The Phoenix Files: Riddle #1 Explanation

By Christopher Stephen

The original riddle can be found in TPF #10, Part One.

Ar ya ready for this special quest? It is a special quest because it is TPF #10, and you need to be ready for it to answer correctly! “Ar” is a pirate reference, but becomes more important later.

At end there is an old treasure chest! Another pirate reference; but these are red herrings. I received a lot of “Spongebob Squarepants” or other pirate-related responses because of this. Basically, this line simply means there is a prize for the winner.

Not full of fool’s gold, The winner does not win gold or money; something most people (fools) would prefer to a book. If you thought of pyrite, or “fool’s gold,” you fell for another of my red herrings.

Shiny, hard, and cold; This simply describes and rhymes with gold. This could back up the pyrite herring.

But a book, mateys, and them’s by far the best! A book is the prize (The Plot Thickens), which is better than gold or money because it gives you ideas, which are invaluable! “Mateys” is another pirate reference. Hopefully you were so inundated with them that you started to go down that path at least once. Many of you believed the answer was a book, but throughout this stanza I have been referencing the prize, not the answer to the riddle.

Overall, the first stanza (or poetic paragraph, this time in near-limerick form) was meant simply to introduce the competition with the exception of the first “Ar.”

To solve the riddle, put your THINK CAPS on Probably the most obvious clue in the entire poem. I placed THINK CAPS in capital letters. You are to think of capital letters to solve the riddle. I stated that the answers could come from throughout the File. Looking at the first paragraph of the File, the capital letters are M, S, S, S, S, P, and P, in that order. This becomes extremely important if you can put it together with other clues. You may have noticed this “error,” because Snape is a “Professor,” not a “Mister” as stated in the File. This was a red herring for those who thought of all capital letters in the riddle or who thought of the Sorting Hat (another very popular answer). You were thinking too simply – later on in this stanza, we find answering just one portion of the riddle will not be enough.

The name of God may help you if called upon. The name of God in the Hebrew religion is YHWH, or Yahweh. The “Ar”s throughout the riddle are to make you think of Hebrew for this reason. Hebrew consists of no vowels. This clue immediately follows the one above because you were to use them together. If this clue is combined with the one above, you will learn that MSSSSPP is simply missing vowels (giving you Mississippi).

Each clue gives another, True. Solving one portion of the riddle is simply not nearly enough to get you the correct answer. Many of the incorrect responses I received did not consider this portion of the riddle, but simply figured out the answer to one clue and sent it in.

Another, an other; The space was included here in attempt to throw you off. But if you noticed it, you could realize there was more than one way to figure out the correct answer. One of the most direct routes takes a combination of three clues to figure out the correct answer.

And all of them leave you confused as Ron. Ron is extremely confused throughout the series, especially at the end of PoA (evident in the film). Hopefully by this time you would be totally confused with the riddle, and perhaps a bit frustrated with me, but I wanted to make sure everyone had enough time to view it and be one of the first twenty to get the correct answer; the riddle was supposed to take a very long time to solve. While there are red herrings, the answer to the riddle is supported by nearly every word.

If you hadn’’t already figured out the Mississippi clue, this is the reason it’s in there: many U.S. children learn to spell Mississippi at a very early age. M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I! The Mississippi hint was to lead you to spelling. Because THINK CAPS was very obvious, and I stated in the File that obvious clues took quite a bit more thinking than subtle ones, this was a difficult route to take.

Ar, now you’re coming along quite well, Another “Ar.” You are coming along quite well because we’re nearing the end of the clues.

It’ll all be over after this short spell. A double-entendre. The clues nearly are over, and a “short spell” is a common phrase, especially in the southern U.S. However, SPELL is such a huge, huge clue that I was afraid making it a rhyming word would draw too much attention to it, but couldn’t get around it. I had to make sure there were a few different ways to reach the answer. Spell was to lead you to spelling, not a magic spell (as many of you incorrectly assumed it should).

A “paper” or “stand” What can be either a “paper” or “stand”? News. Newspaper, newsstand. The answer to the riddle was in the (fairly major, national) news. I received many “Tom Brokaw” answers because many people figured out this portion of the riddle (which I thought was difficult!) and due to the two capital letters in the last stanza. I considered accepting this answer, but it did not fit the entire riddle, just parts. Similarly, I received tons of recent news answers, like “Michael Jackson” and others because this portion was figured out, but, once again, obvious clues take more work to get to the answer.

Will help hold your hand, News will assist you in solving the riddle.

And bring you closer to being quite swell. It had to rhyme with something!

So follow yer instructions to the T. “yer”, to HP fans, may make you think of Hagrid, but most people think again of pirates. You are to follow your instructions very closely (“to the T.”). I suppose, looking back on it, I should have had a lower-case t there, but the phrase is “to the T.” The capital T could have been a red herring for the THINK CAPS clue (and too many people saw more than just the common phrase here. Perhaps that tells us, myself included, we read too much into JKR’s writing as well?).

Ar no one knows more words than he. Another “Ar.” This is the third one. In Hebrew, if something is repeated three times, it makes it the the superlative form. For example, “Holy, holy, holy” means “holiest.” By repeating this small word three times, (it was a stretch) some of you were hopefully thinking of Hebrew (leading you to the YHWH and Mississippi clue). No one knows more words than he? The answer to the entire riddle is based upon this. No one knows more words than the winner of the Spelling Bee. I received a lot of Roget and Webster answers, but this doesn’t fit the entire riddle, either.

In the music we wrote, Basically an intro to the next line.

We marked a grace note, The winning word was Italian for a “grace note.” If you watched the competition or the national news, it is likely you heard/saw this.

Now yer job: tell me who the winner B. Your job was to tell me who the winner of the Scripps National Spelling Bee was (some of you did not figure out you were looking for a winner). It was Anurag Kashyap, and his winning word was Italian for “grace note.” It was a major, national news story, and if you didn’t remember his name it would have been easy to look him up on the Internet. Hopefully, twenty of you would get it! If not, I was going to introduce a new stanza that would be more obvious. The capital B here was to lead you to the homonym clue of bee (and I warned you to THINK CAPS earlier). The answer of “Tom Brokaw” was the second-best answer because it fit most closely to the riddle.


No thing can help you like Putnam, ahoy! But the one whom you seek is alive, a real boy. You look and you look, But he’s not in a book; Winning this contest will give you much joy!

A popular, new Broadway musical is entitled The Twenty-Fifth Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, which would lead you directly to the correct area. “The one whom you seek is alive, a real boy.” There is a possible red-herring to Pinocchio here, but mostly it gives you the information that the answer is a real young male person. I received many answers with the actor who plays a boy in the play (who was a Tony-winner), but he is a full-grown man, not a boy. The answer is not in a book (because he just won the bee), and winning the contest will give you joy in the form of the book! : ) After this was posted, twenty people quickly answered correctly.

As stated earlier, this was an EXTREMELY DIFFICULT RIDDLE. It was not perfect, so I apologize to those who felt my clues were ambiguous. However, I think looking back on the riddle with the answer in your mind, you will find all clues eventually led to him (like all roads lead to Rome…). Thanks for playing and reading The Phoenix Files!