The Diabolical Long Division Brain Teaser!

From time to time, I’ll receive an email with a brain teaser I’ve never seen before. Sometimes they come from friends, or fellow puzzlers. Other times, PuzzleNationers will ask for my assistance in solving a puzzle that has flummoxed them.

That was the case with today’s puzzle, and I’ll admit, this one was a bit of a doozy to unravel.

Yup, an entire long division problem with only a single digit set. No letters or encryption to let us know which digits were repeated, as there are in Word Math puzzles published by our friends at Penny Dell Puzzles.

Just a 7 and a bunch of asterisks. “Is this doable?” the sender asked.

Yes, this is entirely doable, friend. Let’s break it down step by step.

First, we need to know our terminology. The 8-digit number being divided is our dividend. The 3-digit number we’re dividing into it is the divisor. The 5-digit number on top is our quotient.

For the other lines, let’s label them A through G for ease of reference later.

There we go. Now, where do we go from here? We start with what we know.

We know that 7 is the second digit in our quotient.

So our divisor, times 7, equals the number on line C. That’s a 3-digit number, which means the first number in our divisor is 1. Why? Because if it was 2, 2 times 7 would give us 14, which would be a 4-digit number on that line.

That means the quotient is somewhere between 100 and 142. (Why 142? Easy. I divided 1000 by 7, and 142 is the last 3-digit number you can multiply 7 against and still end up with a 3-digit answer for line C. 143 times 7 is 1001, which is too high.)

What else do we know from the puzzle as it stands?

Well, look at lines E and F. We bring both of the last two digits in the dividend down for the final part of the equation. What does that mean?

Remember how long division works. You multiply the divisor by whatever number gets you closest to the given digits of the dividend, subtract the remainder, bring down the next digit from the dividend, and do it all over again until you get your answer.

You multiply the first digit of the quotient times the divisor to get the number on line A. You multiply 7 times the divisor to get the number on line C. You multiply the third digit of the quotient times the divisor to get the number on line E.

Following this route, you would multiply the fourth digit of the quotient against the divisor to get the number on line G. But bringing just one digit down didn’t give us a number high enough to be divided into. Instead of needing more lines (H and I, in this case), we bring the last digit of the dividend down and press onward.

That means the fourth digit of the quotient is 0, because the divisor went into the dividend zero times at that point.

And there’s more we can glean just from the asterisks and what we already know. We know that every one of those 4-digit numbers in the equation begin with the number 1.

How do we know that? Easy. That first number in the divisor. With a 1 there, even if the divisor is 199 and we multiply it times 9, the highest possible answer for any of those 4-digit numbers is 1791.

So let’s fill those numbers in as well:

Now look at lines D, E, and F. There’s nothing below the 1 on line D. The only way that can happen is if the second digit in line D is smaller than the first digit on line E. And on line F, you can see that those first two columns in lines D and E equal zero, since there’s nothing on line F until we hit that third column of digits.

That means the second digit on line D is either a 0 or a 1, and the first digit on line E is a 9. It’s the only way to end up with a blank space there on line F.

I realize there are a lot of asterisks left, but we’re actually very close to knowing our entire quotient by now.

Look at what we know. 7 times the divisor gives us a 3-digit answer on line C. We don’t yet know if that’s the same 3-digit answer on line E, but since it’s being divided into a 4-digit number on line E and only a 3-digit number on line C, that means the third digit in our quotient is either equal to or greater than 7. So, it’s 7 or 8.

Why not 9? Because of the 4-digit answers on lines A and G. Those would have to be higher than the multiplier for lines C and E because they result in 4-digit answers, not 3. So the digit in the first and fifth places in the quotient are higher than the digit in the third. So, if the third digit in the quotient is 7 or 8, the first and fifth are either 8 or 9.

So how do we know whether 7 or 8 is the third digit in the quotient?

Well, if it’s 7, then lines C and E would have the same 3-digit answer, both beginning with 9. But line C cannot have an answer beginning with 9, because line B is also 3 digits. The highest value the first digit in line B could have is 9, and 9 minus 9 is zero. But the number on line D begins with 1, ruling out the idea that the numbers on lines C and E are the same.

That makes the third digit in the quotient 8, and the first and fifth digits in the quotient 9.

We know our quotient now, 97809. What about our divisor?

Well, remember before when we narrowed it down to somewhere between 100 and 142? That’s going to come in handy now.

On line F, we know those first two digits are going to be 141 or below, because whatever our divisor is, it was larger than those three digits. That’s how we ended up with a 0 in our quotient.

So, the number on line D minus the number on line E equals 14 or below. So we need a 900-something number that, when added to a number that’s 14 or below, equals 1000 or more. That gives us a field from 986 to 999.

And that number between 986 and 999 has to be divisible by 8 for our quotient to work. And the only number in that field that fits the bill is 992. 992 divided by 8 gives us 124, which is our divisor.

From that point on, we can fill out the rest of the equation, including our lengthy dividend, 12128316.

And there you have it. With some math skills, some deduction, and some crafty puzzling, we’ve slain yet another brain teaser. Nice work everyone!

[After solving the puzzle, I did a little research, and apparently this one has been making the rounds after being featured in FiveThirtyEight’s recurring Riddler feature, so here’s a link.]

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Fix These Sixes!

[Image courtesy of Daily Brain Teaser.]

It’s a new year, and I’ve already got a new math puzzle for you. A friend discovered this one and sent it my way in the hopes that I’d be able to crack this diabolical brain teaser.

Fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers, this is the Sixes puzzle.

0 0 0 = 6

1 1 1 = 6

2 2 2 = 6

3 3 3 = 6

4 4 4 = 6

5 5 5 = 6

6 6 6 = 6

7 7 7 = 6

8 8 8 = 6

9 9 9 = 6

The goal is to make all of the above equations true by adding mathematical symbols.

And, naturally, there are rules.

  • You can use as many mathematical symbols as you want for each equation
  • You are not allowed to use letters, so spelling out functions like “cos” is out
  • You are not allowed to add digits of any kind, so no turning a “2” into a “12”
  • The result has to be exactly 6 ( not 6.0000000000000001 or 5.999999999999999 )
  • Square roots are allowed
  • You are not allowed to change “=” to “≠” (not equal to) or manipulate the result in any way

Take a crack at it, then scroll down past the dice to see how it’s done.

Last warning before answers!

[Image courtesy of The Progzilla Files.]

Let’s start by knocking out the easiest one.

2 2 2 = 6 can be resolved as 2+2+2=6.

6 6 6 = 6 can be resolved as 6+6-6=6 or 6-6+6=6.

They get a little trickier from here, involving multiple operations.

3 3 3 = 6 can be resolved as 3×3-3=6, becoming 9-3=6.

Fractions also come into play for a few of these equations. (This can also be represented as division.)

5 5 5 = 6 can be resolved as 5+(5/5)=6, becoming 5+1=6.

7 7 7 = 6 can be resolved as 7-(7/7)=6, becoming 7-1=6.

[Image courtesy of]

Okay, we’re halfway there, and now the square root rule gives us a hint regarding how to resolve the 4 equation.

4 4 4 = 6 can be 4+4-(√4)=6, becoming 8-2=6.

And this formula gives us a way to crack the 8 equation.

8 8 8 = 6 can be resolved as 8-√(√(8+8))=6, becoming 8-√(√16)=6, becoming 8-(√4)=6, becoming 8-2=6.

Square roots also come into play in solving the 9 equation.

9 9 9 = 6 can be resolved as (9+9)/(√9)=6, becoming 18/3=6.

Now, admittedly, at this point, I was stumped. I had two equations left, and no ideas regarding how to proceed.

0 0 0 = 6

1 1 1 = 6

So, I reached out to a mathematician pal of mine — the same one who helped me crack the diabolical Seesaw Puzzle from Brooklyn Nine-Nine — and he immediately knew what to do: use an exclamation point.

In mathematics, an exclamation point represents a factorial, the product of every positive number between the given number and zero.

For instance, 6! represents 6x5x4x3x2x1, or 720.

1 1 1 = 6 can now be resolved as (1+1+1)!=6, becoming 3!=6, becoming 3x2x1=6.

But what about 0 0 0 = 6?

Factorials to the rescue again! You see, 0! equals 1. So we can use the 1 equation as a template for this one.

0 0 0 = 6 can be resolved as (0!+0!+0!)!=6, becoming (1+1+1)!=6, becoming 3!=6, becoming 3x2x1=6.

And there you have it, the Sixes puzzle conquered with nothing but crafty math and puzzly skills. An excellent start to a new year of brain teaser challenges!

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It’s Follow-Up Friday: 2016 Countdown edition!

It’s the final Follow-Up Friday of the year, so what do you say we revisit all of 2016 with a countdown of my ten favorite blog posts from the past year!

#10 Doomsday Prep

One of the big surprises for me this year was discovering that crosswords and puzzle books were hot-ticket items for doomsday preppers. The idea that crosswords belong next to necessities like food, water, shelter, and knowledge was a revealing one, something that gave me great hope for the future, whether we need those caches or not.

#9 Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide

Every year, one of my favorite activities is putting together our Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide. I get to include the best products sent to me for review by top puzzle and game companies, mix in some of my own favorites, and draw attention to terrific constructors, game designers, and friends of the blog, all in the hopes of introducing solvers (and families of solvers) to quality puzzles and games.

#8 A Puzzly Proposal

Our friends at Penny Dell Puzzles once again pulled off a heck of a puzzly coup when an intrepid fellow puzzler asked them for help proposing to his girlfriend with a special Simon Says puzzle.

I reached out to the lucky fiancé and got his permission to share the story with the PuzzleNation readership, and as I learned more about who was involved and how they’d managed to make it happen, I enjoyed the story more and more. Here’s hoping for many happy puzzly years ahead for the young couple!

#7 Puzzle Fort

For International Puzzle Day, I built a fort out of puzzle books.

It was awesome. Definitely one of my favorite puzzly moments of the year.

#6 The End of Sudoku?

The Sudoku boom may be over, but Sudoku remains one of the most popular puzzles in the world, and I got to thinking… when would we run out? I mean, eventually, statistically speaking, every single Sudoku puzzle permutation would get used at some point, so when would that happen?

So, I crunched the numbers, and it turns out, we’ve got centuries before that happens. Still, it was a fun mental puzzle to unravel.

#5 Murder Mystery

At some point this year, I let slip to my fellow puzzlers that I’d written and staged murder mystery dinners in the past, but it had been a while since I’d done anything like that. Naturally, they volunteered to be participants, urging me to stage something in the office.

Eventually, I accepted their challenge, pitting myself against a half-dozen or so of my fellow puzzlers, allowing some of them to investigate while others played a part in the mystery. It was an enormous undertaking and an absolute blast that lasted three days, and it was definitely a highlight of the year for me.

#4 Puzzle Plagiarism

There was probably no bigger story in crosswords all year than the accusations of plagiarism leveled against Timothy Parker. The editor of puzzles for USA Today and Universal UClick. After numerous examples of very suspicious repetitions between grids were discovered in a crossword database compiled by programmer Saul Pwanson and constructor Ben Tausig, Parker “temporarily stepped back from any editorial role” with their puzzles.

Eventually, Parker was removed from any editorial influence on USA Today’s puzzles, but it remains unknown if he’s still serving in a puzzle-related capacity for Universal Uclick. But the real story here was about integrity in puzzles, as many puzzle and game companies rallied to defend their rights as creators. That’s a cause we can all get behind.

#3 Interviewing the PuzzleNation Team

Our recurring interview feature 5 Questions returned this year, but what made it truly special to me was being able to turn the spotlight on some of my fellow puzzlers here at PuzzleNation as part of celebrating 4 years of PuzzleNation Blog. Introducing readers to our programmer Mike, our Director of Digital Games Fred, and yes, even myself, was a really fun way to celebrate this milestone.

#2 ACPT, CT FIG, and Other Puzzly Events

There are few things better than spending time with fellow puzzlers and gamers, and we got to do a lot of that this year. Whether it was supporting local creators at the Connecticut Festival of Indie Games or cheering on my fellow puzzlers at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, getting out and talking shop with other creators is invigorating and encouraging. It really helps solidify the spirit of community that comes with being puzzly.

#1 Penny Dell Sudoku and Android Expansion

Those were our two biggest app releases this year, and I just couldn’t choose one over the other. This has been a terrific year for us as puzzle creators, because not only did we beef up our library of Android-available puzzle sets to match our terrific iOS library, but we launched our new Penny Dell Sudoku app across both platforms, broadening the scope of what sort of puzzle apps you can expect from PuzzleNation.

It may sound self-serving or schlocky to talk about our flagship products as #1 in the countdown, but it’s something that we’re all extremely proud of, something that we’re constantly working to improve, because we want to make our apps the absolute best they can be for the PuzzleNation audience. That’s what you deserve.

Thanks for spending 2016 with us, through puzzle scandals and proposals, through forts and festivities, through doomsday prepping and daily delights. We’ll see you in 2017.

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PuzzleNation Looks Back at 2016!

The year is quickly coming to a close, and as I look back on an eventful year in the world of puzzles and games, I’m unbelievably proud of the contributions both PuzzleNation Blog and PuzzleNation made to the puzzle community as a whole.

Over the last year, we explored board games and card games, strategy games and trivia games, dice games and tile games, do-it-yourself puzzlers and pen-and-paper classics. We met designers, constructors, authors, artists who work in LEGOs and dominos, and creative types of all kinds.

We unraveled math puzzles and used statistics to play Hangman and Guess Who smarter. We accepted the challenge of diabolical puzzles, optical illusions, Internet memes, and more.

We delved into puzzle history with posts about Bletchley Park, puzzle graffiti from ancient Greece, Viking board games, and modern mysteries like the Kryptos Sculpture and the Voynich Manuscript. We separated fact from fiction when it comes to puzzles and brain health, avoiding highfalutin promises and sticking to solid science.

We spread the word about numerous worthwhile Kickstarters and Indiegogo campaigns, watching as the puzzle/game renaissance continued to amaze and surprise us with innovative new ways to play and solve. We shared amazing projects and worthy causes like Humble Bundles and puzzle/game donation programs for schools that allowed puzzle lovers to help others.

We celebrated International TableTop Day, built a puzzle fort in honor of International Puzzle Day, attended the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament and the Connecticut Festival of Indie Games, and dove deep into puzzle events like the Indie 500, the UK Sudoku Championship, the 2016 UK Puzzle Championship, and Lollapuzzoola. We even celebrated a puzzly wedding proposal, and we were happy to share so many remarkable puzzly landmark moments with you.

It’s been both a pleasure and a privilege to explore the world of puzzles and games with you, my fellow puzzle lovers and PuzzleNationers. We marked four years of PuzzleNation Blog this year, I’m approaching my 650th blog post, and I’m more excited to write for you now than I was when I started.

And honestly, that’s just the blog. PuzzleNation’s good fortune, hard work, and accomplishments in 2016 went well beyond that.

In April, we launched Penny Dell Crosswords Jumbo 3 for iOS users, and in May, we followed that with Penny Dell Crosswords Jumbo for Android. In November, we launched our new Penny Dell Sudoku app on both Android and iOS.

But the standout showpiece of our puzzle app library remains the Penny Dell Crossword App. Every month, we release puzzle sets like our Dell Collection sets or the themed Deluxe sets for both Android and iOS users, and I’m proud to say that every single puzzle represents our high standards of quality puzzle content for solvers and PuzzleNationers.

We even revamped our ongoing Crossword Clue Challenge to feature a clue from each day’s Free Daily Puzzle in the Crossword app, all to ensure that more puzzle lovers than ever have access to the best mobile crossword app on the market today.

And your response has been fantastic! The blog is closing in on 2000 followers, and with our audience on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other platforms continuing to grow, the enthusiasm of the PuzzleNation readership is both humbling and very encouraging.

2016 was our most ambitious, most exciting, and most creatively fulfilling year to date, and the coming year promises to be even brighter.

Thank you for your support, your interest, and your feedback, PuzzleNationers. Have a marvelous New Year. We’ll see you in 2017!

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It’s Follow-Up Friday: Math Puzzle Madness edition!

Welcome to Follow-Up Friday!

By this time, you know the drill. Follow-Up Friday is a chance for us to revisit the subjects of previous posts and bring the PuzzleNation audience up to speed on all things puzzly.

And today, I’d like to revisit the world of viral puzzles and discuss two that have been making the rounds on Facebook recently.

If you’ve been on social media recently, you’ve no doubt seen one or both of these puzzles:



Each was probably accompanied by some hyperbolic phrasing like “95% of people and most dogs can’t solve this puzzle! Heck, they can’t even agree on an answer! CAN YOU?!?!?!?!”

Well, duh. Of course they can’t agree on an answer. There’s plenty of room to make different assumptions.

Let’s look at the first puzzle again.


Now, if you take the puzzle at face value, the chain would appear to be this:

1 + 4 = 5

2 + 5 (+5) = 12 (We’ve added the previous answer, which is where the +5 comes from.

3 + 6 (+12) = 21

8 + 11 (+21) = 40

So the answer is 40.

But wait. if you assume that the pattern continues for the digits between 3 and 8, you end up with this:

1 + 4 = 5

2 + 5 (+5) = 12

3 + 6 (+12) = 21

4 + 7 (+21) = 32

5 + 8 (+32) = 45

6 + 9 (+45) = 60

7 + 10 (+60) = 77

8 + 11 (+77) = 96

And, in truth, it could be either. You’re not given enough information to know for sure how to proceed. It’s a coin toss whether the last line immediately follows the third line, or whether there’s a whole bunch of lines in between and you need to “get the pattern” to extrapolate the 8th line.

Now let’s look at that second puzzle again.


This one also has the potential for alternate answers, but instead of inferences, it depends on whether you follow the traditional order of operations (parentheses, exponents, multiplication/division, addition/subtraction) or you simply read left to right.

If you use traditional order of operations, you end up with:

Horse + Horse + Horse = 30, so Horse = 10.

Horse + Horseshoes + Horseshoes = 18, so Horseshoes = 4 and Horseshoe = 2.

Horseshoes – Boots = 2, so Boots = 2 and Boot = 1.

Boot + Horse x Horseshoe = Boot + (Horse x Horseshoe) = 1 + (10 x 2) = 21.

But if you simply read the last equation from left to right, you end up with:

Boot + Horse x Horseshoe = 1 + 10 x 2 = 11 x 2 = 22.

So, in fairness, there is no right answer to either puzzle, given the information we have.

Which, to me, doesn’t seem like a great puzzle, but it probably makes for great clickbait.

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Unraveling the Riddle of Math Puzzles!

Math puzzles are among the most intimidating in the world of puzzles. Many people will happily dive into a crossword or tackle a word seek at a moment’s notice, but drop some numbers into a puzzle, and they hesitate.

But there’s no reason to fear!

Math puzzles are certainly a different form of puzzling, but like all puzzles, there’s always a way in, if you know how to look for it. Today, we’re going to solve two math puzzles together in the hopes of demystifying this style of puzzle.

Let’s take a look at our first math puzzle, “Count the Votes.”

A problem developed at a recent election where 5,219 votes were cast for four candidates. The victor exceeded his opponents by 22, 30, and 73 votes, yet not one of them knew how to figure out the exact number of votes received by each. Can you?

Okay, where do we begin?

Let’s start with what we know. We know the total number of votes, 5,219. That will be one side of our equation.

We also know that the winner beat his three opponents by 22 votes, 30 votes, and 73 votes, respectively. Which means that the number of votes the winner received is the key to solving this puzzle. Let’s call that number of votes “x.”

The winner beat one opponent by 22 votes (x – 22), another by 30 votes (x – 30), and the last by 73 votes (x – 73).

We can build our simple equation from that information:

x + (x – 22) + (x – 30) + (x – 73) = 5219

Still a little daunting, but we can simplify it, because it doesn’t matter in which order we add or subtract things. So let’s look at that formula without the parentheses:

x + x – 22 + x – 30 + x – 73 = 5219

Now let’s reorganize it, putting the addition parts together and the subtraction parts together:

x + x + x + x – 22 – 30 – 73 = 5219

Subtracting those three numbers separately is the same as subtracting their total, so let’s simplify again:

x + x + x + x – 125 = 5219

Adding four x’s together is the same as multiplying one x by 4, so let’s express that:

4x – 125 = 5219

Now we’re getting somewhere.

And subtracting 125 from 4x is the same as adding 125 to 5219, so let’s do that:

4x = 5344

Finally, we divide 5344 by 4 to give us the value of x:

x = 1336

Which means that our victor got 1336 votes, one opponent got 1314 (x – 22), another opponent got 1306 (x – 30), and the last got 1263 (x – 73), totalling 5129 votes.

Now, that wasn’t so bad, was it? Let’s try another that’s a little bit harder.

This one is called “The Mathematical Cop.”

“Top of the mornin’ to you, officer,” said Mr. McGuire. “Can you tell me what time it is?”

“I can do that same,” replied Officer Clancy, who was known on the force as the mathematical cop. “Just add one quarter of the time from midnight until now to half the time from now until midnight, and it will give you the correct time.”

Can you figure out the exact time when this puzzling conversation took place?

Okay, this one isn’t as obvious about providing us with information, but the info is there if you look.

Since everything relates to the time “now,” we’ll make “now” our x.

Then we take each part of Officer Clancy’s statement in turn. “Just add one quarter of the time from midnight until now.”

“The time from midnight until now” is the same as “now,” x, so one quarter of that time is x/4.

And we’re meant to add that to “half the time from now until midnight.”

That’s a little bit tougher. After all, “the time from midnight to now” was easy, but “the time from now until midnight” covers the rest of a 24-hour day. So, if x covers the time from midnight to now, then “1440 – x” covers the time from now until midnight.

(There are 1440 minutes in a day, 60 minutes times 24 hours, and it’s easier to do all this in minutes, rather than hours and minutes.)

So “half the time from now until midnight” is (1440 – x)/2.

Okay, so what does our equation look like?

x/4 + (1440 – x)/2 = x

That’s pretty daunting, but we know what our goal is: to combine all those x’s and get them on the same side of the equal sign. And like the equation we built for “Count the Votes,” we can simplify it with some careful applied math.

The first step is to get rid of those pesky fractions.

Let’s multiply everything by 2 in order to remove the “/2” below “(1440 – x),” which gives us:

2x/4 + (1440 – x) = 2x

We can use the same trick to remove the “/4” below 2x:

2x + 4(1440 – x) = 8x

Now we’re getting somewhere! Let’s get rid of that 2x on the left by subtracting 2x from both sides:

4(1440 – x) = 6x

Let’s go a step further by multiplying both 1440 and x by 4:

5760 – 4x = 6x

One more step, and we’ve got all of those x’s combined on one side of the equation, as we’d hoped:

5760 = 10x

Divide 5760 by 10 and we’ve got x:

576 = x

If you recall, x represented the time “now,” but it’s still in minutes. To get the actual time, divide 576 by 60 to get the number of hours. 540 minutes = 9 hours, so 576 is 9 hours, 36 minutes.

It’s 9:36 AM, Officer, though to be honest, if you tell everyone the time this way, I imagine people stop asking you the time after a while.

I realize these are only two examples, and math puzzles come in all shapes and sizes, but hopefully, they don’t seem quite so intimidating, now that you know how to pick them apart for the important information.

Good luck! And if you find any math puzzles you need help with, send them our way! They could end up the subject of a future blog post!

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