Decomposition

This verse is known as “Lord Macaulay’s Last Riddle.” Lord Macaulay was Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859), though his authorship of the riddle is uncertain. What’s the answer?

Let us look at it quite closely,
‘Tis a very ugly word,
And one that makes one shudder
Whenever it is heard.

It mayn’t be very wicked;
It must be always bad,
And speaks of sin and suffering
Enough to make one mad.

They say it is a compound word,
And that is very true;
And then they decompose it,
Which, of course, they’re free to do.

If, of the dozen letters
We take off the first three,
We have the nine remaining
As sad as they can be;

For, though it seems to make it less,
In fact it makes it more,
For it takes the brute creation in,
Which was left out before.

Let’s see if we can mend it —
It’s possible we may,
If only we divide it
In some new-fashioned way.

Instead of three and nine, then,
Let’s make it four and eight;
You’ll say it makes no difference,
At least not very great;

But only see the consequence!
That’s all that need be done
To change this mass of sadness
To unmitigated fun.

It clears off swords and pistols
Revolvers, bowie-knives,
And all the horrid weapons
By which men lose their lives;

It wakens holier voices —
And now joyfully is heard
The native sound of gladness
Compressed into one word!

Yes! Four and eight, my friends!
Let that be yours and mine,
Though all the hosts of demons
Rejoice in three and nine.

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Tight Squeeze

Above: From Paris, 1927: a novelty car that can “sidle” into parking spaces.

Below: Someone was actually working on this in the 1950s (thanks, Martin):

A related puzzle from The Chicken From Minsk, Yuri B. Chernyak’s 1995 collection of math and physics problems: Why is it easier to parallel-park a (conventional) car by backing into the space rather than pulling in directly?

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A Narrative Alphametic

James Mayfield gives this clever expression in the August 2006 issue of Word Ways:

BEAR + RARE + ERE = RHYME

It’s an alphametic: If each letter is taken to represent a different digit, it encodes a valid equation. What’s the equation?

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Black and White

wainwright chess problem

A densely imaginative little problem by Joseph C.J. Wainwright. White to mate in two moves.

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“To My Pupil”

Lewis Carroll’s 1885 puzzle book A Tangled Tale bears an anonymous dedication:

Beloved Pupil! Tamed by thee,
Addish-, Subtrac-, Multiplica-tion,
Division, Fractions, Rule of Three,
Attest thy deft manipulation!
Then onward! Let the voice of Fame
From Age to Age repeat thy story,
Till thou has won thyself a name
Exceeding even Euclid's glory!

He was thinking of Edith Rix, a child-friend who went on to study mathematics at Cambridge. She might have divined without asking that the dedication was intended for her. How?

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Exercise

In his later years Lewis Carroll would while away sleepless hours by solving mathematical problems in his head. Eventually he published 72 of these as Pillow Problems (1893). “All of these problems I thought up in bed, solving them completely in my head, and I never wrote anything down until the next morning.” Can you solve this one?

Prove that 3 times the sum of 3 squares is also the sum of 4 squares.

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Audition

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/world-war-two/11151478/Could-you-have-been-a-codebreaker-at-Bletchley-Park.html

In January 1942, a series of letters to the Daily Telegraph complained that the newspaper’s crossword was too easy — anyone might solve it in a matter of minutes, they said. Accordingly the chairman of a London club offered to donate £100 to charity if anyone could solve a given crossword in 12 minutes. Editor Arthur Watson arranged a competition in the paper’s Fleet Street newsroom, and five people won the competition (though the fastest was later disqualified for misspelling a word). Several were later hired to work at Bletchley Park breaking German military codes.

The Telegraph published the “time test” puzzle later that month, and presented it again in 2014, inviting readers to try to solve it in 12 minutes. “Could you have been a codebreaker at Bletchley Park?”

Geography

Brad Taylor offered this baseball puzzle in the October 2001 issue of MIT Technology Review:

The Red Sox beat the Orioles 9 to 4 in 17 innings. Where was the game played?

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