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The problem of constructing magic squares with prime numbers only was first discussed by myself in The Weekly Dispatch for 22nd July and 5th August 1900; but during the last three or four years it has received great attention from American mathematicians. First, they have sought to form these squares with the lowest possible constants. Thus, the first nine prime numbers, 1 to 23 inclusive, sum to 99, which (being divisible by 3) is theoretically a suitable series; yet it has been demonstrated that the lowest possible constant is 111, and the required series as follows: 1, 7, 13, 31, 37, 43, 61, 67, and 73. Similarly, in the case of the fourth order, the lowest series of primes that are "theoretically suitable" will not serve. But in every other order, up to the 12th inclusive, magic squares have been constructed with the lowest series of primes theoretically possible. And the 12th is the lowest order in which a straight series of prime numbers, unbroken, from 1 upwards has been made to work. In other words, the first 144 odd prime numbers have actually been arranged in magic form. The following summary is taken from The Monist (Chicago) for October 1913:—

of Square.
of Series.
made by—
3rd 333 111 Henry E.
Dudeney (1900).
4th 408 102 Ernest Bergholt
and C. D. Shuldham.
5th 1065 213 H. A. Sayles.
6th 2448 408 C. D. Shuldham
and J. N. Muncey.
7th 4893 699 do.
8th 8912 1114 do.
9th 15129 1681 do.
10th 24160 2416 J. N. Muncey.
11th 36095 3355 do.
12th 54168 4514 do.

For further details the reader should consult the article itself, by W. S. Andrews and H. A. Sayles.

These same investigators have also performed notable feats in constructing associated and bordered prime magics, and Mr. Shuldham has sent me a remarkable paper in which he gives examples of Nasik squares constructed with primes for all orders from the 4th to the 10th, with the exception of the 3rd (which is clearly impossible) and the 9th, which, up to the time of writing, has baffled all attempts.


This is the form in which I first introduced the question of magic squares with prime numbers. I will here warn the reader that there is a little trap.

A fruit merchant had nine baskets. Every basket contained plums (all sound and ripe), and the number in every basket was different. When placed as shown in the illustration they formed a magic square, so that if he took any three baskets in a line in the eight possible directions there would always be the same number of plums. This part of the puzzle is easy enough to understand. But what follows seems at first sight a little queer.

The merchant told one of his men to distribute the contents of any basket he chose among some children, giving plums to every child so that each should receive an equal number. But the man found it quite impossible, no matter which basket he selected and no matter how many children he included in the treat. Show, by giving contents of the nine baskets, how this could come about.



Before Mr. Beauchamp Cholmondely Marjoribanks set out on his tour in the Far East, he prided himself on his knowledge of magic squares, a subject that he had made his special hobby; but he soon discovered that he had never really touched more than the fringe of the subject, and that the wily Chinee could beat him easily. I present a little problem that one learned mandarin propounded to our traveller, as depicted on the last page.

The Chinaman, after remarking that the construction of the ordinary magic square of twenty-five cells is "too velly muchee easy," asked our countryman so to place the numbers 1 to 25 in the square that every column, every row, and each of the two diagonals should add up 65, with only prime numbers on the shaded "T." Of course the prime numbers available are 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, and 23, so you are at liberty to select any nine of these that will serve your purpose. Can you construct this curious little magic square?



As we have just discussed the construction of magic squares with prime numbers, the following forms an interesting companion problem. Make a magic square with nine consecutive composite numbers—the smallest possible.



Here is a problem that has never yet been solved, nor has its impossibility been demonstrated. Play the knight once to every square of the chessboard in a complete tour, numbering the squares in the order visited, so that when completed the square shall be "magic," adding up to 260 in every column, every row, and each of the two long diagonals. I shall give the best answer that I have been able to obtain, in which there is a slight error in the diagonals alone. Can a perfect solution be found? I am convinced that it cannot, but it is only a "pious opinion."


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