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Flats are a type of word puzzle popularized by the National Puzzlers' League, in which a short, rhyming piece of text is presented with certain words replaced by placeholders. The goal is then to use the context of the rest of the text and any particular rules for a given Flat to determine what the missing words are.
Background[edit | edit source]
Flats have existed since the 19th century, at least. They predate the modern crossword puzzle by several decades, and are considered one of the earliest 'modern' word puzzles.
Flats are most notable for their place as the primary puzzle type within the National Puzzlers' League (NPL), who have adapted the genre into multiple forms over time since their founding in 1883.
Puzzle Application[edit | edit source]
The basic premise of a Flat is that solvers are attempting to fill gaps in a short poem or sentence based on contextual clues and particular qualities of the missing words, which together form the 'base'. Depending on the qualities being played with, these poems may be as short as a couplet or as long as a couple verses, but tend to be within the 2-5 line range.
When constructing a Flat, there are a few rules that setters are expected to follow, particular when submitting to the NPL for publication. These include:
- Answers must be able to be found in Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition, or either the second or third edition of Webster's New International Dictionary. While this rule is important for official publication, it may vary for flats found in puzzle hunts.
- Flats must contain an enumeration for the missing words.
- Words in the base need to be replaced by placeholders called 'cue words'. These are usually numerical (like ONE and TWO), or part of a particular pair/triplet/etc of words (like THIS and THAT), and should replace their respective base words every time their appear in the verse.
- The verse making up the flat should rhyme and scan properly after the base words have been replaced by their cue words. This rule may be broken for comedic effect or other reasons (if done well).
Common Flat Types[edit | edit source]
While there are a large number of flat types available for use, there are some that are more common than others. These types are some of the ones more likely to occur both within flats and within other word puzzle types:
- Transaddition/Transdeletion - One word has a single letter added or removed, with the result being anagrammed to form the second word. A Transaddition adds a letter while a Transdeletion removes one.
- Example: BONE RASP and PERSONA (Transdeletion)
- Example: CRATER and REFRACT (Transaddition)
- Terminal Deletion/Beheading/Curtailing - Removing one or both ends of a word (first/last) in order to form the other word in the base. Beheading removes the first letter, Curtailing removes the last one, and Terminal Deletion removes both
- Example: HEARTH and HEART (Curtailment) or EARTH (Beheadment)
- Example: SOAKS and OAK (Terminal Deletion)
- Consonantcy - Two (or more) words act as the base, where both words share the same consonants in the same order. Therefore, if one were to remove all vowels, the words would end up identical.
- Example: NUTRIENT and INTERNET - Both contain the consonants NTRNT.
- Letter Bank - One word of the base contains all of the letters used in the other word(s), but only once.
- Example: ELASTIC and ECCLESIASTES.
Strategy[edit | edit source]
Notable Examples[edit | edit source]
- 1-1=2 (MITMH 2005) (web) - A relatively straightforward set of single letter deletion flats. Only the enumeration for the longer word is given, but after the first couple solves it should become more obvious.
- Flat Head (MITMH 2011) (web) - A mix of flat types, where each base consists at least in part of Click to reveala location (usually one with a name derived from an indigenous language) or indigenous group in British Columbia. As a result, many of the bases are not found in regular dictionaries, and instead need to be sought out especially for this puzzle.
- Flattery Will Get You Nowhere (MITMH 2018) (web) - While the flats in this puzzle are fairly normal and utilize many tradition types, each one solves in part to Click to reveala word that is a synonym for 'flat' in one of the 14 dictionary definitions of the word.