Yesterday (April 22, 2015), Dr Jerico Wong, a prominent researcher and experimental physicist at SciCorp Industries in Chattanooga, Tennessee, had monumental successes in his cold fusion experiments. Although final testing has not yet been completed, and there has been no official press release, news this big travels fast, and a few hours later, a few teams of researchers at rival companies had learned of Wong's groundbreaking, world-changing finds.

The next day, as Wong was in the parking garage while leaving his workplace at 5pm, his face was covered and he was quickly forced into a van, which drove away. He heard the voice of a man saying, "Don't make a sound." As they started driving, Wong felt ear muffs being put on his head, on top of the covering that was already there, and he could not hear anything. For around 2 hours, he sat still in fear and silence, wondering if he would survive.

Then, as he slowly turned his head against the van wall, the ear muffs moved slightly, and he could hear the 2 men in the front seats talking, but he couldn't make out all of the words.

He heard:

Man #1: We (2-3 words garbled) warehouse in 5 minutes. You want (2-3 words garbled) pizza?

Man #2: Yeah, but there's a hundred of them in (1 or 2 words garbled). How about that one (1-2 words garbled)?

Man #1: What's that phone number on the window? I'll order delivery.

Man #2: (3 garbled numbers)-555-2 (3 garbled numbers) (garbled phone conversation)

Man #1: (3-4 garbled words) grub by 7:45*

EDIT: *After much thought, I changed the time above from 7:30 to 7:45

Wong knew that they had been traveling with almost no stops or turns; therefore, they must have been on one of the interstate highways. He also figured that they were in a fairly large city because one of the men said there were a hundred pizza places.

Wong knew that there were 4 possibilities of where he was:

Nashville, TN
Knoxville, TN
Birmingham, AL
Atlanta, GA

After some thought, he figured out where he was. Wong found it strange
that they didn't even think to check his pockets. He used the cell phone in his pocket to secretly text his friends: "Help. They've taken me to a warehouse in [city name]", which eventually led to him being rescued.

How did he know which of the 4 cities he was in?

EDIT: There are 2 realizations required to solve this. The simpler one has been figured out already, but the more "Eureka" one has not.

  • 8
    $\begingroup$ Since he had access to his cellphone, he opened the Maps app to find out where he was. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 20:02
  • $\begingroup$ He is in Timbuktu TN as it is fictional and 555 numbers are fictional. (Hollywood TN actually exists). $\endgroup$
    – kaine
    Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 20:14
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    $\begingroup$ If yesterday was April 22 then he must have invented a time machine. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 20:20
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @pacoverflow - Wong's old-school, it's just a phone :-) $\endgroup$
    – Joffan
    Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 20:22
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    $\begingroup$ I really wish you had somewhere is Louisiana as an option...I've read that technically it is illegal to order pizza there from someone you don't know. $\endgroup$
    – kaine
    Commented Apr 26, 2015 at 22:45

5 Answers 5


He's in


The center of Atlanta is almost exactly 2 hours away from Chattanooga. This would put him arriving around 7pm; a pizza place should deliver in 45 minutes with little trouble, so 7:45 is reasonable -- this means that he's in the Eastern time zone, which Nashville and Birmingham are not.

But you didn't need to know any of that -- only Atlanta uses ten-digit dialing routinely, and that was a ten-digit number he read off the window.


Can't comment yet due to rep or I'd add this there, but the above needs a slightly more detailed explanation of the methodology. All four cities are roughly 2hr away from Chattanooga; Knoxville is closest and Birmingham furthest. With two hours on the road and starting at 5, this means he'll arrive at

Knoxville and Atlanta at 7pm (EDT)
Nashville and Birmingham at 6pm (CDT)

Knowing that a pizza takes less than an hour to deliver, the 7:45 time means that he must be in Knoxville or Atlanta. After that, the ten-digit dialing bit mentioned above kicks in, and that tells you Atlanta.

Amusingly, apparently Tennessee has just recently (start of March 2015) initiated the use of ten-digit dialing around Nashville, so my original assertion wasn't accurate: some places in Nashville could already be showing ten digits on their windows. But the time zone difference still applies.

(More amusingly, I probably had an "unfair" advantage; I'm from Atlanta, my fiancée is from Chattanooga, my grandparents lived in Knoxville, and a number of friends live in Birmingham -- I've spent more time on I-75, I-24, I-40, and I-20 than I care to remember)

  • $\begingroup$ lorimer, Great job! You're last point was the more "Eureka" realization. Nashville uses multiple area codes, but it's in the "wrong" timezone, since 1 hr 45 min for a pizza is a bit unrealistic on a weekday when you are 5 minutes from the pizza place. In cities that have only 1 area code, there is no need to list your 10-digit number on your store window, and the vast majority of stores do not. $\endgroup$
    – JLee
    Commented Apr 27, 2015 at 20:11
  • $\begingroup$ They are all 1-xxx-xxx-xxxx like every number in the US right? They just put the 1 on there so that you know to dial it if you have a different area code? $\endgroup$
    – kaine
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 19:26
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    $\begingroup$ In Atlanta or Nashville, you don't use the 1 as a prefix; you dial 678-XXX-XXXX (or 770-, or 404-, etc. etc.) Stores also don't display the 1 on the window, since it's a local number. $\endgroup$
    – lorimer
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 20:23
  • $\begingroup$ This is my first time awarding a bounty, and I wasn't aware that when i awarded it, that it would remove the whole question from the "Featured" section of the website. I wish I had not awarded it yet, and then after 1 week, the system would automatically award it to the person with the most votes, which would probably be you by that time. So, I accidentally prevented us from getting more points for this one. My bad. I don't think it can be undone. $\endgroup$
    – JLee
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 20:42
  • $\begingroup$ maybe the 1 (USA country code) prefix is used only on land lines and for international calls coming into the US? $\endgroup$
    – JLee
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 20:44

Observation 1:

He is in either Birmingham or Nashville as they are both in central time. All others (including Chattanooga) are in Eastern Time. As was originally discussed by pacoverflow, the time zone must have changed as 2 hours plus 30 minutes to cook the pizza and deliver pizza is barely 7:30pm. If he crossed the time zone, it would be 8:30pm Eastern Time which makes more sense.

Observation 2:

If he went to Knoxville he would probably notice a change in elevation. This area is alot more mountainous than the other areas described. This was not mentioned in the question and he probably would have noticed the hills.

Between Chattanooga and Nashville, there is a change in elevation too but both cities have roughly the same elevation. This is easier to miss. This means I could use this to guess Birmingham.

Observation 3:

He took "there are a hundred of them in" to be followed by 1 or 2 words. The phrase "this city" technically means we can't tell much from this. It is likely, however, to have said "Nashville" as it is 2 syllables. If he said "Birminham" that could more easily sound like 2 or 3 words. All of the other missing words can be monosyllabic.

Observation 4:

If the person was reading from the inside of the van a number on the outside, he could have been dumb enough to read it backwards. The only number that would allow that mistake would come from Birmigham as the area code (205) can be (502) reversed. (404), (865), and (615) cannot be read backwards. This does not seem to have happened, however.


I think that Observation 3 trumps the hills on the way to Nashville. For that reason I think the answer is Nashville TN. It is a prettier city anyways.


As the pizza delivery time has been changed to 7:45, it now makes more sense for the people to be in the same time zone than to have changed. 5pm plus 2 hours plus 30 minute delivery plus a little bit of spare time is roughly 7:45. If this is the case, the mountanous terrain arround Knoxville dominates yielding Atlanta Georgia as the most likely city. As this relies heavily on estimated pizza delivery times a blindfolded person's estimate of time, this is still not 100% certain to me.

  • $\begingroup$ I think there must be something about that dang 2 but I can't find it. $\endgroup$
    – kaine
    Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 21:43
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    $\begingroup$ An observation: if he read the number wrong, how could he order the pizza? $\endgroup$
    – leoll2
    Commented Apr 27, 2015 at 11:40
  • $\begingroup$ @leoll2 "This does not seem to have happened though." If the number were xxx5522xxx it would probably be relevant but i only left it in there hoping it might help someone else find the meaning of the 2. $\endgroup$
    – kaine
    Commented Apr 27, 2015 at 11:44

I'm going to guess Birmingham, AL.

Reasoning: Knoxville is too close. They would have been there within 2 hrs. Atlanta is probably a little too far. They wouldn't be able to eat by 730 if they were going to Atlanta. We are left with only Nashville or Birmingham. When he asked for the pizza number, he gave the area code, indicating he was probably in a different area code than he is familiar with. I'm thinking this means he probably crossed state lines, so I guess Birmingham over Nashville.


  • $\begingroup$ Birmingham is actually the only one that would take over 2 hours (without traffic) so seems legit $\endgroup$
    – Vincent
    Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 20:50
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    $\begingroup$ The driving times aren't that different, and we don't know how fast they were driving. Plus, some cities have more than one area code. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 20:55
  • $\begingroup$ All 5 cities have different area codes. $\endgroup$
    – kaine
    Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 21:00

He's in Nashville, TN
Because they are travelling without stop and there will be tollbooth between states which means they should stop! According to internet travelling time from Chattanooga, TN to Nashville, TN takes 2 hr 10 mins and 1 hr 40 mins for Knoxville, TN (I'm from different country so idk the travelling time)
From the above given time he is probably in Nashville, TN ( 2hrs travelling + they say they will reach the warehouse in 5 mins = 2hrs 5mins)
30 mins pizza delivery time. Total of 2:35 mins 7:45pm-5pm 2:45 (5 mins act of capturing, 5 mins moving him from van to warehouse)

  • $\begingroup$ +1 for good effort, but there are no toll booths between states, at least, none that I know of. $\endgroup$
    – JLee
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 13:36
  • $\begingroup$ we have a lot of toll booths and check posts so i thought like that! my bad $\endgroup$
    – JIMMY
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 16:06

If you are not from the united states then simply google the map and you get this image:

tennesse map

The Setup

Chattanooga looks approximately the same distance from every other city option so no city can be ruled out this way.
This means if he starts at 5 pm in 2 hours he could reach any of the four cities at 7 pm.Now one man orders the pizza anywhere between reaching the city and the warehouse(i.e he orders between 19:00 and 19:05 lets say 19:01).
It takes half an hour for pizza to arrive in any average to big sized city in my country.This is adequate time as there are 100's of pizza shops in that city and one is always going to be at a decent distance from the warehouse.

The Solve

The pizza is supposed to arrive at 19:31 but it arrives later which means they've lost some time in travel.You can only lose time if you travel to the east.The 2 cities to the east are(from the map):

Knoxville and Atlanta
Atlanta has mandatory 10 digit dialing (since the 1996 summer olympics) which can be found out by googling whereas 7 digit dialing is still allowed in Knoxville.
... and so he is in Atlanta

  • $\begingroup$ Congratulations on providing the same answer that was already given, and accepted as correct, a year and a half ago. :) Welcome to Puzzling SE - you really should read through all the answers to a question before providing your own, to make sure you're not duplicating an answer already given. In particular, if an answer has already been accepted, adding a new answer should only be done if you have something unique and of great relevance to add. And answering very old questions makes both of these way more important. Better luck next time! $\endgroup$
    – Rubio
    Commented Nov 26, 2016 at 2:12

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