Having taught 3rd-6th graders riddles for years to long past the point of having developed a whole system of Riddle Mastery, here are the collected Principles of Riddle Mastery which, as the name implies, describe the semi-culture – for lack of a better phrase – and knowledge the activity imparts on those of my students who throw themselves into riddles.
- Knowing the four basic types of riddles: Logic, Wordplay, Scenario, and Combination. (Plus the semi-fifth Knowledge-type)
- Knowing the ranks of difficulty: Easy, Lower through Upper Middle-ranking, Hard, Master, and Sovereign-class.
- Knowing that simply knowing the answer to a riddle means nothing. It is solving them that make the Riddle Master.
- If you solve a riddle, give no hints and tell no one the answer so others get a long chance to solve it.
- Knowing that everyone's minds works differently, some riddles are easy to some but not for others; that even Master Solvers struggle on some Easy-ranked ones.
- Knowing that no one solves every riddle.
- Knowing that Mastery in Solving and Making takes a lot of practice and that very few are naturally gifted.
- Knowing that there are two kinds of Riddle Masters: the Riddle Solver and the Riddle Maker, the latter of whom creates riddles. It is the Makers' task to train the Solvers' in answering, and the Solvers' task to challenge the Makers' in creating as well as test new riddles. Neither can truly flourish without the other.
- Knowing that how fast one solves a riddles means little. It is the solving that matters, not the speed.
- Knowing that riddles are supposed to be fun, the overall purpose being to stretch minds.
- Knowing that riddles are not a competition and that who solves the most riddles is not the point.
- Knowing that poor Solvers can make great Makers and great Solvers poor Makers, that some are naturally better at Solving or Making Wordplay over Logic and vice versa.
- Knowing that 95% of all riddles are Middle-ranking and that one must test a riddle on many people to determine its rank.
- Knowing that a good riddle has only one perfect answer and that a Maker who finds a flaw in a riddle must fix it, because Solvers will point out the flaw by coming up with the other possible answers and then explain why their other answer works when you say it is not correct. Even deeply experienced Riddle Masters Makers do not think of everything and can make mistakes.
- Knowing that the riddle reflects the Maker's mind.
- Knowing that the riddles with the most obvious answers are often the hardest to solve.
- Knowing that the overall point of riddles is for people to solve them. If you create mostly/only Hard through Master and above riddles, how many do you think will solve them? The answer: very few. What happens when very few people solve your riddles? The answer: very few will want to hear them.
- Knowing that everyone is better at riddles than they think they are at first.
- Knowing that one must never lie about whether or not one has solved a riddle.
- Knowing that Riddle Mastery is voluntary, and that there is no shame in one or others losing interest or taking a break.
- Knowing that there is always more to learn. That, as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "all is a riddle, and the key to a riddle...is another riddle."
- Above all, knowing that Riddle Mastery is about respecting the riddle, the answer, and the effort, dedication, and skill it takes to make, solve, and achieve Mastery. This is why Riddle Masters respect each other, for they all abide by the Principles of Riddle Mastery (and get angry at those who break them).
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