For the past 24 years, the Royal Statistical Society has published a wickedly difficult Christmas quiz to entertain puzzle fans over the festive break – and this year’s challenge, set by Dr Tim Paulden, may well be one of the toughest yet. Cracking the thirteen problems below will require a blend of general knowledge, logic, and lateral thinking skills – but, as usual, no specialist mathematical knowledge is needed.
Two helpful tips for budding solvers:
- You may make use of any tools or resources you wish to help solve the problems, including books, internet search engines, computer programs, and so on.
- You may find several of the question titles helpful; for full credit, these titles should be briefly explained within your answers.
Prizes of £150 (for the winner) and £50 (for the runner-up) in Wiley book vouchers will be given to the two highest-scoring entries.
Acknowledgement: The quiz editor would like to thank David Edelman and Jon Nelson for their helpful contributions to this year’s quiz, particularly their in-depth scrutiny of the questions.
1. …GO! [10 points]
(a) What connects the following?
- A shaggy brown creature with a tall, yellow friend
- Chief of the ‘SRPD’ in a comedy whose title contains a quadruple repeat
- A furry toy modelled on Archie
- One whose company sells air, and whose name evokes an airport
- A janitor who loses a fight with Moses
- Orson’s bossy cousin, who enjoys distributing demerits
(b) Similarly, what connects the following?
- A lady of many faces – including Marie, Mary, and Marjorie
- The writer of the theme associated with Bill, Dan, Harold, and Ernie
- A founding member of the Vicious Circle, famous for her acerbic wit
- The female half of a notorious crime duo, whose car now stands at a casino
- One who tunefully satirised a sacred text, and gave Balthazar a voice
- An actress regularly seen alongside Kim, Kristin, and Cynthia
(c) In what context would you see a car with six wheels, a boat, and a horse receive the labels 1, 2, and 3 respectively? (Combine the answers to parts (a) and (b) for a clue.)
2. POLYMERISATION [4 points]
If 5 is IHNTOBBTTAS, and 10 is IDAATINELR, what will 20 be?
3. ROCK LEGENDS [9 points]
Identify the famous names from their (full) initials, and explain the outlandish arithmetic. Who is represented by the question mark?
4. CAN YOU DIG IT? [11 points]
Identify the following from the clues. What do all ten answers have in common?
- A cockerel of human dimensions, performed by a prolific informer
- William’s book (1956), Charles’s film (1957), or Mike & Al’s song (1971)
- Challenger first appeared here, over a century ago
- A cricketer, a rugby player, or a commentator
- 2001 boy-band album – a remix of “NOW FOR LOUD ROW”
- The official title of Guinness
- One who reigned for almost 999 million seconds
- King’s collection, ordered by cards
- The Bassett country residence, according to Plum
- ATR co-founder, name-checked by “The Tiger” between The Slits and Dickens
5. ... JOE [5 points]
(a) Identify the three film titles, one of which appears in (b). Beyond the first word, what connects them?
- GB, GC, JL, KC, KJO, LF, WS, & others (1988)
- EI, GC, JC, MP, TG, TJ, & others (1983)
- AG, ET, PU, RB, & others (1967)
(b) Which technically-minded comic book character (who’d feel at home in an earlier question) received a new name during 2008-2011 that will be a familiar term to the modern statistician?
6. INK-COGNITO [6 points]
While browsing the mathematics section of his local second-hand bookstore, Stefan stumbles upon a dusty leather-bound volume. Curious, he opens the book and notices that it has suffered significant damage at the hands of a previous owner, with some of the text being obscured by black ink blotches. As Stefan leafs through the pages, the following two lines catch his eye – the second of which has fallen victim to two particularly unfortunate blotches:
Always fond of a challenge, Stefan wonders whether it might be possible to figure out the values of the obscured numbers – assuming, of course, that both lines of numbers follow a consistent pattern. Can you help him out?
7. OD & DS [8 points]
Decipher the following wise words:
- Te bs tig aot big a saitca i ta yu gt t pa i eeyn's bcyr [Jh Tky]
- Pltcas ue saitc i te sm wy ta a duk ue lm-pss – fr spot rte ta ilmnto [Ade Ln]
- al ng ll ne ay be as ry or nt ip as he ty to ad nd te [rt ge ls]
- ns, ke ts, ve he ad it of ng in ve th ir ls [ge ox]
8. OLIVE (_____GREEN) [8 points]
What connects the following?
- The nickname of a gallant Australian (KW)
- Cantor's exploration of a Ukrainian
- Tartan taken on holiday in America
- Rorie's childhood sweetheart (19c)
- ‘Boat’ role played by Buddy
- 1960s success for John Nash Jnr (Arrow mentioned on line 2)
- One found by M and B after falling downstairs
- Compact but powerful NASA machine
Whose name is missing? What’s the connection with the first film in question 5a – and which other film ties the same individual to two names from question 1b (one directly, the other indirectly)?
9. STRENGTH IN NUMBERS [12 points]
(a) Explain the table below, and thus replace each question mark appropriately. (The inclusion of the item marked with an asterisk is debatable – why?)
(b) In a similar vein, identify the following:
- 0.636363636... (2014)
- 0.259259259... (2016)
- 30.397368307... (1991)
(c) Finally, which 2010 title from a masked Canadian is accurate only in base 14?
10. BIZARRE TALES [7 points]
Generate a collection of related names by transforming almost all of the words below:
Then, generate another related name from the word that’s left over.
Whose name is symbolised by what remains?
11. JUMPIN’ JIVES [6 points]
Even Stranger Things are going on in the table below. Can you explain, and fill in the empty cell?
12. GUIDING AMERICA [7 points]
(a) After visiting Boston, Baton Rouge, and Madison, why might a suitable next stop be a country in south-east Africa?
Similarly, after a trip to Charlotte Amalie, Hartford, Salem, and Des Moines, why might you be prompted to visit south-east Australia, the west coast of Canada, or two African landmarks (located, partially, in countries bordering the one above)?
Figuratively speaking, which island chain might provide added peace of mind for someone about to head down to Denver, Montgomery, Lansing, and Lincoln?
(b) If Equatorial Guinea is halfway between Angola and Mauritius, Norway is halfway between El Salvador and Iran, Fiji is halfway between Spain and Gabon, and Ireland is halfway between South Korea and French Guiana, which country is halfway between Saudi Arabia and the United States of America?
13. PRESENT PERFECT [7 points]
Following a catastrophic admin error at the grotto, Rudolph learns that he must make 25 last-minute present drops in the early hours of Christmas morning. (See diagram below.)
Rudolph stands initially on the square D4. On each move, he is allowed to either jump like a chess knight, or jump any number of squares ‘up’ the board (northwards). In other words, from his starting square D4, Rudolph could move next to any of the following eleven squares: B3, B5, C2, C6, E2, E6, F3, F5, D5, D6, or D7. (As a second example, if Rudolph were stood on A6, he could move next to B4, C5, C7, or A7.)
Naturally, Rudolph must land directly on a square to visit it – for instance, if he were to jump from D4 to D6 with his first move, he could tick off the present on D6 as ‘delivered’, but not the present on D5.
What is the smallest number of moves required for Rudolph to deliver all 25 presents and then return home to the North Pole (square D7) – and what route should he take?
Please be sure to include in your answer not only the number of moves in your shortest route, but also the sequence of squares that Rudolph visits along the way.