A problem from the 1994 Italian Mathematical Olympiad:
Every inhabitant on the island of knights and scoundrels is either a knight (who always tells the truth) or a scoundrel (who always lies). A visiting journalist interviews each inhabitant exactly once and gets the following answers:
A1: On this island there is at least one scoundrel.
A2: On this island there are at least two scoundrels.
An-1: On this island there are at least n – 1 scoundrels.
An: On this island everyone is a scoundrel.
Can the journalist decide whether the knights outnumber the scoundrels?
This pleasing cryptarithm, by Bob High, appears in the September/October 2014 issue of MIT Technology Review. If each letter stands for a digit, what arithmetic sum is enciphered here?
The Martian parliament consists of a single house. Every member has three enemies at most among the other members. Show that it’s possible to divide the parliament into two houses so that every member has one enemy at most in his house.
Take two decks of cards, minus the jokers, shuffle them together, and divide them into two piles of 52 cards. What is the probability that the number of red cards in the Pile A equals the number of black cards in Pile B? How many cards would you have to view to be certain of your answer?
This unit square is divided into four regions by a diagonal and a line that connects a vertex to the midpoint of an opposite side. What are the areas of the four regions?
A rather baroque problem by Émile Leonard Pradignat. White to mate in two moves.
Two lines divide this equilateral triangle into four sections. The shaded sections have the same area. What is the measure of the obtuse angle between the lines?
To pay for 1 frognab you’ll need at least four standard U.S. coins. To pay for 2, you’ll need at least six coins. But you can buy three with two coins. How much is 1 frognab?
The knight’s tour is a familiar task in chess: On a bare board, find a path by which a knight visits each of the 64 squares exactly once. There are many solutions, but finding them by hand can be tricky — the knight tends to get stuck in a backwater, surrounding by squares that it’s already visited. In 1823 H.C. von Warnsdorff suggested a simple rule: Always move the knight to a square from which it will have the fewest available subsequent moves.
This turns out to be remarkably effective: It produces a successful tour more than 85% of the time on boards smaller than 50×50, and more than 50% of the time on boards smaller than 100×100. (Strangely, on a 7×7 board its success rate drops to 75%; see this paper.) The video above shows a successful tour on a standard chessboard; here’s another on a 14×14 board:
While we’re at it: British puzzle expert Henry Dudeney once set himself the task of devising a complete knight’s tour of a cube each of whose sides is a chessboard. He came up with this:
If you cut out the figure, fold it into a cube and fasten it using the tabs provided, you’ll have a map of the knight’s path. It can start anywhere and make its way around the whole cube, visiting each of the 364 squares once and returning to its starting point.
Dudeney also came up with this puzzle. The square below contains 36 letters. Exchange each letter once with a letter that’s connected with it by a knight’s move so that you produce a word square — a square whose first row and first column comprise the same six-letter word, as do the second row and second column, and so on.
So, for example, starting with the top row you might exchange T with E, O with R, A with M, and so on. “A little thought will greatly simplify the task,” Dudeney writes. “Thus, as there is only one O, one L, and one N, these must clearly be transferred to the diagonal from the top left-hand corner to the bottom right-hand corner. Then, as the letters in the first row must be the same as in the first file, in the second row as in the second file, and so on, you are generally limited in your choice of making a pair. The puzzle can therefore be solved in a very few minutes.”
Canadian doctor Samuel Bean created a curious tombstone for his first two wives, Henrietta and Susanna, who died in succession in the 1860s and are buried side by side in Rushes Cemetery near Crosshill, Wellesley Township, Ontario. The original stone weathered badly and was replaced with this durable granite replica in 1982. What does it say?
You’re a logician who wants to know which of two roads leads to a village. Standing nearby, inevitably, are three natives: one always lies, one always tells the truth, and one answers randomly. You don’t know which is which, and you can ask only two yes-or-no questions, each directed to a single native. How can you get the information you need?
Suppose you have three identical Dewar flasks labeled A, B, and C. (A Thermos is a Dewar flask.) You also have an empty container labeled D, which has thermally perfect conducting walls and which fits inside a Dewar flask.
Pour 1 liter of 80°C water into flask A and 1 liter of 20°C water into flask B. Now, using all four containers, is it possible to use the hot water to heat the cold water so that the final temperature of the cold water is higher than the final temperature of the hot water? How? (You can’t actually mix the hot water with the cold.)
Timothy and Urban are playing a game with two six-sided dice. The dice are unusual: Rather than bearing a number, each face is painted either red or blue.
The two take turns throwing the dice. Timothy wins if the two top faces are the same color, and Urban wins if they’re different. Their chances of winning are equal.
The first die has 5 red faces and 1 blue face. What are the colors on the second die?
From the Second All Soviet Union Mathematical Competition, Leningrad 1968:
On a teacher’s desk sits a balance scale, on which are a set of weights. On each weight is the name of at least one student. As each student enters the classroom, she moves all the weights that bear her name to the other side of the scale.
Before any students enter, the scale is tipped to the right. Prove that there’s some set of students that you can let into the room that will will tip the scale to the left.
Two circles intersect. A line AC is drawn through one of the intersection points, B. AC can pivot around point B — what position will maximize its length?
A puzzle by Pierre Berloquin:
Timothy, Urban, and Vincent are digging identical holes in a field.
- When Timothy and Urban work together, they dig 1 hole in 4 days.
- When Timothy and Vincent work together, they dig 1 hole in 3 days.
- When Urban and Vincent work together, they dig 1 hole in 2 days.
Working alone, how long does it take Timothy to dig one hole?
On Oct. 25, 1875, Lewis Carroll sent this verse to Mrs. J. Chataway, mother of one of his child-friends, Gertrude. “They embody, as you will see, some of my recollections of pleasant days at Sandown”:
Girt with a boyish garb for boyish task,
Eager she wields her spade — yet loves as well
Rest on a friendly knee, the tale to ask
That he delights to tell.
Rude spirits of the seething outer strife,
Unmeet to read her pure and simple spright,
Deem, if you list, such hours a waste of life,
Empty of all delight!
Chat on, sweet maid, and rescue from annoy
Hearts that by wiser talk are unbeguiled!
Ah, happy he who owns that tenderest joy,
The heart-love of a child!
Away, fond thoughts, and vex my soul no more!
Work claims my wakeful nights, my busy days:
Albeit bright memories of that sunlit shore
Yet haunt my dreaming gaze!
He asked her leave to have it published. The child in the verse is not named — why should he feel obliged to ask permission?