December 2013 Puzzle Solution

1. Eight Bits

A quarter is "two bits", so this is "eight bits" worth of money... but "eight bits" is also a hint to use ASCII. The last two digits of each quarter's year correspond to a letter in ASCII, spelling out ALAS.

2. Board Game

This is a representation of darts on a dartboard. Score the darts appropriately (e.g., #7 is a triple 3, for a total of 9), and convert to letters using A=1, B=2 etc. to get MECHANISMS.

3. How About A Hand?

The clues solve to COUNTDOWN, FLAT TIRE, ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA, MICHAEL JORDAN, KUWAIT, HAMMER, TROMBONES, PLANE CRASH, and JEFFREY DAHMER. As the title lightly suggests, these are all nicknames for sets of hole cards in poker: T9, J4, KQ, 23, Q8, 72, 76, A4, J8. Treating A as 1, J as 11, Q as 12, and K as 13, add up the cards in each hand and then convert to letters to get SOMETIMES.

4. A Word A Week

The different weeks of this calendar hide radio alphabet letters in different ways, and those letters spell out another radio letter:

  • week 1 (embedded words): MI(MI KE)NNEDY, DUST(IN DIA)MOND, S(KI LO)DGE, MULTIPL(E CHO)ICE = MIKE
  • week 2 (clues to the same words in Spanish): ALFA, LIMA, PAPA, HOTEL, ALFA = ALPHA
  • week 3 (anagrams of radio letters): Loki -> KILO, in aid -> INDIA, Mali -> LIMA, orcas -> OSCAR = KILO
  • week 4 (letters are spaced out throughout the answer): dECatHlOn, CHAiRLIkE, cHOlesTEroL, pOStCARd = ECHO

The letters spell out MAKE.

5. Flawlessness

The title hints at "Perfection", which is also a board game. The most common Perfection board is a 5x5 grid in which the upper left shape is a semicircle and the lower right shape is an equilateral triangle. As is common in puzzles with 5x5 grids, assign ABCDE to the first row, FGHIJ to the second, etc., and UVWXY to the last. Taking the letters corresponding to these shapes spells ONLY.

6. Primo Products

This is the same mechanism from the beginning of the Building Blocks PotM from February 2010. These are products of prime numbers; "1" stands for the first prime, which is 2, and "2" stands for the second prime, which is 3, etc. So the first product is (1st prime * 1st prime * 3rd prime) = 2 * 2 * 5 = 20 = T. Proceed in this way to get TWENTY-FIVE.

7. Connect the Dots

These are Braille characters with all of the "dots" connected. When multiple connections exist between two dots, the line between them is thicker. (This differentiates letters like K and L that would otherwise look the same.) The Braille spells out LETTERS.


The component answers spell ALAS, MECHANISMS SOMETIMES MAKE ONLY TWENTY-FIVE LETTERS. This is true of all of the mechanisms in the sub-puzzles:

  • 1. There is no US quarter dated 1975; only the bicentennial quarter (1776-1976) was minted in that year. 75 in ASCII is K.
  • 2. There is no way to score 23 on a dartboard with one throw. 1-20 are simple enough; 21 is triple 7; 22 is double 11; 24 is double 12 or triple 8; 25 is a single bullseye; 26 is double 13. 23 = W.
  • 3. Summing two numbers from 1-13 can give any value from 1-26 except for 1 = A.
  • 4. The only radio alphabet letter that would not fit into a week (i.e. is longer than 7 letters) is N(OVEMBER).
  • 5. The letter Z doesn't occur in the A-Y mapping used in the 5x5 grid. (The "Y" in ONLY makes it clear that the very last cell is a Y.)
  • 6. The only positive integer that cannot be expressed as a product of one or more prime numbers is 1 = A.
  • 7. The only Braille letter with fewer than two dots (and thus no possible connections) is A.

These seven letters spell out the answer, KWANZAA.

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