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May, 2003 Puzzle Contests

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5/30-6/2/03 Contest:

The explorer and adventurer Alabama Smith (you'll find more of Smith's adventures here and here) has, after months of searching in numerous jungles, found the lost royal crown of King Iriddlealittle! Naturally, the crown is resting on a high pedestal. There are 12 holes set at the base of the pedestal, and 12 engraved stones. Smith knows from his painstaking archaeological research that the 12 stones must be placed in the holes in the correct order for the pedestal to lower the crown. Otherwise, it will smash it into the ceiling! Carved on the floor is the following conundrum:

The 12 gods and goddesses of Time, having been beheaded for treason, were laid to rest in order.

The stones are engraved with these odd names:

Andy, Archie, Ayme, Cthbert, Ectomorph, Egbert, Epstein, Ovac, Prince, Ugly-kid, Ulrich and Underhill.

In what order must Alabama Smith insert the stones?

Answer (from the winner):

"Andy, Egbert, Archie, Prince, Ayme, Underhill, Ulrich, Ugly-kid, Epstein, Cthbert, Ovac, Ectomorph

The key is months of the year with the first letter removed (beheaded), however Egbert should have been Ebert!!:

Jan(dy), Fegb(rt), Mar(chie), Apr(ince), May(me), Jun(derhill), Jul(rich), Aug(ly-kid), Sep(stein), Oct(hbert), Nov(ac), Dec(tomorph)."

I actually had Egbert as Ebert to begin with, then had a momentary lapse of reason (yes, the name of a Pink Floyd album) before posting the newsletter, and changed it. Shame on me! :-)

Winner: Graeme Black, Vacaville, CA

5/29-5/30/03 Contest:

Determine what 3 words are suggested in the following problems. You must get all 3 right to be entered to win:

1. Slow, not a saying or maxim (6 letters)

2. A unit of distance, not animal hair that needs to be cut (7 letters)

3. A boat, not a scoundrel who uses a Greek letter (7 letters)

Answers (from the winner):

"1. adagio
2. furlong
3. pirogue"

The "saying or maxim" clue related to the word adage, which is spelled similarly to adagio. The other two used "fur" and "long," and then "pi" and "rogue" in their clues.

Winner: Shirley Wolf, Rockville, MD

5/28-5/29/03 Contest:

2 trains are going to pass through the same tunnel, on two separate tracks. One train is headed south, the other north, and both are traveling at 30 miles/hour. Both trains are exactly half of a mile in length, and the tunnel is one mile long. Half of the northbound train is into the tunnel, and the southbound train is 1 mile from the tunnel. Exactly how much time will pass before:

1. The trains first meet AND

2. The trains fully pass one another?

You must get both parts right to be entered to win.

Answer (from the winner):

"The two trains are now 1-3/4 miles apart. Since each train is going 30 mph, they are moving towards each other at an effective rate of 60 mph. Therefore, they will meet in 1-3/4 minutes or 105 seconds.

The trains will fully pass each other at 2-3/4 miles (2-3/4 minutes) or 165 seconds."

Winner: Shirley Wolf, Rockville, MD

5/27-5/28/03 Contest:

A spy is trying to crack the code to a safe used by a terrorist organization. The spy has these unique clues:

The code contains exactly 4 single digit numbers
3 of the numbers are primes
3 of the numbers are odd
The numbers are in descending order
The number 5 is not one of the numbers
A Revolution relates to the first number, at least for Beatles fans

What is the code?

Answer (from the winner):

"answer = 9732

-it is 4 digits.
-only single digit primes are: 2,3,5,7
-since 3 of the numbers are odd, 2 should be the even prime.
-since 5 is not one one of them, that leaves 2,3 and 7
-revolution #9 is a beatles song, so the 4th digit is 9.
-thus, the numbers are 2,3,7, & 9 and the fact that 3 of the numbers are odd is extra info.
-since they are in descending order, the number is: 9,7,3,2"

Winner: gustavo zardeneta

5/23-5/27/03 Contest:

Determine what the following 4 items have in common:

Constant walk ton gang

Answer (from the winner):

"They have PLANK (PLANCK) in common.

PLANCK's Constant - from quantum mechanics (physics)

'walk the PLANK' - pirate execution

PLANKton - tiny marine animals

gangPLANK - used to get on and off a ship."

Winner: Al Siller, Rockville, MD

5/22-5/23/03 Contest:

No, I'm not the guy from 2 (so far) popular movies, nor a deity. But I am the smallest unit, such as the word him or the -ing in talking that cannot be broken into smaller meaningful parts. What am I?

Answer: morpheme. The clues related to the similarly spelled name Morpheus, the Greek god of dreams and the character from the 2 Matrix movies.

Winner: Sharon Gresko

5/21-5/22/03 Contest:

You are a contestant on the game show Show Me the Metals! You are told that a square table has one item at each of its corners, although not necessarily in the following order: bag, barrel, chest, and coffer. Exactly one of each item is on the table. Each item contains one of the following, again not necessarily in order: copper, silver, gold and platinum. Exactly one of each metal is on the table. You must determine which items contains which metals. If you solve the puzzle, you win 1 million newly minted pennies from Show Me the Metals! Here are the clues:

The bag is diagonal to the item containing gold
The chest is diagonal to the item containing platinum
The barrel is diagonal to the item containing copper
The coffer is diagonal to the item containing silver
The barrel is not diagonal to the chest
The coffer is not diagonal to the bag
The copper is not diagonal to the gold

Answer (from the winner):

"The Platinum is in the Bag
The Silver is in the Barrel
The Gold is in the Chest
The Copper is in the Coffer."

Winner: Andy Muenz, Glenolden, PA

5/20-5/21/03 Contest:

Remove my last 4 letters, and you have something yummy. My 7, 5, 6, 4 is water floating in the atmosphere. I am a religious movement that started in Germany in the 17th century. What am I?

Answer: Pietism. Pie and mist were the other 2 clues.

Winner: Becky Quast

5/19-5/20/03 Contest:

I am a bird. Remove my last 5 letters, and you have something related to a matrix. I contain 2 T's and 2 E's. Also, if you remove the first letter of a word that I also am, you have someone who is not a fighter. What am I?

Answer (from the winner):

"dotterel (dot, plover, lover).

A dotterel is a European bird of the Plover family."

Winner: Shirley Wolf, Rockville, MD

5/16-5/19/03 Contest:

I am a word for something believed to turn metals into gold, or to make someone immortal. Remove my last 2 letters, and add a letter to the beginning of me, and you have a cat or (with a different letter) something in duplicate associated with DNA. What am I?

Answer (from the winner):

"The answer is ELIXIR, the imaginary substance that is supposed to prolong life and change base metals into gold.

Remove the last two letters and add F to the beginning and you get FELIX (as in Felix the Cat) or add H to get HELIX (a spiral) of thich there are two of in DNA (hence the term, Double Helix)"

Winner: Gerry from Tipperary, Ireland

5/15-5/16/03 Contest:

Decide what word is indicated in each of the following items. You must get all of them right to be entered to win:

1. Arrogant, not explosive (9 letters)

2. Cheese, not an evil being (7 letters)

3. An additional charge, not a penalty for being a man (6 letters)

4. Material for puddings, not the guy who played the Hulk (6 letters)

5. Magic, not a visit to the restroom (7 letters)

Answers (from the winner):

"1. bombastic
2. munster
3. surtax
4. farina
5. cantrip"

Winner: Shirley Wolf, Rockville, MD. Shirley is the only one to get them all right, and the only person to get #5 right :-)

5/14-5/15/03 Contest:

If an object moving at 1 mile/hour accelerates 1 mile/hour for every meter it travels, how fast will it be travelling in half of an hour?

Answer: Only Leonardo Cocito and Graeme Black got this one. The object reaches the speed of light (which in theory cannot be exceeded) well within its 30 minute trek. Per Darryl Miyaguchi of Uncommonly Difficult IQ Tests (who is an engineer and who I had check my incomplete work :-) "the speed of light is reached after about 50 seconds." I believe Graeme Black noted this same time frame. Graeme included some calculations, and Darryl gave me even more info, but "the speed of light" is a sufficient answer.

Winner: Leonardo Cocito, Genova Italy

5/13-5/14/03 Contest:

corn ion verse son form

Decide which of the following words goes with the above five:

tap tree tumult trek trust take

Answer (from the winner):

"The words are corn, ion, verse, son, form. If you add "uni-" to the beginning of each word, a new word is formed . . . unicorn, union, universe, unison, uniform. The word in the next group that belongs in the first is trust. A unitrust is a type of trust which provides gift support and income and tax benefits (per I.R.S.)"

What your winner was kind enough to not mention was that ION in the original set should have just been ON. Otherwise, the resulting word would be uniion. I goofed! But congrats as always to our winner, who still figured it out.

Winner: Andie, Virginia Beach

5/12-5/13/03 Contest:

Bob needs to drive from Bartlesville to Brattlesville, and then return from Brattlesville to Bartlesville. The distance between the 2 towns is 100 miles. Bob is a strange character in that he wants to make sure that each of his tires gets exactly the same number of miles on the road. This includes all 4 standard tires, plus a spare. How many miles will each tire receive in this scenario?

Answer (from the winner):

"The answer is 160 miles.

With a total distance traveled of 200 miles and 4 tires traveling that 200 miles that means a total of 800 tire miles are traveled. Dividing that by 5 tires so each travels am equal distance. That leaves 160 miles per tire."

Winner: Rick B, Arvada, CO.

5/9-5/12/03 Contest:

There is something very unusual about each of the following nonsensical items, other than the fact that each contains the same 10 letters. What is it?

Shy to dream
Harmed toys
Dreamy host
Stormy head
Myth adores

Answer (from the winner): "They are all anagrams of Mother's Day. HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!"

Winner: sasiteck; Fairfax County, VA

5/8-5/9/03 Contest:

Blindfolded, you are drawing socks from a drawer, one at a time. The drawer contains 12 red socks, 11 white socks, 10 black socks, and 9 blue socks. You must get each of the following right to be entered to win:

1. How many socks must you draw from the drawer to be sure you have at least 2 of the same color?

2. How many socks must you draw to be sure you have at least 2 of every color?

3. How many socks must you draw to be sure you have all of at least one of the colors?


1. 5 socks. Worst case scenario is drawing one of each color. The 5th sock would have to produce 2 of the same color.

2. 35. Worst case scenario is getting 12 red, 11 white, and 10 black. With 2 blue socks added, you have at least 2 of every color.

3. 39. Worst case scenario is drawing 11 red, 10 white, 9 black, and 8 blue. On the very next draw you would have all of one color.

Winner: Michelle Nichols

5/7-5/8/03 Contest:

You must determine what both of the missing words are to be entered to win:

(12 letters) is the creation of words by imitation of the sounds associated with them, such as bang, hiss, and buzz. (15 letters) involves ascribing human feelings to something not human.

Answers (from the winner): "Onomatopoeia and Anthropopathism."

Personification and anthropomorphic were common answers (along with anthropomorphism, which contains 16 letters). These are more general terms that involve human characteristics and qualities, and not specifically feelings as with anthropopathism. This was a fairly tough problem.

Winner: Sylvia Espinoza. A lot of people missed this one.

5/6-5/7/03 Contest:

Although I may sound like a rude name one child might call another, I am actually a partition found in ships. What am I (answer contains 8 letters)?

Answer: Bulkhead

Winner: Jeremy Eble, Silver Spring, MD

5/5-5/6/03 Contest:

Replace the ? in the following numeric series:

^ * ! %# &^ #* ?


%^! which is equivalent to 128.

In effect the series is: 2 4 8 16 32 64 128

1 = %
2 = ^
3 = &
4 = *
5 = $
6 = #
7 = @
8 = !
9 = '
0 = "

Winner: Michelle Ferri, Philadelphia PA. Only Michelle answered this one correctly, which proves what we've said all along: SMART CHICKS ARE COOL!

5/2-5/5/03 Contest:

On May 2nd, 2037, Inspector Gajjit questioned 6 suspects believed to possibly have committed a crime. The 6 were connected to a multigraph lie detector, which, after many years of research and improvements over the old polygraph system, is 100% accurate. Exactly one of the individuals is known to have committed the crime, and the test results showed that exactly one person told the truth, while all of the others lied. The only problem is that the test results were accidentally destroyed before the good Inspector could see who lied (someone spilled coffee on the machine). To make matters worse, the device cannot be repaired for several weeks.

The good news is that the recorded statements of the 6 are still available:

Alex: Christy did it.
Beth: Don didn't do it.
Christy: Eric is telling the truth.
Don: Fred did it.
Eric: Beth didn't do it.
Fred: Alex is telling the truth.

You must get both of the following right to be entered to win:

1. Who is telling the truth?
2. Who is guilty of the crime?

Answer (from the winner):

"The answer is Beth is both the criminal and the only one who is telling the truth."

The tip was that you had 2 people saying that individuals did not commit the crime. If they were both lying, this would create 2 guilty people, so one of them has to be telling the truth. With that being the case, Christy's statement must be false, since one of the "didn't do it" people has already been established as having told the truth, and only one person in the group is telling the truth. If Christy's statement is a lie, then Eric is lying, making Beth guilty and the sole truth teller.

Winner: Diane Cizunas, Illinois

5/1-5/2/03 Contest:

In a tent at a carnival people are playing a game of chance. It costs one dollar each time you play, and if you win, you receive $5.00. You can choose one of the following to try to win:

Rolling 2 standard dice. If they come up double 6's or double 1's, you win

Drawing a card from a standard 52 card deck, which has been freshly shuffled. If you draw a face card, you win.

A box is shaken which contains 11 white marbles, 10 black marbles, and 8 red marbles. Without being able to see the contents and with all marbles being indistinguishable from the others without seeing them, you draw 2 of them. If one is white and one is red, you win.

A bag is shaken which contains 7 chips, each one with a different day of the week painted on it. Without seeing them, the chips are indistinguishable. Without seeing the contents, you draw 3 chips, one at a time. If the 3 you draw are in order (e.g. Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and NOT Wednesday, Saturday, Friday), you win.

You spin a wheel that shows all 365 standard dates of the year on it. The wheel randomly lands on one date. If it is in April or May, you win.

You must get each of the following right to be entered to win:

1. Which method produces the best chance of winning?
2. Which method produces the worst chance of winning?
3. If you played several times using the best method, would you be more likely to make money, lose money, or break even?


1. Bag of chips
2. Dice.
3. Make money: averaged out, you would make $1.50 per game!

Only one person got this right, and even I was initially off on my calculations, as the chips worked out to be quite a wild card (pun intended)! The face cards are actually the second best option. Here's the skinny:

Dice: Only a 5.5555% chance of winning. By far the worst. These are only 2 of 36 possible outcomes, so chance of winning is 1 in 18.

Face cards: You win 12 times out of 52, or 23.0769% of the time.

Marbles: There's a 10.8374% chance of drawing a red and then a white, and the same chance of it being the other way around. The combined probability of winning is 21.6749%.

Chips: This was nuts! You win half of the time. There are 210 possible outcomes, 30 beginning with each day of the week. You win in 15 cases of each block of 30! Now, if you write all of these out (I did, but won't try to recopy it here), you naturally see that (for example) Monday, Wednesday, Friday is a winner, and Tuesday, Monday, Friday loses. But catch this: Wednesday, Friday, Tuesday WINS. If you look at it as a cycle, as long as the days never overlap, they are technically in order (e.g. Wednesday, Friday, Thursday overlaps, and would not be a winner). Whacky.

Wheel: You win 61 out of 365 times, or 16.7123%.

You would break even if you won 20% of the time: 20% of $5 is $1, which is how much it costs to play each time. So, you could expect to win money over time with marbles, cards, and certainly with chips.

Winner: Leonardo Cocito, Genova Italy. This was a very tricky problem.

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