Ask Me Another
1:22 pm
Thu August 29, 2013

Really Hard Edition: Part 2

Originally published on Wed December 31, 2014 12:49 pm

The hour continues as host Ophira Eisenberg and puzzle editor Art Chung unearth notorious stumpers from the Ask Me Another archives. How well do you know your "qwertyuiop"? We ask contestants to create words using letters found on the "Top Row" of a computer keyboard. Mental math meets pop music in "Algebraic Music" (with an assist from house musician Jonathan Coulton) and the names of esteemed world leaders get reduced to animal-related puns in "Imperial Pets."

This segment originally aired on August 30, 2013.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:

You're listening to ASK ME ANOTHER, NPR's hour of puzzles, word games, and trivia. I'm your host Ophira Eisenberg. And this hour, we're featuring some of the most mind-bending games we have ever played. In the studio with me is our puzzle editor Art Chung. And our next number is called Top Row, which unfortunately has nothing to do with top shelf. It has everything to do with QWERTYUIOP.

ART CHUNG: I don't think QWERTYUIOP is a word.

EISENBERG: Check your computer.

CHUNG: Well, I'm looking at my computer and it does stand for the letters on the top of the computer keyboard.

EISENBERG: Ah-ha.

CHUNG: Q-W-E-R-T-Y-U-I-O-P.

EISENBERG: Exactly.

CHUNG: Well, in this game, Top Row, we asked the contestants to remember all those letters in their head. We didn't give them a computer keyboard and they had to figure out words that could be spelled using only that row of letters.

EISENBERG: Which is more difficult than it sounds.

CHUNG: It was a little difficult and a little sadistic.

EISENBERG: Now standing at attention, we have our next two contestants. We have Joe Altieri and Lorna Jordan, ready for our next game. Just as a warm-up, Joe, can you give me any four letters that appear on the top row of a keyboard?

JOE ALTIERI: T, R, Q, U.

EISENBERG: That's excellent, well done.

ALTIERI: Really?

EISENBERG: Yeah. Now, Lorna, I know he took four of the mix there, but can you add a couple to that?

LORNA JORDAN: Mm-hmm.

EISENBERG: Yeah, great. Good. I like your attitude.

JORDAN: P, O.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

JORDAN: I and T. Maybe?

EISENBERG: Yeah, more or less. OK. Yeah. You know what, just remember that.

JORDAN: Mm-hmm.

EISENBERG: Jonathan, what are we going to play?

JONATHAN COULTON: Well, this game is called The Top Row, because all the answers in this game can be typed using only the top row of letters on a computer keyboard.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: So there are 10 altogether, the 10 next to the tab key - Q, W, E, R, T, Y, U, I, O, and P. A simple pneumonic is to remember the word Qwertyuiop.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: And letters can be used more than once in the answer. Here we go. You might use your keyboard to tap out this message, limited to 140 characters.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Lorna?

JORDAN: Tweet.

COULTON: That is right.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: R-T and H-T to Lorna.

COULTON: Yes.

EISENBERG: H-T is hat tip. I just learned that. I love it.

COULTON: That's internet talk. In ballet, a twirl on your toes.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Lorna?

JORDAN: Pirouette.

COULTON: Yes.

(APPLAUSE)

COULTON: Some people call a see-saw this.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Lorna?

JORDAN: Teeter-totter.

COULTON: Zing, you are right.

EISENBERG: Yes.

(APPLAUSE)

COULTON: An aromatic mixture of dried plants and spices.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Joe?

ALTIERI: Potpourri.

COULTON: Yes.

(APPLAUSE)

COULTON: Gentlemen should always hold open doors for ladies, according to this.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Joe?

ALTIERI: Etiquette.

COULTON: Yes.

EISENBERG: Nice.

(APPLAUSE)

COULTON: There's a gentleman right there, obviously.

ALTIERI: My chivalry has paid off.

COULTON: Yes.

EISENBERG: Well done.

COULTON: If you are one of these, you never win.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Lorna?

JORDAN: Quitter.

COULTON: Yes.

(APPLAUSE)

COULTON: Brits don't wait in line, they do this.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Joe?

ALTIERI: Queue.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Yes!

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Joe is getting all the polite things. He has etiquette. He queues. He buys potpourri.

COULTON: You know why? Because don't let him fool you. Joe is a nice young man, that's why.

EISENBERG: Yes.

COULTON: Before Alaska became a U.S. state, it was a this.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Lorna?

JORDAN: Territory.

COULTON: Yes.

EISENBERG: All right. Nice job.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: All right, that was close, but it turns out, Lorna, you won this round. Congratulations, you'll be moving onto our Ask Me One More final round at the end of the show.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PI")

COULTON: This is a song called "Pie". (singing) When ink and pen in hands of men inscribe your form bipedal P they draw an altar on which God has slaughtered all stability. No eyes could ever soak in all the places you anoint, and yet to see you all at once we only need the point. Flirting with infinity or geometric progeny that fit inside you oh so tight, triangles that feel so right. 3.14159265358979323846264338329750288419716939937510582097494459.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Jonathan Coulton.

CHUNG: So Jonathan Coulton is our house musical genius, but he actually made a mistake in that song. And if you know what it is, email us at askmeanother@npr.org.

EISENBERG: You know what? If you're the first person to email what he did incorrectly, we're going to give you a prize.

CHUNG: Yeah. They deserve a prize.

EISENBERG: We're going to have Jonathan Coulton come over to your house and eat pie with you.

CHUNG: That'd be great.

EISENBERG: I don't know if he's up for it. I have no idea if he likes pie. I don't know if you like pie, but that's your prize.

CHUNG: I don't know if that's legal.

(LAUGHTER)

CHUNG: But he'll do it.

EISENBERG: He'll do it.

CHUNG: He'll totally do it. So we don't do a lot of math games on our show, and people ask why. And I think the reason is because numbers aren't that interesting as answers to me. You could say, oh, the answer was four and it's like no, the answer was 300.

EISENBERG: Right. Which is - I can't even imagine what that game is. But our listeners are kind of unique because they want a math game.

CHUNG: Right. They did. And so what we did was we asked our puzzle writers to come up with a music game that combines math with music.

EISENBERG: And as far as I'm concerned, you add Prince to anything, and it makes it amazing.

Right now let's welcome our next two contestants - Jeanne Garbarino and Diane Firstman.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: We have two very impressive women here, both science buffs. Jeanne, you work in health science?

JEANNE GARBARINO: Yeah. I'm the director of science outreach at the Rockefeller University.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Diane, you're a data analyst at the New York City Department of Corrections?

DIANE FIRSTMAN: Yes, I am.

EISENBERG: What does that even mean?

FIRSTMAN: We analyze population trends in correctional facilities on Rikers Island and throughout the city.

EISENBERG: Wow.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: This game is called Algebraic Music. Jonathan, this game sounds like it might be formulaic.

COULTON: Hoo-hoo. Yes.

EISENBERG: Hoo-hoo.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: It is a game without equal.

(SOUNDBITE OF GROANS)

COULTON: It's a real plus. In this game, I'm going to play songs that feature a number in the title. The catch is that I'm going to replace that number with an algebraic expression. Jeanne just turned away from the microphone and swore under her breath.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: To win the point, you'll have to solve for X to make the mathematic expression in the song correct. So we're not looking for the original number; we're looking for the value of X. For - what? Math is fun, everybody.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: For example, if I said, as Jay-Z does, I've got X times nine problems you would say that X equals 11 because Jay-Z had 99 problems, and 11 times nine equals 99.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: Of course, I will be singing these mathematical expressions because that's sort of my thing. Are you ready or would you like to give up?

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: Here we go.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SUMMER OF '69")

COULTON: (singing) I got my first real six string, bought it at the Five and Dime. Played it till my fingers bled. It was the summer of X plus five.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Diane.

FIRSTMAN: X is 64?

COULTON: You got it.

(APPLAUSE)

COULTON: "Summer of '69" by Bryan Adams. Sixty-four plus five equals 69.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "500 MILES")

COULTON: (Singing) When I come home, yeah, I know I'm going to be, I'm going to be the man who comes back home to you. If I grow old, well, I know I'm going to be, I'm going to be the man who's growing old with you.

(Singing) But I would walk X times 10 miles and I would walk X times 10 more just to be the man who walks 1,000 miles to fall down at your door.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Jeanne?

GARBARINO: Five hundred.

COULTON: Oooh, no. I'm sorry.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Diane?

FIRSTMAN: Fifty?

COULTON: Fifty. X times 10 miles.

EISENBERG: Sorry.

(APPLAUSE)

GARBARINO: I thought it was 5,000.

EISENBERG: I like that. The guy in your story is walking further. Yeah.

GARBARINO: Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: He's walking 5,000 miles.

EISENBERG: Yeah. Yeah.

COULTON: That's amazing.

EISENBERG: He's got to work at it.

COULTON: He might not be taking a direct route.

GARBARINO: No.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IT TAKES TWO")

COULTON: (Singing) It takes X plus four to make a thing go right. It takes X plus four to make it out of sight. Hit it.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Diane.

FIRSTMAN: Negative two.

COULTON: That's right. Negative two.

(APPLAUSE)

COULTON: That's right. We're working both sides of the number line, people. X plus four - negative two.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "1999")

COULTON: (Singing) The sky was all purple, there were people running everywhere. Trying to run from the destruction. You know I didn't even care. Say, say 2,000 party over, oops, out of time. So tonight I'm going to party like it's X plus 59.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Jeanne.

GARBARINO: 1940.

COULTON: 1940. You got it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PAROLES AT 17")

COULTON: (Singing) We all play the game when we dare, cheat ourselves at solitaire, inventing lovers on the phone, repenting other lives unknown that call and say come dance with me and murmur vague obscenities to ugly girls like me at X plus three.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Diane.

FIRSTMAN: Fourteen.

COULTON: That's right, 14.

(APPLAUSE)

COULTON: All right. This is your last clue.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IF I HAD A MILLION DOLLARS")

COULTON: (Singing) If I had X times 10 dollars.

JOHN CHANESKI: (Singing) If I had X times 10 dollars.

COULTON: (Singing) Well, I'd buy a kit car.

CHANESKI: (Singing) A nice reliant automobile.

COULTON: (Singing) If I had X times 10 dollars I'd buy your love.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

COULTON: Is that Jeanne?

GARBARINO: I think so. One hundred thousand.

COULTON: That's right, 100,000.

(APPLAUSE)

COULTON: John Chaneski, how'd they do?

CHANESKI: Wow, that was some complicated game. But Diane takes it away.

EISENBERG: Thank you so much, Jeanne. Well done, Diane. We'll see you at the end of the show.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (singing) One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, 11, 12...

EISENBERG: If your idea of playing sports is being a mathlete, then you should be on our show. Or at least come see it. Send us an email at asmeanother@npr.org or you can find us on Twitter or Facebook. We'll send you a quiz and see if you are able to leap tall fractions in a single bound. For tickets, go to amatickets.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (singing) One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, 11, 12...

EISENBERG: So far, all of these games have had answers, which I know sounds obvious, but I mean like real answers, quantifiable answers, something you Google and get the answer. But sometimes we like to stretch our puzzle writers' creative powers and get them to write a quiz with imaginary answers.

CHUNG: That's right, Ophira. By imaginary answers we mean like puns ‘cause who doesn't love a good pun?

EISENBERG: I love a good pun.

CHUNG: Hey, Ophira. Knock, knock.

EISENBERG: Who's there?

CHUNG: Dishes.

EISENBERG: Dishes who?

CHUNG: Dishes NPR.

EISENBERG: (Laughter). That's a good one. I like that.

CHUNG: Yeah. Yeah. I don't know why cut it from our last episode.

EISENBERG: I - well, because they were wrong. Let's see how our contestants did in this pun-based game called Imperial Pets.

Joining us right now are our next two contestants - Denise Grab and Mike Schurott.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Hi. You guys are hugging. You're already pals.

MIKE SCHUROTT: We are.

DENISE GRAB: We're besties.

EISENBERG: How do you feel about animals? Denise, any pets?

GRAB: I don't have any pets. I think we have some spiders I've been finding around my house. I don't know if those count.

EISENBERG: Do you name them, the spiders?

GRAB: Depends on how I'm feeling that day. If I'm feeling a little lonely, yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Mike, do you have any pets?

SCHUROTT: I do. I have two English bulldogs. One is named Jeter, and I think it's named after a Met, but I'm not sure. And the other one is Jahera. Took her from a very bad family and put her into a great family, and that family also accepted me into it. So both of us are doing very well, thank you very much.

EISENBERG: Oh, good.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: This game is called Imperial Pets. When it comes to pets, it's hard not to treat them like little furry versions of yourself. Just ask Katy Perry, who fondly named her cat Kitty Purry.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: That is true. So in this game, we're going to ask you to create adorable pet versions of historical world leaders, which will be an animal-based pun on the world leader's name. So puzzle guru John Chaneski, can you please give us an example?

CHANESKI: Sure. If we said this fickle feline brought communism to China and was its most fearsome leader until he passed away in 1976, you would say Chairman Meow.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Ring in when you know the answer, and the winner will move on to our Ask Me One More final round at the end of the show. Reviled by his cousin Mickey during World War II, this right wing rodent made the trains run on time in Italy. World leader?

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: Denise?

GRAB: Benito Mouse-ilini.

EISENBERG: That is great, well done.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Feeling pretty good about yourself right now. That was pretty great, right, to get that. I saw you look up to the heavens. The heavens gave you the answer, and then you delivered. After he succeeded Boris Yeltsin as Russia's top dog in 1999, he's enjoying hunting without a shirt. Luckily, the poufy haircut on his head, ankles and buttocks keep him warm.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

SCHUROTT: Vladimin Poodle-tin.

EISENBERG: Do you want to give me that again, Mike?

SCHUROTT: Poodle-tin.

CHANESKI: You know what, we'll take it. Vladimir Poodle-tin, sure.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: When he was dictator of Cambodia, this brutal parrot kept saying he wanted crackers for the Khmer Rouge all the time.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: Denise?

GRAB: Polly Pot.

EISENBERG: Polly Pot. That is right.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: It's getting easier on you guys. It's getting easier. Always yelping about her godly visions, this poor puppy was burned at the stake by the French or the Frenchies after she led them to victory over the English.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: Mike?

SCHUROTT: Who is Joan of Bark?

EISENBERG: Joan of Bark, that is correct.

(APPLAUSE)

CHANESKI: We do want to remind you, you are not on "Jeopardy."

EISENBERG: Yeah, you don't have to start with the "who is." Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

SCHUROTT: Thank you.

EISENBERG: So yeah. A lot more is at stake here, just remember that. This tough-talking aquatic pet almost didn't become the first female prime minister of Israel after she was caught canoodling with a scuba diver in her bowl.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: Denise?

GRAB: Goldfish Meir.

EISENBERG: Goldfish Meir is correct.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Also, her actual nickname. I don't know if you know that. This is your final question. Despite a devotion to Buddhist principles of peace, this spiritual ruler of Tibet is known to spit like a camel.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

EISENBERG: Denise?

SCHUROTT: Who is...

EISENBERG: That was Denise.

GRAB: Dalai Llama.

EISENBERG: Dalai Llama, that's right.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: John Chaneski?

CHANESKI: Well, that was a great game but the best in show, at least for this game, is Denise. Nice work.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Congratulations, Denise. Thank you so much, Mike.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.