Friday, 2 December 2011

What do you call a bunch of folks who like mechanical puzzles?

For that matter, what do you call one of them?
A few months ago I thought it would be fun to ask the puzzle-folk on a couple of puzzle-forums what they thought the collective noun for a bunch of puzzlers should be … and the resulting banter was pretty amusing, but perhaps we should start at the beginning – what do you call someone who plays with puzzles?
I’d always assumed that they would be puzzlers – i.e. people who puzzle – although this perhaps runs the risk of missing out on the distinction between people who like jigsaws and people who enjoy mechanical puzzles – and some (mechanical puzzle-loving) people seem to prefer being called puzzlists – which perhaps sets them apart a bit. One suggestion included a preference for being referred to as a conundrumist – that’ll definitely set you apart!
Rick Irby coined a fabulous name for them (us?) in the 1970’s based on a French verb that translates as “to confuse” or “to con” – metagrobologists sounds a lot fancier than puzzler or puzzlist, and metagrobology, being the study of puzzles, sounds a lot more serious than playing with puzzles. In fairness, the latter is probably a better description of my own relationship with puzzles, or metagrobologizers, if you prefer.
Right, so back to the question about the collective noun then – the forum-threads generated quite a bit of interest for a while and ended up producing quite a few amusing and rather apt suggestions – it seems that puzzlists are a pretty inventive bunch!
There were a few imaginative suggestions like a bafflement, a confound, a confusion, a conundrum, a dilemma, an enigma, a perplexus, a quandary and even a sleuth of puzzlers.
Unfortunately a number of closet members of the alliteration alliance then proceeded to proffer a "Permutation of Puzzled People" and it’s subsequent extension, the “Playful Permutation of Permanently Puzzled People"! (They have been sent to bed with a high level mystery burr and without any dinner.)

Some folks opted for the possibly predictable party or IPP of puzzlers.
One suggestion that conjures up all sorts of, err, interesting mental pictures is a harem of headaches.
Then there were several attempts at weaving in self-referential puzzling themes such as an assembly (bonus points for this one!), a burr, a knot, a solution (as if!) or a maze of puzzlers, with one wag pointing out that burr would be fine, as long as it wasn’t interlocking. (This mind boggles!)
There was an interesting (and slightly worrying trend) when someone suggested a debt of puzzlers, and indeed a bankruptcy of puzzlers for the extreme case. 
The physicists and mathematicians piled in with a symmetry, an M-theory and ultimately a geometric progression of metagrobologists
Me, I tend to favour a solution of puzzlers, for all its alchemical allusion and having the answer staring you in the face the whole time … but perhaps I should leave the last word to ace-fellow-blogger Oli: “I think we should just skip the nonsense and go straight for the truth: We are an awesomeness of puzzlers.” 

…of course we are!

…and humble too!


  1. Excellent post! I feel I can give a better name for what I do now other than say "I play with puzzles"! Not that anyone would understand any better but at least women might not run away so quickly! :)

    Cheers Allard.

  2. After meeting so many different puzzle people during my puzzle wanderings I can definitely confirm that as a group, Metagrobologists really are awesome! I do like quite a few of those name suggestions though, so I might have vary which one I go with at any given time.