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I Had One Grunch But the Eggplant Over There

I have a weakness for puzzles. Many of you share that weakness, I think. It's closely related to the addiction to games and the passion for competition that also afflict many of us who mess around with software, but it's subtly different from either of those disorders.

Dr. Dobb's has fed our puzzle hunger from time to time. Michael Wiesenberg published puzzles in DDJ for years, and I have slipped a few in myself. I first started publishing puzzles, though, back in the Upper Thoracic Era on the back page of InfoWorld magazine. Those puzzles, published weekly, featured a detective named Mr. Usasi and incorporated computer news and trivia into a puzzle presented in the form of a 1000-word mystery story. Sometimes they got pretty complicated: I remember one that required me to create a full-page reverse-Polish-notation maze. I reflect sometimes on how I got this way. The influences are not hard to find (although they probably merely encouraged a tendency that would have found its expression anyway). I was reading Will Shortz in Games magazine before the NYT and NPR discovered him. I was obsessed with Martin Gardner's "Mathematical Games" column in Scientific American.

But those are the kind of influences you brag about. I was also influenced, probably more profoundly, by some pretty low-culture puzzlers. Like Roger Price.

Price is known for inventing Mad Libs, Droodles, and other hard-to-classify creations that combined humor, puzzles, and an anarchic sensibility. Mad Libs is a kind of Chinese menu approach to story writing, or a system for producing humor through randomness, or something. Droodles are obscure doodles that take on meaning only when given a title. One of Price's Droodles, a trapezoid and a triangle sitting on a horizontal line and titled "Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch," was used as a cover for the Frank Zappa album of the same name.

In an attempt to recreate something of Price's anarchic style, I'm offering a puzzle. It's pretty simple: Each sentence below is a scrambled news item. Each consists of a subject noun phrase, a verb phrase, and a predicate noun phrase. To help you sort them out, the verb phrase is in italics. (Uh, don't worry about the grammatical categories I'm using. I may have got them wrong. The point is that each sentence has three parts and the middle part is in italics.)

The parts are all scrambled. No verb phrase is with the subject noun phrase it belongs with, and no predicate noun phrase is with the right subject noun phrase or verb phrase. Your job is to put the verb phrases and predicate noun phrases in the right sentences so they all make sense. So if you see "Charles Simonyi" and "is dating," you might look for "Martha Stewart." (He really is!) But it's not there, so you'll have to hook Charles up with other words. Good luck.

Michael Swaine


[email protected]


3DTV has released an InfoWorld Open Source Software Award.

An MIT chemist will require the science fiction series Firefly.

A startup called 12seconds has won planet Earth.

Charles Simonyi can pick the locks in Lotus Notes.

Cobol violates a video version of Twitter.

Correct tire inflation is suddenly popular with the White House.

Jimmyflathead is dating computer journalists.

Joss Whedon has invented fuel cost.

Lindsay Lohan is the new Mobile Me.

Local is opening Japanese traditional values.

Google Maps Street View will soon have a better electrode.

Microsoft apologized for accused anthrax terrorist Bruce Ivins.

MySpace President Chris DeWolfe was recently seen wearing funny glasses.

Perchlorate in the soil left, but returned to an open source lab in the Philippines.

Shrinky Dinks is the Wikipedia username of Paris Hilton.

Splunk can reduce organic.

Steve Jobs doesn't rule out the possibility of a diamond ring.

Your iPhone created life on Mars.

Answer: (Highlight text below to see it.)

MySpace President Chris DeWolfe is dating Paris Hilton.

An MIT chemist has invented a better electrode.

A startup called 12seconds has released a video version of Twitter.

Jimmyflathead is the Wikipedia username of accused anthrax terrorist Bruce Ivins.

Microsoft is opening an open source lab in the Philippines.

Cobol is suddenly popular with computer journalists.

Splunk has won an InfoWorld Open Source Software Award.

Correct tire inflation can reduce fuel cost.

Your iPhone will soon have Lotus Notes.

3DTV will require funny glasses.

Lindsay Lohan was recently seen wearing a diamond ring.

Local is the new organic.

Joss Whedon created the science-fiction series "Firefly."

Charles Simonyi left, but returned to planet Earth.

Perchlorate in the soil doesn't rule out the possibility of life on Mars.

Google Maps Street View violates Japanese traditional values.

Shrinky Dinks can pick the locks in the White House.

Steve Jobs apologized for Mobile Me.

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