Main Page

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Revision as of 07:50, 17 April 2024 by Kynde (talk | contribs) (Protected "Main Page": Excessive vandalism ([Edit=Allow only administrators] (indefinite) [Move=Allow only administrators] (indefinite)))
(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Jump to: navigation, search

Welcome to the explain xkcd wiki!
We have an explanation for all 2957 xkcd comics, and only 22 (1%) are incomplete. Help us finish them!

Latest comic

Go to this comic explanation

A Crossword Puzzle
Hint: If you ever encounter this puzzle in a crossword app, just [term for someone with a competitive and high-achieving personality].
Title text: Hint: If you ever encounter this puzzle in a crossword app, just [term for someone with a competitive and high-achieving personality].

Explanation

Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Created by a CROSSWORD MAKER FREE FALLING - Please change this comment when editing this page. Do NOT delete this tag too soon.
warning!!.png SPOILER ALERT!
If you read on without trying to look at the crossword clues first, the joke is spoiled and your chance of finding out the joke yourself is gone instantly!

This is a crossword puzzle. On a surface level, the answers seem extremely difficult, with questions covering a wide variety of trivia, linguistics, mathematics in various forms, alongside wordplay typical of crossword puzzles. But the joke is that every single letter of every single answer is "A".

The name of this comic, “A Crossword Puzzle”, is a double entendre; the “A” can be interpreted both as the indefinite article “a”, and as an identifier saying that this crossword puzzle is specifically an “A” puzzle, due to the answer being all “a”s.

The title text is a play on a "type A" personality. The term for someone with a competitive and high-achieving personality is "Type A". In the context of the title text, this answer is a hint that the entire puzzle can be completed in a crossword-solving app by typing the letter A repeatedly.

Explanation of clues

Location Clue Explanation Squares
1-Across Famous Pvt. Wilhelm quote Reference to the Wilhelm scream. 10
11-Across IPv6 address record An IPv4 record is an "A" record; an IPv6 record is four times the length and is designated an "AAAA" record. 4
15-Across “CIPHERTEXT” decrypted with Vigenère key “CIPHERTEXT” A "Vigenère Cipher" translates the original text by the distance from A from the key, letter by letter. For instance, if the plaintext is "XK" and the key is "CD", the C shifts X 2 forward to become Z, and the D shifts K 3 forward to become N, yielding a ciphertext of "ZN". Since the ciphertext and the key are the same in this case, decryption just shifts all the letters back to A, akin to subtracting a number from itself and getting 0. 10
16-Across 8mm diameter battery An AAAA battery is a 1.5 V battery that measures 8.3 mm in diameter, 2.2 mm smaller than the more common AAA battery. 4
17-Across “Warthog” attack aircraft The A-10 Warthog is an attack aircraft. Here, A-10 has been turned into AAAAAAAAAA (ten As). 10
18-Across Every third letter in the word for “inability to visualize” Aphantasia is the inability to experience mental images. Following the example of the pattern in the clue, taking the first letter and every third one after (rather than just every third letter) we determine that Aphantasia gives us the word "aaaa". This clue is particularly mean because of how it instructs you to visualize the letters highlighted within the word in order to get the answer. 4
19-Across An acrostic hidden on the first page of the dictionary The first page of the dictionary (if you ignore the copyright page and the index) is the list of words starting with A. An acrostic of this page, taking the first letter of each line and arranging them in order, would just be a sequence of As. 10
21-Across Default paper size in Europe A4 paper (here written as AAAA) is the default size in Europe. At 210x297 mm, it is approximately 0.24" narrower and 0.71" longer than the 8.5"x11" paper used in the United States, and due to having an aspect ratio of 1:sqrt(2), can be cut in half to create two half-sized sheets with exactly the same aspect ratio. 4
22-Across First four unary strings A unary number system represents numbers using just one symbol. For example, 7 in unary would be 1111111. The first four strings in unary, if you used A as the first (and only) symbol, would be A, AA, AAA, AAAA. 10
23-Across Lysine codon Lysine is an amino acid, with codons AAA and AAG. 3
24-Across 40 CFR Part 63 subpart concerning asphalt pollution "40 CFR Part 63" refers to federal air pollutant regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations. The subpart for "asphalt processing and asphalt roofing manufacturing" is AAAAAAA. 7
25-Across Top bond credit rating The highest credit rating for bonds is AAA. 3
26-Across Audi coupe First of three Audi references. Audi's car models range from A1 (subcompact hatchback) to A8 (full-size luxury sedan); the A5, the one referenced here, is a compact executive coupe. 5
27-Across A pair of small remote batteries, when inserted Two AAA batteries, which are often used to power remote controls for domestic devices. These have been combined to give AAAAAA — "Inserted" is often a cryptic hint that one word should surround another, although such a cryptic clue would normally also contain a more direct clue (albeit ambiguously) to the full answer. 6
29-Across Unofficial Howard Dean slogan A reference to Howard Dean, an American Democrat who ran for the party's nomination in 2004. He famously yelled at a rally in a way that was thought to be bizarre and which, it is thought, doomed his campaign. 7
32-Across A 4.0 report card A 4.0 GPA, at least in the USA, is all As. This clue assumes seven classes. 7
33-Across The “Harlem Globetrotters of baseball” (vowels only) The Savannah Bananas, the vowels for whom are aaaaaa. 6
34-Across 2018 Kiefer song AAAAA. 5
35-Across Top Minor League tier The top Minor League Baseball tier is AAA. 3
36-Across Reply elicited by a dentist Dentists ask patients to "say aaaaaaa", i.e., "open up". This could also be an expression of pain, particularly the only kind you can make with dental tools in your mouth. (As the band Autechre put it, "Now, I don't want you to panic... just lean back and relax.") 7
38-Across Anaa’s airport Anaa is an atoll in the Tuamotu archipelago of French Polynesia. AAA is the IATA code for its airport. 3
41-Across Macaulay Culkin’s review of aftershave In the movie Home Alone, Kevin (played by Macaulay Culkin) puts on his father's aftershave lotion. The six-year-old boy is not used to the lotion's antiseptic and screams as the stinging sensation kicks in. 10
43-Across Marketing agency trade grp. The American Association of Advertising Agencies, also called the 4As (here AAAA). 4
44-Across Soaring climax of Linda Eder’s Man of La Mancha Refers to the 18-second-long wordless passage in Eder's opus, or possibly the final high note in the song The Impossible Dream. 10
46-Across Military flight community org. The Army Aviation Association of America, or AAAA. 4
47-Across Iconic line from Tarzan Tarzan has a famous war cry he shouts, usually when swinging from a vine. 10
48-Across Every other letter of Jimmy Wales’s birth state The birth state of Jimmy Wales, the co-founder of Wikipedia, is Alabama. Taking every other letter of Alabama gives "Aaaa". 4
49-Across Warthog’s postscript after “They call me mister pig!” Pumba in The Lion King yells "aaaaaaaaaa" while charging at the hyenas who insulted him. 10
50-Across Message to Elsa in Frozen 2 The call which Elsa hears in Frozen 2 is a sequence of four notes which resemble the requiem music Dies irae. The sequence is sung entirely with an open rounded vowel sound, or a soft "a" sound. 4
51-Across Lola, when betting it all on Black 20 in Run Lola Run In Run Lola Run, Lola (Franka Potente) screams loud enough to affect the outcome of a roulette wheel where she has just bet all her money on Black 20. The scream could be transcribed as "AAAAAAAAAAA" 10
1-Down Game featuring “a reckless disregard for gravity” AaAaAA!!! – A Reckless Disregard for Gravity - notably the title is commonly extended in promotional material beyond 6 As. 6
2-Down 1010101010101010101010102→16 10101010 10101010 10101010 in binary is equivalent to "AAAAAA" in hexadecimal. 6
3-Down Google phone released July ’22 The Pixel 6a was released in July 22. Stylized in this puzzle as "AAAAAA" ('A'*6) 6
4-Down It’s five times better than that other steak sauce Five times better than A1 steak sauce would be A5, stylized in this puzzle as AAAAA. 5
5-Down ToHex(43690) The decimal number 43690 converted to hexadecimal is AAAA. 4
6-Down Freddie Mercury lyric from Under Pressure A drawn-out 'Aaaaahhhh' rising in pitch. 15
7-Down Full-size Audi luxury sedan Second of three Audi references. As mentioned previously, the A8 referenced here is their full-size luxury sedan. 8
8-Down Fast path through a multiple choice marketing survey The "fast path" is just to select the first option over and over again. Usually the options are labeled A, B, C, and D (or more) - choosing the first option for every question would be answering entirely with As. 7
9-Down 12356631 in base 26 Randall is expressing base 26 using the letters of the alphabet with 1=A, in which case 1235663110 = AAAAAA26. (It's unclear how one would express the digit 026 this way.) 6
10-Down Viral Jimmy Barnes chorus A reference to the music video for Kirin J Callinan's song 'Big Enough', which features rocker Jimmy Barnes in a cowboy hat screaming "Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!" while in the sky over mountain scenes. 15
11-Down Ruby Rhod catchphrase Ruby Rhod is a radio host in the film 'The Fifth Element'; he has a scene with a memorable scream. 5
12-Down badbeef + 9efcebbb In hexadecimal, badbeef and 9efcebbb add together to equal AAAAAAAA (195,935,983, 2,667,375,547, and 2,863,311,530 in decimal respectively). 8
13-Down In Wet Leg’s Ur Mum, what the singer has been practicing In the song "Ur Mum" by Wet Leg, the bridge starts with "Okay, I've been practicing my longest and loudest scream", which is apparently eight As long. 8
14-Down Refrain from Nora Reed bot The "Endless Scream" bot on social media, made by Nora Reed, posts "AAAAAAAAAAA" (with or without an h) at varying lengths. 8
20-Down Mario button presses to ascend Minas Tirith’s walls In Mario games you typically use the A button to jump. In games where you don't press a button to move (e.g., games with a joystick), then the button presses required to ascend a vertical structure would probably all be A. This clue might have been inspired by the A-button challenge / A Button Challenge, which tallies the number of A presses needed to beat Super Mario 64. Additionally, Minas Tirith is a fictional city in Lord of the Rings with seven concentric rings, each with a wall around it and higher than the last ring. Presumably, it takes seven jumps to get to the highest area of the city, so the answer is "AAAAAAA". 7
24-Down Vermont historic route north from Bennington Vermont Route 7A, or AAAAAAA. 7
26-Down High-budget video game A high-budget video game is usually referred to as a Triple-A game, or AAA. 3
28-Down Unorthodox Tic-tac-toe win Tic-tac-toe is usually won by getting either three Xs or three Os in a row, making XXX and OOO normal Tic-tac-toe wins. One could achieve a win of AAA by making the unorthodox choice of playing with the letter A instead of X or O. Alternatively, Randall is envisaging the grid as defined by rows 1, 2, 3, and columns A, B, C, so an AAA win would be simply playing in the first column each time - a strategy which should be obvious and easy to stop, even for young children who have not yet worked out that any route to winning can be blocked. 3
29-Down String whose SHA-256 hash ends “…689510285e212385” printf AAAAAAAA | sha256sum outputs c34ab6abb7b2bb595bc25c3b388c872fd1d575819a8f55cc689510285e212385.

Note that this 'clue' would be normally be particularly difficult, in isolation, as the nature of a hash function means that it is possible for multiple inputs to produce a given output, and that finding any of these (and definitely identifying all of them, to ensure you have the correct original) would require a brute-force attack; i.e. a test of all possible initial states to discover which of them might be viable candidates. Even more problematic is that we are only given a partial hash string, meaning we are possibly talking of a multiple of full hashes, each of them with a possible multiplicity of original plaintexts behind them.
The number of possible hashes in the clue is 1664/1616, i.e. 1648, or approximately 6x1054, although there really is no reason (aside from the fundamental impracticality) to try to solve this problem from each and every 'hash end'. Instead you would 'only' check every combination of 8 letters (presuming no digits, punctuation or whitespace would be inserted, that no 'foreign'/accented characters are present and that uppercase is universally presumed, is 268; i.e. ~208 short-scale billion possibilities) and discover which (one?) of these sufficiently matches the hash fragment given. Testing a hundred of these every second, it would take a little over 66 years to complete the task of checking every single possibility (rather than stopping at the first confirmed answer, which might well be the initial one in this particular case).
In the context of a crossword such as this, however, you can significantly reduce this search by having established (or at least sufficiently narrowed down) the answers to the various across-clues which intersect with ever character of it (this form of crossword grid being of the dense type, with no singly-clued spaces as with the more open lattice-types), reducing the necessary checks drastically. This could mean, having solved at least some of the perpendicular answers, that you have enough information to 'guess' at some likely answer, and then merely need to confirm that whatever guess(es) you make will resolve themselves into the clue-answer provided. (Much as you might with a more normally difficult clue, where you merely have to satisfy yourself that the surprise answer is at least justified as resulting from the original hint.)

8
30-Down Arnold’s remark to the Predator A reference to this scene from 'Predator'. 8
31-Down The vowels in the fire salamander’s binomial name The vowels in Salamandra salamandra are aaaaaaaa. 8
32-Down Janet Leigh Psycho line The iconic scene in Psycho is the shower scene, in which Janet Leigh gives a long piercing scream as she is murdered. This can be written as 8 As if one wishes. 8
34-Down Seven 440Hz pulses A sound with a frequency of 440 Hz is a middle "A" note. Seven such pulses would be AAAAAAA. 7
37-Down Audi luxury sports sedan Third of three Audi references. The A6, the one referenced here, is their executive car. Actually, the A7, their executive liftback sedan, would fit the prompt of "luxury sports sedan" better, but 37-Down only has room for six As. 6
38-Down A half-dozen eggs with reasonably firm yolks Eggs can be "graded on a variety of aspects", with grades B, A, or AA. Eggs with a reasonably firm yolk are graded A, so having half a dozen of them gives you AAAAAA eggs. 6
39-Down 2-2-2-2-2-2 on a multitap phone keypad A "multitap keyboard" is a text entry system for mobile phones. Most numbers are associated with three letters, and tapping the same number multiple times in rapid succession selects the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd number. 2 is "A", 22 is "B", 222 is "C", 3 is "D", etc. 2-2-2-2-2-2 translates to "AAAAAA". 6
40-Down .- .- .- .- .- .- .- is Morse Code for A. It reads out as AAAAAA. 6
42-Down Rating for China’s best tourist attractions China's Ministry of Culture and Tourism provides ratings for many tourist attractions in China on a scale from A to AAAAA, with AAAAA being the best. Examples of well-known tourist attractions with the AAAAA rating include the Forbidden City, sections of the Great Wall of China, and the Terracotta Army. 5
43-Down Standard drumstick size 5A is a common, middle-range size for drumsticks (the sticks used to play drums, not the drumsticks that get eaten). Here, it's written as AAAAA. 5
45-Down “The rain/in Spain/falls main-/ly on the plain” rhyme scheme An AAAA rhyme scheme means each of the four lines ends with the same sound. 4

Transcript

[A square 15x15 crossword puzzle is shown. Only 21 of the 225 squares are black. The black squares are in a pattern that are 180 degree rotationally symmetrical. Three black squares down from the 11th column and similarly three black squares up from the 5th column. Three black squares out from the right in row 7 and then two more black squares diagonally up from the end. Similarly three black squares out from the left in row 9 with two more black squares diagonally down from the end. A single black square is three above the first black square on the diagonal going down to the right and similarly there is a black square three under the first of the diagonal squares going down to the left. (Row 6 column 12 and Row 10 column 4). Finally there are three black squares on a diagonal crossing over the central point by going up from the left through the central point (Row 8 column 8). There are numbers at the top of every column (except the one that is a black square) and similarly at the left edge of all rows (except the one that is a black square). There are also numbers at the bottom of every black segment (except the one that reaches the bottom) and all rows after black segments except the one that reaches the right edge. In total all numbers from 1 to 51 is written. They are written in reading order from 1 to 51.]
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51
[Below the square there are two rows of clues for each number that belongs to across (rows) and to the right there are one row of clues for each number that belongs to down (columns). Both segments have an underlined and bold title above the clues. ]
Across
1. Famous Pvt. Wilhelm quote
11. IPv6 address record
15. "CIPHERTEXT" decrypted with Vigenère key "CIPHERTEXT"
16. 8mm diameter battery
17. "Warthog" attack aircraft
18. Every third letter in the word for "inability to visualize"
19. An acrostic hidden on the first page of the dictionary
21. Default paper size in Europe
22. First four unary strings
23. Lysine codon
24. 40 CFR Part 63 subpart concerning asphalt pollution
25. Top bond credit rating
26. Audi coupe
27. A pair of small remote batteries, when inserted
29. Unofficial Howard Dean slogan
32. A 4.0 report card
33. The "Harlem Globetrotters of baseball" (vowels only)
34. 2018 Kiefer song
35. Top Minor League tier
36. Reply elicited by a dentist
38. ANAA's airport
41. Macaulay Culkin's review of aftershave
43. Marketing agency trade grp.
44. Soaring climax of Linda Eder's Man of La Mancha
46. Military flight community org.
47. Iconic line from Tarzan
48. Every other letter of Jimmy Wales's birth state
49. Warthog's postscript after "They call me mister pig!"
50. Message to Elsa in Frozen 2
51. Lola, when betting it all on Black 20 in Run Lola Run
Down
1. Game featuring "a reckless disregard for gravity"
2. 1010101010101010101010102→16
3. Google phone released July '22
4. It's five times better than that other steak sauce
5. ToHex(43690)
6. Freddie Mercury lyric from Under Pressure
7. Full-size Audi luxury sedan
8. Fast path through a multiple choice marketing survey
9. 12356631 in base 26
10. Viral Jimmy Barnes chorus
11. Ruby Rhod catchphrase
12. badbeef + 9efcebbb
13. In Wet Leg's Ur Mum, what the singer has been practicing
14. Refrain from Nora Reed bot
20. Mario button presses to ascend Minas Tirith's walls
24. Vermont historic route north from Bennington
26. High-budget video game
28. Unorthodox Tic-Tac-Toe win
29. String whose SHA-256 hash ends "...689510285e212385"
30. Arnold's remark to the Predator
31. The vowels in the fire salamander's binomial name
32. Janet Leigh Psycho line
34. Seven 440Hz pulses
37. Audi luxury sports sedan
38. A half-dozen eggs with reasonably firm yolks
39. 2-2-2-2-2-2 on a multitap phone keypad
40. .- .- .- .- .- .-
42. Rating for China's best tourist attractions
43. Standard drumstick size
45. "The rain/in Spain/falls main-/ly on the plain" rhyme scheme

Trivia

  • This comic got a comic-specific header text after the first day it was up.
    • This was because one of the comics Randall lists as one of those he enjoys, Buttersafe, had already posted a similar comic back in 2011: Crosswords.
    • Randall had forgotten this, but now pays tribute to this, stating that he must have been accidentally inspired by that comic.
  • Elfakyn posted a link to a picture of the solved crossword puzzle in the comments and allowed it to be included here:
2957 A-Crossword Puzzle-Solved.png
  • All the black squares are in a symmetrical pattern, which is generally the case for crossword puzzles in the US and UK. See description of the pattern in the transcript.

Is this out of date? Clicking here will fix that.

New here?

Last 7 days (Top 10)

Lots of people contribute to make this wiki a success. Many of the recent contributors, listed above, have just joined. You can do it too! Create your account here.

You can read a brief introduction about this wiki at explain xkcd. Feel free to sign up for an account and contribute to the wiki! We need explanations for comics, characters, themes and everything in between. If it is referenced in an xkcd web comic, it should be here.

  • There are incomplete explanations listed here. Feel free to help out by expanding them!

Rules

Don't be a jerk!

There are a lot of comics that don't have set-in-stone explanations; feel free to put multiple interpretations in the wiki page for each comic.

If you want to talk about a specific comic, use its discussion page.

Please only submit material directly related to (and helping everyone better understand) xkcd... and of course only submit material that can legally be posted (and freely edited). Off-topic or other inappropriate content is subject to removal or modification at admin discretion, and users who repeatedly post such content will be blocked.

If you need assistance from an admin, post a message to the Admin requests board.