Can You Defeat the Detroit Lines?

This week’s Riddler Express features a challenge drawn from the world of football analytics: In the Riddler Football League, you are coaching the Arizona Ordinals against your opponent, the Detroit Lines, and your team is down by 14 points. You can assume that you have exactly two remaining possessions (i.e., opportunities to score), and that Detroit will score no more points. For those unfamiliar with American football, a touchdown is worth 6 points.

More Menorah Math!

This week’s Riddler Express deals with some menorah math that provides a good application for combinatorics: Tonight marks the sixth night of Hanukkah, which means it’s time for some more Menorah Math! I have a most peculiar menorah. Like most menorahs, it has nine total candles — a central candle, called the shamash, four to the left of the shamash and another four to the right. But unlike most menorahs, the eight candles on either side of the shamash are numbered.

Time travel for the lottery

Today’s Riddler Express features an interesting optimization problem: Channeling your inner Marty McFly, you travel one week back in time in an attempt to win the lottery. It’s worth $10 million, and each ticket costs a dollar. Note that if you win, your ticket purchase is not refunded. All of this sounds pretty great. The problem is, you’re not alone. There are 10 other time travelers who also know the winning numbers.

Can you bake the radish pie?

Today’s Riddler Express was an interesting application of sequences and convergence:1 I recently came across a rather peculiar recipe for something called Babylonian radish pie. Intrigued, I began to follow the directions, which said I could start with any number of cups of flour. Any number? I mean, I had to start with some flour, so zero cups wasn’t an option. But according to the recipe, any positive value was fair game.

How low would a batter’s chances of reaching base have to be for you to expect one perfect game per season?

The recent Riddler Express deals with the increasing rate of no-hitters in the MLB: As of this week, there have already been six no-hitters this MLB season, well on pace to break the record for no-hitters for a season in the modern era, which stands at nine in 1990. To achieve a no-hitter, a pitcher must pitch a complete game (recording 27 outs over nine innings) without allowing a hit (i.

Can You Find The Fish In State Names?

The recent Riddler classic offered this intriguing challenge: Ohio is the only state whose name doesnt share any letters with the word “mackerel.” Its strange, but its true. But that isnt the only pairing of a state and a word you can say that about — its not even the only fish! Kentucky has “goldfish” to itself, Montana has “jellyfish” and Delaware has “monkfish,” just to name a few.

Can You Find The Best Dungeons & Dragons Strategy?

I enjoyed the recent Riddler challenger from May 15th: The fifth edition of Dungeons & Dragons introduced a system of “advantage and disadvantage.” When you roll a die “with advantage,” you roll the die twice and keep the higher result. Rolling “with disadvantage” is similar, except you keep the lower result instead. The rules further specify that when a player rolls with both advantage and disadvantage, they cancel out, and the player rolls a single die.

How Good Are You At Guess Who?

The most recent Riddler Express gave me an opportunity to refresh some base R notation, as well as combine it with a technique I learned while reading Hadley Wickham’s Advanced R. The challenge is: A local cafe has board games on a shelf, designed to keep kids (and some adults) entertained while they wait on their food. One of the games is a tic-tac-toe board, which comes with nine pieces that you and your opponent can place: five Xs and four Os.

How Many More Palindrome Dates Will You See?

I’m currently on paternity leave and in search of quick but interesting programming challenges to stay fresh. The latest Riddler Express provided a quick refresher on string manipulation. If we write out dates in the American format of MM/DD/YYYY (i.e., the two digits of the month, followed by the two digits of the day, followed by the four digits of the year), how many more palindromic dates will there be this century?

Winning the World Chess Championship

This week’s Riddler Express from FiveThirtyEight: The World Chess Championship is underway. It is a 12-game match between the world’s top two grandmasters. Many chess fans feel that 12 games is far too short for a biennial world championship match, allowing too much variance. Say one of the players is better than his opponent to the degree that he wins 20 percent of all games, loses 15 percent of games and that 65 percent of games are drawn.

Cubs World Series Puzzles (For Fun)

This week’s Riddler Express from FiveThirtyEight: The best team in baseball this year, the Chicago Cubs, have clinched their playoff spot and will play their first playoff game a week from today. The Cubs’ road to the World Series title consists of a best-of-five series followed by two best-of-seven series. How many unique strings of wins and losses could the Cubs assemble if they make their way through the playoffs and win their first championship title since 1908?

A Modified Draft Pick Selection Order

In preparation for teaching a new computing course for the social sciences, I’ve been practicing building interactive websites using Shiny for R. The latest Riddler puzzle from FiveThirtyEight was an especially interesting challenge, combining aspects of computational simulation and Shiny programing: You are one of 30 team owners in a professional sports league. In the past, your league set the order for its annual draft using the teams’ records from the previous season — the team with the worst record got the first draft pick, the team with the second-worst record got the next pick, and so on.

Machine Learning with R for Text Data

A series of liveProjects to develop a foundation for machine learning using text data and the latest tools in R. In the project series learners will perform exploratory data analysis (EDA) to prepare for predictive modeling, preprocess the text data, develop core ML models, and train DL models.

Can You Best The Mysterious Man In The Trench Coat?

The latest Riddler puzzle on FiveThirtyEight: A man in a trench coat approaches you and pulls an envelope from his pocket. He tells you that it contains a sum of money in bills, anywhere from $1 up to $1,000. He says that if you can guess the exact amount, you can keep the money. After each of your guesses he will tell you if your guess is too high, or too low.

Can You Win This Hot New Game Show?

So the latest Riddler puzzle on FiveThirtyEight goes like this: Two players go on a hot new game show called “Higher Number Wins.” The two go into separate booths, and each presses a button, and a random number between zero and one appears on a screen. (At this point, neither knows the other’s number, but they do know the numbers are chosen from a standard uniform distribution.) They can choose to keep that first number, or to press the button again to discard the first number and get a second random number, which they must keep.

Will Someone Be Sitting In Your Seat On The Plane?

This week’s Riddler puzzle on FiveThirtyEight features the following questions: There’s an airplane with 100 seats, and there are 100 ticketed passengers each with an assigned seat. They line up to board in some random order. However, the first person to board is the worst person alive, and just sits in a random seat, without even looking at his boarding pass. Each subsequent passenger sits in his or her own assigned seat if it’s empty, but sits in a random open seat if the assigned seat is occupied.

Do Cops Pull Over Fewer People in the Rain?

So I enjoy reading Deadspin on occasion, sometimes checking out Drew Magary’s Funblog where he answers reader questions - usually few directly pertain to sports. A couple weeks ago, one reader wrote in asking: If you were a cop, would you ever pull someone over in the rain (presuming you aren’t a Seattle cop)? This got me wondering: are cops less likely to pull a person over in the rain?

Valuing Timeouts in Football (Part II)

Last week I examined how one can use logistic regression to estimate the value of a timeout, with minimal success. I promised a better way to estimate this value which frees us from some of the inherent limitations to logistic regression, mainly that the value of timeouts are linear (e.g. the difference in win probability from 3 to 2 timeouts is the same as from 2 to 1) and constant (e.

Valuing Timeouts in Football

On December 27, the Pittsburgh Steelers were down 13-3 against their rivals, the Baltimore Ravens, after the first half. The Ravens opened the second half with the ball, but quickly punted the ball following a three-and-out drive. On the following possession, the Steelers took over the ball on their own 21 yard line, and made a short gain followed by an incomplete pass. Facing second and 5 from their 26 yard line, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had a problem: the play clock was winding down and the team was not yet set.

The Forrest Bounce and Its Effect on Triple Stumpers

In the past few weeks, Arthur Chu has plowed through his competition on Jeopardy! to a now complete 11-game winning streak, collecting almost $300,000 in the process. Much has been written on his unique playing style and how polarizing this has become. In short, Chu uses the Forrest Bounce to throw off his opponents and control the board. This has the added benefit of allowing Chu to quickly find the Daily Doubles, increasing his opportunities to amass a large lead and put the game out of reach to his opponents.