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Kominers’s Conundrums: An Emoji Hunt in Search of a Song

Scott Duke Kominers
·5 min read

(Bloomberg Opinion) -- It would be easy to doomscroll away the final days of the presidential campaign. There are always more tweets, more news alerts, more polls. Is that really helping anything? What if there were a distraction -- maybe even a fun one -- that required real focus? We have what you're looking for -- or more precisely, something for you to look for. This week, we’re doing a modern take on the puzzles in the “I Spy” and “Where’s Waldo?” books with a new Conundrum co-conspirator: Bloomberg Opinion’s Instagram team. Unbeknownst to the feed’s followers, we’ve concealed four emoji in the posts of the past week.The first emoji you’re looking for is in this post and looks like this:

The emoji are pretty small and heavily camouflaged, but there are lots of ways to start looking for them: You can scan the scene linearly from left to right and top to bottom. Alternatively, you can focus on unexpected color changes and unusual shapes. Or you can try to meta-game the problem -- where would be a good place to hide something without confusing people who don’t know about the Conundrum?

Finding the eye should give you a sense of how the other emoji are hidden. And if you find all four, you should be able to put them together into a rebus -- a sequence of pictures representing words or letters -- that spells out the name of an 80s jukebox masterpiece. That song is this week’s answer.

Got the rules? Then head over to the Bloomberg Opinion Instagram feed and start spotting!

If you hunt down all the emoji -- or if you even make partial progress -- please let us know at skpuzzles@bloomberg.net before midnight New York time on Thursday, October 29. If you get stuck, there’ll be hints announced on Twitter and in Bloomberg Opinion Today. To be counted in the solver list, please include your name with your answer.

Programming note: Next week, Conundrums will run on Sunday, November 1. If you have opinions about the optimal release day/time for the column, please let us know at skpuzzles@bloomberg.net.

Previously in Kominers’s Conundrums …

Nine memes collided with each other, and it was up to readers to figure what they were and how they were connected.

Some of the memes sounded particularly cross-referential, such as one that featured Gandalf with text reminiscent of Dos Equis’s Most Interesting Man in the World: “I don’t always come back to you, but when I do, it’s the turn of the tide.” Indeed, this presented a classic Gandalf meme phrase (“I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide”) in the language associated with the Most Interesting Man in the World meme (“I don’t always X, but when I do, Y”).(2)

Further inspection revealed that each meme was somehow referencing one of the others -- and this identified an order you could put the memes in.

Our Admiral Ackbar meme referenced the lines in Rick Astley's ultra-memefied song:

The Rick Astley meme then referenced Siri, the iPhone's virtual assistant:

The iPhone meme referenced Nicolas Cage's penchant for making many movies:

The Nicolas Cage meme referenced Gandalf through a mashup of the "One does not simply walk into Mordor"(3)meme with Cage "stealing the Declaration of Independence:"

The Gandalf meme, as described above, referenced the Most Interesting Man in the World. His meme, in turn, referenced the gloomy donkey Eeyore:

Our Eeyore meme featured a shout-out to Mugatu's abysmal fashion line "Derelicte:"

Then the Mugatu meme referenced "taking your own company private," a callout to Elon Musk, who recently suggested he wanted to do just that:

And finally the Elon Musk meme completed the circle with a reference to Admiral Ackbar's most memorable line:

Once you had worked out these linkages, the memes formed a loop -- or, we might say, a ring. And indeed, while you had to figure out where to start, reading the first letters of the memes’ names in that order spelled out “A RING MEME,” the instruction for what you should send us as an answer.

Lazar Ilic solved first for the second week in a row, submitting Der Ring des Nibelungen. He was followed by John Owens, Hannah Ellery, Laurent Granger, Sam Lazarus & Patty Smith, Ali Haberman, Alex MacKay, and (at the buzzer) my brother, Paul Kominers.(6)

Ellery sent in a Skyrim meme: "Has 10 fingers; can only wear one ring." Lazarus & Smith submitted a taco-engagement ring meme "guaranteed to make her say yes." MacKay sent Boromir declaring "one does not simply combine Lord of the Rings memes and get away with it." And Granger went full-on meta, with a suite of memes about ring memes.

The Bonus Round

An economics Halloween puzzle; plus an evening of puzzles and trivia to help kids learn math. Time-traveling through Merriam-Webster words (hat tip: Elizabeth Sibert). A number base puzzle; a mesmerizing optical illusion; and a mechanical binary counter. Gamers helping discover vaccines; Tom Lehrer’s lyrics, free for all; Wimbledon tiny homes; plus even the ancients had cat memes. “Chicago v. Oxford”; the story of the NYT’s Spelling Bee (hat tip: Ellen Kominers); Indiana Jones and Rambo in 1980s text adventures; “Ravens and crows are hard to fool.” RIP James Randi. Plus inquiring minds want to know: Why alphabetical order (hat tip: Gary Antonick)?

(1) Incidentally, the Most Interesting Man in the World is also often known as "Mr. Dos Equis”; the puzzle solution works with either name.

(2) "One does not simply walk into Mordor" is most commonly associated with Boromir, but Gandalf gets his share of it as well.

(3) Half credit to Robbie Minton, Alexandru Nichifor, and Michael Thaler,all of whom sent in memes having nothing to do with rings.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Scott Duke Kominers is the MBA Class of 1960 Associate Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, and a faculty affiliate of the Harvard Department of Economics. Previously, he was a junior fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows and the inaugural research scholar at the Becker Friedman Institute for Research in Economics at the University of Chicago.

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