A Note About Puzzles

I’m going to be running one puzzle a day for the next couple of weeks. Puzzles will go up at 11am, and solutions will go up at the same time the following day. Please follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Google Friend Connect, or RSS in order to get the daily puzzle and the solution.

Some of these are classics, and some of them are my variations or adaptations of classic ideas. Some of them have been around so long no one even knows who first came up with them. If I know an actual source, I will credit it, but some are just things I remember from a lifetime of reading.

Martin Gardner: 1914 – 2010

A few people, such as Sam Loyd, Henry Dudeney, and Martin Gardner, are responsible for publishing many of the best-known puzzles for the first time. Dover Books prints a number of these collections in cheap editions, and they are a goldmine of information and ideas. (See Amazon link below.)

Sadly, Martin Gardner recently passed away. He was a longtime contributor to Games Magazine and an inspiration to many math, logic, and puzzle buffs. He was a true polymath, and his work embraced everything from debunking of pseudoscience; to mathematics, games, and puzzles; to literary criticism.

Bonus Martin Gardner puzzle: what is significant about the number 8,549,176,320? (HT: NY Times)

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Monday Puzzle SOLUTION: The Bicycle Thief

The original puzzle.

The only money that matters is the money lost to the thief. Here’s Dudeney’s solution:

“People give all sorts of absurd answers to this question, and yet it is perfectly simple if one just considers that the salesman cannot possibly have lost more than the cyclist actually stole. The latter rode away with a bicycle which cost the salesman eleven pounds, and the ten pounds “change;” he thus made off with twenty-one pounds, in exchange for a worthless bit of paper. This is the exact amount of the salesman’s loss, and the other operations of changing the cheque and borrowing from a friend do not affect the question in the slightest. The loss of prospective profit on the sale of the bicycle is, of course, not direct loss of money out of pocket.”

Some may think this is a cheat because of the misdirection of the salesman having to borrow the £25. Since he already had the £15 change from the cashed check, why would he need to borrow £25?

You need to forget that kind of distraction and just focus on the numbers. Why he borrowed the £25 is not important. All that’s important is 1) money lost to the thief, and 2) money actually in hand. Keep the focus on the data.

App O’ The Mornin’: Fruit Ninja

I think there are approximately 40 million Apple smartphone-type devices out there, and over 1,000,000 copies of Fruit Ninja have been sold. That means that the odds are 40:1 that you already have it already.

And well you should. I resisted the Fruit Ninja temptation at first, since it looked like a piece of one-note twitchware that does very little.

After I finally spent some time with it, I realized that is was a piece of one-note twitchware that does very little, but I didn’t care. I loved it anyway, and have logged a fair amount of time trying to my nudge my top score ever higher.

Fruit Ninja is based on the simple premise that “Ninjas hate fruit.” I don’t want to know why they hate fruit, and I sure hope the developer isn’t planning on spinning this into some revenge-driven storyline based upon the fruit-related deaths of ninja loved ones.

(On second thought, I would like to see that.)

Fruit is tossed in the air, and you use your finger to “slice” it before it drops offscreen. Avoid the bombs and strike multiple fruits for bonus points. You can do it timed, or not-timed, and you can change the color of your blade. Sometimes new fruit appears, and this is more exciting than I’d like to admit. The game is also a bottomless treasure trove of fruit lore and trivia.

This is one of the great dexterity games in the App store. It’s small, simple, and cheap. That’s the point of Apps: they can do one little thing, and because they’re inexpensive and portable, that’s all they need to do. It really is a new kind of gaming.