The web's number one source for Mind Puzzles, Brain Teasers & Riddles

Room 40 – World War 1 “Mystery”

“Have you heard of Room 40?” “No, Sir, I have not”. “Good. For what I am about to tell you, if leaked, will cost us this war, son!”

November 1914, London.

Much to your surprise you have been summoned by the Admiralty to meet in the Old Admiralty Building, or simply “Old Building”, adjacent to the Horse Guards in London.

This came as a surprise as you are not known for your physical prowess or sea-faring skills preferred in new conscripts. Instead you are known as a “studious fellow”. Your choice of adventure generally featured a game of chess or scrabble.

“Our mission here is of great importance!” the man, who introduced himself as ‘Cdr Herbert Hope’, tells you. “However, before I am able to share this national secret, you are required to complete an entrance exam.”

He hands you a paper with seemingly nonsensical equations.

“Oh, George … I mean John, I almost forgot. Hope you’re not offended if I address you by your first name . Remember that the greatest authority within a neutral power is key.” [The Cdr strangely places great emphasis on certain words – given in bold text. You also find it odd that he addresses you as George as he does not seem to be a forgetful man].

You solve the puzzle a short while later. Luckily one particular choice of hobby helps you find the solution in record time. Although lets be honest, it does take you a few days to figure out.

2 + 6 = 28

1 + 8 = 16

12 + 14 = 39

6 + 16 = 28

13 + 9 = ??



Hint 1
What is meant by the ‘greatest authority of a neutral power’? Note that the year is Nov 1914. Stated differently, who is a neutral power in Nov 1914 and secondly, what is meant by its greatest authority?
Hint 2
Hope you’re not offended if I call you by your First Name
Hint 3
The relevant hobby is Scrabble
Hint 4 - big hint
A better way of writing the equations would be Sum of 2nd and 6th = 28, …
Hint 5
The ‘first name’ will help you find out who the neutral power is. But it also plays another important role within the equations


The scrabble score of the first name of the U.S. President alluded to with the number. For example: 2 (“John” Adams) + 6 (“John” Quincy Adams) = 28. “John” = 14 points in scrabble so 14 + 14 = 28. The same works for the rest.

1st president: George, score: 8
8th president: Martin, score: 8
8 + 8 = 16

12th president: Zachary, score: 24
14th president: Franklin, score: 15
24 + 15 = 39

6th president: John, score: 14
16th president: Abraham, score: 14
14 + 14 = 28

13th president: Millard, score: 10
9th president: William, score: 12
10 + 12 = 22

Therefore the final solution is 22


Admiralty Flag. Source:

the below facts are unrelated to the puzzle & given for interest purposes only:
– During World War 1, Room 40 coded and enciphered German messages. The intercepted messages arrived in the Admiralty office’s basement and were relayed to Room 40.  A great book, which partly inspired this puzzle is Dead Wake, by Erik Larsson
– The Admiralty was the authority responsible for the command of the Royal Navy in Great Britain

the featured image was sourced from .Wikipedia


Stating the obvious here, but I enjoy riddles & puzzles. Anyone else also struggling with seemingly simple 5th grade math problems?

Menu Title