I’ve always liked what my teachers used to call brain teasers. They were usually logic problems or puzzles requiring creative thinking, deep knowledge, or paying close attention to clues (and usually all of the above) if I was going to have any hope of solving them. I read every Encyclopedia Brown and Hawkeye Collins & Amy Adams (Yes, that was her name) solve-it-yourself mystery book I could get my hands on. Actually, thanks to the Hawkeye Collins & Amy Adams books, I am quite good at reading mirror type. That’s how they printed the solutions, and I read a lot of them while in the car, so I didn’t have a mirror and…you get the idea.
As an adult, I didn’t run across brain teasers as often, but then several years ago, thanks to a web comic I was reading at the time, I discovered a puzzle competition sponsored by Canon Information Systems Research Australia (CiSRA). One week each year (except this one, unfortunately), they release four puzzles a day for five days. Only teams of Australian students are eligible to win the prizes, but the competition itself is open to everyone. As for the puzzles themselves, they range from the relatively simple to the damn near impossible (at least for me). All you know going in is that each one is a puzzle and that at the end you will end up with an English word, name, or phrase to submit to their solver. Beyond that, there are no instructions. Fortunately, they release hints for the puzzles, but even with those, I’m often stumped as to how to even begin to solve some of the puzzles. Of course, I’m just one guy working alone. Each year, teams solve every single puzzle without needing a hint. Those folks astound me.
A couple of weeks ago, the Sydney University Mathematics Society held their annual puzzle hunt (All three of the puzzle competitions I follow are out of Australia. I’m not sure if they’re just popular there, or if CiSRA inspired the other two), and a friend of mine, who was seeing the puzzles for the first time, asked if there was any kind of training puzzle to get him up to speed. There isn’t (Although, you can look at previous year’s puzzles and still use the solver to check your guesses.), so I created two puzzles of my own to introduce a few of the common techniques.
Here’s the first one. Remember, the solution will be an English word, name, or phrase.
1. Home for an elevator
2. Hoffman’s Roll
3. With theme by Falco?
4. Up now for Cincinnati: Dick Tracy
5. James Bond: Space Marshall
6. Paging Adele Dazeem
7. Attack on…GROSS!
8. #2 and #4 bomb in the desert
9. No Soundwave? No thanks!
10. Ocean’s other 11
11. #6 is drawn to Cyclops.
If you are looking at that with no idea how to get started, don’t worry. I will post a couple of hints at the bottom of tomorrow’s Pick of the Week post.
For those of you who figured it out, let’s move on to the second one. The basic puzzle concept is the same. If you know how to do the first one, you know how to do this one. Getting to the final answer, though, will require one more step in your thinking.
He Left A Trail
1. That’s how you define “good,” Mr. Hill? $5,000,000
2. Wielder of Mew-mew? $4,000,000
3. My stepmother is one, too, Ripley $3,000,000
4. Anyone know how to get pig blood out of a prom dress? $6,000,000
5. I dreamed a dream about a dream in a dream $2,000,000
6. Heaven does not welcome Bourne and Batman $1,000,000
7. Actually, I was not entertained $8,000,000
8. Rogers’ pretend monarch $1,000,000
9. Gilderoy’s great Dane $5,000,000
10. Cameron creates a world of cash $4,000,000
As I said, I will put hints at the bottom of tomorrow’s Pick of the Week post, and next Sunday I will walk through the solutions. Good luck!
- Alan Decker
@CmdrAJD on Twitter