Tuesday, May 28, 2013


The puzzle in this case is simply to take your pencil and, starting from one black star, strike out all the stars in twelve straight strokes, ending at the other black star. It will be seen that the attempt shown in the illustration requires fifteen strokes. Can you do it in twelve? Every turning must be made on a star, and the lines must be parallel to the sides and diagonals of the square, as shown. In this case we are dealing with a chessboard of reduced dimensions, but only queen moves (without going outside the boundary as in the last case) are required.


Monday, May 20, 2013


A wicked baron in the good old days imprisoned an innocent maiden in one of the deepest dungeons beneath the castle moat. It will be seen from our illustration that there were sixty-three cells in the dungeon, all connected by open doors, and the maiden was chained in the cell in which she is shown. Now, a valiant knight, who loved the damsel, succeeded in rescuing her from the enemy. Having gained an entrance to the dungeon at the point where he is seen, he succeeded in reaching the maiden after entering every cell once and only once. Take your pencil and try to trace out such a route. When you have succeeded, then try to discover a route in twenty-two straight paths through the cells. It can be done in this number without entering any cell a second time.


Tuesday, May 7, 2013


An antiquary possessed a number of curious old links, which he took to a blacksmith, and told him to join together to form one straight piece of chain, with the sole condition that the two circular links were not to be together. The following illustration shows the appearance of the chain and the form of each link. Now, supposing the owner should separate the links again, and then take them to another smith and repeat his former instructions exactly, what are the chances against the links being put together exactly as they were by the first man? Remember that every successive link can be joined on to another in one of two ways, just as you can put a ring on your finger in two ways, or link your forefingers and thumbs in two ways.


Tuesday, April 30, 2013


When Philip of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great, found himself confronted with great difficulties in the siege of Byzantium, he set his men to undermine the walls. His desires, however, miscarried, for no sooner had the operations been begun than a crescent moon suddenly appeared in the heavens and discovered his plans to his adversaries. The Byzantines were naturally elated, and in order to show their gratitude they erected a statue to Diana, and the crescent became thenceforward a symbol of the state. In the temple that contained the statue was a square pavement composed of sixty-four large and costly tiles. These were all plain, with the exception of five, which bore the symbol of the crescent. These five were for occult reasons so placed that every tile should be watched over by (that is, in a straight line, vertically, horizontally, or diagonally with) at least one of the crescents. The arrangement adopted by the Byzantine architect was as follows:—

Now, to cover up one of these five crescents was a capital offence, the death being something very painful and lingering. But on a certain occasion of festivity it was necessary to lay down on this pavement a square carpet of the largest dimensions possible, and I have shown in the illustration by dark shading the largest dimensions that would be available.
The puzzle is to show how the architect, if he had foreseen this question of the carpet, might have so arranged his five crescent tiles in accordance with the required conditions, and yet have allowed for the largest possible square carpet to be laid down without any one of the five crescent tiles being covered, or any portion of them.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


The art of producing pictures or designs by means of joining together pieces of hard substances, either naturally or artificially coloured, is of very great antiquity. It was certainly known in the time of the Pharaohs, and we find a reference in the Book of Esther to "a pavement of red, and blue, and white, and black marble." Some of this ancient work that has come down to us, especially some of the Roman mosaics, would seem to show clearly, even where design is not at first evident, that much thought was bestowed upon apparently disorderly arrangements. Where, for example, the work has been produced with a very limited number of colours, there are evidences of great ingenuity in preventing the same tints coming in close proximity. Lady readers who are familiar with the construction of patchwork quilts will know how desirable it is sometimes, when they are limited in the choice of material, to prevent pieces of the same stuff coming too near together. Now, this puzzle will apply equally to patchwork quilts or tesselated pavements.
It will be seen from the diagram how a square piece of flooring may be paved with sixty-two square tiles of the eight colours violet, red, yellow, green, orange, purple, white, and blue (indicated by the initial letters), so that no tile is in line with a similarly coloured tile, vertically, horizontally, or diagonally. Sixty-four such tiles could not possibly be placed under these conditions, but the two shaded squares happen to be occupied by iron ventilators.

The puzzle is this. These two ventilators have to be removed to the positions indicated by the darkly bordered tiles, and two tiles placed in those bottom corner squares. Can you readjust the thirty-two tiles so that no two of the same colour shall still be in line?


Monday, April 8, 2013


Once upon a time the Lord Abbot of St. Edmondsbury, in consequence of "devotions too strong for his head," fell sick and was unable to leave his bed. As he lay awake, tossing his head restlessly from side to side, the attentive monks noticed that something was disturbing his mind; but nobody dared ask what it might be, for the abbot was of a stern disposition, and never would brook inquisitiveness. Suddenly he called for Father John, and that venerable monk was soon at the bedside.
"Father John," said the Abbot, "dost thou know that I came into this wicked world on a Christmas Even?"
The monk nodded assent.
"And have I not often told thee that, having been born on Christmas Even, I have no love for the things that are odd? Look there!"


This is a new and interesting companion puzzle to the "Fifteen Schoolgirls" (see solution of No. 269), and even in the simplest possible form in which I present it there are unquestionable difficulties. Nine schoolboys walk out in triplets on the six week days so that no boy ever walks side by side with any other boy more than once. How would you arrange them?
If we represent them by the first nine letters of the alphabet, they might be grouped on the first day as follows:—
Then A can never walk again side by side with B, or B with C, or D with E, and so on. But A can, of course, walk side by side with C. It is here not a question of being together in the same triplet, but of walking side by side in a triplet. Under these conditions they can walk out on six days; under the "Schoolgirls" conditions they can only walk on four days.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


A certain cyclopædia has the following curious problem, I am told: "Place fifteen sheep in four pens so that there shall be the same number of sheep in each pen." No answer whatever is vouchsafed, so I thought I would investigate the matter. I saw that in dealing with apples or bricks the thing would appear to be quite impossible, since four times any number must be an even number, while fifteen is an odd number. I thought, therefore, that there must be some quality peculiar to the sheep that was not generally known. So I decided to interview some farmers on the subject. The first one pointed out that if we put one pen inside another, like the rings of a target, and placed all sheep in the smallest pen, it would be all right. But I objected to this, because you admittedly place all the sheep in one pen, not in four pens. The second man said that if I placed four sheep in each of three pens and three sheep in the last pen (that is fifteen sheep in all), and one of the ewes in the last pen had a lamb during the night, there would be the same number in each pen in the morning. This also failed to satisfy me.

The third farmer said, "I've got four hurdle pens down in one of my fields, and a small flock of wethers, so if you will just step down with me I will show you how it is done." The illustration depicts my friend as he is about to demonstrate the matter to me. His lucid explanation was evidently that which was in the mind of the writer of the article in the cyclopædia. What was it? Can you place those fifteen sheep?


Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Eight motorists drove to church one morning. Their respective houses and churches, together with the only roads available (the dotted lines), are shown. One went from his house A to his church A, another from his house B to his church B, another from C to C, and so on, but it was afterwards found that no driver ever crossed the track of another car. Take your pencil and try to trace out their various routes.


Tuesday, February 19, 2013


The man in our illustration is in a little dilemma. He has just been appointed inspector of a certain system of tube railways, and it is his duty to inspect regularly, within a stated period, all the company's seventeen lines connecting twelve stations, as shown on the big poster plan that he is contemplating. Now he wants to arrange his route so that it shall take him over all the lines with as little travelling as possible. He may begin where he likes and end where he likes. What is his shortest route?
Could anything be simpler? But the reader will soon find that, however he decides to proceed, the inspector must go over some of the lines more than once. In other words, if we say that the stations are a mile apart, he will have to travel more than seventeen miles to inspect every line. There is the little difficulty. How far is he compelled to travel, and which route do you recommend?

Monday, February 11, 2013


"Play fair!" said the mice. "You know the rules of the game."
"Yes, I know the rules," said the cat. "I've got to go round and round the circle, in the direction that you are looking, and eat every thirteenth mouse, but I must keep the white mouse for a tit-bit at the finish. Thirteen is an unlucky number, but I will do my best to oblige you."
"Hurry up, then!" shouted the mice.
"Give a fellow time to think," said the cat. "I don't know which of you to start at. I must figure it out."
While the cat was working out the puzzle he fell asleep, and, the spell being thus broken, the mice returned home in safety. At which mouse should the cat have started the count in order that the white mouse should be the last eaten?
When the reader has solved that little puzzle, here is a second one for him. What is the smallest number that the cat can count round and round the circle, if he must start at the white mouse (calling that "one" in the count) and still eat the white mouse last of all?
And as a third puzzle try to discover what is the smallest number that the cat can count round and round if she must start at the white mouse (calling that "one") and make the white mouse the third eaten.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


Make a diagram, on a large sheet of paper, like the illustration, and have three counters marked A, three marked B, and three marked C. It will be seen that at the intersection of lines there are nine stopping-places, and a tenth stopping-place is attached to the outer circle like the tail of a Q. Place the three counters or engines marked A, the three marked B, and the three marked C at the places indicated. The puzzle is to move the engines, one at a time, along the lines, from stopping-place to stopping-place, until you succeed in getting an A, a B, and a C on each circle, and also A, B, and C on each straight line. You are required to do this in as few moves as possible. How many moves do you need?


Monday, February 4, 2013


A short time ago I received an interesting communication from the British chaplain at Meiktila, Upper Burma, in which my correspondent informed me that he had found some amusement on board ship on his way out in trying to solve this little poser.

If he has a plantation of forty-nine trees, planted in the form of a square as shown in the accompanying illustration, he wishes to know how he may cut down twenty-seven of the trees so that the twenty-two left standing shall form as many rows as possible with four trees in every row.

Of course there may not be more than four trees in any row.


Wednesday, January 30, 2013


I have a wooden cone, as shown in Fig. 1. How am I to cut out of it the greatest possible cylinder? It will be seen that I can cut out one that is long and slender, like Fig. 2, or short and thick, like Fig. 3. But neither is the largest possible. A child could tell you where to cut, if he knew the rule. Can you find this simple rule?


Tuesday, January 29, 2013


There was a small lake, around which four poor men built their cottages. Four rich men afterwards built their mansions, as shown in the illustration, and they wished to have the lake to themselves, so they instructed a builder to put up the shortest possible wall that would exclude the cottagers, but give themselves free access to the lake. How was the wall to be built?


Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Professor Rackbrain tells me that he was recently smoking a friendly pipe under a tree in the garden of a country acquaintance. The garden was enclosed by four straight walls, and his friend informed him that he had measured these and found the lengths to be 80, 45, 100, and 63 yards respectively. "Then," said the professor, "we can calculate the exact area of the garden." "Impossible," his host replied, "because you can get an infinite number of different shapes with those four sides." "But you forget," Rackbrane said, with a twinkle in his eye, "that you told me once you had planted this tree equidistant from all the four corners of the garden." Can you work out the garden's area?


Saturday, January 19, 2013


Mrs. Smiley's expression of pleasure was sincere when her six granddaughters sent to her, as a Christmas present, a very pretty patchwork quilt, which they had made with their own hands. It was constructed of square pieces of silk material, all of one size, and as they made a large quilt with fourteen of these little squares on each side, it is obvious that just 196 pieces had been stitched into it. Now, the six granddaughters each contributed a part of the work in the form of a perfect square (all six portions being different in size), but in order to join them up to form the square quilt it was necessary that the work of one girl should be unpicked into three separate pieces. Can you show how the joins might have been made? Of course, no portion can be turned over.


Monday, January 7, 2013


Can you cut this chain out of a piece of cardboard without any join whatever? Every link is solid; without its having been split and afterwards joined at any place. It is an interesting old puzzle that I learnt as a child, but I have no knowledge as to its inventor.


Wednesday, January 2, 2013


A joiner had two pieces of wood of the shapes and relative proportions shown in the diagram. He wished to cut them into as few pieces as possible so that they could be fitted together, without waste, to form a perfectly square table-top. How should he have done it? There is no necessity to give measurements, for if the smaller piece (which is half a square) be made a little too large or a little too small it will not affect the method of solution.