Can you solve it? Brilliant brainteasers by the wizard of witty wordplay

He is the sultan of spoonerisms and the Aga Khan of anagrams. Today’s word puzzles are set by Frank Paul, a legend in the world of quizzes and puzzles.

Paul is known to British TV viewers as a champion of Only Connect, and was co-host of Channel Four’s Answer Trap. He is also a fine artist, the son of artists Celia Paul and Lucian Freud.

Paul is a genius in the field of wordplay. I hope you find the following puzzles as joyous as I do.

1. Silver spoonerisms

A spoonerism is when two consecutive words (or elements in the same word) swap their initial letters or sounds. Rephrase the following sentences using a pair of spoonerisms.

Example: Delicate followers greet gents from France. Answer: Frail henchmen hail Frenchmen

a) Hummus ingredients select dairy product.

b) Orangutans and gorillas consumed fruits which grow on vines.

c) Meal brought to school failed to make an impact.

d) Rodents suppress feline fury.

e) Infants making a noise fighting off a disease.

2. Tri-anagrams

Rephrase each of the following sentences using three words which are anagrams of each other. The number of letters in the anagram is in brackets.

Example: Nimblest members of the clergy don’t give up (7). Answer: Spriest priests persist

a) Reptile in attendance expresses remorse (7)

b) Keeps more unpleasant parts of eyeballs (7)

c) An operatic heroine adds toppings to Mexican food (5)

d) Laid waste to most resistant strands of fibre. (7)

e) Business which sells goods at a lowered price initiates instances of prices being lowered. (10)

3. Double blanks

Fill in the blanks in the following sentences. Each blank space contains the same sequence of letters, in the same order, although they may be punctuated differently or include spaces. The sentences are all coherent, if occasionally surreal!

Example: Children’s books should feature easy-to-read _______________ little animals and a charming atmosphere, and I believe we should _______________ any children’s author who explores more sinister themes, making them explain themselves to a jury of outraged parents. Answer: the first blank is “prose, cute”, the second is “prosecute”

a) Her fiancé left her soon after proposing when he discovered she had sold _______ to buy some pickled _______

b) I was explaining, “The purpose of ________ to store information,” when a student yelled out, “I refuse to learn anything about biology that isn’t mentioned in the Book of ________!”

c). My superstitious roommates, who keep wishing upon what they presume to be a shooting star before discovering that it is in fact a _______________ their bad luck loudly while I am trying to sleep, wailing that if it had been a shooting star their dreams would have _______________.

d) I have a strong suspicion that certain members of the film crew I invited to my house have been stealing Japanese food: it is surely no coincidence that as soon as the _______________ _______________, sushi and katsu curry started to go missing.

e) “How should the light that refused to believe in refraction be _______________? It should be thrown in prism!” As soon as I heard this _______________ tears of laughter.

I’ll be back with the answers at 5pm UK. SPO NOILERS, I mean NO SPOILERS!

Instead please suggest your favourite spoonerism pairs and triple anagrams.

The Twelve Quizzes of Christmas by Frank Paul
The Twelve Quizzes of Christmas by Frank Paul Photograph: Oneworld Books

If you enjoyed today’s puzzles, you will love Paul’s latest book, the Twelve Quizzes of Christmas, which is out on Thursday. Alan Connor of this parish calls him a “21st century Lewis Carroll.” You can preorder at the Guardian Bookshop or at other outlets.

I set a puzzle here every two weeks on a Monday. I’m always on the look-out for great puzzles. If you would like to suggest one, email me.

I give school talks about maths and puzzles (online and in person). If your school is interested please get in touch.


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