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"A snapper up of unconsidered trifles."
Winter's Tale, iv. 2.


Anderson, Biggs, and Carpenter were staying together at a place by the seaside. One day they went out in a boat and were a mile at sea when a rifle was fired on shore in their direction. Why or by whom the shot was fired fortunately does not concern us, as no information on these points is obtainable, but from the facts I picked up we can get material for a curious little puzzle for the novice.

It seems that Anderson only heard the report of the gun, Biggs only saw the smoke, and Carpenter merely saw the bullet strike the water near them. Now, the question arises: Which of them first knew of the discharge of the rifle?



There is a certain village in Japan, situated in a very low valley, and yet the sun is nearer to the inhabitants every noon, by 3,000 miles and upwards, than when he either rises or sets to these people. In what part of the country is the village situated?



If the end of the world should come on the first day of a new century, can you say what are the chances that it will happen on a Sunday?



The illustration represents one of the most ancient of all mechanical puzzles. Its origin is unknown. Cardan, the mathematician, wrote about it in 1550, and Wallis in 1693; while it is said still to be found in obscure English villages (sometimes deposited in strange places, such as a church belfry), made of iron, and appropriately called "tiring-irons," and to be used by the Norwegians to-day as a lock for boxes and bags. In the toyshops it is sometimes called the "Chinese rings," though there seems to be no authority for the description, and it more frequently goes by the unsatisfactory name of "the puzzling rings." The French call it "Baguenaudier."

The puzzle will be seen to consist of a simple loop of wire fixed in a handle to be held in the left hand, and a certain number of rings secured by wires which pass through holes in the bar and are kept there by their blunted ends. The wires work freely in the bar, but cannot come apart from it, nor can the wires be removed from the rings. The general puzzle is to detach the loop completely from all the rings, and then to put them all on again.

Now, it will be seen at a glance that the first ring (to the right) can be taken off at any time by sliding it over the end and dropping it through the loop; or it may be put on by reversing the operation. With this exception, the only ring that can ever be removed is the one that happens to be a contiguous second on the loop at the right-hand end. Thus, with all the rings on, the second can be dropped at once; with the first ring down, you cannot drop the second, but may remove the third; with the first three rings down, you cannot drop the fourth, but may remove the fifth; and so on. It will be found that the first and second rings can be dropped together or put on together; but to prevent confusion we will throughout disallow this exceptional double move, and say that only one ring may be put on or removed at a time.

We can thus take off one ring in 1 move; two rings in 2 moves; three rings in 5 moves; four rings in 10 moves; five rings in 21 moves; and if we keep on doubling (and adding one where the number of rings is odd) we may easily ascertain the number of moves for completely removing any number of rings. To get off all the seven rings requires 85 moves. Let us look at the five moves made in removing the first three rings, the circles above the line standing for rings on the loop and those under for rings off the loop.

Drop the first ring; drop the third; put up the first; drop the second; and drop the first—5 moves, as shown clearly in the diagrams. The dark circles show at each stage, from the starting position to the finish, which rings it is possible to drop. After move 2 it will be noticed that no ring can be dropped until one has been put on, because the first and second rings from the right now on the loop are not together. After the fifth move, if we wish to remove all seven rings we must now drop the fifth. But before we can then remove the fourth it is necessary to put on the first three and remove the first two. We shall then have 7, 6, 4, 3 on the loop, and may therefore drop the fourth. When we have put on 2 and 1 and removed 3, 2, 1, we may drop the seventh ring. The next operation then will be to get 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 on the loop and remove 4, 3, 2, 1, when 6 will come off; then get 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 on the loop, and remove 3, 2, 1, when 5 will come off; then get 4, 3, 2, 1 on the loop and remove 2, 1, when 4 will come off; then get 3, 2, 1 on the loop and remove 1, when 3 will come off; then get 2, 1 on the loop, when 2 will come off; and 1 will fall through on the 85th move, leaving the loop quite free. The reader should now be able to understand the puzzle, whether or not he has it in his hand in a practical form.

The particular problem I propose is simply this. Suppose there are altogether fourteen rings on the tiring-irons, and we proceed to take them all off in the correct way so as not to waste any moves. What will be the position of the rings after the 9,999th move has been made?



In a suburban villa there is a small staircase with eight steps, not counting the landing. The little puzzle with which Tommy Smart perplexed his family is this. You are required to start from the bottom and land twice on the floor above (stopping there at the finish), having returned once to the ground floor. But you must be careful to use every tread the same number of times. In how few steps can you make the ascent? It seems a very simple matter, but it is more than likely that at your first attempt you will make a great many more steps than are necessary. Of course you must not go more than one riser at a time.

Tommy knows the trick, and has shown it to his father, who professes to have a contempt for such things; but when the children are in bed the pater will often take friends out into the hall and enjoy a good laugh at their bewilderment. And yet it is all so very simple when you know how it is done.



Here is a really hard puzzle, and yet its conditions are so absurdly simple. Every reader knows how to place four pennies so that they are equidistant from each other. All you have to do is to arrange three of them flat on the table so that they touch one another in the form of a triangle, and lay the fourth penny on top in the centre. Then, as every penny touches every other penny, they are all at equal distances from one another. Now try to do the same thing with five pennies—place them so that every penny shall touch every other penny—and you will find it a different matter altogether.



Our friend Professor Rackbrane is seen in the illustration to be propounding another of his little posers. He is explaining that since he last had occasion to take down those three volumes of a learned book from their place on his shelves a bookworm has actually bored a hole straight through from the first page to the last. He says that the leaves are together three inches thick in each volume, and that every cover is exactly one-eighth of an inch thick, and he asks how long a tunnel had the industrious worm to bore in preparing his new tube railway. Can you tell him?



This is a puzzle based on a pretty little idea first dealt with by the late Mr. Sam Loyd. A man had nine pieces of chain, as shown in the illustration. He wanted to join these fifty links into one endless chain. It will cost a penny to open any link and twopence to weld a link together again, but he could buy a new endless chain of the same character and quality for 2s. 2d. What was the cheapest course for him to adopt? Unless the reader is cunning he may find himself a good way out in his answer.



I have come across the following little poser in an old book. I wonder how many readers will see the author's intended solution to the riddle.

Christians the week's first day for Sabbath hold;
The Jews the seventh, as they did of old;
The Turks the sixth, as we have oft been told.
How can these three, in the same place and day,
Have each his own true Sabbath? tell, I pray.



The annals of Scotland Yard contain some remarkable cases of jewel robberies, but one of the most perplexing was the theft of Lady Littlewood's rubies. There have, of course, been many greater robberies in point of value, but few so artfully conceived. Lady Littlewood, of Romley Manor, had a beautiful but rather eccentric heirloom in the form of a ruby brooch. While staying at her town house early in the eighties she took the jewel to a shop in Brompton for some slight repairs.

"A fine collection of rubies, madam," said the shopkeeper, to whom her ladyship was a stranger.

"Yes," she replied; "but curiously enough I have never actually counted them. My mother once pointed out to me that if you start from the centre and count up one line, along the outside and down the next line, there are always eight rubies. So I should always know if a stone were missing."

Six months later a brother of Lady Littlewood's, who had returned from his regiment in India, noticed that his sister was wearing the ruby brooch one night at a county ball, and on their return home asked to look at it more closely. He immediately detected the fact that four of the stones were gone.

"How can that possibly be?" said Lady Littlewood. "If you count up one line from the centre, along the edge, and down the next line, in any direction, there are always eight stones. This was always so and is so now. How, therefore, would it be possible to remove a stone without my detecting it?"

"Nothing could be simpler," replied the brother. "I know the brooch well. It originally contained forty-five stones, and there are now only forty-one. Somebody has stolen four rubies, and then reset as small a number of the others as possible in such a way that there shall always be eight in any of the directions you have mentioned."

There was not the slightest doubt that the Brompton jeweller was the thief, and the matter was placed in the hands of the police. But the man was wanted for other robberies, and had left the neighbourhood some time before. To this day he has never been found.

The interesting little point that at first baffled the police, and which forms the subject of our puzzle, is this: How were the forty-five rubies originally arranged on the brooch? The illustration shows exactly how the forty-one were arranged after it came back from the jeweller; but although they count eight correctly in any of the directions mentioned, there are four stones missing.



Here is a curious mechanical puzzle that was given to me some years ago, but I cannot say who first invented it. It consists of two solid blocks of wood securely dovetailed together. On the other two vertical sides that are not visible the appearance is precisely the same as on those shown. How were the pieces put together? When I published this little puzzle in a London newspaper I received (though they were unsolicited) quite a stack of models, in oak, in teak, in mahogany, rosewood, satinwood, elm, and deal; some half a foot in length, and others varying in size right down to a delicate little model about half an inch square. It seemed to create considerable interest.



The illustration, by a British artist, is a sketch of Jack climbing the beanstalk. Now, the artist has made a serious blunder in this drawing. Can you find out what it is?



The worthy vicar of Chumpley St. Winifred is in great distress. A little church difficulty has arisen that all the combined intelligence of the parish seems unable to surmount. What this difficulty is I will state hereafter, but it may add to the interest of the problem if I first give a short account of the curious position that has been brought about. It all has to do with the church hymn-boards, the plates of which have become so damaged that they have ceased to fulfil the purpose for which they were devised. A generous parishioner has promised to pay for a new set of plates at a certain rate of cost; but strange as it may seem, no agreement can be come to as to what that cost should be. The proposed maker of the plates has named a price which the donor declares to be absurd. The good vicar thinks they are both wrong, so he asks the schoolmaster to work out the little sum. But this individual declares that he can find no rule bearing on the subject in any of his arithmetic books. An application having been made to the local medical practitioner, as a man of more than average intellect at Chumpley, he has assured the vicar that his practice is so heavy that he has not had time even to look at it, though his assistant whispers that the doctor has been sitting up unusually late for several nights past. Widow Wilson has a smart son, who is reputed to have once won a prize for puzzle-solving. He asserts that as he cannot find any solution to the problem it must have something to do with the squaring of the circle, the duplication of the cube, or the trisection of an angle; at any rate, he has never before seen a puzzle on the principle, and he gives it up.

This was the state of affairs when the assistant curate (who, I should say, had frankly confessed from the first that a profound study of theology had knocked out of his head all the knowledge of mathematics he ever possessed) kindly sent me the puzzle.

A church has three hymn-boards, each to indicate the numbers of five different hymns to be sung at a service. All the boards are in use at the same service. The hymn-book contains 700 hymns. A new set of numbers is required, and a kind parishioner offers to present a set painted on metal plates, but stipulates that only the smallest number of plates necessary shall be purchased. The cost of each plate is to be 6d., and for the painting of each plate the charges are to be: For one plate, 1s.; for two plates alike, 11¾d. each; for three plates alike, 11½d. each, and so on, the charge being one farthing less per plate for each similarly painted plate. Now, what should be the lowest cost?

Readers will note that they are required to use every legitimate and practical method of economy. The illustration will make clear the nature of the three hymn-boards and plates. The five hymns are here indicated by means of twelve plates. These plates slide in separately at the back, and in the illustration there is room, of course, for three more plates.



A Cockney friend, who is very apt to draw the long bow, and is evidently less of a sportsman than he pretends to be, relates to me the following not very credible yarn:—

"I've just been pheasant-shooting with my friend the duke. We had splendid sport, and I made some wonderful shots. What do you think of this, for instance? Perhaps you can twist it into a puzzle. The duke and I were crossing a field when suddenly twenty-four pheasants rose on the wing right in front of us. I fired, and two-thirds of them dropped dead at my feet. Then the duke had a shot at what were left, and brought down three-twenty-fourths of them, wounded in the wing. Now, out of those twenty-four birds, how many still remained?"

It seems a simple enough question, but can the reader give a correct answer?



A correspondent, signing himself "Simple Simon," suggested that I should give a special catch puzzle in the issue of The Weekly Dispatch for All Fools' Day, 1900. So I gave the following, and it caused considerable amusement; for out of a very large body of competitors, many quite expert, not a single person solved it, though it ran for nearly a month.

"The illustration is a fancy sketch of my correspondent, 'Simple Simon,' in the act of trying to solve the following innocent little arithmetical puzzle. A race between a man and a woman that I happened to witness one All Fools' Day has fixed itself indelibly on my memory. It happened at a country-house, where the gardener and the cook decided to run a race to a point 100 feet straight away and return. I found that the gardener ran 3 feet at every bound and the cook only 2 feet, but then she made three bounds to his two. Now, what was the result of the race?"

A fortnight after publication I added the following note: "It has been suggested that perhaps there is a catch in the 'return,' but there is not. The race is to a point 100 feet away and home again—that is, a distance of 200 feet. One correspondent asks whether they take exactly the same time in turning, to which I reply that they do. Another seems to suspect that it is really a conundrum, and that the answer is that 'the result of the race was a (matrimonial) tie.' But I had no such intention. The puzzle is an arithmetical one, as it purports to be."



Here is an interesting little puzzle suggested to me by Mr. W. T. Whyte. Mark off on a sheet of paper a rectangular space 5 inches by 3 inches, and then find the greatest number of halfpennies that can be placed within the enclosure under the following conditions. A halfpenny is exactly an inch in diameter. Place your first halfpenny where you like, then place your second coin at exactly the distance of an inch from the first, the third an inch distance from the second, and so on. No halfpenny may touch another halfpenny or cross the boundary. Our illustration will make the matter perfectly clear. No. 2 coin is an inch from No. 1; No. 3 an inch from No. 2; No. 4 an inch from No. 3; but after No. 10 is placed we can go no further in this attempt. Yet several more halfpennies might have been got in. How many can the reader place?



One summer day in 1903 I was loitering on the Brighton front, watching the people strolling about on the beach, when the friend who was with me suddenly drew my attention to an individual who was standing alone, and said, "Can you point out that man's wife? They are stopping at the same hotel as I am, and the lady is one of those in view." After a few minutes' observation, I was successful in indicating the lady correctly. My friend was curious to know by what method of reasoning I had arrived at the result. This was my answer:—

"We may at once exclude that Sister of Mercy and the girl in the short frock; also the woman selling oranges. It cannot be the lady in widows' weeds. It is not the lady in the bath chair, because she is not staying at your hotel, for I happened to see her come out of a private house this morning assisted by her maid. The two ladies in red breakfasted at my hotel this morning, and as they were not wearing outdoor dress I conclude they are staying there. It therefore rests between the lady in blue and the one with the green parasol. But the left hand that holds the parasol is, you see, ungloved and bears no wedding-ring. Consequently I am driven to the conclusion that the lady in blue is the man's wife—and you say this is correct."

Now, as my friend was an artist, and as I thought an amusing puzzle might be devised on the lines of his question, I asked him to make me a drawing according to some directions that I gave him, and I have pleasure in presenting his production to my readers. It will be seen that the picture shows six men and six ladies: Nos. 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, and 11 are ladies, and Nos. 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12 are men. These twelve individuals represent six married couples, all strangers to one another, who, in walking aimlessly about, have got mixed up. But we are only concerned with the man that is wearing a straw hat—Number 10. The puzzle is to find this man's wife. Examine the six ladies carefully, and see if you can determine which one of them it is.

I showed the picture at the time to a few friends, and they expressed very different opinions on the matter. One said, "I don't believe he would marry a girl like Number 7." Another said, "I am sure a nice girl like Number 3 would not marry such a fellow!" Another said, "It must be Number 1, because she has got as far away as possible from the brute!" It was suggested, again, that it must be Number 11, because "he seems to be looking towards her;" but a cynic retorted, "For that very reason, if he is really looking at her, I should say that she is not his wife!"

I now leave the question in the hands of my readers. Which is really Number 10's wife?

The illustration is of necessity considerably reduced from the large scale on which it originally appeared in The Weekly Dispatch (24th May 1903), but it is hoped that the details will be sufficiently clear to allow the reader to derive entertainment from its examination. In any case the solution given will enable him to follow the points with interest.



This was the last Puzzle



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