Time To Flex Those Math Muscles Get ready to crunch some numbers from the works of the late Martin Gardner, longtime "Mathematical Games" columnist for Scientific American.
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Time To Flex Those Math Muscles

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Time To Flex Those Math Muscles

Time To Flex Those Math Muscles

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is NPR news. I'm Rachel Martin. And you can take this girl out of the puzzle, but you cannot take the puzzle out of the girl. I may not have played on the air for a while, but pencil is sharp, and I am ready to do this. I hope you are too because it's time for the puzzle. Joining me now is Will Shortz. He is, of course, the puzzle editor of The New York Times and WEEKEND EDITION's puzzle master. Good morning, Will. It's so nice to be able to say that again.

WILL SHORTZ, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel. It's great to hear from you. What's new?

MARTIN: What's new? Well, you know, a new baby, little sleep deprivation. But I'm good to go. I'm all set.

SHORTZ: Nice.

MARTIN: OK. So let's get going with this. Refresh our memories, Will. What was last week's challenge?

SHORTZ: Yes, I said name a certain country, change one letter in its name to a new letter and rearrange the result to name another country's capital. Then change one letter in that and rearrange the result to name another country. What geographical names are these? Well, my intended answer was Spain to Paris to Syria. There was actually a prettier answer I didn't know about. It's Romania to Honiara to Bahrain. And Honaira - H-O-N-A-I-R-A - it's the capital of the Solomon Islands in the Pacific. Didn't know that. We also accepted Iran to Riga to Iraq - not so pretty.

MARTIN: All right, well, points for trying folks. So we got about 500 correct answers. And our randomly chosen winner is Brad Sorrells of Charleston, West Virginia. He joins us on the line now. Hey, Brad. Congratulations.

BRAD SORRELLS: Hey, thanks.

MARTIN: Did this come quickly to you? Did you have to work at this one?

SORRELLS: It did come kind of quickly. I started by looking at a list of capitals. And the only thing I saw was Baku becoming Cuba, but that turned out to be a dead end. And then somehow Paris just swam into my head and that solves pretty easily.

MARTIN: Very well then. So tell us, what do you do for a living, Brad, in Charleston?

SORRELLS: I'm a lawyer.

MARTIN: And have you lived in Charleston a long time?

SORRELLS: Oh, yeah about 30 years or so.

MARTIN: And for those of us who have not had the opportunity to visit, what's the best thing about Charleston?

SORRELLS: It's small and friendly, even though it's a state capital and full of politicians.

MARTIN: (Laughter). I'll let that one lie. OK, so, Brad, are you ready to do this thing?

SORRELLS: Well, apart from the knuckle-gripping fear that I'll mess it up, I am.

MARTIN: Will, I understand also, this a special puzzle, right?

SHORTZ: Yes, this Tuesday October 21 would've been the 100th birthday of Martin Gardner. And he was the longtime mathematical games columnist for Scientific American. And this weekend and over the next two days there are celebrations of this anniversary all over the world.

MARTIN: Very cool.

SHORTZ: So for my own remembrance, I've brought some classic brain teasers from Martin Gardner books. And here's number one - what familiar word starts with I-S ends with a A-N-D and has L-A in the middle.

SORRELLS: Can they overlap?

SHORTZ: Yes.

SORRELLS: Island.

SHORTZ: Island is it. How can you throw a ball so it goes a short distance, comes to a dead stop, reverses its motion, then goes the opposite way? You're not allowed to bounce it off anything, hit it with anything or tie anything to it.

SORRELLS: I sort forget all the conditions but would throwing it straight up work?

SHORTZ: Throwing it straight up would do it. Exactly.

MARTIN: Wow, good job.

SHORTZ: You're good. I guarantee, said the salesman in the pet shop, that this purple parrot will repeat every word it hears. A customer bought the bird, but found that the parrot wouldn't speak a single word. Nevertheless, what the salesman said was true. How could this be?

SORRELLS: It's deaf.

SHORTZ: It's deaf.

MARTIN: Oh, man. Brad you're amazing.

SHORTZ: OK. Yes, this is going fast. Here's your next one. You see a truck that has become stuck beneath an underpass because it was an inch too tall to pass through. A filling station is a short distance down the road. The truck driver is starting to walk toward the station to get help when suddenly an idea pops into your head. You tell the driver your idea, and five minutes later, he's through the underpass and on his way again. What did you tell them?

SORRELLS: This isn't fair 'cause this actually happened to me.

MARTIN: Oh, really?

(LAUGHTER)

SORRELLS: Let some air out of the tires.

SHORTZ: Let some air out of the tires...

MARTIN: No way.

SHORTZ: ...Went through the underpass, went down to the station and filled up the tires again. That is correct. OK, here's your last one. And since you've nailed the others, I know you're going to nail this. If you took three apples from a basket that contained 13 apples, how many apples would you have?

SORRELLS: Well, I guess I'd have the three that I'd taken.

SHORTZ: You have the three you took. One hundred percent.

MARTIN: I mean, truth be told, I just kind of checked out halfway through that because I just assumed that you were going to get them all right. Brad, that was very, very well done. And of course, you know, that for playing the puzzle today, you get a WEEKEND EDITION lapel pin, puzzle books and games. You can read all about those spectacular prizes at npr.org/puzzle. And before we let you go, Brad, where do you hear us? What's your public radio station?

SORRELLS: WVPB in Charleston, West Virginia.

MARTIN: Great. Brad Sorrells of Charleston, West Virginia. Thanks so much for playing the puzzle, Brad. That was great.

SORRELLS: That was great fun. Thanks.

MARTIN: OK, Will. What's up for next week?

SHORTZ: Yes, it's one more challenge. And it's based on a puzzle from a Martin Gardner book. Out of a regular grade school classroom, two students are chosen at random. Both happen to have have blue eyes. If the odds are exactly 50-50 that two, randomly chosen students in the class will have blue eyes, how many students are in the classroom? So again, a regular grade school classroom, two students chosen at random, both happen to have blue eyes. If the odds are exactly 50-50 that two randomly chosen students in the class will have blue eyes, how many students are in the classroom?

MARTIN: All right, you know what to do. When you've got the answer, go to our website. It is npr.org/puzzle. Find that submit you answer link and click on it. Limit yourself to one entry per person please. Remember out deadline for entries is Thursday October 23 at 3 p.m. Eastern time. Don't forget to include a phone number where we can reach at about that time. And if you're the winner, we'll give you a call. And you will get to play on the air with the puzzle editor of The New York Times and WEEKEND EDITION's puzzle master, Mr. Will Shortz. Thanks so much, Will.

SHORTZ: Thanks, Rachel.

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