by John McCall


Ben Franklin,
Gimme a Break

Puzzles based on Ben and Verse

Teachers' Comments Requested

Please share your ideas and concerns (contact me here). The author has been critiqued for forty years and is not particularly sensitive to complaints. Insights of any kind will be gratefully received. . If those who approve some elements would refer these puzzles to others for review, the author would be doubly grateful. While, as the author of this, I expect universal applause, I can’t help thinking about Ben’s warning under “Gratitude” in Ben and Verse ( I keep remembering:

“What's given shines, What's receiv'd is rusty.” [1735]

Rusty or not, thank you -- for reviewing this.
John D. McCall



Students’ Own Sayings
Students may, if they like, share their reactions to the puzzles in their own words. They may also want to refer to Ben Franklin’s sayings from any of the puzzles below. His sayings may provide useful ideas.

The three-choice puzzle quotations::

  • At a great pennyworth (bargain), pause a while.
  • Many complain of their memory, few of their judgment.
  • By diligence and patience, the mouse bit in two the cable
  • They who have nothing to trouble about will be troubled at nothing.
  • An honest man will receive neither praise nor money that is not his due.

The four-choice puzzle quotations:

  • The wise man takes more advantage from his enemies than a fool from his friends.
  • As pride increases, fortune declines.
  • A man is never so ridiculous by those qualities he has as those he affects (i.e., pretends) to possess.
  • Employ thy time well if thou meanest to gain leisure.
  • Fear to do ill and you’ll … never need nought else (or you need never fear anything else).

The five-choice puzzle quotations:

  • Half-hospitality opens his doors and shuts up his countenance (i.e., his facial expression, apparently the host was stony faced).
  • Idleness is the greatest prodigality (i.e., extravagant wastefulness).
  • Declaiming against pride is not always a sign of humility.
  • Love your neighbor, but don’t pull down your hedge.
  • Cunning proceeds from want of capacity.


“Phony Pearls of Fictitious Wisdom” in Ben and Verse – for English Teachers

The home page ( is divided into two sections “Ben & Verse” and “Phony Pearls.”  English teachers may be interested in both.

Apart from the implied lessons in responsibility and observation, the “Ben & Verse” section may instruct stylistically with over 200 examples. “Phony Pearls” aims to teach by example, too.

In ESL, for instance, the author’s satire in English was dramatized by Herbert Morales and broadcast abroad by the Voice of America. English teachers would find explicit instruction in “Shadowing the Reader,” a detailed article on how to foreshadow in fiction.

Caution: it would seem best to bypass the “clerihews,” which on this website are merely very uneven jingles, with an offensive verse on Zeus.  If teachers discover any other offensive items, please inform me.

Thanks again for reviewing this material.


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Rev 2010-1.