Thursday, December 30, 2010

NPR Sunday Puzzle (Dec 26, 2010): It's Boxing Day, is that a clue?

NPR Sunday Puzzle (Dec 26, 2010): It's Boxing Day, is that a clue?:
Q: Name a famous American from the past who has seven letters in his or her last name. Take the last two letters, plus the first four letters, in that order, and you'll name that person's profession. Who is it?
Given that this person's Wikipedia page lists 10 professions, can you be sure you'll find this person's intended profession in a sample list of occupations? Remember, your search needs to be exhaustive if you want to be sure not to miss it.

Edit: My hint was "be exhaustive" (i.e. "thorough")
A: Henry David THOREAU --> AU + THOR = AUTHOR

Monday, December 27, 2010

Explanation of Civil War Message, Decoded 147 Years Later

In the news today, I read about a Civil War message that was found in a bottle and decoded just recently. However the news article wasn't very clear on the how the message was encoded.
With a little trial and error, I too was able to decode the message. The message uses a Vigenère cipher and a key of length 15. After struggling with some transcription and encoding errors in the message, I was able to determine what was the intended coded message:
SEAN WIEUIIUZH DTG CNP LBHXGK OZ BJQB FEQT XZBW JJOY TK FHR TPZWK PVU RYSQ VOUPZXGG OEPH CK UASFKIPW PLVO JIZ HMN NVAEUD XYF DURJ BOVPA SF MLV FYYRDE LVPL MFYSIN XY FQEO NPK M OBPC FYXJFHOHT AS ETOV B OCAJDSVQU M ZTZV TPHY DAU FQTI UTTJ J DOGOAIA FLWHTXTI QLTR SEA LVLFLXFO.
If you repeatedly write the key phrase "Manchester Bluff" above the letters it tells you the offset from the actual letter. A is an offset of zero (the same letter in the plain text). B is an offset of 1, C is 2, etc. The decoded message is:
Gen'l Pemberton, You can expect no help from this side of the river. Let Gen'l Johnston know, if possible, when you can attack the same point on the enemy's line. Inform me also and I will endeavour to make a diversion. I have sent you some caps. I subjoin despatch from Gen Johnston.
After I figured out the key phrase I noticed in the Wikipedia article that the Confederate leadership primarily relied upon three key phrases, "Manchester Bluff", "Complete Victory" and, as the war came to a close, "Come Retribution".

Thursday, December 23, 2010

NPR Sunday Puzzle (Dec 19, 2010): City, State, Zip

NPR Sunday Puzzle (Dec 19, 2010): City, State, Zip:
Q: Name a city in the United States that ends in the letter S. The city is one of the largest cities in its state. Change the S to a different letter and rearrange the result to get the state the city is in. What are the city and state?
This will be simple enough to figure out if you check Wikipedia or Google, but let's see you do this with no list.

Edit: My hint was "no list" which is an anagram of "Lost in...".
A: Yonkers, New York

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hack the Video Password, by Solving our Christmas Puzzle

Christmas Puzzle 2010This year we've hidden a secret video message as the solution to our puzzle. Only those that can spot the 8 differences in our annual Christmas Puzzle will be able to figure out the password. Are you up to the challenge?

Note: If you need some help there are hints on the puzzle page and even the complete solution, but try solving it without help first... it's more fun that way.

When you solve it, please don't give away the answer but feel free to add a comment to let us know that you successfully figured it out. And we are always looking for new ideas for next year's Christmas puzzle, so submit those too.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

NPR Sunday Puzzle (Dec 12, 2010): Mixed-up Companies

NPR Sunday Puzzle (Dec 12, 2010): Mixed-up Companies:
Q: Rearrange the letters of 'Wayne Manor' to name two well-known American corporations, past or present. What corporations are they?
Anyone remember that the two companies had a deal in the works in the late 90s? Everyone does remember what happened after that though.

Edit: Hint, the first sentence in my comments started with "A", the second with "E".
A: Wayne Manor --> Amway + Enron

Thursday, December 09, 2010

NPR Sunday Puzzle (Dec 5, 2010): Triangles Abound

NPR Sunday Puzzle (Dec 5, 2010): Triangles Abound:
Q: From Sam Loyd, a puzzle-maker from a century ago: Draw a 4x4 square. Divide it into 16 individual boxes. Next, draw a diagonal line from the middle of each side of the square to the middle of the adjoining side, forming a diamond. And, finally draw a long diagonal line from each corner of the square to the opposite corner, forming an X.
Count the triangles puzzle
How many triangles can you find in this figure?
Getting the answer is really easy; the key is to think of geometry. Let's see, if you start with a square and cut it along the diagonal, you get a triangle. Similarly, if you take a circle and cut a chord through the center, you get a semicircle. Take the measure in radians extended by the measure in degrees and you should have the answer, assuming you haven't made an error. Well, at least that is how I got my answer.

P.S. The NPR website currently has a couple typos in their posted puzzle (e.g. It should be Sam Loyd not Sam Lloyd. And a 4x4 square forms 16 smaller squares instead of 6. I'm pretty sure I have the intended question but be prepared for changes if the on-air puzzle is stated differently.

P.P.S. I've added a diagram now that I've confirmed the wording of the on-air puzzle.

Edit: Okay, I deliberately added a few "faux" clues to my original post in case some people undercounted. A couple common undercounts were 84 and 88. For 84, the misleading hint was "error. Well" hinting at 1984. For 88, there were a couple hints to "key" and "chord" that should make one think of a piano. But the real answer is 96 which was hinted to by this clue: "...get a semicircle. Take the measure in radians (which is pi) extended by the measure in degrees (which is 180°) and you should have the answer..." Now if you take pi and write out the digits 3.141592653589793238... you'll find '96' starting at position 180. You can confirm this by typing '96' into the Pi Search page
A: 96 triangles as enumurated in the following Count the Triangles Solution (PDF)

Thursday, December 02, 2010

NPR Sunday Puzzle (Nov 28, 2010): Name the Places

NPR Sunday Puzzle (Nov 28, 2010): Name the Places:
Q: Name the setting for an old television show that was also a series of popular movies. The answer consists of two words, with five letters in each word. The last three letters of the last word plus the first three letters of the first word, in that order, name a country. What country is it?
As long as I'm up and not sleeping, I might as well post the puzzle. The puzzle is so easy that I'm providing no hints; you are on your own.

Edit: Okay, so I really did hide some hints. First, "up and not sleeping" was a reference to the movie Insomnia. The original Insomnia (1997) was a Norwegian movie. The remake Insomnia (2002) was directed by Christopher Nolan who also directed Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. The second hint was the phrase "you are on your own". This both alludes to Batman's parents being killed, and to the word solo, which anagrams to Oslo (Norway). The final clue was the word name in the title. Those are the letters in the setting that remain after forming the country.
A: Wayne Manor --> Norway