Two words or phrases with the same spelling are used with different pronunciations and meanings. Examples: ONE = tarry (“to linger”), TWO = tarry (“covered with tar”); FIRST = Mount St. Helens, SECOND = mounts the lens. Unlike most flats, heteronyms need not have bases that are dictionary entries -- in fact, long, contrived phrases are welcome as long as they are well clued in the verse.

HETERONYM (8, 4 4)
You say she pulled your ONE out by
The roots? That TWO, I’ll bet. If I
Were you, and had your wife-as craven
As this might sound-I’d stay clean shaven.

The solution: ONE = mustache, TWO = must ache.

Heteronymic” also refers to changes in word breaks, even if pronunciation doesn’t change: cargo/car go. Examples may be found in cryptic clueing, picture puzzles, and the heteronymy of a rebus’s reading and answer. A base in which sounds, letters, and spacing remain unchanged, as in bear (carry), bear (ursine), and Bear (CA river), is called an identity homonym, and should be avoided.


Two or more unrelated words or phrases are pronounced the same but spelled differently. Example: ONE = hair, TWO = hare. Unlike most flats, homonyms need not have bases that are dictionary entries. For example: ONE = we pause, TWO = wee paws.

HOMONYM (9, 4 3, 4 4)
Madame Boronskaya, her NINE lifted, eyes
Poor Cio-Cio-San there-so FOUR THREE so portly.
She scans her libretto but puts it down shortly;
Does Madame fancy opera FOUR? “FOUR!” she replies.

The solution: lorgnette; lorn yet; lore? “Nyet.


A word or phrase becomes another when reversed. For example: ONE = desserts, TWO = stressed.

REVERSAL (2 4, 6) (TWO = NI3+ usage)
“But Ham, Daddy told us to place in the Ark
A unicorn, minotaur, griffon, and snark.”
“Those critters are ONE, and they cannot be TWO.
There’s too many now, Shem-we’re taking the shrew,
Giraffe, monkey, elephant, lion, and lamb.”
If you mourn for the loss of the dragon-blame Ham.
=Dumbo, A.

The solution: ONE = de trop, TWO = ported.

In the bigram reversal, two-letter chunks are reversed instead of single letters. There aren’t many of these; one example is ONE = se-ra-ph, TWO = ph-ra-se.

If one or both parts are not dictionary entries, the puzzle is not a reversal but a mynoreteh.


A reversed heteronym. A word or phrase becomes another when reversed. For example: ONE = won ton, TWO = not now; or ONE = barcarole’s summer -- aha!, TWO = a harem, mussel, or a crab.

MYNORETEH (NOW = 6; THEN = *1 3 2)
My wife is now a Buddhist (Zen),
And meditates for hours, so THEN
She tries to reach a state of NOW.
Illumination lures my frau;
Yours truly, though, will just decay
While she “enlightens,” day by day.

The solution: NOW = satori, THEN = I rot as.

Unlike most flat types, a mynoreteh needn’t have only dictionary entries; indeed, at least one part must be non-MW -- otherwise the puzzle would be called a reversal instead.

The mynoreteh was introduced by Ulk in 1990.


A sentence or phrase is spelled the same forward as backward; for example, Draw pupil’s lip upward. An accompanying verse provides clues.

Quiche Lorraine?
Oh, not again!

The solution: Drat such custard!

This page was last updated on Thursday, June 18, 2015. /webmaster