Archive for The Riddler

where is .5?

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , on September 10, 2020 by xi'an

A Riddler’s riddle on breaking the unit interval into 4 random bits (by which I understand picking 3 Uniform realisations and ordering them) and finding the length of the bit containing ½ (sparing you the chore of converting inches and feet into decimals). The result can be found by direct integration since the ordered Uniform variates are Beta’s, and so are their consecutive differences, leading to an average length of 15/32. Or by raw R simulation:


Which can be reproduced for other values than ½, showing that ½ is the value leading to the largest expected length. I wonder if there is a faster way to reach this nice 15/32.

le compte est bon

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

The Riddler asks how to derive 24 from (1,2,3,8), with each number appearing once and all operations (x,+,/,-,^) allowed. This reminded me of a very old TV show on French TV, called Le compte est bon!, where players were given 5 or 6 numbers and supposed to find a given total within 60 ,seconds. Unsurprisingly there is an online solver for this game, as shown above, e.g., 24=(8+3+1)x2. But it proves unable to solve the puzzle when the input is 24 and (2,3,3,4), only using 2,3 and 4, since 24=2x3x4. Introducing powers as well, since exponentiation is allowed, leads to two solutions, (4-2)³x3=(4/2)³x3=(3²-3)x4=3/(2/4)³=24… Not fun!

I however rewrote an R code to check whether 24 was indeed a possibility allowed with such combinations but could not find an easy way to identify which combination was used, although a pedestrian version eventually worked! And exhibited the slightly less predictable 43/2x3=24!

Riddle of the lanes

Posted in Books, Kids, R with tags , , , , , on July 13, 2020 by xi'an

An express riddle from the Riddler about reopening pools, where lanes are allowed provided there is no swimmer in the lane or in any of the adjacent lanes. If swimmers pick their lane at random (while they can), what is the average number of occupied lanes?

If there are n lanes and E(n) is the expected number of swimmers, E(n) satisfies a recurrence relation determined by the location of the first swimmer:


with E(0)=0, E(1)=E(2)=1. The above can be checked with a quick R experiment:

for(t in 1:T){

overlap, overstreched

Posted in Books, Kids, R, Statistics with tags , , , , , , on June 15, 2020 by xi'an

An interesting challenge on The Riddler on the probability to see a random interval X’ing with all other random intervals when generating n intervals from Dirichlet D(1,1,1). As it happens the probability is always 2/3, whatever n>1, as shown by the R code below (where replicate cannot be replaced by rep!):


and discussed more in details on X validated. As only a property on permutations and partitions. (The above picture is taken from this 2015 X validated post.)

minimax, maximin or plain

Posted in Kids, R with tags , , , on June 1, 2020 by xi'an

A simple riddle from The Riddler on choosing between the maximum between two minima of two throws of an N-face dice, the minimum between two maxima of two throws of an N-face dice, and a single throw. Since maximin is always less than minimax, second choice is always worse than first and a stochastic domination version of the argument shows the single throw should stand in the middle.