For years, the radio show Car Talk challenged its listeners with a weekly "Puzzler." According to the show's archives, this is one of the toughest Puzzlers to ever air. Can you solve it?

Today's post marks the sixteenth installment in io9's Sunday Puzzle series. That means we've been at this for about four months now. Not long, in the grand scheme of things. Not that many puzzles, either, for that matter. By comparison, Car Talk – the outstanding, Peabody Award-winning radio show hosted by brothers Tom and Ray Magliozzi (aka "Click and Clack") – was produced from 1977 to October 2012. For much of that time, Car Talk was home to a weekly segment called "The Puzzler," in which Click and Clack would challenge listeners with a riddle.


Needless to say, the Tappet brothers posed a lot of puzzles over the years. The show's Puzzler archives, which you can access here, date all the way back to 1996; but the most challenging brain teasers – the ones that, in Tom and Ray's words, "are so intricate, so convoluted and so obfuscated that they're sure to start the smoke pouring of your cranium" – have their very own section, called "The Hard Stuff: Car Talk's Toughest Puzzlers." This week's puzzle – originally titled "Evil King Berman and the Three Boxes " – was selected from this exalted lineup. I found solving it to be particularly satisfying, and I hope you do, too.

Sunday Puzzle #16: Three Boxes, Two Lies

The Fair Maiden Rowena wishes to wed. And her father, the Evil King Berman, has devised a way to drive off suitors. He has a little quiz for them, and here it is. It's very simple:

Three boxes sit on a table. The first is made of gold, the second is made of silver, and the third is made of lead. Inside one of these boxes is a picture of the fair Rowena. It is the job of the White Knight to figure out – without opening them – which one has her picture.

Now, to assist him in this endeavor there is an inscription on each of the boxes. The gold box says, "Rowena's picture is in this box." The silver box says, "The picture is not in this box." The lead box says, "The picture is not in the gold box." Only one of the statements is true. Which box holds the picture?

We'll be back next week with the solutions – and a new puzzle! Got a great brainteaser, original or otherwise, that you'd like to see featured? E-mail me with your recommendations. (Be sure to include "Sunday Puzzle" in the subject line.)


Art by Tara Jacoby


Solution To Sunday Puzzle #15: Pouring/Partitioning Water

Last week, I challenged you to a trio of water distribution puzzles. (Coincidentally, one of the three puzzles also appears in Car Talk's collection of dastardly Puzzlers! A couple of you mentioned this in your emails to me last week – which, incidentally, is how I found this week's Sunday Puzzle. If you solve this AND last week's puzzles, you will have solved TWO of Car Talk's most difficult brain teasers, so hats off to you.) The central challenge of each puzzle was straightforward: Precisely measure some quantity of water using two two glasses of different volume and an unlimited supply of H2O.


The solutions came hard and fast – and in a variety of forms! My favorite answer was submitted by Saucemaster, who opted to draw his explanations:

Puzzle 1: Measure six ounces of water using four- and nine-ounce glasses.


Puzzle 2: Measure six ounces of water using seven- and eleven-ounce glasses.


Puzzle 3: Measure four ounces of water using three- and five-ounce glasses:


As some of you pointed out, discarding the excess water in the last step isn't technically necessary. Also, the second puzzle can be solved in significantly fewer steps than Saucemaster uses, by filling the seven ounce glass first. Here are written solutions to the three puzzles. The first two were provided by Facebones, the third by pursnikkitty:

1) 4oz and 9oz make 6oz

Fill the 9oz glass completely. Fill the 4oz glass completely with water from the 9oz glass. (5oz remain). Dump the 4 oz out. Repeat. (1 oz left in the big glass.) Pour the 1 oz left into the 4 oz glass. Refill the 9 oz glass and pour into the 4 oz glass till full. This takes 3 oz and leaves 6 oz in the big glass.

2) 7 oz and 11 oz make 6 oz

Fill the 7 oz glass and pour it into the 11 oz glass. Repeat. This leaves 3 oz in the 7 oz glass. Dump out the 11 oz glass and pour in the 3 oz. Refill the 7 oz glass and pour it into the 11 oz glass. Now you have 10 oz in the 11 oz glass. Refill the 7 oz glass and pour into the 11 oz glass till full. This takes 1 oz, leaving 6 oz in the 7 oz glass.

3) [3 oz and 5 oz make 4 oz]

Fill the 5 oz and pour into the 3. Empty the 3 oz. Pour the remaining 2 oz into the 3 oz. Fill the 5 oz and pour 1 oz into the 3, giving you 4 oz left in the 5 oz.


Many of you also mentioned that the puzzles called to mind a scene from Die Hard 3, in which John McClain (Bruce Willis) and Zeus (Samuel L. Jackson) are challenged by Peter Krieg (Jeremy Irons) to precisely measure four gallons using five and three gallon jugs. In fact, the third puzzle was lifted directly from the movie – except, in Die Hard, McClain and Zeus are working in gallons, not ounces.

Previous Weeks' Puzzles


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