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John is a man living in London. One day, his friend, a riddle maker, sent him a riddle:

I can change but not eliminate
Less than no in three have me
Who am I?

John couldn't solve the riddle. He was confused.

About two weeks later, John requested a hint. John's friend sent a letter:

Upon rewiewing my riddle, I realised that I made a mistake. My finger slipped and hit a key next to it. (My keyboard layout is, of course, the most common here.) I'm sorry if the typo made the riddle unsolvable.

But John still couldn't solve the puzzle. Can you help John solve the puzzle?

Hint 1:

John's friend mistyped exactly one letter in the riddle's original version.

Hint 2:

John's friend doesn't live in London.

Hint 3:

The number of characters in the original version is the same as if no letters were mistyped.

Hint 4:

John's friend's grandfather was killed by a Soviet artillery shell.

Hint 5 (which goes a long way towards giving away the answer):

The original version of the puzzle is not in English.

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closed as too broad by Aza Aug 1 '16 at 15:50

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Is "Less than no in three" correct? As in, can it be worded a little bit better? $\endgroup$ – Adit Kirtani Jul 17 '16 at 4:17
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    $\begingroup$ @user351579 would you consider adding 'wordplay' tag as a hint? $\endgroup$ – Alex Jul 18 '16 at 16:43
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    $\begingroup$ @user351579: We have to figure out the rules? He didn't ask if it is a character replacement or a character addition/removal, but whether "one character change" as you used it could include character additions/removal (which might also be the case if the actual change is a character replacement). From your answer I conclude it's the latter. $\endgroup$ – celtschk Jul 23 '16 at 8:21
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    $\begingroup$ Does mistyped one letter means only that one letter was replaced with incorrect one? Can it also mean that 2 (adjacent?) letters were swapped? $\endgroup$ – HolyBlackCat Jul 23 '16 at 14:35
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    $\begingroup$ Does the character space (" " aka ASCII 32) count as a "letter" for the purposes of "mistyping a letter"? $\endgroup$ – Dan Bron Jul 25 '16 at 15:24

11 Answers 11

10
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Are you

...a Queen's Guard currently responsible for the protection of a Royal Palace?

I can change but not eliminate

"The Queen's Guard in London changes in the Forecourt of Buckingham Palace at 11:30am every day in the summer and every other day in the winter."
"The Queen's Guard are highly-trained, operational-duty soldiers armed with functional firearms loaded with live ammunition, but when responsible for the protection of Royal Palaces, these soldier's rifles are not loaded."

Less than no in three have me

"At any one time, three infantry battalions are posted for public duties; two of these are Guards battalions (one based at Wellington Barracks next to Buckingham Palace and one at Victoria Barracks in Windsor), while the third is a line infantry unit (based at Royal Artillery Barracks, Woolwich)."

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    $\begingroup$ I hope that the irony of you solving this wouldn't be lost. $\endgroup$ – Will Jul 17 '16 at 3:19
  • $\begingroup$ Indeed not; that is, if I have. $\endgroup$ – Jonathan Allan Jul 17 '16 at 3:27
  • $\begingroup$ @JonathanAllan Sorry, your guess is incorrect. Good information though. I'm adding a hint, if you want to try again. $\endgroup$ – user351579 Jul 17 '16 at 5:02
7
+25
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Perhaps helpful...

I think we can probably assume that the puzzle was originally written in

German or Italian

because the friend's grandfather being killed by Soviet Artillery probably implies

World War II, and making us parse Japanese characters would be harsh.

So here are some possible ways the puzzle could've been mistyped in its original language.

(I just focused on the "no in three" part since that's obviously odd.)

GERMAN
The "no" in the final puzzle comes from the German "nein", which could've been...
neun (nine)
wein (wine)
sein (be)
rein (pure/clean)
mein (my)
fein (fine)
lein (flax)
dein (your)
bein (leg)
neid (envy)

ITALIAN
"No" from the Italian "no", which could've been:
ho (I have)
io (I)
lo (the)
so (I know)
ne (any)

Disclaimer: not rigorously comprehensive, all from Google Translate

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  • 1
    $\begingroup$ A thought, along these lines: Less than no in three have me, translates (German) to "Weniger als keine in drei haben mich". If I change "keine" to "beine" and convert back to English, it reads: "less than three legs have me". $\endgroup$ – knrumsey Jul 30 '16 at 1:06
  • $\begingroup$ @knrumsey I like that, though there are a lot of things with less than three legs! $\endgroup$ – Dan Russell Aug 1 '16 at 15:11
4
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Maybe you're a

nickel or a dime, or Euro pound (also composed partly of nickel) the number zero. a bitwise operation, specifically maybe NOT?

I can change but not eliminate

You can make change, but not change value. I can change bit not eliminate.

Less than no in three have me

Less than ni in three have me. Ni is the name for nickel. A bitwise operation many times only involves two bits (less than three). Nie, oddly, is 3 in German (the most obvious Soviet adversary), but just one letter too many to fit the hints.

Hint 4: John's friend's grandfather was killed by a Soviet artillery shell.

The war with Finland was fought partially over nickel deposits.

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  • $\begingroup$ The third line isn't actually part of the riddle. It was written to clarify the question. $\endgroup$ – user351579 Jul 23 '16 at 23:03
  • $\begingroup$ And no, it's not the correct answer. $\endgroup$ – user351579 Jul 23 '16 at 23:03
  • $\begingroup$ @user351579, ok. Putting it outside the riddle indentation/frame would be better then I believe. I didn't think it was, and most probably won't, but when I saw 642, 321, it raised suspicion, at least to me. $\endgroup$ – John Jul 24 '16 at 0:29
  • $\begingroup$ Still incorrect. $\endgroup$ – user351579 Jul 25 '16 at 22:42
  • $\begingroup$ @user351579, how about the misspelling? $\endgroup$ – John Jul 25 '16 at 22:51
3
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I think you are:

A battery charger...


I can change but not eliminate

I can change charge!

but not eliminate: A battery charger with only two pins can NOT eliminate static electricity from the metal chassis (unless it is double insulated)

Less than no in three have me

This was the trickiest part, but I'd go with some chargers have three pins, while some have only two!

p.s.

I know this answer might sound a bitt off target, but am also thinking about this:
The second hint may point to the difference in the British and American English, so I was thinking about 3 flavors of Neutrinos O:)

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  • $\begingroup$ Sorry, but your answer is incorrect. $\endgroup$ – user351579 Jul 23 '16 at 23:02
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    $\begingroup$ "battery eliminator" is a real thing, not that this will help your answer. $\endgroup$ – Jasen Jul 23 '16 at 23:52
3
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Could you be

the - sign?

I can change but not eliminate

It can turn numbers into their opposites, but it can't make anything into 0 and remove it.

Less than no in three have me

"no in three" would mean that less than 0 have it, so only negative numbers.

Although

that wouldn't explain the misspelled letter.

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  • $\begingroup$ Incorrect, try again. The mistyped letter is important. $\endgroup$ – user351579 Jul 24 '16 at 15:55
3
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Down Quark

I can charge but not eliminate

a down quark can change its charge from down quark (-1/3e) to up quark (+2/3e) but it can't go away. Basically it can "charge" up to +2/3e

Less than no in three have me

"less than no in three" is less than 0 parts of 3 and since the down quark has a -1/3e charge, this is true. have me is the quark speaking from 3rd person. The quark is saying that it has less than 0 charge

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  • $\begingroup$ Sorry, your answer is incorrect. $\endgroup$ – user351579 Jul 27 '16 at 22:36
3
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Are you -

Scissors? A Baby?

I can change but not eliminate

Scissors can alter things such as clothing, paper, or hair, but no amount of cutting with scissors will completely remove (eliminate) the object completely. Perhaps John's friend is telling him she is pregnant. The baby will be causing her to change, and she will be growing bigger!

Less than no in three have me

Perhaps a reference to Rock Paper Scissors. The probability of seeing scissors is 1/3 if we assume true randomness. The key is that this is less than "two out of three" (or two in three). Why two? I think the misspelled letter is in the word "no". John's friend intended to type "ni", which is Japanese for 2. Not unlikely since "O" and "I" are right next to each other on a QWERTY keyboard. This could imply John's friend is Japanese, which would be feasible given Japanese / Soviet conflict during WWII (see Hint 4). Leveraging Dan Russell's findings I think the "no" (nein in German) should be "neun" and become 9 in the translation. So perhaps this means "Less than 9 [months] in 3 [trimesters] have me [until I am born]".

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  • $\begingroup$ Sorry, your answer is incorrect. $\endgroup$ – user351579 Jul 26 '16 at 22:43
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    $\begingroup$ "Nein" means no, but only as opposed to yes. Before a noun, the word is "kein" or one of its inflected forms. (I'm not so sure how the puzzle works anyway. The riddle maker mistypes a word in his riddle and then mistranslates the typoed word? Surely he would have noticed. This only works when the riddle was translated by someone else. My guess is that this someone was Google Translate.) $\endgroup$ – M Oehm Jul 29 '16 at 19:28
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    $\begingroup$ Yes my assumption is that the receiver of the riddle did the translating. $\endgroup$ – Charlok Jul 29 '16 at 19:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Charlok Still incorrect, try again. $\endgroup$ – user351579 Jul 30 '16 at 23:08
  • $\begingroup$ Whether I like this answer or not, I have to upvote $-$ you had $666$ reputation. $\endgroup$ – Feeds Jun 30 '18 at 0:23
1
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This puzzle suggests

Oil

I can change but not eliminate

can → oil can
change → oil change
not eliminate → with gun an oil gun is not designed to eliminate like a lethal weapon

Less than no in three have me

If the mistype correction is - "Less thaa no in three have me"
Then anoint is a hidden word and to anoint will use oil
Interesting also annoint is a non-standard spelling of anoint

There is a slippery line

Mistype is "Less than no il three have me" which
Has 'oil' directly and - this is perhaps too synthetic,
using a combination of three and o for no can give
From less - Esso oil, from than - tan oil and from 'atomic no' three Lithium → Li + o → oil

The title and introduction

Two-line “Who am I?” riddle → contains mixed oil
John has Jack as an alternative and there is a type of oil: Jack oil
Outer/Inner London gives Oil or just Outside/Inside London

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  • $\begingroup$ Sorry, you are incorrect. $\endgroup$ – user351579 Jul 25 '16 at 10:03
1
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I suggest

X -- the typical unknown in equations

I can change but not eliminate

A variable can change, but it is sometimes eliminated from the equation. Also, X may mean "ten". The misspelled letter is I, instead of X.

Less than no in three have me

Some guesses: 1. The two -- or four -- parts the letter X consists of. 2. The first two lines of the riddle contain 13 words; almost one quarter (no in three, so maybe one in four?) of them have the letter "i" in them. 3. Sounds like an equation, or an inequality. 4. "no in three" = number of letters in the word "three" = five; polynomials of degree less than five have explicit roots.

On hint 2:

X is used on the map to mark a location

On hint 4:

The dead "smiley" face x_x. Funeral cross. Aim / mark.

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  • $\begingroup$ Sorry, your answer is incorrect. $\endgroup$ – user351579 Jul 27 '16 at 22:36
1
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Standing on the shoulders of Pramod and Dan Russell,

$\color{black}{\text{I know enough }}\text{German}\color{black}{\text{ to know that}}$ the German word for "one" is "eins".  (Google translate also ist mein Freund.)  If, as Pramod suggests, the mistyped letter might be not only the wrong letter, but also in the wrong position, then "eins" could have been mangled into "nein" ("no").

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  • $\begingroup$ Then there would be 4 letters mistyped. A letter in the mistyped versionis considered mistyped if the letter which holds its position in the original version is different to it. $\endgroup$ – user351579 Jul 28 '16 at 13:44
-1
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Horse

I can change but not eliminate

charge, as in cavalry

Less than no in three have me

Less than one quarter (of hooves) have a horse on them

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  • $\begingroup$ Sorry, your answer is incorrect. $\endgroup$ – user351579 Jul 27 '16 at 14:19

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