(This is only a basic description of the rebus; there is much more discussion and detail in the separate article, Solving and Composing the Rebus and Rebade.)

A word or phrase is represented by letters, numbers, or symbols; their positions; and sometimes related letter-play, like alterations to the verse.

For example, the word abalone -- read as a B alone -- might be represented by: B. The phrase damper sand -- read as D, ampersand -- might be represented by: D&. The phrase forge a check -- read as for GE, a check -- might be represented by a verse in which the letter pair ge was replaced once, or everywhere it appeared, by . Here are two examples:

REBUS (5 4)
The cutest thing, by far,
Must be the PBR.
I’m sure that I am right --
It’s clearly black and white.
=Mr. Tex

The solution: panda bear (P and a be, ar). As the example shows, rebus solutions need not be MW phrases; in fact, they rarely are.

REBUS [10 5] (NI3)
What’s a WHOLE?
It’s a mole.

The solution: undercover agent (under C, over a G, en, T).

The letters, numbers, or symbols indicating the solution (such as B or D& in the examples above) are called the rubric. The explanation of the solution (such as a B alone or for GE, a check) is called the reading of the rubric. Note that (except in phonetic rebuses) the reading is generally a heteronym of the solution. On the solution page, the editor may explain the readings of difficult rebuses.

If a reading has a word not in 11C, this is indicated by a tag like “NI2 phrase in reading” or “reading has an NI3 word with non-MW usage.” The solution, the reading, and even the rubric (perhaps having an NI2 diagram or symbol) may be tagged.

Rubrics are roughly centered and between the flat’s title and verse, unless a reading indicates otherwise.

In a phonetic rebus, part or all of the reading is sounded out to give the solution. For example, II represents two black eyes (two black I’s); HEE is ate cheese (aitch, E’s); E is usury (use your E).

The enigmatic rebus is not a specific puzzle type. Rather, “enigmatic” is a red flag, warning you that the reading involves something other than simple manipulation of letters.

A typical enigmatic rebus requires that you infer missing parts, as in E   for eggnogs (EGG; no G’s). Or you may have to recognize letters as symbols (as in BASiS = basilicons = B, A, silicon, S).

The distinction between enigmatic and nonenigmatic isn’t black and white, hard and fast, or cut and dried. (Solvers, like editors, will find this to be tried and true.) Many once-enigmatic devices, through convention and familiarity, have come to be accepted as nonenigmatic. These include letters used as various symbols and abbreviations. Please see Solving and Composing the Rebus and Rebade for a much fuller discussion.

A phonigmatic rebus is a rebus that is both phonetic and enigmatic.

In the progressive rebus, the solution to one rebus is the rubric for another. For example, OR could be the rubric for a two-part solution: ONE = odor (O; do R), TWO (with rubric ODOR) = outside the door (outside the DO, OR). One or more parts of a progressive rebus may be enigmatic, phonetic, or phonigmatic; each rebus is labeled and tagged separately.

The suber is a reversed rebus, as reversing its name will show. The reading of a suber is a reversed heteronym of the solution. For example, K,H could be the rubric for a suber with the solution hammock (a reversal of "K, comma, H"). Like a rebus, a suber can be enigmatic, phonetic, phonigmatic, or progressive.

SUBER (12)
A WHOLE of vanilla is all it would take
To bring to perfection the taste of your cake.

The solution: dessertspoon (no O, P stressed).

An example of a progressive suber: rubric C + I, ONE = music (CI sum), TWO (rubric MUSIC) = coliseum (MU, es, I; lo! C).


A hybrid of the rebus and alternade. The reading of the rubric (these terms are explained under rebus) is divided into two or more shorter words by taking alternate letters in order. For example, the rubric might be RBF H T with the reading being RBF, eliminated H, see T. The three parts, obtained by taking every third letter of the reading, would be ONE = remade, TWO = blithe, THREE = finest. These parts would be clued in the accompanying verse. Here’s another example:

REBADE (4, 4, 3)
My shoulders THREE; my face grows ashen:
TWO mini-enter ONE! says fashion.

The solution: ONE = midi, TWO = exit, THREE = sag. Write the solution letters alternately to make the rubric reading appear: me: six, a digit.

For more information, see Solving and Composing the Rebus and Rebade.

In the subade (suber alternade -- see suber), the reading is reversed before being divided into shorter words or phrases. For example, TLGHG gives the reading: set T before L, G, H, ge. Reversed and divided: ONE = egret, TWO = globe, THREE = hefts.

SUBADE (5, 5)
h p
His maladroitness plagued him
Till he wished that he were dead.
He tried to TWO his wrists, but missed,
And cut his ONE instead.

The solution: ONE = palms, TWO = slash. (The reading: h’s small as p.)

The rebade was invented by Treesong in January 1974.

This page was last updated on Friday, December 17, 2010. /webmaster

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