Sunday, May 31, 2009

NPR Puzzle -- 5/31/09 Red Alien Twins: Idle Twin Earns its Winner Lead

Here's the takeaway puzzle for this week:
Take "Indian wrestle," rearrange the 13 letters to get three words that are all related. What are they? Hint: The word lengths are five, four and four letters, respectively.
Now, here's where we get into the "cheating/not cheating" debate. As soon as Will announced the challenge, I thought, "Oh, I know how to solve it," thinking of Ross's software Wordplay Wizard. It's a totally cool program (my personal fave) that works out all the different ways you might devise a cryptic clue for a word or phrase. As anagrams are a particularly tasty way to devise a cryptic clue (and among the easiest for a non-Brit to spot and therefore solve), Wordplay Wizard gives you all the complete (i.e., using all the letters) and partial anagrams for your answer.

Ah, but there are other ways of solving such a puzzle. For example, you can psych out the setter. In this case, you think, "Well, could it be related to either Indians (Native American, or Asian Indians) or wrestling?" And if that doesn't pan out, you might think, "Well, if they're all related, then perhaps I'm looking for three items in a list of items." And finally, you might think, "What words can I find in those letters?" Get out the Scrabble tiles, if need be.

All this was going through my mind, even as I was getting out of bed (we'd slept late, again, and listened to the puzzle in bed). Just as my feet hit the floor, I solved it, the three words tumbling out of my mouth almost without my thinking about them. That's not cheating, but it sure wasn't hard, and I don't see how it's all that much of an accomplishment.

Whereas, going to Wordplay Wizard for the answer would have been hard work. There are over 3,250 different permutations of letters that result in over 9,000 words in two- and three-word combinations. I'm awfully proud of my spotting some of the more interesting alternatives to Will's resident in-law puzzle. In addition to the title, I've tried to compose some (almost) intelligible text:
NW residential winner details: isn't wild Ranee, a wilted sinner; as winner led it, nine wild tears. Real twins dine, learned twin is an elder twin & is a winner, led its resilient dawn. "I lasted: a winner!"
So here's my question: Which of the titular Red Alien Twins is the real cheat: just having the answer come to you, or you go & find the answer? And does your choice change depending on which effort is longer/harder/more creative/more analytical? I don't have a dog in this fight, so comment on why your choice is the right one.

(And I will share my secret shame. I had thought -- for a few heady moments! -- I had an alternate valid answer to the NPR challenge. Eider: Swan Lint, thinking that swan down must be a subset of Eiderdown. Nope -- Eider is the specific species of duck. Duck duck not-swan! I lose.)

Oh, and here's your value added puzzle: Today's on-air puzzle involved two-word phrases that shared a word starting with J. Here are some starting with Z:

Petting & keeper
Ground & hour
Time & out
Plains* & print (*valid, but not common)
Celestial & killer

6 comments:

Natasha said...

Does the answer have to be submitted in the order of 5,4,4? I did not do that.

jerryinchelsea said...

On the Sunday Puzzle page on the NPR site, LAST WEEK'S puzzle is still up there on top, instead of today's puzzle.
(At least as of right now, approx. 3:50 P.M. in the East.)
I have already sent them an E-mail about it.

Natasha said...

You have to scroll down the page. I had trouble too until I did that. It is there but not in the usual place.

Natasha said...

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=104758715

Here is the site.

jerryinchelsea said...

Thanks, Natasha!
They certainly did put it in the wrong place on the page.

Natasha said...

This puzzle was easy for me for some reason. took me 3 minutes to solve. Just lucky I think. Good Luck!!!