Quadrivial Quandary:  Logophiles, Rejoice!  Each day we give you four unusual words.  Can you fit them all in one illustrative sentence?

How to Write a Quandary Resolution

  • Use all the words. Your sentence must include all four words. Not three, not two, not one; four. We don't accept excuses like "The word's absence was its implicit inclusion."
  • Illustrate the meanings of the words. Your sentence should do more than use the words in a grammatically acceptable way, it should show what they mean. If someone didn't know the meaning of a word, could they make a good guess from how it's used in the sentence? Try substituting an unrelated word into the sentence, or removing the word altogether. Does the sentence accept this change, or does it resist? Ideally the sentence should throw a fit, as each Quandary word is essential to it.
  • Be natural (or fake it well). Although the Quandary words are your starting points, the sentence should not seem to exist for the sole purpose of containing them. Make the reader believe you started out with something that you really wanted to say. Use the words in service of that point.
  • Tell a story. Factual statements are welcome as Quandary resolutions, but it's rare that four unrelated words will fit into a true and natural assertion. Most often you'll need to invent a fictional scenario to tie them together. Who are your protagonists? What's the genre? What's the point of view? If you are spinning a tale, give it respect as a miniature work of fiction, and try your best to bring it to life.
  • Use Pretty Good Grammar (PGG). The Quandary will tempt you to stretch the bounds of grammar and syntax. In order to fit all four words in one sentence, you'll add more clauses and parenthetical expressions, and make more liberal use of dashes, semicolons and other sentence extenders than you normally would. It's wonderful to write a long, ornate, and lushly punctuated sentence, but remember: you are not excused from the rules of grammar and syntax. (The only exception is when you are deliberately imitating a rough speaker.) We don't want to squash creativity with persnicketiness; we do want you to write the best, cleanest, tightest sentence you can. Four sentences loosely tacked together are no resolution to the Quandary. The most important thing is that your sentence hangs together as a unit. It must sound and feel like one sentence. To test this, read it aloud.
  • Write a self-contained sentence. Your sentence should be intelligible to any reader who understands the definitions of the words. It's OK to invoke history, culture, or current events, as long a reader could easily look up the facts, but don't assume inside knowledge. The reader doesn't know you personally. Jokes between friends or references to your private life are not appropriate, unless you can embed all of the context in the sentence. If you wish to pick up an idea or story line from another sentence on the site, make sure your sentence can still stand on its own.
  • Refrain from commenting on other sentences, contributors, or the site. QQ is a chance to share the pleasure of words with other contributors, but the resolutions are not a forum for personal dialog between contributors. If you have comments on what you read, either praise or concern, please send them to the moderator.
  • Proofread and spell check. Self-explanatory -- no excuses.
  • Accept variations in tense, meaning, and structure. You don't need to use the given form of a Quandary word. For example, if the word is exculpate, you may use exculpates, exculpated, or exculpation. Also, you don't need to stick to the definition presented, as long as there's precedent for your usage. If you find an alternate meaning in a different dictionary, you are free to use it. Finally, you may experiment with different kinds of sentences: favoring brevity, favoring illustration of meaning, going for comedy, going for tragedy, playing with rhyme, imitating rough speech, or pursuing formal perfection.
  • Take your time. Sometimes a sentence will pop into mind right away, but you won't always get lucky. This is a challenging game. If you find yourself spending lots of time, that's normal, and we think it's worth the investment.
  • Have fun. Remember the spirit of the game, which is to share in the joy of words and storytelling. You do not need to be politically correct, but avoid anything that is mean-spirited or deliberately offensive (such posts will be removed). The rules listed here are what I try to follow, but Quandary is just a game. Write sentences that give you pleasure.

How to Read a Quandary Resolution

  • When you browse the Quandary archives, you'll encounter sentences that seem byzantine at first glance. The best Quandary resolutions are at once miniature feats of ingenuity, and windows into vivid fictional worlds. Some are quite hilarious. But you might not perceive these qualities when you approach the archives with a skimmer's mentality. Quandary sentences aspire to stand on their own -- ideally, there would be no guideline needed for reading them. In practice, you'll have a better experience if you view the sentence as a candidate solution to a problem. Of course, you need to familiarize yourself with the four Quandary words and understand their definitions. Beyond that, you should grapple with the Quandary for a moment, get a taste of it, before reading the resolutions. How would you use those four words in one sentence? Let the possibilities begin flowing in your mind, or if you're stumped, experience that feeling for a moment. Once you've struggled with the Quandary, even briefly, it's easier to appreciate another person's effort to resolve it.

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