Sunday, November 27, 2011

NPR Puzzle 11/27/11 - Too Many Alternatives?

Here's this week's NPR puzzle:
Think of a common five-letter word in one syllable. Change the fourth letter to the next letter of the alphabet, and you'll get a common word in two syllables, also in five letters. What words are these?
Ross has a little program called "Word Botcher" (a "botcher" in the UK is a bungler or a repairer); I've not linked to it because it's not for sale. But it allows him to look for words with a single letter changed. Let's just say there are LOTS of possible alternatives (he gave up writing them down after about five). And that's not counting the right answer our fearless puzzle master clearly intended.

(N.B. to Will Shortz: If you'd specified that the first word can't be a plural, you'd have knocked out most of the obvious alternatives.)

When you've chosen your favorite among the many alternatives, here's where to send it at NPR.

Here's an illegal alternative that we love: FRILL becomes (Rudolf) FRIML. Yes, that is a real name (and thus not, clearly, a common word). Here's his Wiki entry.

Photos located by typing the correct two words into Flickr:

If you've solved the puzzle, then these photos are a meta-puzzle: which photos go with which word? If you haven't solved the puzzle, these photos probably aren't any help at all.

Time for ...
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 over 900 entries. No one won. Remember, we're looking for the total number of entries. So 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. 


DAPF said...


I am sure we have the same pair of words: I found a couple of these pictures on Flickr based on one of the words. Thanks for the hint/confirmation!

--the frog

Mendo Jim said...

As much as I wish Dr. Shortz had held the mayo last week, I don't suppose there were many other solutions to that challenge.

I am going to assume that the thousand or two or three regular listeners to the show thought the same as I this morning:
"Whoa, that wide open phrasing must allow for more than one answer."

And it does, of course, leaving only differences of opinion as to whose common is commoner than my common. The answer, naturally, will be Will's common.

What is a complete enigma to me is why the enigmatologist nonpareil didn't account for this lack of precision in laying out the challenge.
Will it come as a surprise to him? Will Will tell us?

I may or may not have Fearless's "clearly intended" answer yet (if I do, I missed the epiphany), but I'm afraid I don't care.

Jim said...

I'm going to guess 1,751 - 1,800 entries for this puzzle.

Curtis said...

I submitted a pair that I think is correct plus an alternate pair that works, but not as cleanly because it's based on a plural word. But, I'm not getting the same photos in Flickr with my words, so I'm not sure I have the same correct answer. It is nice to have an open-ended puzzle where there can be multiple correct answers. I'll guess higher this week because of the multiplicity of potential answers: 1,501 - 1,550.

Marie said...

1701-1750, hoping I'm lucky.

Anonymous said...

"Alternate answers? I don't have to show you any stinkin' alternate answers."

Anonymous said...

The title of this blog hit the nail on the head, and that's sad. The quality of the puzzles is now lamentably bad, so much so that I've given up listening.

It used to be that I made it a point to be listen at 7:40 or 9:40. I used to go online every now and then on Saturday night to see the puzzle ahead of time if I knew I couldn't listen in on Sunday. No longer.

The puzzles have become too sloppy, from the apparently disallowed Akita/kit answer to the missing numbers last week to this week's debacle. I don't even care whether Will Shortz allows everything for this puzzle. The puzzles just aren't worth the effort any longer.

In this case, how hard would it have been to come up with more than one answer? I did with barely any effort, as I'm sure others did. That the puzzle's presenter either failed or did not try is all I need to know.

I'll still listen if I happen to be in the car when the puzzle airs, but other than that, I'm done with it.


Dave said...

I have the same answer as you, Curtis and Marie. I'll go for the 901 - 950 slot, please.

DAPF said...

When I checked "the other blog," I did not get any of their clues/references. I am guessing that many people have different answers. Disclaimer: I often do NOT get the clues given there, even when I have the same answer! In the end, I feel more comfortable here... 8^)

David said...

I probably have a different answer from some of the above, that I finally just submitted, the only non-plural one I found.

It looks like my usual 1001-1050 is still open.

Joe Kupe said...

For the record I find this blog a much more comfortable place to join in the conversation. Took some time but finally got this one.

951 - 1,000 please.

skydiveboy said...

Wasn't this one charming?

Anonymous said...