Hints and Honors

The Great American History Puzzle lives on! Now complete with helpful hints and full explanations of answers! Plus, our Honor Roll of solvers.


The contest is over, but The Great American History Puzzle lives on!

If any of you got stumped on a puzzle or two — or are just getting started — and would like some help to get to the finish, we’ve put up a series of hints for each puzzle on the main puzzle page.  Don’t worry, you can hit that link without fear of seeing spoilers–you need to click on the links listed there to reveal each hint in turn.

There are three hints for each puzzle, starting with a gentle nudge and escalating to a pretty muscular shove.  You can also see full, comprehensive solutions for each puzzle as well.  

I’m told that 49 solvers submitted a correct set of answers between Jeffrey Davidson’s winning entry and our announcement closing the contest.  Very impressive!

Here’s the official Honor Roll listing all 49 people who submitted correct answers and the order in which we received them.  Like Jeffrey, some of these solvers had figured out the final puzzles in advance, and so there was a dramatic sprint to the finish line, as you can see.  The first 20 runners-up will receive one-year subscriptions to Smithsonian magazine in special recognition of their accomplishment.

While we’re naming names, I also wanted to give a shout-out to the people who helped me with the contest: Eric Berlin, Peter Gordon, Stanley Newman, and Trip Payne, who helped test-solve the puzzles; Bill Heller, who gave me a crash course in Logic Puzzles 101; and Miranda Jennings (my sister!) who was my very patient origami coach. And of course to the Puzzle Team at Smithsonian. My deepest thanks to everyone!  (Any mistakes in the puzzles, of course, are my responsibility and not theirs.)

But my most heartfelt thanks go to all you solvers who have spent this month grappling with the twists and turns of these puzzles.  I had a blast working on them, and I hope this new round of hints means that they’ll continue to entertain and challenge a whole new audience in their post-contest afterlife.  Tell your friends.

Is this good-bye?  Well, maybe, but maybe not forever. We had so much fun that the Smithsonian Great American Puzzle might just return next year.  Stay tuned…meanwhile, tell us what you think.


Honor Roll:


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