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How Did You Know, Kris & Ryan Kelly?!

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First a little update: We're now over 760 fans over on the Hunt's Facebook page! Gamers are taking it upon themselves to trade answers through cryptic clues! Nice going Fans! Keep on using the page in new, and cool ways as the community grows.

More importantly, despite it being a holiday week, we still managed to get dozens of submissions with all the correct answers. And you all will be entered into the drawing to win this month's Vado HD cam, courtesy of our sponsors. Likewise, anyone who submitted any answer at all is eligible for the free premium subscription on

But enough chatter. On with the winners!

DSCN0889You'll recognize the team of Kris and Ryan Kelly from last month -- Yes, we have repeat first-place winners! Great work Kris and Ryan! I'm especially thrilled to learn that they live and work around my home town of Philadelphia (GO E-A-G-L-E-S!) We'll post all their work after the jump, but first a little bit more about them:
My wife Kris and I are excited and honored to have won HDYK again! This month's particular trivia hunt was in her wheelhouse, as she's the resident puzzle fan in our household. She solves puzzles every day in her job as an analyst and unofficial Excel guru for Bank of America "“ and luckily for her we live in Philadelphia, which has been home to the National Sudoku Championship since its inception in 2007. Kris has competed in the advanced category all three years and she's finished every puzzle in her allotted time; her passionate pursuit of the things she loves is one of many reasons I'm amazingly proud of her. Also, Will Shortz once said "hi" to me as we walked past each other (true story!).

I'm usually of more help with the quiz/pop culture stuff "“ especially sports, which I love and get to live daily as a producer at NFL Films. As a parent of an amazing 16-month old, I don't get to do much (or really any) bar trivia anymore ("quizzo" in Philly), but as students at Penn once upon a time, my friends and I had fun and even occasional success playing at the legendary "Pennstitution" Smokey Joe's.

Thanks again to Mental Floss for putting together HDYK and for giving us the opportunity to compete and have fun! Can't wait "˜till next month!

Final Answer

The one of the list that's not a familiar alias for Santa Claus is WunderKlaas.

Day 1


Based on John Steinbeck, the answer from D1L2 last month, the unscrambled titles are:

The Long Valley (leftover E)

Of Mice and Men (leftover T)

The Wayward bus (leftover E)

Cannery Row (leftover T)

Tortilla Flat (leftover R)

The Grapes of Wrath (leftover L)

Cup of Gold (leftover A)

East of Eden (leftover P)

Once there was a war (leftover H)

The leftover letters, ETETRLAPH can be unscrambled to get The Pearl, with the last leftover letter of T.

Thanks google and amazon for a list of john Steinbeck titles!


Using a process of elimination on what numbers can go where, the final puzzle reads like this:

Top row: 3 "“ 5

Middle row: 7 "“ 1 "“ 8 "“ 2

Bottom row: 4 "“ 6

The last name then decodes as follows:

Position1 "“ position 2 = 7 "“ 4 = 3 = the letter C

Position 5 x position 6 = 5 x 3 = 15 = the letter O

Position 3 x position 4 = 3 x 4 = 12 = the letter L

Position 1 + position 6 + position 8 = 7 + 3 + 8 = 18 = the letter R

Position 8 "“ position 1 = 8 "“ 7 = 1 = the letter A

Position 1 x position 4 = 7 x 2 = 14 = the letter N

Position 8 "“ position 6 = 8 "“ 3 = 5 = the letter E

Adding those to the given letter T we get


Day 2


Using the musical code, we decipher the Johns as:

1. Lennon

2. Williams

3. Bach

4. McLaughlin

5. Philip Sousa

Using those John's as well as Coltrane from D1L2, we line them up to read the word Teacup in the shaded boxes.


Cover 1 (Sousa) from the original on the left to the copy on the right you've changed:

a) removed the letters CD from under the number 2 in the top left corner

b) removed the letter S from the word marches in the title

c) removed the periods between the G A C in the name of the Lt Col

d) removed a piece of the building overhang from the bottom right, right under the word Col

Cover 2 (Bach) from the original on the right to the copy on the left you've changed:

a) Removed the letter S from the word Toccatas in the title

b) removed the belly button from the right-most angel-type creature at the bottom

c) removed two wire support things connecting the bottom left portion of the building to wingy thing above it

d) removed a wire support thing from the section right about the head of the right-most angely thing

Cover 3 (Lennon) from the original on the left to the copy on the right you've changed:

a) Removed John's necklace

b) removed the 2nd from the bottom button from his shirt

c) removed a button looking thing from the left side of her coat, just to the left of the white stripey things

d) removed something from under his hand at the very left of the cover "“ part of her coat maybe?

Cover 4 (Coltrane) from the original on the right to the copy on the left you've changed:

a) Removed the stem from the T in the word stereo at the top

b) removed the apostrophe from coltrane's in the title at the top

c) removed the signature from the left side about 2/3 down, just above a redish blue-ish line

d) removed a black blob from the right side about 1/3 down, just below the long blue vertical blob

Cover 5 (Williams) from the original on the right to the copy on the left you've changed:

a) removed the letter K from the word soundtrack at the top

b) added a roman number I to the title to make it Episode II instead of Episode I

c) removed the word "˜by' from the bottom "˜composed and conducted by'

d) removed 2 different trademark symbols after Star Wars and The Phantom Menace

Day 3

The first picture is Tom Lehrer's The Elements Song, set to the Major General's Song from Pirates of Penzance.

The second pictures is Gilda Radner on the Muppet Show where she sings the Major General Song with a giant carrot.

The third picture is of the musical "The Frogs", which was adapted from The frogs of Aristophanes. One line from the major general song is "I know the croaking chorus from The Frogs of Aristophanes".

Additionally, September 19 is talk like a pirate day!

So, the four word phrase is The Pirates of Penzance


The elements are:

Antimony ("¦better thAN TIM ON Yesterdays"¦)

Neon ("¦attending a oNE-ON-one tutoring"¦)

Radon ("¦Professor ElezRA. DON't you"¦)

Lead ("¦Sue pLEADed"¦)

Iron (TheIR ONly problem"¦)

Tin ("¦disappoinTINg.)

Gold ("¦my carinG OLD buddy"¦)

Cobalt ("¦JaCOB, ALTered his"¦)

Nickel ("¦the picNIC KELly"¦)

Day 4


The Christmas tree puzzle reads from the top


1669 "“ 1262

928 "“ 741 "“ 521

499 "“ 429 "“ 312 "“ 209

260 "“ 239 "“ 190 "“ 122 "“ 87

132 "“ 128 "“ 111 "“ 79 "“ 43 "“ 44

63 "“ 69 "“ 59 "“ 52 "“ 27 "“ 16 "“ 28

24 "“ 39 "“ 30 "“ 29 "“ 23 "“ 4 "“ 12 "“ 16

6 "“ 18 "“ 21 "“ 9 "“ 20 "“ 3 "“ 1 "“ 11 "“ 5

I solved this one with a little algebra, starting at the top, that gave me definite answers all the way down to the second to last row. The bottom row, I believe, has second solution, but that one spells Hpwgvacik. Since that doesn't make any sense, this is the correct solution and spells Fruitcake.


Thank goodness for the Facebook clues that gave us the answers, because I was getting nowhere without them!

Song 1: "In that old silk hat" comes from "Frosty the Snowman"

Song 2: "Charming as an eel" comes from The Grinch theme song

Song 3: "Be good for goodness sake" is from Santa Claus is coming to town

Song 4: "Two turtle doves" is from the 12 days of Christmas

Song 5: "City sidewalks" is from Silver Bells.

Day 5


Lat Deg: 38 "“ the long valley was first published in 1938

Lat Min: 7 "“ the red circle placed in the number 1 was 7

Lat Sec:8 "“ the leftmost number in the tree is 24, 2x4 = 8

Long Deg: -86 - the third element found in the story is radon, atomic number 86. Made that negative

Long Min : 55 john Coltrane played the saxophone, he married his first wife in 1955

Long Sec: 0

We find ourselves near Santa Claus Indiana, near E Christmas Blvd!


The one of the list that's not a familiar alias for Santa Claus is WunderKlaas

Final Answer: WunderKlaas!

This was another fun one, thanks!

Kris and Ryan Kelly

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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200 Health Experts Call for Ban on Two Antibacterial Chemicals
June 21, 2017
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In September 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a ban on antibacterial soap and body wash. But a large collective of scientists and medical professionals says the agency should have done more to stop the spread of harmful chemicals into our bodies and environment, most notably the antimicrobials triclosan and triclocarban. They published their recommendations in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

The 2016 report from the FDA concluded that 19 of the most commonly used antimicrobial ingredients are no more effective than ordinary soap and water, and forbade their use in soap and body wash.

"Customers may think added antimicrobials are a way to reduce infections, but in most products there is no evidence that they do," Ted Schettler, science director of the Science and Environmental Health Network, said in a statement.

Studies have shown that these chemicals may actually do more harm than good. They don't keep us from getting sick, but they can contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also known as superbugs. Triclosan and triclocarban can also damage our hormones and immune systems.

And while they may no longer be appearing on our bathroom sinks or shower shelves, they're still all around us. They've leached into the environment from years of use. They're also still being added to a staggering array of consumer products, as companies create "antibacterial" clothing, toys, yoga mats, paint, food storage containers, electronics, doorknobs, and countertops.

The authors of the new consensus statement say it's time for that to stop.

"We must develop better alternatives and prevent unneeded exposures to antimicrobial chemicals," Rolf Haden of the University of Arizona said in the statement. Haden researches where mass-produced chemicals wind up in the environment.

The statement notes that many manufacturers have simply replaced the banned chemicals with others. "I was happy that the FDA finally acted to remove these chemicals from soaps," said Arlene Blum, executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute. "But I was dismayed to discover at my local drugstore that most products now contain substitutes that may be worse."

Blum, Haden, Schettler, and their colleagues "urge scientists, governments, chemical and product manufacturers, purchasing organizations, retailers, and consumers" to avoid antimicrobial chemicals outside of medical settings. "Where antimicrobials are necessary," they write, we should "use safer alternatives that are not persistent and pose no risk to humans or ecosystems."

They recommend that manufacturers label any products containing antimicrobial chemicals so that consumers can avoid them, and they call for further research into the impacts of these compounds on us and our planet.