Spaghetti #1

After two days of playing “Spaghetti” on my Facebook page, I became convinced that my word-loving friends can perform miracles with any given set of words. My certainty was absolute and unshakable… until I generated today’s word list. Suddenly this once again seemed like a crazy idea. These random words have something in common? These random words can form the basis of a puzzle, which can lead to a logical answer? Well, I guess we shall see.

Ladies and gentlemen, your words are…

PHILODENDRON
DEVOTION
JESTER
STRIDE
QUICK BREAD

See if you can figure out something these words have in common. (Note: The “these are all words in the English language” joke has officially been done.) Or if you want to really go for the gusto, consider these five words a puzzle that you have to solve. Can’t be done, you say? I’m not going to disagree. But did you read my introduction to the game yesterday? There was some genuine word-based magic the first couple of times we played this. Maybe it’ll happen again. Who knows?

Anyway, even if you can’t come up with anything, keep your eye on the comments page. Press Like on the comments that you feel do the best job of working with these words. We shall give due applause to the winner tomorrow. Assuming there is a winner.

Here’s a recipe for Whole Wheat and Molasses Quick Bread.

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19 Comments

  1. Foggy Brume
    Posted October 1, 2012 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    Devotion, Stride, and Quick Bread all contain the names of bands (Devo, Ride, and Bread). Devo is in the first position, so we take their first album Q. Are We Not Men? A: We are Devo. Ride’s third album is Carnival of Light, and Bread’s sixth album is Lost Without Your Love. We also take either the first or last word of the album (depending on the position of the band) to get Q, Light, Love.

    Philodendron is literally “love-tree” and ties in with Love. Jester would describe STTNG bad boy Q. That leaves Light. If the meta asked us “What Disney character are we most likely looking for?” I would say LUMIERE, the answer to your meta. Child’s play.

       0 likes

  2. Posted October 1, 2012 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    This one’s pretty straightforward. First, notice the vowels absent from each entry:

    PHILODENDRON … AU
    DEVOTION … AU
    JESTER … AIOU
    STRIDE … AOU
    QUICK BREAD … O

    Note that each set of missing vowels can be rearranged to form symbols from the following set of elements: gold (Au), iodine (I) and oxygen (O). (Fortunately, we have no E to deal with!) Note each element’s atomic number: gold (79), iodine (53) and oxygen (8). Naturally, we sum the atomic numbers for each word:

    PHILODENDRON … AU … gold … 79
    DEVOTION … AU … gold … 79
    JESTER … AIOU … gold + iodine + oxygen … 79 + 53 + 8 = 140
    STRIDE … AOU … gold + oxygen … 79 + 8 = 87
    QUICK BREAD … O … oxygen … 8

    Now the tricky part. Take each sum modulo the number of letters in its base word and index in that many letters. E.g., 79 mod 12 = 7, so we take the 7th letter of PHILODENDRON, which is E.

    PHILODENDRON … AU … gold … 79 mod 12 … 7 … E
    DEVOTION … AU … gold … 79 mod 8 … 7 … O
    JESTER … AIOU … gold + iodine + oxygen … 79 + 53 + 8 = 140 mod 6 … 2 … E
    STRIDE … AOU … gold + oxygen … 79 + 8 = 87 mod 6 … 3 … R
    QUICK BREAD … O … oxygen … 8 mod 10 … 8 … E

    This gives us EOERE. But since we couldn’t use the letter E before, we rule it out now (nice symmetry, puzzle designer!), giving us the answer of OR, which will go well in this Boolean-themed round.

    We were lucky not to fall in the trap of using modulo 26 for the alphabet, as 79 = 53 = 1 mod 26. Those results would have been disastrous.

       9 likes

  3. tabstop
    Posted October 1, 2012 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    We’ve got “Letters after your name”:
    PHiloDendron
    DevOtion
    JesteR
    StRide
    QuiCk bread

    We can rot-17 the extra letters (not counting the very first ones) to get FUTIIY, which is missing a lieutenant to become FUTILITY.

       1 likes

  4. JanglerNPL
    Posted October 1, 2012 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    Hm. So, for each answer, take the maximum-length substring that is a transsubstitution away from a football team name:

    [PHILODE] -> DOLPHIN (E/N)
    [TION] -> LION (T/L)
    [JES] -> JET (S/T)
    [TRIDE] -> TIGER (D/G)
    [CKBREA] -> PACKER (B/P)

    It’s a little inelegant that one of the teams is collegiate (the LSU Tigers), but I imagine that’s mainly because I…er, I mean, the meta designer…initially thought that the Tigers were a pro football team rather than baseball, and by the time the mistake was caught, the puzzle with that answer had already been written. Now, I’m not sure what to do next, but I did notice that each of the lengths 3-7 is represented once, which could be an ordering mechanism. Can anyone finish this off?

       1 likes

  5. JanglerNPL
    Posted October 1, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    Rrgh.

    JET (S/T)
    LION (T/L)
    TIGER (D/G)
    PACKER (B/P)
    PHILODE (E/N).

    Now taking the alphanumeric differences (T-S, L-T, etc.), you get 1, -8, 3, 14, 9; -8 is equivalent to 18 mod 26, so this spells ARCNI, which is _really_ close to ARC IN, i.e., something a football pass might do. But not close enough! Dang it.

       0 likes

  6. Posted October 1, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Permalink


    DEVOTION
    STRIDE
    QUICK BREAD
    PHILODENDRON
    JESTER

    so yeah, the answer is D-TILE. there is likely some scrabble-related reason to order the words in this way, but then the idea of taking the letters on the Diagonal nicely ties in because that’s where the Double-word score squares are.

       5 likes

  7. Todd Etter
    Posted October 1, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    This one’s pretty simple. Each answer is an even number of letters, so split each word right down the middle:

    DEVO TION
    STR IDE
    QUICK BREAD
    PHILOD ENDRON
    JES TER

    Looking at the start of the second halves you get TIBET, which goes nicely with the other answers of GEORGIA, and PAPUA NEW GUINEA.

       17 likes

  8. Eric Berlin
    Posted October 1, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    You realize, Todd, that eventually you’re going to have to give us a meta-meta-answer.

       3 likes

  9. Posted October 1, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    Each word contains letters that form a new word when followed by SE:

    PHILODENDRON: dense
    DEVOTION: otiose
    JESTER: terse
    STRIDE: rise
    QUICK BREAD: use

    The pre-SE letters spell out DENOTIOTERRIU, so clearly you were aiming at evoking thoughts of Deney Terrio and “Dance Fever.” What “fever” is evoked by -SE? Sleeping sickness is transmitted by the TSETSE fly. (Medical note: Fever not actually a symptom of trypanosomiasis.)

       2 likes

  10. Todd Etter
    Posted October 1, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    I’m guessing it’s probably just going to be whichever country/world region is left over after a year of this game.

       3 likes

  11. Dave Shukan
    Posted October 1, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    With the tip-off from Todd that there is something geographical going on here, I noticed (while thinking about it in the shower) that the solution words are contained in longer place names of 14, 15, 16, 17, and 18 letters, which can hardly be a coincidence:

    KIRKLAND, QUEBEC (contains QUICK BREAD)
    DOVER, NOVA SCOTIA (contains DEVOTION)
    AUGUSTA, NEW JERSEY (contains JESTER)
    ADLINGTON, CHESHIRE (contains STRIDE)
    NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND (contains PHILODENDRON — nice!)

    Drawing these on a map in length order (14, 15, 16, 17, 18) draws a Z with a slightly upward rather long tail, the unmistakeable logo of Zenith Electronics LLC. But the context of the puzzle suggests we are looking for a location, and we haven’t used all the data yet (such as why the inclusion of a town in England?), so hmm. The Z could have been drawn anywhere, so why there? I see that the letters of HUDSON RIVER are contained in the solution words (indeed with both Rs and not just one, which helps confirm), so we note that the four North American cities are clustered (more or less) near the headwaters of the Hudson River. (And Henry Hudson was … English, thus the use of Adlington, Cheshire further confirms and is not an outlier.) Headwaters … Headquarters! So, we’re looking for LINCOLNSHIRE, ILLINOIS, which is the location of the headquarters of Zenith Electronics LLC.

    Very nice! I’m certainly looking forward to the meta meta, which I have a pretty good idea about *where* it’s going (heh), but won’t spoil here.

       4 likes

  12. Kevin west
    Posted October 1, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    PHILODENDRON
    DEVOTION
    JESTER
    STRIDE
    QUICK BREAD

    The answer is Mitt Romney.

    PHILO as in PHILO Vance Murder Cases. DENDRON is “tree”. This suggests the only Vance book with a branched out title, “The Gracie Allen Murder Case”. Gracie was famous for mixing words, our Key.

    DEVOTION becomes ON VOTE ID, evoking the Laws the GOP is trying to pass this election cycle.

    JESTER is a Fool, which makes this word a Red Herring.

    STRIDE anagrams to T RIDES, which one takes in Boston.

    QUICK BREAD changes to Q: DEAR BUICK? A clear reference to the puzzling letter published after the Auto Industry bailout.

    Mitt Romney.

       1 likes

  13. Posted October 1, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    The only thing that matters are the four letters on the outside of each word that form words of their own:

    QUAD
    PHON
    JEER
    SIDE
    DEON (A proper noun, a commonly African-American masculine first name)

    SIDE is off pattern, and DEON is a proper noun, but these are both mathematically forced, as we will soon see. What’s important for the moment is that, by taking four letters from each word, we are being clued that we’re looking for a four-letter word answer. So why do we have five words? Interesting!

    The answer is found by asking, what do these five words have in common? Certain letters! In fact, every word contains a letter that is shared by at least one other word. Interestingly, these letters have four different frequencies ranging from four times (E) to one time (Q, U, and others). If we write them out with their shared frequencies attached, they look like so:

    Q-1 U-1 A-1 D-3
    P-1 H-1 O-2 N-2
    J-1 E-4 E-4 R-1
    S-1 I-1 D-3 E-4
    D-3 E-4 O-2 N-2

    Now, what if our final word is supposed to contain FOUR DIFFERENT FREQUENT LETTERS? If we go down each column, left to right, and choose the MOST FREQUENT LETTER, our first column gives us D. Having used D, we cross it out of the other columns.

    Q-1 U-1 A-1 *
    P-1 H-1 O-2 N-2
    J-1 E-4 E-4 R-1
    S-1 I-1 * E-4
    * E-4 O-2 N-2
    D

    In the second column, the most common letter is E, and we cross it out elsewhere.

    Q-1 U-1 A-1 *
    P-1 H-1 O-2 N-2
    J-1 * * R-1
    S-1 I-1 * *
    * * O-2 N-2
    D E

    This leaves us O in the third column and N in the fourth. The answer is DEON–which is, in fact, ALREADY the bottom entry, the odd fifth word out, and by this strange repetition we can say that DEON must be the overdetermined and intended answer. Not sure why this is the case, but since DEON Cole is a black comedian, and actor DEON Richmond was on the Cosby Show and later played Eddie Murphy, I think we can see where this theme is going. I look forward to the meta-meta.

       2 likes

  14. Posted October 1, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    This makes my head hurt; but I admire all the proposed answers/solutions.

       2 likes

  15. Joshua Kosman
    Posted October 1, 2012 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    Some of these are genuine attempts to unearth potentially plausible connections among the words; some are parodies of Hunt-style deduction. What’s making my head hurt is that I can’t often tell which is which.

       5 likes

  16. nancy coughlin
    Posted October 1, 2012 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    I’m just dying to “like” Kevin’s answer, but the thing of it is, and it’s getting more plain by the minute: the answer is *never* Mitt Romney.

       2 likes

  17. Posted October 1, 2012 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    If you take the Scrabble values of all the words (note that QUICK BREAD is two words), they pair up into three pairs where the shorter word in each is worth one more than the longer word: (STRIDE,BREAD) = (7,8), (DEVOTION,JESTER) = (12,13), and (PHILODENDRON,QUICK) = (19,20). For each pair, there is exactly one letter that appears in the same position in both: the pairs share (respectively) D in position 5, E in position 2, and I in position 3. That gives us:

    _ E I _ D

    with blanks in position 1 and 5. But of course, the above is a perfectly valid Scrabble play, since Scrabble *has* two blanks. Of the three possible Scrabble-valid underlying words, two are extremely obscure, but one is merely WEIRD.

       9 likes

  18. Michael Hoffman
    Posted October 1, 2012 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

    I started with Philodendron is a Flower.
    Devotion has Followers. Hey….
    Jester is a Fool
    Stride is a Flow of walking/running
    Quick Bread uses Flour

    Hmm… so Quick Bread breaks the pattern, but I think Eric’s definitely NOT cooking with semolina.

       1 likes

  19. Glenn Willen
    Posted January 14, 2013 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the puzzle ideas. –Manic Sages

       0 likes

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