Cryptographers' Quiz
December 25, 2015 6:27 PM   Subscribe

Taking a holiday break from the usual dispiriting revelations, The Intercept's latest release from the Snowden files is an internal Christmas cryptographic competition from Britain's Government Communications Headquarters. Take the quiz and see if you can outsmart Her Majesty's codebreakers!
posted by Tsuga (178 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
 
Whoa! Like, how do you get good at this cryptography stuff? How fascinating. MeFi is awesome for the gifts that people just keep on giving.
posted by yueliang at 6:52 PM on December 25, 2015


what convention has leading commas in a list?
posted by andrewcooke at 7:00 PM on December 25, 2015


some kind of krypto konvention, klearly
posted by idiopath at 7:09 PM on December 25, 2015 [6 favorites]


Hmm. Is there some standard convention to the word-based puzzles (e.g., questions 2 and 7) that I'm not familiar with? They're obviously not just permuting letters according to some pattern, because that would give you gibberish instead of words. The fact that they are using words strongly implies the use of some external text—a dictionary, a published work, a one-time pad, etc. I'm not sure how I'm supposed to attack that. Maybe I'm misunderstanding.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 7:11 PM on December 25, 2015


Gbalf.
posted by boo_radley at 7:17 PM on December 25, 2015


I kracked the kode. GCHQ is run by the KKK.
posted by adept256 at 7:21 PM on December 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think you flipped a bit adept256. British royalists within the GCHQ run the KKK.
posted by srboisvert at 7:38 PM on December 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, even the easy ones have me stumped. I guess I made the right career choice by not going into cryptography.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 7:46 PM on December 25, 2015


Any significance to the misspelling of James Fenimore Cooper's middle name?
posted by I-baLL at 7:57 PM on December 25, 2015


What does "non-trivial" mean to a cryptographer? For example, from question 25:
"The words to the left of the colon are all of a certain (non-trivial) type. Written to the right of the colon is a word of contrary type. What is that property?
a) ANTHEM, BLONDE, CHISEL, DYNAMO, ENIGMA, FILTHY, GRAVEN, HONEST, INWARD, JOSTLE, KIDNAP: LARYNX
b) APT, BOY, CAR, DEW, FUR, GUT, HOE, IRE, JOT, KIT, LYE: WAX
Both (a) and (b) meet the criterion "words that do not end with the letter X", yet I assume this is exactly the sort of superficial property that the term "non-trivial" is meant to exclude.

And yet, I also doubt that we're meant to be looking at the meaning or the grammatical properties of the words: that's just not what I would expect to see in puzzles created for cryptographers . Anyway, there doesn't seem to be any such pattern in any of the word-based puzzles.

Any significance to the misspelling of James Fenimore Cooper's middle name?

I dunno, but that's the only puzzle I've been able to make any headway on. (The puzzles in this style seem like they are, in fact, based on the actual linguistic meaning of the ciphertext.) Possible minor spoilers follow. The fourth line (CHICK, COW, GARDEN, GLORY, GRASS, PIGEON, SNAP, SNOW, SPLIT, SWEET) lists types of peas. (If we're to take this as the letter P, then perhaps the next line—NITROGEN—is meant to be the letter N (the chemical symbol for nitrogen? (Just a wild guess.) EVIAN, PERRIER, VOLVIC are all brands of bottled water (I was not familiar with Volvic). JAMES FENNIMORE COOPER'S BOOK may refer to his novel The Spy.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 8:07 PM on December 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


Nairobi is the capital of Kenya.
Tolkien's land is probably Middle Earth.
1901-2000 is probably "millennium".

Hmm, Evian, Perrier, and Volvic are all types of bottled water. More specifically, mineral water. More specifically, mineral water from France.

Still thinking it over. Thanks for the thing about the peas. That's the one that I didn't know.
posted by I-baLL at 8:15 PM on December 25, 2015


I don't have much time to go into these but scanning through them the first list of states in number 23 seems to be the most Scrabble points per letter.

Kentucky: 21/8
New Mexico: 23/9
New Jersey: 22/9
New York: 17/7
Texas: 12/5
Wyoming/Arizona: 16/7
Oklahoma: 17/8
New Hampshire: 25/12
Hawaii: 12/6, Vermont: 12/6
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 8:15 PM on December 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


"Water" in French is "eau", which is pronounced like the letter O.

I'm probably barking up the wrong tree with the letters, though.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 8:25 PM on December 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


1901–2000 is a century, not a millennium.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 8:27 PM on December 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


Gah, thanks! Brainfart
posted by I-baLL at 8:28 PM on December 25, 2015


Jesus, these are hard. I'm hooked. I've figured out exactly one so far:

In #3 D, one of those "words to the left of the colon all share a property" puzzles - bladder candle earth ginger ivory lock monkey pig sleeve wing: false

all the words can be followed by the word nut.
posted by the webmistress at 9:09 PM on December 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


Nairobi is the capital of Kenya...

possible answer below

If every line corresponds to a letter, the capital of "Kenya" is K, the middle of "Earth" is R, and the last of "the Mohicans" is S. So maybe 1901-2000 is "last centurY" and nitrogen is the seventh elemenT to get "kryptos"?
posted by ectabo at 9:16 PM on December 25, 2015 [16 favorites]


Holy shit, ectabo! Mind blown. Thanks!!!
posted by I-baLL at 9:20 PM on December 25, 2015


Age breath doubt end face ground hope - end 'less' to the end.
posted by the webmistress at 9:34 PM on December 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


As end on per pish pity rise root - add up as a prefix to each.
posted by the webmistress at 9:38 PM on December 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


So I was thinking along the right lines there, I guess. Wasn't sure though if these could really be solved. Makes me reluctant to point my brain at them. If I start really trying and there's no answer, I might hurt myself. Seems like these might be legit, though, so maybe I'll come back and give them a try...
posted by saulgoodman at 9:42 PM on December 25, 2015


7c is probably "reindeer" based on the clue (and the season), but I don't see how it fits in with the list of words.
posted by Tsuga at 11:15 PM on December 25, 2015


Fun! 6a are the first letters of cities in which the 1st, 2nd,... Olympics were held.
posted by beniamino at 11:38 PM on December 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


23d involves putting the letters of the name in alphabetical order and counting the repeats. Alabama is first because it has the most A's. Alaska and Arkansas are tied with three A's, so it goes to the next letter, which is 1 K for both, so still tied, but then for the next letter L>N, so Alaska comes first. Then, 2 A, 1 B; 2 A, 1 C, 1 E; 2 A, 1 C, 1 F; 2 A, 1 C, 1 H, 1 I, 1 L, 2 N; 2 A, 1 C, 1 H, 1 I, 1 L, 1 N; 2 A, 1 D, 2 E; 2 A, 1 D, 1 E.
posted by Tsuga at 11:43 PM on December 25, 2015


Note also that for 3a and 3b, the opposite is acceptable: CLAYMORE and DOWNPOUR. I'm not sure what the opposite of nut would be, though (bolt? but what's a false bolt?).
posted by Tsuga at 11:57 PM on December 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


23f seems to be listing the states alphabetically when starting with the last letter. So, Nevada is first because A-D-A comes before A-D-I (Florida), which in turn comes before A-I-G (Georgia), and so on.
posted by littlegreen at 2:02 AM on December 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Tsuga: 7c is probably "reindeer" based on the clue (and the season), but I don't see how it fits in with the list of words.

I think you can spell all 7 of Santa's reindeer from the letters in the words.
posted by bluefly at 3:24 AM on December 26, 2015


ectabo: If every line corresponds to a letter, the capital of "Kenya" is K, the middle of "Earth" is R, and the last of "the Mohicans" is S. So maybe 1901-2000 is "last centurY" and nitrogen is the seventh elemenT to get "kryptos"?

Awesome work! Because I didn't pay attention in Lit class, I had used "N" as Last of the Mohicans and assumed it was Superman's table, but your answer actually makes sense.
posted by bluefly at 3:43 AM on December 26, 2015


8(f) looks like musicals + famous song from that musical.
posted by pianissimo at 4:39 AM on December 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think you can spell all 7 of Santa's reindeer from the letters in the words.

Except Santa has eight canonical reindeer (ignoring the "Rudolf" storyline). When you write out all of their names, and subtract the letters from them found in the given word list, there are 8 left over: deeeinrr, which can be rearranged to spell "reindeer"!

(Also, 6b is first letters of first names of US Presidents, so at the time the correct answer was G. Now of course, it's GB.)
posted by Tsuga at 9:03 AM on December 26, 2015


I've knocked together a crappy page to serve as a central repository for solving these. For now, it's just 8f—but I'm expecting a lazy day, so once I get showered and fed, I'll try to flesh it out a bit (if there's interest), and try to keep it updated.

Great work spotting the pattern in 8f, pianissimo! We should be able to knock that one out if we put our heads together...
posted by escape from the potato planet at 9:43 AM on December 26, 2015


That would be cool, eftpp. 8c is like 8f except with painters and their paintings (HH: HVIII, HdT-L: ATMR, PP: G, AW: C'sS).
posted by Tsuga at 10:11 AM on December 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Who's AW?
posted by escape from the potato planet at 10:17 AM on December 26, 2015


Andy Warhol: Campbell's Soup
posted by Tsuga at 10:19 AM on December 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


So is this actually cryptography or just disguised trivia?
posted by LSK at 10:54 AM on December 26, 2015


Seems more the latter, though the numeric puzzles may be a bit closer to actual cryptography. Then again, they might just be more trivia.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 10:57 AM on December 26, 2015


For number 5, the definitions are for words whose Roman numeral letters can be used to indicate the year (museum: MM, pantomime: MMI...). Thus, 2006 could be the year of IMPROVEMENT.
posted by Tsuga at 11:37 AM on December 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Tsuga and bluefly, you're definitely onto something with 7c being about reindeer. However, I don't think that Tsuga's solution is quite correct. If you go through the list of reindeer names and remove each one's letters from the word list, you soon run out of letters. For example, between Dasher, Dancer, and Prancer alone, there are four R's—yet the word list only contains 3 R's.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 2:22 PM on December 26, 2015


I think I may be onto something with 12b.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 3:12 PM on December 26, 2015


@escape - First position
posted by andrewcooke at 3:52 PM on December 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


escape from the potato planet: Tsuga and bluefly, you're definitely onto something with 7c being about reindeer. However, I don't think that Tsuga's solution is quite correct. If you go through the list of reindeer names and remove each one's letters from the word list, you soon run out of letters. For example, between Dasher, Dancer, and Prancer alone, there are four R's—yet the word list only contains 3 R's.

That's because you need to supply the missing word - "reindeer"
posted by bluefly at 3:57 PM on December 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Still on 8f - W'S = Wanderin' Star from Paint Your Wagon
H might be Hair, with A for Aquarius
E = Edelweiss from The Sound of Music
S = Somewhere from West Side Story
PAB = Porgy & Bess, S = Summertime
but that leaves LTSI and O'MR and I have no clue about either, which may mean one or more of the other answers are wrong. (like A could also be America from WSS)
posted by pianissimo at 4:51 PM on December 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was thinking LTSI was Let the Sunshine In from Hair
posted by ectabo at 4:54 PM on December 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yes, that's much more likely!
posted by pianissimo at 4:56 PM on December 26, 2015


That's because you need to supply the missing word - "reindeer"

Ah! Right you are. Sorry; I was misunderstanding. The solution has been updated.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 4:57 PM on December 26, 2015


12b - the once about insurance = third party.
The alternative cause of action one - I was going to say "plan B".

I don't know what else to do with that though. Take the first, second or third letter of the line as indicated by the clue maybe? That would be along the lines of 12a which was brilliantly solved by ectabo, but I tried it with what we've got so far and didn't get anything immediately recognisable.
posted by pianissimo at 5:20 PM on December 26, 2015


If you take the letter from the second word from the ordinal number first word, you get HAPP_C_R___M_S, which sure looks to be HAPPY CHRISTMAS. The H would make sense for SECOND THOUGHT, while the A would work for THIRD CLASS.
posted by Tsuga at 5:25 PM on December 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Back to 8f while I glare at Tsuga for posting this and sucking me down the rabbit hole, like I have nothing else better to do. Oh wait, I don't. I guess O'MR = Ol' Man River, from Show Boat except that wikipedia shows it as 2 words and the kwiz only has an S.

On preview: well done Tsuga!
posted by pianissimo at 5:35 PM on December 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Tsuga, you're absolutely crushing here—but I'm afraid I don't understand your solution to 12b. For example, there is no H in the first phrase ("FROM PERSONAL EXPERIENCE")—so obviously you're getting that H from somewhere else. Can you walk me through the first letter or two so I can post the solution?
posted by escape from the potato planet at 5:52 PM on December 26, 2015


Ah; I think I see it now. You're taking the letters from the second word of the solutions.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 5:54 PM on December 26, 2015


Indeed. H is the first letter in HAND, A is the second letter in NATURE, etc.

Back on 8c, JMWT = Turner, and TGC is probably his The Grand Canal.

And pianissimo, as soon as I saw this quiz, I sighed and knew I had to take Metafilter down with me for company. Sorry.
posted by Tsuga at 6:11 PM on December 26, 2015


I'll pitch in on the simple ones (4a, 4b, 4c). For some reason the sequences are written in reverse order. Each element is an operation the sum of the digits of a more obvious sequence. The digits of the element are summed, and if the result is greater than nine, then those elements are summed, etc.

4a is just the natural numbers; the 2005th element is 2+0+0+5=7, and so the 2006th element is 8.
4b is the squares of the natural numbers; the 2006th element is 1.
4c is the powers of 2; the 2006th element is 4.
Dunno about 4d yet.
posted by phooky at 6:20 PM on December 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ok, 4d is written weirdly but I think the sequence is the product of the numbers 1..x for each x, so the 2006th element of 4d would be 9 (as would every element after the 6th).
posted by phooky at 6:27 PM on December 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Awesome work, phooky! But how did you find the 2,006th element for 4c and 4d? Neither my computer, nor any site I can find, can calculate 22006 or 2006! without shitting the bed...
posted by escape from the potato planet at 6:37 PM on December 26, 2015


For 4d, it turns out that the sum of the sum of the digits of any multiple of 9 is always 9, so everything past element 6 is 9. I'm sure that there's a similar trick for 4c, but I just used python, which has no problem with big integers (and can practically support as large an integer as you have memory to represent).
posted by phooky at 6:44 PM on December 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Nice! Thanks!
posted by escape from the potato planet at 6:51 PM on December 26, 2015


8(h) is pairs of internet country codes using the same letters in reverse order. eg iceland = .is, pairs with slovenia = .si, Madagascar = .mg with Gambia = .gm.
posted by pianissimo at 8:06 PM on December 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


I have an answer to 3f, but it assumes that the authors made a mistake. If the clue "Bolivia (possibly)" is in reference to Bolivia's capital city being Sucre, but maybe La Paz, depending on how you look at it, then there are no letters in common between Sucre and Bolivia. The same is true for all of the other countries on the list, and not true for any other countries in the world (I checked)... except there is an A in both Warsaw and Poland.

(But wait, I hear you say, Palau and its capital city of Ngerelmud share two letters in common! But remember that this quiz is from 2005, which, of course, is the year before Ngerelmud replaced Koror as Palau's capital.)

So, I guess I'm accusing the British intelligence services of having been in error back in the 2000s.
posted by Tsuga at 9:03 PM on December 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


dances_with_sneetches, how on Earth did you do that? That's the most impressive solution in a thread full of impressive solutions.

I wanted to make sure it was right, so I coded a quick-and-dirty JavaScript thing into the solution page. And, yup—it matches up perfectly. Amazingly done!

I still need to add some solutions to the page, and it's getting kinda unwieldy and could use some cleanup. Maybe I'll work on it a bit tomorrow, if folks are still working on the puzzles. Would be neat to get to 100 points before the answers are revealed on New Year's.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 9:10 PM on December 26, 2015


If we want all the might of Metafilter behind this, it needs to be on the green.

Dear AskMe, I found some old papers from a kwirky UK relative. I think it's some kind of code but I can't work it all out. Hope me?
posted by pianissimo at 10:30 PM on December 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


escape from the potato planet, if you're updating answers: 6a which beniamino got - the initials of summer Olympic host cities. In 2006 the next would have been B(eijing) and L(ondon), now we can add RdJ and T(okyo)
posted by pianissimo at 10:48 PM on December 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


17) I think they are all London (underground?) stations?
Still trying to puzzle out why those particular ones.
posted by 92_elements at 2:29 AM on December 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm guessing the sets in 28 are based on consonances, but it's too late here for me to prove.
posted by Neale at 4:18 AM on December 27, 2015


I think 3(e) might be countries which drive on the left vs Kyrgyzstan which drives on the right.
posted by pianissimo at 4:36 AM on December 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


19) is it to do with latitude/longitude?
posted by 92_elements at 4:43 AM on December 27, 2015


8(d) might be countries + newspaper published in that country. The theory is reasonable so far but could be barking up the wrong tree...Basically going off NYT and USA, works for France & Le Monde, Germany + Die Welt, Japan and Yomiuri Shinbun...

This is the least confident I've been about an answer but hopefully it helps someone else think of something...

Also 8(g) - I went quite a way along the lines that they were one word Beatles songs on the basis of "H!" being Help! That theory came unstuck, but IF (big if) H! is Help it could be album + band? (Also assumes that the quiz, sorry kwiz, accepts Beatles (being B) rather than THE Beatles which would need a TB). I've definitely been thinking about this for way too long.
posted by pianissimo at 7:23 AM on December 27, 2015


I have a riddle for her Majesty's Codebreakers: What have I got in my pocketses?

.... oh. Right you are, you win.
posted by anthill at 7:41 AM on December 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


escape from the potato planet, upthread I gave the solution to one that you may have missed -

BLADDER, CANDLE, EARTH, GINGER, IVORY, LOCK, MONKEY, PIG, SLEEVE, WING - all are to be followed by the word NUT.

Thanks for putting together the page. I am so addicted to this now.

Also, these two: What word could follow and complete:

AWFUL, BLAZE, CLAIM, DEVIL, EQUAL, FEIGN, GABLE, HELIX, IDEAL

BUMPY, CIVIC, FUZZY, GYPSY, INFIX, JUICY, KINKY, MUSIC, NIFTY


Neither list specifically says the word that follows must contain 5 letters, so I am assuming it can be any length. Both lists contain almost all of the letters of the alphabet. The first list is missing the letters jkostrpy, and the missing word should (?) begin with the letter J although, again, that is implied but not specifically stated. I can almost get there with the word jockstrappy ;) Which is not a word but I want it to be. Joystick too almost works but not perfectly. Perhaps the word does not have to begin with J though.....
posted by the webmistress at 11:00 AM on December 27, 2015


Oh and #5 - the one about having the shape of a worm, I believe that word is vermiform.
posted by the webmistress at 11:19 AM on December 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


3e - England is mostly because there's one road where we drive on the right.
posted by Helga-woo at 12:37 PM on December 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


The songs for West Side Story and Porgy and Bess are America and Summertime
posted by Neale at 2:00 PM on December 27, 2015


8b Pair: AS, BID, BY, COL, CUB, DEN, DO, E, E, EVIL, GIN, GLUT, HER, HOG, HOLLOW, JACK, KNIFE, LEAGUE, MY, NOW, OR, PET, RING, RUM, SENT, TON, WARE, WE, WHIP, WIN

is simply forming one word from two on the list.

col league
glut ton
rum my
whip pet
we evil
win now
as sent
jack knife
cub by
bid den
hollow ware
her ring
do e
or e
hog gin
posted by the webmistress at 2:25 PM on December 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


In the painter/artwork one that tsuga's figured out, maybe ldv and ls are Leonardo da Vinci and Last Supper.
posted by the webmistress at 2:49 PM on December 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Can someone team up with me on this one? My brain is peanut butter right now.

Pair these up:
AM, BB, BM, C-22, CA, CE, JM, LW, LW,LW,LW, MD, MM, MM, PP, S, T, T, TH, WH

They're famous books and a character from the book.

Got these so far:
Catch 22 - Milo Mindbender
Little Women - Beth March
Little Women- Jo March
Little Women - Amy March
Little Women - Meg March
posted by the webmistress at 3:23 PM on December 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


FYI, I'm still trying to update the solution list—but I took this as an opportunity to learn Liquid templates, and the version I'm using seems to have a bug that's giving me fits. Keep the answers coming!
posted by escape from the potato planet at 3:35 PM on December 27, 2015


17) update. Note that all the underground stations start with M.
Though Mornington Crescent isn't mentioned. Could this be a Radio 4, just a minute reference?
Particularly as Radio 4 quizzes are referenced in 18).
posted by 92_elements at 3:51 PM on December 27, 2015


The web mistress: good spot on the books.
What about PP being Pride and Prejudice? With MD being Mr Darcy?
How is he referred to in the book?
posted by 92_elements at 4:20 PM on December 27, 2015


About 8c, painters, only

I've been looking at 8c, painters, since this was posted, and am not entirely satisfied with what's there (which means it's probably fine). I started with Toulouse-Lautrec, Holbein->Henry VIII, JMW Turner and Van Gogh; at that point I thought the pairing might be "painter/person portrayed" or something sneaky. Toulouse-Lautrec did a portrait of Van Gogh, for example! That went with Holbein and Henry 8.

Basically I'm just saying that given the theme, the kwizzers' execution is annoying because Van Gogh did thousands of paintings and few of them have two- or three-word "titles". I cannot find a "top 40" Van Gogh painting that fits the remaining or any of the initialisms. I consulted a list on Wikipedia and found only that "TPD" could equal "Two Peasants Digging" - but if that's correct, it's an awful answer.

Similarly, Francis Bacon's works are not exactly snappily titled, nor Turner's (though someone did find a match there). And now even for Leonardo, I am not satisfied that "LS=Last Supper" when it should probably be "TLS" with a "The" since "TGC" and "ATMR" include it. I checked my "depiction of" idea by seeing if Lisa Gherardini, the possible subject of the Mona Lisa, fit the list—nope.

Finally, if Warhol's work is called "Campbell's Soup Cans", why isn't the initialism "CSC" or "CS" rather than "C'sS"—I don't see the puzzle's initialism-rules requiring the inclusion of 's.

So am I the only one that finds it odd that three or four famous artists are still unmatched to a rather tiny remaining set of initialisms? Beans beans beans...
----
But the above was thunk out over Christmas on a tablet with no note-taking. As I continue now, I see that Francis Bacon portrayed Lucian Freud, LF, bringing me back to my original notion! But Freud is an artist and could be the subject part of the pairing! This is crazy and makes me think the whole thing is loaded with landmines! What seems to anchor it is the straightforward "Toulouse-Lautrec: At the Moulin Rouge".

PP->G is vague enough to have less than 100% confidence, though that's what I had too. I think figuring out "L'Ed'A" would clear up some stuff.
posted by sylvanshine at 4:43 PM on December 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm with you, sylvanshine. That particular style of puzzle is just too arbitrary. You could probably come up with hundreds or thousands of permutations, depending on how loose you want to be with the categories "famous artists" / "famous novelists" / etc., and the titles of their works.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 4:52 PM on December 27, 2015


L'Ed'A
Could be l'elixir d'amour
(Love potion?) but that seems to be an opera not a painting?
posted by 92_elements at 4:57 PM on December 27, 2015


It looks like the dates in 13 are all dates in which British monarchs ascended to the throne. Here's a list of the monarchs who died in those years, and the ones who replaced them:

Part 1:
1553 - Edward VI/Jane I/Mary I
1760 - George II/III
1216 - John I/Henry III
1461 - Henry VI/Edward IV
1189 - Henry II/Richard I
1625 - James I/Charles I
1660 - Charles I/Charles II
1413 - Henry IV/Henry V

Part 2:
1558 - Mary I/Elizabeth I
1216 - John I/Henry III
1714 - Anne I/George I
1830 - George IV/William IV
1689 - James II/William III (known as William II in Scotland), Mary II
1216 - John I/Henry III
1542 - James V/Mary I (Scottish monarchs; Henry VIII reigned in England throughout this year)
????

I can't see any pattern with the names, so I think it could have something to do with the numbers. It looks like the two lists generally have a lot of overlap with the numbers of the monarchs -- each list has seven monarchs who were the first to have that name, and so on -- except that Part 1 has two monarchs who were the sixth of their names, and Part 2 doesn't have any. (Though James II was James VII in Scotland.)
posted by littlegreen at 5:40 PM on December 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


For 8d (new):

Newspapers by country - am not sure of specific criteria; the following are not necessarily the largest circulation (although who knows, at the time of quiz publication; an almanac would be handy here!)

Die Welt - Germany
New York Times - USA
Yomiuri Shinbun - Japan
Le Monde - France
Al-Ahram - Egypt ("the most widely circulating Egyptian daily newspaper"--wiki; no hyphen in the clue)
People's Daily - China
Komsomolskaya Pravda - Russia

leaves "A, H, I, I, LP, LS"

Speculative: India - Hindustan ("second largest-read daily in the country"--wiki)
posted by sylvanshine at 5:45 PM on December 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


In the paintings, CM and RC could be Claude Monet and Rouen Cathedral. I have to agree with others, though, that this and the book characters one come from such broad categories that there are probably a great many possible answers.
posted by Tsuga at 5:55 PM on December 27, 2015


9a

11213 12415 12361 71248 13912
51011 11234 61211 31271 41351
51248 16117 12369 18119 ?????


The pattern is the integers that divide evenly into each integer starting with one; the numbers to the right of the colon repeat the numbers above.

1: 1
2: 1 2
3: 1 3
4: 1 2 4
5: 1 5
6: 1 2 3 6
7: 1 7
8: 1 2 4 8
9: 1 3 9
10: 1 2 5 10
11: 1 11
12: 1 2 3 4 6 12
13: 1 13
14: 1 2 7 14
15: 1 3 5 15
16: 1 2 4 8 16
17: 1 17
18: 1 2 3 6 9 18
19: 1 19
20: 1 2 4 5 10
posted by sylvanshine at 6:21 PM on December 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Nice work, littlegreen!

The solution is simple: just take the (crowned) monarch's number, and then take that letter of their name. So for Mary I, take the first letter of Mary; for George III, take the third letter of George; etc.

A couple of 'em don't have enough letters, though.

MONARCH?ENGLAN?
posted by escape from the potato planet at 7:27 PM on December 27, 2015


My mistake. It's MONARCHY ENGLAND.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 7:30 PM on December 27, 2015


(I mean, of course it is, but I had my list a bit mixed up. I still don't understand how you get "D" from "Henry VIII". I'll consider this one incomplete until we figure that out.)
posted by escape from the potato planet at 7:36 PM on December 27, 2015


Another very British one: 9c is the list of total scores you would get by going around a dartboard starting at the 20: the sectors go 20, 1, 18, 4, 13, ... and the sequence 20213 94356 ... breaks down into 20, 21, 39, 43, 56, ..., 184, 193. The next five digits are 20521.
posted by ectabo at 7:36 PM on December 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Maybe there's a typo and 1542 was supposed to be 1547, when Edward VI was crowned?
posted by ectabo at 7:37 PM on December 27, 2015


Okay, based on eftpp's solution to 13b, I think I have 13a. All of the items are names of symphonies. If you take the number of the symphony, and then take that letter from the last name of the composer, you get ATUNEHIDES (a tune hides): The Resurrection Symphony was Mahler's second, the second letter in Mahler is A; The Unfinished Symphony was Schubert's eighth, the eighth letter of Schubert is T; 3rd letter in Bruckner; 7th letter in Vaughan Williams; 6th letter in Schubert; 12th letter in Schostakovich; 3rd letter in Saint-Saiens; 5th letter in Mendelsson; 1st letter in Schumann.
posted by Tsuga at 7:49 PM on December 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


In 13e, the numbers come in pairs. The first refers to the letter's place in the alphabet (a=1, b=2....z=26). The second refers to its position in the answer. 3, 1 = C is the first letter. 15, 2 = O is the second letter. The answer is COUNT DRACULA.
posted by Tsuga at 8:05 PM on December 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


What about PP being Pride and Prejudice? With MD being Mr Darcy?
How is he referred to in the book?


Good one, a definite possibility. His first name is Fitzwilliam but he is almost always referred to as Mr. Darcy.
posted by the webmistress at 8:55 PM on December 27, 2015


What word could follow:
APOSTLE, BUTCHER, CAT, DOLLAR, ELEPHANT, FRIAR, GRASS, HONEY, —, JAIL, KING

I just googled these and surprisingly, the answer is bird. All can be followed by bird.
posted by the webmistress at 9:20 PM on December 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


What word could follow:
ANGEL, BILL, COAL, DEAL, —, FILE, GUITAR, HATCHET, ICE, JEWEL, KING

Fish.
posted by the webmistress at 9:22 PM on December 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


What word could follow:
ACT, BULL, CARPENTER, DRIVER, EXPECT, FIRE, GUARD, HONEY

Ant.
posted by the webmistress at 9:24 PM on December 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm just now looking at #28, the one with 55 words to put into lists. A possibility for the list of ten is words that are homonyms. In puzzles like this some of the words fit into more than one list..part of the fun/confusion. So the homonym possibles, depending on how they're pronounced, are

all/awl
bar/barre
coup/coo
for/four/fore
great/grate
led/lead
pale/pail
red/read
sight/site/cite
berry/bury
one/won
white/wight (doubtful)
and more.... ?

Other quickly noted possible lists; men's names, composers, places, sports, colors, words with double letters.

I agree with whomever said upthread that this should be posted to Ask for more help!
posted by the webmistress at 9:37 PM on December 27, 2015


13b)
Henry VIII maps to D because his full name is Henry Tudor.

For the word grid one I've calculated a hard lower limit of 25. And solved it with a grid of 40 squares. Though that still leaves lots of potential.
posted by 92_elements at 2:18 AM on December 28, 2015


15e)
The question is asking for some numbers that have roughly 2524 0's, 3289 1's, 3589 2's, 3629 3's, 3634 4's, 3635 5's, 3634 6's 3630 7's, 3600 8's, and 3400 9's. Only roughly, because the answer is 8 digits long and any digit in the answer is subtracted from the totals above.

The digits are too evenly distributed to come from a phone book or any random source, and they're not too far off from the counts you'd get from taking all the numbers from 1-9999. It turns out that they come from the range of numbers 1234, 1235, 1236, ... , 9876 , which has 2524 0's, 3290 1's, 3590 2's, etc. (the count of 1's, 2's, etc. is off by one because those digits appear in the answer) The answer is 1234-9876.
posted by ectabo at 5:23 AM on December 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


For the painters, we also have

PP:G Picasso, Guernica
JMWT:TGC Turner, the Grand Canal
FB:LF Bacon, Freud
VVG:TPD van Gogh, the Potato Diggers (not exact, but close)
PB Pieter Brughel?
L'Ed'A ??
posted by Steakfrites at 6:58 AM on December 28, 2015


White/Wight is a homonym in British English - Isle of Wight...
posted by Helga-woo at 8:33 AM on December 28, 2015


Right. I thought it might be doubtful due to the fact that Wight is a proper noun but these puzzles are all cray cray so who knows.
posted by the webmistress at 12:09 PM on December 28, 2015


Just filling in some (possible) details for 12b:

AN ALTERNATIVE, ESPECIALLY AN AGENDA WHICH IS CONSENSUS-BASED = third way (?)
THE HIGHEST-RANKING NON-COMMISSIONED OFFICER IN A UNIT = first sergeant
AN ALTERNATIVE COURSE OF ACTION IN CASE ANOTHER ONE FAILS = last resort (?)
posted by mhum at 1:39 PM on December 28, 2015


23e: States in alphabetic order of their capital cities:

NY = Albany
MD = Annapolis
GA = Atlanta
ME = Augusta
TX = Austin
etc...
posted by mhum at 1:49 PM on December 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


For the word grid one I've calculated a hard lower limit of 25. And solved it with a grid of 40 squares. Though that still leaves lots of potential.

I keep thinking that this one can be solved with GraphViz. Treat each letter as a node in the graph; add edges connecting each letter to whatever other letters it appears next to.

So, E would be connected to M, R, V, N, S, A, T, R, and P:

MERCURY, VENUS, EARTH, MARS, JUPITER, SATURN, URANUS, NEPTUNE, PLUTO

GraphViz will automatically lay out the graph into something approximating the correct arrangement. If any letter is connected to more than four other letters, then we know it'll have to appear more than once in the wordbox (since each cell can only connect to a maximum of four neighbors).

I don't have time to do this, so feel free to try. Here's a great tutorial for GraphViz (it's not hard), which also happens to be the best tutorial for any software, ever.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 2:05 PM on December 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


the webmistress: "They're famous books and a character from the book."

Possibly: WH = Wuthering Heights & CE = Catherine Earnshaw
posted by mhum at 3:39 PM on December 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


23c: States ordered by the Scrabble tile value of their 2-letter abbreviations

AZ = 1+10 = 11
TX = 1+8 = 9, NJ = 1+8 = 9, KY = 5+4 = 9
WY = 4+4 = 9, WV = 4+4 = 8
OK = 1+5 = 6, KS = 5+1 = 6, AK = 1+5 = 6
posted by mhum at 4:28 PM on December 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


For 12a, where the hard work was done by others, Fenimore Cooper's book was (surely the most famous one) "Last of the Mohicans", giving an "S" in line with the format of some of the other clues. This gives the solution, one letter per line, "K R Y P N O S", which is probably the best we can do considering that this quiz may require local knowledge that we don't have, to understand clues or answers. The only objection I can see is that substituting "N" for "nitrogen" is elementary for this quiz, but whatever... I'd mark it solved!
posted by sylvanshine at 5:58 PM on December 28, 2015


sylvanshine: "The only objection I can see is that substituting "N" for "nitrogen""

Further up, ectabo suggests that "nitrogen" should be interpreted as "seventh element" which leads to "t" (the seventh letter of the word "element") which leads to KRYPTOS as the answer, which is the name of the organizing group for this quiz.
posted by mhum at 6:03 PM on December 28, 2015


OK, good mhum!

For 8c, "L'Ed'A" is apparently Van Gogh's "L'Église d'Auvers-sur-Oise", but if so I'm complaining about the question even more because Van Gogh's better-known paintings commonly have accepted names in English and T-L's isn't represented as "Aux Moulin Rouge".
posted by sylvanshine at 6:11 PM on December 28, 2015


The only clue in 8g is the entry "H!". Without the "!", a series of twenty single letters to pair up would probably be far too ambiguous to solve. My initial guess was that the H! represents a one word title of something that starts with H and ends with an exclamation point. But looking through this surprisingly relevant TV Tropes page, the only mildly plausible results I could find are the Beatles song, album, and movie Help!, the John Wayne movie Hatari!, and the musical Honk!. Not sure where to go from here but maybe this might help someone else?
posted by mhum at 6:24 PM on December 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


To finish 5c then, there is only one pairing that's never been in play, and I think I have it, with the newest information at the top (and adding the Monet suggestion from Tsuga):
PB 	Pieter Bruegel                  TPD     The Peasant Dance
VVG 	Vincent Van Gogh 	        L'Ed'A  L'Église d'Auvers-sur-Oise
FB 	Francis Bacon 		        LF      Lucian Freud
CM 	Claude Monet 			RC      Rouen Cathedral

AW 	Andy Warhol 	                C'sS  	Campbell's Soup
HH 	Hans Holbein the Younger 	HVIII 	Henry VIII
HdT-L 	Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec 	ATMR 	At the Moulin Rouge
PP 	Pablo Picasso 	                G 	Guernica
JMWT 	J.M.W. Turner 	                TGC 	The Grand Canal
LdV 	Leonardo da Vinci 	        LS 	Last Supper
A poor puzzle; inconsistent titles along a few axes; poor choice of representative works and artists; potential subject-object confusion (not clever). Oh I said this already
posted by sylvanshine at 6:26 PM on December 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


(Sorry to ectabo, I thought "Mohicans" hadn't been mentioned before; possibly I was working off an old version of the github page as well!)
posted by sylvanshine at 6:40 PM on December 28, 2015


sylvanshine: "Speculative: India - Hindustan"

It's also possible that you can match Israel - Ha'aretz.
posted by mhum at 7:12 PM on December 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


The page now includes all 31 questions, transcribed from the original PNGs.

I've added several solutions—we're up to 29/100 points.

Aside from a few uncertain guesses for the painters / novels / musicals, I believe the page is now up-to-date with all solutions. Please let me know if I've missed yours (via PM, so as not to clutter up this thread).

I've also added JavaScript proofs for a few of the hairier ones—notably, Tsuga's solution to 3f, which appears to be correct. (I fetched the Wikipedia article List of national capitals in alphabetical order as it appeared on December 7, 2006, and massaged the raw data into a usable form. The results aren't a perfect match, but they're enough to convince me.)

You can tell who the verbal thinkers are, and who the abstract thinkers are :) Many of the solutions (of both types) are fuckin' astounding.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 7:13 PM on December 28, 2015


Also: as you post solutions, please include the number of the puzzle you're solving (e.g., 9f). This helps me keep the solution list up-to-date. Thanks!
posted by escape from the potato planet at 7:14 PM on December 28, 2015


In 27a, each letter is replaced by the letter a certain number of letters to the right, where A = 1 letter to the right, B = 2, etc.

27g, is "But, soft! What light from yonder window breaks?" from Romeo and Juliette, which I admit I got entirely by looking at the pattern of word lengths and punctuation.

Note how most of the others end with a comma, suggesting that they are not complete quotes, but the first half of a quote.
posted by Tsuga at 8:05 PM on December 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


8a) With a little bit of computer help (to generate all pairs), I think I have this one. Like 8b, it's just making words by joining up pairs.

PILLOW+SLIP
YOUNG+BERRY
STICK+LEAF
MAY+HEM
KNOB+BED (or BED+KNOB)
DAY+FLY (another name for mayfly)
THERE+WITH
NOW+HERE
OVER+GRASS (to grow grass on top of, according to Collins)
BACK+SAW
COMB+AT
NEW+TON (the unit of measure)
RAT+HER
DO+E
WIN+E
posted by mhum at 8:06 PM on December 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


29) If you write the letters of the alphabet in a spiral, you get a grid that matches the given letters:
UVWXY
TGHIJ
SFABK
REDCL
QPONM
and contains the Greek letter XI
posted by ectabo at 8:59 PM on December 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


I tried the reindeer approach (missing word + given word list = anagram of another list clued somehow) on 7a, and the other list turns out to be the NATO phonetic alphabet (ALPHA, BRAVO, CHARLIE, etc).

There's six letters in the phonetic alphabet that aren't in 7a, AEELPS, and these anagram to the missing word, "please". Har har har.
posted by Upton O'Good at 9:06 PM on December 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


Something weird is going on with some of the number sequences. In 10 and 11, they make a lot more sense if you read each line right-to-left, so 10a is 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 2, 2, 4, 5, 6, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13, 16, 17. Similarly, in 13d, there are some misplaced commas if you read left-to-right, but reading right-to-left gives you 12/1, 8/1, 1/7, 9/1, 10/4, 2/1, 9/4, 3/5, 11/7, 7/4, 6/4, 5/2, 3/3. Maybe there was a computer error that mixed up the formatting.
posted by ectabo at 9:47 PM on December 28, 2015


ectabo: "Something weird is going on with some of the number sequences."

Actually, I wonder if it might be something slightly different. Notice how the sequences that look like they start with a comma (10a, 10d, 11a, 11b, 11c, 13d, and 13e) are broken out over two lines? And how there's no comma between the last element of the first line and the first element of the second line? What if the second line is supposed to be first part of the sequence? E.g.: maybe 13d should be read as 3/3, 5/2, 6/4, 7/4, 11/7, 3/5, 9/4, 2/1, etc...

Also, based on phooky's solution to 4d, it's apparent that formatting errors in the questions are definitely possible.
posted by mhum at 10:09 PM on December 28, 2015


mhum: That could be it too. I guess we'll have to wait until someone solves one of those.

But yeah, there seem to be a few errors in the questions. Here's a solution to 13c modulo a couple of typos:

13c) Similar to 13b. The dates are years when French monarchs were crowned:
1364: Charles V
1380: Charles VI
1422: Charles VII
922: Robert I
877: Louis II
1270: Philip III
1472: ??? (Louis XI was king from 1461-1483)
1515: Francis I
1589: Henry IV
893: Charles III
1574: Henry III
840: Charles II
893: Charles III
936: Louis IV
986: Louis V

If you index the names by their numbers, you get LESROI?FRANHAIS. Which should be LES ROIS FRANCAIS, except that there was no coronation in 1472 (possibly a typo for 1422, when Charles VII was crowned?) and there's an H instead of a C (possibly a mix-up between Charles I and Charles II?)
posted by ectabo at 10:19 PM on December 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


23b seems to be ranking the US states by the same method as 23a, Scrabble scores/letters, but for the capitals (Jackson, MS = 20/7; Phoenix, AZ = 19/7; Jefferson City, MO = 31/13...).
posted by Tsuga at 12:17 AM on December 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


You are all amazing! AMAZING!
posted by pianissimo at 3:38 AM on December 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


In 3c, a spelled-out Greek letter can be added somewhere to make a new word:
ALPHAbet
dETAin
dioXIde
graPHIte
minoTAUr
oPInion
peaNUt
MUslim
tiBETAn
urCHIn
posted by Upton O'Good at 8:20 AM on December 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


Anyone have any thoughts on the very first puzzle? It's keeping me up nights! I showed it to my son, who's an intelligence analyst in the army, and he's befuddled by it. Which means I have to solve it before he does ;)

Maybe each word is part of a two word phrase (box car, red dwarf, near miss, etc.) and the missing word in each is what is significant. Or....maybe each word has a synonym, and that synonym is somehow significant or they can be strung together to form words. For example, the synonym of the word essence could be scent, and the synonym of the word couch could be sofa, and therefore scent and sofa, being right next to each other in the graph, could form the words "scents of a" when put together. And then the puzzle could be a quote from a book or lyric of a song. Or something. SOMETHING! Making me nuts, this one. I'm all about the word and letter puzzles. My brain can't even with the number sequences and I am in awe of those of you who are solving them.
posted by the webmistress at 11:10 AM on December 29, 2015


Oh and biscuits are cookies in England, and bonnets are hoods. In addition to being hats and all that.
posted by the webmistress at 11:12 AM on December 29, 2015


Anyone have any thoughts on the very first puzzle?

Just a wild guess: perhaps some method (e.g., gematria) is used to assign a numeric value to each word, and the words are then ordered according to that value.

The most common approach I've seen to this in English is to simply assign A=1, B=2, etc., and then add up the letter values for a given word. But that's not what we see in this puzzle. (Of course it's not that simple.)

I could be way off base with this—it could very well be, as you suggest, a linguistic puzzle rather than a numeric/symbolic one.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 11:51 AM on December 29, 2015


Maybe each word is part of a two word phrase (box car, red dwarf, near miss, etc.)

You know, this seems like a distinct possibility. Perhaps, if you replace each word in the grid with its mate, then the box becomes a familiar sentence of some kind—but missing the word "tap".
posted by escape from the potato planet at 11:55 AM on December 29, 2015


Although the obscurity of "gorse", and the scarcity of idioms containing the word "statuette", seem to belie that theory.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 11:56 AM on December 29, 2015


To add to the fun, lots of the words double up as phrases, such as blue bonnet, dust cloth, dead sea, combat billet and so on.
posted by the webmistress at 1:21 PM on December 29, 2015


15b is THE NINE PLANETS, with the frequency counts coming from the names of the planets.
posted by Tsuga at 3:02 PM on December 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


15F MONTHS OF A YEAR
posted by Tsuga at 3:55 PM on December 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


Where does the word "TAP" fit? Well, "phone" and "wire" aren't there...I'm all out of ideas.

The bit in the question that says to read left to right, top to bottom indicates that the order of the words as presented is important, which leads me to think that it's a value based thing rather than a word meaning one.
posted by pianissimo at 4:07 PM on December 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


I wanted 15f to be months of the year too! I tried to make it work and it's soooo close that I think they may have made an error, but a few are off. Like M and Y. But so tantalizingly close.
posted by the webmistress at 4:36 PM on December 29, 2015


the webmistress: "I wanted 15f to be months of the year too!"

I think "MONTHS IN A YEAR" works, no?
posted by mhum at 4:56 PM on December 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


The way the question is phrased is confusing -- you count all the letters in "January", "February", etc, then you subtract the letters in "MONTHS OF A YEAR". That's why the counts for M, Y, etc. are off.

15d) SYMBOLS OF THE ELEMENTS
(Cn, Fl, and Lv were Uub, Uuq, and Uuh in 2006)
posted by ectabo at 5:19 PM on December 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


Haha. I just realized that question 15 and question 7 are basically the same kind of puzzle: you're given a letter frequency table for some list of words and where the frequency counts are reduced by some secret phrase. I guess they didn't have space for all the clever anagrams in question 15.
posted by mhum at 5:31 PM on December 29, 2015


15a) THE GREEK ALPHABET
posted by ectabo at 5:32 PM on December 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


For #17, I printed out this official map of the London Underground, dated 2005, and drew a line connecting the specified stations, in sequence. I felt like a spy and/or occultist, but I didn't find any meaningful pattern.

I started to do the same thing with a geographically accurate map, but stopped halfway through because my map was shitty, and my gut tells me it's just not the right approach.

I went back to the idealized / non-geographically-accurate map, and plotted lines on the actual lines you would need to travel (rather than as the crow flies). There's some guesswork here, since there's more than one way to get between many pairs of stations. I didn't find anything useful.

They don't seem to be ordered by the year they opened.

I wonder if it has to do with the number of stops between the stations, or which lines you need to switch onto to travel this route. Again, though, there's a fair bit of guesswork here, and the map is tricky to read—you have to double-check Wikipedia to make sure the stations are on the lines you think they're on. So I haven't exhausted this possibility.

It's worth noting that the list includes all Underground stations which start with "M", except for the famous Mornington Crescent. The answer could be as simple as that—but GCHQ/Kryptos is headquartered in Cheltenham, very near London. Surely a list of London tube stations would be immediately recognizable to any Brit, which would make this a pretty lame/easy puzzle.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 6:40 PM on December 29, 2015


I'm looking at #18, which must be a tricky one, since it's worth three points. I'm not sure how to interpret the numbers in parentheses.

a. A champion of the potato (3)

Wikipedia on the history of the potato: "French physician Antoine Parmentier studied the potato intensely and in Examen chymique des pommes de terres (Paris, 1774) showed their enormous nutritional value. King Louis XVI and his court eagerly promoted the new crop, with Queen Marie Antoinette even wearing a headdress of potato flowers at a fancy dress ball."

So, this could be Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, or Antoine Parmentier.

b. besieged in the Great Patriotic War (2, 5, 7)

The Great Patriotic War refers to the Eastern Front of World War 2. The Siege of Leningrad was a major thing that happened. So, Leningrad?

c. about 430 km from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean (11)

The Pyrenees? (Wikipedia puts them at 491 km.) Note that Google Maps allows you to right-click on a location, select "Measure Distance", and then click on a second location to, well, measure the distance. I don't see any other likely candidates, so let's say it's the Pyrenees.

d. a retired supersonic aircraft (1, 8, 12)

The Concorde was manufactured by a British company, and was retired in 2003.

e. the Eternal City (2)

This is a nickname for Rome.

f. might, to an American, suggest a European fast food outlet.

No idea.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 7:22 PM on December 29, 2015


(The Round Britain Quiz, previously, and an example question and answer)

Yeah, numbers like that usually denote word lengths, but those word lengths don't make any sense. Reading Wikipedia's list of supersonic airplanes, the retired aircraft could possibly be the F-105 Thunderchief if you spell it "one-o-five", but that's really stretching it.
posted by ectabo at 7:55 PM on December 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


OK, on the basis that the letters in the answer are not counted in the frequency table (which I haven't checked for all of the answers, but was ectabo's logic, and upon reading the actual question appears to be the case), I postulate that 15(i) is THE LETTERS OF THE ALPHABET
posted by pianissimo at 7:57 PM on December 29, 2015


I've got a slightly different list for 18 and I basically have no clue how the numbers in parentheses are supposed to work or why the last clue doesn't have a number. I mean, for part e) (where the answer is going to be hard not to be Rome) they're implying a two-letter word. There aren't that many two-letter words.

a) Sir Walter Raleigh is often credited with introducing the potato to England, although sometimes his employee Thomas Harriot gets credit

b) Leningrad/St. Petersburg (although Stalingrad/Volgograd was also sort of beseiged too)

c) Lisbon is almost exactly 430 km from the Strait of Gibraltar ("the Atlantic to the Mediterranean")

d) it's gotta be the Concorde, unless they're referring to some military supersonic aircraft

e) Rome, what else could this be?

f) maybe this is where the "cryptic crossword" part comes in?

Now, if we interpret Sir Walter Raleigh to be Raleigh, NC, then these are all cities... except for Concorde. The largest city I could find called Concord is Concord, CA. Also, Concorde is a stop on the Paris Metro and named for a nearby plaza but it's not nearly a city. And, the only other "retired" supersonic aircraft I could think would match would be the Canadian Avro Arrow, although that was more of a "scuttle the whole program before it could really get going due to political pressure" than a retirement.
posted by mhum at 7:58 PM on December 29, 2015


Probably way off the mark but the eternal city answer could just be EC. Using the initial letters of words is big in the cryptic crossword world. Maybe the first one is just yam?
posted by the webmistress at 8:22 PM on December 29, 2015


You know, I just realized that although #18 refers to the Round Britain Quiz questions as "cryptic", I wonder if they might actually be using the plain meaning of "cryptic" and not the "cryptic crossword" meaning. I actually listened to a few episodes just now and their questions seem more like intentionally obscured trivia questions and involve less anagrams, puns, weird word splitting or combining, etc... than you normally find in cryptic crosswords. Or who knows. This whole thing is making my head hurt. And don't get me started on #14 (what the crap is that one even about? "temporal, titular occasion"? WTF?).
posted by mhum at 8:43 PM on December 29, 2015


14) Thanks to mhum for pointing this one out! The abbreviations are the first letters of the first lines (i.e. "initial openings") of the 13 songs on the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album. The "associated temporal, titular occasion" is turning sixty-four (from the song "When I'm Sixty-Four"). The two most recently achieved it were Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney; Paul McCartney had lead vocals and turned 64 in June of 2006. The two who never will are John Lennon (died age 40) and George Harrison (died age 58).

The order of the songs on the album is:
1. IWTY (Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, "It was twenty years")
2. WWYT (With a Little Help from my Friends, "What would you think")
3. PYIA (Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, "Picture yourself in a")
4. IGBA (Getting Better, "It's getting better all")
5. IFAH (Fixing a Hole, "I'm fixing a hole")
6. WMAF (She's Leaving Home, "Wednesday morning at five")
7. FTBO (Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!, "For the benefit of")
8. WWTA (Within You Without You, "We were talking about")
9. WIGO (When I'm Sixty-Four, "When I get older")
10. LRMM (Lovely Rita, "Lovely Rita meter maid")
11. NTDT (Good Morning Good Morning, "Nothing to do to")
12. WSPL (Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise), "We're Sgt. Pepper's Lonely")
13. IRTN (A Day in the Life, "I read the news")
posted by Upton O'Good at 9:48 PM on December 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


Also, given the penchant for clever wording in the directions for each puzzle, I'm convinced that 15i) is "THE LETTERS OF THE SOLUTION".
posted by Upton O'Good at 10:22 PM on December 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


15c) is "THE 10 DECATHLON EVENTS" (100 METERS, LONG JUMP, SHOT PUT, HIGH JUMP, 400 METERS, 110M HURDLES, DISCUS THROW, POLE VAULT, JAVELIN THROW, 1500 METERS)
posted by Upton O'Good at 6:57 AM on December 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


19)
a) The first written-out German numeral that cannot be written out with Scrabble letters without using blanks is 20 (ZWANZIG). In French, it's 44 (QUARANTE-QUARTE). In English, it's 54 (FIFTY-FOUR, you run out of Fs).
b) The numerals up to 9 can be written simultaneously in German with a Scrabble set without using blanks; you'd need a second Z for ZEHN (10). In French, they can be written up to 4, and then you need a second Q for CINQ (5). In English, they can be written up to 10, and then you'd need a third V for ELEVEN.
c) The answers to a) and b) would be 19 and 5 in ancient Rome; XIX is the first Roman numeral that can't be written without blanks, and the numerals up to V can be written, but you need a third V for VI.
posted by Upton O'Good at 9:40 AM on December 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


Serious question: how the fuck do you people do this? Are you just spending hours trying every possible idea until you stumble across something that works?
posted by escape from the potato planet at 9:45 AM on December 30, 2015


13d) Treat each entry as a date in month/day order and use the date portion to pick out a letter from the month (e.g.: 6/4 = June 4 = "e", the fourth letter of "June"). Then, we get:
6/4	 = June 4	= E
7/4	 = July 4	= Y
11/7	 = November 7 	= E
3/5	 = March 5	= H
9/4	 = September 4	= T
2/1	 = February 1	= F
10/4	 = October 4	= O
9/1	 = September 1	= S
1/7	 = January 7	= Y
8/1	 = August 1	= A
12/1	 = December 1	= D
3/3	 = March 3	= R
5/2	 = May 2	= A
which doesn't make a lot of sense until you move the last two elements (i.e.: 3/3 and 5/2) to the front and then reverse the sequence (which means both ectabo and I were right about the misformatting) in which case you get "DAYS OF THE YEAR".
posted by mhum at 12:17 PM on December 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


mhum, based on that solution, I think I see exactly how the lists of numbers got garbled in the original document. I'll put everything in (I think!) the correct order with tonight's update to the solution page—right now, several are out of sequence.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 12:53 PM on December 30, 2015


8d) Here's a possible completion for sylvanshine's list of newspaper/country pairs:

Israel - Ha'aretz (or India - Hindustan, although I think it's more commonly referred to as Hindustan Times)
Italy - La Stampa
Argentina - La Prensa
posted by mhum at 1:32 PM on December 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


mhum: "c) Lisbon is almost exactly 430 km from the Strait of Gibraltar ("the Atlantic to the Mediterranean") "

Oh, as it turns out, the Algerian city of Oran is also pretty close to 430 km from the Strait of Gibraltar, for whatever that's worth.
posted by mhum at 3:04 PM on December 30, 2015


eftpp: I mostly look for patterns. I try to find something in the puzzle that's a little unusual, then try to find an explanation for why it's there -- so in 15a, why are there so many A's and I's, or in 29, why are D, E, and F right next to one another. You have to be willing to go down blind alleys -- in 15a, I started out by trying to find an answer of the form "the (number) (things)", and looked at the Google autocompletes for "the seven a", "the seven b", etc. But sometimes you'll hit on the right thing.
posted by ectabo at 6:57 PM on December 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


27b) "No, it is a very interesting number", which is the first half of a famous quote of Ramanujan about the number 1729: "No! It is a very interesting number; it is the smallest number expressible as the sum of two cubes in two different ways"

I first tried brute force by writing a program to do the encryption, then encrypting a chunk of Project Gutenberg, but the only hits were the Keats quote and the Shakespeare quote from 27a and 27g. So that means that the rest probably aren't in any famous out-of-copyright works. But if you can guess a word or a letter, you can work forward and backward -- forward because the encrypted text tells you some letters from later in the quote, and backward because if you know some of the quote, it eliminates some of the possibilities for earlier letters. I did the forward/backward work by typing the ciphertext, the plaintext, and the alphabet in a text editor and moving the alphabet back and forth.

In this case, it turned out that "nehihg" was usually the start of "interesting" (because the first i and the two e's encrypt to n, i, and g) so I wrote
EeIuTmVTtrsNehihgmlieiMuarsm
       V   INTERESTING
         ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
The one-letter word "V" is probably "a", so the next word starts with "v". The alphabet is lined up with the "t" in that word, and if our guess is right, that "t" might be E or J (the only T's in INTERESTING are above E and J). E is pretty likely, and then the word lengths suggest "it is a very interesting". Once you know that, you can deduce the rest of the letters until you complete the quote.
posted by ectabo at 7:19 PM on December 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Serious question: how the fuck do you people do this?

I just assumed that they actually work for GCHQ or their country's equivalent.

BTW I think the "temporal educational event in 1947?" referred to in 14 is the first line of Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - "it was 20 years ago today" which was true in 1967 when the song was released but no longer accurate. Educational because "Sgt Pepper taught the band to play".
posted by pianissimo at 9:15 PM on December 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Dang, that's some nice work, folks.

I have a possible direction for the five-pointer in #28, but I'm not sure if it's a blind alley because I'm sure not making much headway there. Perhaps you all can confirm/deny: I think the sets of 10, 9, 8, etc. correspond to verses of "The Twelve Days of Christmas", and figuring out the word in the set of 1 is finding the partridge in a pear tree.

Some of the words would fit easily: MOUNTBATTEN and BRITTEN are lords; CANADA, WHITE, SNOW, MOTHER, GOLDEN are geese; [Noire du] BERRY is a French hen variety; ONE is a very precious golden ring. Most I have no idea, and the relationship would have to be clever or cryptic. I'm not even sure what verse order would be assumed (drummers? pipers? ladies?), and I don't have a reason why it didn't go all twelve days other than "too obvious". Let me know what you think.
posted by Upton O'Good at 9:22 PM on December 30, 2015


I enjoyed 27b so much that I couldn't resist doing the rest of 27; skip this if you want to try for yourself.

27c) "He knows death to the bone --
Man has created death." -- W. B. Yeats, "Death"
27d) "Have you heard? It's in the stars. Next July we collide with Mars." -- Cole Porter, "Well, Did You Evah!"
27e) "One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them" -- J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
27f) "It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen" -- George Orwell, 1984
posted by ectabo at 9:35 PM on December 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


27f) "IT WAS A BRIGHT COLD DAY IN APRIL, and the clocks were striking thirteen" (opening line of George Orwell's 1984)

On preview: dangit.
posted by Upton O'Good at 9:38 PM on December 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


OK, one more before bed.

31) Letters are encoded as pairs, running AA-AJ, BA-BJ, CA-CF. The encoding runs in alphabetical order: A = AA, B = AB, ... , Z = CF. The plaintext can be parsed and punctuated to "Andy, Colin, and John hope that you enjoy this year's kwiz, and we wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy new year."
posted by Upton O'Good at 10:16 PM on December 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


15g THE NINETY-EIGHT SCRABBLE LETTERS

(These guys sure like Scrabble! Fortunately, so do I.)
posted by Tsuga at 12:18 AM on December 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


15h (the colors of the) RAINBOW
posted by Tsuga at 12:27 AM on December 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


One more: 24 is a cryptogram where multiple characters are represented by the same letter:
abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz
TOBEORNOTTOBETOBEORNOTTOBE
NO OO OO TON NO OO NOTN TR NOO OOB-BOOTRO
to be or not to be that is the key-phrase
(and indeed it is)
posted by ectabo at 11:15 AM on December 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Intercept has said they will release the answers tomorrow. Should we go ahead and calculate our score at that point? I'm starting to run out of ideas for the remaining questions, and am mostly curious just to see what we couldn't get.
posted by Tsuga at 11:38 AM on December 31, 2015


No need to calculate our score manually; the score shown at the top of the solutions page is now being updated as solutions are added. I just added the latest round of answers, and we're up to 61/100.

(I say "we", but my contributions have been minor at best :)
posted by escape from the potato planet at 12:30 PM on December 31, 2015


Don't sell yourself short, eftpp: having an easy, centralized way to keep track of what's been solved and and what hasn't (or has been partially) has been enormously helpful.

And for some partial cleanup...
8e) To add to the webmistress's pairs, WH/CE = Wuthering Heights/Catherine Earnshaw and PP/MD = Pride and Prejudice/Mr. Darcy. (On review, 92_elements got the second one previously). Still can't get the others.
17) 92_elements is correct on this one, too---missing station is Mornington Crescent, as it's 1. the only London Underground station starting with M not included, and 2. having the final station be Mornington Crescent would be an in-joke.
posted by Upton O'Good at 2:04 PM on December 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


Each word in 2a can have two letters added to make a different English word, and these letters are pairs in alphabetical order. fAunA, BabBle, oCCur, biDDer, bErEave, coFFin, GrudGe, sHeatH. I'd suggest RAD as a solution, to produce radII.

And that's it for me tonight---happy new year, MeFi.
posted by Upton O'Good at 10:32 PM on December 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


Here are the official answers!

We managed 63/100 (assuming that all of our answers were correct).

The discrepancies noted in 3f were, in fact, the kwiz setter's error.

I compared our solutions to theirs. There are few cases where they differ slightly (e.g., the word we suggested is different than the word they give as the solution, but both words satisfy the criteria; or we were able to extend a sequence further because we know about things that hadn't happened yet in 2006; etc.). However, I'd call these technicalities.

Other discrepancies:

Their answer for 8a is totally different from ours.

Our answer for 8b almost agrees with theirs, but we missed the key aspect of the word pairs: each one joins at the same letter (e.g., AS+SENT). So DO+E and OR+E should have been DO+OR and E+E. "EE" sounds like bullshit to me, though.

Despite the ambiguity inherent in these puzzles, we nailed 8c (painters), 8d (newspapers), and 8f (musicals). We were on the right track with 8e (novels/characters). 8g, as suspected was band and song names—but that seems like a totally crap and unfair puzzle to me. Except for H!, you could come up with tens of thousands of possible pairings.

The confusion over the last letter in 13b was due to an error in the puzzle: the last number should have been 1547, not 1542, which would have given Edward VI. Similarly, the two uncertain letters in 13c are due to errors by the kwiz setters.

We got 17 (London Underground stations) right, but missed the governing principle: they're in order by Scrabble score.

For 28, Upton O'Good's insight about geese was on the right track...but that was a brutally difficult five-pointer. (Honestly, some of these are only difficult because the solutions are so arbitrary.)

Part of the official solution to 31 is redacted, but we figured it out! WE HAVE BRITISH STATE SECRETS

Well played, everyone! It was fun. And not a bad showing at all.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 11:25 AM on January 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


WTF #1? Unless this is a common puzzle format (maybe from previous years' quizzes or something?), I have no idea how anyone could have gotten that. Just too many degrees of freedom.
posted by mhum at 11:52 AM on January 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


Not only do we have the redacted first names from 31, but surely those are the last names in 22b. And since we know from 21 that both first and last names are in alphabetical order, the puzzle makers must be Andy Warrell, Colin Whorlow, and John Wood, and, indeed, a Google search shows that a Colin Whorlow works for the GCHQ. Cover blown!
posted by Tsuga at 12:50 PM on January 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


Agreeing that 8g was too open-ended. I'd figured that the combo was songs/albums based on Y/H! for "Yesterday" and Help!, so T/T could have been "Thriller"/Thriller, but at that point I kind of shrugged and moved on, it seems like that was a good call. 28 would have been awesome if they had gone consistently with the 12 days of Christmas, but, like #1, I think it was just to open-ended. 25 was creative; I wish I'd gotten that.
posted by Tsuga at 1:13 PM on January 1, 2016


Heh, so that's what the numbers in18 meant. Thanks, everyone!
posted by ectabo at 10:21 PM on January 1, 2016


Thanks, escape from the potato planet, for maintaining your page! The notion that someone would be recording stuff, and that there would be a feeling of teamwork, is why I spent time here after first reading the FPP... now I want a MeFi Puzzle Club or something.
posted by sylvanshine at 5:40 PM on January 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'd totally be down for hive-mind-puzzle-club.
posted by idiopath at 6:02 PM on January 2, 2016


So would I. Do you think we could talk our way into having it as a FanFare club?
posted by Tsuga at 6:55 PM on January 2, 2016


Well done everyone! The answer to 18 was almost obvious in hindsight.

I would also join a MeFi Puzzle Club. Especially if we could brainstorm geocaching puzzles...
posted by pianissimo at 7:03 PM on January 2, 2016


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