Friday, June 20, 1997
'The Riddler' is a sixth-grader

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Riddle me this.

Q: What begins with a laugh and ends with a smile?

A: The story of Laura Kreuter's winning entry in the Dixie Riddle Cup Contest.

It began with a March 22 article in The Enquirer. "Dixie Cups calls on the ultimate 'riddler,' " the headline read.

Barbara Buchholz, Laura's sixth-grade teacher at Three Rivers Middle School, read the wire-service story about Dixie Cups wanting kids to submit original riddles for its new line of cups.

Sixteen winners would be chosen from around the country. The winning riddles and the writers' names and hometowns will be on the cups that come out this fall.

Dixie Cups received 4,193 entries. Eleven-year-old Laura, who lives in Miami Township, entered this winner:

Q: What happens to a cow when it's in an earthquake?

A: A milk shake.

Mrs. Buchholz thought it would be a fun contest for Laura and her four classmates in the school's gifted students program to enter.

The story ran on a Saturday. The following Tuesday, class members pulled out their journals and started writing riddles.

Laura remembers the day as a rainy one. Perfect for brainstorming. Her classroom neighbor, Fay Bozich, wrote this riddle:

Q: What do you get when you mix a cow and a run-down house?

A: A milk shack.

Laura liked the sound of "milk shack." It made her giggle. It also reminded her of milkshakes.

Dreaming of a shake's cold, sweet taste, Laura glanced around the classroom. Her eyes came to rest on a newspaper article thumbtacked to the wall. The article was about the flood of 1997.

Laura began thinking about natural disasters. She thought about earthquakes. Her mind rhymed that word with milkshakes. And her riddle was born.

Mrs. Buchholz gathered the classes' other riddles. Jessica Dreier wrote:

Q: What did the letter 'A' say to the letter 'B'?

A: Stop following me.

Lauren Bosse put her riddle next to a drawing of a roadway for ducks.

Q: Mommy, what's a Duckway?

A: About three pounds.

Brett McArthur, the only boy in Room 25, came up with:

Q: Why does the FBI hire knives?

A: So they can poke around.

The riddles went into the mail. The class hoped for the best. But Laura did not cross her fingers.

"I just considered the contest to be one of those things where, if you win, it's really good. But if you don't, there are other things you can try to do."

Then came the problem.

Mrs. Buchholz sent her students' riddles to the address printed in the paper. But the address was incomplete. The street number was missing. The riddles came back marked "Return to Sender." The class missed the deadline.

Mrs. Buchholz spent two days searching for the right address. (The Enquirer's librarian, Ray Zwick, finally tracked it down.) She told her students she was going to send Dixie Cups a letter explaining the address mix-up and beg for mercy.

"They should have to accept it," Laura reasoned. "We didn't make the mistake."

Dixie Cups saw it the same way, and the riddles were in.

What began as a fun lesson in riddle writing took on an added dimension. Mrs. Buchholz showed her students how to persevere.

"This taught them if something goes wrong, you don't just sit back and say, 'Oh well, it's hopeless,' " the teacher said. "You keep trying to make it right."

Laura made it right with her first riddle. She's won a $100 U.S. savings bond for her efforts and is eligible for the grand prize of a $1,000 U.S. savings bond.

And, she's already giving advice on how to write a prize-winner. "Play with the words," she says, "like they do in the Sunday comics with my two favorites, Snoopy and Charlie Brown."

Sitting in her family room, she paused and thoughtfully put her hand to her chin.

"One more thing," she said, springing to her feet.

"Make it funny."

Cliff Radel's column appears in The Enquirer Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Call 768-8379 or fax at 768-8340.