Zero = P on the S: An “Aha!” Opportunity

 I struggled with how to tie today’s Andy’s Corner with Ann’s Not My Mother’s Spaghetti blog.  Although I am allowed to go off topic, we try to foster the impression that BigLittleMeals is a somewhat coordinated effort between the two of us.  In a blinding flash of insight it came to me – “Zero = P on the S.”

I hope you find that puzzling, because that’s my theme for today.  I will get back to Zero = P on the S in due time.  The inspiration for this theme came to me while Ann and I –  and undoubtedly a gazillion others sheltering in place –  were diddling around with things like the New York Times’ Spelling Bee puzzle.

Screen Shot 2020-04-02 at 8.42.36 PM

Finding these 29 words for the New York Times Spelling Bee took us only 2 hours of concerted effort.

Turns out that puzzles are in demand.  A recent NY Times article offers some suggestions for puzzles and games which provide “a mental workout (or break) that keeps you away from your phone — and may even alleviate the tension that can come with a wealth of aimless together (or alone) time …“.

crossword puzzle cnn

Jigsaw puzzle sales are booming. So much so that they are have suffered a fate similar to Ann’s pasta – gone off the shelves.  According to a bit I found in an on-line  Wall Street Journal article  – and it is only a “bit” because I am too cheap to spring for a subscription  – there’s a shortage of jigsaw puzzles “just when we need them most.”  Heaven forbid!

But help is on the way.  While I may not be able to deal with the empty shelves of pasta or toilet paper, I can offer modest relief for the shortage of puzzles.  Well, maybe not jigsaw puzzles, but mind puzzles or “linguistic equations” to use the term coined by Morgan Worthy in his 2000 book Aha! A Puzzle Approach to Creative Thinking.  Mr. Worthy argues that solving a linguistic equation brings a “sudden flush of pleasure and satisfaction” which he calls “the ‘aha’ effect.”


Morgan Worthy introduced the idea of “linguistic equations”

So, to give the readers of BigLittleMeals a rare opportunity for “sudden flushes of pleasure and satisfaction” during this bleak time, I’m sharing with you some linguistic equations to solve.

I discovered these back when I was still teaching.  At the beginning of each semester I would challenge my students figure them out.  Because I focused on small group participation in my classes, I used them as both an ice-breaker and to illustrate the advantages of group versus individual problem solving.  I would first ask students to answer as many of the items as they could on their own.  Then I would assign them to groups to try to come up with more solutions.

Don’t think this will be easy – over the many years of doing this exercise, I don’t recall any group managing to solve all of the riddles.  But it did generate lots of interaction and seemed to break the ice a bit, even for those students who hated group projects. I suppose that if I did this today savvy students would immediately look up the answers on their smart phones, cancelling the “aha” effect.

To introduce you to how the puzzle works, let’s return to the Zero = P on the S in the title.  Anyone get it?

The answer is “Zero = Pasta on the Shelves.”  This should have been duck soup after reading Ann’s blog about the empty pasta shelves.

Now for the real test, see how many of the below you can answer – without going on line!  Just so you know, “Y” and “Z” are my own creations, the rest I lifted from somewhere long ago.

INSTRUCTIONS: Each sentence below contains the initials of words that will make it correct. Find the missing words.  For example: ‘26 = L of the A’ would be 26 = letters of the Alphabet. 
A.        26 = L. of the A.
B.        7 = W. of the A. W.
C.        1001 = A. N.
D.        12 = S. of the Z.
E.        54 = C. in a D. (with the J.)
F.        9 = P. in the S. S.
G.       88 = P. K.
H.       13 = S. on the A. F.
I.         32 = D. F. at which W. F.
J.         18 = H. on a G. C.
K.       90 = D. in a R. A.
L.        200 = D. for P. G. in M.
M.       8 = S. on a S. S.
N.        3 = B. M. (S. H. T. R.)
O.       4 = Q. in a G.
P.        24 = H. in a D.
Q.       1 = W. on a U.
R.        5 = D. in a Z. C.
S.        57 = H. V.
T.        11 = P. on a F. T.
U.        1000 = W. that a P. is W.
V.        29 = D. in F. in a L. Y.
W.       64 = S. on a C.B.
X.        40 = D. and N. of the G. F.
Y.        76=T. that L. the B. P.
Z.        50=W. to L. Y. L.   

For your amusement, here is how one site rates the number of correct answers:  1 to 5 is Average, 6 – 11 is somewhat Intelligent, 12 to 18 is intelligent, 19 + is genius.

I will post the answers on the next Andy’s Corner.  Hopefully, the “flushes of pleasure and satisfaction” you experience while figuring these out will have tided you over until the shelves are restocked not only with pasta and toilet paper, but with your favorite jigsaw puzzles.


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