Chatological Humor: Monthly with Moron (May)

May 27, 2014

Sunday (June 1) is the Post Hunt. The details are HERE.

In honor of this, this week's poll will simply be three brain teasers. The answers are in the intro to this chat, which was hosted by me and Tom Shroder, and which will be all, or mostly all, about The Hunt.

You are on the honor system here: Allow yourself only a minute and a half to solve (or fail to solve) each of the puzzles. If you can solve them at all, it should take you no longer than that.

Puzzle #1:
You are confronted by three on-off wall switches. You are told each controls a different lamp in the next room, behind a closed door -- when the switch is on, its lamp is on; when it is off, the lamp is off. There are only three lamps.

Each switch is in the off position. You may do anything you wish to the three switches, but you have only two minutes to do whatever you do. Then you have to walk into the room and identify for certain which switch controls which lamp. How can you do this?

Do you know the answer?

Puzzle #2:
Johnny's mom has four children. The firstborn is named April. The second-born is named Mae. The fourth-born is named Augusta. With a very strong degree of certainty, what is the name of the third-born child?

Do you know the answer?

Puzzle #3
You are Ali Baba. Ten servants each bring you ten gold pieces on a tray. Each gold piece should weigh 5 ounces. You are told that one of the servants is trying to rob you, and has shaved a quarter ounce of gold off each piece in his tray. The alteration is not visibly detectable. You have one digital scale, able to measure with extraordinary accuracy. The trays are arrayed before you, each in the possession of the servant who brought it. In ONE WEIGHING only, how can you determine which servant to fire?

Do you know the answer?

New to Chatological Humor? Read the FAQ.

Today we will have an unusual chat -- MOSTLY about The Hunt, which takes place this Sunday, but also a few unrelated questions.

The most important thing you need to know is that this is the year The Post Hunt goes digital.  At least one member of your team will need a smartphone with Internet connectivity.  Also at least one member of your team will need to be on Twitter.  If hints are needed, or mid-Hunt information has to be transmitted, Twitter is how we will do it.   It will be a serious mistake to ignore this warning. 

We are joined in this chat by co-moderator Tom "Tom The Butcher" Shroder.  Ordinarily, Dave Barry would be here, too, but he cannot because of a 4,000-year-old rule.   Dave is a new, first-time grandpa (Mr. Dylan Barry, son of Mr. Robert and Ms. Laura Barry) and under Jewish religious law, brises must be performed EXACTLY eight days after birth, no exceptions, meaning today.   In a minute I will explain why Dave's attendance at this event is heroic, to a degree you cannot possibly understand.

Meanwhile, make sure you have taken the polls today.  They are a bit diabolical, and I am going to enjoy giving you the answer to one question in particular.   Because so many of you are answering like idiots.  The answers will be delivered at the start of the chat.

Okay, this chat begins at noon sharp.  

Well, June and Julie are both girls' names. So there's no way of knowing which the third child is called.

Boy are you going to feel like a dork in just about 30 seconds.


Puzzle One:  You flip the first two switches and leave the third off.  You wait two minutes, then flip the second switch off.  You walk into the room.   The cold bulb that is off is controlled by the third switch.   The warm bulb that is off is controlled by the second switch.  The bulb that is on is controlled by the first switch. 

Puzzle Two:   Ready?  READY?

The third child's name is Johnny.   Read the question again.

Puzzle three:   You place on the scale one coin from the first guy, two from the second, three from the third, et cetera.  The final figure will make it plain which guy cheated you. 

What is the best breakfast to have in preparation for the Post Hunt?

Hm.  A cocktail of Lomotil and Kaopectate.  There aren't a LOT of bathrooms around. 

As is so often the case when it concerns gastro-intestinal issues, Gene is hysterically misinformed. There will be plenty o' potties conveniently located near Freedom Plaza. So eat all the prunes you want.

Tom's answer is typically dismissive and contemptuous of you, Our People.  He neglects to mention something important about the available "potties."   He is urging you to eat prunes so you will have meaningful and frequent encounters with ... porta potties.   That have already been visited by persons who dutifully ate their prunes, too.

Is there ANY way to prepare for the Post Hunt puzzles? Limbering up your mind by doing crosswords, looking at Dali paintings, memorizing all of the U.S. state capitals...?

This may be a good time to point out that the puzzles in the chat intro are NOT a good warmup for the Hunt. These are brain teasers, whereas Hunt puzzles are more brain warpers. The general rule of thumb is that if dangerous and illegal hallucinogens which we are definitely not recommending would actually HELP you solve a puzzle, it is a Hunt puzzle.

So is there going to be way too much walking required in the Post Hunt this year? Because, seriously, you PROMISED there wouldn't be!

Our rule of thumb is to solve whatever problems were caused by the previous Hunt.  This inevitably creates new problems for the next one, because we are so focused on the IMMEDIATE problems and have no attention spans left.   So, TWO years ago was the year with too much walking, meaning that last year we basically had you all pivoting in one space.  LAST year, the endgame took forever to solve, so we've made it a somewhat quicker event this year.   It's exciting to speculate on what we stupidly failed to anticipate this year. 

Gene doesn't mean his answer to foolishly suggest there won't be a fair amount of walking. We are doing our part to make America fit. That said, I will be able to do all the walking required, and I last had any cartilage in my knees during the Clinton administration.

Exactly how many "Game of Thrones" references will there be in this year's Post Hunt? Dozens, hundreds, thousands?

There will be NO Game of Thrones references. There will, however, be an equivalent amount of nudity.

Jeff Bezos actually okayed the Post Hunt?? How did you manage that?

We slipped him a 20.

I know this is a Hunt chat, but I'm thinking given your time spent on gender issues, you can't let this slide. Is the #yesallwomen hashtag the most powerful thing to happen to the women's movement since the 70's? I've never met a woman who has not, at some point in their lives, at least felt menaced or threatened by a man. This is anything from getting into an elevator alone with one to being followed to street harrassment and then there are those (like me) who have been sexually assaulted. It is part of everyday life. It's time that men and women understand that this is no longer acceptable. Until this hashtag, I didn't know if the discussion would ever be had. Finally, something worthy on Twitter besides what Kimye had for lunch.

Yeah, I just dipped into it.   Superior solidarity. 

Here are two good ones:

@4lisaguerrero Because I routinely get sexually harassed online (including rape threats) after my investigations air. Male reporters do not.

@whereasaddie Because men don't text each other that they got home safe.

Some are too broad brush, I think:

@kendallmck Because women are taught to hate themselves if men reject them, and men are taught to hate women if women reject them.

I hate to respond "Not ALL Men," but in fact -- C'mon.  This killer was a bitter psycho, a misogynist of fanatical proportions.  His rant was not a slight deviation from the norm, or an exaggeration of what most men feel.   I think reasonable men generally face rejection with unreasonable self-loathing.  

I also suspect, with this killer, something else was going on that had nothing to do with women, exactly.

What are the odds of my team winning the Post Hunt as opposed to, say, the odds of winning the Masters golf tournament?

Depends.   Do you mean YOUR odds for winning the Masters, or Rory McIlroy's? If it is Rory, your odds of winning the Hunt are way worse.   If it is YOU winning the Masters, it's about even.

Or if this isTiger, the odds are about the same. Aint. Gonna. Happen.

Which has better odds, me winning the Post Hunt or me attending Kim Kardashian's next wedding.

It's about the same odds as you being IN Kim's next wedding, as the groom.

In my defense, I clicked that there was no way to solve it, and literally immediately realized a workable solution. So, I'm an idiot, but at least a redeemable one. And I don't see possible solutions for the other two, but, then again that may be the reason why you never see me getting called on stage at the end of the Post Hunt.

WE will be the judge as to whether you are redeemable.

Is there any part of the Post Hunt this year that might turn out to be disastrous?

There are always opportunities for disaster, mostly from puzzles that turn out to be harder than we'd guessed they'd be.  Only rarely do we worry about loss of life or limb, though.   This year there is one Big Puzzle that will either be very easy or very hard.  The Puzzlemasters are in some disagreement amongst themselfs on this.

The proper question would be: Is there any part of the Hunt that CAN'T turn into a disaster of some sort. Gene, Dave and I will be the guys walking around holding those balancing poles and murmuring prayers under our breath.

In keeping with tradition, I would just like to know whether I should store my bottles of ketchup in the refrigerator or in the kitchen cupboard. Thank you.

This is really a better question for Dave, but because of his heroic absence (It is heroic; Dave seriously does not like the sight of blood.)   I will do my best.

It is not necessary to store catsup in the refrigerator.

I always like to store it in giant blobs on my white Hunt T-shirt.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how difficult do you think the Post Hunt puzzles will be this year, if 1 = Word Search and 10 = Theory of Relativity?

Well, first, there's something wrong with your scale.  The Theory of Relativity is not a 10.  It's about an 8.5.     A 10 would be The Twelve Billiard Ball Problem.

We think we have a particularly good Hunt this year, which probably means it will be awful.   Tom and I and Dave are in agreement that the five big puzzles are probably a bit harder than last year, but that the EndGame is probably a bit easier.  This probably means the opposite is true.

Keep in mind that Gene and Dave never have ANY IDEA how difficult specific puzzles are, so the fact that we are "in general agreement" is worse than useless.

Hello gentleman, First time inquisitor, long time Hunter ("since 1984"). My question concerns the disadvantages of longevity as relates to progress in technology and The Hunt. Could you explain the role that modern technological instrumentation will play in Sunday's Hunt? Do I have to purchase a "cellular phone"? Must I learn how to "text"? Will "twerking" be involved? All these are after my time (yes, I'm Dave's age...) but I can learn by Sunday if you will direct me. Thank you. I'd also like to request limited sprinting demands this year. Devotedly, Dan Streit So. Florida

Twerking will not be involved because it is so Last Year.  This year you will be required to do a little couch humping.

Clearly your only hope is to find someone under 40 and slip him/her a 20 to be on your team.

How do you manage to keep the Post Hunt planning a secret every year?

Oh, it's easy.  There's only one member of the official Post Hunt Creators' team who is young and sharp enough to have anything resembling a functioning brain.  That would be Jill Washecka, the Huntmistress who actually makes things happen.   And Jill can keep a secret.

Dave, Tom and I aren't security leaks because we can't really remember how the thing works, from day to day.

Did you get any of the puzzles from other people this year, i mean people who aren't Dave or Gene or TOm?

Nope.  This year its all DaGeTo.

"Our rule of thumb is to solve whatever problems were caused by the previous Hunt. " I haven't won any of the Hunts ever. Please solve that. -Not Andy

Noted, Andy. 

Will we be able to purchase Post Hunt Bobbleheads this year?

No, but we hope to be able to auction off the Barry Foreskin.

Gene, I agree with your firm contention that there is no subject that can't be joked about. But this morning I thought of a joke related to a horrifying news event that happened over the weekend, and was immediately revolted by my own joke. I'd welcome your thoughts on how soon is too soon, and how the nature of a tragedy might affect the too-soon-ness of a joke.

There's a time and distance element.  If it was something awful that happened in Kazhakstan, just a few weeks might be okay!

Whose nudity? I may need to bring a blindfold.

It would be safer to simply poke out your eyes.

So far the weather is looking good for the Post Hunt this Sunday. Wouldn't you rather have an eerie greenish sky with tornado warnings?

Tom, I'm worried about posting this one because of Tempting Fate, but as a nonreligious person I don't believe in Fate or Mojo or anything supernatural.  So I guess here we go.

Thanks for that Gene. We're screwed.

Quick, write a limerick about the Post Hunt that begins: "There once was a game in D.C. ..."

I dedicate this to Tom "The Prune Man" Shroder


There once was a game in D.C.

That was harder than most games can be.

The puzzles are tougher

The End's even rougher

And there's no place to poop or to pee.

This is the best poem Gene has ever written.

Agree with you whole-heartedly on pulling out into an intersection to wait for opportunity to make left turns. But also wish to issue a warning, based on a habit my dear old Dad had that could have gotten him killed had he been unlucky enough to be rear-ended while waiting for such opportunity. Do pull as far forward as you can while waiting for a left turn, so that other drivers behind you can also make maximum use of a green light, but DO NOT TURN YOUR WHEELS TO THE LEFT while waiting to make a left turn. If you're hit from behind, you will be pushed into oncoming traffic, resulting in a nasty collision for all involved. And since you're waiting for it, there IS on-coming traffic. End of public-service announcement.

Yes, we have noted this before, and it is important.   I do not turn the wheel until it is time to move. 

From the posted blurb: "Tom Shroder has been an award-winning journalist for more than 30 years." Does this mean he started winning awards on his first day as a journalist? Or was he awardless for some period of time before winning one? What was that first award?

Tom is like Hermann Goering.  He's been awarding himself medals since just after puberty.   

This is from a book on Hitler:

The dictator would often break from the serious nature of waging his campaign to "pull the legs" of his entourage of generals and hangers on.

His favourite victim was the Luftwaffe chief Herman Goering, who was notoriously fond of awarding himself medals and decorations.

According to the book by the last surviving member of his bunker, Hitler recounted how Mrs Goering found her husband waving a baton over his underwear in the bedroom and asked him what he was doing.

"He replied: "I am promoting my underpants to OVERpants"", Hitler then joked.

Hitler was said to be so proud of his joke that he had medals made from gold and silver paper for Goering to wear on his pyjamas.

My first journalism award was a free dinner for two. At the time I was making $155 a week.  I went to Joe's Stone Crab in Miami Beach and abused the award to the point where they stopped giving it out altogether.

If we 're the first team to solve the end game, do we have to slide into a home base or anything?

I believe I already answered this question.  There will be couch humping.

There was actually a Miami Hunt where going to home plate was what you had to do to win. The solution to the endgame, which was complicated and involved racing around a field of signposts we erected, yielded this phrase: GO HOME HAND CATCH HER YOUR NUMBER. The main stage was in Peacock Park in Coconut Grove. Behind the stage was a softball diamond, where what appeared to be a city league team was shagging fly balls. The first person to run behind the stage to home plate and hand the catcher their number was the winner. This accomplished something I always wanted to accomplish, which was to have the winner of the Hunt revealed in front of the entire crowd.

That's getting to be a silly brain teaser, now that so many of us use CFL or LED bulbs. Kinda reminds of this brain teaser from my youth: A child is rushed into the ER, and a doctor takes one look at the child and says, "this is my son, I can't operate on him!" The doctor isn't the boys father. How is this possible? Anyone under 50 has to accept my word that this used to be really, really hard.

That hospital room thing appeared on an episode of All In The Family, and stumped everyone !

Actually, according to the Interwebs, two minutes of LED or CFL lighting leaves the bulb slightly warmer, especially toward the base.  The puzzle still holds, if a little weakly.

Gene, please talk about this. Is there any way the firing is NOT sexist? I see three possibilities: 1) she was fired because she raised a stink about not getting equal pay, which is sexist; 2) she was fired because she has an abrasive personality, which is sexist as that is frequently tolerated in male leaders; or 3) she was fired because Baquet was pissed about the potential hiring of Gibson, and threatened to quit unless Abramson was fired, which also seems a bit sexist given that the entirety of leadership was male with the exception of Abramson. No matter what happened, I can't imagine the Times is surprised by the resulting blowup. Why did they let this happen? They look terrible!

Well, they "let" it happen because Jill forced them to let it happen.  She declined to resign quietly, and made them fire her. I don't know if that was right or wrong, but it was surely her right to do that, and I don't judge her on it.

I don't know the people involved here, personally, so am relying on what I am reading.  The most interesting takes on it came from Ken Auletta in The New Yorker, a series of rather dizzying changes of view, as he learned more.  It began pretty much alleging sexism, then became more cautious, and by the end he was no longer really charging sexism. 

I found myself spinning the same way, particularly after The Times made a reasonable argument that Abramson was NOT paid less than men with the same job. 

Also, she really does appear to have dreadfully handled the planned hiring of a person who would have been equal in stature to Baquet.

Mostly, I found myself impressed with her speech to the graduates.  No rancor.  Class.


Gene, I generally agree with most of what you write. I feel the need to comment on this though. I think discussions about bigotry or prejudice stray too often into worrying about what other people may be thinking. If you think this you're a bigot. If you think that your a racist. Other people's thoughts are their business. It becomes my business when they allow their thoughts to influence their words and actions. If I keep my prejudices to myself and recognize my prejudices for what they are, my problem to be overcome, then it's really not for anyone else to be concerned with. My 75-year-old father was raised in rural southern Illinois. I know for a fact that he harbors some racist views, but he's a nice well meaning man. I've never heard him utter a racial slur. He voted for President Obama twice. He supports same sex marriage rights even though I pretty sure that kiss would have made him a little uncomfortable. If he's willing to put his prejudices aside, not impose them on others, and do the right thing, why should he be shamed?

He shouldn't be.  I agree with this wholeheartedly, and have said so many times: There is no sin at all if what happens in the head stays in the head.   And I apply that to truly awful head-staying things, too.

This discussion originated in response to people who publicly expressed their revulsion at Michael Sam's kiss.   That's not benign, that's malign. 

I know a guy my age who felt the revulsion, and said it to no one but me.  I'm fine with that.   We discussed it in terms of his prejudice.


Because I failed at poll question number two, and how I failed, I have determined I am an unsuitable candidate for the Post Hunt and no longer plan to participate.

Please see previous about how the poll questions are completely unlike Hunt puzzles. So if you failed on those, it does not reliably indicate you will fail at the Hunt. Though you will.

Note to person who wrote in elaborately about "facials."  I will possibly publish this in an update, but possibly it is unpublishable.  

So instead of cash bribes to the Hunt judges this year, should we bring diapers and formula for the Dave Barry Grandchild Fund?

No. Cash bribes are still good.

So if the Post Hunters have to have advanced technology (Twitter, portable interwebs), why can't YOU deliver clues by drone?

I'm not saying we ARE using drones this year, but you might want to avoid traveling in convoys of black SUVs. Word to the wise.

Does Obamacare cover mental confusion caused by the Post Hunt?

Only in the sense that it involves Death Panels. called Myckenzie or Maddyson, because this is America.

I'll certify that as correct.

I used to be an 'assertive'" left turner. Then they put in red light cameras. Too frequently, the left turn can not be completed, due to heavy oncoming traffic, until well after the amber cycle is started; often, it cannot be completed until the light has turned red. Assertive left turners caught in the intersection thusly are treated to a photo citation. So now I wait to enter the intersection until I am certain that I can clear it. Blame it on the surveillance state.

I have never NOT gone into the intersection to make a left, and I have never gotten a citation.   Methinks you are full of it.

If Alex Trebek, Will Shortz, Marilyn vos Savant and Ken Jennings participated in the 2014 Post Hunt, who do you think would come closest to winning?

Ketchup belongs in the refrigerator.

I can't believe you ducked this question, Tom.  This person is looking for a genuine insight, and you gave him or her obfuscation.

The answer is, roo-roo.

What about The Great Wall Of Porta-Pottys?

Just Gene's belly.

Tom thinks you see that great wall and really, really want to participate.

Hey, I'd love to be on a Post Hunt team. The last couple times I tried doing this with friends, they bailed and I ended up having to do the Hunt by myself which just wasn't fun. Can you hook me up with some other puzzle hunters, Gene? I'm at @okonh0wp on twitter if others want to get in touch with me.

I will make an announcement from the stage around 11:30 or so saying where anyone looking for teammates should go to meet up. 

Who got custody of the giant butt from last year's Hunt?

I don't know who grabbed that butt. Gene probably, based on previous behavior.

There may be a tragedy associated with that butt.  We lost track of it.  It might have been euthanized.  Same for the giant pile of poo from the previous year.

What's the best formula for meatloaf? Some people recommend equal parts of ground hamburger, ground veal, and ground pork. But I'm used to just 100% hamburger, around 80/20. Your thoughts? Also, wrapped in bacon? Topped with a tomato-ey type sauce? A brown gravy or a tomato-based gravy? Also, Q for Dave Barry: Are the tools a mohel takes to a bris called a briskit? Sorry I skimmed your resume.

I'll answer for my two colleagues.   First, no tomato sauce at ALL.  Second, bacon atop, but not surrounding.   Third, yes.

My husband often does not put the ketchup back in the fridge. Once it fermented so much that when I flipped open the lid the ketchup sprayed in my face.

Horace LaBadie once sent me an unopened bottle of ketchup that was so old it had turned brown.  He dared me to use it.  I didn't. 

Also, Manteufful got me a frozen muskrat from some bait and tackle store in the south.  Still considering that one.  

Is there any place I can look at puzzles from past Hunts? I couldn't guess the puzzles on the Post site.

How did I not know that Dave is Jewish? On a more serious note for Rabbi Gene: as a shiksa married to a Reform Jewish man and pregnant with her first child (whom we've nicknamed the Matzoh Ball), I'd prefer a hospital-based circumcision, with anesthesia, etc., and a baby naming later on. This is mostly for the baby's comfort, but also because a.) I trust my OB to do it, versus a mohel I don't know and b.) I will bawl like the baby at a traditional bris. Is this an acceptable workaround, or am I already dooming my child to a life of hopeless Jewlatto-ry? Is the important thing the snipping itself, or the ritual?

1. Dave, I believe, is not formally Jewish -- father was a Protestant minister -- but his wife Michelle is, and their child just had a bat mitzvah. 

2. Well, the ritual is important if you kinda like to consider yourself religiously Jewish.  My son was done by the OBGYN.

I wrote down a great question to ask about the Post Hunt, but now I can't read my handwriting, so why don't you just answer a question of your choice?

Yes, you will have to eat something disgusting but it is NOT a muskrat. 

So there are about five puzzles and the answer to all of them is a number? Is the answer to the End Game a number, too?

No. The solution to the endgame tells you specifically what you have to do to win. One year the solution was a phone recording telling you to write your cell number on a ping pong ball  and place it in a hole at the bottom of the sea. One of the puzzles had given out ping pong balls. Another involved giant sculptures of letters. The "C" sculpture had  a hole at the bottom. If you wrote your phone # on the ball and put it in the hole at the bottom of the C, you won.

Where is the Saturday pre-Hunt pep rally?

In the refrigerator, next to the ketchup.

How many puzzles would you like to apologize for in advance of the Hunt on Sunday? And how many of those puzzles are Tom's?

We NEVER apologize in advance.  The time for apology is afterwards.   Duh.

Oh, I see now. The winner will be the first one to drop trou on stage. It was only a matter of time.

We've done that already.  

That All in the Family episode was contemporary to this event: When John Marshall Harlan retired from the Supreme Court in 1971, Richard Nixon wanted to appoint the first woman to the Court. The American Bar Association informed the White House staff that the Association would not identify any woman as "qualified" for the Court.

Wow.  I don't recall this, but am accepting it as true.

Could you please ask Post writers not to use "namesake" and "eponymous" incorrectly, as has been occurring lately (both errors)? It's simple: the eponymous person or thing is the source of the name, whereas the namesake is the recipient of the name. Thank you.

I'd be happy if I could get Post writers to stop using "whopping,"

Also, erstwhile.   Half the people who use erstwhile don't know what it means.  They think it means "revered."

... I will ask: isn't the use of Twitter, the internet, etc. somewhat self-defeating? I mean, it's no longer gonna be an open-mike hunt.

Nope.  Well integrated into an insane, open-mike format.

Will the Hunt offer any sideshow diversions, like last year's photo booth, for those of us who are getting nowhere with the puzzles?

There will be a steel band.

Because I was annoyed that ESPN showed the kiss. Not just once (that was fine, who cares) but again and again and again and again. I saw it live and didn't really think it was a big deal. But then they rode that horse as hard and as long as they could. I'm 99% sure I'd feel the same way about a hetro-kiss but don't really know because that amount of coverage is really unprecedented.

Well, you're not annoyed because it was a gay kiss, you are annoyed because it was inanely overplayed.  No bigotry there.

Okay, folks, I declare this chat done, since the questions are now just trickling.

We hope to see scads of you on Sunday.

In This Chat
Gene Weingarten
Gene Weingarten is the humor writer for The Washington Post. His column, Below the Beltway, has appeared weekly in the Post's Sunday magazine since July 2000 and has been distributed nationwide on The Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service. He was awarded the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing.

Gene's latest columns, chats and more.
Tom Shroder
Tom Shroder has been an award-winning journalist for more than 30 years. As editor of The Washington Post Magazine, he edited multiple Pulitzer Prize-winning features. He's also edited humor columns by Dave Barry, Gene Weingarten and Tony Kornheiser, as well as conceived and launched the internationally syndicated comic strip, Cul de Sac, by Richard Thompson.
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