Popularity of Riddling

Although our dataset includes riddles from 1733 to 1971, some periods and places were much more popular than others.

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US: 1800-1920

The vast majority of the events we have uncovered are Conundrum Suppers from the United States. As you can see, they appear to have been especially popular in the Northeastnorth-east.

North-East US (1)

Some of the earliest US events took place in this area. If you click on the dots, you will see that many were still treated as Enigmatic Bills of Fare.

North-East US (2)

Largely after 1880, Conundrum Suppers slowly begin to appear all over the map. As with Enigmatic Bills of Fare, there is overlap between the menus that have survived. Click the dots for the menus.

US: 1800-1890

For a century with no easy means of long distance communication, it is surprising how quickly the practice spread. Many menus across the country have identical riddles; some events even have identical menus. Click and see.

US: 1890-1920

After 1890, these events are all over the map. To date, we have found 1102 US Conundrum Events from between 1890-1920. These alone comprise almost 90% of our dataset.

US: 1890-1900

Broken down into 10 year segments, our map reveals that Conundrum Suppers initially exploded in popularity during the 1890s. We have found 563 Conundrum Events from this period in the US.

US: 1900-1910

Throughout the following decade, Conundrum Suppers remained very popular. Yet, a decrease in the number of events can be seen; we only found 305 events between 1900-1910, just over half of the amount of the previous decade.

US: 1910-1920

By 1910-1920, there was a considerable decline in Conundrum Events. We only uncovered 148 events from this decade, less than 50% of the number of events between 1900-1910. Afterwards, Conundrum Events begin to gradually disappear.

Transatlantic Conundrums

While most of the Conundrum Events we found are from the US or Canada, we have also found a few on the other side of the Atlantic!

UK: 1880-1970

The UK is unique in terms of the riddling events we have uncovered. Enigmatic Bills of Fare disappear by the mid-19th century. However, fifty years later, riddling events began appearing again across the UK.

UK: 1890-1920

Our team has uncovered 45 UK riddling events between 1890-1920. This period coincides with the rise in popularity of the events across the US. These, however, grow in popularity over the 30 years, rather than decline.

UK: 1890-1900

During this decade, we have discovered only 4 riddling events across the UK. These events are called Conundrum Suppers, or “Teas”, like their US counterparts. This suggests their difference from the earlier Enigmatic Bills of Fare.

UK: 1900-1910

Between 1910-1920 we have discovered 23 events, almost double the number of the previous decade!

UK: 1910-1920

Between 1910-1920 we have discovered 23 events, almost double the number of the previous decade!

UK-US and Back Again (1)

With such a small dataset, it is hard to assess the rise in Conundrum Suppers’ popularity over the course of this period.

UK-US and Back Again (2)

It is possible, however, that the 1890s boom of Conundrum Suppers throughout the United States led to a resurgence of riddling dinners in the United Kingdom.

Conundrum Events 1920-

Following the 1920s, Conundrum Events of all sorts dwindled. Prohibition, WWI, and the rise of radio are all possible explanations for this drastic change.

Riddling Foodways 1920-

Yet enigmatic foodways did not entirely disappear. The rise of the speakeasy in this period, for example, offered another form of dining that involved confounding locations, puzzling entrances, and riddling menus.