In September I published a puzzle called Losers and Winners. At least five people solved the puzzle (unlike my first puzzle, which no one solved without hints).
Here are a few hints, in white text, meant to be read in order.
Hint 1: Look up some of the lyrics. What are these songs?
Hint 2: Numbers in puzzles (including this one) are often used to index into words. For example, the 3 next to the first audio clip means “take the 3rd letter”. What might you try to take the 3rd letter of?
Hint 3: Some of the songs correspond to winners, others to losers. What do you get if you separately consider the letters corresponding to the losers and the letters corresponding to the winners?
And the solution, also in white: These are presidential campaign songs. In order, they are from the campaigns of Henry Clay, Herbert Hoover, Victoria Woodhull, Hillary Clinton, William Henry Harrison, John Woolley, Barry Goldwater, Andrew Jackson, John McCain, Theodore Roosevelt, Barack Obama, Henry Wallace, John Fremont, Martin Van Buren, Rutherford Hayes, and James Blaine. If you index into the last names (take the 3rd letter of CLAY, etc.) you get the letters AHLTIERSNTOATRYE. These are nice letters, but what order to put them in? Well, if you consider just the candidates who lost, you get ALTERNATE, and if you consider just the winners, you get HISTORY. That’s the answer — ALTERNATE HISTORY!
Finally, for miscellaneous comments, containing spoilers, scroll down. (I’m not putting them in white because they contain hyperlinks.)
- Most of these songs were performed by Oscar Brand.
- What year did Victoria Woodhull run for president? That’s right — 1872 featured a female presidential candidate. She was the Equal Rights Party candidate, and the vice presidential nominee in that election was Frederick Douglass (though he did not seek the nomination). Her campaign song was called Victoria’s Banner.
- The other minor party candidate featured in this puzzle was John Woolley, who was the 1900 Prohibition Party nominee. Here’s the full song, whose lyrics are… exactly what you’d expect from the Prohibition Party: “But soon there comes to this lovely little spot a drink-man with whiskey and beer / And the song dies out, a drunken brawl begins, and there’s pain and grief where once was cheer”. I may have been responsible for a majority of times this song has been listened to this year.
- My favorite song of the bunch is Raisin’ McCain. I also, at various points over the last few months, have had Go With Goldwater stuck in my head.
- This puzzle was inspired by Andrew Jackson’s campaign song, Hunters of Kentucky, which my 8th grade U.S. History teacher played for us in class, and the song promptly became an inside joke in my friend group. As a matter of fact, when I asked my middle/high school friends whether they recognized that clip (it’s been a while!), one of them predicted that the clip would be Hunters of Kentucky before even listening! Thanks, Ms. Maples, for inspiring this puzzle! (Here’s a better version.)
- Thanks to all the winners who gave their prize money to charity! In the future I might make the prize “I’ll donate money to a charity of your choice”.
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