Paradoxical Puzzle Pair

Two interesting puzzles, one of which looks hard and is in fact easy, while the other looks easy and is in fact hard.

1. Three Cards

The values attached to a deck of bridge cards start with the Two of Clubs as lowest, with Diamonds, Hearts and Ace of Spades as highest.

If you draw three cards at random from the deck, what is the probability that they will be drawn in order of increasing value? (Answer 1)


2. The Hungry Hunter

A hunter, having run out of food, met two shepherds. One of the shepherd had three loaves of bread and the other had five loaves. When the hunter asked for food, the shepherds agreed to divide the eight identical loaves equally between the three of them. The hunter thanked them and gave them $8. How should the shepherds divide the money? (Answer 2)

• Puzzles and answers from Erwin Brecher’s How Do You Survive a Duel? And Other Mathematical Diversions, Puzzles and Brainteasers (Carlton Books 2018)

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Answer #1: The puzzle sounds far more complicated than it is. The deck of cards is a red herring. The question reduces to this: Take three cards, say 2, 3 and 4 of clubs, facedown. What is the probability of turning them over in the order 2, 3, 4? There are six possible ways of arranging three cards. Therefore the probability is one-sixth.

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Answer #2: It would be wrong to split the money into $3 and $5. Each of the three ended up with 2⅔ loaves. In other words, the first shepherd parted with ⅓ of a loaf and the other shepherd with 2⅓ or 7/3 loaves. The first shepherd should therefore get $1 and the second shepherd $7.

Shick Shtick

Slightly adapted from Joseph Degrazia’s Math is Fun (1954):

Six Writers in a Railway Car

On their way to Chicago for a conference of authors and journalists, six writers meet in a railway club car. Three of them sit on one side facing the other three. Each of the six has his specialty. One writes short stories, one is a historian, another one writes humorous books, still another writes novels, the fifth is a playwright and the last a poet. Their names are Abbott, Blake, Clark, Duggan, Eccles and Farmer.* Each of them has brought one of his books and given it to one of his colleagues, so that each of the six is deep in a book which one of the other five has written.

Abbott reads a collection of short stories. Clark reads the book written by the colleague sitting just opposite him. Blake sits between the author of the short stories and the humorist. The short-story writer sits opposite the historian. Duggan reads a play. Blake is the brother-in-law of the novelist. Eccles sits next to the playwright. Abbott sits in a corner and is not interested in history. Duggan sits opposite the novelist. Eccles reads a humorous book. Farmer never reads poems.

These facts are sufficient to find each of the six authors’ specialties.


*In the original, the surnames were Blank, Bird, Grelly, George, Pinder and Winch.