Thursday, April 15, 2010

Answer: A tough song to find

When my friend sent me that puzzler he commented that he'd been searching for quite a while and hadn't had any luck. He wrote:

    What's the name of the jazz standard song, recorded by Billie Holiday,
    Frank Sinatra, and others, that includes the lyric "It was just one of those things",
    but is not Cole Porter's "Just one of Those Things"?

His question gave me a couple of important clues.  First, I know he's a smart guy, so the first, obvious query wasn't going to work.  (Otherwise he wouldn't have said anything to me.)

Second, he gave me a clue that the Cole Porter song "Just one of those things" was going to be invading my search results.  So if I'd need to exclude those results somehow.

And THAT's a big clue about what to do.

Whenever you find unwanted results "invading" your search results page with hits that are close, but not really right, that's a call to use the minus operator as a way to remove unwanted results.

So my first query was:

    [ "it was just one of those things" billie holiday -porter ] 

Note that MINUS sign in front of the term "porter."  I knew I didn't want to see anything from the song with the title "Just one of those things" and I knew there was no way to remove any results that had song TITLE as "Just one of those things."  The only thing left to do was to move Cole Porter, somehow, from the results set.

I chose to do -porter because I didn't know if all the songs would have "Cole" in the attribution (as opposed to saying "C. Porter").

The big point here is that I chose a relatively uncommon term ("porter") that would knock out any of the songs he'd written, but leave everything else.

My results were pretty good.  All of the top ten hits were exactly the thing I was looking for.   "Come Rain or Come Shine" by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer.

My search time was around 10 seconds, which included 5 seconds of clicking through the first result to verify that it was a real song...

Tip of the day:  Use minus to remove "invading results" from your SERP.  When you pick the term to exclude, try to pick something that's pretty obscure (but always a part of the thing you want to exclude--you don't want to OVER-exclude things that might actually have the answer.  

Search on!  

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