Backwards Engine Enigma

Jun 02, 2001

RAY: This week's puzzler came right out of cyberspace, from a guy named Michael Lydon. Mike says, "I heard an encore show, and I figured you guys are in bad shape for puzzlers. It sounded so pathetic.

"I cut my mechanic's teeth, so to speak, as a pump jockey at a Sunoco station in the 'burbs of Cleveland." He says in parentheses, "That's the one hint you get."

Mike goes on to say, "We had a guy who helped out holding wrenches, catching oil spills, and holding up cars. His name was Harley. Strong as an ox -- and twice as smart.

"One day a friend came in with a Chevy 350 engine that he had picked up at a junkyard. He wanted to rebuild it and was looking for some pointers. Afterwards he asked one question: 'How do I get the engine to rotate in the other direction?'"

"Harley was stumped, as you might expect. He couldn't help but wonder, 'Why would you want to rebuild an engine so that it ran backwards?'"

And that's today's question: why would you want a Chevy 350 to run backwards?


TOM: Cleveland.

RAY: Where is Cleveland?

TOM: Cleveland is on the Ohio River.

RAY: No. How about Lake Erie?

TOM: The Mississippi River? Yeah, well I was thinking about boats.

RAY: Well you were --

TOM: I knew Cleveland was near water.

RAY: Then if you were thinking about boats and you had two inboard engines, you would want one of them to go one way and --

TOM: One to go one way and one go the other.

RAY: -- one to go the other way. Otherwise, the boat would just go around in circles all the time. You want the props to wash in opposite directions.

TOM: So that would really make it go nice and straight ahead.

RAY: I would think so. I don't really know, but that's what they do, and I'm taking --

TOM: Do they do that now?

RAY: How do I know? I don't even own a boat. The rumors are all false. I do not own a boat. I have never made a boat payment in my life, so I wouldn't know.

TOM: Buy, why would it matter? I don't, I don't like it.

RAY: It could be bogus. I'm just going on blind faith --

TOM: Blind faith.

RAY: -- and it seemed intuitively obvious that you would want the props to go in opposite directions. For symmetrical reasons --

TOM: If nothing else, but I don't think it's necessary.

RAY: I don't either. I think it's bogus.

TOM: I don't think it's necessary.

RAY: Hey. Who's the one who submitted this? Mike Lydon. He's the one who is going to take the heat.

TOM: Yeah. Ask him.

RAY: In fact, we'll give you his email address if it turns out to be bogus. You can send the nasty emails to him. I fell for it.

TOM: By the way, it ain't easy to get it to turn backwards.

RAY: Well, no. It isn't. That will be next week's puzzler.

TOM: Yeah. And since there, and here is why I think it's bogus. Since there are lots of boats that have two engines, it seems unlikely to me that some of them are running backwards --

RAY: Like half of them.

TOM: Like half of them, because it's not easy to do.

RAY: And if you had one engine, how would you get that to run backwards and forwards at the same time? Figure that out.

TOM: Yeah.

RAY: Do we have a winner? Did someone send an answer in?

TOM: No.

RAY: I didn't think so.

TOM: Why would we have a winner for a bogus puzzler? Yeah, we got a winner. The winner is John Wyant, from Carrolton, Ohio. Carrolton, Ohio. Right up the road from Cleveland.

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