Kominers’s Conundrums: Can You Escape the Conjurer's Curse?
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Our Halloween column has a problem: It’s been cursed.
The Conundrums Conjurer has concocted a puzzle to ensnare readers, and he won’t let you out unless you either give him equity in your confection-gathering operation or figure out his favorite Halloween pun.
Luckily, the local haunts have clues to help you keep all of your sweets.
First, there’s this trio of jack-o’-lanterns. They’ve been carved with some rather unusual designs, and they’re presenting a rebus — that is, a message spelled out with pictures, where both the images and their arrangement can be part of the code. Can you figure out what they’re saying? It’s the first part of the Conjurer’s pun.
Once you make it out of the pumpkin patch, you’ll come across a gaggle of ghosts. They’re trying to tell you something. But ghosts are tricky — their message is something of a riddle, and before you can start unscrambling it, you’ll have to make some letters disappear.
Each ghost is emblazoned with a letter that needs to be removed from some other ghost’s statement. Once you figure out which letters should fade away, you can unscramble the eight words they’re saying and combine them into a clue towards another word in the pun.
And finally, Dr. Frankenstein has put together a monster mashup mixtape featuring his favorite Halloween-relevant songs — but unfortunately he can’t remember some of the words in the song names. If you can help him out, that should give you the last word in the pun.
Once you solve all three individual clues, you should be able to combine them for the Conjurer. You’re looking for a punny phrase consisting of six words that fit the following letter pattern: 5 2 2 5 — 6 5!
If you solve this spooktacular series — or if you even make partial progress — please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org before midnight New York time on Thursday, November 11.
And while there’s no bonus puzzle this week, we’d love to hear what you’re dressing up as for Halloween — in reality or in the metaverse.
Last Week’s Conundrum: There’s Still Time to Solve!
Our logic-and-trivia Conundrum might look long at first glance, but it’s actually quick to solve once you start spotting relationships between the different clues. And if you’re having trouble figuring out how to get started, maybe take a look at trivia questions 3, 5, and 7, followed by true/false questions G, H, and M.
Previously in Kominers’s Conundrums…
For some clues, the proper category seemed immediate — for example, you can figure out that “‘Yankee Doodle’ is said to have referred to a feather by the name of this elbow-shaped pasta” belonged in the category “ITALIAN/AMERICAN” even before figuring out that the answer was MACARONI.
Meanwhile, it was possible to solve other clues without their category headers, and the answers helped with the unscrambling. For example, “This institution is home to many Bulldogs, including renowned ‘Jeopardy!’ Player Matt Amodio” referred to YALE, which corresponded to the category “THE IVY LEAGUE.”
- CONTRADICTION IN TERM? for 100: This describes something obvious — or protects a non-obvious invention. / (What’s) PATENT
- EURO-PUNNING for 200: A Colossus on a scholarship to Oxford? / (What’s) RHODES
- WORLD HERITAGE SITES for 600: French cathedral known for Gothic architecture and a fictional hunchback. / (What’s) NOTRE DAME
- TECH G“IA”NTS for 300: This original general-purpose digital computer, completed in 1945, weighed more than 27 tons. / (What’s) ENIAC
- SAME NAME for 200: This first name is shared by Carnegie, Lloyd Webber, Mellon, and Wiles. / (What’s) ANDREW
- BASKETBALL PLAYERS’ SIDE GIGS for 600: This Warner Bros. film brought Bugs Bunny face-to-face with Michael Jordan. / (What’s) SPACE JAM
- SHAKESPEARE for 300: This fairy king feuds with Titania in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” / (What’s) OBERON
- ITALIAN/AMERICAN for 600: “Yankee Doodle” is said to have referred to a feather by the name of this elbow-shaped pasta. / (What’s) MACARONI
- MODERN MASCOTS for 100: The Pokémon franchise’s best-known electric mouse. / (What’s) PIKACHU
- HISTORIC THEATER for 200: You might say this Lin-Manuel Miranda musical won a “TON” of Tonys in 2016. / (What’s) HAMILTON
- SPEAK “E”ASY for 500: A Polish ophthalmologist developed this universal language. / (What’s) ESPERANTO
- CLASSIC LITERATURE for 800: Steinbeck’s 1952 magnum opus. / (What’s) EAST OF EDEN
- THE IVY LEAGUE for 100: This institution is home to many Bulldogs, including renowned “Jeopardy!” player Matt Amodio. / (What’s) YALE
Once you had unscrambled and solved the clues, looking at the letter in each answer indicated by the point value — the letters underlined above — spelled out the overall answer to the Conundrum, which was “an honor that we would bestow upon Amodio if only we had the proper accreditation:” (What’s) PHD IN JEOPARDY.
And that wasn’t all — there was a hidden “Double Jeopardy!” round. To solve that, you had to take the unusual step of unwinding the puzzle and putting the clues back where they had started. Looking at the answer letters indicated by the point values in this original configuration yielded a second message, which was “our overall takeaway following Amodio’s spectacular run:” (What’s) MATT IS AWESOME.
- CONTRADICTION IN TERM? for 100: “Yankee Doodle…” / MACARONI
- EURO-PUNNING for 200: This institution… / YALE
- WORLD HERITAGE SITES for 600: … Lin-Manuel Miranda musical… / HAMILTON
- TECH G“IA”NTS for 300: … something obvious… / PATENT
- SAME NAME for 200: The Pokémon franchise’s… / PIKACHU
- BASKETBALL PLAYERS’ SIDE GIGS for 600: A Colossus… / RHODES
- SHAKESPEARE for 300: This Warner Bros. film… / SPACE JAM
- ITALIAN/AMERICAN for 600: This first name… / ANDREW
- MODERN MASCOTS for 100: … general-purpose digital computer… / ENIAC
- HISTORIC THEATER for 200: A Polish ophthalmologist… / ESPERANTO
- SPEAK “E”ASY for 500: This fairy king… / OBERON
- CLASSIC LITERATURE for 800: French cathedral… / NOTRE DAME
- THE IVY LEAGUE for 100: Steinbeck’s… / EAST OF EDEN
We were especially thrilled that Matt Amodio himself solved the puzzle! My mother, Ellen Dickstein Kominers, was the first solver, followed by Lazar Ilic, Zarin Pathan*, Michael Thaler, Zoz*, Max Chemtov, Nancy & Murray Stern*, Sanandan Swaminathan*, Filbert Cua, Robbie Stern*, Eric Wepsic*, Luke Harney*, Matthew Stein*, Janet Becquey, and Vivek Ravishanker. The other solvers were Joe Brennan, Daniel Dantas, Chris Dippel*, Sarah Gaines, Joel Gotkin*, Aiden Guinnip*, Liz LeBrun, Holly Lofgreen, Ross Rheingans-Yoo, Stuart Schwager, Charles & Miranda Sherrill*, and Rostyslav Zatserkovnyi. (Asterisks denote those who also solved “Double Jeopardy!”) Amodio noted that “RHODES SCHOLAR” would also fit the answer pattern of 13 letters. And Gaines noticed an unintentional and really cool Easter egg: it’s possible to spell “WHAT’S CHAMPION” using one letter from each answer word in a certain order. Plus thanks especially to Zoe DeStories* and Paul Kominers* for test-solving.
The Bonus Round
Otis the bear, “master of energy economics”; serious pumpkin carving (hat tip: Zoe DeStories); and a little-known fact about the “Scooby Doo” theme. In-browser “Kid Pix”; intricate carpentry joints; and rock waves (hat tip: Elizabeth Sibert). “Squid Game Riddler”; hexagonal grids; a tiny crab trapped in amber; and a Facebook/Meta puzzle by Eric Berlin. How to play “Axie”; “Warhammer” invading Marvel (hat tip: Paul Kominers); and Brady throwing Bitcoin (hat tip: Ellen Dickstein Kominers). A square geometry puzzle; the Pfizer vaccine as a “Scrabble” word; flamboyant fish; and bit fields that look like alien art. New dictionary words, including “Oobleck” (hat tip: Zarin Pathan). And inquiring minds want to know: How are “I Spy” books made?
For example, a rebus with a head image above an image of two heels might be read as "head over heels."
Also, there’s still time to sign up for BEAM’s upcoming “Slightly Mathy Puzzles & Trivia Night” on November 11.
Amodio is famous for opening each answer response with “What’s.”
Cool? Very cool.
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.
Lara Williams manages Bloomberg Opinion's social media channels.
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