[Puzzleblogger Kevan Choset, December 2, 2005 at 11:21am] Trackbacks
Words in Common:

What do these words have in common?

  • blunt, frank, kind, stark, young

For more words that share this property, click below, but don't post an answer before 3PM Eastern Time unless you got it off the first bunch.



And more:


And more:


Guessing (mail):
They are all surnames of members of Congress:

James Blunt
Barney Frank
Don Young
Pete Stark

if Kind is not I look like kind of an ass though
12.2.2005 12:26pm
...and more:

...and more:

...and more:

...and more:
12.2.2005 12:35pm
Splunge (mail):
The question is not especially well-posed with respect to the first list. The five words listed have multiple features in common, e.g. they are all English words, of ancient etymology, of one syllable, atypically long for words of one syllable, and contain one or more consonant clusters.
12.2.2005 12:44pm

Furthermore, all of those words have been in my kitchen.

Now that that's out of the way...

I think a "what do these words have in common" question presupposes that the common feature sought is one for which the number of words sharing it is comparatively small. It's a puzzle, after all, not simply an English quiz.

(On the other hand, if the listed words completely exhaust the set sharing the particular feature sought, the puzzle constructor will usually mention this.)

How would you propose to rephrase the question? I'm not sure how to do it without making the question needlessly long, or involving exercises of the puzzle-solver's individual judgment ("unusual feature," "atypical feature," or the like). Then again, I'm usually somewhat prolix myself, so I may not see the obvious solution.

One grumble with your grumble: I don't think that five letters is "atypically" long for a one-syllable word. It's certainly above the median, but the words aren't so long as to draw notice on that basis. (They don't rise to the level of "strengths" or "thoughts," or even "splunge.") I agree with the other features you mentioned.
12.2.2005 1:30pm
It's Roy Blunt, not James, and Kind is Rep. Ron Kind of Wisconsin, but members of Congress (or, more specifically, members of the House of Representatives) is certainly the correct answer.
12.2.2005 1:38pm
I agree wholeheartedly with Splunge. The idiocy of these types of questions is called out well with the "not in my kitchen" joke, but they're particularly bad when it's just "what's the same about these words"? Their Anglo-Saxon-Germanic heritage is what screamed out at me, and it's not clear why that wouldn't be a valid answer.

A simple way to phrase the question would be, "Definitions and etymology aside . . . ." It wouldn't make the question any easier, since people either will or won't know the Congressmen connection.
12.2.2005 1:50pm
Noah Snyder (mail):
They all have a letter which is usually thought of as a consonant functioning as a vowel: bluNt, fraNk, kiNd, staRk, youNg.
12.2.2005 2:20pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
They are all members of Congress that voted "yea" on the new bankruptcy law.
12.2.2005 3:04pm
Yes, and they'd all be safer and more free if we could get rid of restrictive gun laws. Blog obsessions accounted for? check.
12.2.2005 3:53pm
The first few could all be turned into other words by removing one letter: bunt, rank, kin, star; but i can't find one for "young"...
12.2.2005 4:18pm
If you really find this kind of question offensive because you can't get past the fact that none of the words have been in your kitchen, maybe you should just mentally imagine that the question calls for the "best" answer, like some of us learned in school.
12.2.2005 6:59pm
Glenn W Bowen (mail):
&they're all adjectives
12.2.2005 10:07pm
Splunge (mail):
I think a "what do these words have in common" question presupposes that the common feature sought is one for which the number of words sharing it is comparatively small. It's a puzzle, after all, not simply an English quiz.

Sure. But even with this obvious restriction the question is still too general. You might as well say that the common feature searched for is simply the one the poser had in mine, which is nicely circular.

I think to be a good puzzle a question must not only have a unique answer, but be posed in such a way that all answers other than the correct answer are pretty obviously wrong. Otherwise you've got more of a treasure hunt than a true puzzle. Hell, I could ask "what have I in my pocketses?" and there is only one unique answer. But it wouldn't really be a fair riddle, as even Bilbo admitted.
12.2.2005 10:20pm
James of England:
Since people swiftly got the right answer, the answer was clearly not impossible to arrive at. Great example of organically derived knowledge over theory (the theory being that the answer cannot be derived).
12.2.2005 10:33pm
ACK (mail):
Sorry, James, but you misstate the criticism. The fact that some participants were able to arrive at the answer that the poser had in mind only serves to put the question in the "I'm thinking of a number between 1 and 100" class. To qualify as a brain teaser or riddle, the answer has to be unique - or so glaringly superior - as to allow the participants to reject other answers out of hand - even when they cannot identify the correct answer themselves.
12.4.2005 11:13pm
JohnEMack (mail):
As your links point out, there are multiple (and probably and infinite number of) correct answers to your question. In fact, there are a good many more correct answers to your puzzle that come to mind than is usually the case. Your puzzle presents an exceptionally clear example of Wittgenstein's Paradox: how can we determine the rule from its instantiations when all its instantiations are consistent with the rule (or any number of rules)? At least one of Wittgenstein's apparent answers (it is hard to determine what Wittgenstein's answer would be, since he usualy declined to state conclusions explicitly, and since his own method of argumentation usually presented an example of his own paradox) is that to determine rules and instantiations, we rely upon our own human nature. A "correct" instantiation of a rule (in this case, a correct answer to this puzzle) is the one not inconsistent with it which "feels right." Here, that it is clever, that it is non-trivial, etc.
12.5.2005 10:16am