Thursday, September 23, 2010

NPR Sunday Puzzle (Sept. 19, 2010): International Trade

NPR Sunday Puzzle (Sept. 19, 2010): International Trade:
Q: Name five countries whose names are five letters long. Using the middle letter of each country's name, spell the five-letter name of a sixth country.

I didn't find this difficult and I can form the names of 6 different countries. How about you?

Update: On the air, Will mentioned wanting an answer that didn't use the lesser-known country of Palau. I'm still able to come up with 3 good answers that only involve well-known countries (and one that uses a country similar to Palau).

Edit: My clue above was "I" + "and I" which can be anagrammed to make India. I think this is probably Will's intended answer, but there are some other possible answers.
3 answers with well-known countries:

One with lesser-known countries:

A couple more that include Palau:


  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. I've got fifteen possible answers from a pool of 32 five-letter country names. However my pool may be generous and need pruning; for example I've got "Czech" as a country.

    Nor is this list is exhaustive as I didn't work out multiple permutations per answer, that is, if a country needed an "i" there are 3 countries that could supply it.

  3. I can only find five unique country combinations whose middle letters form a sixth different country (self-references not included). I wonder if Will plans to read all the variations ?

  4. At last count, I had 4 countries with 49 possible combinations.

  5. I just heard the puzzle on NPR, evidently Mr. Shortz isn't allowing "Palau" as a country :(

    So dropping self-references, Palau and one of my dodgier country possibilities, I'm down to a mere seven possibilities without permutations.

  6. Before I head to Wikipedia, are these commonly known countries?


  7. Doctechnical: I also found seven possibilities without permutations. My beginning list of countries with five-letter names has only thirty entries, however. Although I excluded Palau, the Czech Republic, defunct countries, and micronations, I have lingering doubts about five that made the first cut.

  8. Humph. If Will is going to exclude Palau then he probably doesn't like Nauru either. That leaves me with two "famous" countries generated by the middle letters of five other "well known" countries. Both answers are well established nations, so I'm not sure which one he intended.

  9. Blaine: If I exclude the names that I have doubts about, I too come up with four.

  10. Not counting permutations, not using any self-references and not using Palau, I’ve found three 5-letter countries I can spell using the middle letters of 5 other 5-letter countries. I originally had more but I had to pare the list down because some of my answers were not really countries. I wonder if I should send in all three or just pick one...

    Does anyone else think this week’s puzzle was a little on the simple side?


  11. If you disallow Palau, I end up with 4 countries. 3 of them are commonly known countries formed from five also commonly known countries. The last requires a lesser-known country in its list of 5 (Nauru), though I've been there.

    I think Will forgot another country (recently featured in one of his puzzles) that can substitute for Palau.

    If you leave out this substitute, I think you get to the one set of countries that he intended as his answer. But I still think there are 3 good answers.

  12. I love reading this blog... it gives me a sense of where I am in the puzzle solving process. I heard the puzzle about an hour ago and thus far have only two "real answers". Guess I will keep looking for more... and I wonder too, do you submit all the answers you find?

  13. Without Palau, I have a pool of 25 five-letter countries, 24 if Nauru is also eliminated. How does this compare with others' lists? Perhaps we should post our own list of acceptable countries.

  14. So far, 4 countries with multiple solutions.

    There are multiple answers involving Palau either as a source name or resulting name, contrary to an on-air statement.

  15. Lorenzo, my pool is also 25/24. And I've come up with four discrete answers. (Also you can ignore my earlier calls to your home & cell phones.)

  16. Hugh and Monte - Eliminating only Palau, I too get 4 countries using the middle letters of my pool of 25 five-letter countries.

  17. I didn't spend that much time and came up with two combinations of countries that formed the same country with their middle letters. None are what I would consider exotic. I submitted one of the combinations.

  18. I came up with 25 five-letter countries excluding Palau. As with all of the NPR puzzles, I stop looking for answers when i come up with one really good answer. The one I came up with has at least three countries that can fill the second spot, on three different continents, depending on how you delinieate the continents.

  19. This is a very simple puzzle. It doesn't take a lot of inspiration, or even much time to work through the possibilities methodically. I worked out several answers involving very common countries pretty easily while watching the new show Rubicon, which I imagine a lot of other readers of this blog are enjoying.

  20. I also got four possible answers, all of which are on different continents.

  21. Excluding: Palau, Papua, Nauru, and Benin from my "master list" of 5-letter country names leaves me with a total of 28 countries yielding 15 unique middle letters. From that list and those letters I get 5 solutions (without permutations). The most "exotic" county I'm using (at least I think) would be Gabon. If I drop that I'm down to four solutions.

  22. Using Wiki, I got 4 solutions. Does Burma count?

  23. Hey, Doc, what country list did you use? I didn't find and O's from the lists I used.

  24. Alas, I don't remember exactly where I got the country list, I pulled if off some web site weeks ago when trying to solve another puzzle. If you want to see it send an email to my handle, and I'd be happy to shoot it to you.

    And let me be the first to admit I am *horrible* at geography. When I was in school I didn't pay attention in the geography lessons once I found out there was this thing in the library called an Atlas :)

  25. Tommy Boy, I didn't count Burma since the country is officially the Republic of Myanmar.

  26. I settled on 3 good answers.

    Number 4, Burma, is questionable, but lists still include it in addition to Myanmar.

    5 and 6 involved Palau

    All are subject to variations.

  27. I don't believe that the USA has officially recognized the change of name from Burma to Mayanmar, or their current government that made the change, so Burma should still be okay.

  28. Doc? Why did you eliminate Benin? It's a wonderful and proud little nation which I visited a couple of years ago.

  29. Also, curious, Blaine, what brought you to Nauru?

  30. Yeah, good question. I guess not everyone takes a family vacation to an 8.1 square mile island out in the Pacific. My dad was working for an architectural firm that did lots of design work in Pacific including some work for the Nauruan government and a hotel firm.

  31. Hey, Gang. This week’s puzzle is up.

  32. Here are the "nations" I excluded and why:

    Palau - Rules say not to use it
    Czech - should be "Czech Republic"
    Gabon - Wikipedia says it's a state
    Papua - should be "Papua New Guinea

    Excluding these whittled me down to four answers (again, without permutations). I submitted one as my "answer", and included the other three. It'll be interesting to see what we all wound up with.

  33. Doc, state is another name for a country! -- for example, "our head of state is Barack Obama."

  34. Gabon just marked its 50th year as a member of the United Nations. But then again, Palau has been a member for 16 years, so why Will decides to exclude some answers is always somewhat of a mystery.
    I also found three answers, all very well-known countries. My choices do not including Burma, which I can see him excluding very easily. I used a list of 24 nations (again excluding Burma) and 13 different middle letters. It sounds like some of you found nations I overlooked.
    Obviously the repeated middle letters gives multiple choices for how to spell out the names. Just to be on the safe side, I submitted every non-Burmese possibility I could come up with.

    The three countries are all very well known, and as others have said are on three different continents. The countries that are used to spell them out range from among the most major countries in the world (in terms of people, size, and news worthiness) to fairly obscure. One of the countries used to spell my favorite choice, the one I hinted at above, is probably far more familiar to crossword puzzlers than it is to U.S. tourists.

  35. My first choice of those three countries might be suggested by an English actor/dramatist, (there's a compound noun.)

  36. The answer came to me so quickly, and fit all the criteria, that I submitted it right away. I didn't look for any alternatives....might have been too quick from what I am reading. (I did look up my lesser-known countries just to double check they were still countries :)


  38. My answers are posted above in the original post.

  39. And as other have mentioned, you can form these same countries other ways since several countries have the same middle letter. For example CHINA and CHILE, ITALY and SPAIN, etc.

  40. My "Core Four", which excluded Palau, Czech, Papua and Gabon (the last because my poor geography skills led me to believe it wasn't a country):

    1 Aruba using Ghana, Burma, Nauru, Libya, Italy
    2 Burma using Libya, Aruba, Korea, Samoa, Ghana
    3 India using Chile, Benin, Sudan, China, Ghana
    4 Italy using Chile, Qatar, Ghana, Malta, Egypt

    Allowing poor Gabon back into the club adds:

    5 Libya using Malta, Chile, Gabon, Egypt, Ghana

    And if we let Papua play (it has to drop the "New Guinea" suffix), it can even become answer:

    6 Papua using Japan, Ghana, Nepal, Aruba, Italy

    Well if Papua gets to play, why not Czech? That gives us two more:

    7 Benin using Gabon, Czech, Congo, Chile, Kenya
    8 Nepal using Benin, Czech, Japan, Ghana, Malta

    And if grumpy ol' Mr. Shortz had allowed Palau (they filmed a season of "Survivor" there, a guilty pleasure of mine) we get two more:

    9 Malta using Samoa, Ghana, Palau, Qatar, Italy
    10 Palau using Japan, Ghana, Malta, Italy, Aruba

    As usual the most enjoyable part of the puzzle for me - aside from the discussions here about it - was writing the program to solve it. Am I weird or what? :)

  41. Here's the list I was using:
    Benin, Burma, Chile, China, Egypt, Gabon, Ghana, Haiti, India, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Libya, Malta, Nauru, Nepal, NĂ­ger, Palau, Qatar, Samoa, Spain, Sudan, Syria, Tonga, Yemen

    I removed Pacific island nations of Nauru, Palau, Samoa and Tonga for the "well-known" list.

    Other possibilities that were removed:
    Aruba (part of the Netherlands, as Will noted a few puzzles ago)
    Congo (either Republic of the Congo or Democratic Republic of the Congo)
    Czech (Czech Republic)
    Korea (North Korea or South Korea)
    Macau (part of China, just like Hong Kong since 1999)

    Wikipedia: List of Sovereign States

  42. India - China,Kenya,Sudan,Haiti,Spain.

    Since Burma was an also-ran,
    (Burma - Gabon,Nauru,Syria,Yemen,Spain)
    That left "Noel Coward" as a clue to my first choice.


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