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Six Puzzles for the New Year


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Here's a sextet of puzzles I've collected from various sources to start 2013 off on the right foot/side of the brain/side of the bed:

1. Did William Shakespeare help create the King James Authorized Version of the Bible? Proponents of this idea have been claiming for a couple of hundred years that he left a cryptic clue in the 46th Psalm: the 46th word from the beginning is "shake" and the 46th word from the end (not counting the obligatory "selah") is "spear." The puzzle is, what's special about 46?

2. Henry Ernest Dudeney (1857-1930) was a British mathematician and puzzle-meister who often collaborated with his older American counterpart Sam Loyd (1841-1911). Dudeney gave us this paper-folding teaser: Divide a sheet of paper into eight rectangles, numbered as shown. Of the 40 unique ways you can fold the paper to a packet the size of one rectangle, find the one that results in the numbers 1 through 8 in order, top to bottom, with 1 face up on top. [FIG A]

3. This is a Sam Loyd-inspired puzzle. Two trains, which started 660 miles apart, hurtle towards each other. One is going 60 mph, the other 90 mph. How far apart are they one minute before they collide?

4. True story: I once drove from Seattle to San Francisco with a flat tire without realizing it. How come?

5. Dudeney challenged arithmetic lovers to find two fractions whose cubes total exactly six. Hint: neither of the numerators or denominators are less than 40.

6. This is Dudeney's most famous puzzle, first published in 1903. A spider is in the middle of one wall of a 12 x 12 x 30 ft. room as shown, one foot from the ceiling. A fly, paralyzed with fear, is in the middle of the opposite wall, one foot from the floor. What's the shortest distance the spider has to walk to reach the fly? Hint: cut the edges and lay the room flat, then draw a straight line between the spider and the fly. [FIG B]

Barry Evans ( sends ethereal greetings to the late Martin Gardner, who introduced him to the world of recreational mathematics.



1. Shakespeare turned 46 in 1610, the year the King James Bible was published.

2. Hold the paper face down (imagine it's transparent) so you see 2365 on top, 1874 on the bottom. Fold the right half on the left so that 5 goes on 2, 6 on 3, 4 on 1 and 7 on 8. Fold the bottom half up so that 4 goes on 5 and 7 on 6. Tuck 4 and 5 between 6 and 3, and fold 1 and 2 under the packet. (Easier to do than explain!)

3. Two-and-one-half miles. (Their combined approach speed is 150 mph, or 2.5 miles per minute; how far apart they were initially is irrelevant.)

4. My spare tire was flat.

5. 17/21 and 37/21 (4913/9261 + 50653/9261 = 6)

6. 40 feet, as shown. FIG C


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