Can You Find the Missing Words in These Puzzles? Less Than 60% of People Can.
Get ready to put your creative thinking skills to the test!
Every product is independently selected by our editors. If you buy something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
The history of remote associations tests
Developed in 1959, the Remote Associations Test, or RAT, began as a way to test problem solving skills, creative thinking, and how different parts of the brain contribute to different thought processes. Here’s how the puzzles work: Participants are presented with three different, unrelated words. The challenge is to find a fourth word, or “solution word,” that makes sense when combined with each of the three words. The solution word can go before or after each word, as long as the combined phrase makes sense. In most cases, two of the three words will call to mind a very obvious meaning of the solution word, while the third word will require a less traditional or familiar usage of it.
Here’s an example:
If you guessed “cheese” as the solution word, you’re correct! “Cottage cheese,” “Swiss cheese,” and “cheesecake” all make sense. As this example shows, pairings that produce a single word (“cheesecake”) and ones that produce a two-word phrase (“cottage cheese”) are equally valid.
According to author Leonard Mlodinow, “Those who use insight [to find the solution] allow their minds to relax and wander until they find an answer, an idea that seems to appear suddenly, from nowhere.” This is why people who employ creative, non-straightforward thought processes tend to find more solutions. The following Remote Associations puzzles vary in difficulty, but each has only a single word as its solution. To learn more about the history of the RAT, check out the book Elastic: Flexible Thinking in a Time of Change by Leonard Mlodinow. Happy associating! If your brain doesn’t feel ready to solve these tricky puzzles, try doing these brain games that boost brain power first.
SOLUTION WORD: “soda”
Here’s a fairly simple example of how different uses of the same word can come into play. “Soda fountain” and “soda pop” conjure up the most familiar association of the word “soda.” But in the case of “baking soda,” soda isn’t a bubbly liquid. Yet soda is still the word! After solving these, try out these printable crossword puzzles.
SOLUTION WORD: “card”
Playing cards, credit cards, and report cards…if you think about it, they all involve a bit of a gamble at times. Nothing’s scarier than a credit report, but this hidden ghost puzzle comes close.
SOLUTION WORD: “tape”
The word “tape” has quite a few meanings, as “tape measure,” “tapeworm,” and “videotape” make clear. Here are some common words that actually mean nothing like what they look like.
SOLUTION WORD: “killer”
Painkillers, serial killers, and killer whales can each be dangerous, in very different ways.
You can sit in a high chair and a wheelchair, but sitting on a chairman is inadvisable. If your inner word nerd is loving these puzzles, check out our all-time favorite grammar jokes.
SOLUTION WORD: “silver”
While not super easy to figure out, this one is pretty straightforward once you know it. Silver coins, quicksilver (also known as mercury), and silver spoons are all the same color.
SOLUTION WORD: “fire”
Unlike “fireman” and “house fire,” “surefire” doesn’t conjure images of a blaze, but it’s still a very real phrase! For more creative thinking exercises, learn the 10 things all highly creative people do.
SOLUTION WORD: “cover”
“Cover-up,” “book cover,” and “cover charge” are the correct combinations for this one. Interested in more great word puzzles? We’ve got you covered. Don’t miss these tricky word games that are sure to puzzle you.
SOLUTION WORD: “horn”
Make some noise with your French horn, or your car horn. We’ll have to “shoehorn” the explanation for the third pairing in here, too.
SOLUTION WORD: “pit”
It’s pretty amazing that these three “pits”—peach pits, armpits, and tar pits—can be so vastly different. These word puzzles will leave you stumped.
SOLUTION WORD: “club”
If your mind wandered to “green” when you thought about golfing, you’re not alone—this is a tricky one! But while there’s no such thing as a “green sandwich” or “sandwich green,” you can enjoy a club sandwich in your clubhouse after swinging a golf club.
SOLUTION WORD: “bow”
You can wear a bow tie, gaze at a rainbow, and wield a crossbow. Talk about lots of variety packed in a single word. See if you can solve any of the 25 hardest riddles ever written.
SOLUTION WORD: “box”
You might’ve had to think outside the box to remember that “box office” is as valid an entity as more literal boxes like mailboxes and hatboxes.
SOLUTION WORD: “stone”
You might be stone-faced if you got this tricky puzzle wrong, but no worries—this was a challenging one. Especially since “Stone Age” and “sandstone” refer to literal stone, but a “milestone” is only metaphorical! Plus, you might be a literal genius if you can solve the secret word in this logic puzzle.
SOLUTION WORD: “face”
While a facelift and a face mask refer to your actual visage, you might’ve had to think a little harder to remember that a Jack, Queen, and King are “face cards.”
SOLUTION WORD: “apple”
This type of crab isn’t creepy or crawly! The three combinations are “pineapple,” “crabapple,” and “applesauce.” We dare you to solve these 14 tricky crossword puzzle clues.
SOLUTION WORD: “play”
If you’re the athletic type, your mind might’ve jumped to “ball” for this one. But the correct combinations are “foul play,” “playground,” and “playmate.” Two very fun types of play, and one less so. Check out these words we use all the time that double as both insults and compliments.
SOLUTION WORD: “fast”
“Fast” isn’t pronounced the same in “breakfast” as it is in “fast food” and “fast forward,” making this one pretty tricky!
SOLUTION WORD: “jack”
Kudos to those of you who know your snack brands (“Cracker Jack”), your British slang (“Union Jack”), and your animals (“jackrabbit”)! If you solved all of these word associations without a problem, put your mind to the test with these 19 tricky brain teasers that will leave you stumped.