"Have you heard of Room 40?" "No, Sir, I have not". "Good. For what I am about to tell you, if leaked, will cost us this war, son!"

November 1914, London.

Much to your surprise you have been summoned by the Admiralty to meet in the Old Admiralty Building, or simply "Old Building", adjacent to the Horse Guards in London.

This came as a surprise as you are not known for your physical prowess or sea-faring skills preferred in new conscripts. Instead you are known as a "studious fellow". Your choice of adventure generally featured a game of chess or scrabble.

"Our mission here is of great importance!" the man, who introduced himself as 'Cdr Herbert Hope', tells you. "However, before I am able to share this national secret, you are required to complete an entrance exam."

He hands you a paper with seemingly nonsensical equations.

"Oh, George ... I mean John, I almost forgot. Hope you're not offended if I address you by your first name . Remember that the greatest authority within a neutral power is key." [The Cdr strangely places great emphasis on certain words - given in bold text. You also find it odd that he addresses you as George as he does not seem to be a forgetful man].

You solve the puzzle a short while later. Luckily one particular choice of hobby helps you find the solution in record time. Although lets be honest, it does take you a few days to figure out.

2 + 6 = 28

1 + 8 = 16

12 + 14 = 39

6 + 16 = 28

13 + 9 = ??

Hint 1

What is meant by the 'greatest authority of a neutral power'? Note that the year is Nov 1914. Stated differently, who is a neutral power in Nov 1914 and secondly, what is meant by its greatest authority?

Hint 2

Hope you're not offended if I call you by your First Name

Hint 3

The relevant hobby is Scrabble

Hint 4 - big hint

A better way of writing the equations would be Sum of 2nd and 6th = 28, ...

Hint 5

The ‘first name’ will help you find out who the neutral power is. But it also plays another important role within the equations

the below facts are unrelated to the puzzle & given for interest purposes only

(*) During World War 1, Room 40 deciphered German messages. The intercepted messages arrived in the Admiralty office's basement and were relayed to Room 40

(**) The Admiralty was the authority responsible for the command of the Royal Navy in Great Britain

  • $\begingroup$ Given the clues you've added, it's not a dupe of this by any chance? $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 21, 2015 at 18:46
  • $\begingroup$ @randal'thor - it's not a dupe, although there are similarities. $\endgroup$
    – Walter
    Commented Jun 21, 2015 at 19:06
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ I say it's all a dream, and those equation are really nonsensical. My proof : the first edition of scrabble was created in 1948 (with a first version in 31). So, it's impossible to have scrabble for a hobby in 1914. $\endgroup$
    – Den
    Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 8:34
  • $\begingroup$ Chess seems the more likely hobby here, and I suspect the numbers translate somehow into positions on a board $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 13:33
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Isn't everyone forgetting the USA? They crept into both world wars towards the end. "George" and "greatest authority" ... Washington? $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 17:11

1 Answer 1


The answers to the questions are:

The scrabble score of the first name of the U.S. President alluded to with the number. For example: 2 ("John" Adams) + 6 ("John" Quincy Adams) = 28. "John" = 14 points in scrabble so 14 + 14 = 28. The same works for the rest.

1st president: George, score: 8
8th president: Martin, score: 8
8 + 8 = 16

12th president: Zachary, score: 24
14th president: Franklin, score: 15
24 + 15 = 39

6th president: John, score: 14
16th president: Abraham, score: 14
14 + 14 = 28

13th president: Millard, score: 10
9th president: William, score: 12
10 + 12 = 22

Therefore, the answer to the final equation is:



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