A classic puzzle book

It was the local Lions Club Book Fair last weekend, and I always look in.  And I always come away with a heap of stuff, as I think I may have mentioned before.  This time it was a large hoard of Russian Disc rarities (Book and CD Fair, I should have stressed) – Boris Parsadanian, anyone?  Clearly someone has either died or gone into streaming in a big way.

But I also found this:

Henry Dudeney was one of the foremost puzzle creators of the twentieth century.  This book seems to have been brought out by popular demand after his death in 1931.  (At least, the preface by his widow gives 1931, and you’d think she might have a reliable opinion in the matter, while the Wikipedia page says 1930 (though giving two different dates in that year).)  The book is divided into eight sections, starting with ‘Arithmetical and Algebraical Problems’ (itself divided into six sections) and ending with ‘Unclassified Problems’.  

The puzzles are presented with that strange sort of lumbering grace, wherein Colonel George Crackham (or his wife Dora, or Professor Rackbrane) suddenly start pointing out curiosities about bags of coins while helping themselves to marmalade at breakfast, or mentioning that Atkins, Brown and Cranby each have to do a journey of forty miles.  (The Crackhams seem to be particularly prone to suddenly throwing out little mathematical problems at guests and relatives, and even passing shepherds.)  Things are ‘absurdly easy if properly attacked’ (one wonders if the Crackhams are ever attacked…) though you do need to have a working knowledge of both Imperial measures and predecimal coinage (one puzzle requires the ability to work in farthings reaching a total that just happens to be the product of two improbably large prime numbers).

Answers are included.  (One ends, testily, that the answer is not that the Swiss have no navy, while a nearby one promises that the answer doesn’t just apply in Sussex.).  They don’t make them like this any more.

This time the puzzle is another unpublished Beelzebub.  The next couple of weeks sees a Times puzzle on Thursday 18th May, and an Inquisitor on Saturday 20th May (a setter’s blog will follow in due course).  I should also mention the Times Jumbo on 27th May, just in case I don’t put the next post up till the Sunday of that weekend.

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