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. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Star Wars 101: Attack of the Clues

In a bid for long-lasting fame, George Lucas came up with several vowel-rich names never before seen in crosswords. Sure enough, Star Wars is now much the most popular six-part Sci Fi movie franchise to appear in puzzles: the likes of Leia, Artoo and Oola will no doubt appear there many eons after the movies themselves have faded into obscurity.

The first thing you need to know about Star Wars is that each movie begins with an opening crawl, always starting with the immortal words:

"A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...."

Padmé Amidala (portrayed by Natalie Portman) is queen of the planet Naboo. She is the secret wife of Anakin Skywalker and mother of Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia.

R2-D2 (conveniently rendered Artoo-Detoo in crosswords) is the astromech droid who supports the rebels (i.e. the good guys) at various points in the saga, along with his fey companion C-3PO.

Jar Jar Binks is a bumbling Gungan from the planet Naboo.

Lando Calrissian (portrayed by Billy Dee Williams) is Han Solo's friend.

Chewbacca (or Chewie for short) is a Wookiee and Han Solo's co-pilot. The online reference about Star Wars is punningly entitled Wookieepedia.

Mos Eisley is a spaceport town on the planet Tatooine, home to the cantina where Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi first meet Han Solo and Chewbacca.
Ewoks are the teddy-bear-like creatures that inhabit the forest moon of Endor.

Boba Fett is a bounty hunter hired by Darth Vader. He's the unaltered clone "son" of Jango Fett, whose clones were otherwise destined for the Clone Army.

Jabba the Hutt is the large slug-like gangster who enslaves the dancer Oola.

A Jawa is a cloak-wearing rodentlike inhabitant of the desert planet of Tatooine.

Obi-Wan Kenobi, a Jedi, is played by Ewan McGregor in the prequel trilogy, and by Alec Guinness in the original trilogy. Here he's seen wielding the iconic light saber.

Oola (portrayed by Femi Taylor) is the green-skinned young T.wi'lek dancer enslaved by Jabba the Hutt. Her prominence in crosswords bears no relation to her very minor role in the saga.

Princess Leia Organa (portrayed by Carrie Fisher) hails from the planet Alderaan. She's the daughter of Padmé Amidala and the twin sister of Luke Skywalker. Her well-known coiffure has been dubbed the "doughnut hairstyle". She's an excellent markswoman, rarely missing with a blaster.

Anakin Skywalker (nicknamed Ani) goes to the dark side, becoming the evil Sith Lord known as Darth Vader. He is a skilled pilot and wins a significant [Why? Ed.] podrace (also v. podrace, podraces, podracing, podraced; n. podracer).

Luke Skywalker (portrayed by Mark Hamill) is the main protagonist of the original trilogy. He's the son of Padmé Amidala and Anakin Skywalker (aka Darth Vader) and the twin brother of Princess Leia Organa.

Han Solo (portrayed by Harrison Ford) is god's gift to crosswords, and love interest for Princess Leia. He co-pilots the Millennium Falcon spacecraft with his hirsute buddy Chewbacca.

C3PO (conveniently rendered Threepio in crosswords) is the protocol droid who helps our heroes along with his quirky  companion R2-D2.

TIE fighters are small fast spacecraft powered by ion drive (TIE stands for Twin Ion Engines).

Yoda is the diminutive Jedi master who trains Luke Skywalker and renders sentences in a modified object-subject-verb order.

And if you have trouble taking any of this seriously, might I suggest you try Spaceballs:

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

NPR Puzzle 11/20/11 - Yo Mama is So Smart, She Listens to Yo-Yo Ma

Here's this week's NPR Puzzle:
Name a food item. Divide this word in half. Take the second half followed by the first half twice, and you'll get a familiar saying. If you take the second half twice, followed by the first half, you'll name a well-known person. What are the food item, saying, and person's name?
The food is MAYO, the familiar (?) saying (?!) is YO MAMA, and the well-known (?) person is YO-YO MA.

Pretty much the only unassailable element of this puzzle is that you can eat mayo(nnaise). I wouldn't consider "yo mama" to be a saying; it's more a set up, and thus a descriptor, for a series of jokes. And is Yo-Yo Ma a well-known person? NPR has reason to think so; it featured him in a mini-concert on Monday's All Things Considered.

As I mentioned on Sunday, I have the most attenuated connection to Yo-Yo Ma. My great-aunt, Rebecca, lived in Manhattan for decades. Her late husband had been on the faculty of the Manhattan School of Music, so after his death she had have music students living in her apartment for free in exchange for some light housekeeping. One of those music students was Yoko Nozaki, wife of Emanuel Ax, who's a good friend of Yo-Yo Ma. All three went to Julliard together. And if that's not enough connection, my brother Dan worked with the guy in New York who restrung bows for all the famous string instrument players. I know Dan met Ma more than once. Of course, Yo-Yo Ma doesn't know me from yo mama.

I used Yo-Yo Ma's Wiki page for all my photos--and I had a lot of places to choose from, starting with the fact that he was born in Paris.

Yes, Virginia, this is Paris, France.

Nanjing, China, where Yo-Yo Ma's father was a professor of music.
Trinity Church, the tower of which was the original Trinity School, Yo-Yo Ma's alma mater.
Yo-Yo Ma currently lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This is the lion at the German Museum in Cambridge.
Stanford Memorial Church, where Yo-Yo Ma performed during the memorial service for Steve Jobs.
Ottawa, Canada at night. The National Arts Centre is the massive building on the left; Yo-Yo Ma played with Prime Minister Stephen Harper there in 2009.
Time for ...

P I C K   A   R A N G E
Here are this week's picks:
Fewer than 50
 51 - 100
101 - 150
151 - 200
201 - 250 -- skydiveboy
251 - 300
301 - 350
351 - 400 -- Dave
401 - 450 -- Natasha
451 - 500
 
501 - 550 -- Henry
551 - 600
601 - 650
651 - 700
701 - 750
751 - 800 -- Ross
801 - 850 -- Curtis
851 - 900 -- Magdalen
901 - 950
951 - 1,000

1,001 - 1,050 -- David
1,051 - 1,100 -- Joe K.
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")

Sunday, November 20, 2011

NPR Puzzle 11/20/11

Here's this week's NPR Puzzle:
Name a food item. Divide this word in half. Take the second half followed by the first half twice, and you'll get a familiar saying. If you take the second half twice by the first half, you'll name a well-known person. What are the food item, saying, and person's name?
Believe it or not, I have the most attenuated connection to the person involved. I dunno, something involving my brother, my great-aunt (now deceased) or another famous person. Details on Thursday.

If you have a relative or friend connected to this person, or if you know this person uh, personally, or if you just solved the puzzle the REGULAR way, send your answer in to NPR here.

Meanwhile, let's see what places are mentioned in this individual's Wiki page.







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.

180 correct answers in 800 entries. Oh, dear. The Unpaid and Underappreciated Intern has gotten VERY zealous and is now giving us BOTH numbers. I'm going to use my Grand Pooh-Bah status and declare Curtis the winner, although the rules make it clear what we're really looking for is the total number of entries (right, wrong, and really really wrong) that NPR receives.

Anyway, Curtis--send your real address to me via email (Magdalen {at} Crosswordman {dot} com) and we'll send out a prize.

For next week, I'll be looking for the total number of entries. And if all Audie tells us is the number of right entries, well, we'll all have guessed too high. But if we get both numbers, I'm looking for the larger number. (It's in our rules, honest.)

With that now clear as mud, 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. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

NPR Puzzle 11/13/11 - Stupid Clocks

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'll bet Will would like to have this one back for a do-over. The answer is 101, which you get if you look at all the Roman numerals made with just two letters:
II, IV, VI, IX, XI, XV, XX, XL, LI, LV, LX, XC, CI, etc.

Here's the problem. There are rules for how to write Roman numerals. The rules don't allow IL for 49, but they clearly do allow LI for 51. But clocks, for their own weird reasons (and Seth Thomas isn't talking) use IIII for 4 o'clock.

Here's the rest of the series:








On the subject of low number of entries, there was one puzzle in the early 2000s (have we named that decade yet?) that asked you to create a word with the first three letters of contiguous Arizona counties (e.g., PIM for Pima, MAR for Maricopa, etc.). What was the longest word you could create.

I was married to Henry then, and we "cheated" and used Ross's TEA software and came up with a very long word indeed. It was the winning answer, and they had (I believe) 18 correct entries. Mine was not the one picked (duh) and Henry felt it would be unsporting to enter separately.  (For newer readers, neither Ross nor I enter the puzzle. Henry does but he doesn't discuss the puzzle with us before sending his entry. Well, hardly ever.)

Time for ...

P I C K   A   R A N G E
Here are this week's picks:
Fewer than 50
 51 - 100
101 - 150 -- skydiveboy
151 - 200 -- Curtis
201 - 250 -- Dave
251 - 300 -- Magdalen
301 - 350 -- Natasha
351 - 400 -- Joe K.
401 - 450 -- Ross
451 - 500 -- MendoJim
 
501 - 550 -- Henry
551 - 600
601 - 650
651 - 700
701 - 750
751 - 800
801 - 850
851 - 900
901 - 950
951 - 1,000

1,001 - 1,050 -- David
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")

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.