Thursday, November 12, 2009

NPR Sunday Puzzle (Nov 8): Mirror, Mirror on the Wall...

NPR Sunday Puzzle (Nov 8): Mirror, Mirror on the Wall...:
Q: If you write 'WOW' in capital letters and hold up a mirror at the side of the word, you'll see 'WOW' perfectly reflected in the mirror. Here's the puzzle: Think of a nationality and write it in capital letters. If you remove one stroke from the first letter, and one stroke from the last letter, and hold up a mirror at the side, the name of the nationality will be perfectly reflected in the mirror. What nationality is it?
Looking at the comments that were added to end of last week's puzzle (regarding this week's puzzle), the most prevalent misunderstanding is what is meant by removing a pair of strokes and then looking at the reflection. Personally I hate it when a puzzle needs explanation but I think it is necessary this week to clear up the confusion. Basically if you take the name of the nationality as written in uppercase letters, it won't be horizontally symmetric. But if you remove a stroke from the first letter, and a stroke from the last letter, the remaining pattern of strokes will look the same when you reflect them in a mirror.

The alternate interpretation, and perhaps how this could have been made more elegant is to think of shifting a stroke in the first and last letters slightly. Then the resulting reflection would be of the original nationality, rather than just a horizontally reflective pattern of strokes.

Edit: The two hints hidden above were "prevalent" and "I hate it". René Préval is the current President of the Republic of Haiti.


  1. 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.

  2. Blaine, excellent analysis (but overly revealing clue!).

  3. Blaine, nicely (and clearly) said.

  4. I find myself wondering if Will has some underling assuming too much responsibility. I picture, wrongly or otherwise, some young guy speaking on the phone to his significant-other-of-the-day while devoting less than half of his attention to his job... If one removes a stroke from both the first and last letters, one cannot possibly be seeing "the name of the nationality" on the paper or in the mirror.

  5. Rearrange, shift, move, whatever we call it the puzzle is flawed. Perhaps before the clues are broadcast a couple of people should try to solve it and maybe find the flaws if there are any.

  6. Did not Will read the puzzle on the air? It seems he should have known there was an error. grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!!

  7. CARL, Wow! I'm glad you're back.

  8. No you're not; I ramble and digress and bore you bloggers to tears. ;-)

  9. I suppose I'm not blunted by reality, 'cuz i got this one right away!

  10. Some of you are over complicating the puzzle. Removing a stoke means, for example, taking the slanted stroke from an N which leaves I I. After doing this at the beginning and end you have a bunch of horizontally symetrical letters which no longer spell the original nationality.

  11. Richard Rausch, And so that makes the "puzzle" worse than we thought?

  12. I thought I was the king of all puzzle-solving in my house, but when I missed the radio show this morning, the NPR puzzle was left to my son. He solved it in about thirty seconds. I have been usurped :(

  13. I think I may have missed the boat on this one, but I'm going to have to go with shifting the strokes in both letters because as stated before, there is absolutely no way to remove a stroke in both letters and have any chance of reflecting the same nationality as you had previoulsy written in a mirror, impossible. So I Will assume--and I know that they say about making assumptions--that rather than saying "remove one stroke," he said "move one stroke."

  14. One definition of remove is :to change the location, position
    However, in the puzzle on the NPR site "from" is also stated.
    This is misleading.

  15. Hey patdugg79, I know all too well the combination of pride and embarrassment that comes from having a child top me at a sport or other challenge. But all for all the dads out there, and all the babies too, you don't have to be a doctor to figure out this one.

  16. I'm hating the confusion surrounding the last two NPR puzzles, but Blaine explained this one very well.

    DAVE'S PUZZLE WHATEVER (I've lost track), and this one should be very easy:

    Remove the first letter from a nationality and reverse the resultant first two letters to get another nationality.

  17. I think the mistake in the wording is that you are NOT intended to still have the word you started with. You remove a stroke from both first and last letter and what is left is something that looks the same in the mirror. I may be proved wrong (wouldn't be the first time, that's for sure), but I think Will's error was to say you would see "the name of the nationality" reflected perfectly.

  18. Carl, I approached the puzzle the same way you did. Given that, I looked for nationalities that were symmetrical without the first and last letters.

  19. Curtis, I'm sure I have the same answer alluded to by many of the bloggers on here. Just wanted to clarify what I see as the puzzle's flaw.

  20. Carl, I think that you're right on with your explanation.

  21. To guess this nationality, you need to find your thinking Cap. Sounds like a compass could help find this place.

    Personally, I'm slow as a turtle, so I need to relax to figure it out. Perhaps a drink? I don't like the Frappacino, so perhaps dlo.

    We all miss TT but where will it end? Not really hispanic, but perhaps half like hispanic.

    -- Other Ben

  22. Gee whiz. What is with the literal-mindedness here? I find it as aggravating as y'all find clues which aren't 100.0000000000% precise. It reminds me of the crossword tourney a few years ago when I overheard a guy grouse about a clue for a "sport utility vehicle" when the answer "was clearly a crossover!!!"

  23. First of all, a belated congratulations to DaveJ for being on the show. You did great, and I loved your enthusiasm.

    Secondly, I can't tell if anyone has responded to Dave's Puzzle #Whatever (maybe someone left clues too sublime for me), but I want Dave to know that he should not feel ignored, as if he is on an island in the middle of the ocean.

  24. Thanks Ken and everyone who commented on my appearance - Liane and Will were both tremendous to talk to in person, and I found the puzzle on air is even more nerve racking than I expected. Keep posting though - if I got picked so can you !

    FYI Hugh, all three of my bosses went to RPI they turn out darned good engineers.

    One the categories they didn't air, was books of the bible (R.A.D.I.O - try it yourself I found it really tough !)

    I divorce myself from clue giving on this weeks puzzle.

  25. Dave, I'm still working on the Whatever Puzzle.
    But it's now Thursday. May we know the answer?

  26. My little hint referred to the Steely Dan song - IIAITIAII divorce

  27. "Blunted On Reality" is an album by The Fugees, one member of which, Wyclef Jean, was born in Haiti.
    How obscure can you get?

  28. DaveJ, belated congratulations!!! I heard you on the air, but had no idea that you're the same Dave as the Dave on the show.

    Geri, and to whoever else is trying to figure out the answer to my puzzle (nice job, Ken!), the answer to this week's Will Shortz puzzle will help you figure out the answer to my puzzle.

  29. Afterthoughts:
    A diversion back to last week's puzzle . . .
    If Will had used "Death of a Salesman" (no "The"), he could have started with:

    "Noah Adams last fee"
    or one of these:
    "Salmon feast ahead"
    "Fan shades oatmeal"
    "Shoe fleas adamant"

  30. My answer was"TAI" Remove the top of the "T" and the bottom serif of the "I" making it look like a "T" with a small top. Now in the mirror it still looks like"TAI".

  31. My wife came up with MAYAN. It works if you write your M like on a typewriter (or in the Courier font) but without the serifs.

    You remove the downward diagonal stroke on the M and the bottom part of the diagonal stroke on the N, the result reflects in a mirror, and you still see most of the word MAYAN.

    Is it a "nationality" though?

  32. Al, what nationality is Tai? Do you mean Thai?

    Blaine, I don't think that Mayan is a nationality. Would you consider Hopi or Navajo a nationality?

  33. Perhaps Al meant Tai as in Taiwanese?

    I agree that Mayan isn't the right answer, but it was close...
    MAYAN reflected

  34. My (Webster's New Twentieth Century Unabridged) dictionary has Tai as an alternate spelling for Thai.

  35. DaveJ, It was exciting to hear you on NPR and
    you were great answering the quiz.

    Last Wednesday you triggered my favorite quibble: The use of "THE" bible(at least you didn't capitalize the "b"). I once heard someone say that the proper reply to the question, "Do you believe in the bible?" is, "Which one?" There is no such thing as "THE" bible. One of the bibles I have
    omits the admonition that all those with a
    "flat nose" are not permitted to worship at
    the alter--Leviticus 21:18

  36. Chezedog asks "how obscure can you get?"

    Well, Chezedog, try this -- I wrote:

    To guess this nationality, you need to find your thinking Cap. Sounds like a compass could help find this place.

    - I capitalized "Cap" because "Cap Haitien" is the capital of Haiti's north where the famous Citadel is located.

    - "Sounds like a compass could help find this place" because "Compas" (pronounced KOM-pah) is the kind of music played in Haiti.

    Personally, I'm slow as a turtle, so I need to relax to figure it out.

    - Turtles are mentioned because "Ile de la Tortue" (or Island of the Turtle) is a tourist destination off of Haiti's north end. And Gerard Tortue was for some time the Interim prime minister. I love that the country was run by Mr. Turtle.

    Perhaps a drink? I don't like the Frappacino, so perhaps dlo.

    - I said nobody likes a Frappacino because Haitians hate the FRAPH (pronounced FRAP), the bloody totalitarian police wielded by Haitian strongman Emmanuel Constant, recently arrested in New York for his crimes in the USA and in Haiti.

    - I offered "dlo" instead. DLO is how you say "water" in Haitian Creole.

    We all miss TT but where will it end?

    - "We all miss TT" refers to "Titi," the nickname of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the most popular of Haitian's recent rulers.

    Not really hispanic, but perhaps half like hispanic.

    - This refers to the fact that Haiti is not Hispanic. It is a French- and Creole-speaking island. But "Half like Hispanic" refers to the fact that Haiti occupies half of the Island of "Hispanola." The other half of the Island is the Dominican Republic, which is indeed a Hispanic nation.

    -- Other Ben

  37. Other Ben, As a part of a Caribbean cruise
    I took an inland tour of Haiti where I saw
    abject poverty and hungry children. Are conditions there still horrible?

  38. "HAITIAN" IS A NATIONALITY!,"IIAITIAII" IS NONSENSE! short,will shortz is a fraud,and does not respect his audience enough to actually do the puzzle himself...OR HE WOULD HAVE SEEN HIS MISTAKE RIGHT AWAY!


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.