40
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Inspired by the game Candy Crush I devised a new type of puzzles which go under the name Letter Crush $^{TM}$ puzzles.

How to solve a Letter Crush $^{TM}$ puzzle:

A puzzle consists of a stack of letter-squares. Within the stack one has to find special keywords like in an ordinary puzzle. The words may appear as a horizontal, vertical or diagonal line, and it may be spelled forward or backward. So there are eight valid orientations:

enter image description here

Any discovered word may be 'selected' and removed from the grid.
The letters above it will then slide down to fill the gaps:

enter image description here
becomes:
enter image description here

It is very important to note, that keywords do not automatically get removed.
Only keywords that you want to remove, are removed.

The general aim of Letter Crush $^{TM}$ puzzles is to remove as many keywords as possible.


Now, in the Letter Crush $^{TM}$ puzzle below I have used the surnames of some special friends as keywords. All these friends share a common trait (which you will need to discover in order to identify them all). They are also fairly known and their names easily appear in Google searches of their common trait.

This is the puzzle:

Puzzle ( Convenience link to the data as Google Sheet and OpenOffice file )
( And an even more convenient online webapp thanks to M Oehm )

To solve the puzzle completely, you will need to remove the surnames of all 39 of my special friends.

A complete solution consists of:

  • The common trait
  • The list of all (39) keywords ordered in sequence as removed
  • The final grid with left-over letters

Hints = spoiler section

The below are (mild) spoilers restricting the search-space a bit. You don't need them, but if you feel the task is too formidable, you might want to peek...

Hint 1:

None of my friends has a surname with less than 4 letters.

Hint 2:

If any of the names of my friends would use non-English letters, I would have used the simplified version in the puzzle. ( ü $\Rightarrow$ u)

Hint 3:

Most of my friends have longer surenames. There are only two of them with 4-letters and only 11 with 5-letters. All others are longer. Up to 11 letters.

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  • 3
    $\begingroup$ The "spread-sheet" doesn't appear to match the grid shown here. E.g., 7th column from the right, 6th row from the bottom, is H here and E there. $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Aug 10 '16 at 22:00
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    $\begingroup$ Unless there are a lot of red herrings, there is a fairly obvious theme... $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Aug 10 '16 at 22:05
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    $\begingroup$ makes me think of Words Crush: Hidden Words $\endgroup$ – dcfyj Aug 11 '16 at 14:17
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    $\begingroup$ I've yet to spot the apparently obvious theme, but for what it's worth, I've created a prototype of an online version of the game. It's rough, but might be useful for attacking this puzzle. (Caveat: Tested only in Firefox and IE11.) $\endgroup$ – M Oehm Aug 11 '16 at 15:09
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    $\begingroup$ Be prepared for an onslaught of Letter Crush puzzles. And then the inevitable Trivia Letter Crush where you need to know the names of Pokémon to solve it. $\endgroup$ – APrough Aug 11 '16 at 19:42
19
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So it turns out (see comments) that actually there are only 39 names, not 40. Here they are in order:

OPPENHEIMER SOMMERFELD CHADWICK THOMSON NEWTON HOOKE RUTHERFORD GAMOW FEYNMAN LORENTZ TESLA WIGNER BETHE HEISENBERG HAWKING BECQUEREL MAXWELL PLANCK PAULI MEITNER RAMAN RONTGEN HERTZ AMPERE FARADAY FERMI DIRAC KIRCHHOFF PASCAL GALILEI BOHR SCHRODINGER BORN DOPPLER COMPTON VOLTA CURIE BOLTZMANN EINSTEIN

and they are of course all

great physicists

and the final grid is

a single row saying BROUGHTTOYOUBYBMYGUEST.


Courtesy of BmyGuest himself, here is the initial grid colour coded:

enter image description here

And step by step, courtesy of Jonathan Allen:

Red is right-to-left for horizontal / diagonal and bottom-to-top for vertical; black borders show what is about to be removed (white & bordered having been found earlier).
step by step image

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  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Maybe he counts his own name in the list? $\endgroup$ – gtwebb Aug 11 '16 at 19:41
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    $\begingroup$ That might invite accusations of arrogance... $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Aug 11 '16 at 19:45
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    $\begingroup$ But I believe that he is a physicist... $\endgroup$ – APrough Aug 11 '16 at 19:53
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    $\begingroup$ He says all the names can be readily verified to have the relevant property using Google. I don't think that's true for BmyGuest, even if we pretend it's really his surname :-). $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Aug 11 '16 at 19:54
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    $\begingroup$ While it would be incredibly tempting to accept gtwebb's explanation (matching my education), the simple truth is that I highlighted a name (de Broglie) in my list but then refused to actually place him in due to the dual-part name. So, yes, the 40th was a big red herring. ;c) But I guess, removing 39 and the leftover text should make it clear anyway.. $\endgroup$ – BmyGuest Aug 11 '16 at 19:54

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