Christmas (2020) is over

It's 2021, and the Advent calendar has disappeared, so it's time to reveal the answers and annouce the winners. But first, some good news: with your help, Santa received all his letters and Christmas was saved!
Now that the competition is over, the questions and all the answers can be found here. Before announcing the winners, I'm going to go through some of my favourite puzzles from the calendar, reveal the solution and a couple of other interesting bits and pieces.


My first highlight is this puzzle from 5 December, that I think doesn't seem obvious that there's even a unique answer until you spot some nice properties of dice.

5 December

Carol rolled a large handful of six-sided dice. The total of all the numbers Carol got was 521. After some calculating, Carol worked out that the probability that of her total being 521 was the same as the probability that her total being 200. How many dice did Carol roll?

Show answer

My next highlight is the puzzle from 15 December. I had a lot of fun trying to write this one. At the end, I tell you that T represents 4: this puzzle still has a unique answer without this, but it was too hard to get started.

15 December

When talking to someone about this Advent calendar, you told them that the combination of XMAS and MATHS is GREAT. They were American, so asked you if the combination of XMAS and MATH is great; you said SURE. You asked them their name; they said SAM.
Each of the letters E, X, M, A, T, H, S, R, U, and G stands for a different digit 0 to 9. The following sums are correct:
Today's number is SAM. To help you get started, the letter T represents 4.

Show answer

My next highlight is the puzzle from 16 December. I had a lot of fun writing this one too. At least a few people seem to have enjoyed solving it, as indicated by this comment.

16 December

Solve the crossnumber to find today's number. No number starts with 0.

Show answer

My final highlight is the puzzle from 21 December. My method for solving this one was quite complicated. Let me know in the comments or on Twitter if you have a better way of solving it.

21 December

There are 3 ways to order the numbers 1 to 3 so that no number immediately follows the number one less that itself:
  • 3, 2, 1
  • 1, 3, 2
  • 2, 1, 3
Today's number is the number of ways to order the numbers 1 to 6 so that no number immediately follows the number one less that itself.

Show answer

Hardest and easiest puzzles

Once you've entered 24 answers, the calendar checks these and tells you how many are correct. I logged the answers that were sent for checking and have looked at these to see which puzzles were the most and least commonly incorrect. The bar chart below shows the total number of incorrect attempts at each question.
You can see that the most difficult puzzles were those on 6, 14, 19, 21, and 24 December; and the easiest puzzles were on 3, 9, 10, 16, and 17 December.

The solutions

The solutions to all the individual puzzles can be found here. If you want to read some alternative solutions to the puzzles, you can find Alira's solutions here, including a very nice explanation of how the final clues fit together to find the directions to Santa's house.
Using the daily clues, it was possible to work out that Santa's house could be found by following the directions 3,7,1,1,4,3,3,4,9,3,3,9 on this map.
Directions to Santa's house.
Due to the way the Advent compass worked, there are actually a few different ways to get to Santa's house. For example, 7,5,7,1,1,4,3,3,4,9,3,3 also gets you there:
Alternative directions to Santa's house.
I'll leave you to work out how many different ways there are to get there...
Here's the full collection of tiles that you could find by walking around the map:
The map tiles.

The winners

And finally (and maybe most importantly), on to the winners: 223 people found Santa's house entered the competition. This is quite a lot more than in previous years:
From the correct answers, the following 10 winners were selected:
1Mars He
2Ben Baker
3Amelia Taylor
4Alex Ayres
5Hannah Charman
6Diane Keimel
7Alex Burlton
8Rob March
9Mahmood Hikmet
10Guillermo Heras Prieto
Congratulations! Your prizes will be on their way shortly.
The prizes this year include 2020 Advent calendar T-shirts. If you didn't win one, but would like one of these, I've made them available to buy on Teespring alongside the T-shirts from previous years.
Additionally, well done to 4nder, Ashley Frazer Jarvis, Aaron Stiff, Alan Buck, Alejandro Villarreal, Alex Bolton, Alex Davis, Alex Klapheke, Alexander Rakitin, Anders Kaseorg, Andrew, Andrew P Turner, Andy Ennaco, Annabel, Anthony Della Pella, Artie Smith, Athena, Austin, Austin Shapiro, Beau Ferguson, Becky Russell, Ben Buchwald, Ben Jones, Ben Reiniger, Benjamin Tozer, Bennet, Beth Jensen, Blake, Brennan Dolson, Brian Carnes, Brian Wellington, Burak Kadron, Caleb Likely, Callum Hobbis, Carl Westerlund, Carmen Günther, Cath Simpson, Cathy Hooper, Chris Hellings, Christy Hales, Colin, Colin Brockley, Connie, Corbin Groothuis, Cory Peters, Cosmo Viola, Dan Colestock, Dan DiMillo, Dan McIntyre, Dan Whitman, Dana Sussman, Daniel De la Paz, David, David Ault, David Berardo, David Fox, David Kendel, David Mitchell, David Parmenter, David and Ivy Walbert, Dean Thomas, Deborah Tayler, Don Anderson, Donagh Collins, Elizabeth Blackwell, Emilie Heidenreich, Emily Troyer, Eric Kolbusz, Eric Skoglund, Erik Eklund, Eva, Evan Louis Robinson, Fionn Woodcock, Frances Haigh, Frank Kasell, Franklin Ta, Fred Verheul, Georges, Gabriella Pinter, Gert-Jan de Vries, Graham Greve, Gregory Loges, Gwendal Collet, Harry Allen, Heerpal Sahota, Helen, Helen Matthews, Herschel Pecker, Håkon Balteskard, Ivan Arribas, Jacob Young, James Demers, James Laver, Jan, Jason Demers, Jason Kass, Jean-Sébastien Turcotte, Jeff Rubin, Jefff Michael, Jen Huang, Jessica Marsh, Jim Rogers, Joe Gage, Johan Asplund, John Alasdair Warwicker, Jon Foster, Jon Lipscombe, Jon Palin, Jonathan Chaffer, Jonathan Forsythe, Jonathan Winfield, Jordan Susskind, Jorge del Castillo, Kai Lam, Karen Climis, Keith Pound, Ken Cheung, Killeen, Kristen Koenigs, Kristin Gramza, Kurt Engleman, Laura Midgley, Lauren Woolsey, Lewis Dyer, Linus Banghart-Linn, Liz Madisetti, Louis de Mendonca, Magnus Eklund, Mark Stambaugh, Martijn O., Martin Harris, Martin Holtham, Martine Nome, Matt Askins, Matt Hutton, Matthew Reynier, Matthew Riggle, Matthew Schulz, Matthew Scroggs, Matthias Planitzer, Maxime Rivet, Maximilian Pfister, Michael DeLyser, Michael Prescott, Mihai Zsisku, Mike Hands, Moritz Stocker, Nadine Chaurand, Nathan Chun, Nick C, Nick Keith, Nick Mohr, Norvin Richards, Olov Wilander, Pamela Docherty, Pau Batlle, Paul Livesey, Pranshu Gaba, Ray Arndorfer, Rea, Reuben Cheung, Riccardo Lani, Richard Pemberton, Rileigh Luczak, Road White, Roni, Rosie Paterson, Russ Collins, Ruth Franklin, Ryan Coomer, Ryan Seldon, Ryan Wise, Sam Dreilinger, Sam Hartburn, Sammie Buzzard, Sara Van Hoy, Sarah Brook, Saul Freedman, Scott, Sean, Sean Carmody, Sean Henderson, Sean McDonald, Sebastian, Selina Glauert, Seth Cohen, Shivanshi Adlakha, Simon Schneider, Sophie Maclean, Spencer B., Stephen Cappella, Stephen Dainty, Stephen Jasina, Steve Blay, Steve Paget, Steven Richardson, Susana Early, Tarim, Tim Holman-Wilkens, Tim Lewis, Todd Geldon, Tom Fryers, Tony Mann, Tristan Shephard, Valentin Valciu, Vinesh, Yasha, Yuliya Nesterova, Yurie Ito, and Zachary Polansky who all also found Santa's house but were too unlucky to win prizes this time.
See you all next December, when the Advent calendar will return.

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Comments in green were written by me. Comments in blue were not written by me.
Dec 15th was my favorite. I kept making a logical error and had to restart, so it took me way to long, but I really enjoyed it.

The 16th was just cheeky, after I spent way to much time on the 15th it was nice to have something like that!

It's been 16+ years since I did any probability or combinations and permutations, so it was nice to brush off that part of my brain, not that I did any of them well, but it should serve me well when my kids start doing them and ask me for help.
×1                 Reply
You can solve the Dec 21 puzzle using the principle of inclusion/exclusion:

-There are 6! total ways of arranging 6 numbers.
-Now we have to exclude the ones that don't fit. How many ways have 2 following 1? You can think of 12 as a pair, so you're arranging 12/3/4/5/6 in any order, so there are 5! ways to do this. And there are (5 choose 1)=5 total pairs that might exist, so there are 5*5! ways that have either 12, 23, 34, 45, or 56.
-Of course, we've double counted some that have more than one pair. (This is where inclusion/exclusion comes in, we have to include them back in). So how many have, say, 12 and 45? Well now we're arranging 12/3/45/6, so there are 4! ways to do so. There are (5 choose 2)=10 different pairs, so the double counting was 10*4!.
-We continue this on, and inclusion/exclusion says we keep alternating adding and subtracting as we add more pairs, so the answer is:
- (5 choose 1) * 5!
+ (5 choose 2) * 4!
- (5 choose 3) * 3!
+ (5 choose 4) * 2!
- (5 choose 5) * 1!
= 309
×3   ×1              Reply
There seems to be a missing diagram for the answer to the Dec 2 puzzle.
@(anonymous): Thanks, links corrected
Messed up HTML. What I mean is sequence A000255 on OEIS.
   ×2              Reply
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