Thursday, November 06, 2008

NPR Sunday Puzzle (Nov 2): Setting the Clock Back

NPR Sunday Puzzle (Nov 2): Setting the Clock Back:
Q: The names of presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton have something unusual in common. In fact, these are the only presidents in U.S. history whose names share this characteristic. What is it?
I was in the middle of setting my clocks back this morning so didn't hear the puzzle. Is anything missing from what I wrote?

Edit: It's now after the deadline so I can reveal my hints. The key words were "middle" and "missing". Also, the reference to setting the clock back was a hint to think back to prior presidents.
A: Ronald Wilson Reagan and William Jefferson Clinton -- their middle names are the last names of former U.S. presidents


  1. That was the only three sentences I heard Will use when giving the puzzle this morning. I forgot to set my clocks last night as well. I was too busy reading verses.

  2. I'm still waking up; I got this idea in my head that the answer had something to do with how they governed... So I was thinking--both of them were described as centrists, but there were other presidents so categorized...

    Then I realized I had failed to grasp the core of the challenge! Silly me... Guess I'll keep working on it and looking here for clues from the more astute participants...

  3. Does anyone have a clue???? Or..are you giving clues I cannot grasp??? I am giving up on this one.

  4. Natasha, I figured it out! So don't give up; I'm sure the answer will come to you in the fullness of time.

  5. Thanks Carl. I guess I already had the answer but thought it was too obvious. Then I realized that it fit the central point of the clues on here. So I sent it in to NPR.

  6. They opened up comments on the NPR site again, the maroons!

  7. Don, yep, that was a big mistake by somebody. I won't enter because I read the answer over there before I could solve it. Grrr..

  8. I'm getting ticked off at Shortz. His puzzles from the likes of Sam Loyd were great. Puzzles submitted by some, if not most, listeners have not been so great for a few years. I had a few other remarks which I wrote previously, but GOOGLE refused my log-in and erased them - probably a good thing. Blaine's site does thing right with a good group.

  9. Don, I invented calling people maroons! About three years ago! I'm sure I wasn't the first and I'm sure I won't be the last. I guess it's like that saying, Great, or relatively great, or somewhat not so poor, minds think kinda sorta alike or rather similar or something...

    Oh, and all you U.S. citizens make sure you get out and VOTE! Not gonna tell you who to vote for but please use your brains to make a decision. Don't let others tell you how to vote and don't be dissuaded by something as trivial as the idea that the candidate has a funny name...

  10. Every time I think I'm on the right
    track some other president fits the
    same "characteristic." HELP!

  11. Geri, it's somewhat difficult to give you a clue that helps without just giving the answer away. But I can tell you that there's something deceptive about the wording of the challenge. It might help if you Googled lists of the presidents' names, looking for the most complete list you can find. Another avenue (which can even yield the solution, but only if you dig and look at a few different sites--but it might jog your brain in the right direction before that...) is to Google presidential name trivia...

    Right now as you struggle to find the answer, your brain may be like a hurricane of activity, but you need to gravitate toward the calm area that comes with any hurricane... You know where that is, right?

  12. Carl, I thought Moe Howard (3 stooges) first coined the term "maroon"? Or was it some female singer like Gracie Slick or Heart?

  13. It took a bit of time, but I nailed the answer.

  14. phredp, I didn't say I was the first to coin the term. Don't know where it originated. But I used it probably three years ago posting on Craigslist's Rants and Raves; I was satirizing a post that contained an amazing abundance of errors in grammar and spelling... I'm not consciously aware of having heard of it before than.

    I like the idea that someone could be living on an island, cut off from the rest of the world, and manage to "invent" something that's been around for ages, say... peanut butter?

    Funny you mention the 3 stooges. I do remodels so I frequent places like Home Depot and Lowes. Every single time I pick up anything like a long board or a piece of rain gutter and put it up on my shoulder, I think of them.

  15. Okay, I'm officially (and briefly) hijacking this blog. It is, for the moment, the Etymology of Obscure Pejoratives blog.

    Googled connections between "maroon" and the 3 stooges. Didn't find any. Doesn't mean they're not there; might not have looked hard enough. But did discover that Bugs Bunny apparently used it more than once, as part of a recurring shtick of mispronouncing insults.

    Also, found something on Daily Kos about someone believing that "nimrod" was first popularized by a character on Cheers. Not true. I remember that one from elementary school. There was a comic strip in the papers back then called "Dondi," and it cracked me up that there was a series of Dondi strips that featured a bad guy who hung out in a submarine by that name...

  16. Hugh, still looking for that one, but discovered that Ethelbert, "officially," is the name represented by the initial "E" in Wile E. Coyote. He even had relatives, such as uncle Kraft E. Coyote, with that middle name as well. This from a 1973 Looney Tunes comic book

  17. Carl

    Worked with a lady about 9 years ago who used "maroon", and she mentioned to me the Bugs Bunny origination.

    Nimrod - that goes back 20+ years to a mentor of mine. Best angle?? A type British ASW (Anti-submarine warfare) aircraft was known as the Nimrod. Love it!

  18. Then this, from Ask Yahoo! Ol' Bugs strikes again!

    The American Heritage Dictionary offers two distinct definitions of a nimrod -- either a hunter, or a person regarded as silly or foolish. The dictionary goes on to explain that the second meaning probably originated with the cartoon character Bugs Bunny. The wily Bugs used the term in its original sense to refer to dithering hunter Elmer Fudd, whom he called a "poor little Nimrod." Over time, however, the "hunter" meaning got dropped, and the "dithering" connotation stuck.

  19. I haven't been able to post for a couple days... anyone else have the same problem?

  20. carl, YES. I did some research on
    "maroon" and "nimrod" typed it up and
    was unable to send it.

    Page 517 of Random House Dictionary of
    American Slang lists "maroon" in a
    1941 film "Buck Privates" and 1945
    Merrie Melody "Hare Conditioner"
    Warner Brothers animation. It also
    lists later occurrences of the word.

    Page 667 has "Nimrod" as being in
    Genesis 10:8-10 as "a mighty hunter"
    and king of Babel. (I checked the
    1611 translation King James Version.)
    The next early entry is "Great Magoo"
    --Hecht & Fowler, 1932.

    I was hoping for some more hints on
    this week's presidential problem.

  21. Geri, did you see my hint from a few days ago? I think if you take that last short paragraph and play around with it and do word-association stuff with it you might have the figurative light bulb suddenly appear over your head...

    But don't go to extremes... That's no way to govern.

    If all else fails, do this: take a piece of paper and write their names down. NOT the way Will presented their names...

  22. carl, THANK YOU! That last hint did
    it. Answer submitted.

  23. The answer I got was that both Ronald and Bill contain a vowel/consonant pair (NA for Ronald and IL for Bill) which appear in reverse order in the last name (AN in Reagan and LI in Clinton).

    Those two pairs -- NA and IL -- are the inspiration for my clue on Monday that I NAILed the answer.


  24. Ben, What a clever answer! But not
    at all close to the one I found with
    carl's last hint. One of us is wrong.

  25. There are several other presidents (e.g. jAMes MAdison, groVEr clEVeland) that would also have the property noted by Ben. The puzzle states that Clinton and Reagan have a unique quality not shared by other presidents.

  26. Sunday morning carl italicized the
    word "fullness." Blaine told us that
    there was something missing in the way Will presented the puzzle. We
    need to heed our HINTMASTERS.


  27. My first post on Sunday morning had a couple clues but maybe they were just too darn obscure...

    I said something about both of them having been described as "centrists." And I said I'd failed to grasp the "core" of the challenge...

    Maybe if I'd italicized those words; but I worry about giving too blatant a clue on Sunday morning...

  28. carl, Your clues are GREAT and they
    provide a learning situation. Sometimes I think I'm a slow learner
    but I'm getting there. DON"T STOP.

  29. Well, those two won't be unique long. The new guy has a middle name that was the last name of a former president!

  30. Former U.S. presidents, obviously.


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.