riddle

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a riddle wrapped in an enigma

That which is so dense and secretive as to be totally indecipherable or impossible to foretell. It is a shortened version of a line used by Winston Churchill to describe the intentions and interests of Russia in 1939: "I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest." Many versions, variations, and appropriations of the quote, its structure, and its meaning have since been in use. I can't make any sense of this calculus textbook, it's like a riddle wrapped in an enigma. I just don't have any idea what Mary expects from me; she's a riddle wrapped in an enigma.
See also: enigma, riddle, wrap

a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma

That which is so dense and secretive as to be totally indecipherable or impossible to foretell. It is from a line used by Winston Churchill to describe the intentions and interests of Russia in 1939: "I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest." Many versions, variations, and appropriations of the quote, its structure, and its meaning have since been in use. Political campaigns make my head hurt. They're just a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.
See also: enigma, inside, wrap

riddle someone or something with something

to fill someone or something with small holes, such as bullet holes. Max pulled the trigger of the machine gun and riddled Lefty with holes. The police riddled the wall with holes trying to shoot the escaped convict in the house.
See also: riddle

talk in riddles

to talk in a way that is difficult to understand
Usage notes: A riddle is a difficult and confusing description of something.
She keeps talking in riddles, instead of just coming out and saying what she means.
See also: riddle, talk

riddle with

v.
1. To pierce something in many places, especially with bullets or some other projectile: The troops riddled the side of the tank with gunfire.
2. To be permeated with some kind of puncture or hole. Used in the passive: The side of the house was riddled with bullet holes.
3. To be permeated in many places by something, especially by flaws. Used in the passive: That report was riddled with errors.
See also: riddle
References in classic literature ?
I see no reason," he said, "when our capitals are riddled with secret societies, all banded together against us, why the great families of Europe should not in their turn come together and display a united front against this common enemy.
In a few seconds he came up to breathe; and scarce had his head reached the surface of the water when it was completely riddled with the shot of their guns, and he sunk, to rise no more
The voice swore and cursed violently; it riddled the solemn peace of the bay by a volley of abuse.
Needed in this citation is either bullet-riddled or riddled with bullets.
In 1992, Alexander and his colleagues found a theoretical example in which the set of initial conditions, or basin of attraction, leading to one attractor is riddled with points corresponding to initial conditions leading to another outcome.
They found a mathematical example in which the set of initial conditions, or basin, leading to one attractor is riddled with points corresponding to initial conditions leading to another outcome (SN: 11/14/92, p.