Gustave Flaubert posed this teasing problem to his sister Caroline in an 1841 letter:
Since you are now studying geometry and trigonometry, I will give you a problem. A ship sails the ocean. It left Boston with a cargo of wool. It grosses 200 tons. It is bound for Le Havre. The mainmast is broken, the cabin boy is on deck, there are 12 passengers aboard, the wind is blowing East-North-East, the clock points to a quarter past three in the afternoon. It is the month of May. How old is the captain?
He didn’t give an answer. Elsewhere he wrote, “To be stupid, selfish, and have good health are three requirements for happiness — though if stupidity is lacking, all is lost.”