How to Find Waldo

Ben Blatt, writing at Slate, has a very good analysis of looking at 25 years of Where’s Waldo? books to give an insight on where you should start looking for Waldo, if the challenge is ever presented to you.

I knew that Handford had placed Waldo in each of these illustrations, and in my experience, all people—even people who make a living hiding cartoon men in cartoon landscapes—have tendencies, be they conscious and unconscious. True randomness is very difficult to achieve, even if you want to, and according to Handford he does not necessarily aim for unpredictability. “As I work my way through a picture, I add Wally when I come to what I feel is a good place to hide him,” he once told Scholastic. Knowing this, is it possible, I wondered, to master Where’s Waldo by mapping Handford’s patterns?

I sought to answer these questions the way any mathematician who has no qualms about appearing ridiculous in public would: I sat in a Barnes & Noble for three hours flipping through all seven Where’s Waldo books with a tape measure.

The map born of my experiment is below.

Turns out, more than 50% of the time, Waldo is hiding within one of two 1.5-inch tall bands, one starting three inches from the bottom of the page and another one starting seven inches from the bottom, stretching across the spread:

waldo_map

 

This makes sense. Most people would start looking near the top or bottom or at the corners, so that would be counterproductive to place Waldo there. Ignoring the small sample size, this is a better search criterion than the alternative!

 

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