PN Trivia Scavenger Hunt: Answers & Winner!

[Image courtesy of Alaris Health.]

Thank you to everyone who entered our anniversary trivia scavenger hunt! Plenty of solvers, puzzlers, and PuzzleNationers tried their hand at answering all five questions before the deadline at midnight on Wednesday, and many succeeded!

Alas, there can be only one winner. But before we get to that, let’s look at the answers, shall we?


PuzzleNation Anniversary Trivia Scavenger Hunt

1.) One of my favorite recurring features is Puzzles in Pop Culture, where I explore puzzly moments in television, film, and literature. We’ve discussed Sherlock, Hell’s Kitchen, and even Gilmore Girls in installments of Puzzles in Pop Culture.

Question: How do you solve the four gallons of water puzzle?

Answer: There were actually two answers featured in the August 19, 2014 post “Puzzles in Pop Culture: Die Hard with a Vengeance” referenced in this question. Here’s the answer our winner submitted:

1. Fill the 3-gallon jug and pour the water into the 5-gallon jug.
2. Refill the 3-gallon jug and pour the water into the 5-gallon jug until the 5-gallon jug is full, leaving 1 gallon in the 3-gallon jug.
3. Empty the 5-gallon jug and pour the 1 gallon of water from the 3-gallon jug into the 5-gallon jug.
4. Fill the 3-gallon jug again and empty it into the 5-gallon jug, leaving exactly 4 gallons in the 5-gallon jug.


2.) You can’t talk about puzzles without also discussing games, because there’s so much overlap between the two. Game reviews from a puzzle solver’s perspective have become a part of the fabric of PuzzleNation Blog, as has creating your own puzzles and games from scratch.

Question: What’s the name of the DIY game that only requires a bunch of identical blank pieces of paper (like index cards) and something to write with?

Answer: Discussed in our September 15, 2015 post “DIY Pencil and Paper Puzzles,” this game is known as 1000 Blank White Cards.


3.) Naturally, if you’re going to talk puzzles, Sudoku is going to be part of the conversation sooner rather than later. We’ve not only explored the history of Sudoku here, but we’ve been a part of it, debuting brand-new Sudoku variants created by topnotch constructors.

Question: What do you call two overlapping Samurai Sudoku?

Answer: We posted many different Sudoku variants in our December 4, 2014 post “The Wide World of Sudoku,” but the puzzle in question is known as Shogun Sudoku.


4.) A fair amount of puzzle history, both past and present, has been covered here over the last five years. We’ve examined cryptography in the American Revolution, the Civil War, both World Wars, and beyond. We’ve celebrated the one-hundredth anniversary of the crossword. And we’ve even discussed scandals in the puzzle world.

Question: What are the names of the programmer and crossword constructor who first uncovered the curious pattern of puzzle repetition in USA Today and Universal Uclick puzzles that eventually led to the ouster of Timothy Parker?

Answer: As discussed in a series of posts entitled “Puzzle Plagiarism,” the programmer’s name is Saul Pwanson and the constructor’s name is Ben Tausig.


5.) In the Internet age, memes and fads appear and disappear faster than ever. A picture or a joke or a news story can sweep the world in a matter of hours, and then vanish forever. On a few occasions, the Internet has become obsessed with certain optical illusions, and we’ve done our best to analyze them from a puzzler’s perspective.

Question: The creators of The Dress appeared on what talk show to put the mystery to bed once and for all?

Answer: Discussed on March 6, 2015 in a Follow-Up Friday post, the mystery of The Dress was laid to rest on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.


[Image courtesy of ClipArt Panda.]

And now, without any further ado, we’d like to congratulate our winner, who shall remain nameless. After all, like a lottery winner, she doesn’t want to be mobbed by those hoping for a piece of the action. =)

She’ll be receiving her choice of either a Penny Dell Crosswords App puzzle set download OR a copy of one of the puzzle games we’ve reviewed this year!

Thank again to everyone for playing and for celebrating five years of PuzzleNation Blog with us. We truly could not have done it without you!


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The Value of Recreational Math

There was a wonderful opinion piece in The New York Times a few weeks ago about the importance of recreational math.

Now, as author Manil Suri said, I’m sure that to some people, the idea of recreational math sounds like an oxymoron. But it’s everywhere! From poker players calculating their odds based on the cards dealt to the number crunching in role-playing games in order to complete certain tasks (or develop a character’s skills), math is built into many recreational activities.

It’s certainly a part of many kinds of puzzles, including brain teasers. Heck, previous brain teasers featured here in the blog like Mystery Number, the Birthday Puzzle, and the jugs of water trap from Die Hard with a Vengeance would all easily fall under the umbrella of recreational math.

The article goes on to mention the wonderful work of Martin Gardner, whose column “Mathematical Games” in Scientific American was a mainstay of recreational math and puzzly whimsy for over twenty-five years.

From Suri’s article:

In his final article for Scientific American, in 1998, Mr. Gardner lamented the “glacial” progress resulting from his efforts to have recreational math introduced into school curriculums “as a way to interest young students in the wonders of mathematics.”

Indeed, a paper this year in the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics points out that recreational math can be used to awaken mathematics-related “joy,” “satisfaction,” “excitement” and “curiosity” in students, which the educational policies of several countries (including China, India, Finland, Sweden, England, Singapore and Japan) call for in writing.

In contrast, the Common Core in the United States does not explicitly mention this emotional side of the subject, regarding mathematics only as a tool.

This is an excellent counterpoint to the regular argument that the primary value of puzzle-solving and other activities (like recreational math) is to stave off brain health issues later in life.

In a previous post, we discussed the inconsistent reports about the effects of puzzle-solving on the brain, leaving it unclear if regular doses of puzzles and recreational math are beneficial for other aspects of brain health over time, like memory retention, neuroplasticity, and concentration.

That may well be the case, but Suri’s point stands. The idea of instilling a sense of fun and wonder into the field of math, especially for younger minds? That’s one worth pursuing.

Show them that math can be about more than fulfilling homework or graphing parabola. Show them that mathematical concepts can help you crack a diabolical seesaw brain teaser, save a village with a grain of rice, or find an alternate solution to a PSAT question and prove the testers wrong.

It has been championed in the past by television shows like Square One TV and MythBusters, but sadly, examples like that are few and far between.

And if we can instill recreational math as a key facet of math itself, then we’d be one step closer to ensuring that STEM courses will have plenty of participants in the future.


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Puzzles in Pop Culture: Die Hard With a Vengeance

die-hard-with-a-vengeance-original

It’s summer, and when it comes to Hollywood, summer means big blockbuster action movies. One of my favorites is the Bruce Willis / Samuel L. Jackson modern classic Die Hard With a Vengeance.

For those who are unfamiliar with the film — shame on you! — it’s the third installment of the Die Hard franchise, featuring catchphrase-spouting New York City cop John McClane battling terrorists, criminals, and all sorts of unsavory characters.

In Die Hard With a Vengeance, a bomber named Simon is terrorizing the city and McClane is one of his playthings, forced to play Simon Says and accomplish increasingly difficult tasks that Simon sets before him. As McClane (and electrician Zeus Carver, who saves McClane from the first of Simon’s games) race around the city trying to prevent other bombs from going off, Simon enacts an elaborate scheme to rob the city.

Thankfully, McClane and Zeus have a knack for brain teasers and riddles, because several of Simon’s devious tasks require quick thinking and sharp puzzle skills.

diehardwithavengeance1

[One of the last movies to feature payphones as a key plot point…]

First, Simon hits them with a math problem:

As I was going to St. Ives, I met a man with seven wives. Each wife had seven sacks, every sack had seven cats, every cat had seven kittens. Kittens, cats, sacks, wives. How many were going to St. Ives?

As McClane fervently tries to do multiplication in his head, Zeus realizes this isn’t a word problem, it’s a riddle. The man was going to St. Ives when he met this man, meaning the man was coming from St. Ives. So the wives, sacks, cats, and kittens are irrelevant. Only the narrator is going to St. Ives, so the answer to the riddle is 1.

stives-1886892

[Seems like a nice place to take your many wives…]

In their second puzzly task, Simon offers the following question:

“What has four legs and always ready to travel?”

McClane doesn’t get it, but Zeus immediately identifies it as an elephant joke for kids (although he doesn’t actually deliver the punchline: an elephant, because it has four legs and a trunk).

They quickly spot a nearby fountain with an elephant statue. Awaiting them is a suitcase bomb and two empty jugs. When McClane opens the suitcase, he accidentally arms the bomb, and Simon calls to inform them that the only way to disarm the bomb is to fill one of the jugs with exactly four gallons of water and place it on the scale in the suitcase.

die-hard-vengeance-laptop

[And they say what we learn in school has no practical, real-world applications…]

The problem is the two jugs hold 3 gallons and 5 gallons, respectively. Simon has set them up with another brain teaser, but one with a dire time limit to solve.

Thankfully, there are two ways to solve this brain teaser.

Method #1

  • Fill the 3-gallon jug and pour the water into the 5-gallon jug.
  • Refill the 3-gallon jug and pour the water into the 5-gallon jug until the 5-gallon jug is full, leaving 1 gallon in the 3-gallon jug.
  • Empty the 5-gallon jug and pour the 1 gallon of water from the 3-gallon jug into the 5-gallon jug.
  • Fill the 3-gallon jug again and empty it into the 5-gallon jug, leaving exactly 4 gallons in the 5-gallon jug.

Method #2

  • Fill the 5-gallon jug and pour that water into the 3-gallon jug until the 3-gallon jug is full, leaving 2 gallons in the 5-gallon jug.
  • Empty the 3-gallon jug and pour the 2 gallons of water from 5-gallon jug into the 3-gallon jug.
  • Refill the 5-gallon jug and pour that water into the 3-gallon jug until the 3-gallon jug is full, leaving 4 gallons in the 5-gallon jug.

Either way, you’ve disarmed the bomb. Good job!

140-billion-die-hard

[While Simon has McClane and Zeus run
all over the city, he has one specific goal…]

The final riddle Simon gives Zeus and McClane is another brain teaser masquerading as a math problem:

“What is 21 out of 42?”

At the time of the film’s release, there had been 42 presidents, so 21 out of 42 was President Chester A. Arthur, and Chester A. Arthur Elementary School was where Simon had hidden one of his bombs (a fake one, as it turns out) as a distraction.

In the end, McClane and Zeus outwit the cunning Simon, and once again, puzzle-solving skills save the day! Hooray!

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out our library of PuzzleNation apps and games!