Archive for riddle

multiplying the bars

Posted in Kids, R with tags , , , , , , , on February 25, 2020 by xi'an

The latest Riddler makes the remark that the expression


has no unique meaning (and hence value) since it could be

| -1x|-2|-3 | = 5   or   |-1| – 2x|-3| = -5

depending on the position of the multiplication sign and asks for all the possible values of


which can be explored by a recursive R function for computing |-i|-(i+1)|…|-(i+2j)|

  if(j>1){for(k in 1:(j-2))

producing 40 different values for the ill-defined expression. However, this is incorrect as the product(s) hidden in the expression only involve a single term in vol(i,j)… I had another try with the decomposition of the expression vol(i,j) into a first part and a second part

prod<-function(a,b) a*b[,1]+b[,2]

    if(j-1){for(k in 2:(j-1)){
      for(m in 1:dim(pon)[1])

but it still fails to produce the right version.

another easy Riddler

Posted in Books, Kids, R with tags , , , , on January 31, 2020 by xi'an

A quick riddle from the Riddler

In a two-person game, Abigail and Zian both choose between a and z. Abigail win one point with probability .9 if they choose (a,a) and with probability 1 if they choose (a,z), and two points with probability .4 if they choose (z,z) and with probability .6 if they choose (z,a). Find the optimal probabilities δ and ς of choosing a for both Abigail and Zian when δ is known to Zian.

Since the average gain for Abigail is δ(1-.1ς)+2(1-δ)(.4+.2ς) the riddle sums up as solving the minmax problem

\max_\delta \min_\varsigma\delta(1-.1\varsigma)+2(1-\delta)(.4+.2\varsigma)

the solution in ς is either 0 or 1 depending on δ being smaller or larger than 12/22, which leads to this value as the expected gain. The saddlepoint is hardly visible in the above image. While ς is either 0 or 1 in the optimal setting,  a constant choice of 1 or 0 would modify the optimal for δ except that Abigail must declare her value of δ!

a very quick Riddle

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures, R with tags , , , , , , on January 22, 2020 by xi'an

A very quick Riddler’s riddle last week with the question

Find the (integer) fraction with the smallest (integer) denominator strictly located between 1/2020 and 1/2019.

and the brute force resolution

for (t in (2020*2019):2021){ 
   if (a*2019<t) sol=c(a,t)}

leading to 2/4039 as the target. Note that


riddle by attrition

Posted in Books, Kids, R with tags , , , on December 2, 2019 by xi'an

The weekend riddle from The Riddler is rather straightforward [my wording and simplification]:

Construct a decimal number X between 0 and 1 by drawing the first digit a¹ uniformly over {0,1,…,9}, the second digit a² uniformly over {0,1,…,9}, &tc., until 0 is attained. What is the expectation of this random variable X?

Since each new digit has expectation half of the previous digit, the expectation is an infinite geometric series with common ratio 20⁻¹ and factor 9, leading to an expectation of 9/19. As verified with the following R code:


survivalists [a Riddler’s riddle]

Posted in Books, Kids, R, Statistics with tags , , , , , , on April 22, 2019 by xi'an

A neat question from The Riddler on a multi-probability survival rate:

Nine processes are running in a loop with fixed survivals rates .99,….,.91. What is the probability that the first process is the last one to die? Same question with probabilities .91,…,.99 and the probability that the last process is the last one to die.

The first question means that the realisation of a Geometric G(.99) has to be strictly larger than the largest of eight Geometric G(.98),…,G(.91). Given that the cdf of a Geometric G(a) is [when counting the number of attempts till failure, included, i.e. the Geometric with support the positive integers]

F(x)=\Bbb P(X\le x)=1-a^{x}

the probability that this happens has the nice (?!) representation

\sum_{x=2}^\infty a_1^{x-1}(1-a_1)\prod_{j\ge 2}(1-a_j^{x-1})=(1-a_1)G(a_1,\ldots,a_9)

which leads to an easy resolution by recursion since


and G(a)=a/(1-a)

and a value of 0.5207 returned by R (Monte Carlo evaluation of 0.5207 based on 10⁷ replications). The second question is quite similar, with solution

\sum_{x=2}^\infty a_1^{x-1}(1-a_1)\prod_{j\ge 1}(1-a_j^{x})=a^{-1}(1-a_1)G(a_1,\ldots,a_9)

and value 0.52596 (Monte Carlo evaluation of 0.52581 based on 10⁷ replications).

numbers of numbers with numbers of their numbers

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , on April 6, 2019 by xi'an

A funny riddle from The Riddler where the number of numbers that indicate the numbers of their numbers is requested. By which one means numbers like 22 (two 2’s) and 21322314 (two 1’s, three 2’s, two 3’s and one 4), the convention being that “numbers consist of alternating tallies and numerals”. And that numerals are “tallied in increasing order”. A reasoning based on the number of 1’s, from zero (where 22 seems to be the only possibility) to six (where 613223141516171819 is the only case) leads to a total of 59 cases (unless zero counts as an extra case) and a brute force R exploration returns the same figure:

for (t in 1:1e5){
  for (i in 1:9) count[i]=(sum(az==i)+(az[i]>0))==az[i]
  while ((min(count)==0)&(nit<1e2)){      
  if (min(count)==1) solz=unique.matrix(rbind(solz,az),mar=1)}

The solution published on The Riddler differs because it also includes numbers with zeros. Which I find annoying to the extreme because if zeroes are allowed then every digit not in the original solution should appear as multiplied by 0, which is self-contradictory… For instance 22 should be 012203…09, except then there is one 1, one 3, and so on.


no country for old liars

Posted in Kids, R with tags , , , , , on March 30, 2019 by xi'an

A puzzle from the Riddler about a group of five persons, A,..,E, where all and only people strictly older than L are liars, all making statements about others’ ages:

  1. A: B>20 and D>16
  2. B: C>18 and E<20
  3. C: D<22 and A=19
  4. D: E≠20 and B=20
  5. E: A>21 and C<18

The Riddler is asking for the (integer value of L and the ranges or values of A,…,E. After thinking about this puzzle over a swimming session, I coded the (honest) constraints and their (liar) complements as many binary matrices, limiting the number of values of L to 8 from 0 (15) to 7 (22) and A,…,E to 7 from 1 (16) to 7 (22):

A[2,1:(20-15)]=A[4,1]=0 #A honest
CA[2,(21-15):7]=CA[4,2:7]=0 #A lying
C[1,-(19-15)]=C[4,7]=0 #C honest
CC[1,(19-15)]=CC[4,-7]=0 #C lying

since the term-wise product of these five matrices expresses all the constraints on the years, as e.g.


if A,D≤L and B,C,E>L, and I then looked by uniform draws [with a slight Gibbs flavour] for values of the integers that suited the constraints or their complement, the stopping rule being that the collection of A,…,E,L is producing an ABCDE binary matrix that agrees with all statements modulo the lying statuum of their authors:

for (i in 1:5) yar[i]=sample(1:7,1)
while (min(diag(ABCDE[,yar]))==0){ 
   if (max(ABCDE[idx,])==1) yar[idx]=sample(which(ABCDE[idx,]>0),1)

which always produces L=18,A=19,B=20,C=18,D=16 and E>19 as the unique solution (also reported by The Riddler).

     [,1] [,2] [,3] [,4] [,5] [,6] [,7]
[1,]    0    0    0    1    0    0    0
[2,]    0    0    0    0    1    0    0
[3,]    0    0    1    0    0    0    0
[4,]    1    0    0    0    0    0    0
[5,]    0    0    0    0    1    1    1