## Sunday, November 01, 2015

### NPR Sunday Puzzle (Nov 1, 2015): And Three Nines are Twenty

NPR Sunday Puzzle (Nov 1, 2015): And Three Nines are Twenty:
Q: This is one of the "lost" puzzles of Sam Loyd, the great American puzzlemaker from the 19th and early 20th centuries. It's from an old magazine with a Sam Loyd puzzle column. The object is to arrange three 9s to make 20. There is no trick involved. Simply arrange three 9s, using any standard arithmetic signs and symbols, to total 20. How can it be done?
The whole point is there are no tricks involved. So you don't need to flip numbers upside down or involve higher order math like square roots or factorials... at least my solution doesn't need those.

Edit: My hint was point as in decimal point.
A: (9 + 9)/.9 = 20

1. Here's my standard reminder... don't post the answer or any hints that could lead directly to the answer (e.g. via a chain of thought, or an internet search) 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. You can openly discuss your hints and the answer after the Thursday deadline. Thank you.

1. I got ((√9)!)!/((√9)!*(√9)!) = (3!)!/(3!*3!) = 6!/(6*3!) = 6*5*4*3*2*1/(6*3*2*1) = 5*4 = 20

2. I never would have figured out the decimal answer

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1. Darn it. Did it again. I thought I was using a form of a word that wasn't so... direct. Apologies. ---Rob

3. This one is easy enough. How about making 20 with just four 9's, then with just five 9's and finally with just six 9's?

1. the (4) 9's puzzle seems like an oldie, I have odd memories of that from my youth.

Once you go down that path there's nothing to stop you from making 20 with seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve or even more 9's. I think you can make 20 from any number of 9's that you want.

Harder to make 20 from just two 9's. I can only do it violating Blaine's trickery rule.

2. Yes. adding 9-9 (= 0) to the three 9's answer and the four 9's answer will give you an infinite number of answers.

3. I was thinking multiplying 9/9 = 1, or substituting √9 x √9 = 9.

Any work.

4. ecoarchitect,

Your first reply here got me wondering how you solved your own challenge, that of making 20 with just TWO 9's, even though violating Blaine's trickery rule.

My own solution to that requires three violations, one of which is hard to represent using lines of pure text. (I'm referring here to two numerical expressions, one atop the other, with large parentheses around them. -- With pure text-based replies, we would have to allow an uppercase C, with the understanding that it's there only because it's necessary when using text-only replies.) Please reply to this reply if your solution does NOT involve that.

5. E&WAF - I don't think I even understand what you wrote, so I suspect my (evil, nefarious solution that comes from a twisted mind) can't match yours. My solution is a bit of stretch, and may not be your type.

Though IX (9) + XI (9 rotated 180 degrees) = 20, but that's not my intended answer.

6. I was referring to Combination.

My solution was C(6,√9) = 20. (1st 9 upside down, square root symbol before the 2nd 9, and then using combination.)

7. I remember learning Combinations, I think in High School, but now I am trying to remember when I forgot them. It was probably 30 minutes (or 4 beers) after the test.

8. I really can't say I remember Combinations. Of course that may be due to my consuming my 4 beers before the test, not to mention the class, of course. I considered it a course requirement. At least for me it was. I felt it didn't subtract from the experience at all, and in fact was an added attraction which I gave my divided attention multiple times.

9. If you can't remember combinations, how'd you get into your locker in high school?

10. Kicking and screaming at the hands of the bully two lockers down?

11. Anybody ever hear of that actually happening in their school, or is this TV legend? We did some awful things, but never this - no lockers in elementary school, and the lockers were too small in Junior and Senior High....

12. ecoarchitect, I saw it happen to a boy in junior high. We never had lockers in elementary school either--just hooks or cubbies.

4. This old puzzle was nueve for me. - Randy D.

5. As Barbie used to say, math is hard.

6. I must have come up with the same answer as Blaine because all I needed was just standard math.

7. Assuming only standard arithmetic signs and symbols appear on Using Google's online calculator - 20 characters in the display produce the desired result.

This answer seems to be different and more obvious to me than what Blaine hints at. I'll continue working on it since my solution doesn't work on my spreadsheets

1. Got the easier spreadsheetable solution, but I had more fun with my original one

8. I have two answers, both of which rely on some level of "trickery." I'll work on it a while longer.

P.S. I don't see why the "higher order math" symbols that Blaine mentioned would be considered trickery.

Thanks -- Phil J.

9. I actually consider Blaine's hint a bit too much of a hint today, for the first time ever.

2. Good point.

3. I, too, am gasted in a more flab way than I thought possible. Exclamation points and square roots have never been considered radical for this puzzle genre (ironically). Blaine gave a really real clue--not mere documentation that he had the answer.

Car Talk fans (in the pre-eerie era--not now) long understood that high-school-level symbols were welcome for this puzzle genre. The L-ishly arcane symbols for the "Floor" and "Ceiling" function were definitely disqualified. The poster child for the gray area was the vinculum. It's the bar that turns .9 into 1. Yes, you could use .9 with a bar to mean 1, but that's not the way mathematicians use it. (Side note for math-reluctant types: The point-nine-bar thing is no paradox. You coexist comfortably with 0.3333 followed forever by threes being 1/3. Multiply both of those numbers by 3. Head does not explode; life goes on.)

For me, this puzzle was fun, but only because I knew the arbitrary rules of the game. This puzzle is nonsense to the next advanced civilization we meet and it's also nonsense to the last advanced civilization on this continent 1000 years ago. The Mayans used base twenty. Think on that, Sam Loyd.

Relatedly, I note that we, in Vermont, are fond of our own Sam Lloyd. He's got that double-L of the acting family. Christopher is the most famous, especially in 2015 with all of the "Back-to-the-Future" stuff, but Sam's Ebeneezer Scrooge , was equally unforgettable.

10. Seventh grade stuff. Good thing, although it was the best three years of my life.
zeke, repeat, repeat. :)

11. You guys are lucky this week. You won't have my input on a puzzle like this. Whenever it's a math or logic problem, I skip that week's challenge. I only prefer word challenges. Y'all are on your own.

12. I figured out a 'higher order math' answer that I really thought was 'the' answer until I read Blaine's post and then got the answer that should have been obvious to me. I still like my 'tricky' answer.

13. Blaine,

Come Thursday, there might be some folks out there who will have felt cheated by Will's and your assurance that there is NO trick involved. After all, the text of the answer, besides the three 9's, does include one character which is neither "+", "-", "x" (or "*", for multiplication), nor "/" (or "÷", for division), nor "(" nor ")".

1. Perhaps so, but there is nothing in the answer that you shouldn't have learned in elementary school. And not just in math class. It took me 2 tries to get the answer.

14. Gosh, after I had found the solution to Will's puzzle I was able to find a way to make 20 with three 7s, again without using tricks!

15. My answer doesn't use factorials or square roots, but isn't what I'd call grade school level math. The problem here is how you interpret the puzzle.

Three of us did this puzzle and came up with three different, viable answers. If he would have said "simple" arithmetic signs and symbols, that would be one thing. But "standard" is totally up for interpretation.

16. I'd definitely call this grade school level math. But I've always loved math. --Margaret G.

17. The answer I got would work with EVERY. SINGLE. NUMBER. Even two digit numbers if you alter it ever so slightly.

18. I see your point Blaine. No need for extra math. Mine added up just right. --Ralph L

19. . .- ... -.--

1. That's what "Easy" looks like in Morse code.

20. It may be hard to some, but if's easy if you just focus and get to the point.

21. This is not a hint and has nothing to do with the answer. But, did anyone notice that "Make three nines twenty" is twenty letters?

1. skydiveboy did.
Did anyone notice there are 5 e's and 3 t's in the same phrase?

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3. It also anagrams to "hen wants meek eternity."

But so what?

4. Why seek entertainment?

22. Your point being? ( Not to be confused with a pointed beanie - Halloween costume for Our Gang)

1. Think of a dunce cap.

23. Your point being? ( Not to be confused with a pointed beanie - Halloween costume for Our Gang)

1. What is the point of all of this?

24. Why are there always two of my replies when I only hit the Publish button once?

1. I don't knowknow, RoRo. Looks like it didn't happen this time. This duplicate posting bug started happening several months agogo on both this blog and Word Woman's PEOTS (and presumably, on other blogspot sites). I thought I had found that it may be prevented by closing your browser window immediately after posting, but that may just be superstitious behavior.

2. RoRo:
jan is right about this being a fairly new phenomenon that began about a year ago. What is not generally known though is that this is an indication you, along with others, who are experiencing this, are being closely tracked by the NSA. Sorry, but there it is.

3. SDB, everybody is being tracked by the NSA.

Many years ago, I did submit a FOIA/Privacy Act request for my FBI file. Almost everything was blacked out, so I still don't know what I did.

4. jan:

But I said, "closely tracked."

Seriously though, I have known about this beginning in 1963 when I was only 18 and being trained in cryptography in the Army at Fort Gordon. Three years later, when I returned home from the Army, I was surreptitiously recruited in secret by the CIA. I was informed I was cleared for their training without any further investigation, including lie detector BS. I turned them down, but wonder now what they have on me as I am extremely critical of this country now and am not shy about saying so. It is the only patriotic thing to do.

5. skydiveboy: you were 18 years old in 1963?

6. Yes, clotheslover, I was born during WWII. Why is that such a shock?

7. Not shocked, more....intrigued.

8. So, intrigue is not something you can avoid.

9. So, intrigue is not something you can avoid.

25. Always possible to learn something new. I had to raise the character count of my original answer to 22 to get around what I think is the calculator's (and my) failure to recognize a special operation.

1. hugh: I only used 10 characters on my calculator to solve this puzzle.

26. I think, if you haven't yet solved this simple, but not bad, puzzle, you might want to remember we have long ago been commanded to go forth and multiply. I am not saying this will necessarily provide the answer, but it should be more fun than whatever you are doing now.

1. Apparently, it not just us who were so commanded, but our furry friends as well. As a result, Israel's Agriculture Minister plans to halt their program of spaying and neutering stray cats, and proposes deporting them instead.

2. I hear there's lots of room these days in Syria.

3. SDB, You are absolutely wrong. As I implied on Sun Nov 01, 09:25:00 AM PST, I got an acceptable answer and said outright that I enjoy doing what I do (regardless of your assessment of the situation.)

4. hugh:

I am sure you are absolutely correct in stating that I am absolutely wrong, but could you please tell me what it is I am absolutely wrong about?

5. jan:

Things may improve when Isis becomes Isn'tisn't. I hope that is not too Nileistic.

6. Oh, don't be an asp!

7. Fangyou jan.

8. No, th-ankh you!

9. Don't get so silly you become a Khartoum.

10. Sahara you going to explain moving from Egypt to Sudan?

11. Me Sphinx this has gone far enough!

12. It may have gone too Pharaoh already.

13. We Akhenaten to have gone this far.

14. So, Suez me! Tut, tut!

15. Aswan it you.

16. Missing Simon Saiz.

27. I couldn't get this until I looked at a calculator, then it was obvious.

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1. This comment has been removed by the author.

2. Which is why I hope it isn't the intended answer. It is hardly more than an identity.
The more complex solution, is unique to nines.

29. Henry Hook RIP One of the great cryptic crossword minds on this side of the pond has died. Saw it in the Guardian, read Will Shortz's eulogy. He will be missed.

1. Read Will Shortz eulogy HERE.

2. Puzzleria! mourns the loss of this puzzle giant also. We had occasion to mention Henry Hook’s puzzling prowess once or twice in our weekly puzzle blog.

LegoHookedOnPuzzles

30. 9+9/.9=20 (9 plus 9 divided by ninety percent equals 20)

The puzzle could be stated in an easier to understand manner where the answer is: 9/.9=10. Or it could have gone the other way where the answer is: 9+9+9/.9=30.

Two nines equal eighteen, which is two whole numbers short of twenty. All we are doing is breaking this down to fractions to arrive at the answer. It may be easier to understand by breaking it down as I have shown above. It is a logic/math puzzle. This is the type of puzzle Car Talk enjoys. It is not a trick.

31. 20 using just three nines:

(9 + 9)/.9 = 20

(9 + 9)÷.9 = 20

20 using just four nines:

99 + 9 = 20
9
or:
9÷.9 + 9÷.9 [10 + 10] = 20

20 using just five nines:

9 + 9(9/9) = 20
.9

or 99 + 9 = 20
√9·√9

20 using just six nines:

99(9/9) + 9 = 20
9

For any number n (1-9), the following will always equal twenty: (n + n)÷.n (or n/10) = 20.
For numbers of two digits or more, the decimal point in the denominator must be placed just before the last number producing tenths. 11 would become 1.1 and 111 would become 11.1, etc.

32. (((√9)!)!/(√9)!)/(√9)!
=((3!)!/3!)/3!
=(6!/6)/3!
=5!/3!
=4x5
=20

OR

(x+x)/(x/10)=20

I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if a book such as this is on Will's shelf, and it contains no mention of square roots or factorials.

1. The period Is the key to solving this. I was fascinated to realize that any number will yield the same answer. 4+4/.4=20, 14+14/.14=200, and so on.
Morse code hint was full of dots.......

33. The complicated solution I had initially was ((√9)!)! / ((√9)! × (√9)!)...

34. (9 + 9)/.9 = 20

"It's okay." at the tail end of last week's blog = "It's easy; that's the point."

35. Blaine's apparent solution is: (9+9)/.9 = 20.
My problem with this solution is that it works for any number. i.e. (n+n)/(n/10) = 20.

My preferred solution, which is unique to 9 is: [(sqrt9)!)!]/[(sqrt9)! * (sqrt9)!]

Where (sqrt9) = 3, (sqrt9)! = 3! = 6, and (sqrt9)!)! = 6! = 720.
or: [(sqrt9)!)!]/[(sqrt9)! * (sqrt9)!] = 720/(6 *6) = 720/36 = 20.

We'll have to wait until Sunday to see which solution, or solutions, Will had in mind.

1. I had the same solution as you!

36. ( 9 + 9 ) / .9 = 20

Perhaps interestingly, you can change the answer from 20 to 19 by shifting the parentheses to the right

9 + ( 9 / .9) = 19

or removing them altogether

9 + 9 / .9 = 19

1. My Texas Instruments calculator produces 19 when I punch in 9+9/.9.

I also discovered this:

99√+.9%=19.989297 on my cheapie calculator.

2. My computer calculator give 19 also on the scientific format. Strange...........................

3. Not strange, the math "rule" is multiplication and division functions are computed together before addition or subtraction. Or something like that; it was many beers ago.

Fancy calculators read 9 + 9 / .9 as:
9 + (9 / .9)
= 9 + (10)
= 19.
My Dollar Store calculator doesn't do that.

4. PEMDAS never left me, ecoarchitect. . .no matter how many beers, years, or ears ;-).

5. PEMDAS?

puzzle elicits many diverse, arcane solutions
printing email messages destroys arboreal systems
politicians earn money diverting appropriating souls
popular entertainment media develops assorted s___
pretty easy maidens described as sluts
paleolithic eater mustn't digest any sugar
pompous evangelical minister divulges awful scandal
PatJBerry's exquisite mastery delivers anti-alliterative sentences (oh wait, that was √9 weeks ago)

Too much thyme waiting for a bus. And yes, I know what PEMDAS really is, but don't think I learned it in school.

37. This puzzle seemed like a good excuse to play with Google’s calculator.

Two inputs produced an answer of 20
(√(9)!)! ÷ (√(9)! × √(9)!) (OK, 720 ÷ 36)
√(9)!! ÷ (√(9)! × √(9)!) (NG, should be 3 ÷ 36 )

The OK solution is the same as Blaine's complicated one except the calculator handles the square root parentheses differently.

(√(9)!)! = 720, an iterated factorial.
√(9)!! = 3, a double factorial not supported or rejected by the calculator.

http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.4169/math.mag.85.3.177?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

38. So far I've been able to produce 10, 20, 30, 60 and 90 by using 3 9's. Anybody wanna go for 40, 50, 70 or 80?

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40. I have a mathache now.

I'm sure Will was thinking (9+9)/.9; I hinted it took me 2 tries, since getting 2 out of three 9's is a lot easier. Many made their points about the decimal, I only added that it was elementary and not just in math class. We learned the Dewey Decimal System in elementary school.

I also posed getting 20 in two 9's, which I said involved some trickery. Open your word processing program, type "9" and change it to Bauhaus 93 font (CountryBlueprint and Charlemagne 93 also worked; I warned it might not be your type!!). Then type another 9 into a text box in the font OCR A Std (kind of looks like clock radio font), rotate the text 90 degrees clockwise (I said it was twisted), and if you pull the text box just right you get a passable 20. Didn't I say it was a stretch?

I hope I don't get banned from the blog for this.

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2. Some people on this blog may have entirely too much time on their hands. . .

3. I fired my sloppy chef years ago for having too much thyme on his hands.

4. What is this world cumin to?

5. Not only that but he was always cumin to work late.

6. I think this guy worked for me, once. Was his name Herb?

7. I don't know, Paul, but I don't think they should cardamom at a wine tasting.

8. Paul, we're a step behind each other.

Yes, Herb Lovage. His wife was Ginger and they had a daughter, Rosemary.

9. Ginger liked to step behind; Fred preferred to step forward.
As for moms objecting to carding, I think that's only partially true; some might find it flattering.

10. When you're trying to climb higher up in the world, take Astaire at a time.

11. Roger that.

12. But remember, they worked together on film, not off stage. Fred never Rogered Ginger.

13. The Urban Dictionary is ushering in the end of civilization.

14. Civilization? Are you referring to the Civil War? Otherwise I really don't know what you mean by civilization. I have never encountered it in all my travels.

15. In other words, you're unfamiliar with it?

16. I know what it should be. I have just not found it in evidence. Living in a bubble is not reality.

17. Paul:

Very humorous indeed, and reminiscent of my childhood. Watch that ad and feel like all is well in the world while you look forward to a crappy cup of mediocre coffee in the morning, instead of grinding your own and brewing it properly. Oh, and don't forget, skydivers are good to the last drop.

18. Perhaps we ought to get the French Press involved.

19. Mine have bean involved for years.

20. I feel like anise for letting SDB and Paul caraway the conversation this way. As for WW, shiso much encourages them.

21. Is that your fennel word on the subject?

22. Not yet. Can I cauliflower?

23. I've mustard all I can.

24. And I don't relish your saying you will try to ketchup.

25. Now you have me in a pickle. Aioli wish you wouldn't. I am soy annoyed.

26. What's that, Paul? Have you nothing to say?

27. Guess not!

28. ecoarchitect, as to encouraging Paul and sdb, I am but puzzle tinder; no swiping left or right is necessary.

29. Wasn't Herb the guy that smoked lemongrass in that movie Cumin Tumeric a? SDB, make sure they don't get you for collaborating with Spice.

30. Wasn't Herb the guy that smoked lemongrass in that movie Cumin Tumeric a? SDB, make sure they don't get you for collaborating with Spice.

31. RoRo,
Not familiar with that movie? But TURMERIC has two R's.

41. I meant Charlemagne Std

42. The complicated solution I had initially was ((√9)!)! / ((√9)! × (√9)!)...

1. Is Blaine reiterating for emphasis, or has he fallen victim to the dreaded DDPD (Delayed Double-Posting Demon, a mutation of the DPD)?

43. An intuitive way to think about why the intended solution results in 20 no matter what initial number is chosen is to realize that a "ten-ness" is embedded in the decimal point (the inverse of a tenth is ten), and a "two-ness" is embedded by the use of two of the chosen number (x + x = 2x).

Algebraically, the general solution is (x + x) / (x / 10)) = 2x / (x / 10)) = 20x / x = 20.

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1. No one, not even the SKYDIVEBOY, got my solution (unique to three 9s only). Are you 70 years old now and once a paratrooper for Air America? I may have met you at the AIT.

2. No, I am not that person.

45. Should anyone here still be having trouble understanding this puzzle I would suggest looking at it from a more accessible angle. Try 5's instead of 9's.

Make three 5's equal 20. But first make it even easier: Make two 5's equal 10.

The answers are: 5+5/.5=20 & 5/.5=10.

So, taking the easier question you have .5 is half or 50% of a whole. You have 5 which is five wholes. divide one whole in half and you have 2. 2X5=10. Or 5 divided by how many halves it contains equals 10.

Now you can do the obfuscated version of 5 5 5. 5+5=10 (but you don't need to include this last step visually) instead 5+5/.5=20. Or 5 plus 5 divided by how many halves it contains equals 20.

I hope that will help.

46. Sadly, I did not get the correct answer. However I did come up with two answers involving some degree of “trickery” that use Roman numerals:

1. Using the following assumptions:
a. We write the three nines as roman numerals but must preserve the three I’s and the three X’s in their original order
b. We can insert an X as a multiplication symbol but may interpret it as the letter “X”
c. We use an asterisk as a multiplication symbol and a dash as a subtraction symbol
We can write: I * XXIX - IX, which equals twenty (1 * 29 – 9).

2. Using the following assumptions:
a. We write the three nines as roman numerals but are allowed to rearrange the three I’s and the three X’s in a different order
b. We use an asterisk as a multiplication symbol and a slash as a division symbol
We can write: I * II * X * X / X, which equals twenty (1 * 2 * 10 * 10 / 10).

Thanks – Phil J.

47. I think 0.9 should not have been involved in the answer. The puzzle said three 9s, not two 9s and a 0.9.

1. Natasha, zero is not involved anymore than 18 is. Have you tried this equation on your calculator? Punch it in exactly as we have shown here: 9+9/.9=20

2. yes, sometimes it works and sometimes it does not. Guess I cannot trust the computer calculator anymore.

3. Depending on the calculator, you may need insert an equals sign after the second nine, or a set of parentheses around the "9+9" to force the order of calculation. If all else fails, call My Dear Aunt Sally for help.

48. I did solve the puzzle but was not happy :).

1. I am wondering why. This is the best NPR puzzle we have had in many months.

2. It was misleading. It said three 9's.not two 9's and .9 (leave off the zero.) Why not just say it as it is? .9 is not 9. This is just trickery. I teach math to nurses and would not put that in a problem. grrrr

3. It said three 9's and as many "standard arithmetic symbols" as you like. rowr

49. I think a 9 is a 9 and not a .9. Is this Through the Looking Glass???

1. Far from it. The question is, is "." a "standard arithmetic symbol"?

2. A 9 is a 9 is a 9 (just to throw some Steinbeck at ya); a .9 is a 9 with a decimal point (a legitimate math symbol) in front of it. Just as -9 is not 9, but could be part of a WS or Sam Loyd question.

That's what makes this a puzzle, not a literal math problem for your students - though I suspect my junior high school math teacher would have tossed this at us as a bonus question just to mess with our minds.

3. I understand. Just do not think it is that great a puzzle, I guess.

4. a decimal is a standard arithmetic symbol. So the puzzle is based on fact.

5. More importantly, WS (okay, Sam Loyd) has made a puzzle that SDB actually liked. We need to call Pope Francis, there's a beatification there, maybe even a canonization for that miracle.

6. Yeah. They're always looking for canonization fodder.

7. It all depends where the decimal point is placed. Strictly speaking, .9 is really 9/10 in terms of whole integers. That would make Blaine's complex solution using square roots and factorials the ONLY correct answer. I wonder how this will be addressed on Sunday?

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9. Good point, Tom. I did see the answer on the internet and .9 was in the solution not square roots.

10. ecoarchitect, I believe you were throwing a Gertrude Stein not a "Steinbeck" a few posts above, yes?

"Beck" to your drawing board?! ;-)

***WW is WW is WW***

11. WW, you can proudly tell the kindergartners that you won the prize for paying attention on the blog. I only hope they will have no idea what you're talking about and go back to learning and playing in the real world (sadly that seems less likely these days).

Perhaps I was also hoping to inspire SDB and Paul (and you of course) to Hammett up. I wanted to Krakauer usual punning into a Maupin pointed direction. A Rand om attempt, no one caught the Keysey zing the opportunity, so it is a Thoreau failure. Perhaps I wa Sinclair on my attempts at Whitman.

Alcott my losses and Allende(t) here.

12. ecoarchitect, you have surely hopped on the Reading Railroad now. . .

That brings me to my literature question. I am gathering books to ship to the town of Shende, Ethiopia, where my daughter is serving in the Peace Corps. If you had but one book to send to the community of emerging readers, what would it be? My daughter's students, 3 classes of 65 each, are 9th graders learning English as their second language. Amharic is their native tongue.

It's an open question for all of you. Since it is very expensive to ship there, I want to gather books that will, hopefully, be well-loved. [No "Geography of Utah," although I would find that fascinating!]

The kindergartners and their families are helping. Their 5-year-old jaws dropped when they heard their whole, brand new library had only 30 books.

13. ecoarchitect, you have surely hopped on the Reading Railroad now. . .

That brings me to my literature question. I am gathering books to ship to the town of Shende, Ethiopia, where my daughter is serving in the Peace Corps. If you had but one book to send to the community of emerging readers, what would it be? My daughter's students, 3 classes of 65 each, are 9th graders learning English as their second language. Amharic is their native tongue.

It's an open question for all of you. Since it is very expensive to ship there, I want to gather books that will, hopefully, be well-loved. [No "Geography of Utah," although I would find that fascinating!]

The kindergartners and their families are helping. Their 5-year-old jaws dropped when they heard their whole, brand new library had only 30 books.

14. I am now reminded that I too did not understand the Gertrude Stein plagiarism being attributed to Steinbeck and then I forgot to go back and post that it reminded me of Mexican immigrants to this country as they are attempting to learn English:

Arroz is Arroz is ah rice!

15. WW: it's a challenging challenge you put forth. A puzzle certainly more meaningful than our typical fare. I confess young adult lit is a distant memory, and I'm not up on more recent writers.

On the one hand I'm trying to remember what we read then: Romeo and Juliet, The Odyssey, Orwell, Catcher in the Rye, Mark Twain, Lord of the Flies, Ray Bradbury, Jack London, lighter Melville, Dickens. It was the best of times....and then we got driver's licenses, fake ID's, and horny.

But I think none of those are appropriate; they have language too sophisticated or obscure, or the topics that might be hard to relate for young adults in rural Ethiopia.

E.B. White always springs to mind for his beautiful and clear use of language, but 9th graders are perhaps too old for his themes. What about Roald Dahl, or O. Henry? Tolkein perhaps, but that leans more towards the interests of boys. Alcott and Bronte (you choose which) towards girls.

I will think some more, perhaps you should pose this tomorrow when more are reading the blog.

16. Bibliography Suggestions for WW: I'd recommend classics - including a modern classic
1) Tom Sawyer (but not Huck Finn, the use of N...r would make it ill advised)
2) Sherlock Holmes Short Stories (A C Doyle)
3) Harry Potter series (J K Rowling)
4) Hitchhikers guide (series by Douglas Adams)
5) Call of the Wild (Jack London)
6) Treasure Island (R L Stephenson)
7) Robinson Crusoe (Daniel Defoe)

17. ecoarchitect, you are narrowing in on similar titles to my thinking. Most of her students seem to be reading at about the level of E.B. White's "Charlotte's Web." I have already shipped copies of Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women."

When I asked the 9th graders I tutor in algebra here, "The City of Ember" was named thrice. I am looking forward to reading that one next. Have you read it?

My daughter really enjoyed "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" and any novel by Jodi Picoult. However, like your thoughts about what we read as teenagers, the themes may harder for them to grasp.

Since the girls she teaches are not allowed to come to school when they are menstruating and must sleep in separate quarters not touching food or others, I am tempted to put in a copy of "Our Bodies, Ourselves." [There was a recent NPR piece about a 15-year-old woman in Nepal who got on the internet and determined she was NOT the cause of her grandmother's death due to hugging her while menstruating. But, I digress. . .]

I will, indeed, post my question again tomorrow. Great idea. Thanks.

18. Thanks, SuperZee. The magic in Harry Potter freaked them out. Which of your other choices is #1 for you?

19. I was going to suggest most anything by Jack London earlier today but got sidetracked again and forgot about it. I also think the Hardy Boys mysteries might be appropriate for this crowd as they will find it easy reading and understandable and a page turner. When I was a bit younger than that I loved anything by Zachary Ball, a pseudonym. They are sadly and mostly out of print now. I also think Lord Jim by Conrad would work well. For boys who are advanced a bit and would enjoy a long read, I highly recommend The Last Place On Earth by Roland Huntford. It is a book that could really hook them on reading and help them succeed in life. One of my all time favorites.

20. Thanks, skydiveboy.

This week, I found a dozen Hardy Boys books at a thrift store. I will check into "The Last Place on Earth," "Lord Jim," and books by Jack London and Zachary Ball.

I also found "Indian in the Cupboard" and "Phantom Toll Booth" at Little Free Libraries in my neighborhood. The LFLs are such a great idea.

21. I also meant to suggest Mark Twain's memoir, Life on the Mississippi. I think it would be much better than Tom Sawyer.

22. Giants in the Earth
A Saga of the Prairie
by Ole Edvart RÃ¸lvaag

23. Gulliver's Travels

24. The Virginian, by Owen Wister

25. Empire of the Sun is a 1984 novel by J. G. Ballard based on his childhood.

Lord of the Flies by Golding is great.

All the memoirs by Marcel Pagnol of his childhood.

The short stories of Guy De Maupassant

26. WW: I have not read The City of Ember.

My only concern with Jack London is his stories are mostly set in circumstances that seem very foreign to Ethiopians. Maybe that doesn't matter. My memory of Lord Jim is the language is a bit more complex, but that memory is distant and fading.

I just came back from a meeting with 2 mothers with 16 year olds (not so far distant) and they both suggested CS Lewis' The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe (be careful with much of his other writings which proselytize). One also suggested novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie ( think she has 3 or 4 books), and the other suggested Howard Zinn's People's History of the United States. Perhaps SDB can give away one of his many copies. Actually used copies of that are pretty available and cheap.

I heartily agree that a few copies of Our Bodies, Ourselves are needed.

27. Hard to believe perhaps, but I don't yet have a copy of the Howard Zinn classic, although I intend to. Anything by Noam Chomsky will work. Same for The Joy of Sex.

Actually I think these kids will want to read about foreign places. I tried to stay away from war though.

28. Shocked, shocked that you don't have Zinn.

I have great respect for Chomsky, have seen him talk and have many of his tomes, but think his work is either too caught up in current events or is too complex for 9th graders, that's why I'd suggest Zinn. Joy of Sex will only cause political trouble, better to stay with Our Bodies.

Now I've got a readache to go with my mathache.

29. I have read Zinn online and listened to his lectures. I was not seriously suggesting Chomsky or Joy of Sex.

Speaking of Chomsky. A couple of years before my five years younger brother died I mentioned something about Noam Chomsky to him and he responded that, "He is so shrill." I keep thinking about that. It is about the most ridiculous description I an imagine.

30. Chomsky may very well be shrill (I personally don't think so) but so should be anyone on the Titanic who sees the iceberg ahead.

31. But Chomsky never raises his voice. Nor does he use emphasis. He simply states true facts and puts it all into place. Even when he was threatened by Buckley on TV he simply did not react at all. He knew instantly that that buffoon had destroyed himself with his bluster. His ability to recall facts is beyond my comprehension. I wish I could do that.

32. I didn't say Chomsky was shrill, I said he should be. As should anyone who watches our empire implode taking civilization and many species along with it.

33. eco,
We are in perfect agreement. It isn't always easy to get exactly what someone means in a blog. I have been using a similar analogy for years now. I feel like I am someone on the Titanic who realizes what the situation actually is, but I cannot get anyone else to pay any attention to what I am saying. They couldn't have saved everyone because they didn't have enough lifeboats, but many passengers refused to leave the ship at first, and then when they realized their error it was too late. Many of the lifeboats left only partially filled. As you say, the same thing is happening here now, and when you point it out to people they just look at you and smile. The stupidity of humans is amazing. They're good at making money though. As if that is what really matters.

34. Agreed, we are better at reacting than anticipating; and we have largely dealt with crises after they've become manifest. In our collective memory the solution to the crises has been on an anthropomorphic scale - think Hitler and Fascism.

Unfortunately, as you doubtless know, our present conditions are likely to create circumstances which are beyond our capacity to react, planetary systems work on a level that we cannot control with any certainty.

As an aside, with all the kerfuffle (not Bob) over when Exxon knew global warming was a problem, I am reminded of this movie almost every elementary school kid in the US saw in the late '50's through early '70's.

35. Interesting. I don't recall the film, but I remember the actor. I thought you might be linking to On The Beach. It came out in 1959, the same year as Ben Hur. I much preferred On The Beach and I read the book right after I saw the movie. Another old movie comes to mind: Ship Of Fools.

We don't really need to worry though. My neighbor in the house behind has been informing me for years now that global warming is not man made. It is caused by volcanic activity beneath the oceans. He can't tell me where this information comes from, but when I push hard enough he will admit he found it on the Internet, so it must be true. Of course Hillery Clinton is going to save us anyway, right? Or perhaps Dr. Ben Carson. Not that we should do anything though. Maybe we can attack a few more countries and things will improve. Doesn't war always solve things?

50. This comment has been removed by the author.

51. Rob:
I am still wondering what your deleted post said.

1. Oh, gosh. Thanks for asking. OK, I don't have it any more, but it contained the word "periodicity," referring to my runs with my dog. But it also mentioned that I had sent an e-mail to Will concerning the puzzle, and I had found it in a book by Loyd's English rival, Henry Dudeny, dating from 1907, and wondering if that predated Loyd. Will replied Loyd's was published earlier, but that which came first we may not know, because there was a lot of cross-feed in letters between the two. Anyway, something in there was a giveaway, and I apologize again.
---Rob

52. Since we are edging ever closer to the magic 200 comment mark here, might I suggest that further recommendations for books for 9th graders in Ethiopia be left here at Partial Ellipsis of the Sun. We, at most, might break 100 comments over there.

ecoarchitect, I like the C.S. Lewis "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe suggestion. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is new to me; I will check out her books. Thanks for asking your friends!

53. How about some Shel Silverstein?

54. Next week's challenge: Name a famous actor — using both first and last name. Drop the first two letters of the first name and the last two letters of the last name. Then put a Y between what's left of the two names.

The result, reading from left to right, will identify who might solve this challenge and play puzzle on the air with me next week.

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.