THE FOUR LOGICAL WRITERS
(Peter Turchi’s version of the Four Prisoners Problem)
Four writers, close friends, have each completed their first books and are invited to meet a famous and influential editor. She’s read all their work and was surprised to find that she admires it all equally. After meeting them, she realizes that if she publishes any one or two of these writers, their friendship will suffer terribly. So the editor presents them with a puzzle.
The editor sends the first writer to another room. She instructs the other three to arrange their chairs in a line so that each writer can only see the writer(s) in front. No peeking. (And there are no mirrors in the office.) Then she explains that she’s going to give each writer — including the one in the other room — a book to balance on his or her head. Two have red covers, two have black covers. The writers can’t see the books on their own heads, and the writer in the other room can’t see or be seen by the other three. The writers can’t talk (or pass notes, send texts, use hand signals — you get the point).
The deal: If the first writer who speaks can tell the editor the color of the cover on his or her own head, she’ll publish all four of their books. If the first writer who speaks is wrong, she won’t publish any of them.
You need to know: the four writers, unlike a lot of writers, are perfectly logical; and they know each other well enough to trust one another to respond logically.
Turn the page for the answer.