Kominers’ Conundrums: Something New From Overlapping Clues

In “before-and-after” riddles, you’re given an unusual-sounding clue that represents the fusion of two people, places, phrases or things. The answer is a literal fusion: the last part of the first half of the answer overlaps with the first part of the second half.

This can work in lots of different ways. The simplest version is when there’s a full word’s worth of overlap, such as in “Land Before Time After Time,” which we might clue as “animated dinosaurs in a popular children’s film perform cover of Cyndi Lauper love ballad.”  

Other answers might have one part partially overlap a word in the other part. For example, “70s organized crime trilogy remixed with 90s comedy film starring Steve Martin and Diane Keaton” would be “The Godfather of the Bride.”

And the hardest before-and-after form really jams the two halves together, with partial overlap on either side. Who’s “a famous Spanish artist known for founding the Cubist movement and starring in a movie about Facebook?” “Pablo Picassocial Network,” of course!

To solve these sorts of clues, you can work from either end: Once you figure out that the “Cyndi Lauper love ballad” is likely “Time After Time,” for example, it’s clear we’re looking for the dinosaur franchise “Land Before Time” rather than, say, “We're Back!” or “Dinotopia.”

Got the idea? Then let’s get to this week’s Conundrum! It was written by Lilian Chen & Spencer Fertig of Bar None Games, who are experts in crafting fun virtual trivia and puzzle games that friends, families, and coworkers play together over Zoom. And they’ve brought us a series of before-and-afters that mix different types of trivia together into a puzzle.

Below are seven pairs of before-and-after clues. Your first goal is to solve them. When you do, you’ll discover that the answers in each pair have a single word of overlap. Stringing those overlapping words together in sequence will reveal one final-before-and-after clue — and the solution to that clue is this week’s answer. 

Plus once you’ve solved that, the fun isn’t quite over: There’s a hidden Easter egg somewhere, and finding it should double your puzzle-solving pride!

  1. Reinvented Android app store starts selling games for a remake of a 1994 video game console.

    Retro vehicles (at least 20 years or old), driven around in the capital of Nevada.
  2. Overseeing the US Department of Justice, this former appeals court judge enjoys a popular Minnesota-based butter brand. 

    Ornamental holiday decoration made from greenery accents a wall-mounted telephone.
  3. Your favorite Toni Morrison “Milkman” novel headlines the start-of-the-week live broadcast of America’s beloved fall sport.

    Yearning ballerinas in a physiological thriller stage their final big act before it all ends. 
  4. Goals are more than met — far above the bar — while singing a popular track from Disney’s “Pocahontas.”

    Greatness that doesn’t quite seem to be possible is found in a Cyndi Lauper “sad eyes” tune.
  5. Beside the river is an area that can often become overrun with water but is otherwise basic and standard — you might even say boring. 

    Businessman played by Tom Cruise caught between two women suddenly finds himself leaping out of an airplane for a thrill.
  6. Intense 70s Foreigner “pay the price” song is played during an animated film about chilly prehistoric animals — total meltdown!

    Intimating that someone is in a precarious or risky situation while playing a favorite Canadian sport.
  7. Very best of its kind in making complex patterns seen from the sky in flattened grain fields.

    Vibrant dessert made from Georgian fruit and dairy is combined with an airy French sweet treat.

Like with many trivia puzzles, these before-and-afters draw on knowledge from a range of categories and eras. So why not call up friends or family and try solving as a team? (And remember: your final goal just depends on the overlaps between the answers to the clues in each pair, so even if you get stuck on a clue or two, you might still be able to solve the full Conundrum.)

If you figure out how to fuse all the befores to afters — or if you even make partial progress — please let us know at skpuzzles@bloomberg.net before midnight New York time on Thursday, June 17.

If you get stuck, there’ll be hints announced on Twitter and in Bloomberg Opinion Today. To be counted in the solver list, please include your name with your answer. And don’t forget to sign up for our Conundrums email list!

Programming note: The next Conundrums will run on June 20.

Previously in Kominers’s Conundrums…

Ellen Dickstein Kominers and I put together a summer playlist puzzle — but we left one essential song out. Solvers quickly noticed that wasn’t the only thing left out: each song in the list was missing a word — either in its title or in its artist’s or composer’s name.

Filling in those words was the first step:

  • [WHAT Is] LOVE? by Jennifer Lopez 
  • It’s Still ROCK and Roll to Me by Billy Joel
  • I Whistle a Happy TUNE by Rodgers and Hammerstein
  • I Knew You WERE Trouble by Taylor Swift
  • Hit The Road JACK by Ray Charles
  • Me AND Bobby McGee by Janis Joplin
  • Bohemian Rhapsody by QUEEN
  • SINGIN’ in the Rain by Gene Kelly
  • High Hopes by Panic! AT The Disco
  • Age of Aquarius by THE 5th Dimension
  • When the LEVEE Breaks by Led Zeppelin
  • Come Away WITH Me by Norah Jones
  • Tennessee WHISKEY by Chris Stapleton
  • AND I Love Her by The Beatles
  • RYE or the Kaiser by “Weird Al” Yankovic

Then, reading the missing words together in order gave the clue phrase: “WHAT ROCK TUNE WERE JACK AND QUEEN SINGIN’ AT THE LEVEE WITH WHISKEY AND RYE?” That might’ve looked baffling at first, but after running it through your head a few times, you might have found yourself “singin’,” too:

“… bye, bye Miss American Pie… drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry… and them good ol’ boys were drinkin’ whiskey and rye, singin’….”

As we’d hinted with the indication that everything was “playing on shuffle,” all the words in the clue phrase appear — in a different order — in the lyrics of Don McLean’s “American Pie, Pt. 1.” The answer “American Pie” also matched up with our confirmatory clue that we needed to get the song “queued up before Conundrums’s July 4th picnic.”

Major props to everyone who actually knew the song’s full title, “American Pie, Pt. 1”; we of course also accepted “American Pie” and “Bye, bye Miss American Pie” as answers. Bonus points to the solvers who noted that at least some of the characters in the song are actually singing “This’ll be the day that I die,” which is a reference to Buddy Holly’s “That’ll Be the Day”; naturally, we accepted any version of that song or its lyrics as an answer, as well.

Zoz solved first, followed by Zarin Pathan; Franklyn Wang, Sha-Mayn Teh & Cindy Yang; Lazar Ilic; Ross Rheingans-Yoo; Alexandru Nichifor; Fernando Raffan-Montoya; Nathaniel Ver Steeg; Filbert Cua; Dave Matuskey; Leslie McKinney; Spaceman Spiff; Barb Ver Steeg; Maya Kaczorowski; Matthew Caulfield & Sam Miller and Nancy & Murray Stern. The other 23 solvers were Tamara Brenner, Maya & Hernando Cortina, Nicol Crous, Andrew Garber, Yannai Gonczarowski & Elee Shimshoni, Louis Golowich & Dylan Zhou, Elizabeth Grove & Claire Neve, Anne Hallerman, Ebehi Iyoha, Paul Kominers, Eric Mannes, Reva Minkoff, Tamar Oostrom, Suproteem Sarkar, Jim Shevlin, Nur Banu Simsek, Adam Slomoi, Sanandan Swaminathan, Michael Thaler, Eric Wepsic, Michaela Wilson, Rain Yang and Rostyslav Zatserkovnyi. Oostrom submitted a particularly excellent emoji solution, and Thaler submitted “USA” plus a mathematical expression for the constant Pi. And thanks especially to Zoe DeStories for test-solving!

The Bonus Round

One hundred escape room reviews; the largest “Yu-Gi-Oh” tournament deck of all time. A Fauci baseball card (hat tip: Ellen Dickstein Kominers); the “Swiss Cheese Star Battle”; and an epic puzzle box. A game theory/bargaining parlor game (hat tip: Andrew Garber); “Which came first?”; and quantum computers, explained. Plus inquiring minds want to know: What causes the brightest auroras?

We used this format in our Oscar sequels puzzle a couple months ago.

Chen is a former student of mine.

“American Pie” is of course a July 4th standard in the United States.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Scott Duke Kominers is the MBA Class of 1960 Associate Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, and a faculty affiliate of the Harvard Department of Economics. Previously, he was a junior fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows and the inaugural research scholar at the Becker Friedman Institute for Research in Economics at the University of Chicago.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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