-gry

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The Gry Puzzle is a popular puzzle that asks for the third English word, other than "angry" and "hungry," that ends with the letters "-gry." Aside from words derived from "angry" and "hungry," there is no stand-alone word ending in "-gry" that is in current usage.[1][2]

This puzzle has no good answer, yet it has become one of the most frequently asked word puzzles.[3][4][5]

Contents

History

Merriam-Webster, publishers of the leading American dictionaries, first heard of this puzzle in a letter dated March 17, 1975, from Patricia Lasker of Brooklyn, New York. Lasker says her plant manager heard the question on a quiz show. Since that time Merriam-Webster has received about four letters each year[3] asking the question.

This puzzle first appears in print in Anita Richterman's "Problem Line" column in Newsday on April 29, 1975. One "M.Z." from Wantagh states that the problem was asked on a TV quiz program. Richterman states that she asked a learned professor of English for help when she first received the inquiry, and he did not respond for over a month.

In Anita Richterman's column on May 9, 1975, several correspondents reported that they had heard the puzzle on the Bob Grant radio talk show on WMCA in New York City. As this is not a TV quiz show, this may not be the origin of the puzzle. The majority of readers gave the answer "gry," an obsolete unit of measure invented by John Locke. It is unclear whether this was the answer given on the Grant show.

Ralph G. Beaman in the "Kickshaws" column in Word Ways for February 1976 reports that the Delaware Valley was mystified during the fall of 1975 by the question. By this time the puzzle seems to have mutated to a form in which the missing word is an adjective that describes the state of the world.

Some people remember a different version of this puzzle dating it back before 1975. For example, someone named "Rush Elkins" emailed the editors of yourDictionary with this report:

I first heard the "gry" riddle posed in slightly different form in 1969 or 1970. I was then in graduate school at University of Florida and in the habit of meeting with a group of friends every Wednesday evening for dinner, drinks, and conversation. One of those evenings, someone challenged the group to find three common English words containing the letter combination "gry." I'm sure that there was no stipulation on the placement of "gry" because I recall someone suggesting that it might occur at the boundary of a compound word. (That turns out to lead nowhere.)
A year or two later, I encountered the word "gryphon" in a book, had one of those aha! experiences, and presented my find at the next meeting as a sort of trophy. Although not exactly an everyday sort of word, "gryphon" appears in most dictionaries and is understood by most literate English readers.

If these memories are accurate, then perhaps in 1975 a subtle flaw was introduced into an otherwise commonplace word puzzle. Instead of asking for three words that contain "gry" – or had "gry" at either end – the flawed version asks for three words that end in "gry." Presumably the person who asked the question did not know the answer and, in repeating the question, simply misstated it. Since the flawed version has no good answer, an explosion of searching followed.

Alternate versions

Trick versions

  1. This version only works when spoken: There are three words in English that end in "gree." The first two are "angry" and "hungry," and if you've listened closely, you'll agree that I've already told you the third one.[3][6]
    • The answer is "agree."
  2. There are three words in the English language that end with the letters 'g', 'r', and 'y'. Two are "hungry" and "angry." Everyone knows what the third word means, and everyone uses it every day. What is the third word?[3][7]
    • The answer is "energy." The riddle says that the word ends in the letters g-r-y; it says nothing about the order of the letters.
  3. Here is another spoken version: There are at least three words in the English language that end in "g" or "y." One of them is "hungry," and another one is "angry." There is a third word, a short one, which you probably say every day. If you are listening carefully to everything I say, you just heard me say it three times. What is it?[3][8]
    • The answer is "say." This version depends upon the listener confusing the spoken word "or" and the spoken letter "r."
  4. There are three words in the English language that end in "gry." Two words that end in "gry" are "hungry" and "angry." Everyone knows what the third word means, and everyone uses them every day. If you listened very carefully, I have already stated to you what the third word is. The three words that solve this riddle are...?[3][9]
    • The answer is the three-word sentence "I am hungry." This version asks for three words that end in "gry," not three words each of which ends in "gry."
  5. This version is a play on the use-mention ambiguity exploited by other versions: I know two words that end in "gry." Neither one is angry or hungry. What are they?[3][10]
    • The answer is "angry" and "hungry." Since these are words, they are not capable of being angry or hungry.
  6. Here is a version invented by Frank Rubin on December 4, 2003: Give me three English words, commonly spoken, ending in g-r-y.[3][10]
    • There are many possible answers, such as "Beg for mercy," or "Bring your money."
  7. Here is another version that works better when spoken. There are three words in the English language that end g-r-y. One is angry and another is hungry. The third word is something that "everyone" uses. If you have listened carefully, I have already told you what it is.[3][11]
    • The answer is "every," and the logic is as follows: There are three words, ending "g," "r," and "y." The first, another word for "angry," is "fuming," which ends in "g." The second, "hungry," at least when personified, is "eager" which ends in "r." Similarly, the third word is "every," which ends in "y" and is clearly used by the word "everyone."

Meta-puzzle versions

The remaining versions are a form of meta-puzzle, in the sense that they make no use of the actual letters "gry" themselves, which therefore are a red herring. The red herring only works because there is another puzzle that does use these letters (even though that puzzle has no good answer).

  1. Think of words ending in "gry." Angry and hungry are two of them. There are only three words in "the English language." What is the third word? The word is something that everyone uses everyday. If you have listened carefully, I have already told you what it is.[3][12]
    • The answer to this version is "language" -- the third word in the phrase "the English language." There are quotation marks needed to make this answer correct when the puzzle is printed, but they give away the trick.
  2. Angry and hungry are two words in the English language that end in "gry." "What" is the third word. The word is something that everyone uses everyday. If you have listened carefully, I have already told you what it is.[3][7]
    • The answer is "what." But again, the quotation marks spoil the puzzle when it is printed.
  3. There are three words in the English language that end with "gry." Two of these are "angry" and "hungry." The third word is a very common word, and you use it often. If you have read what I have told you, you will see that I have given you the third word. What is the third word? Think very carefully.[3][13]
    • The answer is "three," the third word in the paragraph. The rest of the paragraph is a red herring.
  4. There are three words in the English language that end in "gry." The first "one" is "hungry," the second "one" is "angry," what is the third "one"? If you have read this carefully I have given a clue.[3][14]
    • The answer is the word "one," which is the third "one." Again the quotation marks ruin the written puzzle, so this version is usually written without the quotation marks and with the word "one" capitalized.

References

  1. ^ Both Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged (Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2002, ISBN 0-87779-201-1) and the Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition (Oxford University Press, 1989, ISBN 0-19-861186-2) contain the compound word "aggry bead." To find a third word ending in -gry that is not part of a phrase, you must turn to archaic, obsolete, or uncommon words, or personal or place names.
  2. ^ The only -gry words playable in Scrabble are aggry, ahungry, angry, hungry and puggry.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Cole, Chris (1999). Wordplay, A Curious Dictionary of Language Oddities. Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.. pp. 96–100. ISBN 0-8069-1797-0. 
  4. ^ Daly, Matthew. "Usenet rec.puzzles Frequently Asked Questions". "nugry (noo-gree or nyu-gree) n. 1. A newcomer who fails to follow established rules or procedures. 2. One who shows his inexperience by acting inappropriately. 3. One who posts the -GRY puzzle to rec.puzzles, in violation of the FAQ.". Archived from the original on 26 March 2007. http://web.archive.org/web/20070326044816/http://www.mathematik.uni-bielefeld.de/~sillke/PUZZLES/rec-puzzles-faq. Retrieved 2007-04-22. 
  5. ^ Fundis, Lois. "STUMPER-L Reference Librarian Listserver archives October 1999 (#1042)". "Gry is a fightin' word to some of us by now; others will take your question as a reminder to change the oil in their cars (every three months).". 
  6. ^ "ANSWER TO THE...GRY PUZZLE?". rec.puzzles. (Web link). Retrieved June 12, 2012. 
  7. ^ a b "a very difficult riddle". rec.puzzles. (Web link). Retrieved June 12, 2012. 
  8. ^ Marilyn vos Savant (March 9, 1997). Ask Marilyn. Parade magazine. 
  9. ^ "Chandeliegry Puzzle". rec.puzzles. (Web link). Retrieved June 12, 2012. 
  10. ^ a b "The -Gry Puzzle". http://www.contestcen.com/gry.htm. 
  11. ^ "FUN : Riddle... *****GRY". Life For Fun Live Life For Fun. (Web link). Retrieved June 12, 2012. 
  12. ^ "The Elvis Duran Morning Show". WHTZ (New York City). 1996-03-28. http://groups.google.com/group/rec.puzzles/browse_thread/thread/b0b49fe19463ee6a/e8abcfe7492cd9c7. 
  13. ^ "alt.english.usage". http://groups.google.com/group/alt.usage.english/browse_thread/thread/37254f1aeeab24b7/f2c9841c4fa57ff6. 
  14. ^ "alt.personals". http://groups.google.com/group/alt.personals/browse_thread/thread/a77a784972f79e7e. 

Further reading