“For Corey, the Rubik’s cube was an endless conundrum.”

What is the best definition of conundrum?

Check your answer!

Choice A - A solution to a previously unanswered question
Choice B - A figure of speech referring to something clandestine
Choice C - A question or riddle with only one solution
Choice D - A confounding and seemingly unsolvable problem


Conundrum (noun) – a puzzling or confounding problem; a question that is seemingly unanswerable or can only be solved with conjecture (not proof or evidence); or, a riddle or question asked for amusement, often involving a pun or wordplay 

GRE pro tips:

The exact origin of the tricky word conundrum is unclear – some even say it was invented entirely for laughs. And that seems fitting for a word that can refer to a riddle or question asked for amusement and, in its original usage, included a play on words or a pun. Take this classic conundrum, for example: Why will one never starve in the desert? The (perhaps not so obvious) answer is: Because of all the sand which is there

Today, however, conundrum is used more broadly in reference to all sorts of confounding or seemingly unsolvable problems, or (more loosely) to anything enigmatic, puzzling, or founded in mystery. It is frequently used in reference to perplexing contemporary dilemmas, from ethics to economics. Take for instance, the conundrum of privacy in a digital era or the job skills gap conundrum in employment. Or, it can be used to describe difficult questions, such as those posed in an unsolved math riddle, or the age-old question of “pancakes versus eggs?” for breakfast.  

Maybe you can remember: conundrums are confusing and confounding.

Example sentences:

“While the labor secretary contended that outsourcing was the remedy for our employment conundrum, the president insisted the solution was training and education of local citizens.”

“Compounding the privacy conundrum further is the fact that smartphones and cameras on every corner document our every move. Does privacy even exist?”

“And like many who came before us, we faced the age-old conundrum: eat-out or order-in.”