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There was (a) strange puzzlement in his eyes.

Is the article incorrect or not in this sentence?

To my ear, both cases are correct. Adding the article before the adjective makes the feeling (puzzlement in this case) more unique, as opposed to the "typical strange" puzzlement that would be intended without the article.

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    Your thinking is correct. But, while neither is "incorrect", I would definitely insert the 'a' as 'strange puzzlement' isn't really a "typical" thing. If you wanted to omit the 'a', I would also omit the 'strange'
    – Kevin
    Oct 2, 2020 at 13:51

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In this usage, the article is correct. The sense is 'an appearance of puzzlement which seemed strange'.

Compare 'He accepted the compliments with a becoming modesty.'

'She displayed her work with a shy pride'.

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