Thursday, May 14, 2009

NPR Puzzle 5/10/09 -- By George!

This week's NPR puzzle was another seemingly arithmetic puzzle sent in by David Hill, presumably sparked by the one used two weeks ago. This week's version:

5 = 4
7 = 17
9 = 25
35 = 2
14 = ?

The answer is 32, which (frankly) tells you nothing if you don't see why.

I won't even bother with all the things it's not -- what it is is presidential numbers and first names.
James Madison (4) = James Monroe (5);
Andrew Jackson (7) = Andrew Johnson (17);
William Henry Harrison (9) = William McKinley (25);
John F. Kennedy (35) = John Adams (2);
Franklin Pierce (14) = Franklin Delano Roosevelt (32).

It's actually quite ingenious, and if Mr. Hill (or Will Shortz) had included 1 = 41 = 43 (the Georges), we might all have gotten it WAY sooner.

This puzzle was presented on Mother's Day, but it really makes me nostalgic for my dad, also named George. As a child, he'd memorized the first syllables of the presidents' last names in chronological order -- and he could still recite the list well into his sixties.


Dad died in early 2000, so he didn't live to see the legal spectacle that was Bush v. Gore. (My father was, among other things, a constitutional scholar; I don't think he'd have approved of the legal reasoning in the Supreme Court's opinion, which effectively decided the 2000 presidential election.) He would have been thrilled to have seen Obama's election.


Crossword Man said...

And my mother learned the English monarchs using a classic mnemonic verse (but she only ever remembered the first four lines when recounting it to us):

Willy, Willy, Harry, Stee,
Harry, Dick, John, Harry Three,
One, Two, Three Neds, Richard Two
Harry Four, Five, Six, then who?
Edward Four, Five, Dick the Bad,
Harrys Twain and Ned the Lad,
Mary, Bessie, James the Vain,
Charlie, Charlie, James again,
William and Mary, Anna Gloria,
Four Georges, William and Victoria.
Edward Seven, then George Five,
But Edward Eight preferred his wife.
George the Sixth did then arrive
And Lizzie Two is still alive.

Dan said...

You guys will never believe this; I solved the puzzle on Tuesday, and both my wife and I submitted. They called HER on Thursday at 3:15, and she did not pick up b/c she did not recognize the number. We could wait a decade before they call again.

Magdalen said...

Oh, no! That is so sad, Dan. My sympathies to your wife! We'll think of her when we listen on Sunday, and try to imagine it's her voice we're hearing!

My ex, Henry, started solving the puzzle and sending in the answers back in 2000; after we had been listening (and solving & sending, although I'll admit I often don't submit because I'm ambivalent about getting "the call") for a few years, Henry concluded that people either win the first time they submit, or not for ten years (or "since the postcard days" which is positively prehistoric).