RSS Christmas Quiz 2019: How many puzzles did you solve?

Written by Web News Editor on . Posted in Features

In December, we published the 2019 edition of the Royal Statistical Society’s Christmas Quiz - a diabolically tough collection of puzzles devised by Dr Tim Paulden. How many did you manage to crack?

(If you would like to take another look at the quiz before seeing the solutions, the questions are still available on this page.)

Once again, we were delighted to receive a large number of high-quality entries, but both markers and the StatsLife team were agreed that the various prizes should be distributed as follows:

Best non-RSS entry, and overall first place: The team comprising Paul Melamud, Charles Steinhardt, Nick Poulos, Joseph DeVincentis, and Andrew McManus - who win a print subscription to Significance magazine plus a £50 Wiley book voucher, in recognition of their almost flawless set of solutions.

Best 'RSS fellow' entry: The team comprising Mark Payton, Gordon Emslie, and Merrall Price - who win a £150 Wiley book voucher.

Runners-up: The team comprising Sam Knott and Andy Knott - who win an e-subscription to Significance magazine.

Congratulations!

In addition, the quizmaster will be making a charitable donation of £250, to be split equally between the ten good causes nominated by this year's top-ten entrants (listed below, in alphabetical order). If you have enjoyed the puzzles in this year's quiz, please do consider making a small donation to one of these good causes - or another charity close to your heart.

  • Alzheimer’s Research UK (nominated by Jonny White, Patrick Gildersleve, Tom Barrett, David Nandi, and Jake Barrett)
  • GiveWell (nominated by Sam Knott and Andy Knott)
  • Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity (nominated by Paul Melamud, Charles Steinhardt, Nick Poulos, Joseph DeVincentis, and Andrew McManus)
  • Green Schools Project (nominated by Robert Lang)
  • John Speak Language Trust (nominated by Mark Rushworth)
  • MND Association (nominated by David Harris)
  • RSPCA (nominated by Mark Payton, Gordon Emslie, and Merrall Price)
  • Shelter (nominated by James Taverner and Mattias Andersson)
  • Thames Valley Hospice (nominated by Jonathan Wells)
  • The Forest Foodbank, run by Coleford Baptist Church (nominated by Ian Davies)

And now - finally - the solutions! For convenience of browsing, we have included the text of each question below, followed by an overview of the solution.

 

Q1.  WELCOME TO THE TWENTIES  [5 points]

The glittering New Year countdown clock in Rome runs into an unfortunate fault less than four minutes before midnight (see image). The fault means that the speed of the clock's second hand will increase by 25% every time it passes the minute hand, at the precise instant that the two hands are pointing in the same direction. (The clock's hands all move continuously, rather than in discrete ticks, and the speeds of the minute hand and hour hand are unaffected by the fault.)

At the stroke of midnight - which, luckily, is governed by the position of the hour hand - revellers notice that the second hand isn't pointing upwards, but is instead pointing almost exactly to one of the sets of numerals on the edge of the clock. Which one?

 

SOLUTION:

A careful calculation (or computer simulation) shows that the second hand will pass the minute hand seven times before midnight, at approximately 23:56:56.95, 23:57:45.60, 23:58:24.41, 23:58:55.40, 23:59:20.14, 23:59:39.91, and 23:59:55.71 - and at the stroke of midnight, it will be pointing almost exactly to the symbol “IV”.

The question title, “Welcome to the Twenties”, does not simply refer to the start of the new decade - as numerous solvers noted, the “IV” mark denotes the beginning of the “twenties” on the clock (in terms of the number of minutes past the hour or seconds past the minute).

The above observations were enough to secure the full 5 points, but there was an extra “Easter egg” hidden in the question image: the time remaining until midnight corresponds to the fastest time ever set for running the mile (3 minutes 43.13 seconds), which was clocked by Hicham El Guerrouj in Rome (as per the first sentence of the question) back in July 1999. Astonishingly, this record has therefore also recently entered its “twenties”.

Question 1 contributes the letter-pattern “IV” to the overarching sentence.

 

 

Q2.  Y.I.  [4 points]

In what context might you have seen the entries in the table below?

14:  A, B, C, E, E, S, S, Z

15:  -

16:  S, S

17:  A, A, C, D, G, N

18:  F

19:  B, B, N, T

20:  -

(For the overarching sentence, abbreviate your answer to two letters in the natural way.)

 

SOLUTION:

The initial letters represent the new entries to the house in the television series Geordie Shore, from season 14 to season 20 inclusive. For example, the new entries to the house in season 14 were Abbie, Billy, Chelsea, Elettra, Eve, Sam, Sarah and Zahida; there were no new entries in season 15; the new entries in season 16 were (a different) Sam and Steph; and so on.

The question title “Y.I.” is a homophone of the classic Geordie phrase, “Whey Aye” (which, incidentally, is also the name of the recently announced observation wheel planned for Newcastle’s quayside - set to be the largest in Europe).

Question 2 contributes the letter-pattern “GS” to the overarching sentence.

 

 

Q3.  CHOICE CUTS  [7 points]

Identify the two-letter pattern that can be removed to transform:

- a 13th-century English sculptor into a Swiss folk hero

- a 60-year-old animated heroine into a tyrant’s daughter

- a celebrated game designer into a director who married his lead vampire

- an Emmy-winning jazz trumpeter into an actor who voices a mud-loving puppy

- a South Shetland Islands feature into a 1960s political musical (which inspired another)

- a member of a famous 17th-century group into a copywriter who created a Christmas icon

 

SOLUTION:

In each case, the letter pattern “OR” - suggested by the word “choice” in the title - can be “cut” out to transform the first clued item into the second:

  • WILLIAM TORELL (an English sculptor working in the late 13th century) becomes WILLIAM TELL (the well-known Swiss folk hero)
  • PRINCESS AURORA (also known as “Sleeping Beauty”, star of the animated film released by Disney in 1959) becomes PRINCESS AURA (daughter of Ming the Merciless)
  • LOREN WISEMAN (co-founder of Game Designers’ Workshop) becomes LEN WISEMAN (the “Underworld” director, who married Kate Beckinsale)
  • ORBERT DAVIS (who won an Emmy for the soundtrack to “DuSable to Obama: Chicago's Black Metropolis”) becomes BERT DAVIS (the voice of Diesel on “101 Dalmation Street”)
  • VIETOR ROCK (a rock in the South Shetland Islands) becomes VIET ROCK (a political musical which served as the inspiration to “Hair”)
  • ROBERT MORAY (a member of the “1660 committee of 12”, which was instrumental in establishing the Royal Society) becomes ROBERT MAY (the creator of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer)

Question 3 contributes the letter-pattern “OR” to the overarching sentence.

 

 

Q4.  DISPOSSESSED  [5 points]

What does the diagram below depict? (Note: The positions of the blue regions are not precise.)

(For the overarching sentence, abbreviate your answer to two letters in the natural way. If sources conflict on the nomenclature, please use the version that appears latest alphabetically.)

 

SOLUTION:

If the scale is regarded as a timeline running between the years 1750 and 1900 (with the decades and centuries marked by extended lines in the natural way), then the nine blue regions represent the intervals 1779–1781, 1789–1793, 1799–1803, and so on, through to 1877–1879. These are the dates of the nine “Xhosa Wars”, which took place between the Xhosa Kingdom and European settlers, in what is now South Africa’s Eastern Cape.

These wars are known by various alternative names such as the “Wars of Dispossession” (as hinted at by the question title) or the “Frontier Wars”. However, based on the bracketed note at the end of the question, solvers should have opted for the name “Xhosa Wars”, which appears latest alphabetically.

Question 4 contributes the letter-pattern “XW” to the overarching sentence.

 

 

Q5.  BPHGG LOEOO URDBE RNOTS  [10 points]

Decode the three quotes below. Who uttered them?

(For the overarching sentence, abbreviate your answer to two letters by taking the initial letter of the person’s first name and last name.)

DIYBI PTMDT HHXVV CGTTW EYJAT BEBTH PMALH EHWED TAPYY HISPJ BBMDS XHBIM PVIIH WOYEB ISHSI XSTEA HBHXV PIWHV IYIWO WHLID DATHH YPBYE OPMIT HGIDI HIBEV EVDPT HSPTG IMNPW IVHXP HIWEN

HYMYM DEHEW IMWIT PVIIB IZYPM EHJPP DSVDM KPLEY TBIWP DHBHD IYDYI VITIB PANCB HCKIT JMTEB JWHTD CDISV CSDII BBPPH TQYXD TIKHD HETWY THSWT CHKIJ HDIWQ WAMJH WEHPP YWWAI BIIQP YYBLI QHIPO EDDBW TEYIY MATCQ TYIYO TEKPJ SDPHH BDMYM DTIYX HPYPJ OHAIT VBIAO IIHEE GIWSD HIEBI WIHDD TEHWP DHWAV IPEHA EEHBW TIWWD IHEVQ HEDBH TTWOW EPEHO IDCBH XYCEH KCIIT JKYIT HWIIA TMMHI DYPSJ

HPHTB SQPSW PTAIM PWECD PDSHD VXSXM IEXSI DGQQE TSTAD XPGEN CIIJH WFEBJ BJYHI BEMTP HXEWI EHSMX EYSBB IIHEY MMWKE VTEIX TDHHL PIDPJ BVHOO JMJTI YBNSP HJNCI KVXTP IWTTI BAJDD

 

SOLUTION:

Question 5 was possibly the toughest puzzle in this year’s quiz, but it was successfully cracked by a handful of solvers - congratulations!

The strange question title represents the words BOUSTROPHEDON BOGGLER, encoded using a “double boustrophedon” transformation (appropriately enough). In other words, if the four five-letter chunks in the title are alternately written left-to-right and right-to-left in a snake-like pattern to form the grid shown below, then the words BOUSTROPHEDON BOGGLER appear if you read off the columns in a similar manner (alternating between top-to-bottom and bottom-to-top):

Solution5 150

(For further information on “boustrophedon” format, see the Wikipedia page here.)

To decode the quotes, solvers therefore had to follow a two-step process: firstly, rewrite each encoded quote using the double boustrophedon transformation (as described above) to obtain the cipher text; secondly, recover the original quote by cracking the simple letter-substitution cipher that was applied to create the cipher text. This second step can be performed very quickly using a range of online tools, e.g. guballa.de/substitution-solver - these tools cannot, however, decipher the original encoded quotes given in the question, as the adjacencies of the letters have been scrambled by the double boustrophedon transformation.

For example, consider the first encoded quote in the question, which comprises 150 letters (starting “DIYBI…” and finishing “…HIWEN”). The cipher text that results from performing the double boustrophedon transformation on this quote is the following string of 150 letters (grouped into chunks of five letters for ease of reading):

DTHWE HPDTJ BMPBI AHVID DEOIH THWIN EVPSP IDPYA IYHBE SEVIB PAEMT YTHDI YMXTJ BAWPS MBIYH THWIL TBMIB DPNHW IXMTV EGIPH HWIXS SOIHD IYHLE AGVTB IPVCT BHEYH SXHWI XVPOW HYTHV EGIPH

When this cipher text is run through one of the online substitution cipher solvers, the original quote is quickly found to be the following (with punctuation omitted):

SO THAT IS OUR DIRECT MESSAGE TO THE FAMILIES IN CENTRAL AMERICA DO NOT SEND YOUR CHILDREN TO THE BORDERS IF THEY DO MAKE IT THEYLL GET SENT BACK MORE IMPORTANTLY THEY MIGHT NOT MAKE IT

By applying a similar procedure to the second encoded quote, we obtain:

THERE IS NO SERIOUS PERSON OUT THERE WHO WOULD SUGGEST SOMEHOW THAT YOU COULD EVEN RIG AMERICAS ELECTIONS IN PART BECAUSE THEYRE SO DECENTRALIZED AND THE NUMBERS OF VOTES INVOLVED THERES NO EVIDENCE THAT THAT HAS HAPPENED IN THE PAST OR THAT THERE ARE INSTANCES IN WHICH THAT WILL HAPPEN THIS TIME AND SO ID ADVISE MR TRUMP TO STOP WHINING AND GO TRY TO MAKE HIS CASE TO GET VOTES

Finally, for the third encoded quote, we obtain:

THIS IDEA OF PURITY AND YOURE NEVER COMPROMISED AND YOURE ALWAYS POLITICALLY WOKE AND ALL THAT STUFF YOU SHOULD GET OVER THAT QUICKLY THE WORLD IS MESSY THERE ARE AMBIGUITIES

The substitution cipher being applied in all three cases is shown by the mapping below:

Solution5 Mapping

(For instance, the first two words of the first quote - “SO THAT” - would be encoded as “DT HWEH”, and indeed, these were the first six characters of the corresponding ciphertext.)

All three quotes - perhaps surprisingly - were uttered by Barack Obama, whose name can be abbreviated in the specified manner to give the letter pattern “BO”. (Note that this letter pattern is also hinted at by the initial letters of the decoded question title, “BOUSTROPHEDON BOGGLER”.)

As noted by a couple of solvers, Obama’s appearance in this question is foreshadowed by the fourth part of Question 3 (via the soundtrack title, “DuSable to Obama: Chicago’s Black Metropolis”). The quizmaster also enjoyed the interesting and timely link that one solver drew between the quotes and the boustrophedon encoding, in that they highlight “how the same things are viewed very differently depending on whether you approach them from the left or the right (of politics)”.

Question 5 contributes the letter-pattern “BO” to the overarching sentence.

 

 

Q6.  NO TROUBLE  [4 points]

Which two letters might you see intertwined in the centre if P (GC), Y (WC), R (QC), and B (MC) appear around the outside?

SOLUTION:

You might see the letters “OZ” intertwined in the centre, if you are looking at the flag for the Land of Oz (from the Wizard of Oz books by L. Frank Baum) – the outside of this flag is divided diagonally into four regions coloured Purple (Gillikin Country), Yellow (Winkie Country), Red (Quadling Country) and Blue (Munchkin Country), as per the description in the question.

(Although sources are not fully consistent in their descriptions of the Oz flag, the picture of the flag released in 1920 in conjunction with “Glinda of Oz” has an eight-sided green emerald at the centre, on which the letters O and Z are intertwined in white - see here.)

The question title - “no trouble” - is a reference to the dialogue from “The Wizard of Oz” film, moments before Dorothy (Judy Garland) sings “Over the Rainbow”. After Auntie Em tells Dorothy to “find yourself a place where you won’t get into any trouble”, Dorothy walks away and says to her dog Toto: “Someplace where there isn’t any trouble… do you suppose there is such a place, Toto?”

(Some solvers proposed the neat idea that the question title was a reference to the letters “NO” being rotated and rearranged to create “OZ” - this interpretation was of course also awarded the point.)

Question 6 contributes the letter-pattern “OZ” to the overarching sentence.

 

 

Q7.  MERRY HEX-MAS  [6 points]

As a special Christmas treat, Sisyphus has been granted a break from his usual rock-pushing duties. Instead, he has been asked to work up through the 2853-times-table (i.e. 2853, 5706, 8559, 11412, and so on) until he finds a number in which every digit is a six. Eventually - much to his astonishment - he succeeds. Determine how many sixes appear in the number that he finds.

(For the overarching sentence, convert your answer into hexadecimal - e.g. 171 would become AB.)

 

SOLUTION:

Sisyphus will eventually find that the number composed of 237 consecutive sixes belongs to the 2853-times-table.

While solvers obtained the above answer in a variety of different ways, perhaps the neatest approach is to consider successive strings of sixes - 6666, 66666, 666666, and so on - and the remainders obtained when these numbers are divided by 2853 (or, in official mathematical jargon, considering the numbers “modulo 2853”). If this remainder ever hits zero, then our current number must clearly be in the 2853-times-table, and we have found the desired answer.

It turns out - perhaps surprisingly - that each successive remainder can be deduced from the previous one via a simple rule, without us needing to manipulate increasingly large numbers.

Before we illustrate this idea, let us first calculate directly what these remainders are for the first three strings of sixes that are larger than 2853 (namely, 6666, 66666, and 666666):

For N = 6666, the remainder (on dividing by 2853) is 6666 - (2 x 2853) = 960

For N = 66666, the remainder (on dividing by 2853) is 66666 - (23 x 2853) = 1047

For N = 666666, the remainder (on dividing by 2853) is 666666 - (233 x 2853) = 1917

Unfortunately, this direct approach to the calculation will become harder and harder to accomplish as the strings of sixes become longer and longer.

We now observe that instead, we can figure out the second remainder (i.e. 1047) from the first one (i.e. 960) by applying the following simple rule: multiply the current remainder by 10, add on 6, and then find the remainder for the resulting number (on dividing by 2853, as always).

Let’s try the rule out. Starting with the current remainder, 960, the rule asks us to work out (10 x 960) + 6 = 9606, and then find the remainder (on dividing by 2853) for this number, which is 9606 - (3 x 2853) = 1047. We see that the answer we get - namely, 1047 - correctly matches the result of the direct calculation we did above.

Let’s quickly try it out one more time. Starting with our current remainder, 1047, the rule tells us to work out (10 x 1047) + 6 = 10476, and then find the remainder (on dividing by 2853) for this number, which is 10476 - (3 x 2853) = 1917. Once again, we match the result of the direct calculation without having to deal with overly large numbers – specifically, we needed to work out the remainder for the number 10476, rather than for the much larger number 666666 in the direct calculation.

In simple terms, the reason this iterative rule works is that the successive strings of sixes themselves follow a “multiply by 10, add 6” pattern - for instance, (10 x 6666) + 6 = 66666, and so on - and it can be shown (using a mathematical idea called “modular arithmetic”) that the remainders will obey an equivalent pattern.

By continuing the iterative procedure described above, we are effectively able to analyse longer and longer strings of sixes without the numbers ever getting large - and we eventually find that a remainder of zero is achieved for a string of 237 sixes.

An abridged version of the calculation appears below, with N being written in shorthand (in the obvious way) where needed:

For N = 6666, the remainder (on dividing by 2853) is 6666 - (2 x 2853) = 960

For N = 66666, the remainder is the same (by the rule above) as for (10 x 960) + 6 = 9606, which is 9606 - (3 x 2853) = 1047

For N = 666666, the remainder is the same as for (10 x 1047) + 6 = 10476, which is 10476 - (3 x 2853) = 1917

For N = 6666666, the remainder is the same as for (10 x 1917) + 6 = 19176, which is 10476 - (6 x 2853) = 2058

For N = 66666666, the remainder is the same as for (10 x 2058) + 6 = 20586, which is 20586 - (7 x 2853) = 615

For N = {9 sixes}, the remainder is the same as for (10 x 615) + 6 = 6156, which is 450

For N = {10 sixes}, the remainder is the same as for (10 x 450) + 6 = 4506, which is 1653

[Here, we omit 223 similar intermediate steps, each with a non-zero remainder]

For N = {234 sixes}, the remainder is the same as for (10 x 1803) + 6 = 18036, which is 918

For N = {235 sixes}, the remainder is the same as for (10 x 918) + 6 = 9186, which is 627

For N = {236 sixes}, the remainder is the same as for (10 x 627) + 6 = 6276, which is 570

For N = {237 sixes}, the remainder is the same as for (10 x 570) + 6 = 5706, which is 0

Therefore, the number composed of 237 consecutive sixes is the first one that belongs to the 2853-times-table, and converting 237 from decimal into hexadecimal gives the two-letter pattern “ED” as the final answer.

In addition to the question title being a pun on “Merry Xmas”, the “hex” component of the title has a dual relevance: the question concerns strings of sixes, and hexadecimal format is often referred to as “hex” for short.

Question 7 contributes the letter-pattern “ED” to the overarching sentence.

 

 

Q8.  PEN-NAMES  [7 points]

Identify the initials (first name, last name) shared by the writers of the following:

- A lengthy novel whose 29 chapters add up to 120, and whose title is also divisible by 29

- A re-imagining of a legend from a yellow book, in which a group visits a series of bizarre islands

- A book with a powerful title whose initial letters are entirely logical

- An award-winning novella whose name comes from a late 19th-century poem

- A recent book that opens on 25/12/2018 with Scarlett reading a 26-word sign outside a pub

 

SOLUTION:

The common initials are “PA”, with the five works being:

  • “4321” by Paul Auster, whose 29 chapters are numbered with the following values {1.0, 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4, …, 7.1, 7.2, 7.3, 7.4}
  • “The Voyage of Mael Duin's Curragh” by Patricia Aakhus, which is a re-imagining of “Immram curaig Máele Dúin” from The Yellow Book of Lecan
  • “Two To The Fifth” by Piers Anthony, whose title is “powerful” because it represents two to the power of five (i.e. 32), and its initial letters are all T (TRUE) or F (FALSE)
  • “No Truce with Kings” by Poul Anderson, whose title comes from the 1899 Rudyard Kipling poem “The Old Issue”
  • “A Perfect Cornish Christmas” by Phillipa Ashley, published in 2019, which begins with Scarlett Latham reading a sign on the door of the Smuggler’s Tavern (see here)

To fully explain the title, solvers should have noted that in addition to all five individuals being writers (and thus “pen-names”), their common initials PA serve as the abbreviation for Pennsylvania - making them also “Penn” names.

Question 8 contributes the letter-pattern “PA” to the overarching sentence.

 

 

Q9.  A.N.T.M.  [4 points]

The current year, 2019, consists entirely of ones when written in a particular fictional system. Identify the individual whose invention apparently sparked this system.

(For the overarching sentence, abbreviate your answer in the natural way.)

 

SOLUTION:

In the “Anno Ford” calendar system described in Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World”, the year 2019 AD would be written as 111 AF, since the calendar commences in 1908 AD when the first Ford Model T rolled off the assembly line. The individual to be identified is therefore Henry Ford, which abbreviates to HF.

The letters “A.N.T.M.” in the title conventionally stand for “America’s Next Top Model” - an apt description of the Model T car itself, at the time it came out. (Some solvers also noted the sparkling coincidence that one of the prizes historically offered on the A.N.T.M. show was a modelling contract with “Ford Models”.)

Question 9 contributes the letter-pattern “HF” to the overarching sentence.

 

 

Q10.  SUBLIME LIFTER  [6 points]

Identify the number of the event that subsequently received a four-character nickname which appears to equal a square. The month of the event is a song by an artist whose first comprises a primitive four-letter word (in the language of a related number) followed by the answer, and whose second is built from other such numbers.

(How is the answer linked to a prime-numbered element of a work featuring elsewhere in the quiz?)

 

SOLUTION:

The answer is the Roman numeral “LI” (representing the number 51).

The first sentence is a reference to the infamous “Super Bowl LI”, in which the New England Patriots staged the largest comeback in Super Bowl history to beat the Atlanta Falcons. The game is often known by the four-character nickname “28-3” after the lead that was blown by the Falcons, which appears to equal a square (namely, 25) if the third character is treated as a subtraction sign.

In terms of deciphering the second sentence, the month of Super Bowl LI was February 2017, which is the name of a recently released track by the artist Charli XCX. Ignoring upper / lower case, her first name comprises the four-letter word “char” (a primitive in the programming language C, which is a “related number” in that it is also a Roman numeral), followed by the answer to the question (namely, “LI”), and her second name, XCX, is also “built from other such numbers”.

Turning to the final bracketed sentence, the answer to the question (LI) coincides with the chemical abbreviation for Lithium (Li), if case is ignored – this is not only element number 3 in the Periodic Table (and so a “prime-numbered element”), but Lithium is a prime-numbered element (namely, the fifth) of the work featuring in Question 16, as we shall see later.

Finally, the two words in the question title not only both include the letter pattern “LI” (as noted by several solvers), but also have synonyms that together represent the question theme: juxtaposing SUBLIME = SUPERB and LIFTER = OWL gives SUPERBOWL.

Question 10 contributes the letter-pattern “LI” to the overarching sentence.

 

 

Q11.  A CHRISTMAS CAROL  [7 points]

What name connects the three stylised images below - and how?

(For the overarching sentence, abbreviate your answer in the natural way.)

SOLUTION:

The name connecting the three stylised images is “Charles King”.

Charles Brady King (1868-1957) was an American engineer and automotive pioneer who is credited as the inventor of the jackhammer, and the first image depicts a portion of the patent drawing for this invention. (See the drawing here.) As some solvers noted, Charles Brady King served as a mentor to Henry Ford, from Question 9.

Brigadier-General Charles King (1844-1933) was a US soldier and writer, and the second image shows an illustration of him on a poster advertising the “Christmas Number” of Ainslee's Magazine, which serialised his novel “Ten Years’ Trial, or The Story of a Soldier’s Struggle”. (See the image of the poster here.)

Finally, Charles Bird King (1785-1862) was an American portrait artist, and the third image shows a rotated and recoloured portion of his painting “The Vanity of the Artist’s Dream”. (See the image of the painting here.)

The surname King is hinted at by the distinctive crowns - in the shape of chess kings - at the top of the frames, and of course, the “Christmas carol” referenced in the question title is “We Three Kings”.

(Some solvers noted that the name “Carol” is itself a European continental spelling of the English name “Charles”, and so - seeing as this is a Christmas Quiz - each of these individuals could be very loosely described as being a “Christmas Carol”.)

Question 11 contributes the letter-pattern “CK” to the overarching sentence.

 

 

Q12.  CALL ME  [6 points]

Who might you reach at the following numbers?

473467976484

642423522463

326227835526382

9224425434262547

72663455

339273667866

5833529

3742786589

37265427737

7383734784

2363342828623722824

What name connects all of them - and how?

(For the overarching sentence, reduce the name to its first two letters only.)

 

SOLUTION:

As hinted at by the question title, “Call Me”, the numbers should be converted into names via the (one-to-many) mapping defined by a standard telephone keypad: 2 = A/B/C, 3 = D/E/F, and so on, through to 9 = W/X/Y/Z.

Under this mapping, the eleven numbers represent the following famous names: Gregory Smith, Michael Caine, Dan Castellaneta, Zach Galifianakis, Sam Neill, Edward Norton, Jude Law, Eric Stolz, Frank Harper, Peter Firth, and Benedict Cumberbatch.

The name connecting them is “Alan”, because all eleven individuals have played a character called Alan in a high-profile film (and, moreover, the eleven Alans are ordered alphabetically by surname):

  • Gregory Smith played Alan Abernathy in “Small Soldiers”
  • Michael Caine played Alan Breck in “Kidnapped”
  • Dan Castellaneta played Alan Frakesh in “The Pursuit of Happyness”
  • Zach Galifianakis played Alan Garner in “The Hangover”
  • Sam Neill played Alan Grant in “Jurassic Park”
  • Edward Norton played Alan Isaacman in “The People vs Larry Flynt”
  • Jude Law played Alan Krumwiede in “Contagion”
  • Eric Stoltz played Alan MacDonald in “Rob Roy”
  • Frank Harper played Alan Paxton in “Bend It Like Beckham”
  • Peter Firth played Alan Strang in “Equus”
  • Benedict Cumberbatch played Alan Turing in “The Imitation Game”

Reducing “Alan” to its first two letters gives “Al” - which tees up a final connection back to the question title via the famous Paul Simon song “You Can Call Me Al”.

Question 12 contributes the letter-pattern “AL” to the overarching sentence. 

 

 

Q13.  TIME SIGNATURE  [5 points]

Some surprising numbers have started to appear on my CD player:

02:00, 02:32:30, 01:31, 13:10, 23:20, 00:30

Can you identify a character who might be able to fix it?

 

SOLUTION:

Prompted by the word “signature” in the title, if we treat the numbers as (x,y)-coordinates to be joined by a pen stroke (e.g. 02:00 means that a stroke should be drawn from (0,2) to (0,0), and so on), the resulting pattern is the Chinese character “Qu” (meaning “song” - very appropriately, given the question’s musical framing), drawn in the conventional stroke order. (For an animation demonstrating this, see here.)

The reason that this “character” might be able to fix the problem is that “Qu” is also the name of the technician and gadget supplier to the History Monks in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books (specifically, “Thief of Time” and “Night Watch”) and a proven expert at manipulating time. The reference to a CD (“compact disc”) player is a hidden clue to this Discworld connection, and “surprising numbers” is a nod to the fact that the founder of the History Monks’ monastery is “Wen the Eternally Surprised”.

Question 13 contributes the letter-pattern “QU” to the overarching sentence.

 

 

Q14.  SUPER NATURALS  [4 points]

The sequence of natural numbers below represents the opening sentence of a book. Can you identify it?

3,6,5,5,3,3,3,7,11,5,2,2,4,3,3,5,2,3,2,1,4,2,3,4,4,1,4,4,4,1,5,2,9,8,4,1,6,7,4,4

(Hint: Someone clued earlier in the quiz has a parent whose name is reminiscent of the book’s author.)

 

SOLUTION:

Stephen King’s supernatural novel “It” has the following opening sentence, whose word lengths match the given sequence of numbers: “The terror, which would not end for another twenty-eight years - if it ever did end - began, so far as I know or can tell, with a boat made from a sheet of newspaper floating down a gutter swollen with rain.”

Several solvers noted that the solution was hiding in plain sight in the second sentence, with the cheeky phrasing, “Can you identify it?” Congratulations to those who spotted this.

Finally, the bracketed hint is a reference to Princess Aurora (clued in the second part of Question 3), whose father’s name is King Stefan - clearly reminiscent of Stephen King.

Question 14 contributes the letter-pattern “IT” to the overarching sentence.

 

 

Q15.  BROUGHT TO LIFE  [6 points]

Identify the creator of the work represented in the image below:

(For the overarching sentence, abbreviate your answer in the natural way.)

What is the festive connection between this creator and the creator of an earlier answer?

 

SOLUTION:

The image represents the characters from the 80s children’s TV show SuperTed, with the initials indicating who voiced each character in the English language version of the show (as opposed to the Welsh original).

The white area of the image represents the four heroes: SuperTed (indicated by the outline of his distinctive emblem), voiced by Derek Griffiths; Spotty, voiced by Jon Pertwee; Blotch, voiced by Sheila Steafel; and Mother Nature, also voiced by Sheila Steafel. The black area of the image represents the three villains: Texas Pete, voiced by Victor Spinetti; Skeleton, voiced by Melvyn Hayes; and Bulk, voiced by Roy Kinnear. The grey, “neutral” area in the middle represents the Narrator, voiced by Peter Hawkins.

The creator of SuperTed is Mike Young, which abbreviates to “MY”.

The festive connection alluded to in the final sentence is the fact that Mike Young was the executive producer for “The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus”, which was based on the novel by L. Frank Baum - the creator of Oz from Question 6.

Question 15 contributes the letter-pattern “MY” to the overarching sentence.

 

 

Q16.  DON’T WORRY  [4 points]

Identify the name of the obscure addition by C, N and G that changed 12 from 232 to 1235.

(For the overarching sentence, abbreviate your answer in the natural way.)

 

SOLUTION:

Nirvana’s 1991 album “Nevermind” (whose title is synonymous with the question title, “Don’t Worry”) had a hidden track called “Endless, Nameless” added in later pressings. Written by Cobain, Novoselic and Grohl (the “C, N and G” of the question), the inclusion of this hidden track had the effect of increasing the length of track 12 from 3:52 (or 232 seconds) to 20:35 (or 1235 seconds). Of course, the track’s name abbreviates naturally to “EN”.

Finally, linking back to the bracketed sentence at the end of Question 10, the fifth track of the “Nevermind” album is entitled “Lithium” - making it “a prime-numbered element” of the work.

Question 16 contributes the letter-pattern “EN” to the overarching sentence.

 

 

BONUS QUESTION: OVERARCHING SENTENCE  [10 points]

The sixteen questions above (Q1 - Q16) have been designed such that each answer contributes a short letter pattern (after abbreviation, in some instances) towards an overarching sentence. To reveal this sentence, rearrange the sixteen patterns into an appropriate order, after performing an alphabetic shift on one of them.

What is the sentence?

How is the sentence connected to an individual clued earlier in the quiz?

Finally, can you find a hidden reference somewhere to a work in which the sentence plays a key role?

 

SOLUTION:

The letter patterns derived from the sixteen solutions all comprise two letters, as follows:

  • Q1. IV
  • Q2. GS
  • Q3. OR
  • Q4. XW
  • Q5. BO
  • Q6. OZ
  • Q7. ED
  • Q8. PA
  • Q9. HF
  • Q10. LI
  • Q11. CK
  • Q12. AL
  • Q13. QU
  • Q14. IT
  • Q15. MY
  • Q16. EN

After performing an alphabetic shift of nine places to transform the answer for Question 12 from AL into JU (an extra complication that was added to frustrate an anagram-based attack), the sixteen patterns can then be rearranged to form the overarching sentence:

PACK MY BOX WITH FIVE DOZEN LIQUOR JUGS

Despite having just 32 letters, this sentence is (famously) a pangram - i.e. it features all 26 letters of the alphabet - as hinted at by the term “overarching sentence”. A fitting way to mark 26 years of the RSS Christmas Quiz!

There is a further alphabetic connection to be spotted, too: the order in which the patterns are placed to create the sentence is “appropriate” because it orders the question numbers alphabetically by their names in English: i.e. EIGHT, ELEVEN, FIFTEEN, FIVE, FOUR, and so on through to THREE, TWELVE, and TWO.

On the follow-up question of how the sentence is connected to an individual clued earlier in the quiz, the author Piers Anthony (from Question 8) is the only author to have a published novel starting with every letter of the alphabet, and in addition, he is credited with the shortest “pangrammatic window” (i.e. a stretch of text that contains all letters of the alphabet) in a published work, which occurs within his book “Cube Route”.

Turning to the final question, the substitution cipher in Question 5 provides the hidden reference to a work in which the pangrammatic sentence above plays a key role. As noted earlier, this cipher is represented by the following mapping:

Solution5 Mapping

(Thus, the letter A in the original text is mapped to a ciphertext E, the letter B in the original text is mapped to a ciphertext L, and so on.)

As described at the Wikipedia page here, it is common to construct the bottom row of such a substitution cipher by writing out a “keyword” (with repeated letters ignored), and following it with the remaining letters of the alphabet in order. In the specific cipher represented above, the keyword being used is in fact a “keyphrase” - namely, the full title of the book “Ella Minnow Pea: A Progressively Lipogrammatic Epistolary Fable” by Mark Dunn. The plot of this book (spoiler alert!) centres around a quest to locate a pangram of 32 letters, and the climax of the story is Ella’s discovery of the sentence “Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs” within one of her father’s letters.

To close, we highlight two further connections with other elements of the quiz (which were not worth any points, but included just for fun).

Firstly, the name “Ella Minnow Pea” is of course a representation of the sequence of letters “LMNOP” from the “Alphabet Song” commonly sung by children. The fact that these letters are sung noticeably faster than the others recently gave rise to the popular “LMNOP” internet meme in Autumn 2019 (see here, and an example here), used to indicate that something is particularly fast or faster than expected – exactly like the second hand of the clock in Question 1 (and indeed, the historic mile run on which the clock time is based).

Secondly - and finally - one would imagine that a box packed with no fewer than sixty liquor jugs would be fairly large and hefty… similar to, perhaps, the one being carried by Santa in this year’s main quiz image?

 

The 2019 RSS Christmas Quiz was devised by Dr Tim Paulden.

 

Christmas Quiz

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