• The Literary Ritual of Conundrum Suppers

    Shakespeare added thousands of words to the English language, wrote both drama and poetry, and even bought himself a noble title! But was he a riddler? Apparently, literature and riddles have always been related.[1] As The Riddle Project dove into Conundrum Supper events from the 20th century (events in which guests ordered from menus all in riddles) we came across a unique specimen.

  • Dress the Part! The Costumes of Conundrum Suppers

    During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Protestant Churches would often host fundraising events called Conundrum Suppers. At these events, guests would order from menus entirely composed of riddles! Yet riddling menus were not the only entertainment. Performances and games were often on the agenda as well. Many guests even came in costume!

  • Comical Conundrums: What’s So Funny?

    Have you ever ordered food, just to be greeted with a dish of roaring laughter? At the fin de siècle of the 20th century, guests would gather at events called Conundrum Suppers, in which diners would order from menus written entirely in riddles. What was the point of this puzzling pastime? Well…because it was fun!

  • Call Me By My Name: The Nomenclature of Riddling Dinners

    When we first discovered Conundrum Suppers – events in which guests order from menus written entirely in riddles – the name seemed oddly fitting. It described a meal served forth as unsolved puzzles.

  • Festive Fundraising with Conundrum Suppers

    “All who attend will be assured of having a good social time, an excellent supper, and of becoming acquainted with the wonders and mysteries of a ‘Conundrum Supper’.”[1]

  • What is this?!

    Look closely at this page from an 1804 British manuscript and you might notice the diagram for a table setting. Do the labels reveal what diners might have enjoyed for dinner at a 19th century mansion? Well, yes and no. While it shows what will be on the table and where, the names of the dishes themselves are only given as riddles. A Baronet? (Sir Loin!)

  • How do riddles move from EBoF to EBoF?

    Enigmatic Bills of Fare (EBoFs) frequently share the same lines, suggesting that there is a transfer of riddles from supper to supper. This raises the immediate question of how and why this is happening. Are riddles being shared based on their physical location? Are riddles being shared in a timely fashion, such that recurring riddles tend to come up in bursts and then fade away? Or is it random: Do riddles just pop up randomly as a sometime fad?

  • New SSHRC Funding for The Riddle Project

    The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council has granted support to the project over the next two years to investigate this new genre from an interdisciplinary angle. The team, led by Nathalie Cooke, Associate Dean of ROAAr, includes an energetic team of research assistants as well as collaborators from across the departments of the McGill Library. Librarians, digitization specialists, cataloguers and researchers will work together to shed new light on the newly Identified sub-genre of Enigmatical Bills of fare (Ebfs).

  • Digital Humanities and the Gale dataset

    This post is a writeup on a computational analysis of a corpus of riddles obtained from the Gale Group. This corpus is about 3,000 riddles, each tagged with information including publication date, publisher, location, and author. Nearly all of the riddles in this set were published in London, England. There were several main parts to the analysis: First, an analysis of riddle syntax and difficulty by measuring changes in type-token ratio and reading ease score over time. Second, a study of the differentiability of riddles by classifying and measuring the quality of the classification. Finally, a set of analyses to test the capabilities of the built-in analytics tools in the Gale Digital Scholar Lab.

  • Loving in truth and fain in Riddle my love to show: Mother’s Day Acrostics with The Riddle Project

    “I’ve put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant, and that’s the only way of insuring one’s immortality”[1]– James Joyce

  • Can You Spot It?: Solving Visual Puzzles with The Riddle Project

    “Too many riddles weigh men down on earth. We must solve as we can, and try to keep a dry skin in the water.”[1] ― The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky

  • Some Rhyme, Some Chime: Practicing Enigmas and Charades with The Riddle Project

    “It is one thing…to have very good sense in a common way, like every body else, and if there is any thing to say, to sit down and write a letter, and say just what you must, in a short way; and another, to write verses and charades like this.”[1] – Emma, Jane Austen

  • How Many Can You Solve? : The Riddle Project

    What can promote innocent mirth, and I may say virtue, more than a good riddle?[1] – Middlemarch, George Eliot