How I solved David’s Puzzle with no Money Down (Kevin Megill reveals his solution)

How I Solved David’s Puzzle With No Money Down

(written in the present tense for no reason, really)

The riddle

For David’s 100th blog post, he announces three prizes. One is for solving a riddle. Here is what the blog says:

To win prize package number three you must send me the best set up for a punch line I provide. Ah but it’s trickier still. Not only do you have to come up with a set up which actually makes sense with the punch line, but you have to discover the punchline by solving the riddle/poem below. Then you have to send me your set up and the punchline …

Here’s your riddle/poem:

If this is five, and the word is tan

Find the first four and then

Find each word and find the first

Put then together and do your worst.

The challenge

At first I don’t put much effort into it. I just glance casually at it. Then someone posts saying:

But I have been thinking about the darn riddle all morning. I will be willing to bet it will be a Megill who first solves it! Come to think of it, I bet one already has!!!

Well, now I feel like I should at least try.

A first look

My first thought: there are obviously (?) a couple of typos here. I think it probably should read “ten” and “them”, like this:

If this is five, and the word is *ten*

Find the first four and then

Find each word and find the first

Put *them* together and do your worst.

In the comments for the blog, someone beats me to it. She asks:

Remember how we said typos were not too big a deal unless they interfere with understanding? Is “then” a typo in your poem/riddle?

I add my question, and David clarifies:

“Tan is deliberate. Then should be them.”

“Tan” is deliberate? That’s sort of strange. Ten made so much more sense!

The first serious attempt

Now I set out in earnest to solve it.

“If this is five” – I’m not sure what “this” refers to. Maybe the riddle, maybe the first line of the riddle, maybe the word “this”. But the riddle has four lines. The word “five” is the fourth word. The word “this” is the second word.

Maybe t-h-i-s is a cypher for f-i-v-e. Seems unlikely, but I try checking what happens to t-a-n using the same system. It would be something starting with f. Not much help.

“The word is tan” – The word “tan” can’t be the whole answer, otherwise what else am I looking for in the riddle? (At this point, I was assuming that the riddle itself contained some sort of internal rebus or something which would spell out the answer.) There must be more words!

Is tan referring to the color or the trig function? Probably the color. David’s audience isn’t going to be tuned into trig functions the way a math teacher like me would be.

“Find the first four” – Clearly that is related to “this is five”. If I can figure out how this is five, I’ll be able to find the first four. But the “this” is really early in the riddle. How can there be anything before it? Maybe “this” means “tan”. Are there four colors before tan? Tan isn’t even in the rainbow!

I look through the riddle for other tans. None. I look through the post.

  • understand
  • importantly
  • circumstances
  • understanding
  • substantive
  • tan
  • importantly, again

Not much help there!

Maybe he means the first word in each of the four lines? If – Find – Find – Put. Probably not.

“Find each word” – This must be different than finding the first four. ?? In that case, the first four must not be words. They must be something we can find words in. Unless they are big words with little words embedded in them or something.

“Find the first” – probably means take the initial letters of the words I found.

“Put them together” – probably I’ll have to anagram them.

A second attempt

Maybe it’s a rebus of some kind:“five” is the clue to one word, “tan” is the clue to another, and the two together form some kind of phrase.

Five could be V (Roman numerals) or “pentagon”. Or something there are five of. Fingers. Four gospels and Acts. I can’t think of any other fives.

Tan could be brown. Or tangent again.

I’m really stumped on where to find the first four, and what “this is five” could mean.

I give up. This is too hard for me.

A new hint

David posts a new hint. Yay!

… on the riddle: “this” in line one refers to the 100th post itself. “Tan” is the word from that post you need. Where are the others and what do you do with them?

Five = 100th post! Aha!

So probably there were four other posts before that. If the 100th post is five, then the other four must be posts 20, 40, 60, and 80, right? (Wrong! But I didn’t know that yet…)

How can I find those posts? David can probably see easily which post is #20, 40, etc. Do I have to just count back?

And how will I find each word when I get there? Problem: he can’t possibly have been planning this riddle for that long. So he can’t have set anything up in post 20 to highlight the significant word there. How will I know what word to look for?

Wait – is “find the first” the first post, instead of the initial letters?

After looking up up one of the posts, I decide I may be on the wrong track.

Duh …

The next day, it suddenly occurs to me: He’s been planning this for about 5 posts. He probably means the last five posts, not every 20th. Leave it to me to overcomplicate things!

I look at the previous post and find this:

All three giveaways will include a copy of the Hidden Life, but also something else. I will only say two more things for now. 1) be thinking about your favorite quotes and 2) I’m tickled pink to be giving away stuff!

Aha! The word is pink! As confirmation, I note that it isn’t part of the normal story, it’s part of David’s hint-y comments. He could have put anything in there he wanted, and he clearly used the phrase “tickled pink” deliberately so that he could insert a color.

Next post back. I can’t find anything in the preamble, like I did the fourth one. The post is sort of long. I’ll check later.

Post 97 is a long one with no preamble. It seems unlikely, but I’ll look for colors. I find this sentence:

As Katherine watched, the light went out, the aquamarine almost entirely extinguished, his eyes now appearing the same dull dead brown they’d been.

Aquamarine and brown. Hmmm. Aquamarine is very specific, and also starts with an a. I’ll need some vowels. I am not sure if this is right, but I’m optimistic.

Post 96. Only a few sentences. I have to read it twice before I notice it: don’t be blue.

I’m on a roll. Colors are the key.

Back to post 98, where I find a reference to green monsters.

Looking for an anagram

Now to anagram the initial letters: b a/b g p t

Assume aquamarine instead of brown. bagpt.

OK, he did imply a setup would take some work, so the punchline could be sort of odd, and it could include abbreviations.

  • pt bag? (to store Physical Therapy stuff in)
  • tb gpa? (for those with grades in tuberculosis studies)
  • pb tag? (maybe peanut butter?)
  • bg pta? (??)

None of these look very likely! Certainly not enough that I’ll “know it when I see it”, which seems to be required since I have to submit the punchline.

Could there be more than one color in each post? The original post said:

Find the first four and then

Find each word

This could mean

Find the first four posts and then

Find each of the colors in those posts (i.e., there could be several in the post)

That means we’d have babgpt, since we’d add the brown. That isn’t any better!

Another hint

I post about my progress on Dave’s facebook page:

OK, I’ve solved part of the riddle. Still stuck on the last stage. Hmmm…

Dave must be concerned that no one is solving the puzzle because he messages me asking what I’ve discovered so far. Of course, he promises he will neither confirm nor deny anything about my answer. I tell him about the 5(6) colors I have and that I can’t figure out how to anagram them.

The next thing I know, he posts another hint on his Facebook page.

One more hint for the puzzle solvers only because I inadvertently made it more challenging than intended. Not impossible just challenging. I don’t want to let the cat out, but I will confirm that there are two extra possible words. You will know you have found the right words when it works.

Aha!, again

First, “let the cat out” is a clear confirmation of “bag”. Yay!

Second, two extra possible words? One must be brown. He’d only thought of aquamarine. What is the other? Probably one of my consonanted colors should be replaced by a voweled one instead.

Back to search for more colors: in post 99, I find four colors – pink, black, gold, indigo. That’s a lot of colors. Am I supposed to use them all? At least indigo, to give me another vowel. He said only two extra colors, so I assume the two extra he had in mind are brown and indigo.

That gives me bagpit.

Bag pit?

Tip bag?

Bit gap?

I still don’t see how to know what the punchline is ??!!

I try again. Bag must be in there because of the “let the cat out” hint. Suppose I leave pink out altogether. That leaves bagit. That can be anagrammed as …

Wait …

Duh, again

He didn’t say to anagram them, he said to put them together! They’re already in the right order. The punchline is “bag it”.

********************** BAG IT *******************

The solution

I decide that has to be it. My only qualm is that pink seems so deliberate, and I don’t have it in my solution.

I need a set up. I talk it over with my family. It goes something like this.

Me: The answer is Bag it.

A child: I don’t get it.

Me (to someone else): The answer is Bag it.

Another child: Bag it? I don’t understand.

Me: Like at a grocery store. You bag the groceries, or you can double-bag them.

Still another child: It makes me think of police detectives.

And another: It makes me think of a pun with baguette.

Hence my not-very-funny set up.

Breaking news: I only just noticed while writing up this post that not only is “let the cat out” a clue for “bag”, but also “You will know … when it works” might have been intended as a clue for “it”.

Anyway, now you know the rest of the story. I guess I can stop writing in the present tense now …

Thanks Kevin! Interestingly when I think of “bag it” I think of the slang term for forget about it, which did not occur to any member of your family at all. Maybe it’s regional 🙂 I liked your joke.


  1. Well done Kevin! I recognized your beginning steps because I thought of many of the same things. I didn’t think about looking for other colors. Good job!

  2. Maybe it is regional, because I don’t think I’ve ever heard bag it with the meaning of “forget about it”. Or maybe I’ve just led a sheltered life with respect to this particular phrase. The dictionary on line clarifies that it means forget about it in the sense of “let’s cease discussing it”, and suggests a second slang meaning: to bring a sack lunch instead of buying lunch.

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