Wednesday, February 29, 2012


The diagram is supposed to represent the passages or galleries in a mine. We will assume that every passage, A to B, B to C, C to H, H to I, and so on, is one furlong in length. It will be seen that there are thirty-one of these passages. Now, an official has to inspect all of them, and he descends by the shaft to the point A. How far must he travel, and what route do you recommend? The reader may at first say, "As there are thirty-one passages, each a furlong in length, he will have to travel just thirty-one furlongs." But this is assuming that he need never go along a passage more than once, which is not the case. Take your pencil and try to find the shortest route. You will soon discover that there is room for considerable judgment. In fact, it is a perplexing puzzle.


Wednesday, February 8, 2012


It is curious how an added condition or restriction will sometimes convert an absurdly easy puzzle into an interesting and perhaps difficult one. I remember buying in the street many years ago a little mechanical puzzle that had a tremendous sale at the time. It consisted of a medal with holes in it, and the puzzle was to work a ring with a gap in it from hole to hole until it was finally detached. As I was walking along the street I very soon acquired the trick of taking off the ring with one hand while holding the puzzle in my pocket. A friend to whom I showed the little feat set about accomplishing it himself, and when I met him some days afterwards he exhibited his proficiency in the art. But he was a little taken aback when I then took the puzzle from him and, while simply holding the medal between the finger and thumb of one hand, by a series of little shakes and jerks caused the ring, without my even touching it, to fall off upon the floor. The following little poser will probably prove a rather tough nut for a great many readers, simply on account of the restricted conditions:—

Show how to find exactly the middle of any straight line by means of the compasses only. You are not allowed to use any ruler, pencil, or other article—only the compasses; and no trick or dodge, such as folding the paper, will be permitted. You must simply use the compasses in the ordinary legitimate way.