The Scrambled Boxtops Puzzle

Boing Boing reprinted this puzzle from the book My Best Mathematical and Logic Puzzles by Martin Gardner.

Imagine that you have three boxes, one containing two black marbles, one containing two white marbles, and the third, one black marble and one white marble. The boxes were labeled for their contents – BB, BW, WW – but someone switched the labels so that every box is now incorrectly labeled. You are allowed to take one marble at a time out of any box, without looking inside, and by this process of sampling you are to determine the contents of all three boxes. What is the smallest number of drawings needed to do this?

It’s not difficult to figure out if you can visualize the boxes in front of you (or just look at the picture). It wouldn’t be hard to make this a real world puzzle, either. Give us your answer in the comments!


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Whodunit: A Lapse in Security

The following is a Whodunit by Hy ConradThese mysteries are from The Little Giant® Book of Whodunits by Hy Conrad and Matt LaFleur. Can you solve the mystery before you read the solution?

Preparations were all in place for the Peace Treaty Summit. Nary a twig was out of place in the secluded, wooded retreat. The service staff had been cleared by security. And the entire compound was off-limits to motor vehicles until the dignitaries started arriving in their limousines.

Security Chief Derrick Gerber was making a final tour on his bicycle. What if an assassin had somehow managed to get in? Gerber's suspicious mind focused on one of the newly hired staff. He decided to run another check.

An hour later, Gerber's body was discovered in a ravine. Gil Abel, the security chief's assistant, was immediately notified.

Abel cycled up the main road, noting with irritation a shaggy black piece of bloody road kill along the shoulder, being toyed with by a kitchen cat. Twenty yards later, he was at the ravine. Gerber had put up quite a struggle before succumbing to a flurry of stab wounds. "I've had my own suspicions," Abel mumbled to himself. "I suppose it's time to check them out."

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Whodunit: Fooling the Foolproof Alarm

The following is a Whodunit by Hy ConradThese mysteries are from The Little Giant® Book of Whodunits by Hy Conrad and Matt LaFleur. Can you solve the mystery before you read the solution?

(Image credit: Marie-Lan Nguyen)

After the theft of a medieval goblet, collector Felix Cheshire became obsessed with security. He improved his alarm system by installing metallic strips on the rear of all his canvases and other art objects. He didn't even trust his two longtime assistants. His latest precaution was to carry a loaded pistol and a sword hidden inside his walking cane.

As usual, Felix began his day by ushering in his assistants and setting the alarm. He had barely entered the rear research room when the alarm sounded. Grabbing his gun and cane, Felix hobbled up to the entrance and found Tanya Garfield standing by the door, a sheepish grin on her face. "I was just going out for coffee," she apologized. "I guess my earrings set it off."

The collector checked his major possessions, found nothing missing, then reset the alarm. He settled back into the research room and accepted a cup of tea from an earring-less Tanya. Felix had no idea for how long he'd nodded off. But suddenly Jack, his other assistant, was shaking him by the shoulders.

"It's gone," Jack shouted. "The da Vinci's gone."

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Whodunit: Two Places at Once

The following is a Whodunit by Hy ConradThese mysteries are from The Little Giant® Book of Whodunits by Hy Conrad and Matt LaFleur. Can you solve the mystery before you read the solution?

(Image credit: Keanu @ no:wp)

All evidence pointed to Frank Fortini. "He has motive," the homicide chief told his men. "Frank's Uncle Gregor, the victim, just won the state lottery. Frank and his brothers are Gregor's only relatives and would inherit the $14 million prize.

"Also, Frank had opportunity. Gregor was a paranoid guy living in an isolated cabin. He always kept his doors locked and hated strangers. Since there was no forced entry and no sign of a struggle, we know Gregor was attacked by someone he knew and trusted.

"To top it off, we found direct evidence at the cabin. There were fresh tire tracks, perfectly matching the tires from Frank's mountain bike. And ..." The chief was getting angry. "And we found a ticket from today's lottery near the scene—with Frank's prints on it.

"The only trouble is . . ." The chief pounded the table. "He has an alibi.

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What Is It? game 345

Hey look! It's time to play a game, from Neatorama and the wonderful What Is It? Blog! Do you know what the object in this picture is? It doesn't really matter if you do, because we are looking for the funniest guesses. You can win a t-shirt from the NeatoShop! But first, read the rules:

Place your guess in the comment section below. One guess per comment, please, though you can enter as many as you'd like. You can only win if you haven't already won in the month of October. Two winners who submit funny and/or clever (albeit ultimately wrong) answers will each win a T-shirt from the NeatoShop.

If you guess the correct answer, you'll get a big pat on the back. There are more clues about the object at the What Is It? blog

Please write your T-shirt selection alongside your guess. If you don't include a selection, you forfeit the prize, okay? May we suggest the Science T-Shirt, Funny T-Shirt and Artist-Designed T-Shirts? Pick your favorite T-shirt and leave it with your comment -and it would help us if you also include the URL or the name of hte artist. Have fun with it, and good luck!

Update: The tool in the picture is still a mystery, as we don’t have a definitive origin or use for it. But that didn’t stop y’all from rampant speculation! We got a funny and timely story from theoneandonly, which is well worth a t-shirt:

This is a classical "semi-automatic Halloween-Pumpkin-hollow-outer".
Cut the upper part of the pumpkin, place the device on the top and turn the handle...
Flip the pumpkin upside down, and all the intestines and seeds will happily splotch your feet.

In a next step you can easiyl place a light in side the now hollow pumpkin and start carving yor favorite monster face or landscape with mountains, lakes and trees wherein every tree needs a frind and no mistakes occur just happly little accidents...

And in case an happly little accident was bad enough so you need another hollowed out pumpkin, with the above "semi-automatic Halloween-Pumpkin-hollow-outer" this is achieved just in notime...

And another great suggestion from Parrot Head:

Donald Trump's hair-teasing comb. 'Nuff said!

Congratulations to both! Thanks to everyone who played along, and thanks to the What Is It? blog. Rob is going traveling again, and we don’t know when he’ll be back. But when that time comes, we’ll have another edition of the What is It? game!  


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Whodunit: Murder Works Overtime

The following is a Whodunit by Hy ConradThese mysteries are from The Little Giant® Book of Whodunits by Hy Conrad and Matt LaFleur. Can you solve the mystery before you read the solution?

(Image credit: Flickr user Neven Mrgan)

Roger Vail was having a bad day. First off, the advertising executive spilled coffee over the back of the roller chair in his redecorated office, resulting in a permanent stain. Then his computer went haywire. With his hard drive gone, Roger had to stay late to complete a report. And to top it off, while he was working late, he was shot three times in the back and killed.

When the cleaning woman entered Roger's office that night, she thought it was empty. The chair back faced her, a virtual wall of beige. Her expert eye quickly noticed the three tiny blemishes on the fabric, three little round holes. She came closer, rolling the chair away from the broken computer and toward the light. Roger Vail's corpse slumped forward, the holes in his back matching the bullet holes pumped into the chair.

Roger's death shocked his colleagues. "Everyone liked him," Joan Jackson sighed the next morning as she watered her flowers. "If there was a murder here, I would have expected . . ." She left it unfinished, piquing the curiosity of the interrogating officer. Blakemore Advertising, it turned out, was a hotbed of seething emotions.

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What Is It? game 344

It's once again time for our collaboration with the wonderfully entertaining What Is It? Blog. Do you know what the pictured item is? Can you make up something totally wacky? That's what we're looking for: the funniest and most creative guesses. We will award t-shirts from the NeatoShop to two commenters who post the cleverest, funniest, or most outlandish use for this thing!

Place your guess in the comment section below. One guess per comment, please, though you can enter as many guesses as you'd like in separate comments. You have until Friday evening to come up with great guesses.

Please write your T-shirt selection alongside your guess. If you don't include a selection, you forfeit the prize. May we suggest the Science T-Shirt, Funny T-Shirt and Artist-Designed T-Shirts? Since we have so many shirts, it would help if you included the artist's name or the URL at the NeatoShop.

See, you don't have to know the answer to win! See all the mystery items of the week at the What Is It? Blog. Good luck!

Update: The What Is It? blog tells us that this object is a mold for making glass lenses. See, there you would have found out that the object is less than six inches tall. No one here guessed anything close to the right answer, but it doesn’t matter, because we were looking for funny answers anyway.

Berhard had a great idea for this thing, which wins him a t-shirt from the NeatoShop:

This is a martian mammography breast support table specially designed for three breasted mutant Mary from “Total Recall”...

And ladybugs brings up a picture as well with her idea:

Pedicure footrest for the three toed sloth.

Congratulations to both! And thanks to everyone who entered this week. We’ll do the What Is It? game again soon, from Neatorama and the What Is It? blog. http://55tools.blogspot.com/


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Whodunit: Dead-End Stoolie

The following is a Whodunit by Hy ConradThese mysteries are from The Little Giant® Book of Whodunits by Hy Conrad and Matt LaFleur. Can you solve the mystery before you read the solution?

(Image credit: Tony Webster)

It was a cloudy Sunday, with the skies threatening rain all morning and showers anticipated in the afternoon. So Detective Wilson didn't really mind when he was called in to work.

A tourist had gotten himself lost in an industrial section of town. At the very end of a dead-end alley, the poor visitor came across the body of Vinny the Fish, a stoolie who'd been supplying Detective Wilson with information on several ongoing mob investigations.

"Both kneecaps busted," the on-scene officer said as he pointed to the corpse crumpled up against the blank wall. "Chest cavity was crushed in, too. We'll know more when the medical examiner arrives."
Wilson didn't wait for the M.E. Instead, he looked up the addresses of three of Vinny's associates and drove off to see them. Someone had found out about Vinny's cooperation. Wilson felt he owed it to the stoolie to find his killer.

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What is It? game 343

Hey, how about a game of What Is It? from our friend at the the What Is It? Blog. If you have any idea what the pictured object is, you are way ahead of me. But whether you do or don't, you have an opportunity to win a T-shirt from the NeatoShop just by commenting!

Place your guess in the comment section below. One guess per comment, please, though you can enter as many as you'd like. You might know the true answer, but we're going to select two winners who come up with the funniest, most outlandish guesses to win a T-shirt from the NeatoShop. However...

Please write your T-shirt selection alongside your guess. If you don't include a selection, you forfeit the prize, okay? It would help us if you added the artist's name or a URL, since we now have so many shirts to select from. May we suggest the Science T-Shirt, Funny T-Shirt and Artist-Designed T-Shirts?

You can see all kinds of mystery items at the What Is It? Blog. The let your imagination run wild! Good luck!

Update: This items is a true what-is-it, since we still don’t know exactly what it is. We’re still looking for its true use! But meanwhile, y’all have come up with some crazy ideas. Congratulations to John D, who said,

That would be a planchette lock to keep the spirits and demons contained when not being used on the ouija board.

And to Hipshot, who had a story:

This is the one of 17 (don’t ask why) tread/gears fabricated for the Dalek stair climber assembly. Turns out they learned to levitate prior to the prototype being finished, so they ended up taking up space in the corner of a garage somewhere until someone got the idea they could be fashioned into combination retro bottle opener/shoelace irons.

Both win a t-shirt from the NeatoShop! Thanks to everyone who played along, and stay tuned for the next What Is It? game from the What Is It? blog and Neatorama!


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Whodunit: Death in the Woods

The following is a Whodunit by Hy ConradThese mysteries are from The Little Giant® Book of Whodunits by Hy Conrad and Matt LaFleur. Can you solve the mystery before you read the solution?

(Image credit: Gregory "Slobirdr" Smith)

It was a beautiful afternoon. Dr. Ben Kramer's guests were roaming his country estate, enjoying themselves—until a series of growls and screams pierced the air. Robert Kelly grabbed a rifle from the den and followed the sounds, only to find the good doctor being mauled by a bear. A shot in the air scared the animal off.

"Go get Ben's medical bag," Jorey Abrams said as he bent over their unconscious host. From Ben's half-filled basket, they could see he'd been gathering wild strawberries.

Ursula Abrams and Rebecca Kelly returned together, having found the bag in their host's bedroom. Ursula, a nurse, took over, administering a vial of smelling salts. It was no use. Seconds later, Ben Kramer convulsed and died.

The local sheriff arrived and was about to call it an accident when he found a note caught on a thorny bush not far from the attack. It looked like a list of reminders.

"Be first to attend BK after attack. Death must look natural. Do everything to avoid autopsy. Seek quick cremation." The sheriff decided to investigate. Handwriting samples were taken from all four of the guests.

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Whodunit: The Videotaped Suspect

The following is a Whodunit by Hy ConradThese mysteries are from The Little Giant® Book of Whodunits by Hy Conrad and Matt LaFleur. Can you solve the mystery before you read the solution?

At first it seemed like death from natural causes. Marcus Tomby, an investigative reporter, was found slumped over his desk at the Times, victim of a heart attack. And then the security director from the Fordham Arms apartment building came forward.

"Mr. Tomby lived at the Fordham," he told the lieutenant in charge. "He did a lot of dangerous reporting and used to joke about being knocked off some day. When I heard about his death, I reviewed the tape from the security camera in his hallway. Look."

A fuzzy image popped up, showing a red-haired, bearded man leaving the Tomby apartment and pulling closed the door. As he walked towards the camera, he lifted his hand to his face and adjusted his ring. "That's from this morning's tape. Marcus lives alone and that isn't him."

The lieutenant immediately contacted the Times. "Yes, Marcus was on a story," explained the editor. "He suspected Metro Carting of illegally dumping toxic waste. He said he had an inside contact and was preparing a dynamite expose."

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Whodunit: A Maid-Made Discovery

The following is a Whodunit by Hy ConradThese mysteries are from The Little Giant® Book of Whodunits by Hy Conrad and Matt LaFleur. Can you solve the mystery before you read the solution?

At some point during the small party, Hazel got tired of dealing with the guests. They all had drinks in hand and seemed perfectly content. So, the maid wandered up the grand staircase to check on the sleeping children and do a little tidying up.

As soon as Hazel walked into her employer's bedroom, her eagle eyes saw that someone had been there. Taking a towel from her apron, she eradicated the quarter-size water ring from a mahogany table. "How many times do I have to tell Ms. Grant to use a coaster?" she asked the empty air. Seconds later, a breeze from an open French window drew her outside. Young Davey's skateboard was on the balcony, right by the railing edge.

"Someone could trip and fall," Hazel said with another disapproving cluck. Instinctively, she peered over the railing and was startled to see her prophecy fulfilled. Her employer, the Broadway star Indira Grant, lay on the flagstone walk, her beautiful neck broken but her cut-crystal water glass still in one piece in her outstretched hand.

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Whodunit: Alibi at Sea

The following is a Whodunit by Hy ConradThese mysteries are from The Little Giant® Book of Whodunits by Hy Conrad and Matt LaFleur. Can you solve the mystery before you read the solution?

(Image credit: Ecuapromo)

During a storm at sea, millionaire art lover C. Michael Ekshun popped out on the deck of his luxurious yacht. He didn't hear a thing as his killer sneaked up behind him, brandishing a deadly sharp letter opener. Moments after the murder, his body was pushed overboard, disappearing into the swirling foam.

When the skies cleared and the yacht pulled into harbor, police questioned the three surviving passengers: Michael's stylishly dressed wife, Sprinkle Ekshun; his secretary, Morey Fishant; and a shifty-eyed art dealer named Count Yuri Ceets. Each suspect had an alibi.

"I was in the lounge, doing my nails," Sprinkle told them. The widow stuffed her hands into the pockets of her Dior dressing gown. The police immediately noticed a wet patch on her robe front. In the middle of the wet patch was a stubborn red stain that had refused to come out.

"I was in my cabin writing," Count Yuri said as he showed the police a neatly written five-page letter, all in Russian. "To my dear mother, the Countess," he explained. A translation of the letter proved that Yuri had indeed written to his mother—a cleaning lady living in Bensonhurst.

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Whodunit: Welcome Back, Cutter

The following is a Whodunit by Hy ConradThese mysteries are from The Little Giant® Book of Whodunits by Hy Conrad and Matt LaFleur. Can you solve the mystery before you read the solution?

(Image credit: Janine)

The homicide sergeant glanced around the bedroom. It was a far cry from the obsessive neatness of the rest of the house. There were broken fixtures, scattered furniture, and a crunchy coating of shattered picture glass covering the carpet. "Quite a fight," he muttered. On the bed lay the body of Reece Cutter, a sales rep just returned from a business trip. He'd been stabbed through with an ornamental sword torn down from the bedroom wall.

The victim's brother was contacted at work, halfway across town. Earlier in the day Broderick Cutter had picked Reece up at the airport. "As soon as we got in, Reece went up to his bedroom and unpacked everything. We talked. Then I had to get to work. My shift starts at seven. Reece's wife was coming over later. Marjorie wanted Reece to sign divorce papers, but he kept refusing. I guess she doesn't have to worry about that now."

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Whodunit: The Clumsy Thief

The following is a Whodunit by Hy ConradThese mysteries are from The Little Giant® Book of Whodunits by Hy Conrad and Matt LaFleur. Can you solve the mystery before you read the solution?

(Image credit: Flickr user ignatius decky)

Charlene Tyner was half-awake when she heard it, coming from downstairs, the sound of spilling coins. She checked the time—2 A.M.—then rolled over and went back to sleep.

In the morning, when Charlene walked into her kitchen, she immediately noticed the theft. The jar in which she kept her collection of silver dollars was completely empty. That's when she recalled the late night sound. And that's when she saw the refrigerator. It was askew, the only thing out of center in the perfectly maintained kitchen.

Charlene knelt down and reached into the narrow space between the refrigerator and the cabinet. "At least they didn't get them all," she thought as she pulled her arm out. Two silver dollars, all that was left of her prized collection. The irate housewife quickly raised the alarm.

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Whodunit: The Pretender's Ball III

The following is a Whodunit by Hy ConradThese mysteries are from The Little Giant® Book of Whodunits by Hy Conrad and Matt LaFleur. Can you solve the mystery before you read the solution?

Two years ago, the Pretenders' Ball had been the scene of an assassination. Last year, an arsonist destroyed the royal archives. These political crimes, carried out by the rebel forces, were becoming a regular part of the Grand Duchy's annual costume ball. The chief of police pleaded with the prime minister to cancel this year's event. Naturally, he didn't. For added security, though, he did change the location to Duchy Park, a floral wonderland surrounded by a high, unscalable stone wall.

Upon entry, Robin Hood's arrows were confiscated, although he was allowed to keep his bow and quiver. David had to give up his slingshot and Goliath handed over his club. Mary Poppins kept her umbrella, but Death turned in his scythe. Even the clown was searched. One guard held onto his big bunch of balloons while another checked inside his oversized shoes.

The festive nighttime ball went on as scheduled. The music played, the costumed revelers danced, and champagne corks popped. Something else popped, too—a small derringer pistol.

The victim this time was the Grand Duchy's chief of police, dressed as a Chicago gangster, the only guest actually allowed to carry a weapon. His body was found in the middle of a hedge maze, the gun in his shoulder holster untouched.

"Shot in the back," Death (the royal physician) reported. "Very small caliber. Anyone could have sneaked in a gun that size."

In what was becoming another annual tradition, the guests lined up to be frisked.

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Whodunit: The Flat Motorist

The following is a Whodunit by Hy ConradThese mysteries are from The Little Giant® Book of Whodunits by Hy Conrad and Matt LaFleur. Can you solve the mystery before you read the solution?

(Image credit: Flickr user Sophie Su)

"All right, Mr. Darden." The Automobile Club operator read back the information. "Your car has a flat. You have a spare, but it's in your trunk and the trunk lock is broken. You're pulled over on Route 5. I'll have a tow truck out to you immediately."

Alex Darden flipped shut his cellular phone and shivered in the night air. Maybe he'd get lucky. Maybe someone would come along before the tow truck arrived.

The tow truck driver found the car easily enough. He saw the flat tire, still on the wheel, and the jack on the ground beside it. Next he saw the blood on the jack, and finally the body. Alex Darden, middle-aged businessman, had been robbed, then bludgeoned to death.

As luck would have it, the highway patrol had been conducting a sobriety check half a mile west of the murder scene. One of the officers had taken down license numbers, and before long, the police were focusing on three motorists who had passed by before the tow truck's arrival.

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Whodunit: The Penguin House Murder

The following is a Whodunit by Hy ConradThese mysteries are from The Little Giant® Book of Whodunits by Hy Conrad and Matt LaFleur. Can you solve the mystery before you read the solution?

(Image credit: Flickr user Xa)

At 10 A.M. exactly, the gates to the zoo were flung open. A handful of the early visitors headed directly for the penguin house. The kids raced in to get the best view of the glass-enclosed habitat and nearly stumbled over the corpse. It was Cheryl Hammaker, a zoo employee, dressed for work and wearing a plastic feeding apron. She'd been strangled.

The medical examiner took the body's temperature, leading him to estimate that she'd been dead for well over 12 hours. "Makes sense," the zoo director said. "The penguins are fed three times a day: when the handlers get here at eight, then at noon, and finally around six, right after we close." He checked the victim's feeding apron, still filled with small fish.

"That's probably when it happened," a detective agreed as he sniffed, smelling just the faintest fishy odor. "Right before last night's feeding."

Cheryl had been a conscientious worker, arriving early and leaving late. She lived close to the zoo and kept to herself. "I'd just promoted her to department head," the director said. "With her own set of keys. Two other people were up for the job. They got pretty upset."

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Whodunit: Driven to Suicide

The following is a Whodunit by Hy ConradThese mysteries are from The Little Giant® Book of Whodunits by Hy Conrad and Matt LaFleur. Can you solve the mystery before you read the solution?

(Image credit: Flickr user John Lloyd)

Star Cars had seemed like a great idea. Beau and Irving Plimpton would translate their passion into a business. The brothers would rent out vintage automobiles to Los Angeles film companies and production houses for background and atmosphere. Beau took care of the contracts and customers while Irving kept the cars in pristine shape, refusing to even drive them on the street.

But the Plimpton boys hadn't had a rental in weeks and were facing bankruptcy. One afternoon, an attendant spotted Beau's sports car driving into the basement garage at Beau's apartment building. An hour later, Beau's live-in girlfriend drove in and found his car occupying her spot. Peering through the dark tinted glass, Pauline could see her fiancé’s hulking silhouette squeezed inside. She opened the driver's door. There, strapped into his safety belt was the body of Beau Plimpton. He'd been shot once in the left temple, the revolver still in his left hand. An apparent suicide.

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Whodunit: Around-the-clock Murder

The following is a Whodunit by Hy ConradThese mysteries are from The Little Giant® Book of Whodunits by Hy Conrad and Matt LaFleur. Can you solve the mystery before you read the solution?

(Image credit: Flickr user Shawn Clover)

It was 8:50 P.M. and Jules Marigold was closing up shop. The antique dealer wound all the clocks while his employees tallied up the receipts. When Marigold tried setting the alarm, he was annoyed to find it out of order. "Oh, well," he sighed. "I suppose one night without an alarm won't kill me." He was wrong.

Around midnight, when the Downtown Citizens' Patrol shone their flashlights through the storefront window, they saw a chaotic mess. Lying in the middle of the mess was the bludgeoned body of Jules Marigold.

Marigold lived above his shop. The police theorized that he'd heard a burglar breaking in and that the two men had fought. Among the wreckage was a toppled, broken grandfather clock. The hands had stopped at 11:09. "I guess that sets the time of the murder."

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What Is It? game 342

Now it's time for our collaboration with the amazing What Is It? Blog! What is this object in the picture? I don't know! The great thing is that you don't have to know the correct answer to win a t-shirt from the NeatoShop!

Place your guess in the comment section below. One guess per comment, please, though you can enter as many as you'd like. You might know the true answer, but we're going to select two winners who come up with the funniest, most outlandish guesses to win a T-shirt from the NeatoShop. However...

This game is limited to those who haven't won a t-shirt in the last month. Please write your T-shirt selection and the artist who designed it alongside your guess. If you don't include a selection, you forfeit the prize, okay? May we suggest the Science T-Shirt, Funny T-Shirt and Artist-Designed T-Shirts?

Let your imagination run wild! Good luck! You can also challenge yourself with plenty of other mystery items at the What Is It? Blog.

Update: We still haven’t found out exactly what this thing is for, so it is a true mystery. But we had some excellent guesses! Congratulations to ryanduck, who wins a t-shirt from the NeatoShop for this:

Clearly the first prototype of a flat screen TV mount

And to  ChrisM 1, who said,

It is a device invented by a parent of two children for ensuring that nobody's piece of anything is bigger than anybody else's.

That makes sense. Thanks to everyone who played along, and a big thanks to the What Is It? Blog!


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Whodunit: The Pretender's Ball II

The following is a Whodunit by Hy ConradThese mysteries are from The Little Giant® Book of Whodunits by Hy Conrad and Matt LaFleur. Can you solve the mystery before you read the solution?

(Image credit: Flickr user Ann Lockley)

Last year's Pretenders' Ball had ended in the tragic assassination of the Grand Duke. Despite that disaster, the prime minister insisted on going ahead with this year's festivities. One new concession was made to security. The ball would be held during the day, giving the secret police a clearer view of the proceedings.

A bright, sunny sky greeted the costumed revelers. As usual, they were searched. The rubber daggers piercing Julius Caesar's toga were allowed in, but only after a long argument. The cowboy handed over his plastic six-shooter but got to keep his rope. And Joan of Arc was permitted to keep her stake, as long as she remained firmly tied to it.

Security agents surrounded the new Grand Duke as he mingled with his guests in the festively decorated gardens. The orchestra was in top form and the ball proceeded without a hitch—until fire broke out in the royal archives.

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What Is It? game 341

Hey look! It's time for our collaboration with the wonderful What Is It? Blog! Do you know what the object in this picture is? It doesn't really matter if you do, because we are looking for the funniest guesses. You can win a t-shirt from the NeatoShop! But first, read the rules:

Place your guess in the comment section below. One guess per comment, please, though you can enter as many as you'd like. Two winners who submit funny and/or clever (albeit ultimately wrong) answers will each win a T-shirt from the NeatoShop. This week, we are limiting contestants to those who have not already won this month. 

Please write your T-shirt selection alongside your guess. If you don't include a selection, you forfeit the prize, okay? May we suggest the Science T-Shirt, Funny T-Shirt and Artist-Designed T-Shirts?

Check for more clues at the What Is It? Blog. Good luck!

Update: These objects are caulks (cleats) for horseshoes, they are used for getting better traction in mud and snow. I should also mention that Skipweasel was not eligible to win this week. He did not know beforehand what the objects are, but he submitted the photo. Thanks!

Congratulations to MEM, who wins a t-shirt from the NeatoShop for this scenario:

These are dice for the now forgotten medieval game of Truth-or-Wedgie. This game was staggeringly popular during the reign of Ethelred the Unready, but the fad ended when people started to realize that the dice nearly always came up 'wedgie.'

And to Soup Fick for this story:

These are the earliest examples of dental implants made by Mo-Larr of Eternia. In Skeletor's youth, he had quite a sweet tooth, but never brushed his teeth, so he would commonly require root canals. Later, as his teeth degraded, he would require implants in order to preserve his bite alignment, jaw bone and beautiful smile. As Mo-Larr's prosthesis making skills improved, Skeletor's implants were upgraded, so that he has the smile we know and love today.

Thanks to everyone who played, and we’ll look forward to another What Is It game, from the What Is It blog and Neatorama!


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Whodunit: Even Hypochondriacs Die

The following is a Whodunit by Hy ConradThese mysteries are from The Little Giant® Book of Whodunits by Hy Conrad and Matt LaFleur. Can you solve the mystery before you read the solution?

(Image credit: Flickr user Michael B.)

"The trouble with hypochondriacs is you never know when they're sick." Such were the thoughts running through Ethel Evans's mind as she dialed the two cellular numbers, one for Dr. Mills and the other for her brother, Bertie. "Come immediately," she told them both. "Daddy just took a turn for the worse."
The hypochondriac in question, J. P. Evans, began the morning feeling well. Dr. Mills had been there for his daily examination, leaving the usual row of pills at JP's bedside. Bertie fed his father breakfast, then left for his regular day at the horse track. At 11 A.M. Ethel fed JP the first batch of pills. It was shortly after that when he began gasping for air and Ethel made her calls.

Ethel hung up and listened to the wail of a freighter as it chugged by. That was the problem with living on a residential island. Even though they were connected to the rest of the city by a drawbridge, there were times when she felt so isolated.

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What Is It? game 340

It's Thursday, so you know what it means, Neatoramanauts: it's time for the What Is It? Game, brought to you by the always amusing What Is It? Blog. What is the object in the picture above? Your guess can win you a free T-shirt of your choice from the NeatoShop. Here's how to play:

Place your guess in the comment section below. One guess per comment, but you can enter as many guesses as you'd like in separate comments.

You might know the correct answer, but if you want to win a t-shirt, you'll have to use your imagination, because we are going to select two winners who give us the funniest incorrect guesses. If you guess right, then good for ya - but you don't win anything, see? So, it's up to you, funny people: you have twice the chance of winning that T-shirt now.

Please write your T-shirt selection alongside your guess. If you don't include a selection, you forfeit the prize. We highly suggest you take a look at the NeatoShop's new selection of Funny T-shirts and Science T-Shirts.

Ready? Go for it! Courtesy of the What Is It? blog.

Update: This is truly a mystery item, obviously a tool, but we still don’t know what it’s for. We had some good suggestions, though. A T-shirt from the NeatoShop goes to Edward for this answer:

It was left behind at Comic-Con by someone coplaying a mashup of Thor and Cupid (Thtupid?)

The name “Thtupid” clinched that one for him. Another shirt goes to Berhard, who went into detail about the tool’s alternative versions:

This is without doubt Thor's fisching hammer, "Troutnir" ... a very light version for nordic god trout fisching...

It throws like a hammer, hits like a harpoon and returns like a boomerang...

slightly less romantic than trout fisching in "A river runs through it" but way more effective..

Thor also has a "sharknir", a "tunir" and a "merlinir" for offshore-fisching...

The only reason it only has a limited success at market resides in that you have to be a nordic god to be able to properly operate this supreme fisching gear...

Congratulations to both! This just goes to show that you guys are pun factories when you have the slightest bit of inspiration. We’ll do it again next week, with another What Is It? game from the What Is It? blog and Neatorama.


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Whodunit: Hand in the Cookie Jar

The following is a Whodunit by Hy ConradThese mysteries are from The Little Giant® Book of Whodunits by Hy Conrad and Matt LaFleur. Can you solve the mystery before you read the solution?

(Star Trek Cookie Jar from the NeatoShop)

Valerie stretched her six-foot frame to the top shelf, looking for a hiding place. Taking down an old cookie jar, she slipped in the roll of hundred-dollar bills, then lifted it back up to its spot above the kitchen cabinets. Valerie flipped aside a lock of golden hair. It was a shame to have to hide things in her own house, but with this bunch of sorry losers visiting for the weekend, it was better safe than—well—sorry.

It was a horrible thing to think about her best friend. Sometimes she didn't know what she saw in Glenda. Glenda was strikingly homely, dumpy, and of dubious moral character. But she seemed to admire Valerie and made her laugh.

It was even worse to think about her own twin brother, but Valerie had to be honest. Ever since childhood, Victor had regularly stolen from any purse that happened to be lying around.

The third guest, Morton Flyer, had been a basketball star in the NBA. Caught red-handed in a betting scandal, Morton had been thrown out of the sport. He and Victor were now best buddies sharing their mutual hobbies of gambling and drinking.

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What Is It? game 339

Hey, y'all, it's time for another contest collaboration with the excellent What Is It? blog. Can you guess what this weird item is? This week, we are looking for funny and clever answers, not the correct one, but if you guess correctly, you'll win our undying respect. If you have one of the two funniest answers, you'll win a T-Shirt from the NeatoShop!

Place your guess in the comment section. One guess per comment, though you can enter as many guesses as you'd like. You have until the answer is revealed on the What Is It? Blog tomorrow.

You must give us your prize selection alongside your guess in order to win a shirt, so visit the NeatoShop and take a look around. If you don't write your prize selection, then you won't get the prize. I think you'll like the selection of funny t-shirts and science t-shirts -or even t-shirts of your favorite blogs and websites.

So let your imagination run wild! Oh yeah, you'll find another clue or two about this picture at the What Is It? blog. Good luck!

Update: When this item was posted at the What Is It blog, it was made clear that no one knew for sure what it is. But here’s a “maybe” answer:

This was found in a part of town that used to have an amusement park, so it was probably a part of a ride or sign.

Which is interesting, but not nearly as much fun as the guesses y’all came up with! We have a T-shirt from the NeatoShop for Hipshot, who had a great story to tell.

When I was a kid, my brother and I fought incessantly over who got the biggest slice of my mother’s delicious pie. One night at dinner, Momma had enough! She told my father she was not baking another pie until he solved this problem. The next day, Dad (who LOVED his pie) brought home this device. He was an engineer at NASA. During his (pie-less) lunch, he created this Exquisitely Accurate Pie Slicing Instrument: the EAPSI (pronounced “eep-see”). When placed over the entire pie and properly calibrated, EAPSI measures each slice down to a single micron. My brother and I no longer fight about who got the biggest slice. Now, we fight over who gets to operate EAPSI!

And another goes to sandyra, for this:

OMG! It's my really old chastity belt because I am really old. Does anyone know where the key is? Please?!?

Thanks for all the great guesses! We’ll do it again as long as the What is It blog gives us more mystery items.


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Whodunit: The Nutty Strangler

The following is a Whodunit by Hy ConradThese mysteries are from The Little Giant® Book of Whodunits by Hy Conrad and Matt LaFleur. Can you solve the mystery before you read the solution?

(Image credit: Editor at Large

The newspapers dubbed him that, the nutty strangler, although there was nothing funny about him. Five times he'd struck, each time leaving nut shells—piles of nut shells. On the first occasion the body of a businessman was found in an alley. The police barely noticed the walnut shells among the midtown litter.

The second time it was a suburban housewife and peanut shells. On the third strangulation (a secretary and pecans) the homicide squad started looking at photos of the previous cases. That's when they made the connection.

"Maybe he likes nuts," a rookie suggested. "Maybe cracking shells calms this psycho down while he waits for the right victim to come by."

On the sixth murder, the police caught a break. It was late. Four officers were just coming off their shift when they heard a strangled scream. They arrived too late to save the young college student. But one glance at the piles of red pistachio shells told them who they were dealing with. The officers fanned out, detaining the only three men they could find in the surrounding streets.

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What Is It? game 338

Hey look! It's time to play a game, from Neatorama and the wonderful What Is It? Blog, back for a limited time. Do you know what the object in this picture is? It doesn't really matter if you do, because we are looking for the funniest guesses. You can win a t-shirt from the NeatoShop! But first, read the rules:

Place your guess in the comment section below. One guess per comment, please, though you can enter as many as you'd like. Two winners who submit funny and/or clever (albeit ultimately wrong) answers will each win a T-shirt from the NeatoShop.

If you guess the correct answer, you'll get a big pat on the back.

Please write your T-shirt selection alongside your guess. If you don't include a selection, you forfeit the prize, okay? May we suggest the Science T-Shirt, Funny T-Shirt and Artist-Designed T-Shirts?

Check out more pictures of this thing, and other mystery items, too, at the What Is It? Blog. Good luck!

Update: This is a true mystery item, and we still don't know what it is. But that doesn't stop us from giving t-shirts away! One goes to David Gunn, for this strange guess:

This is a second generation mediaeval leg shaving device, known as a Limb-Defluffer Duo created by Benedict Tinklebottom, the Fifth Earl of Giblet. Despite being the improved second generation device, it was found to be completely unusable for its original purpose (unless the user had particularly slender legs, a loving staff of at least 4). However Tinklebottom found fame when the Limb-Defluffer Duo was adopted for use as an “inquisitorial encouragement” device by the Spanish Catholic church, and ultimately learned how effective it was in its revised role when he was Defluffer Duo’ed to death for sins against personal grooming.

And another goes to Lucas Gentry, for a guess that made a little sense (not much):

This is actually the precursor to movable scissors. You place the object that you want to slice into the V's of this tool. The closer you got to the center of the V, the more were cut. It worked fantastically for carrots, cigars, and fingers, but it was terrible at cutting paper.

Thansk to everyone who played along! We'll do it again, as long as we have more mystery items at the What Is It? blog!


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Whodunit: Tornado Allie

The following is a Whodunit by Hy ConradThese mysteries are from The Little Giant® Book of Whodunits by Hy Conrad and Matt LaFleur. Can you solve the mystery before you read the solution?

The air in Prairie Flats had been calm all morning. But by noon the wind had whipped up out of the east, and just a half-hour later a small, rainless tornado was pummeling the farming community, its funnel leaving behind a path of destruction and at least one fatality.

The body of Allie Brinker was found lying in a ditch. There was a gash in the young woman's forehead and a trickle of blood that had fallen in neat round drops onto the ground. Not far away, a broken, bloodied fence post led the police to an obvious conclusion. The wind had torn up the post and sent it flying into her head.

"I blame myself," Allie's Uncle Nate told the neighbors. "She was at my place, playing with her one-year-old niece. Just as the wind was picking up, Allie decided to run back home across the fields. I told her to stay. The radio was warning of twisters. I should have stopped her."

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