Thursday, February 04, 2010

NPR Sunday Puzzle (Jan. 31, 2010): But I Really Don't See a Pattern?!?

NPR Sunday Puzzle (Jan. 31, 2010): But I Really Don't See a Pattern?!?:
Q: Take four words: Croquet; Lunette; Renoir; Turnstile. They are all two-syllable words, but aside from that, they all have something unusual in common: a property that virtually no other words have. What property is it?
I thought this was tough for awhile, but if you listen to the puzzle broadcast on the air, Will provides an additional hint. My hint? Use your brain.

Edit: The first clue were the first letters of the title which spells out "BIRDS..." Also, there was the clue "brain" as in (bird)brain.
A: The first syllable of each word, though it doesn't spell out a bird name, sounds like a four-letter bird name:
Croquet --> CROW
Lunette --> LOON
Renoir --> WREN
Turnstile --> TERN
I'm not sure if it is important to the answer, but all the bird names are exactly 4 letters long and the original word does not have the same spelling, only the sound of the bird in the first syllable.

81 comments:

  1. Blaine, I quickly came up with a property common to these words which is consistent with your clue(s). However, I have a feeling that I am only halfway there, because it seems unlikely that this property applies only to these four words.
    Note: This post contains no hidden clues - just an expression of my frustration!

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  3. Here's my standard reminder... don't post the answer or any outright spoilers before the deadline of Thursday at 3pm ET. If you know the answer, click the link and submit it to NPR, but don't give it away here. Thank you.

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  4. The puzzle doesn't say that these are the only two-syllable words with this property... I'm sure you could find others, but let's not be a stickler on the wording.

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  5. Blaine, ok, I'll consider the puzzle solved. Thanks.

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  6. I have the same awkward feeling Lorenzo has.

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  7. I have the same feeling that Lorenzo and Al have. I found obviously in common about these words, but it doesn't seem like it could be as simple as what I see.

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  8. I think this is another “Case of the Imperfect Clue” which Will is well-known for. Truth be told, Renoir isn’t even a word in the usual sense – it’s a proper name.

    Quoting from a few puzzles ago, “case closed.”

    Chuck

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  9. If assume that my answer is correct, but it seems that there should be many more two syllable words with this property.

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  10. Al, very clever. I rest my case.

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  11. I suspect that 4 words answer this puzzle vis-a-vis a short explanation. I'm thinking in terms of what WS may scan for.

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  12. Oh, I am sorry if I posted something that could be interpreted as giving away the answer before. But I am still not satisfied with the answer as far as I have gotten it. You say, "The puzzle doesn't say that these are the only two-syllable words with this property...", and no, it doesn't literally say that, but it does say, "a property that virtually no other words have." Like others, I have found a property of the four words; but this property is shared by plenty of other words I have found after not much of a search. I don't know if I have latched onto the wrong property, or if Will was being over-exclusive!

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  13. I must say in earnest, I,too, feel a bit awkward with the solution I came up with, but enough. I must go finish somehting I need to crochet.

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  14. I'm with you folks. The first part was too easy, and the second part's too hard -- or maybe there isn't a second part. I'm still under a faint cloud of ennui from the "Salesman" debacle of several weeks ago. It'll be interesting to see if Will's answer lifts the gloom --

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  15. Greetings,
    I'm new to your blog and enjoy it immensely. While I typically do quite well with the on-air puzzle, I seem to have a more difficult time with the weekly challenge. I thought this would be rougher, but it was much simpler than I expected.
    Cheers!
    Josie

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  16. Just another guy, would that be Charlie at 315?

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  17. After reading the above commentary, I am concluding my brain work in silence.

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  18. If I'm hearing your clues correctly, then I think I have the answer as well. Or something like the answer.

    Monte in particular seems to have another example that follows Will's rule embedded in his note. If that's the case, then I got it.

    -- Other Ben

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  19. I couldn't get it for the longest time and it just came to me while drinking coffee, looking out my rear window

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  20. I agree, this was an awkward puzzle. We're usually quite ductile, but I'm tired of Will running roughshod over us this way.

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  21. I know the cardinal rule is keep it simple, stupid, but can the solution to this week's puzzle really be as simple as it seems?

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  22. Solved this one so fast, I had time to go surfin'...

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  23. I easily found one property that the four words have in common. But I also easily found several other two-syllable words with this property. So, please tell me, is there a second property that the four words have in common?

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  24. I agree there are other two-syllable words with this property. However, while the words may be common, perhaps the property they share is not. Solving this puzzle is not as difficult as getting someone out of Guantanamo.

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  25. I think Part 2 is necessary. I can't discern a theme in Part 2 as there is in Part 1. Having the two-part property eliminates some of the "other words" proposed thus far, but still some words still meet the property. So the "virtually no other words" claim is still dubious.

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  26. I am feeling a bit unsure about the answer I submitted. There are too many words that fit the simple answer--as evidenced by prior comments--but even some of the above would be included if you constitute an alternate 2-part answer. It certainly seems that WS style is to be at war with simplicity, so that the net result is to find the key to the solution. Does anyone know if you can alter your answer once submitted to NPR?

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  27. Please add me to the 'Awkward List'. I seemed to have gotten this one immediately - then the doubt set in, then I progressed to Part II in order to reassure myself; yet I am still not certain.

    However, I do very much like Chuck's response :-)

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  28. I'm about to cry.... I'm feeling stupid and having a case of the Mondays. Even after hearing Will's on-air clue, I'm no closer. Damn turnstile is messing with my head.

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  29. Three of the puzzle's words have an obvious property in common which, according to at least two authorities, is not shared by lunette. I wonder if application of this property is blocking some people from seeing the answer. This easily stated property may well be the expected answer.

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  30. I'm quite proud to have figured this one out, although it stuck in my gullet for a while.

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  31. The meaning of life, the universe, and everything

    Have you seen the newly discovered painting - Girls with Mallets – believed to be an unsigned Renoir, showing four young women playing a favorite lawn game literally in the shadow of a castle featuring an oddly-turned and highly-stylized lunette?

    No?

    I presume that when Will does not specifically attribute a puzzle to someone else he has come up with it himself. Also, he’s a man with a lot of irons in the fire and is always “on deadline” for something. So I would expect that occasionally a puzzle may not be 100% researched or that a clue may not be perfectly polished.

    I get a mental picture that some of his solve-at-home puzzles are literally written on the back of an envelope or maybe not even written down at all until minutes before Friday’s taping. Still, he is someone who entertains all of us every week so I forgive the man his once-in-a-while misstep.

    Meanwhile, what three letters should you add to complete the following sequence: TNESSFF...

    Chuck

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  32. I'm pretty confident with my answer, in which case lunette does share a property with the other three words. Nonetheless, I don't understand the references above to Part II. Also, as I read some postings, doubt on the part of one person may not concern me, but doubt on the part of two can.

    Chuck...I'm familiar with your puzzle and so will allow someone else the opportunity to complete the sequence. :-)

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  33. Chuck,

    I won't mention your next three letters, but the fourth one is Z, right?

    Will's puzzle made me think of a couple of strong drinks, one made with vodka, Canadian whiskey, and tequila, and the other made with bourbon and a bourbon-based honey liquor.

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  34. Okay, I think I'm on the right track, but I think I'm still stuck where everyone else was when they had that awkward feeling... it seems like I'm trying to throw things against the wall to see what sticks. I'm wondering if I'm past the heydays of my youth?

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  35. Sam Lee,

    Few things are more galling than that awkward feeling when other people have found it, but you still aren't sure!

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  36. Part 2 for me was, after you discover the more obvious relationship between the words, are the remaining parts also related in some way. As I said before, it is WS's style to make a mental war with simplicity. . . the net result may be the key to the solution. Otherwise, why render Renoir as one of the four, since is not a word, but a name. Did Renoir ever paint in Cayman Islands? Also, does anyone know if you can change your answer if submitted?

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  37. I have now seen at least three more words that truly work with Will's four (and a few that could depending on where you are from). I think Will is going to make a lot of people howl when they hear the answer....

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  38. Chuck, it's tee time.

    I don't know if I'm on the wrong track, but what's up with Part 2 and awkward feelings?

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  39. Sam Lee and Dave,

    What's this "track" stuff? Is this a puzzle, or some kind of railroad?

    If you're feeling awkward about your answers just read the puzzle a few more times. You don't think Will can outwit all of us!

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  40. I've now figured as many alternate words as were listed in the original puzzle - WS, I'm calling foul play !

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  41. William, I meant absolutely nothing by the word, "track."

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  42. jutchbev, thanks for clarifying. Personally, I don't think there is a Part II, but now understand why the puzzle can be perceived as flawed. After (the) Death of a Salesman puzzle, I refuse to wrap my head around this one anymore and am sticking to my answer, which is obviously shared by others. (No clues here.)

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  43. Remember, we are asked to describe a property - (in general terms, I suppose). I believe that careful wording can avoid most of the perceived problems. Right up Suzyq's alley!

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  44. Do you know that the word "gullible" isn't in the dictionary?

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  45. Dave, gullible IS in the dictio..... oh ho ho.... I see what you did thereby... sneaky sneaky

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  46. You're only gullible or awkward if you don't use your cranium.

    - Original Ben

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  47. Dave, I assume your point of reference is the date this puzzle was posted.

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  48. Blaine and Lorenzo, how about 1229?

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  49. Man, you folks make me feel dense. And no, in case anyone is reading this, there is no clue in there. ;)

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  50. Sorry, it's still off by one. You want 1228.

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  51. Blaine, mine says 1229. Mine's syndicated, so they may use a different number. Either way, nice job in picking up the clue.

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  52. Dave, I assumed you were pointing out the 4th day of Christmas since for the first 4 days, your true love gives you various birds (partridge, turtledoves, french hens, calling birds). But my sources (Wikipedia) have December 28th as the 4th day of Christmas. Hence I must have misunderstood your clue.

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  53. The big question seems to be is there more to the puzzle answer than just saying the first syllable sounds like a bird? Certainly all the birds' names are 4 letters, so that could be an additional stipulation. Also, the bird's actual spelling doesn't appear in the original word, so that would seem to eliminate words like "AWKward" or "GULLet". Anyone have thoughts on this before we find out on Sunday?

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  54. Blaine –

    I also appreciated your use of the word “patTERN" in the puzzle title.

    And as a number of you correctly answered, the next three letters in the sequence TNESSFF (ten, nine, eight, seven, six, etc.) are TTO for three, two, one.

    Chuck

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  55. Time to compile the "virtually no other words" list: (Only counting heterographics)

    Awkward (AUK)
    Quaalude (QUAIL)
    Stalking (STORK)
    Roughshod (RUFF)
    Couture (COOT)

    Anymore ?

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  56. On 12/29/09 the NYT crossword was full of BIRDS!

    I thought OWLtwit was a related word, without the proper spelling, but of course only a 3-letter bird! GULLing would seem to meet both needs.

    Other possibilities, with four letter names but with the proper spelling, are CROWbar and RAILroad.

    Look up the drink recipes for Railroad Spike and for Crowbar! I don't think you can find the drink names by Googling on the ingredients.

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  57. I'll add:

    TURNcoat

    and

    TURNer

    But I'll want to remove Quaalude. Back in the 70s, all I ever heard was "KWAY-lude" so it didn't sound like QUAIL at all.

    And how do we get Stalking from a Stork, exactly?

    -- Other Ben

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  58. Ok you guys have played this puzzle before, and I get the sense that in the past (Death of a Salesman references??) that Will gave clues that proved, under scrutiny, to be less than perfect. As pointed out here, there are numerous words that share this character (of phonetically having a four-letter bird name in the first syllable), so it is not a property unique to just these four words. And, in fact, if you go to the Museu de Artes in Sao Paulo, Brazil, you will find the lovely painting, Menina Playing Croquet, painted by Renoir, in a room with lovely lunette windows. There is a turnstile to gain admittance to the museum once you've entered the front door and paid your admission fee. So perhaps the property shared in common with these four words is the physical location of the Museu de Artes in Sao Paulo, Brazil...

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  59. By the way, Blaine, I don't think you can accurately say "syllable" in your answer up top.

    I also wrote the following in to Will, and I hope it doesn't disqualify me:

    LUNETTE in the dictionary is broken as LU-NETTE, so the first syllable is NOT a homophone for LOON. The best you can say for these words is that the first "part" of the word or the first "sound" of the word is a homophone for a bird.

    But I suspect this is merely one of many questions people will have about the frame of this puzzle.

    -- Other Ben

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  60. (Ok, so I was just messing with y'all...)
    But this one DID drive me crazy, looking for the property that virtually no other words shared with these four words...Another week like this and I will lose my job!

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  61. Blaine, I was referring to N.Y. Times crossword puzzle number 1229, in which the long answers contained hidden names of birds. The long answers were: rolleD OVER, misTER Nice guy, LOWREnt, tOWLine, bRAVE New word, and anotHER ONe. This puzzle was in my paper on Tuesday, February 2.

    Lorenzo, what did you think I was referring to when I gave my 1229 hint?

    Ben, I agree that the pronunciation is Quay-lude and stalking is a bit of a reach. I liked your cranium hint as well as Jonathan's ductile hint.

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  62. Was there a second 'property?' All second syllables are also stand alone words (phonetically). Cay, Net (I know, the 'n' gets used in both), war, and style. That would seem to eliminate some, but not all, of the other bird words, making the 'virtually no other words' criterion more correct. There's still crowbar, turncoat, and others.

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  63. Agreed Stalking is subject to local pronunciation (same with hockey--> HAWK).

    I don't think precise syllables can be the rule here (LU-NET). I think Will's on-air clue was "think phonetically" or something like that. So I'm guessing he just meant "the first part sounds like a bird" Blaine's *eagle* eye caught the additional four letter common property.

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  64. I had the same basic answer as most people, but modified somewhat with Part 2, i.e., the second syllables of the words are also homophones (or is it heterographs?): Cay, Net, War, Style. Unfortunately, this second group of words does not have a theme that I could discern, unlike the bird theme of the first group. Having a two-part answer is also hard to state elegantly.

    So I think my answer is below par (pardon the pun) and does not fly. It does whittle down the "other word" list somewhat, but not to the "virtually no other words" level.

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  65. I took this as a challenge to write a full specification for the words which are as WS described. He may be getting tired of being called sloppy - So how well can we do? Something he said last week on air indicated the possibility that he looks at this blog.

    "A 2-syllable noun that starts with a syllable that sounds like the 4-letter name of a bird species."
    This is not quite true because the first syllable of "lunette" is "loo."

    Better?:
    Substitute “an utterance” for “a syllable.”

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  66. ...jailer, gaoler, ductile, earner, redo, rocker, turncoat, revue, daughter, render, rental, turnpike,turnout, turnip, turner, music...and all the above quoted. However, in some parlances the original four words have a silent last letter.
    Still calling fowl.

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  67. I thought there were just too many other words that fit the rule that the first "syllable" of the word was a homonym for the name of a bird--add hockey--to the list. So my second property was the the birds name rhymed with a word that was a synonym of the original two-syllable word, hence:
    croquet--crow--blow, which is a croquet
    lunette--loon--moon, which is the shape of a lunette
    renoir--wren--pen, meaning author (another Renoir)
    turnstile--tern, churn, which is a turnstile
    Perhaps this is too convoluted. I knew nothing of the Renoir painting...but if the description is true, I like that possiblity.

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  68. Dave, I thought you might still be referring to sports jerseys.

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  69. Lorenzo, nope, but since I'm a big sports fan, I'm sure that I'll break that out again.

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  70. Lorenzo, I didn't get your magic foil comment?

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  71. For the record, Renoir did paint at least two paintings of the game of croquet. One is in a private collection somewhere (study for "The Croquet Game") and the other is "Menina Playing Croquet". I have no idea where that painting is located, and selected the Sao Paulo museum simply because it does have a good Renoir collection...
    As for turnstiles and lunette windows, again, that was pure flight of fancy on my part, not to be taken seriously.
    I, like phredp, did not get Lorenzo's allusion to magic foil.
    And, don't give away the answers to the NY Times crossword puzzle! We don't even get it in our papers up here until a week after it appeared in the NY Times!!!
    Cheerio, all, and happy puzzling this weekend!

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  72. Phredp and Suzyq, would it help if I said it was a sports hint?

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  73. There are a few words that do fit what we are all starting to agree is the unique nature of these four words--Blaine said it above in his 12:13 post-- four letter birds name with the sound being spelled differently. But that still leaves a lot of words that would disqualify the uniqueness of the four WS gave us. See bcgal and others' list above, which includes most of the ones I found on my own and what troubled me because it made the original four anything but unusual in my mind. We'll see on Sunday--obviously I was either not right and/or definitely not chosen to participate. I will have to live for another week to get the "gifts".

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  74. suzyq, sorry if I spilled the beans on the Times crossword puzzle. I thought that my paper was a couple of weeks behind the Times. The puzzle in today's paper (Friday) is no. 0101 and 1 across is "Part of a horse between the shoulder blades." Is that the same puzzle that you have?

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  75. NEW PUZZLE IS ALREADY POSTED FOR TOMORROW-THE 7TH

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  76. ANSWER: "Birds" (crow, loon, wren, tern)

    WINNER:Michael Coyne of Boston, MA

    This Week's Challenge

    The nickname of well known queen is an anagram of the name of a well known king. What are their names?

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