About the Author

Chris Shiflett

Hi, I’m Chris: entrepreneur, community leader, husband, and father. I live and work in Boulder, CO.


All posts for Dec 2010

Merry Xmas!

To everyone who participated in the Christmas Conundrum, I hope you enjoyed this little dose of holiday fun. :-)

Congrats to everyone who solved it. If you're curious, here are the first seven people who solved it, in order:

  1. Christer Edvartsen
  2. Terry Matula
  3. Derick Rethans
  4. Andrei Zmievski
  5. Patrick Springstubbe
  6. Helmut Hummel
  7. Krzysztof Kotowicz

If you want the solution, keep reading.

I created the puzzle before going to bed Tuesday night. I had a lot of ideas, but I kept coming back to the idea of beginning with an animated digital clock, just like I used for a puzzle I made years ago. For that puzzle, the order of the sequence was irrelevant, so I made the clock advance pretty normally. This time, I decided I would make the sequence matter, which would make the clock seem much more sporadic. I also wanted to tailor the puzzle to an audience primarily made up of developers. Binary it is. :-)

Next, I plotted MERRY XMAS! in a text file:

X   X  XXXXX  XXXX   XXXX   X   X
XX XX  X      X   X  X   X   X X
X X X  XXXX   XXXX   XXXX     X
X   X  X      X  X   X  X     X
X   X  XXXXX  X   X  X   X    X
 
X   X  X   X    X     XXX     X
 X X   XX XX   X X   X        X
  X    X X X  XXXXX   XXX     X
 X X   X   X  X   X      X
X   X  X   X  X   X   XXX     X

Knowing that I wanted to use binary and wanted to use a digital clock, I knew the numbers couldn't be too big. I like creative puzzles, but I also wanted to get to bed, so I simply assigned the values vertically, like this:

1024 X   X  XXXXX  XXXX   XXXX   X   X
512  XX XX  X      X   X  X   X   X X
256  X X X  XXXX   XXXX   XXXX     X
128  X   X  X      X  X   X  X     X
64   X   X  XXXXX  X   X  X   X    X
32
16   X   X  X   X    X     XXX     X
8     X X   XX XX   X X   X        X
4      X    X X X  XXXXX   XXX     X
2     X X   X   X  X   X      X
1    X   X  X   X  X   X   XXX     X

I was still doing this by hand. (I made the old puzzle with PHP.) At this point, I regretted that decision a bit, but I powered through and quickly added up each column, from right to left:

1024
512
256 + 128 + 64 + 16 + 8 + 4 + 1 = 477
512
1024
 
 
512 + 64 + 2 = 578
1024 + 256 + 128 + 16 + 4 + 1 = 1429
1024 + 256 + 16 + 4 + 1 = 1301
1024 + 256 + 16 + 4 + 1 = 1301
1024 + 512 + 256 + 128 + 64 + 8 = 1992
 
 
512 + 64 + 4 + 2 + 1 = 583
1024 + 256 + 128 + 8 + 4 = 1420 
1024 + 256 + 16 + 4 = 1300 
1024 + 256 + 8 + 4 = 1292
1024 + 512 + 256 + 128 + 64 + 4 + 2 + 1 = 1991 
 
 
1024 + 64 + 16 + 8 + 4 + 2 + 1 = 1119
1024 + 256 + 64 + 8 = 1352
1024 + 256 + 64 + 4 = 1348
1024 + 256 + 64 + 8 = 1352
1024 + 512 + 256 + 128 + 64 + 16 + 8 + 4 + 2 + 1 = 2015
 
 
1024 + 512 + 256 + 128 + 64 + 16 + 1 = 2001
512 + 8 + 2 = 522 
256 + 4 = 260
512 + 8 + 2 = 522 
1024 + 512 + 256 + 128 + 64 + 16 + 1 = 2001

This gave me numbers small enough to work (no larger than four digits). If I had been lucky enough that each number could also represent a valid time, I was going to add one more bit of cleverness and use an analog clock with different colors to denote ante meridiem and post meridiem. But, since I wasn't so lucky, I went with the original idea of a digital clock and made this:

I was pretty happy that the first two numbers made for a nice hint, and the hint I posted was really just an attempt to make it clear that these were binary numbers:

Solving the puzzle required that you imagine each blink of the lights representing a horizontal slice of a larger image:

Thanks again to everyone who participated. I had fun, and I hope you did, too. :-)

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Lights

Did you read yesterday's post, Christmas Conundrum? If you didn't, and you like puzzles, you should read that first.

As promised, I'm going to be providing a hint, but before I do, I want to congratulate Christer Edvartsen. He was the first person to email me the solution and win the $100 prize from WonderProxy. So far, only one other person has managed to solve the puzzle. Maybe you can be the third?

Without further ado, here's the hint:

Christmas Conundrum

I like puzzles. Several years ago, I made a puzzle of my own. At the time, the PHP community was much smaller, but this particular post got a lot of attention. Zend offered a prize to the first person who could solve it, and for a few days, it managed to stump the entire PHP community. In the end, it was none other than Ben Ramsey who solved it.

Intrigued?

Inspired by that original puzzle and my memories of Midnight Madness, I cobbled together a new puzzle last night. Another digital clock? Yes, but knowing how to solve the first one won't help you with this. :-)

I'll post a hint tomorrow, so if you want the satisfaction of solving it without a hint, you've only got a day. Good luck!

Thanks to WonderProxy (a fantastic way to test your GeoIP apps or to see where's it up), there's a $100 gift certificate (Amazon, iTunes, or other Internet-friendly gift certificate of your choice) up for grabs for the first person to solve the puzzle. Thanks, Paul!