members organize regional gatherings and participate in online activities, including a chat room and mailing list. And in the pages of The ENIGMA we strive to outwit each other with new conundrums and spur each other to greater heights of ingenuity, cleverness and wit.

Each issue of The ENIGMA (usually 20 or more pages) overflows with a variety of puzzles designed to challenge both newbie and veteran. Created by our members, these puzzles include cryptic crosswords, cryptograms, anagrams, word squares (and more complex geometrical forms) and a panoply of other linguistic inventions. But what makes The ENIGMA unique is its collection of what we call “flats,” puzzles in verse form that have proven over our 120-plus years to provide endless opportunities for creativity and continuous solving enjoyment.

Flats might seem odd at first — they’re not the sort of puzzle you’re likely to have stumbled across, since ours is the only English-language publication to feature them — but once you know the basic structure, we think you’ll love them. In each verse, one or more words are missing, replaced by words like “ONE” and “TWO”. Your task is to figure out the missing words, using hints provided by the verse. Here’s an example:

Parts of a flat

First, check out the title; it tells you what kind of words you need. In this case, you’re looking to transform one word into another by changing its last letter (like turning “barn” to “bard” or “routing” to “routine”). The enumeration, in parentheses, tells you that both answer words are seven letters long. The capitalized cuewords act as placeholders, showing you where the answer words belong, though keep in mind that the answer words need not rhyme or scan the way the cuewords do — they only have to make sense in context.

(Flats also include a byline identifying the author, not by name but by nom de plume. This use of pseudonyms dates back centuries, and can be seen in British cryptic construction to this day.)

So, here are the two answer words: “hideout” and “hideous” — they tracked Joker to his HIDEOUT, there beholding his HIDEOUS leer. If this example piques your interest, then you’re ready to turn the page and solve some more flats, along with a cryptic crossword and other goodies. And if you enjoy this minisample ENIGMA, we hope you’ll join us in the NPL! For more information and sample puzzles, you can visit


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