Martin Gardner called this the proudest puzzle of his own devising. When the pieces on the left are rearranged as on the right, a hole appears in the center of the square. How is this possible?
“I haven’t the foggiest notion of how to succeed in inventing a good puzzle,” he told the College Mathematics Journal. “I don’t think psychologists understand much either about how mathematical discoveries are made. … The creative act is still a mystery.”
A puzzle by Polish mathematician Paul Vaderlind:
Andre Agassi and Boris Becker are playing tennis. Agassi wins the first set 6-3. If there were 5 service breaks in the set, did Becker serve the first game?
(Service changes with each new game in the 9-game set. A service break is a game won by the non-server.)
By Werner Keym, from Die Schwalbe, 1979. What were the last moves by White and Black?
Two adjoining lakes are connected by a lock. The lakes differ by 2 meters in elevation. A boat can pass from the lower lake to the upper by passing through the lock gate, which is closed behind it; then water is added to the lock chamber until its level matches that of the upper lake, and the boat can pass out through the upper gate.
Now suppose two boats do this in succession. The first boat weighs 50 tons, the second only 5 tons. How much more water must be used to raise the small boat than the large one?
This scale balances a cup of water with a certain weight. Will the balance be upset if you put your finger in the water, if you’re careful not to touch the glass?
A curious puzzle by George Koltanowski, from America Salutes Comins Mansfield, 1983. “Who mates in 1?”
A puzzle by Lewis Carroll:
A bag contains one counter, known to be either white or black. A white counter is put in, the bag shaken, and a counter drawn out, which proves to be white. What is now the chance of drawing a white counter?
A puzzle by Henry Dudeney:
A lady is accustomed to buy from her greengrocer large bundles of asparagus, each twelve inches in circumference. The other day the man had no large bundles in stock, but handed her instead two small ones, each six inches in circumference. “That is the same thing,” she said, “and, of course, the price will be the same.” But the man insisted that the two bundles together contained more than the large one, and charged a few pence extra. Which was correct — the lady or the greengrocer?
Raymond Smullyan presented this puzzle on the cover of his excellent 1979 book The Chess Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes. Black moved last. What was his move?
You’ve just won a set of singles tennis. What’s the least number of times your racket can have struck the ball? Remember that if you miss the ball while serving, it’s a fault.
The Renaissance mathematician Niccolò Tartaglia would use this bewildering riddle to assess neophytes in logic:
If half of 5 were 3, what would a third of 10 be?
What’s the answer?
A mother takes two strides to her daughter’s three. If they set out walking together, each starting with the right foot, when will they first step together with the left?
By M. Charosh, from the Fairy Chess Review, 1937. White to mate in zero moves.
A puzzle by Henry Dudeney:
The Dobsons secured apartments at Slocomb-on-Sea. There were six rooms on the same floor, all communicating, as shown in the diagram. The rooms they took were numbers 4, 5, and 6, all facing the sea.
But a little difficulty arose. Mr. Dobson insisted that the piano and the bookcase should change rooms. This was wily, for the Dobsons were not musical, but they wanted to prevent any one else playing the instrument.
Now, the rooms were very small and the pieces of furniture indicated were very big, so that no two of these articles could be got into any room at the same time. How was the exchange to be made with the least possible labour? Suppose, for example, you first move the wardrobe into No. 2; then you can move the bookcase to No. 5 and the piano to No. 6, and so on.
It is a fascinating puzzle, but the landlady had reasons for not appreciating it. Try to solve her difficulty in the fewest possible removals with counters on a sheet of paper.
Here are seven pennies, all heads up. In a single move you can turn over any four of them. By repeatedly making such moves, can you eventually turn all seven pennies tails up?
Prove that, at any given moment, there are two points on the equator that are diametrically opposed yet have the same temperature.
Another puzzle from Henry Dudeney:
“It is a glorious game!” an enthusiast was heard to exclaim. “At the close of last season, of the footballers of my acquaintance, four had broken their left arm, five had broken their right arm, two had the right arm sound, and three had sound left arms.” Can you discover from that statement what is the smallest number of players that the speaker could be acquainted with?
From the 1977 all-Soviet-Union Mathematical Olympiad:
Seven dwarfs are sitting at a round table. Each has a cup, and some cups contain milk. Each dwarf in turn pours all his milk into the other six cups, dividing it equally among them. After the seventh dwarf has done this, they find that each cup again contains its initial quantity of milk. How much milk does each cup contain, if there were 42 ounces of milk altogether?
We’ve removed two squares from this 7×8 grid, so that it numbers 54 squares. Can it be covered orthogonally with tiles like the one at right, each of which covers exactly three squares?
A puzzle by Henry Dudeney:
A man planted two poles upright in level ground. One pole was six and a half feet and the other seven feet seven inches above ground. From the top of each pole he tied a string to the bottom of the other — just where it entered the ground. Now, what height above the ground was the point where the two strings crossed one another? The hasty reader will perhaps say, “You have forgotten to tell us how far the poles were apart.” But that point is of no consequence whatever, as it does not affect the answer!