Worldwide search for solution to States List Puzzle

First posted 2 November 2002 at 0124 GMT
Last updated 15 March 2003 at 2253 GMT

REDMOND, Washington For almost two years, researchers around the world have searched for a solution to the States List Puzzle.  In January, 2001, a Microsoft group manager issued a challenge to his staff.  In order to raise money for charity, the manager offered a prize to the first person to solve the States List Puzzle;  to participate, the manager collected a one dollar contribution to charity for each guess.


The States List Puzzle requires the solution to an ordered list of the U.S. states.  The correct solution will be the completion of a simple sentence, "This is the order in which <blank>."  The challenge to solve the puzzle is to uncover the reason that the states are listed in the order.

The puzzle began in January, 2001, when the first state on the list, Delaware, was revealed.  Since then, the names of the next states on the list have been added, one state every month.  A new state name will be added to the list until the puzzle is solved.  To solve the puzzle, someone must provide the correct reason for the order of the states.

Here is an overview of the puzzle.


The purpose of the puzzle is to raise funds for charity. 

The puzzle was developed by a Microsoft group manager and distributed as an office puzzle.  The list of states was posted on the office bulletin board.  Anyone who had a guess would put one dollar into the pot, and the puzzle creator would confirm whether or not the guess was correct (thus far, no one has guessed the right answer).  All money paid into the pot, without any deduction, is contributed to charity.

Since the puzzle has spread beyond the office bulletin board, the Internet and email will be used to achieve the charitable purpose of the puzzle.  Participants are requested to make contributions to the charity for participating in the puzzle.

Here is an explanation of the charity.


The puzzle is open to participation by everyone, including researchers, students, web surfers and others.

Participants may register by form or email.

Here is information about participation.


Around the first of each month, the puzzle creator will post the name of the next state on the list.

In addition to the list of state names, there is an animation of the list, which shows the states in the order in which they appear on the list.  Red means the most recent addition, and green shows the previous additions.

Here is the latest information on the list of states.


In addition to the state names that are on the list, there are several major clues that have been given by the puzzle creator.

Information about the clues is available here.


Since January, 2001, many participants have attempted to solve the puzzle, but none yet has been successful.  When the puzzle was confined to the office staff, the participants usually knew which theories had been explored and which guesses had been made.

Registered participants will have access to the various clues that have been provided by the puzzle creator.

Information about the many previous (incorrect) guesses is available here.


All researchers, students, and those who love a challenge are invited to register and join the worldwide community of those who are searching for the solution to the States List Puzzle.  Here is information about how to participate in the States List Puzzle contest.

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