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Thread: I don't have an answer for this...

  1. #1
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    I don't have an answer for this...

    Many yeas ago, A fried had a subscription to the Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. It featured a brain teazer page with a puzzle or two, most of which were really easy. The last one he got stumped me. Every now and the I go back to it, but with no luck. I was hoping that someone her has seen this, or one close enough to it to know or figure it out.

    A man is placed in an unusual prison. The warden tells him that evey cell has a way out, if the prisoner can guess the puzzle. As an example, he is told of a man who was placed in an esape prooof cell, and told that if he could break out he would be free to leave. Since he would be staying for a very long time he was free to bring in plants and pictures to make his cell more comfortable. After several years he realized that 'break out' had more than one meaning. He requested a poison ivy plant and was released the next day, covered in rashes.

    The new prisoner was led to a cell with a 10 dial combination lock. He is told that if he can figure out the combination, he is free to leave. The only things in the cell to help him are a printing calculator and some writing implements. The tries a few randomw numbers, then sits down to think. Minutes later he jumps up, goes over to the caluculator, spins the dials and walks out a free man. What was the combination?
    What alsway struck me was the used of the word 'implements'. 10 letters long and seemed out of place with the rest of the text. I got a number of different answers, but none jumped out at me as being correct. Any thoughts?
    I'm Not Evil.
    An evil person would do the things that pop into my head.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tog_
    [/INDENT]What alsway struck me was the used of the word 'implements'. 10 letters long and seemed out of place with the rest of the text. I got a number of different answers, but none jumped out at me as being correct. Any thoughts?
    I think that it's more likely the solution has to do with the words "figure out the combination." Since the first puzzle was a pun, and it's probably intended as a pattern matching exercise, the solution should be found through finding the second meaning of figure out, and how it relates to "the combination." To figure something out also means to calculate it (like, convert to figures).... "Figure" also means picture, or foreground. All are good approaches.

    The main reason I don't think the word "implements" has anything to do with it is that the man wasn't told he was being given implements. He was just placed in the cell, and there's no way to expect he'd ever figure out the puzzle by looking at a pencil (or pen, or whatever) and think, "Implements! Ah ha!"

    The clues given to him are:
    1) the story of the break out pun
    2) the ten dial lock
    3) "if he can figure out the combination, he is free to leave"
    4) Minutes later he jumps up, goes over to the caluculator, spins the dials and walks out a free man.
    5) the existence of the calculator
    6) the existence of the writing implements

    The thing that strikes me as odd is that it looks like he went to the calculator to spin the dials. Is this just a misinterpretation of the text on my part, or the key to the puzzle? (Probably the former... but worth investigating, perhaps)

    Did he perhaps enter the values on the dials into the calculator, and did the guard, having observed that this was the correct procedure, let him out? That seems very reasonable to me. Better yet, he devises an equation that adds up to (or multiplies, or whatever) the currently displayed combination. He writes that problem down, then figures it out. He has thus figured out the combination.

    The only problem here is that he spins the dials, and he doesn't write anything. Okay, so he goes to the calculator, punches 1111111111 + 2222222222 and gets 3333333333 printed out. He walks to the lock, spins it to 3333333333, hands the printout to the guard, and the guard lets him go. The problem with that is that I'm supposing a guard, while none is mentioned. The guy who "broke out" was taken out by guards the next day....

    I'm not convinced either of these is quite correct, but I am convinced that the key lies in finding the pun on "figure out the combination."

  3. #3
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    I am going from a 15 year old memory here, so I may have changed some of the wording. I recall the warden saying somthing like, "your cell contains a desk, a printing calculator, and some writing implements." The waren definately said implements to the guy.

    He puched some buttons on the calculator, then entered the combination on the lock on the door. There was never a mention of a guard.
    I'm Not Evil.
    An evil person would do the things that pop into my head.

  4. #4
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    I have just found this puzzle online. Does this version sound familiar?

    "I believe you are unfamiliar with the penal system in our country," said the warden, as he led the new prisoner to his cell."We find that it improves prison morale for each prisoner to have a chance to end his sentence at any time. In your case, we have set up a combination lock on your cell door. There are ten dials, on which you can set up any ten-digit number. If you set up the right one, the cell door will unlock and you will be free to leave."

    "I see," said the prisoner. "Then if I try every possible number, I'm sure to hit the right one."

    "True," said the warden, "but even if you were able to change the numbers at the rate of one per second without rest, it would still take you a hundred years to hit the right combination. However, you could try numbers at random and have a chance of choosing the right one. Or, you could search for the clue which we always provide."

    "What sort of clue?"

    "Well, it might be almost anything. For example, one of our prisoners was put in an escape-proof cell and told that he would be pardoned if he could break out. He was also given permission to keep any plants he wished in his cell."

    "What became of him?"

    The warden chuckled. "After more than two years, he suddenly realized that some words may have more than one meaning. He requested a poison ivy plant. Soon after receiving it, he broke out – in a rash. Naturally, he received his pardon."

    The warden unlocked the cell and ushered the prisoner in. "Your cell contains a desk calculator and writing implements. Good luck."

    The prisoner was left alone. He tried a few combinations on the lock without success. What could the clue be? A thought struck him. It seemed worth a try. He made a few calculations, and then set up a number on the lock. The cell door opened and the prisoner strolled out, after serving less than an hour of his sentence.

    What number did he try?


    clop

  5. #5
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    YES!!! That's the one. How did you find it? None of my searches came up with anything useful.
    I'm Not Evil.
    An evil person would do the things that pop into my head.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by clop
    "True," said the warden, "but even if you were able to change the numbers at the rate of one per second without rest, it would still take you a hundred years to hit the right combination."
    Hmm, well assuming that the version of the puzzle I found using Google is more correctly stated than the one the OP remembers from 15 years ago, I think the clue to the solution is in the sentence I've quoted above. I won't spoil things any further but I think I know the answer!

    clop

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by clop
    I won't spoil things any further but I think I know the answer!
    I'm not sure I know the answer, but I could perhaps nail it down in a few tries. I do not know whether the warden is talking about calendar years, tropical years, or sidereal years, or perhaps some ethnic lunar based year. I also don't know if the hundred years includes February 29th, 2000 or not. However, I should be able to guess the combination with less than a few dozen tries.
    Forming opinions as we speak

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by clop
    Hmm, well assuming that the version of the puzzle I found using Google is more correctly stated than the one the OP remembers from 15 years ago, I think the clue to the solution is in the sentence I've quoted above. I won't spoil things any further but I think I know the answer!

    clop
    Ha ha! Very good indeed!

  9. #9
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    I didn't think I'd have all the deails there to solve it, I was just hoping that someone here would remember it. I'd googled it a lot of times a lot of different ways and never found it.

    I remember thinking whenI first saw it that the 100 year was too short for the number of possibilities, but then all sorts of other questions came up. How long did they consider a year to be? What year was it when they started (for figuring the leap year)? Was it exactly 100 years or was that just a ball park figure? I finally dismissed it as an author error.

    Thanks for finding it, Clop.
    I'm Not Evil.
    An evil person would do the things that pop into my head.

  10. #10
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    The right combination, reading the calculator keys left to right:

    7894561230

  11. #11
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    Right meaning "to the right" as opposed to meaning "correct."

  12. #12
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    So, the warden said that at one combination per second, it would take 100 years to hit the right one... instead of wondering if it's leap year and such, we don't we just calculate and try: 100 * 365 * 24 * 60 * 60

    It does make a ten digit number. If we're still worried about leap year, try: 100 * 365.25 * 24 * 60 * 60

  13. #13
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    I'm guessing it has to do with the word 'figure', and the calculator, but I'll have to think it through more.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aristocrates
    So, the warden said that at one combination per second, it would take 100 years to hit the right one... instead of wondering if it's leap year and such, we don't we just calculate and try: 100 * 365 * 24 * 60 * 60

    It does make a ten digit number. If we're still worried about leap year, try: 100 * 365.25 * 24 * 60 * 60
    But is it 99* or 100*, considering that most years ending in 00 are not leap years?
    Everything I need to know I learned through Googling.

  15. #15
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    Good point. My point, though, is that the prisoner did not agonize over this issue, but got it on the first try. So, as the jailer and the prisoner made the same assumptions about the combination, I'd guess it to be the simpler assumption.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by ToSeek
    But is it 99* or 100*, considering that most years ending in 00 are not leap years?
    Well, I would say that 2000 would have been considered a leap yer for two reasons. The first is that calculators like the one implied didn't exist prior to 1900, and we dont have any reason to assume, based on it being 15 years old, that it was set after 2000.
    The second is that most people don't know about the 'divisible by 400' rule. Until I got my first real book on astronomy at about age 25, I'd never heard of it. None of my firends had either.

    If this is the solution, it still seems more like narrowing the options than giving the exact number. But, then, this has got to more correct than trying to convert "implements" into digits to form the combination. THanks for the replies all.
    I'm Not Evil.
    An evil person would do the things that pop into my head.

  17. #17
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    The number of seconds in 100 years is a bit more than a gigapi.

    But I doubt that is relevant. If the prisoner got it on the first try,
    the answer has to be very definite, not anything as messy as the
    number of seconds in 100 years. In another thread I just referred
    to the fact that leap seconds are occasionally added, and a poster
    with an un-rememberable nickname pointed out that it has been
    done twenty-some times since the 1970's.

    Also, how does the warden know what order the prisoner would
    run through the combinations until he hit the right one? What if
    he started at 9999999999 and worked down?

    -- Jeff, in Minneapolis

  18. #18
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    Haven't looked at any replies, so I may be repeating what someone else has said:

    Maybe the guy just calculates how many combinations there are on the lock, then works out that if he tries them all in order, it will take him less than the rest of his life to hit upon the right one. Ergo, he can figure it out (given enough time).

    He was told he would be free to leave if he could figure out the combination. He just has to show that he can do this. He doesn't actually have to do it!

    Edit: OK. Scrap that. It doesn't fit clop's revised version.

  19. #19
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    I think the prisoner would calculate how many seconds there are in 100 years, and he would start at 0000000000 on the combination, then dial in the number of seconds, starting left to right. Or he could go right to left.

    The puzzle probably assumes the average person will count just 365 days in a year. But for those who include leap-years, that would simply be a slightly different number, which anyone could figure out on the calculator. He could get out with at least 4 different combinations. I.E. leap year and no leap year, and left to right and right to left.

    Thatís not the precise answer to the puzzle, but he would still get out in a few minutes.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aristocrates
    So, the warden said that at one combination per second, it would take 100 years to hit the right one... instead of wondering if it's leap year and such, we don't we just calculate and try: 100 * 365 * 24 * 60 * 60
    I agree with this. Anyone considering leap years, and leap seconds is being too smart for their own good.

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