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How To Solve Puzzles

How to Solve Phonetic Changeup Puzzles

by Chip Brown

To solve a phonetic changeup puzzle, you need to think about how the words are pronounced, not how they are spelled. For instance, the words “ruff” and “rough” are spelled very differently, but sound identical. They are composed of the same phonemes.

Remember that a phoneme may be made out of multiple letters, and the solution words will use distinct spellings (perhaps very different) for the same sounds. The pronunciation guide in a dictionary uses a special alphabet to identify the phonemes: the International Phonetic Alphabet. In this alphabet, the words “rite” and “wright” are both written as “rīt”.

These puzzles can be tricky, so here is an example:

Think of an 8-letter word for an “aura of intrigue.”
Replace one phoneme to make a 7-letter word for something one hopes not to make.

The answer is MYSTIQUE → MISTAKE:


We can verify the answer by looking at their spellings in the phonetic alphabet: MYSTIQUE = mi-ˈstēk and MISTAKE = mi-ˈstāk. You can see that while the normal spellings are very different, the phonetic spellings are identical, except for a conversion from a long e to a long a.

This puzzle type is inspired by the Flat puzzles of the National Puzzlers’ League.


If you get stuck, don’t forget you can get hints by tapping on the icon. You have the option to reveal a letter or answer and also to clear out any errors. It’s not cheating to ask for a hint — the goal is to have fun, so if asking for a hint increases your enjoyment, feel free.


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