The VFYW Contest: Winner #6


by Chris Bodenner

A reader writes:

You said you'd make it harder but *#&@ me! 

We have a Jaguar XJ (appears to be right-hand drive), a European-looking white stone house and a few temperate-climate plants. So I'll take Nicosea, Cyprus. It's a warm country with a UK connection that drives on the left and has yellow number plates.

Is anyone else embarrassed by their desperation to solve these things? (Spend ten minutes browsing "License Plates of the World" and you might agree.)

Another writes:

An old beat up Jag.  A banana tree. A tropical, possibly fruit tree, possibly mango.  Is that papaya next to the banana?  Spanish glasswork on the doors and maybe moorish/Al-Andalus white property wall and stone arches over the windows.  Dilapidation.  Maybe Havana?


When I saw the photo it looked instantly familiar.  The vegetation, the house, the Ambassador and license plate all look like Southern India ... Tamil Nadu, Chennai.  I was just there in February visiting friends.


I am currently in Chennai, South India, attending to a family emergency. The trees (including the small banana tree) are very indicative of this region. The car, however, is not Indian. The yellow license plate can indicate a foreign consul's vehicle in India but I am going to guess the picture was taken across the Palk Strait in Colombo, Western Province, Sri Lanka.


Instinctively, I say the south of France (must be the foliage and the characteristic light).  The yellow license plate on the Jag may support a French locale.  The walls, the Jag, and the property expanse suggest an older wealthy area. I'm going to say St. Jean Cap Ferrat to the east of Nice.  Specifically, a neighbor to the late David Niven's house (i.e.).


The crazy mix of wires running into the house next door reminds me of Beirut, Lebanon, where several of my aunts and uncles live. The people there were nothing if not creative in figuring out how to get electricity, phone, cable, etc., after basic services collapsed during the civil war. The architecture, vegetation, and light also seem to be consistent with Beirut.


Fascinating, Watson. Let's start with the architecture. [160 words later...] Bottom line? I have NO FUCKING CLUE!  Gated community in Chihuahua, Mexico?


My guess is Gibraltar.  My first impression was someplace in Latin America.  Then I noticed that the Jaguar seems to have British plates.  So, I believe it is someplace with British plates, tropical foliage, and architecture that feels Spanish.  Gibraltar.


Bangalore, India. My gut instinct was Tblisi, Georgia, but the Jaguar steered me towards a former British colony. So, a guess.

Good call with a former British colony. Another:

I think the car pictured may be a Jaguar which, if so, would mean that this is probably somewhere British. But it's not Britain. So I'll guess that this is Bermuda and, if so, probably somewhere in the capital, Hamilton. Probably only out by 12000 miles, I know...

Only 7300 miles. Another:

I believe that the photo view is of Monrovia, Liberia, most likely in the neighborhood of Sinkor.  I was an American college exchange student in Liberia in 1983 and clearly recall glass-shards on the top of the protective walls surrounding the more affluent homes in Monrovia.  The Jaguar appears to have the orange colored Liberian car tag.  Also, the trees are consistent with the ones I remember in Liberia.

Closer. Another:

I'm going to plump for Blantyre, Malawi, which is a pretty long shot but here's how I got there: [350 highly intuitive words later...] But to be honest I'm stumped!

But much closer. Another:

I’m going to go way out there:  Zanzibar, United Republic of Tanzania.  Somewhere near Stonetown.

Oh so close. Another:

Ok, I’m probably going to wind up looking silly, but here goes. 

The foliage is tropical or subtropical; the banana plant could be cultivated in lots of places, but if the fern tree is filicium decipiens, it’s native to East Africa, India, and Sri Lanka.  The white stucco, recessed windows to shade the sun, worn wooden window frames, and the funky electrical wiring suggest the house was built pre-AC and possibly pre-electricity, and the municipality isn’t fussy about building codes.  The stone stringcourse and the beveled glass in the windows suggest colonial design; probably British colonial since Britons are a bigger share of your readership than Belgians, Dutch, or German (and it doesn’t look German).  The plantings aren’t lush, and the dusty car says the place has a dry season.  So I’m going with the colonial residential quarter of a former British protectorate in East Africa where expats live now.  The orange/yellow license plate with black letters is similar to one that says is in current use in Tanzania; Kenya and Uganda have different plates. 

Is the house on the Msasani Peninsula, in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania?

Yes!  Congrats to the winner and the four other readers who guessed correctly (out of about 300 entries). Perhaps we'll ease up on the next one. Tune in Saturday.

By the way, I recently came across this random bit of reporting:

[NYT crossword editor Will Shortz] does puzzles in other publications (he likes the cryptic crossword in Harper's, the USA Today crossword not so much). For kicks, he'll read The Huffington Post or Andrew Sullivan online.

Might he be a fan of our pictorial puzzle?