One Alpha-Numerical Ploy

One of My Best…

I’ve played a few pranks in my life.

Some involved calling people up and getting them to go somewhere to claim a prize. Some involved getting people to do something silly. Some were just meant to produce a silly look on the victim’s face.

The one common thread was that it was always done to an individual. In each case, I was the only witness, so the embarassment was not really something public.

The Alpha-Numerical

One year, in University, a friend of mine and I came up with a grand idea. It didn’t involve public humiliation, but it did involve fooling people on a larger scale.

The idea behind it wasn’t one that would fool a large populace, like a whole city. No. The plan was about elegance. It was about fooling a group of people at the same time, while creating a doorway for those victims to propogate the prank even further on their own.

When I was about halfway through university, there were two puzzling crazes. One was cryptic crosswords and the other was called alpha-numericals.

Alpha-Numericals involved a code that you had to crack. It was basically a string of numbers and letters with a hidden meaning. For example…

13 in a B D = Thirteen in a Baker’s Dozen

Being able to solve these puzzles involved abstract thinking, as well as a pretty good level of knowledge for various literary references, measurements, and other trivia.

A lot of our friends in University were very intelligent, and loved puzzles. The harder and more abstract the puzzle, the more they liked it. So we figured that we would somehow use the puzzles in our scheme.

All we needed was a hook…

The Contest Ploy

When you are a poor university student, the smallest contests become a huge deal. Anything free was welcome, no matter how little it may have cost.

My friend and I used this to our advantage when we invented the lure for the joke.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat was playing in Toronto at that time, and it had received quite a number of great reviews. A lot of people that we knew would have really loved to have seen it.

So here was the way the lure was executed…

[Jorge dials a victim on the phone. The vic pics up and the conversation ensues…]

Jorge: Hey Vic, it’s Jorge.
Victim: Hey Jorge. What’s up?
J: You busy?
V: No, why?
J: I was going through a newspaper from a few weeks ago that I found downstairs* and I noticed that there is a contest for tickets to see Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat.
V: No way.
J: Yeah. It’s only valid in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. It includes a bus to and from Toronto, dinner at one of the Mirvish restaurants, and admission to see the musical. The best part is that it’s for twenty people, so a whole bunch of us can go!
V: That’s awesome.
J: There are only two problems. The contest entries have to be e-mailed or mailed in by tomorrow night.
V: And the second problem?
J: The actual entry form involves completing thirty** alpha-numericals. On first glance, I can maybe get about a third of them, but the rest are pretty tough. I was thinking about getting the gang in on these. We should be able to finish it by tomorrow and send it in. I hear that no one has sent in a complete form yet, so we would be a shoe-in.
V: Okay. Sounds good.
J: I’ll read them off to you, and you can get our other friends in your house to work on them. I’ll call a few more people, and we can have this wrapped up sooner than later.
[Jorge reads off the list of Alpha-Numericals to Vic.]

My accomplice and I came up with a relatively large list of these brain teasers. More than half of them were established favourites like…

  • 4 and 20 B B B in a P = Four and Twenty Black Birds Baked in a Pie

  • 3 B M = Three Blind Mice

  • A T W in 80 D = Around the World in Eighty Days

These would draw everyone in, making them excited about getting answers quickly. Since we were in the lull just before exams, it was the perfect time to strike.

The actual prank was when we created fake entries like these…

  • 42 Q on the P B

  • 16 Q on the Q C R

  • 100 G M in the H O L

After we called a few friends (who each told a few more), we would call them all periodically and see what kind of progress they had made. We would “share” some of what we had figured out with them and allow the excitement to build.

The funniest part was when people started inventing answers for the fake entries…

[Victim calls Jorge on the phone.]
Jorge: Hey man, how is it going? You getting any further?
Victim: I think we’re making progress on some of the tough ones.
J: Really?
V: Yeah. Number twenty four? The one that says 42 Q on the P B?
J: What about it?
V: Get this: Fourty-two quills on the porcupine’s back
J: Wow.
V: Not bad eh?

My co-conspirator and I were rolling on the ground laughing at stuff like that. Who knew that picking random letters and numbers could be so much fun?

After a number of hours we decided to come clean. We had actually built in the punchline into the contest entry itself. The last puzzle was…

E F on A 1

This is how one of the phone calls sounded…

[Jorge calls up a Victim. By this point quite a number of fake entries have been given fake solutions.]
Jorge: Hey man. It’s Jorge.
Victim: Hey guy. We are getting close.
J: I know! I think I have figured out the last one. Actually scratch that. I know I’ve figured out the last one.
V: Shoot.
J: E F on A 1 stands for everyone’s fooled on April First.
V: [Consulting with another victim.] No way. That can’t be it.
J: Think about it. It totally is.
V: Well how could it be, the 1 couldn’t possible stand for first. Wouldn’t it make more sense if it was an F instead of a 1?
J: Maybe I wasn’t clear enough. [Speaking more slowly and deliberately.] Everybody’s….fooled….on….April….First…
[There is a pause as this registers in the Vic’s mind. Then…]
V: Who is this? What’s going on? Nobody lives here!
[The phone goes dead. Jorge calls back and everyone on the other end is laughing.]

It was a great prank. No one was mad because even though we wasted their time, it was a well-executed ploy.

It always makes me smile every April Fool’s Day.

What is the best April Fool prank you have played? Comment!

* – I lived in a house with a number of people. It was not uncommon for some people to leave old newspapers lying around in the downstairs kitchen.
** – I don’t remember the exact number we actually came up with. But it was definitely more than twenty. I actually think it was closer to forty.

5 Responses

  1. Brilliant, Jorge, brilliant.

    There is no way on earth that I could EVER come up with something that detailed. And the commitment you put into it – awesome.

    I’m sure your friends LOVE you.


  2. Oh my god, you guys were such nerds!

  3. Wow… that’s hilarious! 🙂

    My crowning achievement was convincing a co-worker that she had won the lottery… I admit, it was dirty pool… but it was pretty funny. I stopped her before she went and quit her job or anything though… I’m not THAT mean! 🙂

    We have a web-blocker at work that prevents access to what are considered “lottery and gambling” websites, as well as numerous others. This presented a problem to some of my co-workers who liked to check their tickets at work, so I found a way to work around it. Well one fateful April 1st, feeling sorry for myself because I hadn’t had an opportunity to prank anyone, one presented itself!

    Sometimes you have to seize the moment. Well she asked me to check her ticket for her while she was in the bathroom… the ticket was lying on her desk… it was a pretty simple matter to jot down the numbers from HER ticket on the paper and throw it on her desk… then I just had to listen to the mayhem and intervene at an appropriate moment. She was a surprisingly good sport about it… I would have kicked my ASS if I was her!! 🙂

  4. I told my S/O I was pregnant last year.
    She was not amused…

    I gave up on April Fools day jokes for lent this year. You guys were pretty damn funny….

  5. Brilliantly done! A flawless 10.0 for execution! I used to love those puzzles…didn’t know they had a name. My favorites were

    15 M on a DMC
    1000 WTHPIW
    200 DFPGIM

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: