GC SF Sp WH BV YL BT CP SA CB CC Back to puzzle

Cactus Canyon

Tall Tales

by Mark Gottlieb, Corin Anderson (videography), Gaby Weidling (video production). Special thanks to Oliver Smoot for his dramatic reading in the video.
Answer: SMOOT

Each of the narrator’s snippets contains clues to two different units of measurement. The name of each unit has another meaning; it's that alternate meaning that is clued. The second unit always has a specific number associated with it while the first has a vague amount in the thousands. Solvers must convert the amount given for the second unit into the first unit. In each case, it’ll be a discrete number of thousands between 1 and 26. Drop the thousands and convert to letters (A=1, B=2, etc.) to spell the message THIS TUTE GRAD OLIVER.

Video: Oliver Smoot reveal

The man in the videos is Oliver Smoot, namesake of the smoot measurement on the Harvard Bridge, whom we gratefully thank for his participation. The answer is SMOOT.

Chapter 1

There I was, just minding my business, when I don’t know how many thousand caped superheroes—you know who I mean—showed up in town. I remember, because it was the same day I bequeathed my factory to Willy Wonka. I had already invented one thousand items like chocolate bars and gobstoppers and lollipops, and it was time to move on to new challenges.

20,000 batman = 1,000 candy


Chapter 2

Thanks to that enterprise, I had become very popular. Whenever I walked through town, people would stop and give me thousands of whatchamacallits—ovations. It’s always nice to hear applause, right? Folks liked my whiskey distillery too. I crafted a high-quality drink, so each day I’d inspect ninety-six thousand of the individual components that came in from the farm before starting the malting and mashing process.

8,000 hand = 96,000 barleycorn


Chapter 3

All that hard work paid off. I can’t count how many thousand swigs of my whiskey folks would gulp down each day. Maybe that’s why everyone in town except me was too drunk to fight off the 750 amorphous monsters that showed up and started consuming all the townsfolk. They kept growing bigger and bigger, but as soon as I realized they were vulnerable to cold, I made short work of them.

9,000 slug = 750 blob


Chapter 4

So I saved the town. Maybe even the whole world! The response was intense. I received a few thousand communiques over the telegraph. In order to meet all the curious scientists, I had to catch a locomotive right away, but it was tough to search all four million, five hundred sixty thousand places where they keep trains until I found the right one.

19,000 cable = 4,560,000 yard


Chapter 5

I eventually found it, but the search had left me all grimy, so after I got back to my house, I grabbed my rubber ducky and did something to get myself clean thousands of times. Feeling refreshed, I joined my softball team for our weekly game. I had a good night at the plate and racked up two thousand of the best kind of hits.

20,000 bath = 2,000 homer


Chapter 6

After the game, I picked up a few thousand sacks of stuff—millet and sorghum and whatnot—to fill up the bird feeders we keep on the porch. To my surprise, I was attacked by forty-eight beasties—the ones some people call snow leopards—but I turned the tables on them and lickety-split I had them purring and playing with a big skein of rope like it was yarn. I kept them all as pets for a while.

21,000 grain = 48 ounce


Chapter 7

That wasn’t exactly legal at the time, but I sit on the local legislature. A fellow animal lover introduced a new measure, and I did that thing where you support it a few thousand times. The new law let me foster the animals for a year. After all that was settled, I went for a refreshing walk by the beach—and wouldn’t you know it, a mermaid popped up on shore! Well, we performed a gesture of greeting two trillion times. Not a wave, that would’ve been funny given where she came from; a different one.

20,000 second = 2 trillion shake


Chapter 8

That mermaid sure was friendly! She invited me to go for a swim. I couldn’t stay underwater for too long, but she had thousands of some kind of organ that let her breathe down there. That pumped me up to win twenty-five hundred trophies awarded at some tournaments.

5,000 gill = 2,500 cup


Chapter 9

That brings me back to the cats. They were strays, so after my year with them was up, I took them over to I don’t know how many thousands of places where you take stray animals. But I must’ve burned through all the goodwill from the locals, because that’s when a mob of angry townsfolk showed up and inflicted some kind of barbaric biblical punishment on me five hundred times.

7,000 pound = 500 stone


Chapter 10

My wife tended to worry about me, what with all the scrapes and adventures I’d get in. But I assured her a few thousand times that, like my friend what’s-his-name says, I’m never gonna give her up, never gonna let her down. I eventually excused myself from the mob after they had petered themselves out. Since it was getting dark by the time I got home, I plugged in six thousand of the kind of wires you find attached to lamps.

18,000 rick = 6,000 cord


Chapter 11

I thought I’d get to settle in for the night, but no. We needed some things, so I had to turn around and head out to the mall. I don’t know how many thousand types of stores like Hot Topic and Barnes and Noble I had to visit that night. The weird part was all the birds, just sitting there on four thousand of those things that birds sit on.

1,000 chain = 4,000 perch


Chapter 12

The birds made me think of my aunt, who was an ornithologist. It was strange — the poor dear couldn’t stop eating dirt and glass. The doctors had a name for it, and she had a few thousand cases of it. But I digress; let me get back to the forty-eight thousand underlying purposes of telling this story.

4,000 pica = 48,000 point


Chapter 13

Remember all the tournaments I had won? My fellow competitors were no pushovers. Quite the opposite — I was up against a woman who had been bitten by Dracula himself, and umpteen thousand of her namesakes! I’m sure you know who I mean. I know this all sounds like bragging, but the fact is I have two hundred and fifty skills. I know there’s a term for that.

15,000 mina = 250 talent


Chapter 14

That explains why I’ve had so many adventures. I especially like traveling to Israel. There’s a port city there that I’ve been to thousands of times. The last time I visited, however, it was overrun by werewolves! I had to stealthily conceal myself, if you get my gist, a hundred times while making my escape.

12,000 acre = 100 hide


Chapter 15

It was terrifying! Some of those werewolves seemed hip, but a few thousand were not cool, daddy-o. Which reminds me of the time I was in the military. It was me and nine thousand officers — you know who I’m talking about; the high-ranking folks.

9,000 square = 9,000 brass


Chapter 16

We had all hunkered down in a pig farm, right in front of thousands of the creatures, particularly the parts with their snouts, ears and, beady little eyes. I can’t believe I escaped with my life. I stubbed out the remainder of my cigarette eleven thousand times and swore I’d never smoke again.

22,000 hogshead = 11,000 butt


Chapter 17

Just then, a few thousand little dudes that looked like elves ran up to me. They were each holding a sword and a boomerang and wanted me to help them save a princess! They made a Twilight Zone episode out of that adventure. In fact, the narrator, whoever he was, made two hundred of them.

5,000 link = 200 rod


Chapter 18

I loved working in Hollywood. After each day of filming, I’d take the cast and crew out for drinks. It was always my treat. I must’ve done that thing to the bill, where you pick it up, a few thousand times. I know these stories sound hard to believe, but I’m sure you understand them, or comprehend them, or whatever, three thousand times better than before.

18,000 foot = 3,000 fathom