Kominers’s Conundrums: Oscar Sequels From Another Dimension
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Can’t wait until this evening’s Academy Awards to get a bit of movie magic? Don’t worry — we’ve got you covered here at Conundrums, with a puzzle co-written with one of our top solvers, Zarin Pathan.
You know how many classic movies are getting updates and sequels these days? We’ve put together a list of 14 former Academy Award winners or nominees that we’ve, shall we say, followed up on.
Each clue describes a movie with one word added to its title in a way that changes the meaning a bit. For example, “West Side Story” might become “West Side Story Time:” Celebrated Leonard Bernstein Jets vs. Sharks musical, recast for children’s evening read-aloud.
“Spirited Away” might lead to “Spirited Away Message:” Miyazaki anime feature in which the protagonist’s parents are transformed into pigs, resulting in a need for them to post out-of-office auto-replies.
Or this year’s nominee “Sound of Metal” could turn into “Sound of Metal Detector:” Rock duo’s drummer fights hearing decline, and eventually sells his RV and takes up beachcombing.
Your challenge is to identify the 14 flicks and figure out how we’ve modified their titles. (To help you out, we’ve indicated the number of letters in each tack-on. Those hints are at the end of each clue in parentheses.)
From there, you should be able to string together the new bits to identify an award category we’d like to see the Oscars add — and that is this week’s answer. (Bonus points if you send us your nominations for the category! They don’t have to be recent.)
- Stuttering Albert works hard to become George by overcoming a comic-bookish conversation cloud (6)
- As “McMurphy,” Jack Nicholson rallies patients to oppose a controlling nurse who is stopping them from accumulating substantial retirement savings (3)
- Matt Damon plays troubled math genius who is only allowed to go after big game during certain well-defined time periods (6)
- Jazz-themed romance set in Los Angeles, with a bittersweet ending in which the protagonists’ real estate holdings are administered by a single individual (5)
- Globe playwright finds a muse in Viola, leading him to write sonnets and concoct an associated tonic — No. 9 (6)
- 2001 Super Six helicopter war movie reimagined as set in Australia (5)
- Dystopian Stanley Kubrick picture in which Beethoven music adds extra flavor to the recipe (4)
- Burnt Briton without a name tells his story to compassionate nurse and is eventually recognized as being an index case for a novel epidemiological study (4)
- Classic Poirot mystery transposed from railroad to congestion-priced highway (4)
- Harold and Eric race to Vangelis on a large red ladder truck (6)
- Benedict Cumberbatch plays Bletchley Park code-breaker who solves enigmas with a look of serious determination (4)
- Secretive, suit-clad agents tracking alien activity hear warnings in the Arctic regarding stepping on hard-to-see slippery surfaces (3)
- Audrey Hepburn plays flower seller who loses her accent, joins high society, and dances all night in order to help bettors win at the casino (4)
- Middleweight boxer loses fight against inner demons and obsessive jealousy but eventually makes it big as stock investor (6)
These pictures are drawn from a range of eras, so you might want to team up with family or friends to identify them. And as always, you’re welcome to use any tools available when solving — including search engines and movie indexes like IMDb.
If you manage to find a cinematic solution before the after-parties start — or if you even make partial progress — please let us know at email@example.com before midnight New York time on Thursday, April 29.
Programming note: The next Conundrums will run on May 2.
Previously in Kominers’s Conundrums…
We sought to build a word pyramid made up of the “odd ones out” from six different sets of words.
The top row of the pyramid was provided as an example, indicating that “SEW” was the correct choice out of the three:
The key was that both “BAG” and “GEL” also spell words if you read them in reverse (“GAB” and “LEG”), whereas “SEW” does not.
Here are the solutions for the other five rows:
We found fearsome-sounding four-letter words. You’re looking for one that’s a bit more out of the ordinary than the others.
The next layer in the pyramid should be one of the following five-letter words, even though none of them looks particularly Egyptian.
The word “Egyptian” wasn’t just a tie-in with the pyramid theme — it was an oblique clue that you should be looking to ancient history. Each word on the list except “MIDAS” is the name of a mythical Roman god or goddess (Midas, by contrast, was a Phrygian king best known for his role in Greek mythology).
We’ve been staring at these six-letter words for a while. Can you help us figure out which one we want, so we don’t have to keep our eyes open any longer?
The reference to “staring” was a double-clue indicating both that you could literally identify the odd one out by staring at the words, and that all but one of the words — “MANNED” — had an “eyes open” letter pattern (“OO”) in the middle.
Most of these seven-letter words were so monstrous we couldn’t fit them in our pockets. Is there one that doesn’t really “go” with the others?
“Monsters” in “pockets”? Of course, most of the words in this set were names of Pokémon (also linking to the clue “go” as in the popular mobile game “Pokémon Go”). The exception was “UMBERTO.”
And finally, it’s hard to figure out what to make of these eight-letter words. We could barely find a pattern in any one of them.
This last set was the hardest because you were actually looking for the absence of a pattern, as the clue hinted. All the words but “MONOGRAM” have a rather unusual property for eight-letter words: they have no repeated letters.
Filling those words into the grid we provided and then “scaling the pyramid and coming back to the ground after making it to the top” revealed the pyramid’s hidden treasure:
Zoz solved first — continuing his first-solver streak to the third consecutive week — followed by Eric Mannes, Michael Thaler, Iolanthe Stronger, Cayley Ryan, Ross Rheingans-Yoo, Lazar Ilic, Zarin Pathan, Michaela Wilson, Ruth Hofrichter & Matthew Smith, and Matt Wash. The other solvers were Serena Antonetti; Roger Decavele; Noam D. Elkies; Darren Fink, Dina Teodoro & Amanda Abado; Luke Harney; Ebehi Iyoha; Maya Kaczorowski; Ellen & William Kominers; Paul Kominers; Jordan Or; Benjamin Salop; William Shaw; Nur Banu Simsek; Adam Slomoi; Spaceman Spiff; Matthew Stein; Murray & Nancy Stern; Sanandan Swaminathan; Chad Thompson; Nathaniel Ver Steeg; Eric Wepsic; Cindy Yang & Franklyn Wang; Ryan Yu; Dylan Zabell; and Rostyslav Zatserkovnyi. And thanks especially to Zoe DeStories for consulting on the puzzle!
Plus two notes on past Conundrums: I forgot to mention last week that part of our escape room Conundrum was inspired by Noam D. Elkies’s 2009 Easter egg puzzle. And Daniel M. Kane and I recently published a paper giving new solutions to the prisoners and light switches puzzle that was featured in Conundrums just over a year ago.
The Bonus Round
Spectate the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament finals this afternoon (hat tip: Adam Rosenfield); or join an interactive adventure set in the world of Robin Hood that kicks off next month (tickets available now; hat tip: Nick Rheinwald-Jones)! Spy agency recruiting with puzzles; treasure hunters unboxing in Massachusetts; bruised banana art (hat tip: Ellen Dickstein Kominers). Simple, yet subtle arithmetic puzzles. Plus diorama murder mysteries; a long read about typing; as well as “the most heartwarming spy film ever made.” And inquiring minds want to know: How many Tyrannosauri reges were there (hat tip: Mark Gongloff)?
Or does it?
Not to be confused with the "Moonlight Pokémon" Umbreon.
Benjamin Salop and Eric Wepsic pointed out that the modifier "GREAT" also appears in the grid snaking up from the bottom (starting from the "G" in "MONOGRAM"), to climb up to the word "WISDOM." This was entirely unintentional, and just goes to show how mysterious pyramids can be!
Happy early Mother's Day to moms everywhere!
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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