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How Did You Know Katie Otim and Sheldon Hewlett ?

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We had a record number of players this month, and a record number of 100% correct submissions on Day 5! Vvvvery well done, gamers. We hope you enjoyed our V-themed hunt this month. We're taking all your feedback into consideration for the next hunt, so thanks for being active on the FB page. Speaking of the Facebook page: We're now over 1,000 fans and we even have our own unique URL: Head over there to find out if you're a random winner, as we'll be pulling those later today. Meantime, congrats to our first place winners, who got all the correct answers in first. Let's meet them now...

Picture 2We are so excited to have won HDYK this month. We've been playing for so long that we can't remember when we started, but it's been about 2 years. HDYK is definitely something we look forward to, despite the fact that I spend the last few minutes shouting frantically. Sheldon and I live in Chicago, where we originally met in grad school at Northwestern. We've been dating a little over 3 years now. Sheldon is currently a high school physics teacher and I'm working towards my PhD in Materials Science and Engineering (1 year left!). We make a great HDYK team, since Sheldon is great at word games (cryptograms) and I love math and logic puzzles. We both enjoy doing puzzles and reading mental_floss in our spare time. I was also excited to put my French skills to work this time around!

We're looking forward to another great hunt next month! :)

Final Answer

In the Cyrillic alphabet, the letter that looks like a V is called Izhitsa

Day 1


Level 1
Magic Square:

Every Column, Row and Diagonal adds up to 18

Level 2
Men's Names:

Female's Names:
amyktcbuc Cleopatra
kmohy kwm Olive Oyl
Byppommy Tennille
Lcuuoyb Harriet
ndopyhyuy Guinevere
oxkmzy Isolde
rcuroy Barbie
Vdmoyb Juliet
zymomcl Delilah

Tristan and Isolde
Antony and Cleopatra
Romeo and Juliet
Popeye and Olive Oyl
Lancelot and Guinevere
Ken and Barbie
Samson and Delilah
Captain and Tennille
Ozzie and Harriet

I solved the above cryptograms by using a cryptogram helper (Hal's Cryptogram Helper), which automatically fills in all designated letters.
After guessing a few letters by frequency (E's and T's, especially), I recognized a few of the names. After that, the rest fell into place.

Day 2


Level 1
X = 14 (or 15)
Each day is a Victory Day (V Day). 5.8.45 is May 8th, 1945 which is the Victory in Europe day, when the Allies accepted surrender of Nazi forces.
5.9.45 is May 9th, 1945 which is Soviet Victory Day, since it was May 9th in the Soviet Union when the surrender of Allied forces occurred.
8.14.45 or 8.15.45 is Victory over Japan day (VJ day), when the Japanese surrendered to the United States. 8.14.45 is the day of observance for VJ day, while 8.15.45 is the day in which the surrender was announced.

Level 2
The brands are:
1. Virgin (airplane)
2. MTV (MTV logo)
3. VH1 (VH1 logo)
4. Gibson (Guitar is a Gibson Flying V)
5. V for Vendetta
6. Vimeo (colorful raised v)

Day 3

Level 1
The words in the word search are:
Stewart (actor)

The uncircled letters spell out:
french word "vous"

In French, "vous" is used as both the formal and plural form of "you."

Level 2
The names are:
1. Edith Piaf
2. Rene Descartes
3. Marcel Duchamp
4. Charles Perrault
5. Pierre Cardin
6. Brigitte Bardot
7. Louis Vuitton
8. Louis Braille
9. Blaise Pascal
10. Paul Gauguin
11. Ettore Bugatti
12. Hector Berlioz

Day 4


If you use a standard alphanumeric cipher (e.g. A=1, B=2, etc), you can convert the letters in the symbol to numbers. Doing this we get:

Adding these values together, we get 45. If all of these values are supposed to sum to 50, that means we are missing the letter that represents 5 (E). In roman numerals, the number 5 is given by the letter V.

Level 2
Here are the cryptic references to the letter/number V that we found in the movie:
1. "Perfect Harmony" - one of the musical harmonies that are considered perfect is the perfect 5th.
2. "Middle of a giant hurricane" - a giant hurricane could be a category 5 hurricane, the highest ranking on the Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane intensity
3. "it had a savory taste" - savory (umami) is considered to be the fifth flavor after salty, sweet, bitter, and sour
4. "raining Starfish" - starfish all have 5 arms.
5. "fingers and toes" - there are 5 fingers and toes on each appendage (hand or foot). For a more obscure reference, one of the old myths of leprosy was that it would cause the fingers and toes to fall off. The Japanese believed that leprosy was caused by a parasite that ate 5 organs of the body (from wikipedia).
6. "quintessential" - this word is derived from quintessence ("fifth element"), which Aristotle defined as aether (ether). This is the element that makes up the heavenly bodies. The other elements are air, fire, earth, and water.
7. The letter "V" appears on the shelf behind Liz. As we saw in D4L1, V represents 5 in Roman numerals.
8. There is also the letter "L" on the shelf. In Roman numerals, L represents the number 50, which contains a 5.
9. "Two small circles separated by a diagonal line" - this phrase describes the percent sign (%), which shares a key with the number 5 on a computer keyboard.
10. "boy on a horse" - The C.S. Lewis novel The Horse and His Boy was the 5th novel in the Chronicles of Narnia series
11. "first day of school" - in general, American children start kindergarten at age 5
12. "miles from the nearest ocean" - there are 5 oceans (Atlantic, Pacific, Southern, Indian, Arctic)

Day 5

Level 1
Hector Berlioz premiered Reqiuem in 1837.
According to, the production budget for V for Vendetta was $54 million.
Seconds are on the house!

Latitude 37 deg 54 min 0 sec

The sister salad video premiered on July 27, 2009. --> 07/27/09. Removing the day and zeroes leaves 79. So deg is -79.

Beyonce's Crazy in Love was at peak position 12 on the Finnish Charts

Longitude -79 deg 12min 0 sec

Plugging in those coordinates takes us to Vesuvius, Virginia.

Level 2

In the Cyrillic alphabet, the letter that looks like a V is called Izhitsa

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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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Sponsor Content: BarkBox
8 Common Dog Behaviors, Decoded
May 25, 2017
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Dogs are a lot more complicated than we give them credit for. As a result, sometimes things get lost in translation. We’ve yet to invent a dog-to-English translator, but there are certain behaviors you can learn to read in order to better understand what your dog is trying to tell you. The more tuned-in you are to your dog’s emotions, the better you’ll be able to respond—whether that means giving her some space or welcoming a wet, slobbery kiss. 

1. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with his legs and body relaxed and tail low. His ears are up, but not pointed forward. His mouth is slightly open, he’s panting lightly, and his tongue is loose. His eyes? Soft or maybe slightly squinty from getting his smile on.

What it means: “Hey there, friend!” Your pup is in a calm, relaxed state. He’s open to mingling, which means you can feel comfortable letting friends say hi.

2. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with her body leaning forward. Her ears are erect and angled forward—or have at least perked up if they’re floppy—and her mouth is closed. Her tail might be sticking out horizontally or sticking straight up and wagging slightly.

What it means: “Hark! Who goes there?!” Something caught your pup’s attention and now she’s on high alert, trying to discern whether or not the person, animal, or situation is a threat. She’ll likely stay on guard until she feels safe or becomes distracted.

3. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing, leaning slightly forward. His body and legs are tense, and his hackles—those hairs along his back and neck—are raised. His tail is stiff and twitching, not swooping playfully. His mouth is open, teeth are exposed, and he may be snarling, snapping, or barking excessively.

What it means: “Don’t mess with me!” This dog is asserting his social dominance and letting others know that he might attack if they don’t defer accordingly. A dog in this stance could be either offensively aggressive or defensively aggressive. If you encounter a dog in this state, play it safe and back away slowly without making eye contact.

4. What you’ll see: As another dog approaches, your dog lies down on his back with his tail tucked in between his legs. His paws are tucked in too, his ears are flat, and he isn’t making direct eye contact with the other dog standing over him.

What it means: “I come in peace!” Your pooch is displaying signs of submission to a more dominant dog, conveying total surrender to avoid physical confrontation. Other, less obvious, signs of submission include ears that are flattened back against the head, an avoidance of eye contact, a tongue flick, and bared teeth. Yup—a dog might bare his teeth while still being submissive, but they’ll likely be clenched together, the lips opened horizontally rather than curled up to show the front canines. A submissive dog will also slink backward or inward rather than forward, which would indicate more aggressive behavior.

5. What you’ll see: Your dog is crouching with her back hunched, tail tucked, and the corner of her mouth pulled back with lips slightly curled. Her shoulders, or hackles, are raised and her ears are flattened. She’s avoiding eye contact.

What it means: “I’m scared, but will fight you if I have to.” This dog’s fight or flight instincts have been activated. It’s best to keep your distance from a dog in this emotional state because she could attack if she feels cornered.

6. What you’ll see: You’re staring at your dog, holding eye contact. Your dog looks away from you, tentatively looks back, then looks away again. After some time, he licks his chops and yawns.

What it means: “I don’t know what’s going on and it’s weirding me out.” Your dog doesn’t know what to make of the situation, but rather than nipping or barking, he’ll stick to behaviors he knows are OK, like yawning, licking his chops, or shaking as if he’s wet. You’ll want to intervene by removing whatever it is causing him discomfort—such as an overly grabby child—and giving him some space to relax.

7. What you’ll see: Your dog has her front paws bent and lowered onto the ground with her rear in the air. Her body is relaxed, loose, and wiggly, and her tail is up and wagging from side to side. She might also let out a high-pitched or impatient bark.

What it means: “What’s the hold up? Let’s play!” This classic stance, known to dog trainers and behaviorists as “the play bow,” is a sign she’s ready to let the good times roll. Get ready for a round of fetch or tug of war, or for a good long outing at the dog park.

8. What you’ll see: You’ve just gotten home from work and your dog rushes over. He can’t stop wiggling his backside, and he may even lower himself into a giant stretch, like he’s doing yoga.

What it means: “OhmygoshImsohappytoseeyou I love you so much you’re my best friend foreverandeverandever!!!!” This one’s easy: Your pup is overjoyed his BFF is back. That big stretch is something dogs don’t pull out for just anyone; they save that for the people they truly love. Show him you feel the same way with a good belly rub and a handful of his favorite treats.

The best way to say “I love you” in dog? A monthly subscription to BarkBox. Your favorite pup will get a package filled with treats, toys, and other good stuff (and in return, you’ll probably get lots of sloppy kisses). Visit BarkBox to learn more.