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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Of Marrieds and Singles...

In case you missed it, there was an Alex Bellos puzzle in The Guardian recently that almost 70% of responding readers missed (and supposedly 80+% of the general public usually miss) -- I was astounded by those numbers, since it doesn't appear terribly difficult, given just a modicum of thought. It ran as follows:

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Jack is looking at Anne, but Anne is looking at George.
Jack is married, but George is not.
Is a married person looking at an unmarried person?

A)  Yes     B)  No     C)  Cannot be determined

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James Grime covers it well here (and he also throws in a second, completely unrelated, problem worth seeing):

After this puzzle began making Twitter rounds, David Wees pointed out the very similar problem I've placed below (I advise NOT looking at it 'til you work the above puzzle), which interestingly seems much easier than the Bellos problem -- a strong indication of how words/language can get in the way of clearly understanding relationships or structure, or simply what is being asked.
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"A coin is flipped 3 times. 1st flip comes up heads and 3rd flip is tails. Is heads ever followed directly by tails?"