The poster on the university bulletin board is definitely trying to drum up some hype:

One Night Only

Be one of the privileged individuals present when Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth reveals his new research regarding the secret movie codes! Never-before-heard secrets will be revealed!

Tonight only, in the main lecture hall.
Admission is $50.00/person. Presentation begins at 7:00 p.m. sharp.

Professor Farnsworth is head of the university's Film Studies department. You've always thought he's a bit of a quack, but his classes are very popular. Over the last couple of weeks the buzz has been building that he's made a spectacular discovery, but no one's sure exactly what it is. He's been very obviously carrying a locked briefcase everywhere with him, which is purported to contain some revolutionary new research that he's been working on.

You determine that there's no way you're paying $50 just to hear some crackpot spout gibberish for a couple hours, and are about to head to your next class when you hear a scream from the classroom down the hall.

Running toward the sound, you see a hysterical student standing at the classroom door, gibbering. Inside, the body of Professor Farnsworth is sprawled across a desk, and blood is everywhere. His briefcase is nowhere to be seen.

Suddenly, you notice that Professor Fansworth is still moving! He's beckoning you towards him. You quickly run towards him, trying to recall anything you can from the first-aid class you took several years ago. As you get close, you see the number of stab wounds in his chest and the size of the blood pool underneath him, and realize that there's little chance of saving him. But he desperately wants to tell you something. You lean close to him, and he manages to get out the words, "Read the board," before dramatically expiring, just like in the movies.

You glance at the blackboard, and notice a bunch of numbers. Apparently he wrote this after he'd been stabbed, judging by the number of blood smears on the blackboard. Unfortunately, the numbers hold little meaning for you.

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The police arrive shortly thereafter, and take charge of the scene. They are very eager to interview you, since you were the last one to speak to the professor. The officer interviewing you is remarkably candid, and shares some of the details of the case with you.

Apparently there were six other professors who were experts in a similar field, and were all in town for the "big reveal" tonight. They are the prime suspects in the murder investigation.

Their names are:

  • Professor Charles Xavier
  • Professor James Moriarty
  • Professor Gilderoy Lockhart
  • Professor Robert Langdon
  • Professor Urban Chronotis
  • Professor Mohinder Suresh

The police are fairly certain that one of these men stabbed poor Professor Farnsworth to death and stole his research, but they have no evidence pointing to any of them.

Can you decode the blackboard message and help the police track down Professor Farnsworth's killer?

Hint 1

IMDB is your friend.

Hint 2

Look at the lengths of the titles of each of the results you get after using Hint 1. Ignore spaces and punctuation.

Hint 3 (spoiler)

Convert each of the lengths from Hint 2 into a letter (A=1, B=2, etc.)

  • $\begingroup$ Is the fact that the numbers begin with 0 important? $\endgroup$
    – user88
    Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 20:54
  • $\begingroup$ @JoeZ., Yes, it is. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 21:05
  • $\begingroup$ Reminds me of a famous case of Poirots.. $\endgroup$
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 21:17
  • $\begingroup$ @DanBron what case of Poirot's, though this is very vaguely familiar it could be many murder stories (not just Poirot's) do you have a specific one in mind? $\endgroup$
    – Vincent
    Commented Apr 17, 2015 at 7:27
  • $\begingroup$ One thing that always strikes me as odd about situations like this is that the murder victim always has enough energy left between the attack and his death to come up with a riddle, write it on the blackboard and often even being able to give a dramatic clue about the riddle. Like, in this case, it would have been much faster to write the name of the killer than it would take to write down all those numbers. $\endgroup$
    – Nzall
    Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 9:12

3 Answers 3


With the pretext being about secret movie codes

I have compiled the following list:

  • 0091042 - Ferris Bueller's Day Off
  • 0372784 - Batman Begins
  • 0119217 - Good Will Hunting
  • 0489099 - Jumper
  • 0232500 - The Fast and the Furious

  • 0241303 - Chocolat
  • 0910970 - Wall-E
  • 0409306 - Munich
  • 0120363 - Toy Story
  • 0259288 - Dragonfly

  • 0091369 - Labyrinth
  • 0117731 - Star Trek: First Contact
  • 0092890 - Dirty Dancing
  • 0140796 - Air Bud: Golden Receiver

  • 0458352 - The Devil Wears Prada
  • 0098333 - Sinbad of the Seven Seas
  • 0264395 - Basic
  • 0097351 - Field of Dreams
  • 0790604 - Deck the Halls

  • 0317219 - Cars
  • 0120655 - Dogma
  • 0344854 - Arthur and the Invisibles
  • 0465624 - My Super Ex-Girlfriend
  • 0251160 - John Q

  • 0106220 - Addams Family Values
  • 0099653 - Ghost

  • 0149624 - All the Pretty Horses

  • 0112579 - The Bridges of Madison County

This makes the message

Robert Langdon stole my research

you get this message by:

Laying out the 3rd letter (excluding spaces) of the movie title in the order they appear on the board

r t o m e o l n y a b a r r e n s e c r g t s h d o l e

  • $\begingroup$ Can you explain how you got to your solution? $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 22:09
  • $\begingroup$ Added the explaination $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 22:11
  • $\begingroup$ How did you know to check the 3rd letter of every movie title? Why are the numbers arranged on the blackboard the way they are? (Your solution is correct, but you seem to have excluded a step from the solving...) $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 22:13
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Maybe professor's last thought was of his ancestor Fry - which is 3 letters long. $\endgroup$
    – Zikato
    Commented Apr 17, 2015 at 7:03
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I've added a third hint that makes it clear what I was aiming for. I guess I needed a better hint in the story to put people on this track. Kudos for finding the solution without this step, though. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 17, 2015 at 13:55

Since Andrew Smith managed to get the answer in a way other than I intended (congratulations!), I'm going to post my own answer here to demonstrate how I intended for it to be solved.

First, the clues that Prof. Farnsworth studied film, and was obsessed with movie codes, leads us to figure out that each of the numbers on the blackboard corresponds to the ID number of a movie on IMDB (the Internet Movie Database).

Looking them all up gives us:

0091042 Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)
0241303 Chocolat (2000)
0091369 Labyrinth (1986)
0458352 The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
0317219 Cars (2006)

0372784 Batman Begins (2005)
0910970 WALL-E (2008)
0117731 Star Trek: First Contact (1996)
0098333 Sinbad of the Seven Seas (1989)
0120655 Dogma (1999)
0106220 Addams Family Values (1993)

0119217 Good Will Hunting (1997)
0408306 Munich (2005)

0264395 Basic (2003)
0344854 Arthur and the Invisibles (2006)
0099653 Ghost (1990)
0149624 All the Pretty Horses (2000)
0112579 The Bridges of Madison County (1995)

0489099 Jumper (2008)
0120363 Toy Story 2 (1999)
0092890 Dirty Dancing (1987)
0097351 Field of Dreams (1989)
0465624 My Super Ex-Girlfriend (2006)

0232500 The Fast and the Furious (2001)
0259288 Dragonfly (2002)
0140796 Air Bud: Golden Receiver (1998)
0790604 Deck the Halls (2006)
0251160 John Q (2002)

Then, we look at the length of each movie title (ignoring spaces and punctuation). This gives us a series of numbers:

20 8 9 18 4 12 5 20 20 5 18 15 6 5 22 5 18 25 6 9 12 13 19 20 9 20 12 5

Converting those numbers to letters (A=1, B=2, etc.) give us


If we then follow those instructions, and look at the third letter of each title, we get


Which, when we rearrange the spaces, spells



Some partial work:

Each number is the IMDB code of a famous movie (example), as clued by "movie codes".

Ferris Bueller's Day Off Batman Begins               Good Will Hunting             Jumper                     The Fast and the Furious
Chocolat                 WALL·E                      Munich                        Toy Story 2                Dragonfly
Labyrinth                Star Trek: First Contact                                  Dirty Dancing              Air Bud: Golden Receiver
The Devil Wears Prada    Sinbad of the Seven Seas    Basic                         Field of Dreams            Deck the Halls
Cars                     Dogma                       Arthur and the Invisibles     My Super Ex-Girlfriend     John Q
                         Addams Family Values        Ghost
                                                     All the Pretty Horses
                                                     The Bridges of Madison County

Note sure how to extract. I was expecting to read off the first letters and get a message, or the 7th ones (clued by 7pm). I tried converting movie release years to letters, but that didn't give anything promising either.

The murder suspects also have character codes (example):

Professor Charles Xavier (Character)      from X-Men (2000)                                   ch0001110
Professor James Moriarty (Character)      from "Sherlock" (2010)                              ch0027269
Professor Gilderoy Lockhart (Character)   from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) ch0001001
Dr. Robert Langdon (Character)            from The Da Vinci Code (2006)                       ch0004644
Professor Chronotis (Character)           from Doctor Who: Shada (1992) (V)                   ch0385925
Mohinder Suresh (Character)               from "Heroes" (2006/II)                             ch0015543
  • $\begingroup$ I'm assuming that the shape of the numbers also is important. This is good work, though I'm not sure I'd describe all of those movies as "famous" :) $\endgroup$
    – Duncan
    Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 21:56
  • $\begingroup$ you beat me to posting this list :( $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 21:57
  • $\begingroup$ @Duncan My best guess with the shape is that you get a message reading down, with words of length 5 6 2 5 6 6. $\endgroup$
    – xnor
    Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 21:58
  • $\begingroup$ you mean 5 6 2 5 5 5? $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 22:03
  • $\begingroup$ @AndrewSmith Yup. $\endgroup$
    – xnor
    Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 22:04

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