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.