CU­RI­OUS AND IN­TER­EST­ING

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Front Page -

A SE­RIES OF MATHS-BASED PUZ­ZLES BY DAVID WELLS Ma­jor Con­fu­sion Un­like the House­hold Guards, Ma­jor Ma­son’s Mer­ce­nar­ies were a right shower, rang­ing from tall and skinny to short and tubby: a laugh­ing stock. One af­ter­noon, Ma­jor Ma­son de­cided to di­vide them into three sep­a­rate groups -- the large, the mid­dling and the small -- who could pa­rade sep­a­rately with­out pro­vok­ing jeers. He first as­sem­bled them in a rec­tan­gu­lar ar­ray and in­structed the tallest man in each row to step out. From these he chose the short­est of the tallest and an­nounced that this man and all those taller than him would form the first new pla­toon. The men re­turned to their orig­i­nal po­si­tions. Now the Ma­jor or­dered the small­est man in each col­umn to step out. He picked the tallest of the short­est and an­nounced that this man and every man shorter than him would form the third new pla­toon. The re­main­der of the men would form the sec­ond pla­toon. To the Ma­jor’s dis­gust, not only were there ap­par­ently no men at all in the sec­ond pla­toon, but Pri­vate Mud­dle claimed that he was in both the first and third pla­toons. The Ma­jor nat­u­rally flogged every man jack of them and de­clared that they would jolly well do it again, and prop­erly this time. Yet, to the Ma­jor’s ex­as­per­a­tion, the re­sult was the same, with Pri­vate Mud­dle in two pla­toons and no­body at all in the mid­dle one. Can you ex­plain the mys­tery of the sec­ond pla­toon? An­swer at the end of Puz­zles. David Wells’s lat­est book is Games and Math­e­mat­ics: Sub­tle Con­nec­tions (Cam­bridge UP £15.99)

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