Fireball contest — September 5, 2018

Puzzle: 10:23
Meta: about a minute  


Victor Barocas’s Fireball contest, “Powers that Be,” September 5, 2018

Welcome back to the Fireball contest! A break was taken in August, so we haven’t had one of these since July. This month, Victor Barocas asks, “What 18th-century scientist completes this puzzle’s theme?” Let’s see what we’ve got so far:

  • FB Contest - 9.5.18 - Solution

    Fireball Contest – 9.5.18 – Solution

    [18a: Host with the Basic Cable
    Band]: CONAN O’BRIEN

  • [24a: Adaptable network
    scheme]: DYNAMIC ROUTING
  • [38a: Antarctic archipelago in
    Vincennes Bay]: WINDMILL ISLANDS
  • [49a: 1970 #1 hit that asks “Isn’t
    that what life is made of?”]: I THINK I LOVE YOU
  • [58a: Sources of fresh
    vegetables]: HOME GARDENS

When the theme entries are this disparate (and somewhat obscure), there’s got to be some linguistic pattern that we’re looking for … and there it is:


LUIGI GALVANI, 1737-1798

Step one, completed. The theme entries all have embedded within them the decimal prefixes. Now, some may quibble that we’re missing DECI-, CENTI-, etc. — but, if we take the progression as the whole-number powers of 1000, we skip from MILLI- (1000-1) to KILO- (10001). The 18th-century scientist must have GIGA (10003) in his (one assumes; there were women scientists in the 18th century but neither Lady Mary Wortley Montagu nor Laura Bassi nor Maria Agnesi nor Caroline Herschel) name. Entirely coincidentally, the contest answer — LUIGI GALVANI — was on my mind, since I’d been thinking of him in relation to a question (which I got wrong) in Learned League just the day before.

Bonus! Can you think of a 20th-century American philanthropist, a 19th-century American president, or a legendary 20th-century American sitcom actress who would extend the theme one more entry? (Note: No prizes will be awarded save my admiration.)



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10 Responses to Fireball contest — September 5, 2018

  1. Dbardolph says:


  2. Matthew G. says:

    Whoops, that’s what I get for not reading the prompt closely. I entered James Watt. And if the prompt had asked for someone hinted at by the puzzle, that would have fit, since all of the hidden prefixes can go before his name. But it asked who completes the theme, so of course it’s wrong. My face is megared.

  3. Tyrpmom says:

    Who else sent in Peter Artedi?

  4. dbardolph says:

    OK, Laura – I got the president, but I’m striking out on the other two. Help?

    • LauraB says:

      The comment below re the philanthropist is correct, as is the president in the first comment. The actress just passed away about a month ago, and she was notable for playing an authority figure at an educational institution.

  5. Bit says:

    Walter Annenberg for the philanthropist, maybe

  6. Norm H says:

    Charlotte Rae. Very fun add-on, Laura!

  7. Joanne says:

    While solving the puzzle, I thought the scientist’s name must have an embedded decimal prefix. But when I looked up decimal prefixes and found several (pico-, giga-, and tera-), I thought that path wouldn’t be correct. Since there are several them, I thought that no single prefix would *complete* the set. I thought WATT would complete the theme because it can be combined with all the prefixes to make complete words. It could have been a theme revealer clued as [Word that can follow the hidden prefixes]. Learning about the alternate answer Peter Artedi makes the theme seem even less elegant and satisfying.

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