On July 3, 1957, John Stephenson Singleton filed for a patent with the UK Patent Office. His invention was called “Improvements in and relating to perpetual calendar devices,” and described a way by which two cubes could be used to display all the days in a month.

If you’re thirty or older, you may remember these calendars from the bank. There was typically a barrier at the back of the check writing station, with three wells on the top of it and three windows on the side facing the patron. The first of the three wells was rectangular and the remaining wells were square. The bank employee could drop a wooden block into first slot and two wooden cubes into the second and third. The block bore the name of the month; each side of the cubes showed a digit; between the three of them, they could display the current date, e.g., [April][2][4].

Mr. Singleton received his patent on March 17, 1958. But I want you to consider something.

One of the criteria for a patent is that the invention be “non-obvious.” On the face of it, Mr.Singleton “improvements in and relating to perpetual calendar devices” seems like a no-brainer: you have three blocks (each with the names of four months on their rectangular-sides, and their square-sides blank) and two cubes with the digits distributed amongst them in such a way that every possible day from 01 to 31 can be shown — what’s so innovative about that. In truth, that final bit — the part about distributing the digits amongst a pair of cubes such that every possible day can be displayed using only the two of them — is considerably more “non-obvious” than it seems. Can you figure out how to do it?

The patent can be seen here — but viewing it (or the comments to this post) will ruin the fun of trying to solve the puzzle. Wait until you’re stumped or, better yet, confident that you have sussed out the answer — you’ll be glad you did.

Research Day: Brew’s Clues

The Queen and I are not above gambling when some fact of brobdingnagian importance is in dispute, such as “did Punky Brewster get a breast reduction?” (She did.) Our standard monetary unit in such wagers is One Beer. Unfortunately we are old and betoddlered, so we tend to forget the bet was ever made mere moments after the handshake is concluded.

Today, however, I have dredged up our last three bets from the murky depths of my memory. If my calculations are correct, The Queen will soon be bestowing Hops On Pop.

Is that Tony Danza?! We both asked that question aloud while watching Crash on DVD. I thought the actor looked like Danza, but decided that it wasn’t because he sounded all wrong; The Queen didn’t think the guy look like Danza at all, but was convinced it was based on the sound of his voice. Only one place to go for this answer: IMDB — Crash.

Verdict: Yup, that’s a Danza, all right. Winner: The Queen.

Is corn a grain or a vegetable: This one’s a bit tricky, because it depends on whether you are considering an entire cob, a bunch of fresh, detached kernels, or ground up meal. The latter — corn meal — is a grain, as grain (also called caryposis) is defined as “the seed of a grass. And irrespective of what else it may or may not be, corn is indisputably a grass.

But what of about fresh corn? That’s a vegetable, right? Unfortunately, the word “vegetable” does not have a strict botanical meaning, unlike — just to pluck a random example out of the ether — “fruit,” which means “the ripened ovary or ovaries of a seed-bearing plant.” And guess what: they may as well call ’em “Kellogg’s Ripened Ovary Flakes,” because corn is all fruit, baby.

Verdict: We were both kind of wrong, but as (a) I was only half wrong and (b) The Queen was all wrong and (c) it’s my goddamned blog, I’m giving myself the point. Plus The Queen is a professional botanist, so I get credit just for holding my own on any subject that involves chlorophyll. Winner: Me.

Do peanuts grow above ground or below: The nice thing about betting for beer is that you’ll wager even when you’re not entirely sure you’re correct. For instance, I was unsurprised to discover that the Mystery Actor was Danza, and The Queen wasn’t adamant that corn was a vegetable.

But we were both suffused with certainly on the question of whether peanuts grew above ground or below. Though peanuts are outside of The Queen’s professional bailiwick (she’s an expert on native plants, and peanuts hail from South America), she was sure that they grew underground. I insisted otherwise. After all, I reasoned to myself, peanuts are actually legumes, and legumes (e.g., beans, lentils, and peas) grow on stalks. I don’t need no fancy bow-TAN-ikle degree to know that growing on a stalk = above ground.

Except …

Except, apparently, when the stalk grows above ground … and then, in a shocking surprise twist sure to have you on the edge of your seat, bends over and burrows into the soil before producing fruit. WTF PEANUTS?!!

That was totally unfair — there was no way I could have known that those legumes were going to go all psycho on me. Verdict: Peanuts grow below ground. Winner: The Queen, but only on a technicality. The technicality being that I was completely wrong.