What Is Black and White and Red All Over?

Lena Vasiljeva/CC-BY 2.0

The question “what is black and white and red all over” is a classic riddle with several possible answers. One answer, using a play on the homophonic words to change the word “red” to mean “read,” is a newspaper.

Other possible answers to the riddle add an attribute that is red in color to something that typically is black and white in coloration. These answers include a zebra painted red, an embarrassed skunk, a Communist nun and a sunburned penguin. Variations of these answers interchange the attribute and the object. For example, alternative responses to the question include an embarrassed nun or a sunburned zebra.

The joke appeared in at least 21 collections of folk riddles published between 1917 and 1974.