Bringing You the Daily Dispatch

Can you solve it? Art thou smarter than Shakespeare?

Can you solve it? Art thou smarter than Shakespeare?

Today’s puzzles come from the quill of Rob Eastaway, the bard of brainteasers, whose latest book Much Ado About Numbers is a journey into Shakespeare’s mathematical life and times.

1. Hours and hours

How many hours are there in a week? And when you’ve worked it out, can you now figure out how Shakespeare expressed that number in words? He did it using only 15 letters, true to his line “Brevity is the soul of wit.”

2. Duke of hazard

Hazard was a gambling game with dice that was one of the most popular recreations in Elizabethan England. Shakespeare refers to it indirectly several times. Usually two dice were involved, but sometimes three – which threw up this question, a particular source of debate at the time.

Three dice are thrown. Which total is the more likely (and thus a better bet)?

a. Nine

b. Ten

c. Nine and ten are equally likely.

3. Hard to fathom

Shakespeare uses all of the following measurements of distance: a mile, a league, a fathom and a furlong.

Can you list them in order of size?

4. Twin twister

The plot of Twelfth Night revolves around non-identical (fraternal) twins Sebastian and Viola. The perfect excuse to set this classic puzzle about birth-adjacent siblings:

A 17th century farmer observes that one of his sheep is pregnant. As all famers know, lambs arrive as non-identical twins, each with a 50-50 chance of being male or female. The local vet has an Elizabethan ultrasound machine and finds out the genders of the lambs: “Is it true that at least one of them will be male?” asks the farmer. “Yes, it is true” replies the vet.

“In that case,” the farmer says, “the other one will most likely be female”. Is the farmer correct?

I’ll be back at 5pm UK with the solutions. PLEASE NO SPOILERS. Instead discuss your favourite Shakespearean puzzles.

UPDATE: Read the answers here

Rob is the author of many excellent popular maths and puzzle books, and was until recently the puzzles editor of the New Scientist.

Much Ado About Numbers is out on Thursday 18 April and can be bought on the Guardian Bookshop or other online retailers.

I’ve been setting a puzzle here on alternate Mondays since 2015. I’m always on the look-out for great puzzles. If you would like to suggest one, email me.

Source: theguardian.com