Punctuation puzzles

A relatively obscure puzzle category is that of punctuation puzzles. An example is to add capitalization and punctuation to the following list of words to make them grammatically correct – and explain what the result means.

time flies you can’t they move to fast.

The answer is:

“Time flies!”

“You can’t. They move too fast.”

Someone asked a friend to time how fast houseflies move. The friend replied that they darted about too quickly for him to do so.

Corny? Sure. But here’s one that is a little more challenging.

becky while tom had had had had had had had had had had had the teachers approval

I will share the solution in my next post.

© 2016 Lyndon Hardy

7 thoughts on “Punctuation puzzles

  1. Becky, while Tom had had more than enough, had the teacher’s approval.
    Explanation: Tom was being mean to his classmates since day one. He poked them, prodded them, stuck gum in their hair, and was even known to thrown out someone’s binder now and then. One day during his antics, Becky lost her cool. She shredded all the pages in her own binder and one by one threw that at Tom, pelting him in the face, the chest, and she kept at it with such fury, Tom was completely overwhelmed. He fell to the floor begging for mercy and the class cheered the victory over the bully. When Becky saw her teacher, even he was nodding his head in silent gratitude.

    Haha. Ok, I cheated. 😉

  2. Wow! Your story is much more entertaining than the one I was given so long ago. And your punctuation starts out correctly too. But besides all the extra words there were only three hads.

    • True, there were only three. My cheat, however, was in the “had had more than enough,” making a joke of the abundance of “had” in the original. There were certainly more than enough instances of had. 🙂 I know there’s an actual solution. It’s about as obscure as the six-layered buffalo sentence.

  3. The ‘six-layered buffalo sentence’! I have never heard that one. Please enlighten me.

    PS Did you get the comment I recently tried to make on your blog?

  4. “Becky, while Tom had had “had,” had had “had had.” “Had had” had had the teacher’s approval.

    They were filling out a worksheet that required the appropriate verb forms to be added. The sentence was something on the order of “Susan ________ five apples before she ate one; then she had only four.”

    Becky filled the blank in with “had had”; Tom used “had.” But the teacher intended “had had,” since the time when Susan had the five apples was before the (past) time when she had only four left.

  5. Boniface

    Congrats! You are the first to reply with the correct answer.

    Ah, the Internet! Back in the day, when I first learned of this puzzle, the solution was passed around by word of mouth. Now, all one has to do is go to wikipedia to see this one and a lot more.


    I like this puzzle in particular because of what one can do with it. Consider that both Alice and Bob put the puzzle on their blogs. Alice did so correctly, but Bob left out one of the hads. The blog police approved Alice’s posting but rejected Bob’s. As a result, one could say:

    Alice, while Bob had had “had had had had had had had had had had”, had had “had had had had had had had had had had had”; “had had had had had had had had had had had” had had the blog police’s approval.

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