National Puzzlers' League

From Academic Kids

The National Puzzlers' League (NPL) is a nonprofit organization focused on puzzling, primarily in the realm of word play and word games. The group has three aims: to further the pastime of word puzzles, to raise the standard of puzzling to a higher intellectual level, and to establish and foster friendships among its widely scattered members. The National Puzzlers' League is the oldest continuously operating puzzle organization in the world.



On July 4, 1883 a small group of word puzzlers met at Pythagoras Hall in New York City and founded The Eastern Puzzlers' League. It was renamed the National Puzzlers' League in 1920; however, the organization has been in continuous existence ever since that first meeting.

The league's official publication began as "The Eastern Enigma". It originally contained few, if any, puzzles. Instead, it reported on business transacted at puzzlers' conventions, printed verses and skits composed by League members, and presented debates on the controversial topics of the day. These topics included the use of obsolete words in puzzles, the use of certain esoteric references as authorities, and the advisability of admitting new types of puzzles to the pages of The Eastern Enigma.

Editors rarely served more than one year at a time, and the publication schedule was often irregular. In the January 1900 issue, a puzzle department called "Penetralia" was started, and this appeared regularly until 1903. "Penetralia" was started again in the February 1910 issue, when The Eastern Enigma began monthly publication. Later, with the organization's name change, the magazine was retitled "The Enigma".


The NPL is comprised of a geographically dispersed group of men and women, from all walks of life, who share a common interest in word puzzles and word play. Members are encouraged to select a "nom" (nom de plume), which serves as their nickname when communicating with fellow members. This helps break down social barriers that might otherwise be exist when addressing one another using more formal titles. For example, a member can correspond with another member (who happens have a doctoral degree), without worrying about what salutation to use or being intimidated by their professional status.

None of the officers receives a salary, and the yearly dues paid by the members are used for the monthly publication of The Enigma.

NPL members are known collectively as Krewe, and individually as Krewepersons, Krewemembers, or, simply, NPLers.

NPL members enjoy the following benefits:

  • Monthly subscription to The Enigma, the NPL's official publication
  • Member Directory (published annually)
  • Opportunity to interact with fellow puzzlers and word play enthusiasts in myriad ways (e.g., via e-mail, in a chat room, in-person at conventions and other social gatherings, etc.)


The Enigma, the NPL's official publication, is distributed monthly to its members. It provides an outlet for members to share their original word puzzles for fellow members to enjoy. The Enigma also contains articles and announcements of interest to its members.

Graffiti on the Sphinx (GotS) is a publication edited by an NPL member with the nom of Treesong. It logs NPL-related activities and provides a more informal outlet in which members share their thoughts on NPL-related matters.


The predominant puzzles of the NPL are puzzles with word and linguistic bases. The NPL has its own puzzle type, known as the Flat, and it is flats that make up most of the puzzles in The Enigma. Flats (verse puzzles) were the primary form of wordplay before crosswords came along, but look strange to modern puzzlers, in part because inferring words from context is not a familiar solving technique.

Other types of puzzles in every issue are

  • forms: like crosswords with regular geometric shapes and, usually, no black squares
  • cryptograms: the familiar coded-message puzzle, but with a wide range of difficulty
  • extras: other non-flat puzzles, notably cryptic crosswords

Flats consist of anagrams and puzzles in verse (flats proper). In the latter, one or more words are missing from a verse and your job is to figure them out. For example, one type of flat is the charade: a word is broken into two or more shorter words, like TOTAL = scarcity, ONE = scar, TWO = city. The length of the whole word is given, but generally not those of the parts. For example:

My migraine was pounding; I needed some rest.
"There's WHOLE," said my FIRST, "in the medicine chest."
The SECOND on all of the labels looked blurred.
I took one at random and promptly got THIRD.

From the title line and context you know that you want a 10-letter word for something that can be found in a medicine chest. It breaks into three parts: the first is someone you could call "my" (friend, son, neighbor, nurse); the second is something on a medicine label, like "print"; and the third is an adjective like "worse" or a noun like "palpitations". With some thought, you can come up with the answer: painkiller (pa, ink, iller). Note that the verse need not scan or rhyme with the answers in place.

A complete description of flats can be found on the NPL web site.


NPL members enjoy a wide-variety of word play oriented activities, including:

  • Solving and composing puzzles, such as: anagrams, crossword puzzles, cryptograms, etc.
  • Publishing puzzle-related articles
  • Playing parlor games, such as Scrabble, Boggle, trivia, etc.
  • Playing online games in a chat room, such as Seekipedia (a game where members try to guess a particular Wikipedia article based on cross-references within the article)
  • Sharing humorous and interesting stories and observations related to word play
  • Discussing topics of interest to members, such as etymology and linguistics
  • Participating in externally organized competitions, such as the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament
  • Attending conventions (which provides a forum to perform many of the above activities)


An annual NPL convention is held, usually in July. The location varies, but has historically been a major North American city.

Convention activities include: Word games, trivia games, hidden puzzles (which must be found before they can be solved), local field trips to places of NPL interest, and an "extravaganza" (a multi-stage puzzle that requires team effort to solve).

NPL members also host mini-conventions, or mini-cons, on an ad hoc basis.

External links


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