Car Talk State Name Answer

On March 13, 2011 · 10 Comments

I’m not a listener of the Car Talk radio show but apparently they do a Puzzler each week and people try to send them the correct answer by email. I know this because my website gets hammered by Google searches anytime they deal with geographic trivia. I guess there aren’t many geo-oddity sites on the Intertubes. My humble little Twelve Mile Circle hits the first search page and visitors come flooding-in for answers, even though nothing on my site has anything to do with the radio show or the questions being posed.

I don’t know. Maybe they win a prize or something. It’s hard to imagine so many people that need to know the answer right away before it’s revealed in a week.

Last time this happened to me, the Puzzler had something to do with a town where one would reach the same state going north, south, east or west. I thought the answer was bogus and that Click and Clack should probably stick to cars. I still get a lot of traffic on that page almost a year later to my amazement and surprise.

It’s B-A-C-K! In the words of Yogi Berra, "It’s déjà vu all over again." Let’s see if we can help the Car Talk folks so we can get back to our weird little geography topics.

Here’s the puzzler for the week of March 12, 2011: "Nine Unusual States. There’s something special about the names of these nine states: Maine, Vermont, New York, Iowa, Florida, Texas, Utah, Idaho and Wyoming. What do they have in common?" The lesson I learned last time is that Car Talk provides more clues in the transcript from the actual radio broadcast. That’s also the case today. It was submitted by someone who is an aficionado of the New York Times puzzle (I’m assuming the crossword puzzle), and thus it seems to be coming from a wording perspective rather than a pure geography perspective. The final hint is that "You don’t have to think twice to know that Mississippi and Alabama are not eligible to be on this list."

My guess is that there are no vowel repetitions in each state name:

UPDATE: The much better answer appears down in the comments. I know I can always count on the wise 12MC audience to quickly find a solution!

  1. Maine: a, i, e
  2. Vermont: e, o
  3. New York: e, o
  4. Iowa: i, o, a
  5. Florida: o, i, a
  6. Texas: e, a
  7. Utah: u, a
  8. Idaho: i, a, o
  9. Wyoming: y, o, i

I particularly like the use of "y" as a vowel in Wyoming. Why? Because I like unusual things, and yes I used "why" intentionally.

Does anyone have a better answer?

I’ll probably close-down the comments on this topic in a couple of weeks. All I can say is that the Car Talk website must generate huge volumes of rabidly loyal readers because the mere mention of their name is a spam-bot magnet. This will attract, I kid you not, hundreds of attempts by spammers to post fake comments. My filtering software will block most of them automatically but a small percentage will make it into the moderation queue. We’ll see if it reaches a level of annoyance where I feel I need to shut it down.

Anyway, welcome Car Talk crowd. I’ll see you again in a few months when they post something else that the all-knowing Google thinks I should answer.

So Many Questions

On February 1, 2011 · 3 Comments

When most people use a search engine they focus on a few key terms, perhaps use quotation marks to find specific phrases or using addition or subtraction marks if they’re a bit more sophisticated in the use of such tools. Others seek knowledge using an actual question, as if the search engine is a human who happens to be sitting somewhere in the cloud. This probably happens less than five percent of the time based on years of screening my access logs.

I recorded search engine queries that arrived in the form of a question on a single day. They provide a fascinating case study as well as an opportunity to present some "greatest hits" from my articles archive. I can only hope that these actual, genuine questions got proper responses from the Twelve Mile Circle.

  • Are there any states that split a time zone? – Yes, 14 (not 13!) States are split by time zones.
  • What counties in the united states share a border with their namesake? – There are at least 11 instances of adjacent counties with the same name.
  • Approximately what percent of the population lives within 160km of the us border? – I looked in the logs and determined that this was a visitor from Canada, thus it’s approximately 75%.
  • At what elevation is Nepal? – Mt. Everest is 8,848 m (29,029 ft) and it’s the answer this visitor probably sought. What they found, however, was a much more interesting and obscure reference to the lowest elevation in Nepal at 67m (220 ft).
  • How did Gambia get its shape? – Colonialism combined with the Gambia River, put simply.
  • How many sides are there in the shape of the state of Colorado – It depends, but it’s not a rectangle.
  • The prime meridian now goes through which city? – Greenwich, but others too.
  • What are the world’s northernmost and southernmost capitals? – Reykjavík, Iceland and Wellington, New Zealand, respectively.
  • What is the smallest county in Alabama by population? – Greene County, 9,974 people in the 2000 Census.
  • Why do you think the time zone boundary lines are not straight lines? – Probably because national, provincial, city, etc., boundaries are not straight lines, and groups of affiliated people would be split into different times.
  • Why does the southern border of Massachusetts dip into Connecticut? – That’s the Southwick Jog and it has an interesting history.
  • Why is Kearneysville coast guard in West Virginia? – The late Sen. Robert Byrd more than likely had something to do with this, but it’s also because this facility handles functions that don’t depend on access to the sea.

I hope you enjoyed a day in the life of search engine questions on the website.

Under Miscellaneous | Taged

That Confounding Trivia Question

On May 19, 2010 · 21 Comments

UPDATE: THE CONTEST HAS ENDED. THE ANSWER WAS ANNOUNCED AS STAMFORD, CONNECTICUT. SEE COMMENTS BELOW FOR ISSUES MANY PEOPLE HAVE WITH THIS ANSWER.

The Twelve Mile Circle has been hammered by people searching for the answer to a specific trivia question. I’ve seen dozens of search engine queries and I’ve received several email messages from people desperate to know the answer. I can’t help them because I don’t know the exact question. I’m betting that one of you knows the question and the answer, and I’m hoping you can post a comment.

Here was one email message:

I was listening to public radio this morning and heard part of a trivia question… Car leaves city (in state A), drives north, crosses state border to State B, returns to city, drives south, crosses border into state B, same thing apparently in four directions….sort of a city/state within a state…somewhere in U.S

And here is another message:

What city in the USA is located in an area where it is surrounded by another single state, so that you can go north, south, east, and west and come to that state line in all four cases?

I’ve also gotten every variation imaginable through search engine queries that I’ve recorded in my weblogs, too.

My cardinal rule of trivia questions is always to guess "somewhere in Alaska" or "Vatican City." Neither seems to apply here. Alaska is an exclave that borders no other state and Vatican City, well, isn’t part of the United States. Neither are San Marino or Lesotho which would also be good choices if international situations were valid solutions to the puzzle.



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Not having actually heard the radio broadcast myself, my best guess is that the answer might me Carter Lake, Iowa (which I’ve profiled before). That assumes the question actually involves driving a car. One cannot leave Carter Lake by automobile without entering Nebraska. Does a population of 3,200 quality it as a "city" though?

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