Long-time readers know that I love puzzles and games. Over the course of Now I Know’s 13+ year history, I’ve shared a lot — variant sudokus, rebuses, actual tabletop puzzles (and Wordle gets a mention there, too!), Marvel Snap (and more variant sudokus in that one), and more. I was even ahead of the curve, sharing HQ Trivia with you at one time. I really like these types of games. (Just not Monopoly.)
Yesterday, I learned the word “ditloid.” It’s a type of puzzle I was already very familiar with — I can remember doing them as far back as elementary school. I just didn’t know they had a name. Ditloids are puzzles where you need to deduce a phrase about a number, but you’re only given the number or numbers itself, some small words (like “in” or “of”), and then just the first letter of all of the other words. For example, if you were given “26 L of the E A,” the answer would be “26 letters of the English alphabet.”
Today, we’re going to do some ditloids!
But first, I have to share how I learned the word. I came across a new podcast called “The Puzzler with A.J. Jacobs,” which you should check out here. It’s wonderful, and I say that as someone who doesn’t typically listen to a lot of podcasts. Each day, the host spends 5 to 10 minutes running through a puzzle with a guest. You, the listener, can play along — and trust me, you will. I haven’t done them all yet, but yesterday, I clicked on their episode titled “Ditloids” featuring comedian Michael Ian Black, not knowing what a ditloid was. When Jacobs, the host, explained it, I was hooked. I’m thrilled to say that I got all of the puzzles before Black did, but I’m somewhat ashamed to admit that I only got one of the two “extra credit” puzzles at the end. (I was particularly happy with myself for getting the one starting with the number 8 — it took me a beat, but I figured it out!). That episode is here, and if you like the ditloids below, you’ll love their episode.
So, let’s do the ditloids! The puzzles are listed here; I’ll share the answers at the bottom of the email. I tried to rank them from easiest to hardest — I remember the final one being one of the few that tripped me up back in elementary school — but as with any puzzle, your experience may vary. I don’t think they’re particularly hard, but who knows.
(For some extra fun, say that using the opening from The Simpsons as the tune)
29 D in F in a L Y
76 T in the B P
88 K on a P
7 D S
8 P in the S S (9 including P)
3 B M (S H T R)
If you want more, listen to the episode of the Puzzler listed above! And if you want more than that, just Google “Ditloid.” Again, the answers to the six above are at the end of this email. Good luck!
The Now I Know Week In Review
Monday: An Awkward Phone Call from Mom: Heh.
Tuesday: The Halloween Costume You Can’t Buy: Smokey Bear is beloved, but he isn’t for sale.
Wednesday: Why Mario Has a Mustache: There’s a new Mario game out today, so I thought this was a good re-share. In the interim, I’ve come across two other Mario-related stories that I think you’ll like. First, from the New York Times, “Mario Can’t Be Super Without Psychedelic Power-Ups.” The subhead: “Nintendo’s mascot is boring. So for nearly four decades, it has fed the jumping plumber an increasingly bizarre diet of items.” Second, from reporter Matt Shearer of WBZ News Radio Boston, an interview with an Amazon delivery driver who dresses like Mario to bring some joy with your packages. (Shearer’s stories are usually a lot of fun; if you like the Mario story, his man-on-the-street story about a Massachusetts town without a Dunkin’ Donuts is definitely for you, too.)
Thursday: The College Tuition Hack That Apparently Doesn’t Work: Again, I think a modified version of this could work in some U.S. schools. Not to the same degree (pardon the pun) — you can’t take 3x the courseload — but you probably could fit in an extra class per semester and graduate in three years, not four.
And some other things you should check out:
Some long reads for the weekend:
1) “The Great Cash-for-Carbon Hustle” (New Yorker, 45 minutes, October 2023). Carbon offsets are increasingly looking more like a scam than a way to help stem climate change. The New Yorker goes deep to show why.
2) “The Lie Detector Was Never Very Good at Telling the Truth” (Wired, 16 minutes, March 2023). The subhead: “Taking a polygraph test is always stressful, and the results are often flawed. So why have police been using it for 100 years?” This is an interesting story, but a caveat: I’m not really sure if it actually addresses the question posed by the subhead.
3) “Where do fonts come from? This one business, mostly” (The Hustle, 8 minutes, August 2023). I quick dive into something you probably didn’t think much about.
Finally: The Ditloid Answers!
29 days in February in a leap year
76 trombones in the big parade
88 keys on a piano
7 deadly sins
8 planets in the Solar System (9 including Pluto)
3 Blind Mice (see how they run!)
Have a great weekend!