Question Sam Loyd's Cyclopedia of Puzzles Answer
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Proposition: How old will Smith be?

SMITH IS THE ACTUARY for a life insurance company, and is so imbued with mortuary tables and columns of dates that he talks and dreams of little else. He hurries home so as to spring a statistical problem in the family circle, the more especially for the benefit of his wife, of whose mathematical powers he is prone to speak disparagingly. She caught him, however, a short time ago on a compact which will have the effect of muzzling him for some time to come, and may possibly cure him of talking shop at home.

After propounding one of his statistical conundrums, which did not meet with the enthusiastic reception which he thought it merited, he boastingly remarked that if his better half would give him any problem on dates or ages which he could not answer in ten minutes he would pledge himself not to propound another problem until the anniversary of that day. He probably meant, for one whole year, but, as the proposition was made on the 29th day of February last [This was Feb 29, 1896. ” jws], and leap years don’t have yearly anniversaries, he was held to a literal interpretation of his promise.

The problem with which his wife gagged him, so as to keep him in a moody trance, was as follows: “Now, Tom, supposing that you were three times my age when first we met, and that I am now just the age you were then, and that when I am three times my present age our combined years will amount to exactly one hundred, can you tell just how old you will be on the next 29th day of February?”

It was an impromptu problem, but, a very good one, as is it not quite so easy as it looks.

It was mentioned that this statistical problem was sprung upon her husband on the 29th of February, so, as our sharp puzzlers readily discovered, it must have been February 29, 1896. When they first met at an earlier stage of the game, he was three times her age, but on that eventful leap-year day she was the age he was when first they met. Mathematicians and others deep in astrology and the occult sciences demonstrated that Tom was fifteen and his sweetheart five when first they met, so on the 29th of February mentioned she would be fifteen and he would be twenty-five. So, when she is forty-five he will be fifty-five, which would make their combined ages amount to the required century run.

Some of our scientists, however, who reasoned that Tom was twenty-five on the 29th of February, 1896, fell into the error, as did Tom himself, in thinking that 1900, which came four years after, was a leap year, which would make Tom just 29 years old. By some odd freak of the calendar, as explained by the dream books, 1900 was not a leap year, so the next leap year did not occur until 1904, on which eventful occasion Tom was 33 years of age and was free once more to continue his course of statistical training, and that good old rule of dividing the year by 4 to determine whether it is a leap year or not was again in force.


Why will an insolent fishmonger get more business than a civil one? Because when he sells fish, he gives sauce with it.

What are the greatest obstacles to a Russian invasion of Turkey? The baulkin’ (Balkan) mountains.


As a study in concealed geography I will ask the young folks to help me out in the following little matter. Some time ago I met a lineal descendant of Baron Munchausen who told me such a thrilling story of an express train being held up by bandits in a southern country that upon meeting a traveler from the same place I questioned him regarding the dangers of traveling, he said it was fatiguing and inconvenient, but in no way dangerous. There were neither railways nor stages even, between the points mentioned, as every one had to travel over the mountains by express, by which is meant to sit astride of a sharp backed donkey without saddle or stirrups. The paths are so steep and narrow that the little donkeys fall continually, so the traveler must be prepared to land on his feet at any moment.

I made the accompanying sketch from his description, and will ask our young puzzlists to discover the locality of Munchausen, Jr.’s. incident, concealed in the description of the picture.


The traveler by express went via “Bolivia.”


From a number that's odd cut off the head

     It then will even be;

Its tail, I pray, take next away;

     Your mother then you'll see.



Why is the horse the most humane of all animals? Because he gladly gives the bit out of his mouth, and listens to every woe.

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