Thursday, August 07, 2008

NPR Sunday Puzzle (Aug 3): Mathematical Synonyms

NPR Sunday Puzzle (Aug 3): Mathematical Synonyms:
Q: Start with an eight-letter mathematics term. Remove the first, fourth and eighth letters to produce a synonym of the original word. What is it?
A small percentage of the population might struggle on this, but I think most will find this puzzle relatively easy.

Edit: I was probably too obvious with the hints which included obvious synonyms of the answers. Check the comments for other hints that were provided.


  1. i think i'm part of that "small population"..any hints on how to best get started if i'm a pretty new puzzler?

  2. Most problems are easier to solve if you break them into smaller parts...

  3. Hey Sophie, don't give up! Sometimes people who are faced with manifold and daunting challenges go on to distinguish themselves in amazing fashion. Look at the fortunes of Hornblower; he had a marked tendency toward seasickness early in his naval career. Well sure, he's a fictitious character... but in his story you might find inspiration...

  4. carl i hope that was a clue, otherwise you are a tool.

  5. Mike, if you can't see the clue you're not looking hard enough... I actually thought Blaine might remove my post because it's too blatant. I guess I did a good job of burying the real information in flowery verbosity...

    What's Blaine's first name, anyway?

  6. Carl, If our Blaine is the
    magician David Blaine how
    does he find the time and
    energy to do puzzles with
    us? This would be only a
    tine part of his activities.

    Carl, If our Blaine is
    the magician David Blaine
    how does he find the time
    and energy to do puzzles
    with us? This would be
    only a tiny part of his

    Sophie, Eight letter math
    terms? How many can there

  7. I'm not David Blaine, but thanks for the comparison. Blaine is actually my great-grandfather's first name. The name Blaine became popular in 1884 when James G. Blaine ran for president but was narrowly defeated by Grover Cleveland. Blaine had 4,848,936 votes compared to 4,874,621 for Cleveland. If a mere 575 voters (out of 1.2 million) in New York had changed their votes, the electoral college votes would have gone to Blaine instead, theoretically giving him the win.

  8. Wow, Blaine... 575 voters out of 1.2 million! That's, in mathematical terms, a fairly small, er, chunk, of the total...

    And I was tempted early to offer, as a clue, that you could remove the second letter of our eight-letter term and wind up with a word for a political grouping...

  9. Yea, pretty easy.

    I only tried 3 very obvious math terms before I got it. Plus, the third try was actually done in reverse (from the 5 letter word to the 8 letter one, after I realized what the 8 letter one would probably end in, and thus the 5 letter one was kinda obvious - hope that is not too much of a spoiler).

    BTW, I never even notice Blaine's Puns until after the fact. I guess it is time to start being more aware.

  10. BTW, I've got a fun little puzzler (that I did not get) that I came across in this month's Reader's Digest:

    Which of these following sets of letter does not belong with the others? xlnc qtp zt nmne skp obdnc

    As with Blaine's puzzles, don't post spoilers until others can try it out for a bit. And don't read too much into it. If only I hadn't.

  11. It's probably improper to say that I have included puns in my comments... I may have mixed in a few clues but I'll be reduced to tears if you insist they are puns which are obviously known as the lowest form of humor.

  12. Punny that. Ha Ha.

    Yes, stricctly speaking, I should have said hidden clues or hints.

    Word of the Day: paronomasia = pun (yea, it was new to me too as was cruciverbalist and neologism - both of which I should have known, being an occaisional cruciverbalist and all too frequent neologist - as in just then.)

  13. Re: gregdavid

    buttercup compliancy ex-con king pasta

    Sound about right?

  14. Blooki-

    In other words, "Are are you correct?"

    (Now Blaine has me doing it too and I'm sure you understand what I mean by that.)

  15. How many of you know this mnemonic and what it's for helping to remember?

    Sir, I send a rhyme excelling
    in sacred truth and rigid spelling
    numerical sprites elucidate
    for me the lexicon's full weight
    if nature gain, who can complain
    tho Dr. Johnson fulminate...

    And the spelling of each of those words is correct for the purpose of the mnemonic.

    From the games page of OMNI magazine, several years ago. Got to thinking about that because I wanted to offer what seemed, to me anyway, a clever response to the "which group of letters doesn't belong here" query... but I couldn't figure out a way to type a certain mathematical symbol...

  16. Very cute rhyme, but it is all Greek to me... :-)

  17. Washington Post crossword
    puzzle by Merl Reagle, 8-3
    "Farming It Out," 1a clue
    says, "Beginning to love
    you ?" and the answer is
    "P S I" which I got by
    answering 1,2,3 down.
    Can anyone come up with an
    explanation of this? What
    is it referring to, if any-

  18. Geri

    I think you're going to feel silly when you realize the PS stands for postscript, as in P.S. I love you. I've heard of people feeling silly about such things...

    Reagle is into clues like that, which is why I generally enjoy doing his puzzles more than the NYT Sunday puzzle; not necessarily more challenging but more of a sense of fun and quirkiness.

    But watch for stuff like "start to" or "end of"... need to think laterally. And try not to assume something is a verb/noun/adjective automatically; could it be something else...?

    Watch Wordplay sometime... enjoyed seeing Reagle driving down the street and seeing the Dunkin Donuts sign and commenting that if you just shift the D you get unkind donuts...

    But that's not as much fun as when Dick Cavett was making anagrams of (then Vice President) Spiro Agnew, while driving, and came up with one that was so funny he almost went off the road...

  19. Geri,
    I think PSI refers to the movie: P.S. I love you. That's all I can think of.

  20. Funny, cause I also remember the Merle Reagle scene from Wordplay as a favorite.

    But I'm also word-obsessed enough that I thought it would almost be unbearable to live life as Reagle -- because every single donut sign you encounter would send you on an anagrammatic apoplexy.

    But thank heavens for people like Merle. They make great puzzles for the rest of us.


  21. Carl,
    I solved your mnemonic. Thanks for the fun.

  22. Since we are (apparently) still on this crossword puzzle tangent, I'll share one of my more amusing, and perhaps revealing, solver's experiences...

    I was doing a puzzle and there was a three-letter word, going down not across, and the clue was type of dance. I had the last two letters of the word (a-p) and I thought of lap dance before the correct answer, which was tap dance.

    In my defense, I live in Seattle and the "strippergate" (google it) scandal was in the news a lot at the time.

  23. Okay, okay, I promise I won't post on this thread again, but had to share this one...

    Possibly my all-time favorite crossword puzzle clue. Five-letter word: doll with Don King's hair

  24. Carl,
    I think I know the name of the doll (Don King hair). Are you going to give the answer?

  25. Mandy, you made a liar of me. Not that it's hard to do... I love it when people say, "you're driving me crazy!" I reply, "I don't think it's a very long drive."

    No, you can give the answer.

  26. I was thinking of troll dolls. I cheated and looked it up on the internet. Tried to find a picture of it but could not.

  27. You couldn't find a picture of what? Troll dolls? Do you ever click on the Images tab on Google and search that way? It's a GREAT!!! way to find all kinds of stuff. But if you set your preferences for no filtering, which can be beneficial at times, watch out for racy results from the most benign-sounding search terms...

    I was a graphic design student a few years ago and I've been an ardent fan of image searching since that period.

  28. Thanks for the image suggestion. Never knew about that.

  29. Mandy,

    I don't want to take over this blog for personal correspondence but wishing I could email you to share some very fun (and harmless) things to use Google's image search to find. One example: search "dresden downspout."

  30. I wonder how many people understood the clue in my reference to Hornblower...

    I would be shocked as Helsinki if Blaine didn't figure it out.

  31. Carl,

    I enjoyed that hint, having read and re-read CS Forester in my formative years!


For NPR puzzle posts, don't post the answer or any hints that could lead to the answer before the deadline (usually Thursday at 3pm ET). If you know the answer, submit it to NPR, but don't give it away here.

You may provide indirect hints to the answer to show you know it, but make sure they don't assist with solving. You can openly discuss your hints and the answer after the deadline. Thank you.