# Mathematical Brain Benders: Second Miscellany of Puzzles

###### Stephen Barr
Publisher:
Dover Publications
Publication Date:
1982
Number of Pages:
224
Format:
Paperback
Price:
10.95
ISBN:
9780486242606
Category:
General
BLL Rating:

The Basic Library List Committee suggests that undergraduate mathematics libraries consider this book for acquisition.

[Reviewed by
Underwood Dudley
, on
11/11/2015
]

This is the title given by Dover in 1982 to its reprint of Barr’s 1969 2nd Miscellany of Puzzles, originally published by Macmillan.

There are 65 problems, followed by 50 “short puzzles, more or less from everyday life”. Almost all 115 have the advantage of being original, not to be found in other problem books, and the disadvantage of mostly being insoluble by ordinary readers.

You are not, repeat not, going to be able to place seven tiles on a scrabble board to get a score of 1148, even if I give you the hint that the word formed is “tranquilizingly”. At the other extreme, there is the problem of finding the number of positive two-digit integers, but, to keep readers from counting them on their fingers, there a time limit of thirty seconds. That problem was an exception: most problems I wouldn’t think of trying to solve, knowing that I would fail.

That is not to say that they are not entertaining because they are, their statements as well as their solutions. The author has wit as well as ingenuity. Geometry predominates. Knowing some, and some elementary algebra are the only mathematical prerequisites.

The other prerequisite is the ability to be struck by the lightening of insight at will. For example, problem 22 is the letter subtraction ROME ‒ SUM = RUSE. Proceeding as a normal person would, I rewrote it as RUSE + SUM = ROME and noted that M would have to be zero. But then S + U is 10, which implies that R + 1 = R, so that’s that: there is no solution. Well, yes there is: if R = D, O = C, M = X, E = I, S = L, and U = X then the Roman numeral subtraction is correct. Even with the indicators “Rome” and “ruse” I didn’t get that and I bet that you wouldn’t either. That doesn’t subtract from the pleasure of reading the solution.

Cleverness abounds. Problem 36 in the everyday life section asks how many kings were crowned in England since 1066. The answer is one. King James VI of Scotland became King James I of England in 1603. The other kings were all princes, dukes, or something like that before they were crowned.

This is a book well worth having.

Woody Dudley did rather well on the 1956 Putnam Examination (a two-digit finish) but his problem-solving abilities have gone a long way downhill since then.

 Rollers Owls' Eggs Conical Helix The Owl Island Flag Pseudo-Moebius Strip The Butler and the Crumbs The Three Clocks Slit Strips The Pot on the Crosspiece For Scrabble Players Area of Roof Paper-Folding The Two Pyramids The Man Who Gave up Smoking Tetrahedron Angles Hypocycloids Squares on a Circle Three Coins Two Coins The Coin Collector's Nightmare The Hi-Phi Set Cryptarithmetic Origametry The Hauberk More Origametry Unique Parts of Letters For Phi Fans The Truck Gardens Phi Origametry The Cockeyed Kite More Phi Origametry The Bookmark Snow on the Roof Drafting Puzzle The Psychodelic Cube Construction Problem A Walk in a Field More Diagonals Short Proof (Cut Cube) Word-Changing Polyhedral Model Dihedral Angles Cheese Wedges The Poisoned Glass To Cover a Circle Pure Origami Solution The Flat Pan The Siamese Moebius Strip The Nine Digits Minimum Area Cocyclic Points The Tilted Carton Topology Puzzle The Vanadium Steel Clothesline Visualizing The Balance Hydraulic Inference The Striped Whatsis The Terri Turnover The Heavy Chest The Pile and the Patriot The Pillar of Chios Literary Quiz Thunder on the Right Two Triangles