What Is It? game 323

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.

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?

This ia one of several mystery items of the week at the What Is It? Blog. Good luck!

Update: The mystery tool is an ice pick. A serious ice pick. Your funny answers were good, too. One came from tchitchou, who said, “That's an old device used to curve bananas. This version is no longer used because workers were cutting their fingers too often. A round version is now used.” That’s good for a t-shirt from the NeatoShop! Phil and Buster had a winning answer, too: “This is a device my third grade teacher used to demonstrate the difference between a dull ache and a sharp pain.” Ha! Congratulations to the winners, and thanks to everyone who played. See the answers to all of the mystery items of the week at the What is It? blog.


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What Is It? game 322

W00t! It's time for another collaboration with the awesome What Is It? Blog. Can you guess what this odd 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 write your prize selection alongside your guess, so visit the NeatoShop and take a look around. If you don't write your prize selection, then you don'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.

There's another picture of this unidentified object at the What Is It? Blog, as well as other items to guess about. Good luck!

Update: the mystery item is a wire fence stretcher. However, we were looking for wrong but funny answers, and we got them! Patrick Scott 1 explained that it is a “Dharma Initiative plot perforator! More holes, more holes!” which is a reference to the TV show Lost. That wins him a t-shirt! Another t-shirt goes to ladybugs, who said it was “Jaws of Life used during medieval times to cut knights out of their armor after a horrendous battle." Congratulations! Thanks to everyone who played, and thanks to the What Is It? blog.


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Whodunit: Who Took the Tip?

The following is a Whodunit by Hy Conrad featuring Jonah Bixby, a twelve-year-old crime solver and son of a police detective. Can you solve the crime?

(Image credit: Flickr user Gabe Mulley)

It was a warm Saturday afternoon, and Jonah was on his skateboard, negotiating the curvy sidewalk along River Road. That's when he almost hit the lemonade stand. He saw it just in time, swerving, then tumbling onto a brand-new lawn in front of a brand-new house.

"Are you okay?" asked Denny. Denny was Sally Smith's eight-year-old brother. He was the one who'd set up his business right in the middle of the sidewalk.

Jonah brushed himself off. "You need to find a better spot to sell lemonade."

"No way," said Denny, not quite understanding what Jonah meant. "This is the best. See those guys moving furniture?" He pointed to two workmen who were pushing a final sofa up a ramp and into the house. "They bought nineteen glasses."

"Wow." Jonah was impressed and his irritation dissolved.

"Yeah, it's great," said Denny, but his smile dipped at the corners. "There's just one problem."

Then, as if on cue, the problem came riding up on his bike. It was Frankie Rooter. Frankie was a year older than Jonah, big for his age, and fast becoming a real bully.

"Give me another one," Frankie growled at Denny.

"Hey." Jonah stepped forward. "You want lemonade, Frankie? Pay for it."

"No, that's all right," Denny said. He had already poured a glass and was handing it over. That's when they heard the shouts coming from just inside the new house.

Through the open door, the boys could hear two men arguing at full volume. A second later, one of the men came to the door and saw them on the sidewalk. "You kids. Come in here now." He spoke with such authority that not even Frankie hesitated.

Inside the front door was a spacious entryway, with three corridors branching off in different directions and a grand staircase going up. The man who had ordered them inside was the moving-van driver. The other man was smaller, almost timid-looking. But right now he was angry. They were both angry.

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What Is It? game 321

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. Post no URLs or weblinks.

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! (Don't forget to visit the What Is It? Blog for more clues!)

Update: the mystery item is a chain breaker, or chain detacher. There’s more about it at the What Is It? blog. Meanwhile, we had a lot of wrong but funny answers here in the game! Andrew Dalke had a clever answer (a reader favorite with 5 ♥s), “It's for grooming the sheep that make steel wool.” That’s a winning answer, but unfortunately, he did not select a t-shirt. StilesJM 1 also had a good answer, it’s “Salvador Dali's salad fork.” That’s certainly worth a t-shirt from the NeatoShop! Thanks to everyone who played this week, and thanks to the What Is It? blog!


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Whodunit: The Dying Clue

The following is a Whodunit by Hy Conrad featuring Jonah Bixby, a twelve-year-old crime solver and son of a police detective. Can you solve the crime?

(image credit: Flickr user Atavic Art)

Detective Carol Bixby gazed at the corpse and couldn't shake the feeling that she was taking part in a cheesy mystery novel. She had heard stories about murder victims writing a last dying message in their own blood. Such things actually did occur. But why would someone use his last ounce of strength to crawl over to a wall and write in blood ... his own name? It made no sense.

The murder scene was in the offices of Martinez and Kramer, certified public accountants. It was an oddly shaped space. In the front was a reception area guarded by Mona Lapinski, a middle-aged assistant. Behind her station, the office split like a "Y," with two long corridors angling off. At the end of one corridor was a frosted glass door, with painted letters proclaiming "Douglas Kramer." At the end of the other corridor was a similar frosted door, this one with the name of his partner, "Gil Martinez."

On the day of the murder, Mona left the office around noon to walk in the park and eat the sandwich and apple she brought every day from home. Gil Martinez left a few minutes later to have lunch with a client at his private club. That left Douglas Kramer alone in his office.

Mona was the one to find his body. "I was coming back from the park," she said in her statement. "I saw Larry, the guy from Worldwide Parcel, on the sidewalk, ringing our buzzer. He said no one was answering, which isn't unusual at lunchtime. I signed for the parcel, said good-bye to Larry, and unlocked the door. People in this building are very good about security. Strangers don't get in."

"Anyway," Mona continued, stopping to take in a deep breath. "The parcel was for Mr. Martinez, so when I got inside, I took it straight back to his office. A soon as I walked in..." She shivered. "Chairs turned over, lamps broken. And the blood."

When Gil Martinez walked in a minute later, he found Mona standing in his private office, screaming at the top of her lungs. His business partner, Douglas Kramer, lay next to the wall, a pair of scissors embedded in his stomach. On the wall, by his outstretched hand, were four letters printed in blood. "D-O-U-G."

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What Is It? game 320

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 wonderfully 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 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, see? May we suggest the Science T-Shirt, Funny T-Shirt and Artist-Designed T-Shirts?

See, you don't have to know the answer to win! And remember, there are more mystery items to figure out at the What Is It? Blog. Good luck!

Update: the pictured item is is a British grenadier's match case. It carried a slow burning piece of cord used to light grenades. The What Is It? blog has a lot more about it. The answers y’all came up with were much funnier. Patrick Scott called it a “Pope Francis Supersoaker Aspergillum. Rowdy crowds get a Holy Soaking!” That’s good for a t-shirt! And kantoboy put it succinctly, it is “The Tin Man's actual wish.” Ha! -that’s a winner, too! Thanks to everyone who played along, and thanks to the What Is It? Blog.


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Whodunit: The Burning Bungalow

The following is a Whodunit by Hy Conrad featuring Jonah Bixby, a twelve-year-old crime solver and son of a police detective. Can you solve the crime?

(Image credit: Flickr user Howard Jefferson)

"Mom, please, I've never been inside a fire scene," Jonah whined.

"And you're not getting into this one," Carol said flatly. They were standing in front of a small bungalow on Beaverton's north side. The charred walls were still standing, but the fire had been intense enough to kill the home's single resident, a pretty, young waitress named Sarah Simmons who had lived there with her beloved cat. The arson investigator was here to determine if it was an accident or not, while Detective Bixby was on hand to oversee the removal of the body and preserve the scene, in case it proved to be homicide.

Jonah's mother joined the other investigators inside the bungalow, leaving him alone on the porch. "I tried to stop her, but she wouldn't listen," said a choked voice from behind him. Jonah turned to see a nervous little man with a thin, hawk-like face. He introduced himself as Billy Borenson, Sarah's neighbor.

"I just came home from the grocery store when I saw the fire." He pointed to his car, parked haphazardly in the driveway of the bungalow next door. "Her house was filled with flames. They were coming out the windows. I'm the one who called 911," he said, rather proudly. "I guess everyone else on the block was at work or something."

Jonah had no reason not to like Billy Borenson, but he didn't need a reason. The guy just seemed creepy. "What do you mean, you tried to stop her?"

"Oh, I mean Sarah. I would have gone in to save her, you know. But she came out just as I was about to. We stood on the lawn together, just waiting for the fire engines. And then I was dumb enough to ask about her cat, Mr. Tibbs. Before I could stop her, Sarah was running back in the house, calling for her cat."

"Why didn't you go in after her?" Jonah asked. He was a little irritated by the man's false boasts of bravery.

"That would've been suicide," Borenson said. "There were flames everywhere, even on the floor..." He stopped as he saw a younger man running up the driveway. "Uh-oh," he whispered to Jonah. "That's Sarah's boyfriend. Ex-boyfriend, I mean."

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What Is It? game 319

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 this thing in the picture? 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. Post no URLs or weblinks.

You might know what it is, 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, mmkay? So, it's up to you, funny people: you have twice the chance of winning that T-shirt.

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! Visit the What Is It? Blog for more pictures of this object.

Update: the mystery object is a corn husker, according to patent number 27,638, "...it both strips off the husks and severs the ear from the stalk." We also had some funny alternate suggestions for its use. Jaguarfeather said, “New evidence has emerged that sea life evolved through its own Iron Age. A rare specimen fossil of the high-arched metallic dorsal Clampfish has recently been excavated near Iron Bay, BC.” That’s good for a t-shirt from the NeatoShop! And e6c has this to say, “It's my wife's nose hair tweezer... (for the love of God, I hope my wife doesn't see this post)” Well, you might be in trouble now, because that’s a winner! Thanks to everyone who played (all the answers were great), and thanks to the What Is It? blog!


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Whodunit: Undercover Jonah

The following is a Whodunit by Hy Conrad featuring Jonah Bixby, a twelve-year-old crime solver and son of a police detective. Can you solve the crime?

(Image credit: Flickr user Dustin Quasar)

"Mom, I look like a stupid penguin."

Jonah waddled back and forth in front of the museum, pretending to be outraged by the rented tuxedo. In reality, though, Jonah thought it was kind of cool being dressed up like James Bond and taking part in his first undercover assignment.

"Jonah, stop," Carol Bixby hissed as she straightened the straps of her formal gown. "The first rule is not to draw attention to yourself."

"Sorry." Jonah didn't blame his mother for being upset. After all, she and the other police detectives had worked long hours to ensure that tonight's event ran smoothly.

The event was a charity gala featuring five newly acquired sculptures. They were modern pieces and each statue was accented in real fur. That was why the museum needed such security. Anti-fur protestors were picketing the museum, and some had even threatened to crash the gala and destroy the offending works of art.

At the front of the line, Jonah handed the guard his long rectangular ticket and got in return the ticket's torn square stub. Then he and his mother stepped through metal detectors and underwent a bag search. Once inside the grand lobby, they blended in with the other formally dressed guests, except that Detective Carol Bixby wore an earpiece and had a police-issue handgun in her fancy little purse.

The crowd was just beginning to wander back toward the exhibition rooms when her earpiece began to squawk. "Silent alarm," a voice informed her. "Exhibition Hall J."

"The statue room," Carol whispered to her son and started sprinting in that direction. Jonah followed and so did two other undercover "guests." All four of them wound their way through the labyrinth of hallways and arrived at about the same moment, rushing into Exhibition Hall J and finding it freshly vandalized.

Jonah saw the five statues in the center of the room, each one with a red "X" sprayed across it. On one of the walls was a message, also in red paint. "Fur Is Mur..." it said, the last letter trailing off into nothing.

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What Is It? game 318

Now it's time for our collaboration with the awesome What Is It? Blog! What is this thing? You don't have to know to win!

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? May we suggest the Science T-Shirt, Funny T-Shirt and Artist-Designed T-Shirts?

Check out the other mystery items, too, at the What Is It? Blog. Good luck!

Update: This is a lawn mower blade balancer.It is used after sharpening the blade to ensure that each half of it weighs the same. You can see a video of the process at the What Is It? blog. We, of course, were looking for imaginative but wrong answers. Tapisbis had a good one,

It's one of the first artificial Christmas trees. Before plastics became common, scientists searched for viable artificial Christmas trees, this early tin example was quite popular although balancing the ornaments on the shelves proved challenging after a couple of eggnogs.

Which is deserving of a t-shirt from the NeatoShop! Another one goes to Warren Auld, who said it was “Archimedes drain plug. Also the reason he suddenly shouted ‘Eureka!’” Ha! Thanks to everyone who played this week, and thanks to the What Is It? blog.


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Whodunit: The Secret Letters

The following is a Whodunit by Hy Conrad featuring Jonah Bixby, a twelve-year-old crime solver and son of a police detective. Can you solve the crime?

"Mom, please, I want to go," Jonah insisted. "We must have something up here that's old and interesting."

Jonah and his mother were in the attic, searching through the piles of clothes and knickknacks and discarded furniture. Carol Bixby sighed as she dusted away a layer of cobwebs. "I don't think Traveling Treasures is going to be interested in your father's moldy neckties," she said, moving aside a box.

"How about these bookends?" Jonah held up a pair of small iron roosters. "They're old and ugly, so they must be valuable." He dusted them off. "What do you say?"

Every Sunday night, Jonah and his mother sat down and watched Traveling Treasures, where hundreds of people brought in their family heirlooms and had them appraised by a platoon of experts. This week, the TV show was filming in Indianapolis, just an hour's drive away. From the minute Jonah saw the announcement on the news, he'd been bugging his mother to go.

"All right," Carol conceded. "It'll be a nice day trip. But you can't be disappointed."

Jonah promised. He really just wanted to do it for the fun and the experience. But by Saturday afternoon, after driving to the Convention Center and waiting in four different lines, it was a major letdown when an antiques dealer from New York evaluated his rooster bookends. The pieces were late Victorian, mass-produced, and worth about ten dollars each.

"There weren't even any cameras around," Jonah sulked.

"They save the cameras for the good stuff," Carol said with a smile. "Come on. Let's see who got lucky."

For the rest of the day, they wandered the hall, looking on as the resident experts appraised everything from baseball cards to gold chandeliers. Carol and Jonah were just approaching the exit when one particular item caught Carol's eye. "Oh, look," she said. "There's a terrific desk. Let's see what it's worth."

They stopped and watched as the furniture expert spoke to the desk's owner, a young woman. "It's an Edwardian piece," he explained somewhat pompously. "Made in England. Fairly common." He ran a hand under the front of the huge wooden desk. "I think it has a hidden drawer."

"Really?" the young owner said. "The desk belonged to my great grandmother, and I never..."

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What Is It? game 317

W00t! It's time for another contest collaboration with the excellent What Is It? blog. Can you guess what this odd 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.

Please write your prize selection alongside your guess, so visit the NeatoShop and take a look around. If you don't write your prize selection, then you don'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.

There's another image of this thing, along with other mystery items, at the What Is It? blog. Good luck!

Update: This thing is a Sadlak M1A, M14 USGI Combination tool for use on military rifles. See it’s many uses at the What Is It? blog. We were looking for wrong but funny answers, and jasennesaj had one: an S&M bicycle seat with a built in fart muzzle compensator. Ha! That wins a t-shirt from the NeatoShop! ColShorts had a great answer, too, “The Exhaust Piper.” Replace your car's exhaust with this and sound like Scotland as you drive! Congratulations to both. There are a lot of other funny answers; you should read them all. See the identifications of all this week’s mystery items at the What Is It? blog.


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Whodunit: Frankie and the Telescope

The following is a Whodunit by Hy Conrad featuring Jonah Bixby, a twelve-year-old crime solver and son of a police detective. Can you solve the crime?

It was early August, one of the worst days of the heat wave, as Jonah and Sally Smith stood in the sweltering tree house in the Smiths' backyard. They were staring at the spot by the window where the rusty telescope used to be. "Someone stole it," Sally repeated for the third time. "My little brother said he saw someone out here this morning. Some kid."

"That makes sense," Jonah said. He couldn't imagine a grown-up making off with the cumbersome old telescope. The detective's son examined the tree house for a minute or so, then climbed down and inspected the ground around the tree.

"You think we should call the police?" asked Sally.

"Why don't we investigate this on our own?" Jonah suggested. He knew the police wouldn't pay much attention to a battered old telescope taken from an unlocked tree house. "It was one person," he quickly deduced, pointing to footsteps in the dirt. "The thief dragged it over here and lifted it over your back fence."

Sally bent down and saw the line in the dirt where the large telescope had been dragged along. On the top edge of the fence was a scratch of black paint and scuff marks from a pair of shoes. Beyond the fence was a vacant lot covered in waist-high weeds.

"He left a path," Jonah said, pointing to the trampled trail curving through the lot. "Come on. Let's follow it."

He started to climb the fence, but Sally stopped him. "No. That lot is full of hornet nests. I got stung there last week— a huge, red, itchy welt."

"Thanks for the warning," Jonah said, studying the trampled trail from a distance. "The telescope was dragged through to Juniper Street. We'll go around."

They grabbed their bikes and raced each other to Juniper, screeching to a halt where the trampled weeds met the sidewalk. "He went this way," Jonah said, following the almost imperceptible scratches in the cement. And then the tracks stopped.

"I guess he carried it from here," Jonah said, a little disappointed. He stood in the middle of the street and looked at the surrounding houses. "Frankie Rooter lives right there," he said, pointing to a two-story house.

"Frankie?" said Sally. "Didn't he steal that baseball from Crazy Kate's shack?" Before Jonah could answer, Sally was crossing the street. He had never seen her so mad. "Frankie?" she shouted toward a figure visible in a second-story window. "Give me back my telescope."

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What Is It? game 316

It's Thursday, so you know what it means, Neatoramanauts: it's time for the What Is It? Game, brought to you by the wonderful What Is It? Blog.

What is this thing in the picture? 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. Post no URLs or weblinks.

You might know what they are, 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, mmkay? So, it's up to you, funny people: you have twice the chance of winning that T-shirt.

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! (Don't forget to visit the What Is It? Blog for more clues!)

Update: the pictured object is a lid from a mason jar mouse trap, patent number 1,077,104. Mmm, mouse in a jar! A lot of people got the answer right, or close to it, even when they were trying to be funny.



Lucas Gentry wins a t-shirt for the genius idea of a pickle-jar lid, in which a pickle is speared for easy retrieval every time the lid is put on. Someone should make that! The other winner is pascals_force, who said “It's a cleverly modified lid for those that just HATE dropping the lid and having it land on the wrong side.” That’s nonsensical enough to win a t-shirt! Thanks to everyone who played this week. See the answers to all this week’s mystery itms at the What Is It? blog.


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Whodunit: A Suicidal Murder

The following is a Whodunit by Hy Conrad featuring Jonah Bixby, a twelve-year-old crime solver and son of a police detective. Can you solve the crime?

(Image credit: Flickr user J Neuberger hates the new Flickr design)

Detective Bixby sighed and looked across to her son. "You like impossible crimes. Why don't you take a look at this?"

Jonah and his mother were sitting across from each other at the kitchen table, both of them working on their homework for the evening. In Carol Bixby's case, the homework was a homicide investigation.

"Sure." Jonah liked any kind of crime, especially if it meant putting aside an English class assignment. "What kind of impossible crime?" He got up and walked around to look at the police reports spread out on the table.

"A murder made to look like suicide." And she began to outline the case.

Simon Wentworth had been found on the street in front of the building where he lived. It seemed that the young man used a screwdriver to remove the child safety bars from a window in his high-rise apartment. Then he jumped to his death.

Among the photos was a picture of another window with the safety bars still attached to the outside of the building. "Looks like the bars would be tricky to remove," Jonah observed.

"They're supposed to be hard to remove," said Carol. "Anyway, his prints were on the screwdriver and a suicide note was found in his room. No one else had been at home, according to the doorman. And his friends testified that he'd been moody and distracted lately. It's got all the markings of a suicide. Except..." She sighed.

"We interviewed one his neighbors," Carol continued. "Simon shouted, 'No, no, no,' before he jumped— and he screamed all the way down."

"That doesn't sound like suicide," Jonah agreed.

Carol nodded. "It turns out Simon lived in the apartment with his older brother Teddy. We found a partial print of Teddy's on the same screwdriver. So we had Simon's suicide note analyzed by an expert and found a lot of similarities with Teddy's handwriting. To cap it off, it seems the brothers had just taken out million-dollar insurance policies on each other's life."

Jonah picked up a photocopy of the suicide note. It was short and sweet: "I can't go on with the pain anymore. Forgive me, little brother. You'll be better off without me." He examined the penmanship and saw that it did look a little unnatural, with several fits and starts.

"What did Teddy say about his brother's death?" Jonah asked.

"A cool customer," said Carol, shaking her head. "He pretended to be distraught. He was the first to suggest that Simon's death might be murder."

"Let me guess," Jonah said. "Teddy Wentworth has an alibi."

"A great alibi. At the time Simon fell, Teddy was at his office, on the phone to a client in Los Angeles."

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What Is It? game 315

Now it's time for our collaboration with the awesome What Is It? Blog! What is this thing? You don't have to know to win!

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? May we suggest the Science T-Shirt, Funny T-Shirt and Artist-Designed T-Shirts?

Don't forget to check out the other mystery items at the What Is It? Blog. Good luck!

Update: this thing is a reaction propulsion pistol; it was tested in zero gravity aircraft flights as a means of individual maneuvering in free fall, photographed at National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. Did anyone come up with a stranger answer? Yes, many folks did! Richard Palmer said it was a “bidirectional flamethrower. Unfortunately the first tester was also the last tester.” And Jaguarfeather described its use thusly: “Put a Tater Tot in each end, open mouths, pull the trigger, and share a romantic, starchy meal with your girlfriend.” Both of those are good for a t-shirt from the NeatoShop! See the answers to all this week’s items at the What Is It? blog.


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Whodunit: One Drop of Blood

The following is a Whodunit by Hy Conrad featuring Jonah Bixby, a twelve-year-old crime solver and son of a police detective. Can you solve the crime?

(Image credit: Flickr user Emergency Brake)

"Please, Mom, may I go?  I'll be careful."

Jonah had been sitting at an empty desk in the police department bullpen doing his homework and feeling bored. And then Fred Coombs of the Crime Scene Unit volunteered to take him on a short field trip.

"I don't like you being at homicide scenes," Carol Bixby told her son.

"Come on," said Fred. "It's the cleanest homicide scene in the world. In fact, that's our problem. We can't find a fingerprint or a drop of blood." There was a pleading look on Fred's face. Carol knew how desperately he wanted to borrow her genius son to help him out.

She sighed and gave in. "Okay. Just this once."

Thirty minutes later and Fred was leading the twelve-year-old into a bright, sunlit artist's studio in an industrial building across town. As they put on their plastic gloves, Fred explained the situation.

"A young model is missing. Gina Washington. She was last seen walking into this building. She was coming here to visit Chester Hart, her ex-boyfriend. He's a well-known artist. That was Tuesday around noon. A security video shows Chester two hours later carrying a rolled-up rug out of the building."

"Wow. You think Ms. Washington's body was in the rug?" asked Jonah, cringing at the thought.

"We do," said Fred. "Chester returned that night with two buckets full of cleaning supplies. The security video shows him leaving the building three hours later. We think he killed her here in his studio. He came back to clean the place and did a great job. All we need is one of Gina's fingerprints or a hair or a drop of her blood. Without that, we don't have a case."

"What did Mr. Hart say happened?"

"He says he never saw her that day. He says she must have come into this building to visit someone else. Likely story."

The loft was a large, bright room with a small bathroom off to one side. There were various easels and unfinished paintings propped up against the walls. Everything else was spotless and white, from the light fixtures to the sliding dimmer switch to the bright, gauzy curtains.

"Were the curtains open like that when you got here?" Jonah asked.

"We didn't change a thing," said the crime scene technician. "The curtains were open and the lights were on. As you can see, there are no neighbors with a view of this window."

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What Is It? game 314

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?

See, you don't have to know the answer to win! There are more pictures of this thing at the What Is It? Blog. Good luck!

Update: the item pictured above is really a can opener. Our readers had many more imaginative ideas! Sandyra said it a “an antique sundial pizza cutter, because it's always time for pizza!” That’s good for a t-shirt from the NeatoShop! And so is Drew 2’s answer, “Undeniable proof that Trekkies existed as far back as the dark ages.” Congratulations to both! Get the answers to all the mystery objects of the week at The What Is It? blog.


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Solve This Pzzlr: World Cup

Neatorama presents our collaboration with Pzzlr, a site where you can always find a riddle to exercise your brain. Can you solve this one?


A set of soccer games is to be organized in a round robin (e.g. every team plays a match against each other one time). If 45 games are played, how many teams participated?

Think you know the answer? Find out at Pzzlr!


Look for a new puzzle here at Neatorama every Wednesday, and check out Pzzlr for a puzzle anytime!


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Whodunit: A Test for Rookies

The following is a Whodunit by Hy Conrad featuring Jonah Bixby, a twelve-year-old crime solver and son of a police detective. Can you solve the crime?

Meet Jonah Bixby

(Image credit: Flickr user Public Information Office, City of Marietta, GA)

The art gallery owner sat in a folding chair in the interview room. He looked bruised and nervous as Detective Carol Bixby sat across from him and listened to his story.

"I just closed up the gallery for the night," he told her. "We had a lot of cash in the register, very unusual for us. I wanted to get the money to the bank as soon as possible."

"So you drove over to Beaverton Federal Bank," Detective Bixby prodded.

"That's right," the gallery owner confirmed. "They have a walk-up night depository."

"Did you notice that you were being followed?"

"No. Not until the other car pulled up and the guy got out. He was wearing a ski mask. I tried to get back in my car, but he was too fast. He pulled a knife, like a hunting knife, and demanded the deposit bag."

"You shouldn't have resisted," Carol said. "You could have been killed."

The owner winced and nodded. "I guess it was just instinct. I swung the bag at him. But somehow he managed to stab me." He pointed to his right thigh. His pants were torn in a bloody slit, and under the slit was a flesh wound, perfectly centered with the slashed fabric.

"Anyway," he continued, "I fell down screaming with pain. The guy took the bag and ran off."

"What did you do then?" Carol asked.

"I got to my car and grabbed a towel from the floor." He pointed to a hand towel, folded neatly in quarters, with a splotch of blood covering the right half. "Then I called 911 on my cell phone. Look, can I go to the hospital now and get this wound looked at?"

"No, I don't think so," Carol said and smiled.

The art gallery owner, otherwise known as Detective Peter Pauling, smiled back, then stood up and faced the one-way mirror. "All right, rookies. You've just seen an interview with yours truly as a robbery victim. What's your first impression?"

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What Is It? game 313

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.

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?

There is another picture of this thing at the What Is It? Blog. Good luck!

Update: the mystery object is an ice cleat for attaching to the heel of a shoe. A handy item, no doubt, but we were looking for funny guesses. One of the best answers came from Berhard, who said,

This is obviously a tool-less mountable „space saver“ spare horseshoe... just enough to get you and your mustang to the next farrier... without the need to carry a forge and an anvil..
The wild west ancestor of the „limited use donut tyre“...

That’s good for a t-shirt from the NeatoShop! But how does he make those upside-down quotes? The other great guess came from Randall:

Don't be put off by the seemingly crude appearence of this device, for without it the astronauts would have never reached the moon! This an artificial orange squeezer that was used to make Tang, the delicous vitamin packed space drink you can enjoy right here on earth, if you have a taste for watery sickly sweet orange colored sand. I can't describe exacltly how it worked, because thats still so classified, even Snowden won't tell us. I think it was fitted to a space boot, and the artificial orange was stomped on like they do grapes when they make wine.

Congratulations to both on such clever ideas! We’ll do it again next week. See the answer to all the mystery objects of the week at the What Is It? blog.


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Whodunit: The Vampire on the Balcony

The following is a Whodunit by Hy Conrad featuring Jonah Bixby, a twelve-year-old crime solver and son of a police detective. Can you solve the crime?

The witch and the young Sherlock Holmes had just left their car in a parking lot and were making their way along Center Street toward the Detective Division's annual Halloween party.

"What if there's a homicide tonight?" Jonah asked with a chuckle. "Are the detectives all going to show up in costume?"

Carol whacked her son playfully with her broomstick. "That's right. Napoleon and Frankenstein will be on the case. And Sherlock Holmes, of course."

It was October 31, and a festive assortment of ghouls and ghosts strolled up and down the street. Adding to the spirit were the decorations—paper skeletons stapled to doors, comical tombstones. Jonah and his mother took a shortcut down a side alley on their way to the party. Jonah saw that someone on the third floor had placed a Dracula dummy in a chair on a balcony, with a stake through its heart.

"Mom," Jonah said, tugging on her sleeve. His face was suddenly ashen. "That's not a stake—it's a corkscrew. And that's not a dummy. It's a real man."

As they looked on, the door opened and a zombie and a gypsy woman stepped out onto the balcony. The gypsy woman smiled and touched the corpse on the shoulder, then took a closer look at the corkscrew. Her scream was piercing.

"Looks like we'll have to skip our own party," Detective Bixby told her son. "I don't even have time to take you home."

"That's okay," said Jonah, trying to act as though he didn't care. The only thing better than a Halloween party, in his mind, was a Halloween party with a real crime to solve.

His mother brought him up to the third-floor apartment, and they walked in on twenty costumed guests, all looking shocked and ready to leave. When the other officers arrived, Carol instructed them to take statements.

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What Is It? game 312

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 this thing in the pictures? Your guess is as good as mine! No, yours is better, because 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. Post no URLs or weblinks.

You might know what this item is, 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, mmkay? 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.

Visit the What Is It? Blog to see an addition picture. Then make your funniest guess!

Update: the mystery item is a dock worker's tool for moving burlap wrapped bales. That’s neat, but you had even neater made-up answers! Happycrab had a good one: “Oh come on! This one's too easy - everyone knows it's a spoon for Klingon gagh. You need the spines to keep it from wriggling off.” Unfortunately, happycrab did not specify a t-shirt. Bo Culjan said it was “a reverse-shoehorn - a tool for yanking your heel out of that shoe you put on with a shoehorn.” That wins him a t-shirt from the NeatoShop! See the answers to all the items of the week at the What Is It? blog.


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Whodunit: Death at the Door

The following is a Whodunit by Hy Conrad featuring Jonah Bixby, a twelve-year-old crime solver and son of a police detective. Can you solve the crime?

(Image credit: Flickr user AtavicArt)

Detective Carol Bixby did her best not to bring Jonah to murder scenes. But sometimes it couldn't be avoided, like today. They had been at the mall, happily buying supplies for the new school year, when the call came in. Judge Roberta Morton had been found shot to death in her home.

"This is really bad," Carol kept repeating as she raced out to the murder scene, screeching around corners with a red, flashing bubble attached to her car roof.

Jonah found himself belted into the passenger seat, along for the furious ride. "Why is it bad?" he asked.

"Judge Morton had been receiving anonymous death threats. She was under police protection until today."

"And she gets killed the same day?" Jonah whistled. "Wow. That is bad."

Jonah and his mother arrived at the secluded country house and entered through a side door. A crime-scene team was already on the premises, along with Carol's partner, Detective Peter Pauling. He said hello to them both and quickly brought them up to speed.

"Dr. Morton was the last person to see his wife alive." They eyed a tall, angular man in hospital scrubs sitting on a sofa, his head buried in his hands. "This morning, he says, was like any other morning." Pauling looked over his notes. "Morton is a surgeon. He's up at six every day and out of the house by 6:30. Judge Morton gets up around seven. She makes coffee and then sits down and watches the morning news."

Carol Bixby crossed to the television. It was still on, and a technician was dusting it and nearly everything else for prints. There were slippers in front of a comfortable-looking chair and a cup of cold coffee on an end table.

"Did anyone hear the shot?" Carol asked.

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What Is It? game 311

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 wonderfully 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 uses 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, see? May we suggest the Science T-Shirt, Funny T-Shirt and Artist-Designed T-Shirts?

Now, you don't have to know the answer to win! Go see another picture of this thing at the What Is It? Blog. Good luck!

Update: this odd tool is a Crandall hammer, it's a stone dressing tool made from several sharpened spikes which are held together with a frame and wedge. It was used to roughen the face of cut stone so that mortar would adhere to it. You learn something new every day! Erin Geddes guessed it was "For when you need to repair or make comfort adjustments on your bed of nails." Ha! That's good for a t-shirt from the NeatoShop! So was Edward's guess: "Neatorama's Ban Hammer." Yeah, this would be a good tool for that! Congratulations to both. See the answers to all the items of the week at the What Is It? blog.


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Solve This Pzzlr: 4 O'clock

Neatorama presents our collaboration with Pzzlr, a site where you can always find a riddle to exercise your brain. Can you solve this one?


Four hours ago, it was as long after 4am as it was before 4pm the same day. What time is it now?

Think you know the answer? Find out at Pzzlr!


Look for a new puzzle here at Neatorama every Wednesday, and check out Pzzlr for a puzzle anytime!

(Image credit: Flickr user Alex Eylar)


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Whodunit: The Locked Cottage

The following is a Whodunit by Hy Conrad featuring Jonah Bixby, a twelve-year-old crime solver and son of a police detective. Can you solve the crime?

Meet Jonah Bixby

(Image credit: Flickr user bolly-maymay)

"Watch out for the poison ivy," Jonah shouted, pointing to the shiny, purple-tinged leaves along the side of the cottage.

The man from Central Indiana Power & Gas glanced down at the dangerous weeds, then grabbed a pair of work gloves from his tool belt. "Thanks," he shouted back. With the gloves on, he reached through the leaves to the main valve. "It's all off," he called to Detective Bixby, as he turned the knob all the way. "You can go in."

Just fifteen minutes earlier, a postal carrier had smelled gas coming through the mail slot of Anna Plinkov's little stone cottage. He immediately called the gas company and the police. Carol Bixby had been four blocks away, driving her son to his Saturday baseball practice, and responded to the call.

"All the doors and windows are locked from the inside," Carol observed. She had a rock in her hand and now used it to smash a window by the front door. Reaching inside, she unlatched it. "You stay out here," she warned Jonah, then climbed in through the window. Jonah watched from the porch as one by one the doors and windows of the cottage flew open, letting the poisonous gas escape.

Jonah was still on the front porch when a small sedan pulled up to the curb. A young woman, about 25 years old, sprang out and came toward him, fumbling through a key chain. She stopped as she saw the open door and Jonah standing beside it. "The police called me," she said. "I'm Miss Plinkov's niece. Is there something wrong?" Then she smelled the gas. "Oh, dear." A second later she was running into the house. "Aunt Anna?"

It was five minutes later when a second car pulled up. The driver was a young man, about the same age as the niece. He, too, climbed up the porch steps, smelled the gas, and asked about his aunt.

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What Is It? game 310

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. Post no URLs or weblinks, as doing so will forfeit your entry. 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?

Update: the unidentified object is now identified as a Western Electric indicator box. It indicates something! But we wanted funny-but-wrong answers, and we got plenty. This one from sandyra is worth a t-shirt: "It's the original Price is Right's version of Plinko. Unfortunately all the discs ran sideways instead on straight down so no one ever won the money. After they turned the game on it's side it worked much better…" And so is one from tarnation:

It's a binary lock box. Convert to decimal, then knock that many times and it springs open. Black=1, white=0, so then 111001110010111111110001 represents 15,151,089. Knock 15,151,089 times to open. If you lose count, you must wait 16 hours to let the lock reset.

Or just use a saw.

Congratulations to those two, but you should really go read all the great guesses this week. See the answers to all the mystery items of the week at the What Is It? blog.


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Solve This Pzzlr: Peculiar Equation

Neatorama presents our collaboration with Pzzlr, a site where you can always find a riddle to exercise your brain. Can you solve this one?


How would this equation be correct without changing it?

XI + I = X

Think you know the answer? Find out at Pzzlr!


Look for a new puzzle here at Neatorama every Wednesday, and check out Pzzlr for a puzzle anytime!

(Image credit: Alex1011)


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Whodunit: The FBI and the Hacker

The following is a Whodunit by Hy Conrad featuring Jonah Bixby, a twelve-year-old crime solver and son of a police detective. Can you solve the crime?

(Image credit: Berishafjolla)

As one of the city's only female detectives, Carol Bixby was often stuck with non-detective chores, like doing paperwork. But it was because she was stuck here at the station house on one particular morning, writing up a boring report, that she was picked to join the FBI on an emergency operation.

The FBI's Computer Fraud Division was on the trail of a hacker who was releasing computer viruses through the Beaverton College e-mail system. The hacker had stayed one step ahead of them, changing computers with every attack. But now they were getting close. Carol helped them get a search warrant and accompanied the FBI agents when they knocked on an apartment door just off campus.

A short young man answered their knock. His name was Oscar Paterno, and he shared the place with two other students. "I know next to nothing about computers," Oscar told them. "When I need one, I go to the school's computer lab."

One of his roommates was there to support this claim. "Yeah, as far as I know, Oscar doesn't even have e-mail," said Mark Gilley. The lanky Australian was in the kitchen, a skillet in his left hand, flipping pancakes. "You blokes want some griddle cakes?" he asked. Carol and the agents declined.

"And where is your computer?" Carol asked the Aussie.

"It died last week," Mark told them. "I'm waiting on a check from Mum and Dad to buy a new one."

The FBI found only one computer in the apartment, a desktop owned by the missing roommate, Boris Brinsky, a math major and chess wizard. They took photos of Boris's room and then packed up the computer for further examination at the lab.

They were just carting it out the door when Boris walked in. "What are you people doing?" he demanded. Carol showed him the search warrant and took him aside to answer questions.

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