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Don's Amazing Puzzle made me cry.
January 31, 2002 12:25 PM   Subscribe

Don's Amazing Puzzle made me cry. Then I figured it out. He's right. Don't give away the answer to the puzzle in the comments.
posted by TiggleTaggleTiger (83 comments total)

 
If we don't give away the answer, there is nothing to talk about. What is interesting is the psychological phonomenon that causes it to be a puzzle at all.
posted by McBain at 12:33 PM on January 31, 2002


It's an old one. If you know why people have trouble with these, then you won't get it wrong.
posted by Kafkaesque at 12:35 PM on January 31, 2002


When I was in middle school, one of my teachers presented the class with a puzzle like this. The class as a majority had the same answer, except for two mexican students in the class who did not speak english very fluently. They knew english well enough to be in the class with an spanish tutor. Although they immediately on the first try had the correct answer--although the rest of the class did not know it was the correct answer. We took the puzzle a second time and tried to get it. It probably took us a good three or four times to figure it out. Although in the end, it was most interesting to have taken the puzzle in a class with the mexican students. It showed us how there are certain words that we often negate and unconciously pass them up. Quite interesting in the ways of human perception of language.
posted by crog at 12:36 PM on January 31, 2002


I'm still counting the wrong number... Arg. Someone please help before I go insane over this.
posted by thebwit at 12:38 PM on January 31, 2002


Not only do we ignore certain words that are not the "meat" of the sentence, but in this case the sound of the letter is different, throwing us off further.
posted by McBain at 12:39 PM on January 31, 2002


Nevermind, I figured the stupid thing out. Grr.
posted by thebwit at 12:40 PM on January 31, 2002


This is really old...I think I saw this in Junior High for the first time? Even back then, it didn't stump me... I don't understand why so many people get stumped?
posted by GrooveJedi at 12:41 PM on January 31, 2002


thebwit: use word or some other text editor with a 'search' function and look for the 'f's. I was really shocked. I read it over and over not finding anything. I kept expecting some of the Es to actualy be 'f's. Anyway, quite intresting.
posted by delmoi at 12:41 PM on January 31, 2002


Fascinating. I was SURE there was a catch, some little semantic quibble. "Dammit, there are 3 Fs!" I put the sentence in Word, converted to lower case, and removed the line breaks, and there they were! Bizarre that I didn't see them in the first place.

There really, truly, is no catch. There are 6 Fs. Great puzzle, T3


posted by MrMoonPie at 12:42 PM on January 31, 2002


Hey, I'm Mexican and I got the right answer the first time without having seen a puzzle like this one before... I'm amused.
posted by mau at 12:43 PM on January 31, 2002


i went insane, then i selected the text, then de-selected the text, then wiggled my cursor around, then i rebooted and did the same things again and i saw the answer.

the Clue is in the comments of crog.
posted by th3ph17 at 12:43 PM on January 31, 2002


Would it be a psychological reason or a neurological one? Or a combination of both? I know why we tend to omit certain eff's, at least the layman's reason (and it's burning me up that I can't say it).
posted by ashbury at 12:43 PM on January 31, 2002


I got it right first time out, but I scewed up on the "How Many 'g's are there in TiggleTaggleTiger." I keep getting nine, when, the correct answer is, in fact, 6.
posted by eyeballkid at 12:44 PM on January 31, 2002


So I guess the whole "don't give the answer" thing is pretty much kaput then.
posted by Kafkaesque at 12:44 PM on January 31, 2002


I'd say it's more interesting than amazing.

It's funny that he had to write a script to count the Fs for him, instead of just counting. Although I missed one when I counted and recounted, so when I saw the script, I thought the trick was that you start counting at zero (one of the most annoying things about computers), but it isn't.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:44 PM on January 31, 2002


I saw a similar puzzle several years ago. As such, I wasn't surprised at all, and got six Fs the first time.

It's a pity these puzzles can only work on people once. I spent a good hour agonizing over the first one I encountered.
posted by juliebug at 12:46 PM on January 31, 2002


Railroad crossing, look out for the cars!
Can you say that without any R's?
posted by acridrabbit at 12:46 PM on January 31, 2002


"Aiload cossing, look out fo the cas!"
posted by gen at 12:49 PM on January 31, 2002


Good FPP!
posted by internal at 12:50 PM on January 31, 2002


Yeah, but how many F's can you find on this page?
posted by panopticon at 12:51 PM on January 31, 2002


I checked the puzzle three times, just to be sure, before I peeked at the answer. I completely convinced myself that the answer was "5."

When I checked, whoops, whadda ya know, I must have missed one!

Explain that, amateur psychologists.
posted by majick at 12:53 PM on January 31, 2002


HA! I get it, acridrabbit.
posted by jpoulos at 12:54 PM on January 31, 2002


This got me, and I think I've even seen it before, just not for ages and I totally forgot about it. I was thinking it had something to do with the break in the words or something.
Amazing that I was certain there was some annoying catch for a couple minutes (even though it clearly said over & over that there wasn't).
posted by mdn at 12:58 PM on January 31, 2002


That's weird. Since I got it on the first try having never seen it before, does that mean my brain is whacky? Too bad I could never find Waldo, that miserable sneak.
posted by whatnotever at 1:00 PM on January 31, 2002


IMHO The best way to figure it out is to look at it upside down. Then you can look for letters without your mind forcing words.
posted by Voyageman at 1:01 PM on January 31, 2002


"How Many 'g's are there in TiggleTaggleTiger." I keep getting nine, when, the correct answer is, in fact, 6."


i only see 5
posted by sadie01221975 at 1:03 PM on January 31, 2002


Didn't work for me.
posted by ColdChef at 1:03 PM on January 31, 2002


That's the trick Voyageman. To see the letters as symbols or shapes instead of seeing whole words at once.
posted by Kafkaesque at 1:06 PM on January 31, 2002


i only see 5

I saw an attempt at humor.
posted by eyeballkid at 1:06 PM on January 31, 2002


Reminds me of an old Soupy Sales thing with one of the characters on his show (WhiteFang, maybe?)

Soupy would show him an "F" and he would say "K", to which Soupy was supposed to have said (live on the air)

Whenever I say F, you see K! (read it aloud if you have to)
posted by briank at 1:07 PM on January 31, 2002


mau: I am mexican and it stumped me. Spanish is my first language but I think in English when I think in words at all.
posted by vacapinta at 1:08 PM on January 31, 2002


A similar puzzle was used as a motivational demo in a Process Improvement class we once got shipped off to. It's actually easier to turn the puzzle upside down before counting. Quite literally, the words don't get in the way if they're upside down.
posted by dws at 1:09 PM on January 31, 2002


Got it right away, but I think it's because I've been doing word puzzles lately.
posted by gimli at 1:11 PM on January 31, 2002


Railroad crossing, look out for the cars!
Can you say that without any R's?


I don't get it.
posted by Tin Man at 1:13 PM on January 31, 2002


i got the 6 fs but missed the humour. wonder what that means?
posted by sadie01221975 at 1:14 PM on January 31, 2002


Um, I counted the correct number of Fs on the first try. Am I some kind of alien-implanted freak, or something?
posted by chuq at 1:20 PM on January 31, 2002


I also got the 6 Fs but it mostly has to do with my Medical Theory teach who gives us things like this in order to learn how to pay attention to details.
posted by Jessy at 1:21 PM on January 31, 2002


As of this time, there are 89 Fs on the page.

Er, make that 91...
posted by mrbula at 1:23 PM on January 31, 2002


Try this one:

Answer these questions quickly:

What color is cotton?
What color is a wedding dress?
What color is a cloud?
What do cows drink?
posted by quercus at 1:23 PM on January 31, 2002


the best little puzzle i took in school was when we got a quiz of about 10 questions, basic math, etc. In the instructions at the beginning it said "follow all the directions. make sure to rad all the questions before starting."

of course we all used the time well and answed all the questions... until we got to the last question which said "do not answer any of the other questions."
posted by o2b at 1:27 PM on January 31, 2002


should be "read" not "rad"
posted by o2b at 1:27 PM on January 31, 2002


I assumed it would be zero F's, since it said read this sentence rather than read the following sentence. Trick questions have made me paranoid.
posted by skyline at 1:28 PM on January 31, 2002


Uhmm, my wedding dress was gray and pink . . . .
posted by JanetLand at 1:31 PM on January 31, 2002


"THERE. ARE. FOUR. LIGHTS!"
posted by ZachsMind at 1:32 PM on January 31, 2002


I meant a virgin's wedding dress Janet.
posted by quercus at 1:32 PM on January 31, 2002


How about this one, quercus?

What's five plus five?
What's seven plus three?
What's four plus six?
What's two times five?
What are aluminum cans made out of?
posted by starvingartist at 1:40 PM on January 31, 2002


No, ZachsMind. There are five lights, and you're not getting out of this thread until you count them properly.
posted by phalkin at 1:43 PM on January 31, 2002


'How many fingers, Winston?'

'Five! Five! Five!'

'No, Winston, that is no use. You are lying. You still think there are four. How many fingers, please?'

'Four! five! Four! Anything you like. Only stop it, stop the pain!'
posted by Kafkaesque at 1:51 PM on January 31, 2002


Good One StarvingArtist. I was totally taken even though I knew the game was afoot.

(p.s. was just kiddin Janet)
posted by quercus at 2:09 PM on January 31, 2002


Reminds me of a couple similar childhood rhyme games...

Say coast 5 times out loud
Say roast 5 times out loud
What do you put in a toaster?


Say top 5 times out loud
Say pop 5 times out loud
What do you do at a green light?
posted by uftheory at 2:27 PM on January 31, 2002


I got the right number the first time, and I've never seen a similar puzzle before.
posted by riffola at 2:32 PM on January 31, 2002


I got six, but I paid close attention, and I was careful because the letters are all capital, and thus harder to identify than lowercase letters. Also, I wasn't reading it; I read it and then looked at the letters (as opposed to looking at the words). Very cool. (As long as you don't email it to everyone you know and their mother.)
posted by gleemax at 2:55 PM on January 31, 2002


I saw this first on 3-2-1 Contact as a kid (download the kickass theme song here). I believe they were teaching everyone what "phonetic" sounds were that day.
posted by mathowie at 2:57 PM on January 31, 2002


The theme to 3-2-1 Contact. My day has been made.

embarassingly enough I loved the show so much, I subscribed to the magazine
posted by eyeballkid at 3:14 PM on January 31, 2002


Acridrabbit--"That"--My dad taught me that riddle years ago . . .
posted by RunsWithBandageScissors at 3:16 PM on January 31, 2002


eyeballkid: I begged my mom to subscribe too. Mr Wizard on Nickelodeon and 3-2-1 Contact were my very favorite things as a kid.
posted by mathowie at 3:37 PM on January 31, 2002


Maybe it's just me, but this is without a doubt one of the dumbest things I have seen in a while. There's no trick; there's no puzzle... just the use of basic editorial skills.

You want a puzzle? You want a challenge? Go check out these:

Theseus and the Minotaur
Mummy Maze

Anyhow, that's just my 2ยข.
posted by crankydoodle at 4:00 PM on January 31, 2002


The Bloodhound Gang, baby! (No, kids, not the band.)

"Whenever there's trouble
We're there on the double
We're the Bloodhound Gang"
posted by jpoulos at 4:05 PM on January 31, 2002


My first pass was 3, then I read it right to left and immediately got 6.
posted by NortonDC at 5:02 PM on January 31, 2002


Ooh, puzzles. Cool. I got sent this one by email and thought about posting it but didn't really have a site to link to. Anyway, enjoy - this had me stumped for a while...
posted by astro38 at 5:47 PM on January 31, 2002


Hey thanks for the link! That puzzle is so amazing. Nice comments too. This is the first time that I remember that I have been part of a MEFI thread where no one flamed me. Nice. Thank you. And the flow is truly awesome.
posted by davewiner at 6:08 PM on January 31, 2002


ack! Where does that hole come from? Please tell me. I'm so confused...I got the puzzle at the top though. It was not difficult for me, but I think I'm just wired that way.

If you give me the solution to astro's puzzle I'll trade you my olden 3-2-1 Contact magazines. They had puzzles in the back too, they were "what is this?" and it was something really really close up. Skin was pretty cool.
posted by verso at 7:49 PM on January 31, 2002


Railroad crossing, look out for the cars!
Can you say that without any R's?


will someone please elaborate on this! i read this whole freaking thread to find an answer, and although i'm all for 3-2-1 contact (i even have it on my page), i'm going to have to know the answer still, if i plan to sleep right tonight.
posted by lotsofno at 8:04 PM on January 31, 2002


answer (I think):

"that"
posted by jpoulos at 8:07 PM on January 31, 2002


alternately:

"that without any R's"
posted by jpoulos at 8:08 PM on January 31, 2002


astro's puzzle -- i think it has to do with the shape of the hypotenous (sp?) ... in one of them its curved i believe...

I saw that puzzle some time ago, and I'm not too sure...
posted by yevge at 8:10 PM on January 31, 2002


Figures that that hack WINER would find some way to turn an innocent puzzle into some kind of plug for SCRIPTING.

(Just kiddin' Dave! Wouldn't want hell to freeze over. :)
posted by rodii at 8:10 PM on January 31, 2002


That's right, yevge. the hypotenuses (?) of the red and green triangles aren't at the same angle. As a result, when you put them together the top figure curves slightly inward, while the bottom onecurves slightly outward.
posted by jpoulos at 8:23 PM on January 31, 2002


Crap.
I had this nifty proof involving slopes and areas and jpoulos goes and explains the same answer in two lines. Thank goodness for the "Preview" button though.
posted by Grum at 8:29 PM on January 31, 2002


Please post it, grum. I wanted to do a proof, but i don't trust my math skills. i'd love to see it.
posted by jpoulos at 9:36 PM on January 31, 2002


jpoulos: we have a winner!
ding ding ding ding!
posted by acridrabbit at 1:42 AM on February 1, 2002


The easiest way to look at it is to note that the smaller triangle is 5 units wide and 2 units high. Therefore the slope is 2.5. The larger triange is 8x3, giving a slope of 2.67.

By the way, the Theseus and Mummy puzzles were terrific!
posted by salmacis at 2:01 AM on February 1, 2002


There are lots of variations of this that I've seen. It is funny how we skip over a connecting word. Uh, here's another along the lines of what someone else said:

Say GHOST. "GHOST"
Say HOST. "HOST"
Say MOST. "MOST"
What do you put in a toaster? "TOAST" [!]
posted by jmccorm at 8:01 AM on February 1, 2002


GOT IT ON THE FIRST TRY.

Oh yeah! I'm bad! I'm bad!
posted by Down10 at 9:06 AM on February 1, 2002


grum, jpoulos, salmacis - being the sad and pathetic highschool maths student that I am, I can't work out what the hypotenuse has to do with anything. What am I missing here?
posted by eoz at 4:30 PM on February 1, 2002


Easiest way to see it: paste the two figures on top of each other using a graphics program. It will be easy to see what is going on.
posted by kindall at 5:06 PM on February 1, 2002


It's actually easier to turn the puzzle upside down before counting. Quite literally, the words don't get in the way if they're upside down.

Exactly. For especially important (but hopefully short) swaths of text, this is how I was taught to copyedit. Reading normally, your brain takes the presence of letters in words for granted.

Unfortunately, over time, you also learn to "read" upside down (a useful journalist skill for other reasons - namely getting information off someone's desk when you're sitting across from them), and then you have the same problem...
posted by pzarquon at 6:20 PM on February 1, 2002


Easiest way to see it: paste the two figures on top of each other using a graphics program. It will be easy to see what is going on

I can see the two hypotenuses have different gradients, but what does that have to do with the space needed to be filled by the two odd-shaped pieces?

(Or is the puzzle not all that mathematical at all, and the point is only to realise that in the top figure, the space needed to be filled by the odd-shaped pieces is a 5x3 rectangle, in the bottom one it is 8x2 and therefore 1 square unit too big?)
posted by eoz at 7:16 PM on February 1, 2002


eoz, think of it this way - the top figure looks like a proper triangle, but it isn't. It's a quadrilateral that's cleverly disguised as a triangle. Similarly, the bottom figure looks like it would be a triangle identical to the one that the top figure appears to be, but even if you filled in the "missing" square, the two figures would not be identical, because of the hypotenuse thing. If you don't want to go through the trouble of cranking out a whole proof, just remember that it shouldn't be a surprise that two figures that aren't quite identical to begin with don't turn out to be identical when you cut them up and rearrange the pieces. See what I'm saying?
posted by skoosh at 7:37 PM on February 1, 2002


Yes eoz, but in order to do that they had to cheat and actually curve the hypotenuse. It's easier to see here. It's a very slight difference, but that's all you need to make room for an extra square.
posted by mdn at 8:04 PM on February 1, 2002


I think my problem is that I think in numbers not shapes.

When I make the 'hypotenuse-that-isn't' an equation: y = 5x/13 + 5 (based on it being a line passing through the points (-13,0) and (0,5)), it becomes more obvious that it cannot possibly intersect the corner of the rectangle exactly. D'oh.
posted by eoz at 10:09 PM on February 1, 2002


I never saw the point of this puzzle.. perhaps it's because of the way I operate. When I first saw this some time ago, I looked through *letter by letter* and counted six, I failed to see why the 'puzzle' was interesting in the slightest.

Obviously the majority of people are reading it through in their head, and counting the F's phonetically rather than *visually*. I just can't do it the former way.
posted by wackybrit at 1:30 PM on February 3, 2002


This guy, Don, needs a script to count letters? Were the third-grade kids at recess or what?
posted by uftheory at 8:32 AM on February 4, 2002


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