Monday, May 21, 2007

Math Nerd #3

Each of these has an easily discernible solution, yet most people get these wrong. Proceed with care.

1. The birthdays of two friends fall on the same day, although one of them is exactly 2,555 days older than the other. How old are they?

2. In one year of 365.25 days, how many complete rotations does the earth make on its axis? Round your answer to the nearest whole number.

3. Tom Swift took off in his new experimental airplane and flew 1,000 miles north, 1,000 miles west, 1,000 miles south, and 1,000 miles east, returning to the precise spot from which he had departed. He then took off from the same location as before, but this time he flew only 500 miles north, 500 miles west, 500 miles south, and 500 miles east before landing. Where did Tom land?
(Believe it or not, he did not land on the spot where he started from.) This is not a trick question based on a verbal quibble, and there are no obscure physical laws involved. The rotation of the earth is not to be considered, and Tom was more than 160 miles from both poles at all times. A rough but acceptable answer can be given without any numerical calculations.

4. A seafaring native is shanghaied aboard a tramp steamer shortly after noon on January 1, 1980. Each day thereafter, he makes a notch on a stick to represent a day he has served on the ship. The ship sails in an easterly direction and circumnavigates the globe, returning to its point of departure and freeing the native in his home port. As the native walks off the ship shortly after noon, he counts 365 notches, including the one he made for that day. What is the date? (a) January 1 (b) December 31 (c) December 30

5. A bullet is fired from a level rifle aimed out over the Atlantic Ocean at the exact moment that another bullet is dropped from the same height and place. Which bullet will hit the water first? Assume ideal conditions - that is, no wind turbulence and a perfectly calm sea.

6. January 1, 1901 was a Tuesday. Find the day of the week for January 1, 2001. (The computation for this problem is short and easy.)

7. "Little Joey seems to be growing twice as fast as any other child I ever saw," said his mother. "I'll say," said his father. "Two days ago he was just three years old, and next year he'll be six!" Explain this curious situation.

Can be obtained by email to

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Poetry 101

These are entries to a Washington Post competition asking for a two-line rhyme with the most romantic first line, but the least romantic second line:

My darling, my lover, my beautiful wife:
Marrying you screwed up my life.

I see your face when I am dreaming.
That's why I always wake up screaming.

Kind, intelligent, loving and hot;
This describes everything you are not.

Love may be beautiful, love may be bliss,
But I only slept with you 'cause I was pissed.

I thought that I could love no other --
that is until I met your brother.

Roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet, and so are you.
But the roses are wilting, the violets are dead, the sugar
bowl's empty and so is your head.

I want to feel your sweet embrace;
But don't take that paper bag off your face.

I love your smile, your face, and your eyes --
Damn, I'm good at telling lies!

My love, you take my breath away.
What have you stepped in to smell this way?

My feelings for you no words can tell,
Except for maybe "Go to hell."

What inspired this amorous rhyme?
Two parts vodka, one part lime.

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Boxer's Puzzle

Attributed to the greatest American puzzlist, Sam Loyd, this little gem of a puzzle is both simple to play and complex to solve.

Let's assume two players, Dick and Jane. Jane writes 16 letters on a sheet of paper, in a 4 X 4 grid, then draws a line from A to B, then passes the sheet to Dick for his move. Dick connects E with A.
If Jane, whose turn it is next were to connect E with F, Dick could then enclose the box by connecting B to F, and score "one box." He would then have to connect another two points on the grid and pass the grid to his playing partner. The winner of the game, obviously, is the player who scores the greatest number of boxes.

Now consider the second graph shown. Obviously, Dick and Jane have played this game enough times to become quite expert at it. Let's assume it is Dick's turn to connect two grid letters. If he connects M to N, Jane will then have the right to connect I to J, E to F, B to F and C to G, scoring 4 boxes. She would then have to go again, and connect two more grid points. If she connected H to L, Dick would wind up the loser as he would have to connect any of the remaining options without making a "box", leaving Jane the ability to enclose all the rest, and thus win the game handily.
Remember, two players alternate to connect letters and attempt to score "boxes". Once a player completes a box or boxes, he then has another go before passing the grid to his opponent. The winner is the one who scores the greatest number of boxes.

HINT: To avoid arguments as to who owns which enclosed box, it is useful for a player to place an initial within any box/boxes they have just scored, thus preventing arguments later.
Also note the Game of Slither, presented elsewhere in this blog. Another fine strategy game.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Game of Slither

This is a much more challenging two-person game, than one first imagines. Let's start with a grid of 30 dots, in a 5 x 6 configuration, as shown below. You can set up a smaller, or larger grid, if you wish.

Two players alternate by joining two dots, but each player (except the first) must add his or her line to either the beginning OR end of a line already placed. The player who is forced to complete or enclose the figure LOSES the game.

In example No. #1 (below), the next player to move can NOT move without completing the figure, so LOSES the game.

In the next example, (No. #2, below), the next player would still have a move open to avoid completing the figure, so the game continues.

You might be interested to learn that I have researched this game fairly thoroughly, and have not been able to find a formula for a winning solution.

Name Matching Puzzle 1

Every fact here is important, and there is no catch or trick answer. A few very bright people can work out the solution in under 10 minutes, but most of us take much longer to solve the problem, if at all. Give it a try.

On the redeye express from Los Angeles to New York, the pilot, co-pilot and navigator are named Smith, Robinson and Jones, albeit not respectively. Three passengers on this plane have the same names: Mr. Smith, Mr. Robinson and Mr. Jones.

1. Mr. Robinson lives in Boston.
2. The co-pilot lives exactly halfway between New York and Boston.
3. Mr. Jones earns exactly $50,000 per year.
4. The co-pilot's next door neighbor, one of the passengers, earns exactly three times as much as the co-pilot does.
5. Smith beats the pilot at racquetball.
6. The passenger whose name is the same as the co-pilot's lives in New York.
Question: Who is the navigator?

Now if you solved the above logic problem, try this one on for size.

In 1918, on the day that the WWI Armistice was signed, 3 married couples celebrated by having dinner together.

1. Each husband is the brother of one of the wives, and each wife is the sister of one of the husbands; that is, there are 3 brother-sister pairs in the group.
2. Helen is exactly 26 weeks older than her husband, who was born in August.
3. Mr. White's sister is married to Helen's brother's brother-in-law. She (Mr. White's sister) married him on her birthday, which is in January.
4. Marguerite White is not as tall as William Black.
5. Arthur's sister is acknowledged to be prettier than Beatrice.
6. John is 50 years old.
Question: What is Mrs. Brown's first name?

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Mind Bender #4

This test is like those prepared by Mensa, the organization made up of people who rank in the top 2% on standardized IQ tests.

1. This group of words is most unusual. Why? If you look at it, you can probably find out, but a solution is not all that obvious.

2. Andrew's estate was worth $100,000. His will left 55% to his wife Susan, and 15% apiece to each of three friends, provided that they survived him. If any of the four predeceased him, that share was to be divided evenly among the others. One friend died the week before Andrew, and one died in an accident on his way to Andrew's funeral. How much money did Susan get?

3. We have a new system of Roman numerals.
???? = NINE

4. Jane's brother Paul has one more brother than he has sisters. How many more brothers than sisters does Jane have?

5. You have eleven coins in your pocket. They total more than $1, but you are unable to make exact change for $1. Which eleven coins do you have?

6. If Joan is younger than Sally, and Sally is older than Ruth, and Betsy is older than Joan, who is the youngest?
(a) Joan (b) Sally (c) Ruth (d) Betsy (e) cannot determine.

7. All Puzzlist readers are intelligent. Many Puzzlist readers are men. Many men drive cars. Some male drivers have accidents. Which of the following conclusions can be drawn from these statements?
(a) All Puzzlist readers who drive cars are men.
(b) All male drivers who are also Puzzlist readers are intelligent.
(c) Any driver who has an accident does not read Puzzlist.
(d) None of the above.
(e) All of the above.

8. You come upon a signpost that says: London, 12 miles; Parma, 16 miles; Auburn, 1 mile. Using the same system of determining mileage, how far would York be?

9. In the following sentence, the same seven letters can be rearranged to make two words that fit appropriately into the blanks.
"The beautiful _______ was not easy to _______, because she had been exposed to many unusual situations in her career."

10. How many cubic metres of dirt are there in a hole which measures 50 cm. wide, 50 cm. long and 50 cm. deep?

1. There is no 'e' in the entire group, although 'e' is the most commonly-used letter.
2. $60,000. Susan gets her 55% plus one-third of the $15,000 left by the friend who died before Andrew. The other friend who died in the accident became deceased after Andrew's death.
3. Answer: VCVX = NINE because V=N, C=I, V=N and X=E.
4. Three.
5. Amongst other combinations, three quarters, four dimes and four pennies.
6. (e) cannot determine; the information is not sufficient.
7. (b)
8. 25 miles. The mileage is the number representing the numerical place in the alphabet of the first letter of each place name.
10. None - it's a hole.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Word Nerd #5

More word puzzles for those who enjoy exercising grey matter.

1. The word "gymnasium" describes a building where sports are played. Etymologically, it refers to a condition which describes the athletes competing within. What's the condition?

2. What breed of dog gets its name from a region along the former Yugoslavian coast?

3. In the early years of the 19th century, Elbridge Gerry, the Massachusetts governor, was held responsible for reshaping (for voting advantages) the state's Essex County. To what familiar political word did the reshaping give birth, and why?

4. The letters in ROBERTSON DAVIES' name can be rearranged to spell out READ IT OVER, SNOBS. What do we call such rearrangements?

5. You meant to say: "I have in my mind a half-formed wish." Instead, you utter "I have in my mind a half-warmed fish." What does one call such slips of the tongue?

6. The Spanish use guau-guau to represent this common sound. The Romanians hear it as ham-ham, the Russians as vas-vas, the Italians as bu-bu, the Turks as hov-hov and the Chinese as wang-wang. What do we say?

7. How many of these nouns can you define?
(a) gaboon; (b) gadroon; (c) rigadoon; (d) dragoon; (e) galloon; (f) picaroon; (g) festoon; (h) ratoon.

8. Name at least two compound words each containing 6 consecutive consonants.

9. What part of London is in France?

10. What single English word contains seven 'i's?

1. Nakedness, from the Greek word 'gymnos', meaning 'naked.'
2. Dalmatian
3. Gerrymander. A reporter noted the new area looked like a salamander, and gave it this new name.
4. Anagrams
5. Spoonerisms, after Rev. W.A.Spooner, warden of New College, Oxford, who was prone to such gems.
6. Bow-wow (dog barking)
7. (a) a cuspidor; (b) ornamental carving; (c) a lively 17th-18th C dance; (d) mounted soldier; (e) narrow lace trimming;
(f) rogue or pirate; (g) decorative chain or band; (h) a shoot of a perennial plant.
8. Catchphrase, Watchstrap, Latchstring
9. The letter 'n'
10. Indivisibilities

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Word Nerd #4

Although I primarily taught science & math at the high school level, I knew that all of us were English teachers as well. I would occasionally give my students quizzes, assignments or puzzles to pore over on week-ends; some even demanded these because I gave them a few marks extra to help boost their grades. My file of these puzzles grew over the years...

1. Etymologically, this word means "eating money"; i.e. money to buy food. It's usually granted to women, and only under certain circumstances. What's the word?

2. What's the shortest English word containing all 5 vowels?

3. It's sometimes called "glossolalia", but there's a more common term for it. What is it?

4. The definition in one dictionary is: To make a sudden violent spasmodic audible expiration of breath. What's the word for this?

5. Coeverden, an industrial town in the Netherlands, was home to the father of a famous explorer. The father, being one of the nobility, added the name of the town to his own surname, and that led to the name of a well-known city. Which one?

6. What's the next letter in this series: O T T F F S S _ ?

7. What short word, in all its uses, has the longest entry in the Oxford English Dictionary?

8. What familiar drink gets its name from a Hindi word meaning "five," referring to the number of ingredients. (One early recipe was arrack, tea, lemon, sugar & water.) What's the drink?

9. NATO is an abbreviation which has become a word in its own right. SCUBA is another. What are such words called?

10. What war-related English word is derived from a French word for a kind of wooden shoe?

1. Alimony
2. Sequoia
3. Speaking in tongues, as when members of some religious sects speak an unintelligible 'language'
4. Sneeze
5. Vancouver
6. E (for eight)
7. Set, which takes up 22.5 big pages
8. Punch
9. Acronyms
10. Sabotage, from 'sabot'

Math Nerd #2

Another interesting example of these math-related puzzles which encourage thinking 'outside the box.' Click on each of the 2 panels holding the questions for an enlarged view, or to print the set out.


Sunday, May 6, 2007

High School Entrance Exam 1876

When the decision was made in 1874 to establish the first two high schools in British Columbia (one in Victoria, the other in New Westminster), it was also decided that the first students should be selected by a competitive entrance examination. This extraordinary test, and those of succeeding years, are all preserved in the annual Public Schools Report. Here are typical questions that faced would-be high school students of 1876.

No. 1- Arithmetic

1) Divide 3587 yards 9 inches into 27 equal distances.

2) How long would it take to count a million coins, at the rate of 100 a minute?

3) Multiply 5 acres 3 rods 27 poles by 70.

No. 2 - English Grammar

1) Name the parts of speech.

2) Give the plural of the following nouns: day, beauty, leaf and fox.

3) What is an abstract noun?

4) Name the degrees of comparison; how many are implied in each?

5) Compare fair, elegant, noble; explain these different forms of comparison.

No. 3 - Spelling

This is a grand and sollem picture, highly suggestif and full of deep feeling and elloquent expresiveness, and most beutifuly ilustritiv of the idea saught to be convayed by the poit who rote: "Now faids the glimring lanskip on the site
And all the air a sollem stilnes holds."

No. 4 - Geography

1) Name the principal countries in Europe and the most remarkable rivers flowing through each.

2) What countries and seas would you cross in going in a straight line from Peking to Madrid?

3) What countries would be passed in sailing from Montreal, Quebec to Victoria, British Columbia?

NOTE: Of the 160 total candidates, only 68 passed. The question remains: Would You?

Frog Dissection

This light-hearted introduction on how NOT to do a frog dissection kept many of my junior science students in stitches. Click on each of the two panels to show an easily readable and printable page...

Teacher Qualification Exam 1885

The following is a section of the British Columbia Government Teachers' Qualification Examination for the year 1885. In format, these tests were not unlike the high school entrance exams of the same period. Spelling questions were particularly exotic, since they demanded the correction of preposterous mis-spellings. Merely to identify the word in question was sometimes a major challenge. Here is the delicious list for July, 1885.

(100 marks for the following list of words: 2 marks will be deducted for each word incorrectly spelled or omitted.)

1. abayanse 26. kneshshense
2. taboo 27. hemmorrage
3. fushshea 28. spermacetee
4. izayah 29. errysyppelass
5. koalless 30. remminissence
6. vassillate 31. pusillanimity
7. sinnister 32. sinsinnattee
8. kerosene 33. argillaceous
9. poinnant 34. sursingle
10. asserbitee 35. pluro-knumonea
11. perrifferry 36. phantazea
12. porferry 37. finale
13. amythist 38. wrecoshay
14. enskonse 39. eschelong
15. supersede 40. o-de-kalone
16. tizzic 41. idiosyncracy
17. knewralgea 42. posthumous
18. wrankkorrus 43. sighnee dyee
19. arkkeollogy 44. pommelling
20. wrettorishon 45. appothem
21. ekkleziastez 46. farmasutical
22. ure (not your) 47. phantazmagorea
23. benefited 48. polyglot
24. assephphalst 49. et setterra
25. vermaselly 50. dillettanta

Word Nerd #3

More thought-provoking questions to stimulate students to dive into a dictionary or thesaurus; not a bad exercise.

1. There is a valid English word the first few letters of which signify a man, the addition of a single letter make it signify a woman, a further addition of a letter make it signify a great man, and a further addition of some letters make it signify a great woman. What is the word?

2. Find the only word in the English language in which the letters (a) -GNT-, and (b) -ROOR-, occur in consecutive order (i.e. no letters between them.)

3. Find the English word in which 3 different sets of double letters occur in consecutive order, with no other letter(s) in between.

4. List at least 2 valid English words in which all the vowels, including y, appear once, in order throughout the word.

5. What valid English word starts with a consonant which is then followed by 4 consecutive vowels?

6. "Lollipop" is the longest word a typist can type on a keyboard solely with his/her right hand. Find the longest word he/she could type with only his/her left hand.

7. Find the words in the English language which rhyme with each of the following:
month; orange; silver; and purple.

8. Find the only word in the English language which ends with the letters "mt".

9. Find at least 3 words in the English language which end in "dous".

10. Find the longest word that can be made using the letters only on one row of a keyboard.

1. Heroine
2. (a)Sovereignty (b)Microorganism
3. Book-keeper
4. Acerbiously;Facetiously;Abstemiously
5. Queue
6. Stewardesses
7. If you can find some, great; noone else can find words which rhyme with these words.
8. Dreamt
9. Tremendous, horrendous, stupendous, hazardous. Any more?
10. Typewriter

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Chemical Man

The Chemical Element Man

Symbol - Ma

Atomic Mass - Reputedly 160, but isotopes range from 85 to 250. Solid evidence for rare isotopes up to 1000

Occurrence - Rather common. Found most everywhere in both the combined and free state. Found wherever Woman exists (although most of the species claim they prefer a man's world.) Usually hard to find when needed for work around the house. Younger, starry-eyed isotopes readily tend to leave the single state to form compounds.

Common Variations - All men are alike.

Physical Properties - Capable of instantaneous explosion. Can disappear quicker than quick-silver if needed to assist in certain tasks. Very acidic. Has a low heat of combustion. Enters readily into bionic reactions. Biodegradable with a half-life of 40 years. Undergoes strange reactions when left alone. Admits age but takes pride in not acting it. In older specimens this is called Second Childhood. Resistance in affairs of the heart may be lowered through the use of aromatic and tasty dishes.

Uses - Handy for splitting firewood and atoms (prefers atoms.) In California may also be used for hunting grunion on certain moonlit nights. Highly effective income-producing element. Decorative, pleasant to have around. Useful for opening doors, carrying packages and supplying money. CAUTION: Capable of developing heart condition. Violent catalyst!

The Chemical Element Woman

Symbol - Wo

Atomic Mass - Reputed to be 120. Isotopes with mass numbers 90 to 180 are known to exist.

Occurrence - Found both free and combined. In combined state, it is found wherever the element Man is found.

Physical Properties - Boils up at nothing and is capable of freezing at any second. Melts when properly treated. Very bitter if not well used. Surface is frequently covered with a film of paint or oxide in various colors and layers. Density is not as great as generally supposed.

Chemical Properties - Possesses great affinity for the elements Gold and Platinum. Violent reaction if left alone. Deteriorates rapidly. Able to absorb great amounts of food matter. Turns green when placed beside a better-looking specimen. Highly explosive in inexperienced hands. Changes state with pressure. Extremely reactive in the presence of Man.
Contains enough fat to make seven cakes of soap, enough Carbon for 9000 pencils, sufficient Phosphorus to make a box of matches, has sufficient Iron to make a small nail, enough Sulphur to deflea a dog, and enough Water to fill a 10 gallon tank.

Uses - Highly ornamental, useful as a tonic in acceleration of low spirits, and an excellent equalizer of the distribution of wealth. Probably the most effective income reducing agent known.

Unsolved Problem - Chemists and engineers are puzzled why the most streamlined and proportional specimens offer the most resistance.

The Stress Diet

Half grapefruit
1 piece whole wheat bread, toasted
6 oz. skim milk

4 oz. lean broiled chicken breast, no skin
1 cup steamed zucchini
1 oreo cookie
1 cup herb tea

Mid-afternoon Snack
rest of package of oreo cookies
1 quart Rocky Road ice cream
1 jar hot fudge
mug of hot chocolate, large dollop whipped cream on top

2 loaves garlic bread
large mushroom & pepperoni pizza
large pitcher beer
3 bars Milky Way
entire frozen cheesecake, eaten directly from the freezer

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Accident Reports

These are all actual statements made by motorists who had been involved in accidents, and were asked by insurance companies to summarize the details in the fewest words possible.

1. As I approached the intersection, a sign suddenly appeared in a place where no stop sign had ever appeared before. I was unable to stop in time to avoid the accident.

2. To avoid hitting the bumper of the car in front, I struck the pedestrian.

3. My car was legally parked as it backed into the other vehicle.

4. An invisible car came out of nowhere, struck my car and vanished.

5. I told the police that I was not injured, but on removing my hat, found I had a fractured skull.

6. I was sure the old fellow would never make it to the other side of the road when I struck him.

7. The pedestrian had no idea which direction to run, so I ran over him.

8. I saw a slow moving, sad faced old gentleman as he bounced off the roof of my car.

9. The telephone pole was approaching. I was attempting to swerve out of its way when it struck the front end.

10. Coming home I drove into the wrong house and collided with a tree I don't have.

11. The other car collided with mine without giving warning of its intentions.

12. I thought my window was down, but I found out it was up when I put my head through it.

13. I collided with a stationary truck coming the other way.

14. A truck backed through my windshield into my wife's face.

15. A pedestrian hit me and went under my car.

16. The guy was all over the road. I had to swerve a number of times before I hit him.

17. I pulled away from the side of the road, looked at my mother in law, and headed over the embankment.

18. In my attempt to kill a fly, I drove into a telephone pole.

19. I had been driving for 40 years when I fell asleep at the wheel and had an accident.

20. I was on my way to the doctor with rear end trouble when my universal joint gave way causing me to have an accident.