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Can you figure it out? Let's discuss 2024.

Can you figure it out? Let’s discuss 2024.

Today marks a special occasion as it is the first time in eight years that I am posting puzzles on Christmas Day instead of my usual alternate Monday schedule. Wishing everyone happy holidays!

What numeric presents did Santa deliver this year? For those in North America, there is an exciting date coming up next week: New Year’s Eve falls on 123123.

Let’s shift our focus to the number 24, which will represent the upcoming year.

Can you create the number 24 using only the numbers 1 to 9 and basic math operations? Here is one example of how to arrange the digits in the correct order.

(123456 x 7) + 8 + 9

Novice level: discover an alternative method.

Expert level: discover an alternative method using the numbers in reverse sequence.

[By basic arithmetical operations I mean +, –, x, ÷, exponent, brackets, and concatenation, i.e. when you run numbers together as in ‘23456’ above. If you get stuck, as a gesture of festive goodwill, I will also allow square roots and decimal points.]

Smashed it

When it comes to numerical figures, I want to express my gratitude to the audience of this column for contributing to its record-breaking success this year. In 2023, the column has accumulated over 5.3 million page views, marking a 36% growth from 2022. Congratulations, puzzle enthusiasts!

The most widely read article of the year was “The Simple Question Almost Everyone Gets Wrong.” It presented a task that was created a hundred years ago to measure children’s IQ. (The origin of the puzzle is heartwarming, akin to a Christmas story.)

As you seemed to enjoy this puzzle, I reached out to Jane Braybrook, who uncovered it while searching for methods to aid her son’s cognitive growth, to create additional instances. Here they are:

In each of the given examples, the shapes A to L can be either solid blocks of a single color or stencils with holes in them. The top shape is created by stacking some of the shapes A to L on top of each other. Your goal is to determine which stencils or blocks are used and the sequence in which they are placed.

xmas puzzle 1 stenciletto
xmas puzzle 2 stenciletto
xmas puzzle 3 stenciletto
xmas puzzle 4 stenciletto
xmas puzzle 5 stenciletto

Please refrain from revealing any key details. Instead, let’s talk about interesting facts related to the number 24.

I will return with solutions at 5pm UK.

UPDATE: The answers can be found here.

Thanks to Inder Taneja, who every Christmas compiles a whole document of amazing number facts about the coming year, including the example above. His website is a cornucopia of numerical curiosities.

Jane Braybrook deserves credit for creating the stencil puzzles. They can be found on her Stenciletto app, available for download at www.smileyworldgames.com.

I am truly in disbelief that I was chosen to represent my former school, Corpus Christi College, Oxford, on this season’s Christmas University Challenge. It was a wish come true. Ready to answer questions! Starting with ten points! Last week, we emerged victorious in our first round against Edinburgh University. Our semi-final appearance will be on Wednesday at 8:30pm on BBC2. Keep your fingers crossed for us!

Corpus Christi v Edinburgh Christmas University Challenge Alex Bellos Steve Waters Michael Cockerell Francesca Happé

Since 2015, I have been posting a puzzle every other Monday. I am constantly searching for interesting puzzles and welcome any suggestions via email.

Source: theguardian.com