RSS Christmas Quiz 2020

Released on Monday 21 December 2020

For the last 27 years, the Royal Statistical Society has published a brain-melting Christmas Quiz to baffle and entertain puzzle fans over the festive break – and this year is no exception. You’ll need a combination of general knowledge, logic, and lateral thinking skills to successfully crack these puzzles – but as always, no specialist mathematical knowledge is required.

This year’s edition, devised by RSS quizmaster Dr Tim Paulden, will run through till 31 January 2021 – giving you plenty of time to give the puzzles a whirl. And to shake things up further, some slightly easier puzzles have been sprinkled throughout the quiz, as a starting point for newcomers.

Entry is free and open to all, and if you manage to achieve a score of 50% or higher, you’ll win a donation to your favourite charity or good cause, and your name (or team name) will appear on our 2020 prize-winners' page.

Five quick tips for budding solvers:

  • You can use any tools or resources you wish to help solve the puzzles, including books, search engines, computer programs, and so on. To keep the quiz fun for everyone, solvers are kindly asked not to post any solutions online until after the quiz has concluded. Thank you!
  • Solutions should be briefly explained to receive full credit – the number of points available for each puzzle is indicated in brackets. You may find several of the puzzle titles to be helpful; for full credit, these titles should also be explained. And if you spot any other interesting connections between the puzzles, be sure to note them in your solutions.
  • Although there is no overarching “meta-puzzle” to be solved this year, some of the puzzles may contain hidden clues that could help you crack the others. (There is one instance where solving a puzzle could potentially help you out with several earlier puzzles.)
  • Any corrections (or other quiz-related messages) between now and the closing date will be posted on this webpage. If you encounter any technical problems, or spot an error, please get in touch via the email address below. (We won’t be able to provide any further hints – sorry!)
  • Finally, the puzzles are not ordered by difficulty. If you are relatively new to puzzle-solving, you may wish to start out by exploring Puzzles 1, 3 and 7.


Prizes 
The top entry received will receive £150 in Wiley book vouchers, and second place will receive £50 in Wiley book vouchers. The next three entries (third place through to fifth place) will receive a puzzle book or board game.
 
This year, the quizmaster has also pledged a donation of £500 to charity – half of this pot will be split between good causes nominated by the top five entries, while the other half will go to good causes nominated by entrants scoring 50% or more (excluding the top five).
 
How to enter 
Entries are welcomed both from individuals and teams of up to five people, and this year the quiz is open to all – there is no requirement to be an RSS member.

Solutions should be sent by email (with 'RSS Christmas Quiz 2020' as the subject line) to s.mcdonnell@rss.org.uk, to arrive before 21:00 GMT on Sunday 31 January 2020. Please don’t forget to mention your nominated charity or good cause at the top of your solutions.

The quizmaster’s decision is final, and in the event of a tie, the prize-winners will be selected at random from the highest-scoring entries.

Good luck!
 

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Puzzle 1:  SOCIALLY DISTANCED  [6 points]

The mayor of Alphaville has just announced a new restriction on all festive text, to ensure that the letters of the alphabet remain socially distanced – with the card below providing an illustration of the new rule in action. (Click on the image to enlarge it. You can do this for any of the images in the quiz.)

Can you figure out what’s been done to the text, and what the message says?

If you apply the same rule to the (assumed) name of the person who brought these lines to prominence, 65 years ago, what two letters appear in the result?

(Hint: These two letters appear consecutively on the penultimate line of the card, in lower case.)

Puzzle 1
 

 

Puzzle 2:  PUBLIUS ENIGMA  [4 points]

What number is missing from the image below – and why?

(Hint: Millions heard these numbers during 2020.)

Puzzle 2

 


Puzzle 3:  SWBPWCA = {C, C, R, C, H, M, P, G, A, P, B, T, G, C, C, A, P}  [12 points]

The 11x11 grid below contains the 17 items of the set referenced in the title, written in lower case. Each highlighted cell (marked with “?”) contains a single unknown letter, and each of the 121 cells is used exactly once.

Can you identify the items, and the set?

(Hint: The letters in the grid do not need to be altered or transformed.)

What name is revealed by the seven highlighted cells, and how is it connected to two of the items?

Explain how a closely related item (from a slightly larger set) may be created through a one-character transformation of the highlighted name.
 

Puzzle 3
 

 

Puzzle 4:  ACTIN RELEASE  [6 points]

Which award-winning 2009 album is cryptically encoded below?

(Hint: (6,5,3,4,9,9,5) and (7,3,5).)

Given the title of the album, which celebrity name is instantly evoked by the language of #5 (R-N), and how is this person vicariously connected with Christmas 2020?
 

Puzzle 4


 

Puzzle 5:  TAKE IT  [5 points]

Pick a colour, then explain what is represented below.
 

Puzzle 5
 



Puzzle 6:  UNNATURAL [5 points]

(Hint: The answer to this puzzle is an eight-letter name.)
 

Puzzle 6


 

Puzzle 7:  LGRTJ!  [14 points]

In each of the 14 clues below, one of the words is wrong – in fact, it belongs to a different clue! Can you figure out how everything’s been jumbled up, and solve the clues?

Your 14 answers should fall naturally into two groups. What partnership is evoked by these groups? Can you locate a hidden reference in the corrected clues to one of their previous endeavours (which, sadly, isn’t quite as festive as the name might suggest)?
 

- UPCOMING HORROR FILM BASED ON “THE QUIET TIN”

- OPPOSITE OF USEFUL

- SCOTTISH WOODS WHERE ROBERT WOODROW CLAIMED TO SEE A U.F.O.

- BAND BEHIND “PERSISTENCE OF CONSCIENCE”

- SECOND WORD IN THE TITLE OF THE 2018 ALBUM BY TIME

- COASTAL CITY LOCATED 230 KM EAST-NORTH-EAST OF ALEXANDRIA

- BIRTH MONTH OF OWEN WILSON

- ARCHITECT WHO HELPED HADRIAN RECONSTRUCT EVERGREEN

- WORLD SERPENT IN BALINESE MYTHOLOGY, WHO CREATED A BOY

- CITY IN WHICH HENDRIK TAYLOR WAS BORN

- OBJECT LIFTED BY DANNY MORGAN USING BALLOONS FILLED WITH EELS

- THIRD WORD OF “THE OLD LIE”, AS DESCRIBED BY WILFRED RHODES

- CONTINENT IN WHICH TURTLE ISLAND IS LOCATED

- FIRST ELEMENT AFTER HELIUM IN THE PERIODIC TABLE




Puzzle 8:  MUD, GLORIOUS MUD  [7 points]

MudCraft is a bafflingly addictive video game played on a map of 19 hexagonal territories. Initially, all territories are “mud” (brown), as shown in the left-hand image below.

The rules of the game are simple:

  • If you click on a mud territory, it becomes “forest” (green), and all immediately adjacent territories are flipped (that is, mud becomes forest, and vice versa)
  • If you click on a forest territory, it remains as forest, but all immediately adjacent territories are flipped (that is, mud becomes forest, and vice versa)

For instance, starting from the initial map, clicking on the central territory would result in a map with 7 forest territories and 12 mud territories. If we were then to click on a corner territory next – the one in the top-left, say – we would obtain a map with 9 forest territories and 10 mud territories, because the second click would turn three mud territories into forest, and flip one of our forest territories back to being mud.

What is the minimum number of clicks needed to transform the initial map (in which all territories are mud) into the “Christmas tree” map pictured in the right-hand image below?

(Note: In your answer, please provide an example of how the transformation could be achieved in the minimum number of clicks. It may be convenient to number the territories from 1 to 19, proceeding row by row from top to bottom – in other words, the 11 forest territories in the “Christmas tree” map would be numbered 2, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15, 16, and 18.)

Is it possible to transform the “Christmas tree” map back into the initial map in the same number of clicks?

Puzzle 8




Puzzle 9:  VOTH: A SUITABLE GIFT  [7 points]

Puzzle 9
(Note: The final answer to the puzzle is the hyphenated word obtained in the lower set of boxes.)

Why is the theme of this puzzle particularly appropriate this Christmas – and which element of the puzzle has an unexpected connection to the closing words of line 6 in Puzzle 1?


 

Puzzle 10:  BAR HUMBUG!  [4 points]

What unfortunate theme connects 20:145 [02/2016], 22:217 [06/2018], 23:55 [11/2018], 23:63 [11/2018], 24:182 [03/2020], and 25:54 [11/2020]?
 



Puzzle 11:  VIAGRA UNI AD  [7 points]

Identify the items indicated below, then order them to reveal a recent British success.

Puzzle 11




Puzzle 12:  153 CIPHER  [6 points]

Puzzle 12

(Note: The solution to this puzzle may provide a clue to Puzzle 5.)


 

Puzzle 13:    [4 points]

In what context would you find 19 August 2014, 23 June 2014, 28 May 2013, 14 August 2014, 21 September 2014, 30 June 2014, and 6 September 2014 occurring together, as seven of eight – and how is the eighth (which is seventh) different?


 

Puzzle 14:  WHAT THE …?  [6 points]

In this puzzle, each of the five names on the left needs to be correctly matched up with one of the five lists of letters on the right.

Can you crack it?

(For the first, bolder list, little could be said to help you out!)

Puzzle 14
 



Puzzle 15:  CALL ME CLAUS  [7 points]

Explain the image below, and determine what should appear in each of the spaces.

Puzzle 15

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