Sunday, May 15, 2011

NPR Puzzle 5/15/11 -- Hit in the Head With a Four-By-Four

Here's this week's NPR Puzzle:
Create a 4-by-4 crossword square with four four-letter words reading across and four different four-letter words reading down. Use the word "nags" at 1 across and the word "newt" at 1 down. All eight words must be common, uncapitalized words, and all 16 letters must be different.
In case any of you don't already know this, Ross's night job (as in "Don't quit your day job" job) was developing his own software programs to help crossword puzzle compilers and solvers.  We frequently use TEA (The Electronic Alveary) to solve the NPR Puzzle, but today's puzzle screamed for Sympathy, the product one uses to create the grid for all sorts of crossword puzzles.

Now, we didn't just push the button (well, CTRL-F) that automatically fills in the grid.  We actually (*cough*) solved the puzzle.  But afterwards, we double-checked -- there are other fills possible, although we are convinced there's only one valid answer.  We found two more that fail the essential element of having 16 unique letters.  (Side note:  I wanted to say how many invalid answers there are, but it would seem that it is, and I quote, "Of no interest to constructors" to know how many different possible fills Sympathy can generate.  I am not pleased, but he's my husband, so beyond making my "prune face" at him, the subject would appear to be moot.)

You should send your 4 x 4 grid to NPR here!

Photos.  Hmm.  I did the obvious:  I typed all eight words into Flickr and the following six photos represent all but two of the eight words.  So, a side puzzle for all of you:  In the comments, identify -- BY NUMBER AND ACROSS OR DOWN ONLY -- the two words I didn't use.

Time for ...

P I C K   A   R A N G E

This is where we ask you how many entries you think NPR will get for the challenge above.  If you want to win, leave a comment with your guess for the range of entries NPR will receive.  First come first served, so read existing comments before you guess.  Ross and I guess last, just before we publish the Thursday post.  After the Thursday post is up, the entries are closed.  The winner gets a puzzle book of our unspecified choosing.

There were "700 entries."  No one, including us, guessed that low.  No prize again this week.

But that's not my immediate concern.  My immediate concern is that I don't seem to be getting through to the individual responsible for telling us "there were 700 entries." So, okay, NPR Intern, it is officially on: I realize you are unpaid.  I realize that you thought working at NPR would be more glamorous, would allow you to meet more famous people, would permit you to look out a window at least once a day.  I am truly sorry that you feel like a mole, burrowing blinding underground in search of God-knows-what.  And I understand you don't care about how many people sent in entries.  But we do.  So, please, make just this one tiny aspect of your underwhelmingly important job matter.  When you've tallied up the entries, find a round number (ending in 00 or 50) and tell Liane if the number of entries was "above" or "below" that round number.

Confidential to Will Shortz -- I know we've had our differences.  I know I'm not cute enough for you.  But there's a tiny connection between us, if only because you're fond of Ross, right?  So, before you go to China, could you send an email to the NPR Intern asking him or her nicely to comply with previously established formats for the communication of the number of entries?  Thanks so much.

The irony here is that with a single round number, the probability doubles that we'll award a prize, if not activate the tie-break rule. Let's get this done, people!

Here are the ranges:
Fewer than 50       
50 - 100
100 - 150
150 - 200
200 - 250
250 - 300
300 - 350
350 - 400
400 - 450
450 - 500

500 - 550
550 - 600
600 - 650
650 - 700
700 - 750
750 - 800
800 - 850
850 - 900
900 - 950
950 - 1,000
1,000 - 1,050         
1,050 - 1,100
1,100 - 1,150
1,150 - 1,200
1,200 - 1,250
1,250 - 1,300
1,300 - 1,350
1,350 - 1,400
1,400 - 1,450
1,450 - 1,500

1,500 - 1,550
1,550 - 1,600
1,600 - 1,650
1,650 - 1,700
1,700 - 1,750
1,750 - 1,800
1,800 - 1,850
1,850 - 1,900
1,900 - 1,950
1,950 - 2,000
2,000 - 2,050
2,050 - 2,100
2,100 - 2,150
2,150 - 2,200
2,200 - 2,250
2,250 - 2,300
2,300 - 2,350
2,350 - 2,400
2,400 - 2,450
2,450 - 2,500

2,500 - 2,750
2,750 - 3,000
3,000 - 3,250
3,250 - 3,500
3,500 - 4,000
4,000 - 4,500
4,500 - 5,000

More than 5,000
More than 5,000 and it sets a new record.
Our tie-break rule:   In the event that a single round number is announced, AND two separate people picked the ranges leading up to and leading up from that round number, the prize will be awarded to whichever entrant had not already won a prize, or in the event that both entrants had won a prize already or neither had, then to the earlier of the two entries on the famous judicial principle of "First Come First Serve," (or in technical legal jargon, "You Snooze, You Lose")


Dave said...

Looks like I'm first to snag a range. I'll go with 800 to 850. Hard to believe that there's a unique answer to this week's puzzle, but from what I've been hearing, there is.

David said...

I've completed a (the?) 4x4 and identified three of the pictures so far (all across), so I'm pretty confident I have the same answer as Magdalen and Ross. These are all common words (at least to crossword puzzlers). One of the words reminds me of blood.

I'll go with 1000 to 1050 again, although I am probably guessing too high based on recent history.

Based on today's on-air segment, it seems as if the puzzle will continue after Liane retires.

Justin said...

I'll lowball this one and go with 500–550. Nifty blog!

Anonymous said...

I'm new to this blog, but I'm happy to guess 700-750.

I also solved the grid, but I can only identify two of your photos (so far). The others seem s unlikely that it is shedding the slightest doubt on there being only one solution... :-)


Mendo Jim said...

I have a solution, but had a hard time believing that one of the words is not a proper noun.
I am guessing there will be more than one "answer."
This was the perfect time to trot out the ol' Scrabble™ (hee, hee) pieces; without them I had trouble not duplicating letters.
The hint system at the other place is failing.
As for the photos, I think just three of them have anything at all to do with the challenge.
I do like the long, curvy parking lot though. And I have a barely tame cat around the place that color; I call her "Red."
As David says, it looks like the game will continue.
The low turnout had to be because of Mothers' Day. This one is tougher, but I'll stick with the 1200-1250 tranche.

Anonymous said...

I have a solution, and it includes five of Magdalen's words. I'm going to guess that it includes the other three as well, but I cannot for the life of me find the sixth photo. (The photos I've identified are, by position, 1A, 3A, 4A, 1D, and 3D.)

I didn't find any obscure words or proper nouns. Only one of my words strikes me as moderately rare.

I'm going with a very low guess today: 450-500.


Anonymous said...

Looks like I have the same words as you. You don't picture 1 across or 2 down.

I think 1250-1300. It wasn't THAT hard.


Mendo Jim said...

Well, Marv, ruin my day!
One of the pics I had an idea about was 1 across.
I can't figure how saying I thought it is Nags Head gives anything away.

David said...

Mendo Jim-
I can find several pictures of the same pier that Magdalen shows, but not the same picture, so I think 1A is in fact one of the six (unless the same picture works for another word, which is doubtful). Maybe she goes to page 100 of Flickr. I have found three other exact pictures.

Magdalen said...

For what it's worth, Marv isn't right.

Jimel said...

I'll choose the 900-950 range. I'm just not disciplined enough to browse through all those flickr pix without finding myself going off on tangents. I did find 3 down so I assume I came up with the standard answer.

Anonymous said...

Mendo Jim, I did find the exact picture Magdalen used for 1A. I'm not sure on what page I found it, but it did take a lot of digging. Of course, it's always possible that someone placed a newt at the end of the pier and I'm confusing one for the other.


Anonymous said...

850-900 range, please. Deb