“Piccadilly Underground Station”

This unusual puzzle by G.A. Roberts appeared in the January 1941 issue of Eureka, the journal of recreational mathematics published at Cambridge University. It concerns the Piccadilly Circus station of the London Underground, which lies on the Piccadilly line between Green Park and Leicester Square and on the Bakerloo line between Charing Cross and Oxford Circus.

At a given time there are on the platform, escalators and subways, and in the trains, 128 people, all of whom travel by train, and none of whom return immediately by the way they have come.

Those who have come via Leicester Square are equal in number to those who are about to travel via Leicester Square.

The number of people who arrived by Bakerloo Line is equal to the number who intend to leave by the Piccadilly Line.

The number of people who are travelling from the street to stations on the Piccadilly Line is equal to six-thirteenths of the number who change from the Piccadilly Line to the Bakerloo.

The number who arrive from Green Park and then change to the Bakerloo is equal to the number who are about to travel via Green Park.

The number who are travelling from the street to the Bakerloo is equal to four times the number who arrive in Piccadilly trains but do not use the Bakerloo Line, and of these, twice as many come from Green Park as from Leicester Square.

By how many does the number of people who use the Bakerloo Line exceed that of those who do not?

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Route Cause

A problem submitted by France and shortlisted for the 17th International Mathematical Olympiad, Burgas-Sofia, Bulgaria, 1975:

A lake has six ports. Is it possible to arrange a series of routes that satisfy the following conditions?

  1. Each route must include exactly three ports.
  2. No two routes may contain the same three ports.
  3. Any tourist who wants to visit two different arbitrary ports has a choice of exactly two routes.
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Lucky Seven

A puzzle from the National Security Agency’s Puzzle Periodical, posed by NSA mathematician David G. in March 2017:

Each die of a pair of non-identical dice has six faces, but some numbers are missing, others are duplicated, and some faces may have more than six spots.

The dice can roll every number from 2 to 12.

What is the largest possible probability of rolling a 7?

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Calendar Boy

Gary Foshee presented this puzzle at the 2010 Gathering for Gardner:

I have two children. One is a boy born on a Tuesday. What is the probability I have two boys?

The first thing you think is ‘What has Tuesday got to do with it?’ Well, it has everything to do with it.

He proposed the answer 13/27, with this reasoning:

There are 14 equally likely possibilities for a single birth — (boy, Tuesday), (girl, Sunday), and so on.

If all we knew were that Foshee had two children, then it would seem that there are 142 = 196 equally likely possibilities as to their births.

But we know that at least one of his children is a (boy, Tuesday), and only 27 of the 196 outcomes meet this criterion. (There are 14 cases in which the (boy, Tuesday) is the firstborn child and 14 in which he’s born second, and we must remove the single case in which he’s counted twice.)

Of those 27 possibilities, 13 include two boys — 7 with (boy, Tuesday) as the first child and 7 with (boy, Tuesday) as the second child, and we subtract the one in which he’s counted twice. That, Foshee says, gives the answer 13/27.

This generated a lot of discussion when it appeared — unfortunately because the meaning of Foshee’s question is open to interpretation. See the end of this New Scientist article and the comments on Columbia statistician Andrew Gelman’s blog.



If I roll three dice and multiply the three resulting numbers together, what is the probability that the product will be odd?

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Disappearing Act

Image: Wikimedia Commons

A puzzle by Joseph Horton, from MIT Technology Review, January-February 1999:

If the sun takes two minutes to set, what angle does it subtend from Earth?

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“Problem for Poultry Farmers”

Eureka, the esteemed journal of recreational mathematics published at Cambridge University, has placed its archives online under a Creative Commons license. Here’s a problem from May 1940:

The chicken was twice as old when when the day before yesterday was to-morrow to-day was as far from Sunday as to-day will be when the day after to-morrow is yesterday as it was when when to-morrow will be to-day when the day before yesterday is to-morrow yesterday will be as far from Thursday as yesterday was when to-morrow was to-day when the day after to-morrow was yesterday. On what day was the chicken hatched out?

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