Question:

You have 26 constants, labeled A through Z. Let A equal 1. The other constants have values equal to the letter’s position in the alphabet, raised to the power of the previous constant. In other words, B (the second letter) = 2^A = 2^1 = 2, C = 3^B = 3^2 = 9, and so on. Find the exact numerical value for this expression:

(X A) (X B) (X C) . . . . (X Y) (X Z)

.

.

C

A

P

T

A

I

N

I

N

T

E

R

V

I

E

W

.

.

Solution: Just looking at this equation makes most people wince. But relax. Solving for the value of X, the twenty-fourth letter of the alphabet, calls for a number larger than all the atoms in the universe. Listen to the question. Did you hear the word exact? That’s your first clue that the value is a simple number. This is one of those trick questions that can be dispatched with a quick “aha!” In puzzles like this, you should always look at the part of the puzzle that’s hidden. In this case, that’s in the ellipses. If you take a minute and mentally re punctuate that area, you’ll soon come to the expression (X X ), which is conveniently zero. An ideal response goes like this:

The sums from A to W are irrelevant since at X, (X X ), the product will result in zero. Anything multiplied by zero results in an answer of zero. Since one of the terms will be (X X ), which is zero, the entire answer will result in an answer of zero.