Freshman Physics (solution)

by Kai Huang

The first thing to notice about the list of words is they all begin with F, H, I, P, or T. If you know anything about MIT, you should immediately deduce that each line should be filled with a 5-word phrase producing the acronym IHTFP. This is confirmed by the fact that there are exactly 12 words with each starting letter and there are exactly 12 lines to be filled in, each with 5 blanks.

Looking at the lines to be filled in, notice that the blanks are of different lengths, which aids significantly in narrowing down the choices for filling in the words. In fact, many words can be filled in immediately because they have a unique length within all words of that start letter.

Finally, notice that many of the words are quite scientific, as if they might appear in MIT subject titles or descriptions.

Using a combination of

you should eventually discover that each line is composed entirely of words from one particular MIT subject’s title and description, and in fact can be thought of as an alternate, IHTFP-style title for the subject (albeit quite forced and somewhat imprecise).

The fact that each IHTFP title is composed entirely of words from one subject’s title and description generates a nice property. If you have the correct 5-word IHTFP title, then the following search will bring up the actual subject:

  1. Go to the MIT Subject Listings home page,
  2. Under the left-hand-side search box, select the option “with all of the words”,
  3. Type in the 5 words from the IHTFP title without any punctuation, and click search.

In fact, more often than not, a subset of the correct 5 words will still uniquely produce the actual MIT subject.

Some subjects have more than one number. For those, we’ve included a note such as “(1 of 2)” to identify which specific subject number is relevant for this puzzle.

The final message is obtained by reordering the subjects by relevant subject number and then using the two numbers given in brackets at the end of each line to index into the actual subject titles.

Here are all the IHTFP titles, actual subject numbers and titles, indices, and extracted letters:

IHTFP title

Subject numbers

Relevant subject number

Actual subject title



Integrated Heat & Thermal-Fluids Principles



Thermal-Fluids Engineering I

11, 17

 I,  I

Industrial Heat Transfer & Fluid Processing



Materials Processing

13, 9

C, S

Indoor HVAC: Technologies, Fundamentals, & Psychrometrics

2.67J, 4.427J


(2 of 2)

Analysis and Design of Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning Systems

13, 19

E, F

Introduces Helpful Techniques for Psychoacoustics



Psychoacoustics Project Laboratory

23, 7

L, A

Introduces Hydrostatics, Turbulence, & Fluid Principles



Fluid Mechanics

10, 6

A, M

Immunotherapies: Historical Therapies for Pathogens

10.495, 10.595


(1 of 2)

Molecular Design and Bioprocess Development of Immunotherapies

15, 2

N, O

Immigration History (to & from Places)

11.019J, 21H.310J


(1 of 2)

Migration and Immigration in US History

12, 26

D, U

Implement Housing Technologies for Partners



Information, Asset-building, and the Immigrant City

29, 13

H, S

Introduction: Highways & Traffic Flows Planning

1.200J, 11.544J, ESD.21J


(2 of 3)

Transportation Systems Analysis: Performance and Optimization

3, 6

A, P

Instrumentation: Horizon, Temperature, & Flight Positioning



Spacecraft and Aircraft Sensors and Instrumentation

1, 26

S, O

Introduction: Human Thought, Freedom, & Politics



Introduction to Political Thought

3, 4

T, R

In Humans: Therapeutic Foundations & Pharmacodynamics



Mechanisms of Drug Actions

4, 19

H, T

Reading down the two columns of extracted letters gives the IHTFP-style final clue, which reads ICELAND HAS THIS FAMOUS PORT. The answer is REYKJAVIK.

Charles L. Dodgson
Charles L. Dodgson