Kominers’s Conundrums: A Fashion Hunt, Impeccably Messed
But here at Conundrums Fashion Week, we know what’s really big this year. Can you identify all the fashion items below, and fill in the grid to reveal the new piece everyone’s been talking about? That hot accessory is this week’s answer.
(You’ll have to figure out which word goes where, but we’ve indicated the number of letters in each line to help you out.)
If you manage to spot the trend — or if you even make partial progress — please let us know at email@example.com before midnight New York time on Thursday, January 28.
Previously in Kominers’s Conundrums
Our TV compromise Conundrum sought common ground in a house split between football fans and New Year’s Eve enthusiasts. Presented with clues as to what each group of roommates liked, solvers had to figure out what tied the two groups together.
Some of the clues — like “card game” or “part of an opera” — seemed like they could naturally have many different answers. But astute solvers quickly realized a relationship between the two sides: The words in each row agreed on all but one letter, suggestive of the “common ground” we had hinted at.
“Card game,” therefore, had to refer to “POKER,” since then a single letter change could turn it into a “TV series that featured Kendrick Lamar” — “POWER.” Discovering these linkages made it possible to go back and forth between the two sides and solve all the clues as follows:
After that, reading down the non-overlapping letters in each column spelled out “THEY ALL LIKE COUNTING DOWNS” — a punny response to the question, “What do football fans and New Year’s enthusiasts have in common?”
That key to household harmony was the answer solvers were looking for. But there are many puzzle universes and every so often a link opens up between them. That was the case with this Conundrum, which was secretly part of a collaboration/tie-in with both MIT’s annual Mystery Hunt competition and FiveThirtyEight’s Riddler puzzle column.
This year’s Mystery Hunt, which was written by a team of puzzle aficionados called Galactic Trendsetters, included a puzzle called “A Collection of Conundrums and Riddles.” That puzzle was based on a game show called Countdown, and the teams that solved it found pointers to both “BLOOMBERG” and “538,” telling them to check out our column and the Riddler.
But the real magic happened next: It was possible to use the same letter changes as in the Conundrum to modify and re-solve the Mystery Hunt puzzle. Together with a similar transformation using the solution to the FiveThirtyEight puzzle, that gave the final answer Mystery Hunt teams were supposed to submit — “PALINDROME” — which by some surreal miracle happened to be the same as the name of the team that won the whole event.
The whole project was quite involved, and a ton of fun to be a part of! You can check out the full solution and background here.
Special thanks to Anderson Wang, Colin Lu and Josh Alman of Galactic Trendsetters, who led the effort (and designed much of the Conundrum itself), as well as Zach Wissner-Gross, FiveThirtyEight’s Riddler.
Lazar Ilic was the first to solve the original Conundrum, followed soon after by Zoz, John Owens, Anna Collins, Noam D. Elkies, Shen Ning & Alex Creely, and Michael H. The other 31 solvers were Jordan Barry; Tom Brash; Ernest Brooks; Andy Chen; Tracy Cobbs; Control Group; Darren Fink, Dina Teodoro & Amanda Abado; Fishterious Mysterfishies; Mark Gottlieb; Brian Kell; Paul Kominers; Paul M.; John Reinert Nash; Zarin Pathan; Fernando Raffan-Montoya; Relatively Theoretical Constructs; Ross Rheingans-Yoo; Suproteem Sarkar; Mihir Singhal & Paolo Adajar; Cheshire Songchild; Nancy & Murray Stern; Skylar Sukapornchai; Super Team Awesome; Sanandan Swaminathan; Michael Tang; Michael Thaler; Nathaniel & Barbara Ver Steeg; Jennifer Walsh & Dan Rubin; Kevin Waterman; Michaela Wilson; and Wolf Wolf.
And 29 teams solved the Mystery Hunt puzzle. Test Solution Bees Ignore was first; others included teams with such excellent names as Cardinality, Control Group, Frumious Bandersnatch, Palindrome, Setec Astronomy, Small Llama Malls, Super Team Awesome, Team Left Out, teammate, and Up Late — not to mention my own team, Hunches in Bunches.
Programming note: The next Conundrums — on January 31 — will include the 2,021 Creative Category winners announcement. Apologies for the delay.
The Bonus Round
You can literally become the first person to see some of this scientific arcana. Pancake ice (hat tip: Elizabeth Sibert); a “Catch Up” puzzle (hat tip: Mehmet Ismail); Aquari-cams and “MeditOceans”; wildlife around the world (hat tip: Ellen Dickstein Kominers). Help Leonard Bernstein with a crossword; learn the history of the party parrot (hat tip: Suproteem Sarkar). Quantum mechanics without all the math; “Odd Time Signatures in Video Game Music”; “Tensegrity Explained.” A “sarcostyle tower” for the New York skyline (hat tip: Daniel Litt). And inquiring minds want to know: Is this the best of #SeaShantyTok?
The team's full name is Whoosh Galactic Trendsetters Neow, with the onomatopoeia typically denoted using airplane symbols. You can check out some of their other puzzle hunts here.
Further confirmation came from an explicit mention of Mystery Hunt in the column, as well as a reference to Barbara Yew as co-author, since she was the main character in the Mystery Hunt’s backstory.
Also, today is a palindrome day in the American date convention (1/24/21). More news you can use, courtesy of Conundrums (hat tip: William Kominers)!
I of course did not participate in solving this puzzle during the competition. It was highly amusing to watch my team work on it, however.
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.
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