Thursday, April 07, 2011

NPR Sunday Puzzle (Apr 3, 2011): Moby Dick scores an 82

NPR Sunday Puzzle (Apr 3, 2011): Moby Dick scores an 82:
Q: Assign every letter of the alphabet a numerical value: A=1, B=2, C=3 and so forth. Think of a classic work of literature that has eight letters in its title. When the letters are given a numerical value, they add up to 35. What's the title? Clue: The title has two words.
Clue: 12,672

Edit: First hint was 12 as in Adam-12, second hint was 672 as in the birth year of Venerable Bede
A: ADAM BEDE, the first novel by George Eliot


  1. Here's my standard reminder... don't post the answer or any hints that could lead directly to the answer (e.g. via Google or Bing) 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.

    You may provide indirect hints to the answer to show you know it, but make sure they don't give the answer away. Thank you.

  2. This is extremely easy by gosh. I quickly found the book nestled on my bookshelf.

  3. Also I am pleased to have solved this one so quickly on the eve of my birthday tomorrow.

  4. Given the mathematical constraints of the puzzle it was pretty easy to find the answer. I've never even heard of the book, or the author, poor blinkered illiterate than I am.

  5. Thankfully it is not a change of letters puzzle this time, and we were not expected to Spoonerize "A Tale of Two Cities" in order to solve it.

  6. @DT, I'm with you. I hadn't heard of the title but I was familiar with the author.

  7. A heady book this. As with Blaine and DT, was not on my reading list.

  8. I thought I'd be the first person to have the answer in my sights. Why do I think of E.T. when I was working on the answer?

  9. That's funny, Phredp. I think of the downfall of the financial sector!

    -- Other Ben

  10. Classically obscure - how could a dead dame be able to be deemed otherwise !

  11. I never heard of the book or author either, but I do enjoy watching the star of the revival of Chicago and the star of Rent.

  12. @SDB: If *that* had been my high school assigned reading I probably would have been much more enthusiastic about the book, by Dickens!

  13. A boy and a girl?

  14. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  15. DT:
    I cannot recall if I read Tale of Two Cities in jr. high or high school, or if it was assigned reading or not. What I do remember is that I found this book interesting because it was a "slice of life" story. :)

  16. umm if what you all are proposing isn't that either short a few letters or way over, depending whether you count once or twice?

    I suggest demanding clarification. and whether you can count hyphens.

  17. ok friend got it and don't think it is what anyone is thinking of (if i'm reading comments correctly). think real 19th c lit classic

  18. Jess:
    Or perhaps you don't understand the clues.

  19. @jess just K.I.S.J. keep it simple. No extra bells or whistles. Well maybe a bauble or two.

  20. One of the clues gave away the answer. I've heard of the book, but never read it.

  21. What I undertake for you, reader dear
    Is only to aid, through verse unclear
    For no man's religion our minds contorts
    Than the unabashed worship of Mr. Shortz!

    The book you seek recounts guilt and woe,
    Love, death and murder set long ago
    The author's name hid the world from love
    And saw only a suffering God above.

    Nervy young squires and a youthful dame
    As wandering children in a world of shame
    An abandonment of one who knows no other
    Amen to God, not Man, speaks the mother.

    - Candora Mia Dynk

  22. I never heard of this book, indeed.
    I must be a literary hayseed.

    Shave and a haircut, two bits.

  23. Of course there is a classic book that the more one reads it the longer it becomes.

    Anyone know what book I'm referring to?

  24. A dampened spirit in Valley Forge;
    Each soldier felt a rise in his gorge
    Bedevil his throat, as he could not quell, yet,
    What this yet-unborn author would have to tell yet.

  25. SDB, a novel by James Jones perhaps?

  26. Lorenzo:
    Nope. I read From Here To Eternity in Jr. High, and I thought it a page turner.

    I will offer you a hint though. My question is slightly tricky. Also everone here will know of the book.

  27. Could the verses being posted this week actually be the work of one of our regular contributors? Eleanor Fitz, perhaps?

  28. SDB, I agree with your assessment of From Here To Eternity. I was thinking the the "trick" in your question might refer to a mathematical property of this title.

  29. Nope again. Not really a math problem as only one digit is involved. Think word play here.

  30. Lorenzo, wasn't me. Stayed home this week since I'd never heard of the book nor the author - a damn shame.

    I'll have a nice puzzle this Wednesday, though.

    As I opened the puzzle to ponder,
    My mind began to wander.
    I needed the clues
    To solve this week's ruse
    For I didn't have a whole day to squander.

  31. Blaine, yes my post last week was too obvious. So, let me try again. I agree with many of you that the book in question doesn't qualify as a classic work of literature. On the other hand, Benjamin Disraeli's "wife" probably didn't care either about the publication of Darwin's "The Origin of Species".

  32. Skydiveboy, what I think you've got in mind is a gaelic version of "A River Runs Through It,"--correct?

  33. If you reverse the order of numbering the alphabet (Z=1, Y=2, etc.) a 35 number total might be the classic "Suwzy Swy" (famous book about the well known girl detective with a "common" name).

  34. Kent:
    I think you folks are making this too complicated. It is a play on words.

  35. Getting back to Will's challenge now.

    It's a damn shame to be deceived.

  36. SDB, I have a book that fits your puzzle. Its author was the subject of an NPR puzzle last year. Two issues though: 1) Whether it is a classic is a matter of interpretation, 2) whether everyone here knows the book is doubtful. However, the answer to this week's NPR puzzle has the same issues.

  37. Ken:
    Now you have me curious. I have no idea what your book and author are, but it sounds to me as if you may have an unintended, but workable, answer to my puzzle. My book is known to all for sure, but the author will be known to none, in my opinion. That includes myself.
    Allow me to offer another hint:
    Keep whittling away and you should soon nail the answer down.

  38. Well, SDB, I still don't know what you've got in mind, but both the author and book I'm thinking of would, I believe, be known by all on this board, although few would have read it. The author is famous for his plays on words; in fact, this book is composed almost entirely of plays on words. And the form of the book bears something fundamental in common with a mobius strip.

  39. Kent, et al:
    Maybe the author's initials will answer these questions best. I am interested in your conclusion, but will have to wait a bit, I guess.

    Hint: Author initials: C.C.

  40. SDB - re: "the longer it becomes"

    Well, I don't get C.C., but I'll post this anyway:

    I have one answer that's possibly what you mean, but I don't think Webster agrees that it's a book.
    Whether the true author has been discovered is widely debated, as some believe it was a ghost writer.

    Or are you pulling our collective legs?

  41. BD:
    I also am looking forward to learning what your answer is, but it is not looking like my intended answer.

    Hint: Not your legs; perhaps another appendage would work better.

  42. After a three week hiatus, a new puzzle is up at

    Midweek Puzzle Break

  43. Lorenzo:
    I knew someone would solve it. :)
    Your prize is in the mail.

  44. Not Carlo; it is Carlos!
    But shame on you for this one!

  45. dumpsterdivelad:
    No, the shame is on you for not solving the problem and jumping to incorrect conclusions. The author is not Carlos Castaneda and the name IS Carlo.

  46. "Of course there is a classic book that the more one reads it the longer it becomes."

    Boo! The first it is the book and the second it is not. Once one knows the answer, the clues do fit however.

  47. Why the "Boo!", Blaine? I said it was a play on words. A classic puzzle to my way of thinking and not simply a switching of letters, but requires a little knowledge and thinking. It was easy to make up though--taking only a moment while I was on here.
    Please don't impeach me; I do know what is meant by "is" and "it" comes next.

  48. SDB, either you or a character in your book is a liar!

  49. SDB - I say boo, too! (if I've got it)

    (I know, it's just a silly puzzle)

    "It" does not get consistently longer and ultimately gets shorter when one finishes the book (by some accounts, at least).

    Using your logic, the tale which was a pet project of EE would be a better fit. (CTBRD)

    I first thought you were hinting at a Biblical book, or another example of scrolls - hence my reference to "pulling" and a "ghost" writer.

  50. The more one reads A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME, the longer a brief history of time becomes.

    Now…if one reads the abridged version next, then I dunno what happens.

  51. Ken, your reasoning was similar to what led to my reference to From Here to Eternity.

  52. Both answers have that cosmological element. Maybe yours would be better stated as:
    The more one reads from here to eternity, the SHORTER from here to eternity becomes.

  53. Ken & Lorenzo:
    Your line(s) of thinking are interesting and I am enjoying them, however, I do want to point out that A Brief History Of Time is in no way a classic and not even fiction. As to From Here to Eternity, it is a wonderful book, but I do not believe it can be considered a classic, although it may well be in the future. I have not even heard of Guard of Honor, by James Gould Cozzens, referred to as a classic yet, although it is considered the definitive WWII novel and won the Pulitzer. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in what military life was like during that period.
    Anyway I hope you had some fun with the exercise. If not, there probably will be another letter switch puzzle in the offing, but I hope not too soon.

  54. I stirred all of your answers together and got a weird colloidal suspension.

  55. The puzzle specifies "a classic work of literature", not "a classic work of fiction". Literature can be nonfiction. Check it out!

  56. dumpsterdivelad:
    What is your point? I coined a puzzle for amusement. What have you done lately?
    You seem to have an axe to grind.
    Are you taking your meds? Dig a little deeper next time; maybe you'll find some Valium.
    I think everyone is well aware we are only considering works of fiction here.
    And I did check it out. See below:
    "The Nobel Prize for Literature has never been awarded to a nonfiction writer, although many literature laureates have devoted much of their writing lives to nonfiction. In bookstores, the shelves labeled, “Literature,” exclude nonfiction—even great works of memoir or reportage by great novelists are not allowed to stand side-by-side with novels."

  57. @SDB, did you have a big sister or brother that had to pull you out of scrimmages on the play ground when you were a kid? Your last sentence was enough to go "bam!" without stompin all over the dude's personal life, but then you do keep this blog on its toes.
    @DDl, being a child of the 60s I can see how reading Casteneda under the influence can make the book seem longer as time progressed. I am sure there are many of my generation that would 'lie' and say they were not 'real'ly involved with mind altering substances.

  58. Amidst all this debate about the nature of literature, my clue is: Another dull and moralistic book; ergo, didn't enjoy...

  59. When I was a kid I enjoyed a lot of literature in the "Harvard Classics" collection my grandparents had acquired. "Voyage of the Beagle", "Origin of Species", etc. Great literature!

  60. Well, the book I had in mind as an answer to skydiverboy's puzzle was James Joyce's Finnegans Wake, which begins in the middle of a sentence and ends with the beginning of that sentence. So when you get to the "end" you can quite literally go back to the beginning and continue reading. Like a mobius strip, it has no end; therefore, the more you read, the longer it gets. By the way, the "first" word is "riverrun" and a key character throughout the book is Dublin"s river Liffey.

  61. I am going to end this right now before the NPR Puzzle deadline. The answer to my conundrum is:
    Le Avventure di Pinocchio, aka The Adventures of Pinocchio, by Carlo Collodi (the pen name of Carlo Lorenzini).
    I am enjoying reading how some of you came to very different conclusions. I tried to steer you all in the right direction. Thinking about this I am beginning to see that some on here are very rigid (not sure this is the best word) in the way they approach puzzle solving. I tend to look for and observe the humor in life more than most and my puzzles are likely to have an element of humor. Just a thought.
    I was in a local branch of our public library recently and noticed a book displayed on the table labeled "Non-Fiction" instead of being on the display table marked "Fiction." This book was "The Adventures of Robin Hood" which is fiction.
    I brought this to the attention of one of the librarians sitting a few feet away and she said it was on that table because it had a Dewey Decimal number assigned for some reason I have forgot. I told her it is still fiction, and we let it go at that.
    All this griping about what is classic literature reminds me of that. Who would look for Robin Hood in non-fiction? Perhaps a member of the Flat Earth Society.
    Have fun.

  62. My clues this week:
    In my first post I said "by gosh" hinting at "by George" and then "nestled" which is an obscure hint at Ness, as in Elliot Ness fame.

    In my next post I said it was the "eve" of my birthday (true, by the way) and this is a clue as in Adam and Eve.

    In a much later post I actually posted the title of the book: "It's a damn shame to be deceived." "a damn" = Adam and "be deceived" = Bede. It seems obvious now, but I figured most are not familiar with this title and would not notice.

    This book was presented on PBS's Masterpiece Theatre back in the 1980's as I recall. It was George Eliot's first book and she is thought by many to be perhaps the best author of the nineteenth century.

  63. As I said in my first post, the mathematical constraints of this puzzle made it very easy to solve, IMHO:

    We know that there are eight letters adding up to 35, which averages, um... (counts on fingers... removes shoes and socks)...well, close enough to five as who-cares. So we know the "average" letter is going to be an "E" or thereabouts, and we can infer that the title is going to lean *heavily* towards the left-hand-side of the letter scale. So just Googling something like "classic English literature reading list" and scrolling through, the correct title virtually jumps off the page. Piece of cake.

    (Although I did write a few lines of code to verify the letters "added up" to 35, that was pretty minor computer involvement for me :)

  64. My clue - "I must be a literary hayseed" is a reference to Hayslope, the setting of Adam Bede.
    I didn't mean to rhyme with the title (does it?).

    DT - I applied an Excel spreadsheet to add the values of letters of English words hoping to find some direction, then applied that to the title after I found it in a list as you describe.

  65. What I undertake for you, reader dear – it's the second sentence of the book, almost exactly

    The author's name hid the world from love – A reference to the fact that Maryanne Evans used the name George Eliot in part to protect her private life. It needed the protection; the man she lived with for over 20 years was married (and not to her!)

    suffering God – the book's most famous quote is “No wonder man's religion has much sorrow in it; no wonder he needs a Suffering God.”

  66. @BD, Agreed -- Bede and seed are rhymes, indeed.

  67. My clues were "Am I the first person"
    and "in my sights" alluding to draw a bead. ET always called out "Elliot"

  68. New puzzle is out already and weighing heavily on my mind. Not really. Took only a minute to solve and answer already submitted.

  69. Doctechnical - nice clue next week!

  70. Nationality may play a role in the new (10-Apr) puzzle. For a musical clue, perhaps something by Ray Charles.

    @Lorenzo: You lost me. Could you at least wait until I read the puzzle and post a clue? :)

  71. DT, my comment would have been the same even if your post this week had been blank! (As it turned out, I really did like your musical clue!)

  72. Good one!

    Useless number clues are 180; 1814.

    May the Force be with you!

  73. @Lorenzo: Ah, now I understand precisely.

    And going over my comments elsewhere in this thread I realize that my hither-to unknown precognitive abilities lead me to name something last week (albeit in a different context) which is quite relevant to today's puzzle.

    And I'll add a number a number clue of my own: 1E-10.

  74. Last week's hint: "Oh Maryann"---(Evans)

    This week's hint: Oh AJ's Swedish meatballs.


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.