Sunday, June 19, 2011

NPR Puzzle 6/19/11 - A Puzzle for the Real World

Here's this week's NPR puzzle:
Think of a former world leader whose first and last names both sound like things you might see in a mine. Who is the leader, and what are the things?
I got this one, although Ross had just said a wrong answer that led me to the right one.  There's a hint in this post's title, but figuring it out is almost certainly going to be harder than the puzzle itself.

Please don't reveal EITHER the hint or the answer in the comments; send the answer in to NPR via this link right here.

I doubt this week's puzzle will generate quite such a spirited discussion in the comments, but we welcome all comments that don't give the game away.

Here are some photos that similarly won't give the game away.  As I have done in the past, I've looked up the former world leader's Wiki page and then found photos of places associated with that person's life.  I'll provide the proper attributions and explanations on Thursday.

But before we get to the photos, here's my three degrees of separation from the former world leader (FWL):  the next senior politician in the FWL's country had been a student of my father's back in the day.  (They even exchanged Christmas cards every year.)  Just saying.  (I'll explain all that on Thursday -- it's actually even less sexy than it sounds when it's all cryptic and mysterious.)


Remember -- any place name in FWL's Wiki entry is fair game!

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.

Just under 200 entries last week means that Dave won.  We'll get that prize out right away, Dave.  And yes, this finally breaks the drought of no prizes.  So it can happen to YOU -- pick a range and see if you can win next week.

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")


woozy said...

Assuming the last two weeks were flukes and the haven't modified how they count correct answers, I'll pick 2,500-2,750 as a range.

I go the answer, or what I assume is the answer, pretty quickly. Curious as to wrong Ross's wrong answer. The frist thing I thought of that *would* be actually seen in a mine (my *very* first thoughts were stalagmite and calcium-deposits which would not) was the person's first name. Then I had to remember the persons last name and ... waddya know, that'd also be seen in a mine.

Hmm, a wrong answer that would explain the clue would be Roquat of the Rocks... I guess you *would* see rockets and rocks in a mine...

Mendo Jim said...

I was among those who wondered if a row of five hats consisted of two "four hats in a line."

It bothers me that Will claimed: "Yes, I said .....EXACTLY four hats in a line......" (emphasis mine) this morning.

Ross's solution is the most elegant of the possibilities (and the snazziest).
I'm not sure why the Master didn't offer this blog as well as Blaine's as a resource.

This may be the first solution to a challenge that is only for those with an internet connection. First the postcards, then the answers!

Jacki said there were under 200 entries, but that the contestant was chosen from the "correct ones." I wonder how many that was.

This week there will obviously be between 2400 and 2450.

Natasha said...

See Blaine's blog for why Will referred to his solutions. I choose 300-350 for entries this week.

skydiveboy said...

Mendo Jim:
You have put your finger right on the problem I was attempting to clarify for people here. Blaine only had 3 correct solutions and the other 4 are simply rotations. This is why it does is unimportant to state how to number the grid as there is no way to state how to construct the solution. It would matter if the grid had been a rectangle.

I am very interested in knowing how many submitted correct answers. I figured only 50 would be correct, but I suspect several others include 5 hats in a row and are not correct solutions.

In the past, a very few times, I have listened to the puzzle and solved it while the host was still finishing the segment with Will, but this time I actually got the answer as I was reading the question on line yesterday. It suddenly popped into my mind as I came to the word, "mine," I almost fell out of my chair with surprise. I guess this is another example of how it pays to keep informed on world affairs (not the IMF kind). I am frequently amazed at how ignorant so many people in this country are about who the persons are who have so much control over our lives, but if I had not experienced it several times myself I would not believe there are actually Canadians who have no idea who their prime minister is. No, I am not making this up.

Dave said...

When I was the on-air contestant almost a year and a half ago, I had the opportunity to talk with Liane because the groundcrew was cutting Will's grass right outside his office while we were trying to record the show and he had to go outside to ask them to stop until we were done. I asked Liane how they select the following week's on-air competitor and she told me that they went through all of the entries and from all of the correct ones, they chose one name. I assumed that they chose a name, then determined whether or not that person had submitted the correct answer. My guess is that they don't bother to count the submissions with incorrect answers.

Very cool to win Guess the Range for a second time. Ironically, I didn't even submit an answer to NPR, which occurs only once or twice a year (mostly because I'm going to be out of the country on a Thursday). Do you still have my address, Magdalen?

I'm going for the 700 - 750 slot this week and trying to make it back to back wins. A lot of people are on vacation and won't send in entries or they've never heard of this guy because they're uninformed Americans. You're being way too optimistic (or pessimistic), Woozy and Mendo.

woozy said...

They used to say "We got so an many correct answers" didn't they. I noticed recently they started to say "We got so many answers and of the correct ones." But the weird thing is that the number of total answers has gotten *smaller* than the number of correct answers. Weird.

You played on-line? Assume. Can you win again? I always assumed it was a one time win only.

That's why I no longer submit to Car Talk Puzzlers because I assume I can only win once. Wierd thing though, was I won for a puzzle I did not answer. I don't know if this was an clerical error fluke or if its their policy to announce winners without correspondence to puzzles. (Perhaps some of their boooooogus puzzles have no winners.) It was weird because I had been on vacation and handn't heard the previous show so I was parallel parking when I heard the recap of a mechanical puzzle about oil for the first time and I was just about to step out of the car when they announced the winner as woozy of Emerald City, Oz and I nearly smashed into the fender of the car behind me. Then I got phone calls from people asking how I knew so much about motor oil.

fleabane said...

"...but I suspect several others include 5 hats in a row and are not correct solutions."

Well, I *know* there is at least one submission with fewer than 18 hats. Mine and probably many, many more. I'm sure there are some answers with lines with five hats where the submitters figured five hats can count as five sets of four so can count as five lines. I gotta this is a weird assumption to me. A line is a line no matter how you label it.

But I very much doubt there are any 5 hat *single* line answers and almost certainly no 5 hat single line more than 18 lines and *not* simply wrong answers.

As any solution with a five hat line *and* more than 18 lines is either impossible (almost certainly) or far more astonishing then any of the four hat 18 line answers, I can only assume the four hat *exactly* rule was so as to not to have point out that a five line hat *isn't* five lines.
Which, sorry if I'm nit-picking, is simply stupid. after all, a four hat line can be written at least two ways (24 if you don't worry about colinearacy) but its still only one line.

Magdalen said...

I have no complaints about Will Shortz giving Blaine a shout-out for having all three solutions (with 4 additional rotational answers) that get to 18 lines. Good on him.

(Frankly, I was more peeved that he didn't acknowledge my quilty solution to the triangles puzzle some months back. But I think Dr. Shortz and I have an oddly adversarial relationship that is perhaps best understood by the fact that we've both been to law school.)

Here's what I assume happens with the solutions. Back in the postcard days, sure, no reason not to count the correct solutions. Email -- maybe yes, maybe no.

But with the current system, I can't believe they don't have a whole number of submissions using the "contact" form and that number is the source of the "below X," "above Y" or "around Z" announcement.

In order to pick a winner, my guess is that the unpaid & under-appreciated intern picks a solution at random and if it's correct, then that's the winner. No reason to open more submitted answers than necessary to get a name, provided there is a way of randomizing them.

I doubt we'll ever get the number of "right" answers again. Which is why the Pick-a-Range puzzle is all about getting the announced number right and not the theoretical number of correct answers.

And what's with our new friends woozy, skydiveboy and fleabane not entering the Pick-A-Range contest? It's not worthy of your brainiac natures, I'll grant you, but the odds are a lot better than the NPR puzzle.

(Yeah, okay, so there's no lapel pin. But still...)

skydiveboy said...

I agree with you up to a point on how they pick the winner and for the most part think they pick one until they have one that is correct. However, this does not explain how they sometimes know that alternate and also correct answers were submitted.
As to the Pick-A-Range puzzle, I will stick with the GE range in my kitchen. I only send in the answers each week in order to win the hard bound dictionary so I can replace my old one. I am not interested in a pin, puzzle books, junk or even playing on the air. And recently I found out they no longer give the dictionary. I do not know why I am still sending in answers.

woozy said...

I always thought it'd be a lot less work to simply pick at random until a correct one appears yet I'm pretty sure they used to claim to count all correct answers. *but* perhaps they did a random sample to get an overall impression as to how hard the puzzle was, general feedback, whether someone caught and error, alternative answers, etc. That'd take about one man hour.

Of course just picking random answers till you get one would take at most five or ten minutes but then ... well, the feed back and a pulse of the public would be lost.

Reading *all* answers really does strike me as difficult bleary work for por interns. And I've always assumed that in general at least half the answers would be wrong. (I could be wrong about that.)

Skydiveboy, you really don't have interest in playing on the air? I'm surprised as playing on the air would be the high-point of my life. You're the first person I've ever met who enters contests for solely practical purposes. (Well, contests with prizes of such little monetary value.) I imagine most people want the bragging rights and ego strokes. Actaully, when I won the puzzler on car talk, I felt cheated out of the bragging rights because I didn't win for a puzzle I answered. Actually, it's been almost ten years and I still haven't spent the gift certificate.

fleabane said...

>>>>(Frankly, I was more peeved that he didn't acknowledge my quilty solution to the triangles puzzle some months back. But I think Dr. Shortz and I have an oddly adversarial relationship that is perhaps best understood by the fact that we've both been to law school.)

Um... uh. Damn. How do I say this tactfully and nicely? Uh, do you think that Will even knows you or your blog exist?

Ah, crap. That sound far worse and blunt then I wanted it to.

Well, for what it's worth, *I* like your blog and photos way the heck more than Blaine's...

Magdalen said...

Skydiveboy -- You're talking about Chez Dictionary here. I'll see what we can do about a dictionary if you win. (Lightly used...) But there's no law that you have to accept a prize.

fleabane -- No worries, I didn't take it the wrong way.

Actually, Will Shortz does know who I am, if only to the extent that he could pick me out of a line-up ("Dr. Shortz, do you see the person who mocked you last Sunday? Can you identify her?"). It's safe to say he knows Ross rather better, given that Ross used to edit a famous crossword in the UK. All the same, Will and I aren't at the Christmas-card-exchanging stage yet.

Will started reading the blog back when Ross did daily posts on the NYTimes crossword. Ross stopped that six months ago, leaving just these posts about the NPR puzzle and an occasional compendium post on crossword-ese. But, given that Will does the NPR puzzle, and it's way fewer posts to read, I'm guessing he stops by from time to time.

Here's the best evidence I have for claiming that Will Shortz knows me: when I recently submitted a puzzle idea, he emailed me personally to say it wasn't "cute enough." Mind you, at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, he came and stood over us working on a cryptic puzzle during the "fun & games" session. I blogged here that it freaked me out, and how would he like it if I stood over him as he was trying to write a romance novel?

Like I say, an adversarial relationship of sorts.

fleabane (or is it fleablood.. or maybe woozy... I can't keep track) said...

Oh, my!

That *is* impressive. Then you *are* correct to feel miffed.

(None of my puzzle suggestions were ever acknowledged in any way. And I had some *good* ones.)

David said...

I don't think there will be lots of people getting this answer. It took be several times not getting the name associated with one of the things you might see in a mine before finally coming up with a solution

The 500 to 550 range for me, please.

woozy said...

>>> I don't think there will be lots of people getting this answer. It took me several times

I got it right away when I thought of the very first thing I'd see in a mine. But often when I struggle for a while (it took me a day and a half to get the Eric Idle/American Icon one) it turns out it was an easy one. Basically, I am not a difficulty barometer. I think you probably wouldn't like being one either.

skydiveboy said...

I think getting answers to these puzzles is a very individual thing. It took me less than 10 minutes to get Eric Idle and this one is my fastest and cannot be beaten. I read the question the very minute it was posted on line Saturday and as I came to the word "mine" the answer just popped into my mind. I still cannot understand how it came so fast; I had not even read the last sentence of the question.
Then there are other times it might take me a day or two to finally get an answer and I think not many people will send in answers, but Sunday comes to reveal that more than usual responded.
Of course it seems to me that many will get this one just because I got it so quickly, but I realize most people are ignorant of world politics, especially in this isolated country, so perhaps it will be fairly low again. 600?

woozy said...

BTW, Magdalen, what was your puzzle that Will thought wasn't cute enough?

Marie said...

Well, lots of discussion this week! I'll take 800-850, picked entirely at random from under 1000.

Mendo Jim said...

Nice to see the activity here.

Since Blaine does not allow participation by the hoi polloi, I'll reply to a post there here.
"Orangebus:" Will did indeed put forth challenge several years ago that did not have an answer. Worse, he felt sorry for himself for doing so, but didn't apologize to us.
He sort of did what you suggest for Blaine. The contestant he called that weeek was one who sent in a proof that there was no answer.
That episode marked the last time I included a phone number with my rare answer submission.

I have the same bad taste about Will's hat trick. I suspect if he didn't finally realize that he had caused confusion with his careless initial outline of the puzzle, he wouldn't have added "exactly" to his final iteration.
How much more respect it would have shown for his followers if he put it: "I should have said exactly."

Even if I were interested in being on the air, I have to say that Magdalen's prizes are probably better than NPR's: I seldom do crossword puzzles, never Sudoku and if my high-school graduate's vocabulary is deficient, it's 52 years too late.
The pin might be nice, but tee-shirts don't have lapels.

Paul said...

I never thanked you for posting and then fixing the link.
I should have. It appears to be a valuable resource. The insights into the generation of "random" numbers are enlightening, to say the least.

So...Thank You.

Judging by Will's on-air comments, I believe every submission is read by "someone" at NPR. By whatever random or pseudo-random process the "lucky individual" is chosen; I wonder if there's any means by which to skew the odds by a percentage point or two. Of course, I'm not suggesting that the NPR intern (or anyone else) is susceptible to a bribe.

I think I know the answer to this week's puzzle; MAYbe even Ross's wrong answer; and maybe (most shocking of all) one of the places depicted in this week's gallery. But to substantiate (or render falsifiable) those claims without "giving the game away"...I'm not sure I can finesse it.

woozy said...

Wrong answer that doesn't give the game away: Iron John, a character from the Grimm's Fairy Tales who ... well, I don't think he was world leader ... but I told you it was a wrong answer.