Sunday, November 13, 2011

NPR Puzzle 11/13/11 - 2, 4, 6, 9, Heard It On The Grapevine

Here's this week's NPR puzzle:
What number comes next in the following series: 2, 4, 6, 9, 11, 15, 20, 40, 51, 55, 60 and 90?
I've never been very good with this sort of thing. My brain just doesn't work in the right multi-layered fashion. Ross is going to have to solve it, and he's not up yet.

Okay, he's up and he's solved it, or has he? If Ross's answer is right, there are two numbers missing from the sequence so far (i.e., two additional numbers smaller than 90 that should have been listed). An email to the Dastardly Will Shortz might be in order...

Edited to add:

Here's what Will said in response to my email:
Will Shortz here.

A huge, huge apology for messing up the challenge puzzle this week. Henry Hook submitted it to me, correctly, with just the first seven numbers. I liked the puzzle but thought it needed more numbers to be fair, so I extended the series. In my haste -- perhaps because I was jet-lagged from flying back from Hungary the day before, or perhaps just out of carelessness -- I overlooked 51 and 55 in the series.

Very sorry!
So I'll add those numbers to the series.

If you're confident you've solved the puzzle and aren't worried about two extra numbers, send your answer it to NPR here.

We went yesterday, for the first time, to a Penn State game. (Contact me via email if you want to discuss -- or rant about -- the non-football contexts of the game. As a former lawyer who was abused as a child, I have a surprisingly nuanced view of the situation.)

Dealing strictly with football, it would have been better if this was Ross's first experience of American college football, but we'd already been to a University of Pennsylvania Quakers game in Philadelphia. Quite the difference. The Penn games tend to be modestly attended; Penn State's stadium holds 108,000 people and it usually does. At a Quakers game, it's pretty low tech, no Jumbotron screens, no announcer to tell you what down it is, and no "TV timeouts." On the other hand, the Quakers have won all the games I've attended, and Penn State (previously 8 and 1 on the year) managed to not quite win the game yesterday, their first against the Nebraska Cornhuskers. (We did actually see people with large yellow corncobs on their heads.)

But yeah, this was college football in a big way. (Our host, a professor at Penn State whose specialty is the history of sport, explained that with the addition of Nebraska, the Big 10 conference now has 12 schools, not to be confused with the Big 12, which has 10 schools.) The Penn State Blue Band is large enough to make a massive formation that, with the addition of a couple large pieces of printed material, represented Tow Mater from Pixar's Cars and Cars 2. You don't get that at Franklin Field in Philly!

I can't show you the Tow Mater formation (the pictures are probably up someplace, but Google declines to find them this soon after being posted) but here's another image of the Blue Band:

And in other photos, here are the first six numbers in our series (I'll do the remaining numbers on Thursday, along with what we think is the answer):

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.

120 people. No one won. As you didn't win last week, try to win this week. Pick a range in the comments to see if you'll win a prize!

Here are the ranges:
Fewer than 50       
51 - 100
101 - 150
151 - 200
201 - 250
251 - 300
301 - 350
351 - 400
401 - 450
451 - 500

501 - 550
551 - 600
601 - 650
651 - 700
701 - 750
751 - 800
801 - 850
851 - 900
901 - 950
951 - 1,000
1,001 - 1,050         
1,051 - 1,100
1,101 - 1,150
1,151 - 1,200
1,201 - 1,250
1,251 - 1,300
1,301 - 1,350
1,351 - 1,400
1,401 - 1,450
1,451 - 1,500

1,501 - 1,550
1,551 - 1,600
1,601 - 1,650
1,651 - 1,700
1,701 - 1,750
1,751 - 1,800
1,801 - 1,850
1,851 - 1,900
1,901 - 1,950
1,951 - 2,000
2,001 - 2,050
2,051 - 2,100
2,101 - 2,150
2,151 - 2,200
2,201 - 2,250
2,251 - 2,300
2,301 - 2,350
2,351 - 2,400
2,401 - 2,450
2,451 - 2,500

2,501 - 2,750
2,751 - 3,000
3,001 - 3,250
3,251 - 3,500
3,501 - 4,000
4,001 - 4,500
4,501 - 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").  And yes, this rule is most-likely obsolete but I just like having fine print. 


DaveJ said...

Only 120 entries last week. How does that rank with previous low counts ?

DAPF said...

I too have an obvious answer with two additional numbers between 40 and 60. But, maybe because I am French (my usual excuse 8^), I think that the mix-up is normal, with Christmas on my mind and all.

skydiveboy said...

I recall one a year or so back that had less than 100 entries. I was pleased to be one of them.

skydiveboy said...

I will pick 101.

skydiveboy said...

I was expecting Will would comment further on the solution to the triangle puzzle for those who either didn't get the correct answer or any answer, but zilch. I am not one of those, but it seems like Will is losing interest in these puzzles lately. The missing numbers in this week's puzzle are not a minor error.

David said...

I have an answer without any missing numbers, but it is not a very satisfactory answer. I need to spend some more time trying to find a better answer.

There will probably be fewer, but I need to stick with 1001 to 1050.

Natasha said...

I select the 301-350 range.

Mendo Jim said...

In the old days, Will would have mentioned early in the show that pencil and paper would be helpful for the challenge.
But there doesn't really seem to be much early or late these days. This seemed like the shortest program ever and I am reminded of the famous feline smile.
There does seem some ambiguity this week, but I'm thinking he actually wants the "not too hard" answer (which I think I heard but don't find on the web page).
I don't think I've ever asked for 451-500.

Joe Kupe said...

I will take 351-400. I am going to go with my pedestrian answer as Will did say on air, "And it's not too hard, I think."

Also, this past August we had 101 replies for this challenge: Common two-word phrase that's the present tense of a verb, move last two letters to the front, get a new two-word phrase that is verb's past tense - Eat at, Ate at. This is the fewest since I have been keeping track (since October 2009)!

skydiveboy said...

I just found out that there is still another number that is missing from the problem as stated. That number is 45. I missed it too.

DAPF said...


45 does not fit with my pattern (it's "a little too big"; to be more precise, it's 50% too big).

I think I know how you get that number to fit in the given sequence but I am pretty sure that the "standard rules" do not allow this...

Magdalen said...

Henry called me on another topic but pointed out that in some circumstances (there's an example standing in a corner of my dining room) 4 would not be in the sequence (although 40, I believe, still would be).

Ross already had on his computer a program that generates the full sequence according to what I believe are "the rules." On Thursday, we can argue what the rules really are!

skydiveboy said...

I now agree. I have been researching this morning and have learned some things I did not know about this subject. I intend to say more Thursday.

Anonymous said...

If you follow the rules as set out in Wikipedia for "modern" usage, then 4 is a member of the sequence but 45 is not. Older usage (as exemplified by Magdalen's dining room) would not have allowed 4. A quick look around my own house provides examples (analogous to Magdalen's dining room) of both usages.

Audie actually said there were 120 *correct* entries last week. If they in fact counted only correct entries, then of course that would reduce the reported number, because this sort of puzzle invites wrong entries, probably a lot of them.

May I have my usual 501-550, please.

Henry BW

Curtis said...

Sorry - accidentally posted in last week's comments. I'm new to this blog. This answer reminds me of entry level courses that college freshmen are required to take.

I'll guess 151 - 200.

My site:

skydiveboy said...

I hope you don't mean Penn State!?

Dave said...

Gives a new meaning to "entry" level then, eh?

Curtis said...

SDB - That didn't even cross my mind when I wrote the clue. Maybe Penn State was lurking subconsciously, and bubbled through when I was writing the clue.

skydiveboy said...

Good one!

I'm glad you got the joke. I use humor (whoops, I probably should say humour on this blog) frequently and I am never sure if those on the other end get it. It does not always work in email, etc.

Curtis said...

SDB - I've seen your posts often enough in the other puzzle blog to appreciate your humour. You always seem to keep the discussion lively and active.

skydiveboy said...

Thanks, that clix foUr me.

Dave said...


skydiveboy said...

C, L, I, X are Roman Numerals involved with this puzzle.

I would now like to explain some of my confusion re: the correct usage of Roman Numerals, which I do not claim to be particularly knowledgeable about.
Several years ago, I think it was 1998, I happened to come across a little puzzle in a major publication (I don't recall which one) that asked the question: "What are the fewest Roman Numerals that can be used to express the year 1999?" Their answer was: MIM. I thought this was very elegant and have always remembered this puzzle, but now I find it does not conform to the standard usage of Roman Numerals. So for me solving this puzzle has been a bit of a learning experience. I also discovered I am far from being alone in my ignorance on this. I prefer simplicity and think we should change this immediately before it is too late! (Mild panic in voice.)

I was impressed with Will Shortz's apology for leaving out 51 & 55. He did it the right way and did not say, "I did not have sexual relations with that puzzle!" or "I have never abused a puzzle!" Clearly he would not do well in politics, so perhaps we should all write him in as a candidate next year. Puzzle Abuse has been a serious problem in this country for a long time now and an honest mea culpa is a refreshing change.

I wanted to say more, but I have just been informed my aqueduct is leaking again.