This puzzle is part of the Monthly Topic Challenge #16: Restricted Title: xkcd 2000-2500.

When this year's Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded, an exclusive group of 12 still-living previous recipients was invited to the ceremony as special guests.

However, when the award was presented to the three joint winners (Moungi G. Bawendi, Louis E. Brus, and Alexey Ekimov, for the discovery and synthesis of quantum dots) - and one of them was being congratulated by the group far more than the other two were - it became apparent that one member of the group had not actually been invited to the occasion at all, and had instead intercepted an invite intended for a woman who was completely absent.

Those attending as part of the exclusive group of still-alive past recipients since 2000 were:

Akira Yoshino (2019)
George Smith (2018)
Richard Henderson (2017)
Joachim Frank (2017)
Ben Feringa (2016)
William E. Moerner (2014)
Stefan W. Hell (2014)
Martin Karplus (2013)
Gerhard Ertl (2007)
Roger D. Kornberg (2006)
Avram Hershko (2004)
Peter Agre (2003)

Questions: 1) Which of them was the gatecrasher? 2) Whose place had he taken? 3) Which of the three winners was given extra attention by the group? The answers to all three questions are related - please only post an answer if you can answer all three and explain why this group of chemists was specifically invited.


1 Answer 1


The gatecrasher is


who unlike

Y O S H I N O, Sm I Th, He Nd Er S O N, F Ra N K, F Er In Ga, Mo Er N Er, K Ar P Lu S, Er Tl, K O Rn Be Rg, H Er S H K O, and Ag Re, has an inappropriate surname

and he took the place of

(Ada E) Y O Na Th.

Of the 2023 winners, only

Br U S has an appropriate surname.

I confess I haven't explicitly checked that

with this substitution we have all the living chemistry Nobelists since 2000 with appropriate surnames

but I bet it's true.

I suppose I should be explicit:

when I say an "appropriate surname" I mean one that can be built out of chemical element symbols.


this puzzle was made significantly easier for me by the presence of the [word-property] tag :-).

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ R vfa'g n purzvpny flzoby, gubhtu. oebzvar henavhz fhyshe fubhyq qb gur gevpx $\endgroup$
    – juicifer
    Nov 16, 2023 at 2:00
  • $\begingroup$ Yikes, how did I make that mistake? I'm a moron. Will fix. $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan
    Nov 16, 2023 at 15:13
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ OK, brain failure hopefully now patched. Sorry about that. $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan
    Nov 16, 2023 at 15:14

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