Rebus puzzles are fun and challenging brainteasers. The first tip for solving rebus puzzles to is to know a large collection of common words and phrases. Without a baseline knowledge of famous sayings, quotes, literature, clichés and even popular culture, it will be very difficult to solve rebus puzzles. Most adults will do just fine, but some younger puzzlers might not be familiar with a phrase like "up the creek without a paddle" or the TV show "All in the Family."
The next tip for solving rebus puzzles is to think about the words in the puzzle as objects, not just words. Consider how the words (objects) have been manipulated. Are they written in very small or very large letters? Are they written vertically going up or down? Is one word over or under another word? Is one word inside the other? Is a word repeated a specific number of times? All of these observations will give you clues to the meaning of the rebus puzzle. Let's look at some examples, starting with the one from the previous page:
If you just read the words, the puzzle says "Earth Earth." But consider the direction of the words. They're written vertically instead of horizontally. You could say they're written "down." Then there's the fact that Earth is written two times. With the clues "down," "two" and "Earth," it isn't long before you have your solution: "Down to Earth." Let's try another one:
"Pawalkrk" isn't a word, so let's look a little closer. Whenever you see a word that looks like gibberish, try to break it into smaller words. In this case, the word "walk" is embedded inside the word "park." Placing one word inside another is a popular rebus puzzle trick. Once you realize that there's a "walk" in the "park," you have your solution: "A walk in the park." Let's look at one more example of positioning:
Over and under, right and left, next to and beside are all popular rebus puzzle clues. Try saying the position of the words out loud as you read them. "Arrest over you're." That isn't a phrase. "Arrest above you're." Not quite. "You're under arrest." Bingo!
Blanks, spaces and unusual separations are also very popular rebus puzzle clues. Try these two puzzles, using two different words for the empty spots. Scroll down to the bottom for the solutions.*
For lots more tips and information on family-friendly games and entertainment, take a look at the HowStuffWorks links below.
*("Point blank range" and "Space invaders")
- Connected Mathematics Project. "English Language Learners: Rebus Technique" (Accessed August 5, 2011.) http://connectedmath.msu.edu/teaching/differentiated/ell.shtml#rebus
- Dictionary.com. "Rebus" (Accessed August 5, 2011.) http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/rebus
- Harrell, Eben. Time. "Study: Brain Exercises Don't Improve Cognition." April 20, 2010 (August 6, 2011.) http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1983306,00.html#ixzz1UAgNgBBo
- Nöth, Winfried. Handbook of Semiotics. Indiana University Press. 1990 http://books.google.com/books?id=rHA4KQcPeNgC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false