About the Author

Chris Shiflett

Hi, I’m Chris: web craftsman, community leader, husband, father, and partner at Fictive Kin.


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!

About this post

Merry Xmas! was posted on Sat, 25 Dec 2010. If you liked it, follow me on Twitter or share:

2 comments

1.redndahead said:

Wow that's clever. Don't know if you realize but the value of the clock mod 26 came out to a whole number, so I was trying to base the answer after the alphabet with those whole numbers. Got stuck from there.

Thanks for the workout.

Sun, 26 Dec 2010 at 09:07:42 GMT Link


2.Ron Peled said:

Nice and clever puzzle. I did not participate in your puzzle (I just found your blog) but will look forward to another one...

Sun, 23 Jan 2011 at 04:13:18 GMT Link


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