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This is an original puzzle. It may require some specific knowledge, but nothing that can't be easily acquired.

ma(c + n + s) = ?

To steer you in the right direction, there are no acronyms involved.

Hint 1:

Old MacDonald had a farm.
And on that farm he had a dog named Clifford,
And a cat named Nina,
But what was the name of his son?

Hint 2:

Some subjects from highschool which you may find useful:
Mathematics initially, to set the stage;
Language or perhaps even history to understand what you see;
But physics and chemistry will not aid you here.

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  • $\begingroup$ rot13(eryngrq gb purzvfgel?) $\endgroup$ – Adib Jan 16 at 0:04
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    $\begingroup$ @Adib, I like your thinking, but no. $\endgroup$ – Earlien Jan 16 at 0:05
  • $\begingroup$ (ma)(c)+(ma)(n)+(ma)(s) $\endgroup$ – user118161 Jan 19 at 1:00
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I think the answer is

Christmas

Expanding the equation gives

mac + man + mas
"mac" is a Scottish/Irish surname prefix meaning "son of" so rewriting this gives
"son of" + man + mas = "son of man" + mas = Christ + mas = Christmas

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  • $\begingroup$ Well done! You cracked it! $\endgroup$ – Earlien Jan 19 at 11:48
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    $\begingroup$ @Earlien What's the relevance of the first hint? $\endgroup$ – ZanyG Jan 19 at 16:09
  • $\begingroup$ @ZanyG rot13(Gur qbt naq png jrr erq ureevatf. Gur yvax vf “znp” zrnaf “fba bs”, fb ZnpQbanyq’f fba (jub vapvqragnyyl znl unir orra anzrq B’Qbanyq, “tenaqfba bs” Qbanyq. ) I was going to add a Hint 1b to make this clearer, but it was solved. $\endgroup$ – Earlien Jan 19 at 20:39
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app

Why?

ma(c+n+s) = mac + man + mas
mac is a type of computer
man is a type of coder
mas is the mac apple store, a place where code is sold
add the three together and you get an application, aka app

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  • $\begingroup$ Very good guess. Unfortunately that is not the intended answer. $\endgroup$ – Earlien Jan 15 at 22:17
  • $\begingroup$ This is not really a hint, but steer you on the right track, rot13(gurer ner ab npebalzf vaibyirq). $\endgroup$ – Earlien Jan 15 at 22:28
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I don't have an answer yet, but here are some of my loose thoughts that might hopefully help someone along the way.

In physics, the equation F = ma stands for Force = Mass * Acceleration. If that's what the ma refers to, then when you distribute the ma to each of c + n + s, you get (Force)c + (Force)n + (Force)s. Read phonetically, you can get the words Foresee, Forcen(?), and Forces. Foresee and Forces are words, but I could not find a definition for Forcen outside of this one lone definitiion based on French. There is, however, a professional Starcraft player named Forsen whose real name is Sebastian. This could possibly be related to the hint about the son's name but seems specious. It should be noted that the first letter of Clifford and Nina correspond to the c + n + s so the answer to the sons name will probably start with an S, but the connection I've made seems unlikely.

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  • $\begingroup$ Nice, somebody else also saw the equation connection! But unfortunately I wasn't able to get any further myself... $\endgroup$ – Avi Jan 18 at 0:59
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    $\begingroup$ Additionally, rot13(Byq ZnpQbanyq'f anzr fgnegf jvgu 'zn'). $\endgroup$ – ZanyG Jan 18 at 1:08
  • $\begingroup$ Also rot13(Pyvssbeq'f anzr fgnegf jvgu p naq Avan'f anzr fgnegf jvgu a fb fba'f anzr fgnegf jvgu f?) $\endgroup$ – shoover Jan 18 at 1:46
  • $\begingroup$ @ZanyG Actually you can go one step further: rot13(Pbafvqre gur svefg cneg bs Qe Kbevyr’f thrff. Lbh pna trg “Znp”). $\endgroup$ – Earlien Jan 18 at 5:28
  • $\begingroup$ @Tonkleton Good creative thinking, but not really on the right track. I’ll post another hint soon that should help. $\endgroup$ – Earlien Jan 18 at 5:30
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It could be:

macanas, a weapon used by native South Americans. The expression can be rewritten as:

    ma(c + n + s) = m(ac + an + as)

The symbols then spell out "macanas". (Mathematics, language – the word has entered English from the Caribbean language of Taino via Spanish – and history are used here, but I have no idea what Old MacDonald has to do with mcanas.)

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  • $\begingroup$ Good start. Rot13(Gur rdhngvba vfa’g dhvgr va gur evtug sbez lrg. Guvax nobhg ubj ryfr lbh zvtug erjevgr vg). $\endgroup$ – Earlien Jan 19 at 1:00
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Is it:

dfh. Using A1Z26, it becomes $13\cdot1(3+14+19)=13\times36=468=\text{dfh}$.

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  • $\begingroup$ Sorry, that isn’t it. Rot13(Gur fbyhgvba qbrf abg vaibyir nal ahzoref.) $\endgroup$ – Earlien Jan 17 at 9:19
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I didn't find the answer yet but got some useful things maybe lead to the right answer.

we can sperate the question to "mac + m(an + as)"
after googling manas, I found some 18th poem called "Epic of Manas" maybe this is the historical part of the riddle. but I couldn't find anything related to mac or Donald about "epic of manas".
another thing about manas: it could be a state too. it's a state in Kyrgyzstan. but this is not historical.

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Partial answer:

(ma)(c)+(ma)(n)+(ma)(s) Ma being macdonald, and c, clifford, n, nina, s, son

the nina was a ship by christopher columbus

emily elizabeth was clifford's owner

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  • $\begingroup$ This is fascinating history which I did not know, but rot13(fnqyl, guvf uvfgbel jvyy abg uryc lbh fbyir guvf chmmyr. Lbh'yy arrq gb sbphf ba gur rdhngvba n ovg zber.) $\endgroup$ – Earlien Jan 19 at 2:05

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