Gene's next monthly chat is Tuesday, June 24 at noon. You may submit questions here.
Although this weekly edition provides an update between live chats, it is not and never will be a "blog," even though many persons keep making that mistake. One reason for the confusion is the Underpants Paradox: Blogs, like underpants, contain "threads," whereas this chat contains no "threads" but, like underpants, does sometimes get funky and inexcusable.
Greetings, update readers !
The first thing I want to do today is call attention to the exclamation point above. (Old-time journos call it a "screamer.") Please note that I have written it with a space before and after.
I contend we need to do this all the time. Screamers need to breathe. Here is the best evidence of why: Hell!
See how hard that is to read? It's plain sick, ill! Mathematically, a ! means factorial!
So I have started the Twitter hashtag #letscreamersbreathe and let's get this crusade going !
Most of this intro is going to be a deconstruction of Sunday's Post Hunt -- and an answer to a big kvetch I've gotten from several readers -- but plenty of you will have no interest in The Hunt, so I will first entertain you with an observation, and a joke.
THE POTATO CHIP PARADOX: The first taste of sour cream and onion potato chips and/or salt-and-vinegar potato chips -- the first bite out of the bag -- is terrible. It's kind of vomity. You almost retch. You wonder if it is spoilt. Then you hesitantly take another bit, and it's a bit better. Edible. By the third you are enjoying it, and by the fourth, you are addicted. I do not understand this, but I believe this experience is universal, which gets me excited in a free-the-screamer sort of way !
Joke: This was told to me by Arch Campbell, the funny, cornball TV personality. Apparently it is very old, like me and Arch, but I had never heard it.
A woman is listening to the radio, and hears a really disturbing bit of traffic news. She knows her dad is on the roads, and wants to warn him, so she calls him on his cell and tells him that there is some guy going the wrong way on the Beltway.
Her father says: "ONE guy? There are HUNDREDS of 'em ! "
(Please note that the breathing screamer needs space fore and aft.)
And finally, The Hunt.
What we have here is a text-and-video explanation of how to have solved The Hunt. I would point out that this is the first time in 30 years that we delivered an important clue on the cover, huge. Yes, we are world-class masters of deception.
I want to use the remaining space to address the several readers who indignantly wanted to know how the winning, genius team could have possibly sussed out the secret phone number an hour before the Endgame, where you learned the secret to how to decode the final five clues, the identity of which YOU DIDN'T EVEN KNOW UNTIL THE 3 O'CLOCK clue. Yes, in order to make just such a suss-out impossible, we had waited until 3 o'clock to tell you that the five answers you THOUGHT were the real answers weren't, in fact, the real answers. The real answers were the answers immediately BEFORE the answers you had circled.
The winning team was the ONLY team to have found that secret number before IT WAS THEORETICALLY EVEN POSSIBLE TO DO SO.
So, we were curious, too. The Hunt has never had a scandal, and we weren't about to have one this year. So I grilled the winning team like a bratwurst.
They did it fair and square. They are obsessives. And monsters. But they did it fair and square.
They quickly concluded, damn them, that the five answers that ostensibly were the five real answers also seemed suspiciously random. They decided they were not the real answers. This was very smart of them. (As it happens, most of them were not exactly random; they were actually letter-number substitution clues that would have sent people to certain location on certain bogus missions. At least one team fell for for this. But not the Geniuses.)
The Genius team decided that if these WEREN'T the real answers, the real answers had to be pretty nearby, so they started examining the clues immediately before and after the bogus ones. This proved fruitful.
Now, here is where they hit pay dirt. They decided this probably was going to end in a phone number. So they looked at all of these other clues, and tried to single out elements that could be numbers. They got several promising-looking words, like "Juan" and "ate" and "oh!" and also a few numbers, like "five" and "seven." They didn't know about the single-syllable conceit, so they made a few bad guesses. They called a whole bunch of numbers, mixing and matching, and one of them happened to be the Secret Number. A person answered -- Just "hello," because we are not stupid -- and they apologized for the wrong number. They didn't know they had hit it, an hour early, but they had.
Once the 3 o'clock clue happened, they realized they'd been right with that number, and also saw they had to text in a photo of the state of Mass, a photo which, being the obsessives they are, they had already taken.
Brilliant and obsessive, but fair.
Okay, see you in this space next week.