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ErikH2000
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icon Short Question, Long Answer. (+2)  
Around here, we like our puzzles. Are there enough of them in the world to keep us all happy? Of course not! So for our September contest, you must devise an original word puzzle. By "word puzzle", I mean a puzzle that can be expressed in words. Instead of working very hard to satisfy you jokers with an exhaustive definition of "word puzzle", I'll just refer anyone who is interested to our "puzzle tag" topic for its many examples. I don't know how to define "word puzzles", but I know it when I see it. There is one common characteristic I will point out, however. A good word puzzle assumes only general knowledge from its participants. There are many "puzzles" in mathematics and science that would meet the next criterion I'm about to describe, but for our contest, let us write puzzles that some precocious grade schooler could crack given a high enough Ritalin dosage.

Here's the twist: The puzzle question should be short, yet require a long answer. Or at least the required answer should be a good deal longer than the question. An interesting thing about word puzzles is that typically the opposite is true. I spent a little time earlier coming up with a puzzle to use as an example:

A bunny starts from a square of your choosing inside a 7x8 grid. He may hop over one square in any orthogonal direction, or if that places him off-grid, move just one square in same direction. How can he visit each square once?

I wish I had time to create a more illustrative example, because it's debatable whether the question/answer length ratio is very good for my puzzle. If you wrote out your series of solving moves longhand, it certainly would be much lengthier than the question. Schik simply supplied a grid with characters indicating the sequence of moves he used to solve the puzzle, prefaced by an explanation of his system. This at first troubled me, because this answer was definitely shorter than my question. However, it seems to me that since I confined my question to plain English (no symbol systems), in all fairness, it should be evaluated against a plain English answer. If I used a symbol system, I could have made the area that the bunny needed to traverse much more complex with extra obstacles set on the grid, one-way arrows, and other convolutions. Schik didn't even know about my short-question-long-answer idea at the time, so this isn't any form of criticism towards him, but his otherwise good answer is apples to my oranges.

My puzzle still wasn't safe, because next Eytan and Masonjason described general approaches to solving the puzzle in plain English. Thankfully, both of them were longer than my question, but not dramatically so. Using a version of Eytan's tersely elegant answer, I believe it could be clearly worded in about twice the size of the original question. Read more about the Bunny Puzzle if you are interested.

Despite the problems with my example puzzle, I think you will probably understand what I was struggling after: Ask a short question that requires a long answer.

Rules

1. Your puzzle should make some attempt at meeting the short question/long answer requirement. If your question is somewhat lengthy, but the answer is much lengthier than the question, then you are still following the principle. Let the ratio of question to answer length be your guide. Voters will be the judge of how well you've succeeded in satisfying this requirement, so I don't feel a need to make any strict rules here. Voters will be asked not to focus on specific letter or word counts, but at a more general level, how well (cleverly? enjoyably? quantitatively? philosophically?) was the requirement met.

2. Your puzzle's question and answer must be expressed in words. There is no point in providing an unnecessarily long answer to the question. The answer itself doesn't prove anything other than that you the author know some way to solve your own puzzle. Note this rule also implies that there is a solution to your puzzle.

3. Your puzzle should be posted in reply to this topic any time after September 14th 11:59pm (23:59) Greenwich Mean Time. The post should include a correct answer inside of [secret] tags. Don't publicly post your puzzle before this time. However, I do recommend finding some people to discuss it with privately before 9/15. Puzzles often need testing and feedback to improve them.

4. You may enter as many puzzles as you wish. We will be using a rating vote so that entering more puzzles will not dilute the votes you'd receive and lessen your chances of winning. It's not a strict rule, but please try not to post updated versions of your puzzles. Instead, post the final version of your puzzle the first time.

5. Polls will open probably 9/16 or 9/17. After voting begins, you may not post any new puzzles to be considered. Voters will be asked to give each puzzle one rating from 1 to 10 based on the following factors: meeting the short/long criterion, originality, and entertainment value. Puzzles will then be evaluated by their average rating to see who the winners are.

Prizes

First-place winner gets either an item of his choosing from the DROD Store or a free copy of "DROD: Journey to Rooted Hold" after it is released. Oh, and 100 rank points.

Second-place winner gets 50 rank points.

Third-place winner gets 24 rank points...



No, just kidding--he gets 25 rank points.

A special "participation" bonus is given to all contestants: For each puzzles that one contestant contributed with an average rating of 7 or higher, award +1 rank points.

A special "rookie" bonus is given to all contestants who have never entered a DROD.net contest before and have at least one entry with an average rating of 7 or higher: +10 rank points to you, because I like fresh faces.

But I know what really motivates you sick puppies: This is your chance to be fiendishly clever and put it on display. "Truly, your intellect is dizzying," they will all say.

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09-07-2004 at 08:57 PM
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icon Re: Short Question, Long Answer. (+1)  
Interesting contest idea, Erik. I like it! :thumbsup I'll definitely try to come up with an entry for this one.

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09-07-2004 at 09:18 PM
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sebhaque
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I'll get to work on my entry right away.
09-07-2004 at 09:30 PM
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DiMono
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I think I can come up with a puzzle for this, count me in.

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09-08-2004 at 02:48 AM
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Count me in also.
09-08-2004 at 06:36 AM
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Tim
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If I make one DROD hold in a week, I will probably get 2 points.
If I make one small puzzle in a week, I could get 100 points?
Why should I make another hold?

I think I will think about this. Don't count me in until I've put an puzzle in this thread though.

The question above was not my entry, by the way. The answer - if any - would be very long though. ;)

[Edited by Tim on 09-08-2004 at 09:43 AM GMT]
09-08-2004 at 07:04 AM
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wackhead_uk
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Using my powers of intellect and amazing IQ, I should be able to come up with - Wait, you can't copy one... Well, I suppose I'll try in between all my homework.
:D
09-08-2004 at 01:38 PM
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I have a question, Erik.

I have my first entry ready now, and it involves a number of identical objects. So in order to make the solution more clear, I'm assigning numbers to the objects and using the numbers to refer to individual objects. The puzzle itself doesn't do this, as it's not necessary, and I could rewrite the solution to avoid the numbers, but it'll be a lot harder to understand. Is this acceptable for a word puzzle, or should I try to rewrite the solution?

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09-09-2004 at 03:06 PM
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ErikH2000
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quote:
Watcher wrote:
Is this acceptable for a word puzzle, or should I try to rewrite the solution?

It would only matter if you wrote the question using a symbol system. Using a symbol system for your answer is fine, since its purpose is to show that you have a solution for the puzzle. However, when voters compare the relative length of question and answer for your puzzle, they should think of an answer that doesn't use a symbol system. You may be giving yourself a disadvantage by not supplying an answer in the format they will need for an evaluation.

-Erik

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09-09-2004 at 04:26 PM
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wackhead_uk
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I assume that this competition does not count answers that take ages to work out but can be answered very shortly...
09-09-2004 at 06:13 PM
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ErikH2000
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Good assumption. It is the length of the answers themselves that matter--not the length of time required to generate the answer.

-Erik

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09-09-2004 at 07:05 PM
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quote:
ErikH2000 wrote:
It would only matter if you wrote the question using a symbol system. Using a symbol system for your answer is fine, since its purpose is to show that you have a solution for the puzzle.

I see. Thanks!
quote:
However, when voters compare the relative length of question and answer for your puzzle, they should think of an answer that doesn't use a symbol system. You may be giving yourself a disadvantage by not supplying an answer in the format they will need for an evaluation.

Nah, the answer is long enough already, and writing it out without symbols would mainly serve to make it incomprehensible. Thanks for the advice, though.

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09-09-2004 at 09:10 PM
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NoahT
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If I can use my spare time to come up with a puzzle, count me in!

-Noah

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09-09-2004 at 09:19 PM
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jdyer
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I'm still a little unsure on the premise. Would this puzzle (from mathpuzzle.com) be considered a Short Question, Long Answer problem?

(written by Michael Rios) I am dissatisfied with the meager number of possible opening moves for white in a standard game of chess. I rearrange the 16 pieces I have, still keeping them all confined to the first two ranks, such that I now have the maximum number of unique first moves that I can have. (Of course, I don't want to destroy the charm of the game, so pawns in the first row still have their normal two first move options. Too bad for those pawns in the back row, eh?) What's that arrangement?

[This of course isn't an entry, just an example of a puzzle written by someone else that seems vaguely along the lines of the contest.]

One could theoretically express the 'answer' in a terse fashion, but if one wanted to explain the entire deductive process it might take a while. So if this counts, it's really not Short Question, Long Answer but Short Question, Long Answer With An Explanation of How That Answer Was Arrived At.
09-10-2004 at 05:48 AM
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ErikH2000
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I think you could make it work if you added to your question that an explanation is required as part of the answer. You just have to word things so all required parts of the answer are unambiguous. Keep in mind that there is a wide range of acceptable entries for this contest, and that you are not so much working to please my definition of what consitutes a valid entry, but to craft a puzzle which will be well-received by voters. So if your question is...

"I am dissatisfied with the meager number... What's that arrangement and explain how you arrived at this conclusion?"

...you've probably created a question which will require a longer answer and it would be a valid entry. But it lacks elegance, don't you think? There's a tacked-on compound question that is not so satisfying. Also, most people prefer puzzles that require a specific answer and ambiguity in what the required answer should be is frowned upon. "What was your thought process in arriving at this answer?" is very ambiguous. "What sequence of moves will mate the King?" requires a concrete answer (to some other question--not the one you just posed).

I can't spell out all the factors for which question/answer combinations are going to be better or worse. When in doubt, put yourself in the voter's shoes and do some self-evaluation.

-Erik

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09-13-2004 at 07:18 AM
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ErikH2000
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While I write this, it is 14:33 in Greenwich. It's about 9 and a half hours early from the time I said we'd start, but let's just say that right now you can post your puzzle entries. Yeah, that's simple enough and it won't kill anybody to start a bit early. And at no particularly exact time, but definitely at least two days from now, I plan to open the polls. At that point, you won't be able to submit any further contest entries. So everybody please post their puzzles at some convenient time for you today, tomorrow, or, if you want to risk missing a fuzzy deadline, the day after that.

And also, everybody please don't discuss the puzzles until after voting begins.

Yes, that's right, it is okay to talk about the puzzles during voting, but not before. The rationale is I don't want authors correcting flaws in their puzzles based on feedback from the voters. But I do want us to talk about the puzzles while they are fresh on people's minds. So that's why puzzles will be open for discussion during voting, despite any unfairness that might create.

Authors may wonder if their puzzles qualify as valid entries. If in doubt, post it anyhow. The worst that can happen is I'll decide not to add it in the poll.

-Erik

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09-14-2004 at 10:52 PM
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Ok - and you know someone had to do this:

Q: List the 5000 largest known prime numbers.

Since the answer is too long to be displayed in this message, I'm attaching it as a text file. I sort of hope this doesn't disqualify me, but not really.

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09-14-2004 at 11:11 PM
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Tim
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This will very probably not be the best entry in the contest, as I do not had time to do anything, but why not?

Puzzle:

You have four sticks, of 1m, 2m, 3m and 4m. You are allowed to saw the sticks in two, but one of the resulting sticks must be exactly 0.1m shorter than one of the other sticks. How should you saw to end up with 5 sticks of 1.5m?

Answer:

Click here to view the secret text


-- Tim.

[Edited by Tim on 09-14-2004 at 10:19 PM GMT: Corrected the solution.]

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09-14-2004 at 11:12 PM
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Hello all, I've been reduced to dial-up, and I hate using it, so I haven't been by much lately. But have a puzzle: and think before you sneak a peak...


Given an apple, a lemon and the question, "Can you tell the difference?", label three people who respectively have only Red, only Green, and only Blue cones in their eyes.

Click here to view the secret text


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09-15-2004 at 02:10 AM
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Here's one that I've used somewhere else, but it was original when I came up with it, so it should be okay. Try to figure it out before peeking, but don't be discouraged if you can't get it, because it's pretty hard.


For what positive k is it possible to dissect a 1xk rectangle into two similar, but noncongruent, polygons (and why)?

Answer:
Click here to view the secret text


09-15-2004 at 06:09 AM
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Okay, here's my entry. It's a variation on a well-known puzzle, but I like it anyway.

You are given nine identically looking balls and a balance scale. Seven of the balls weigh the same, one is heavier than the others, and one is lighter than the others. The two odd balls together weigh as much as two ordinary balls. The scale will only tell you which side is heavier, not by how much. How can you find out which ball is heavier, and which is lighter, by using the scale at most four times?

Solution:
Click here to view the secret text


[Edited by Watcher on 09-15-2004 at 01:35 PM GMT]

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09-15-2004 at 01:34 PM
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oh come on eytanz...

Here's my incomprehensible question which does make sense if you think about it...I think...

you have to get 5 things across a river:a Bear,a Wolf,a Fox,a Rabbit,and a Cabbage. Each will eat only the one below it on the list if left alone. You can carry 2 of the things at a time - How do you get them all across intact?

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Then they will all eat each other in a killing frenzy anyway. Who would want to interfere with a bear eting a wolf eating a fox eating a rabbit eating a cabbage? :no




[Edited by wackhead_uk on 09-15-2004 at 09:20 PM GMT: Forgot something!]
09-15-2004 at 04:49 PM
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DiMono
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Puzzle: How can you count the decimal numbers of finite length?
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For anyone who's skeptical, I worked this out about 3 years ago when I was a math student at the University of Waterloo, in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. ...I did not get any extra credit for it.

[Edited by DiMono on 09-17-2004 at 03:35 AM GMT: Refined the answer to make it more specific]

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09-17-2004 at 02:57 AM
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ErikH2000
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Ah, but remember I said...
quote:
There are many "puzzles" in mathematics and science that would meet the next criterion I'm about to describe, but for our contest, let us write puzzles that some precocious grade schooler could crack given a high enough Ritalin dosage.

DiMono, I think your entry is acceptable if you reword the question so that it is clear what an "infinite decimal number" is. The same might also be said about Eytan's prime numbers, but that's more of a borderline case. I remember prime numbers from junior high, but I'm not sure if they ever taught me what infinite decimal numbers are. Then again, I wasn't a good math student. Anyhow, could you maybe just reword the question so it is clear to somebody who doesn't already know what an infinite decimal number is?

-Erik

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09-17-2004 at 04:31 AM
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The word infinite there was more just to point out that the number of decimal numbers is in fact infinite, it wasn't a modifier on "decimal numbers." To avoid confusion, I've simply removed the word.

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09-17-2004 at 04:36 AM
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Okay, good enough, thanks. No more discussion on this except privately.

-Erik

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09-17-2004 at 06:08 AM
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A two foot tall man is found dead in his home, holding a smooth stick measuring 1 foot 10 inches long. The man shot himself in the head, and there is fresh sawdust on the floor. Why did he kill himself, and can you prove it was murder?

Click here to view the secret text


Note: This is a lateral thinking puzzle.

[Edited by DiMono on 09-17-2004 at 05:41 AM GMT: Stupid typo...]

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09-17-2004 at 06:30 AM
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Here's my puzzle:

In a regular game of Hearts, what are the chances of you drawing a hand that contains the queen of spades and no hearts, and an opponent drawing exactly three hearts?

Explanation of the answer must be included.

Click here to view the secret text


DiMono is credited with finding the answer to my puzzle.

-Noah

[Edited by NoahT on 09-17-2004 at 03:33 PM GMT: Change of word]

[Edited by NoahT on 09-17-2004 at 06:44 PM GMT: Fixing up]

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09-17-2004 at 04:29 PM
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My second puzzle:

How would it be possible (regardless of the law) for a male person to be his own grandpa? Explanation required.

Click here to view the secret text


-Noah

[Edited by NoahT on 09-18-2004 at 12:14 AM GMT: Word change]

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09-18-2004 at 01:14 AM
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Here's a third puzzle:

In a particular numerical code, 6-18-18-213-39-174-123 means "Beethro." Dashes connecting letters mean the letters are in the same word, and a space mean a new word. What is the rule of the code, and what are the following coded names? Explain your answer.

1. 213-39-18 18-48-31-39-213-39
2. 193-94-48-213-18-94-4-193-213-18-174-'-193 31-234-48-81-13
3. 39-4-81-81-39-123-81-13-18-174 6-123-94-6-234-193
4. 18-328-18-6-4-81-81 139-234-13-13-48-108-31
5. 69-48-108-31 13-234-31-4-108


Click here to view the secret text


-Noah

Edit: I left something out that prevents confusion (wouldn't want something like that to not be dealt with!).

[Edited by NoahT on 09-18-2004 at 12:52 AM GMT]

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09-18-2004 at 01:44 AM
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