Archive for December, 2017

2017 KenKen International Championship

If you like puzzles and ping pong, then Pleasantville, NY, was the place to be on December 17.

More than 200 Kenthusiasts — people who love KenKen puzzles — descended on Will Shortz’s Westchester Table Tennis Center for the 2017 KenKen International Championship (or the KKIC, for short). Participants followed 1.5 hours of solving KenKen puzzles with a pizza party and several hours of table tennis.

KenKen Logo

The competition consisted of three rounds, with the three puzzles in each round slightly larger and more difficult than those from the previous round. Consequently, competitors were given 15, 18, and 20 minutes to complete the puzzles in the first, second, and third rounds, respectively.

Competitors earned 1,000 points for each completely correct puzzle, and 0 points for an incomplete or incorrect puzzle. In addition, a bonus of 5 points was earned for every 10 seconds in which a puzzle was turned in before time was called. So, let’s say you got two of the three puzzles correct and handed in your answers with 30 seconds remaining in the round; then, your score for that round would be

2 \times 1000 + \frac{30}{10} \times 5 = \bf{2{,}015}

The leader after the written portion was John Gilling, a data scientist from Brooklyn, whose total score was 10,195. And if you’ve been paying attention, then you know what that means — Gilling earned 9,000 points for completing all of the puzzles correctly, so his time bonus was 1,195 points… which is the amount you’d earn for turning in the puzzles 2,390 seconds (combined) before time was called. The implication? Gilling solved all 9 puzzles from the written rounds — which contained a mix of puzzles from size 5 × 5 to 8 × 8 — in just over 13 minutes.


As a result, Gilling, the defending champion, earned a spot in the Championship Round against Tess Mandell, a math teacher from Boston; Ellie Grueskin, a high school senior at The Hackley School; and Michael Holman, a technology consultant. In the final round, each of them attempted a challenging 9 × 9 puzzle, which was displayed on an easel for the crowd to see. Solving a challenging 9 × 9 is tough enough; having to do it as 200 kenthusiasts follow your every move is even tougher.

So, how’d they do? See for yourself…

When the dust settled, Gilling had successfully defended his title. For his efforts, he received a check for $500. But more importantly, he retained bragging rights for one more year.

John Gilling - 2017 KKIC

John Gilling and his winning KenKen board at the 2017 KKIC

If you think you’ve got what it takes to compete with the best KenKen solvers, try your hand at the 9 × 9 puzzle that was used in the final round. In the video above, you saw how fast Gilling solved it to win the gold. But even the slowest of the four final-round participants finished in under 15 minutes.

Again, wow.

Finally, I’d be failing as a father if I didn’t mention that my sons Alex and Eli competed in the Delta (age 10 and under) division. Though bested by Aritro Chatterjee, a brilliant young man who earned a trip to the 2017 KKIC by winning the UAE KenKen Championship, Eli took the silver, and Alex brought home the bronze. They’re shown in the photos below with Bob Fuhrer, the president of Nextoy, LLC, the KenKen company and host of the KKIC.

Eli and Bob Fuhrer - KKIC    Alex and Bob Fuhrer - KKIC


For more KenKen puzzles, check out, or see my series of posts, A Week of KenKen.


December 26, 2017 at 9:10 am 2 comments

Four Score and Seven Dwarfs Ago…

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was released 80 years ago today. It was America’s first feature length animated film, the first to be produced in English, and the first in Technicolor. It was the most successful film of 1938, and, when adjusted for inflation, is the tenth highest-grossing film of all time.

Seven Dwarfs

In honor of its anniversary, let’s start with a quiz.

What are the names of the Seven Dwarfs?

If you said Blick, Flick, Glick, Plick, Snick, Whick, and Quee, you’d be correct. What? Of course, those aren’t the names of the dwarfs in the Disney movie, but apparently those were the names used in a 1912 theater adaptation of the original Brothers Grimm fairy tale.

Okay, let’s be a little more fair.

What are the names of the dwarfs in the 1937 Disney movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs?

In the image above, left to right, the dwarfs are Bashful, Happy, Dopey, Sleepy, Doc, Grumpy, and Sneezy.

The number seven is ubiquitous, possibly even more popular than Cristiano Ronaldo or Kylie Jenner. Lots of things come in groups of seven, like dwarfs, samurai, games in the World Series, and — appropriate for this time of year — swans a-swimming.

So for your enjoyment, here you go: an entire quiz dedicated to groups of seven.

  1. What are the seven wonders of the world?
  2. What are the seven words you can’t say on TV, according to George Carlin? (NSFW)
  3. What are the Seven Seas?
  4. What are the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People?
  5. Sherwood Schwarz, creator of the TV show Gilligan’s Island, said that each character on the island corresponds to one of the seven deadly sins. Can you name the characters, name the sins, and form a one-to-one correspondence between them?

‘Tis the season of social events. Feel free to use any of those trivia questions at a holiday party near you. And if the crowd at your gathering prefers jokes to quizzes, well, here are a few that involve dwarfs or the number seven:

Why is 6 afraid of 7? Because 7 8 9.

How do you make 7 even? Take away the ‘s’.

Bob has seven daughters, and each daughter has a brother. How many children does Bob have? Eight.

I got in a car crash the other day. A dwarf got out of the other car and said, “I’m not happy.” To which I replied, “Then which one are you?”

And if you need something just a bit more risque…

Why did Happy get out of the hot tub? Because the other dwarfs were feeling happy.

December 21, 2017 at 4:09 pm Leave a comment

Red + Green = Christmas, and 62 Other M&M Color Combinations

‘Tis the holiday season, so every grocery store, pharmacy, and convenience store is now stocking the M&M® Christmas Blend, a joyful combination of red and green button-shaped chocolate candies. It’s unclear whether this mixture actually helps to imbue the holiday spirit, but the consumption of these tasty morsels will make you look just a little more like St. Nick.

M&M Holiday

As far as I’m concerned, the Christmas Blend — not to be confused with Holiday Mint, which uses a (disgusting) mint chocolate filling — is one of just a few acceptable color combinations. Why? Because it uses colors that can only be found in the original Plain M&M packs, which contain red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and brown.

M+M multicolor

The original packs didn’t contain white M&M’s — sorry, Freedom Blend (Fourth of July). The original packs didn’t contain pastel colors — hop on by, Easter Blend. And nowhere on God’s green Earth will it ever be acceptable to use white chocolate inside those delectable candy shells — hit the road, Carrot Cake M&M’s. (Yuck.)

As you can tell, I’m a purist, and I have fairly strong opinions about this.

To my knowledge, there are only two other blends produced by Mars, Inc., that satisfy my acceptability criteria:

  • Harvest Blend: red, yellow, brown
  • Birthday Cake: red, yellow, blue

So, where am I going with all this? Glad you asked.

The Christmas, Harvest, and Birthday Cake blends represent just three of the 63 possible color combinations that can be made from the original six colors. That leaves 60 combinations that are just begging for names.

(A little history. As you may know, I have a quirk. I eat M&M’s in pairs of the same color, so I can place one on each side of my mouth and feel “balanced.” But it’s atypical for a pack to contain an even number of every color. When I near the end, I’m often left with one to six unmatched M&M’s. And I’ve always thought that these various color combinations deserved a name.)

What would you call a combination of red, yellow, and green? Obviously, STOPLIGHT.

What might you call a combination of red, yellow, and blue? Based on the Man of Steel’s outfit, I like SUPERMAN. But Mars, Inc., has already applied the moniker BIRTHDAY CAKE.

What would you call a collection of just green M&M’s? I don’t know — QADDAFI, maybe? (Sorry, dated reference.)

What would you call a combination of orange, green, and brown? I have no idea.

And that’s where you come in.

Below is a Google poll where you can enter a color combination and suggest a name. In early January, for any color combinations that have more than one suggestion, we’ll vote on it. That’s right — crowdsourcing, baby!

But before you scroll and start clicking, let me lay out some ground rules:

  • Keep it clean, please, no worse than PG-13.
  • No sports teams! Why? Because the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins are black and gold… and although yellow is close to gold, there are no black M&M’s in the Plain M&M’s pack, so that combination is not possible. If M&M’s can’t be used to represent my team, then they can’t be used to represent any team. Sorry&nbsp— my game, my rules. Not to mention, nearly every color combination corresponds to at least one sports team, so it also demonstrates a lack of creativity. Unless, of course, you pick the colors of a team from the Swedish Bandyliiga, but let’s be honest — were you really going to do that?

Some time ago, I tried to craft names for all the combinations on my own, but I failed miserably. You can see how far I got on this Google sheet. So you can tell that I really, really need your help.

Have at it, y’all!

If you can’t see the form below, click this link:

Don’t want to goof around with a Google form? Fine. Place your thoughts in the comments.

December 7, 2017 at 5:31 am 2 comments

About MJ4MF

The Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks blog is an online extension to the book Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks. The blog contains jokes submitted by readers, new jokes discovered by the author, details about speaking appearances and workshops, and other random bits of information that might be interesting to the strange folks who like math jokes.

MJ4MF (offline version)

Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks is available from Amazon, Borders, Barnes & Noble, NCTM, Robert D. Reed Publishers, and other purveyors of exceptional literature.

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