We’ll get to today’s puzzle in a minute, but occasionally, we like to answer some some of the most common queries, questions, and calls for clarification that are sent to Brain Exploder HQ week after week:

“Dear Carlton, The deadline for the Brain Exploder is always “noon Friday.” Is this Eastern Time? Pacific Time? GMT? Can you be more specific?"

The Brain Exploder staff is not generally made up of what you would call “sticklers.” Our legal department insists we have a deadline in there, and of course we want to give ourselves enough time to wade through the replies, pull out the eligible entries, and choose a winner before next week’s puzzle is due. That said, if you have the answer and there’s still a place on the planet where it’s not yet “noon Friday,” you’re probably safe.

“Dear Carlton, I got most of these answers on my own, but I used one of those Internet “anagram generators” to help me with the last one so I shouldn’t be eligible for a prize. It was a fun puzzle, though. Thanks."

Week after week, we are moved by the honesty of Brain Exploder readers. I can’t even count how many people who, along with their answers, have confessed that they used some internet application or sought the aid of a co-worker in figuring out that week’s puzzle. Today, I am putting an end to the guilt. If you’re not having fun doing a puzzle then you’re doing it wrong. If the help of a friend or a website or an old thesaurus can make it more enjoyable for you, by all means go for it. We’re aware of tools which can give some people an advantage, or help them solve a puzzle faster. That’s why, in most cases, the prize does not necessarily go to the individual who answers first.

A few weeks ago we produced an especially difficult puzzle and stated that if people wanted a little help, we’d give them a clue, but preference for that week’s prize would go to readers who had figured it out on their own. When we suggested that entrants were “on the honor system,” we only meant that if your answer was clue-aided, you should say so.

If there’s a tool at your disposal, use it. Or don’t. The only rule is to have a good time doing it.

Now, on to this week’s Brain Exploder.

Actor Frank Gorshin, “The Riddler” on TV’s Batman, turns sixty-nine-and-a-half next week and the Brain Exploder doesn’t want to wait until he’s dead before we pay tribute. This week’s B.E. is courtesy of Dennis Mahoney, who penned this for another, as-yet-unpublished project, but we are grateful to be able to scratch our heads over it today.

Send your solutions and guesses by noon Friday, September 26.

First is fanged, howling wild
Second growls, grows from lack
Third devours dirt and dead
Fourth is hidden gold, cracked

Fifth is sucked and spilled to grief
Sixth is thorny, pressed with age
Seventh rolls, voice of light
Eighth is seen in rage

Ninth is ripeness gathered in
Tenth Orion, chasing prey
Eleventh white, biting dew
Twelfth is neither short nor day

- - -


Each of the twelve lines of verse yielded an answer, but it wasn’t enough to decipher each line. For a correct answer, the entrant had to recognize that the twelve words and phrases (Wolf, Hunger, Worm, Egg, Milk, Rose, Thunder, Red, Harvest, Hunter, Frost, Long Nights) are Native American names for the full moons corresponding to the 12 months
of the year.

The winner of a McSweeney’s book, chosen at random, is Andrea Ross. In all, we received 22 correct answers, a number manageable enough to list their names here:

Wesley Gibson
Doug Jenner
Jose Kirkland
Caleb Donaldson
Ryan Moore
Andrea Ross
Paul Kagiwada
TG Gibbon
Beth Donovan
Doug Nelson
April Holm
Miriam Attia
Matt Collins
Mark Davies
David Provost
Liz Coen
Michael Adams
“Joe, Jacques, and, from afar, Madeleine”
Barbara Stewart
Jack Kennedy
Sam Koch

In addition, three entrants managed a reference to actress and Brain Exploder crush Amy Jo Johnson. According to the new Brain Exploder guidelines, they receive special mention and our thanks:

Wesley Gibson
TG Gibbon
David Provost

Miriam Attia sent in the correct answer but had so little confidence in her ability to solve the puzzle, she offered three more possibilities:

1. My usual method of answering an obscure question such as this (Google, what else?) offered the following insight: once upon a time people could buy a series of Pepsi™ glasses in the “moon style” decorated with various Batman characters on them, but that now these glasses are nearly unavailable. However, I find it highly doubtful that the final point of this puzzle is one item in a series of Batman-themed Pepsi™ glasses.

2. I think I remember, once long ago when I saw Batman Forever in a movie theater with my brother, an image of the Riddler’s trademark interrogative squiggle being shone brightly against the night sky, positioned so that Batman’s familiar ovoid bat-silhouette became the dot. However, this was a movie with Jim Carrey and not a classic episode with Mr. Gorshin. Why would you be referring to an imitation in your tribute to the original?

3. On a more abstract level, one could argue that the Riddler and the moon share a certain enigmatic quality. Attractive as this answer is to me, I can’t help but think that it’s too ad hoc to be stable.

My final conclusion is that the Riddler and the twelve full moons have nothing to do with each other at all, except that this was a riddle about them, and the Riddler liked to offer riddles like this. Which he did. Also, the word “moon” and the surname “Mahoney” may be etymologically related.

Liz Coen got the correct answer but thought that, “Moon phases was a little mamby-pamby for McSweeney’s.” She suggested each line referred to “awesome” names of Bonanza Episodes:

First is fanged, howling wild: Ambush at Big Lobo
Second growls, grows from lack: The Flapjack Contest (like their hunger is growing ‘cause they can’t find the damn contest with the eats)
Third devours dirt and dead: The Storm
Fourth is hidden gold, cracked: The Gold Plated Rifle (yeah!!)
Fifth is sucked and spilled to grief: Gift Of Water (or a 40, but that wasn’t a Bonanza episode)
Sixth is thorny, pressed with age: The Fallen Woman
Seventh rolls, voice of light: Silent Thunder
Eighth is seen in rage: Heritage of Anger
Ninth is ripeness gathered in: The Greedy Ones (they want everything…everything!)
Tenth Orion, chasing prey: The Hunter
Eleventh white, biting dew: Easter Bunny Crossing (aww!)
Twelfth is neither short nor day: The Long Night

Trey Kazee guessed that each line described a movie released in 1998. That’s wrong, obviously, but we thought it was a clever attempt:

First is fanged, howling wild: Godzilla
Second growls, grows from lack: The Opposite of Sex
Third devours dirt and dead: Antz
Fourth is hidden gold, cracked: Prince of Egypt
Fifth is sucked and spilled to grief: John Carpenter’s Vampires
Sixth is thorny, pressed with age: Waking Ned Devine
Seventh rolls, voice of light: Smoke Signals or Hope Floats
Eighth is seen in rage: The Thin Red Line
Ninth is ripeness gathered in: Sour Grapes
Tenth Orion, chasing prey: Good Will Hunting
Eleventh white, biting dew: Jack Frost
Twelfth is neither short nor day: Permanent Midnight