I Put My Thing Down Flip It And Reverse It

With ambigrams and magic squares fresh on my mind, I stumbled upon this bit of brilliance at Greg Ross’s Futility Closet:

Reversible magic square from Henry Dudeney’s Canterbury Puzzles. Via Futility Closet

Reversible magic square from Henry Dudeney’s Canterbury Puzzles. Via Futility Closet

It’s both a visual ambigram and a magic square: the rows, columns and diagonals sum to 179 (and maintain this property when flipped upside down).

hromanI Put My Thing Down Flip It And Reverse It

Initially Yours

the letter “r” hidden inside the letter “h”


forming my initials

hromanInitially Yours

Your Finery and Squalid Options

In high school I read a small novel by a (then unknown to me) Scottish author, Iain Banks, called “The Wasp Factory.” It was… deliciously grotesque. I would later learn that Banks, under the name “Iain M. Banks,” also wrote science fiction. His science fiction works were set in the universe of the Culture: “a fictional interstellar anarchist Utopian society.” It sounds awesome because it is awesome. His Culture novel “Use of Weapons” is one of the coolest science fiction books I’ve ever read. I was and still am hooked.

Banks died last year of terminal cancer. I happened to be in Scotland two weeks before he passed away, not knowing how close he was to death. When I got home & heard that he had passed, I immediately reached for my copy of his novel, “The Crow Road.”

In it, one of my favorite passages (one that I often recall): Rory’s mantra.

All your nonsense and truths,
your finery and squalid options,
combine and coalesce, to one noise
including laugh and whimper, scream and sigh,
forever and forever repeating,
in any tongue we care to choose,
whatever lessened, separated message
we want to hear.

It all boils down to nothing,
and where we have the means and will to fix
our reference within that flux;
there we are.

If it has any final signal,
The universe says simply,
but with every possible complication,
and it neither pressures us, nor draws us out,
except as we allow.

Let me be part of that outrageous chaos …
And I am.

Allow me to repeat:

Shortly after his death, asteroid 5099 was renamed IAINBANKS in his honor.

hromanYour Finery and Squalid Options

Matchstick Puzzles

Matchstick puzzles are a set of visual puzzles that require you to re-arrange an arrangement of matchsticks into some new formation. The re-arrangement is bound by certain rules or limits and (usually) requires some lateral thinking to arrive at the solution.

When I was a teenager, my uncle, who was visiting us from France at the time, introduced me to my first matchstick puzzle. Having heard of my love of puzzles, he was keen to keep me (and himself!) entertained. At a family barbecue he pulled out a pack of toothpicks (not enough matches around!) and arranged 15 of them like so:

Matchstick Puzzle

(click the picture for a larger view)

He then asked me to remove three matches & what should remain is three squares. Remove three matches. No more, no less.

It took me roughly 15 minutes of off and on experimentation before I arrived at the solution. Try it yourself!

If you get stuck, click here for the solution.

If you liked that one, try the following three matchstick puzzles. They are among my personal favorites and can all be found in Martin Gardner’s “The Colossal Book of Short Puzzles and Problems”

Matchstick Puzzle

Move one match to form a square


Matchstick Puzzle

Move three matches and make the fish face the opposite direction


Matchstick Puzzle

Move one match and make the giraffe face right instead of left


hromanMatchstick Puzzles

The Apocalyptic Magic Square

Clifford A. Pickover’s book, “Wonders of Numbers,” was dedicated not to a person but rather to “an amusing mathematical wonder”

The Apocalyptic Magic Square

The Apocalyptic Magic Square is a 6 x 6 square grid of prime numbers where each row, column, diagonal, and broken diagonal sum to 666

hromanThe Apocalyptic Magic Square