# Graft

You’re a venal king who’s considering bribes from two different courtiers.

Courtier A gives you an infinite number of envelopes. The first envelope contains 1 dollar, the second contains 2 dollars, the third contains 3, and so on: The nth envelope contains n dollars.

Courtier B also gives you an infinite number of envelopes. The first envelope contains 2 dollars, the second contains 4 dollars, the third contains 6, and so on: The nth envelope contains 2n dollars.

Now, who’s been more generous? Courtier B argues that he’s given you twice as much as A — after all, for any n, B’s nth envelope contains twice as much money as A’s.

But Courtier A argues that he’s given you twice as much as B — A’s offerings include a gift of every integer size, but the odd dollar amounts are missing from B’s.

So who has given you more money?

# The Two Errand Boys

Another conundrum from Henry Dudeney’s Canterbury Puzzles:

A country baker sent off his boy with a message to the butcher in the next village, and at the same time the butcher sent his boy to the baker. One ran faster than the other, and they were seen to pass at a spot 720 yards from the baker’s shop. Each stopped ten minutes at his destination and then started on the return journey, when it was found that they passed each other at a spot 400 yards from the butcher’s. How far apart are the two tradesmen’s shops? Of course each boy went at a uniform pace throughout.

# Growth Potential

Suppose you’re working on an algebraic expression that involves variables, addition, multiplication, and parentheses. You try repeatedly to expand it using the distributive law. How do you know that the expression won’t continue to expand forever?

For example, expanding

(x + y)(s(u + v) + t)

gives

x(s(u + v) + t) + y(s(u + v) + t),

which has more parentheses than the original expression.

# Black and White

To kill some time before a meeting of chess grandmasters, Burt Hochberg offered this anonymous puzzle from the 15th century. White must place four white rooks on the board, one at a time, giving check with each one. After each placement the black king can respond with any normal legal move. How can White plan his moves so that the fourth rook reliably gives checkmate?

There’s no trick, and in fact there are several solutions, but Hochberg says the grandmasters studied the position for several minutes before Paul Keres came up with an answer. What was it?

# 8 Is Enough

This is said to have been the most popular problem presented in the American Mathematical Monthly. It was proposed by P.L. Chessin of Westinghouse in the April 1954 issue. Each of the digits in this long division problem has been replaced with an x — except for a single 8 in the quotient. Can you reconstruct the problem?

# The Squire’s Puzzle

Another conundrum from Henry Dudeney’s The Canterbury Puzzles:

A squire has drawn a portrait of King Edward III with a single continuous stroke of his pen. “‘Tis a riddle to find where the stroke doth begin and where it doth also end. To him who shall first show it unto me will I give the portraiture.” What is the answer?

# The Cornish Cliff Mystery

Police have chased two thieves to the Cornish coast. There they find that two sets of footprints depart the hard road and cross soft soil to the edge of a cliff, where they end. The cliff juts out 200 feet above sea-washed boulders. No one could survive a fall from this height, there is no way to descend the cliff, and there are no other footprints.

The police have proven that the footprints match those of the fleeing criminals. The small foot belongs to Marsh, who apparently takes relatively long strides, walking heavily on his heels. Lamson takes shorter strides, treading more on his toes and evidently following behind Marsh, as he sometimes treads over the smaller man’s footprints.

The two men did not walk to the cliff edge and then return to the road by walking backward in their own footprints — such precision over a course of 200 yards is impossible. Accordingly the inspector says he will report that the criminals, hopeless to escape justice, have hurled themselves to their death.

“Then you will make a fatal mistake,” says Henry Melville, a visiting member of the Puzzle Club. “The men are alive and in hiding in the district.” He proves to be right, but how did the men get away from the edge of the cliff?

# Mens et Manus

David Hagen offered this puzzle in MIT Technology Review in 2007. The MIT logo can be thought of as a slider puzzle. In the figure above, can you slide the tiles about so that the gray I can escape through the opening at top left?

# Point to Point

Here’s a triangle, ABC, and an arbitrary point, D, in its interior. How can we prove that AD + DB < AC + CB?

The fact seems obvious, but when the problem is presented on its own, outside of a textbook or some course of study, we have no hint as to what technique to use to prove it. Construct an equation? Apply the Pythagorean theorem?

“The issue is more serious than it first appears,” write Zbigniew Michalewicz and David B. Fogel in How to Solve It (2000). “We have given this very problem to many people, including undergraduate and graduate students, and even full professors in mathematics, engineering, or computer science. Fewer than five percent of them solved this problem within an hour, many of them required several hours, and we witnessed some failures as well.”

Here’s a dismaying hint: Michalewicz and Fogel found the problem in a math text for fifth graders in the United States. What’s the answer?

# Dividing the Spoils

Ten pirates have 100 gold pieces and want to divide them according to the law of the sea, which says that the spoils go to the strongest. So they arrange themselves from weakest to strongest, P1, P2, …, P10. But these are democratic pirates, so they ask the strongest pirate to make a proposal as to how to divide the loot. All 10 pirates will then vote on it. If at least 50 percent of them support the proposal, then they’ll enact it and that’s that. Otherwise the proposer will be thrown to the sharks.

All pirates value their lives more than gold, all are rational, they cannot cut the gold pieces into smaller pieces, and no pirate will agree to a side bargain to share pieces. What proposal should the strongest pirate make in order to get the most gold?