New Puzzler (homemade)

The days of the on-air puzzler are long gone, more’s the pity. No more listening to Ray try to get through a sentence while Tom helpfully interrupts. I was nostalgically going through some of the old puzzlers on the site and one of them reminded me of an experience I had. This is 100% true, no obfuscation needed.

Back in the summer of 2017 I was in California with my 21-year-old daughter. We’d flown out to visit my mom after my dad died. The plan was to drive back to Kansas City with some of the bulkier aspects of my inheritance–paintings, statuary, engine blocks… that sort of thing. So we rented a Kia Sedona (Tom: Is that important? Ray: No. It could’ve been any vehicle big enough to carry their crap. Tom: So it had to be a big vehicle? Ray: Only to carry the stuff. For puzzler purposes it could’ve been a Mini Cooper. Tom: Ah, ok. Ray: Can I continue now?).

We rented a Kia Sedona and loaded all the stuff in. We bought supplies for the trip–bottled water, beef jerky, couple of bags of potato chips, chewing gum, the extra big bottle of Filippo Berio Olive Oil… the usual–and we set off.

We took I-70 through the Colorado Rockies and it was just gorgeous. We were driving past Vail, about 2 miles above sea level, and marvelling at the beauty around us. Grassy slopes, crystal clear streams, rugged rock faces, two or three deer running up one of the hills. Beautiful. Then all of a sudden… boom! It was a muffled sound, not too loud from inside the car, but you can bet it startled us.

“What the heck was that?!” I asked.

My daughter shrugged.

A few seconds later… boom! Same sound. We were worried now. What was going on? The van was running perfectly. The engine sounded fine. The steering was fine, the ride was smooth, and we definitely weren’t feeling the tha-bump tha-bump tha-bump of a flat tire. No warning lights were going off. Still, I was looking for the next exit and thinking about pulling off to the side just to give the van a walkaround and maybe stare at the engine like I knew what to look for.

Before I did that, I had a brilliant thought. I told my daughter to check something for me. She did, confirmed I had correctly diagnosed the problem, and we kept driving without worries.

What did I tell my daughter to check?

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Potato chip bags.


Boom! (But, dude, you’re supposed to spoiler tag the answer so other people can take a shot.) As we’d been increasing our elevation, the air in the bags had been expanding until, finally, it had nowhere to go but out. The bags were both wide open.

See if the bowling ball is secured?


Better? :wink: We don’t do many spoilers around here.

Thanks! I notice I sounded a little bossy as a newbie telling you how to run things! Apologies. I appreciate your flexing local custom to accommodate me. Solution tagged.

I guess Shadow did not see the rules for the contest . What did he win ?

Wonder how the delivery companies deal wit this. Sound BOGUS!

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In my defense, the rules were posted after I answered. :wink:

An all-expense paid trip to the den for a celebratory glass of whiskey!


Agree BOGUS I have been over that route many time’s with the same thing’s the OP had except for the gum and olive oil and never had a bag of chip’s blow up.

For the ones going over a mountain pass that would cause the bag to explode, you would ship them in a refrigerated truck/trailer, keep it cold enough that the air in the bag contracts enough make up the difference.

Kind of like when you buy a helium filled balloon in the winter,
The balloon is full and floats while in the store, you take it outside into the cold, the balloon shrinks and no longer floats until warmed back up to room temperature.

I can see it happening if conditions are just right. If the bag was packed on a high atmospheric pressure day at low altitude, then OP drove up into the mountains on a low atmospheric pressure day, it’s reasonable. Especially if the chip bags are packed in amongst a bunch of other stuff that presses on the bag as it expands, which would increase internal pressure even more. Picture a badly inflated chip bag that then gets poked by the corner of a cracker box.


You can say BOGUS all you want. It happened. Just as told. Except for the Filippo Berio Olive Oil. They were Lay’s Limón potato chips which at the time we could get in California but not out here. I understand the objection that it hasn’t happened to you. That’s quite believable and could be down to any number of things–different brand, different barometric pressure, you’d already eaten the chips. This happened to us pretty near the marker saying we’d reached the highest point. So if any bag survives that–and I’m sure many do–it’s downhill from there.

Some of that’s possible. I don’t recall the bags being tightly packed. And they definitely didn’t have small holes. The entire top of both bags was wide open. So pressure had been applied equally across the entire seam until the whole thing gave at once.

You can say BOGUS all you want

Not saying it did not happen to you but as shadowfax said it could happen. I read your post to mean it would happen to all potato chip bag’s and other’s like it.

No, not at all! I wouldn’t generalize from two data points. My experience might be highly unusual.

I did find myself wondering how potato chip shippers deal with this problem if it’s not uncommon. I figured Frito-Lay just wouldn’t ship to Vail from their Bakersfield factory at 404’ above sea level. (I’m guessing that was the origin of the bags we purchased in Escondido at 646’ above.) A quick check suggests the natural Frito-Lay supplier for Vail would be the Gothenburg, Nebraska factory which is at 2,569′.

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Maybe the potato chips had an unusually volatile flavor ingredient. Scent is the largest contributor to flavor; it isn’t a scent unless it’s volatile. Sometimes manufacturers screw up and put too much in.

Thanks for the puzzler. Reminds me of the days of yore.