Dudeney’s Christmas puzzles


For years on end the famous British puzzle maker Henry Ernest Dudeney published puzzles in his weekly and monthly columns. Several of these have a Christmas theme, most of which I brought here together.

I know that some people claim other puzzles as Dudeneys Christmas puzzles, and I may or may not elaborate on that later. These have been selected because they have the word “Christmas” in them.

In his book “The Canterbury Puzzles” we find:
1) The Christmas Geese**/*****
Squire Hembrow, from Weston Zoyland—wherever that may be—proposed the following little arithmetical puzzle, from which it is probable that several somewhat similar modern ones have been derived: Farmer Rouse sent his man to market with a flock of geese, telling him that he might sell all or any of them, as he considered best, for he was sure the man knew how to make a good bargain. This is the report that Jabez made, though I have taken it out of the old Somerset dialect, which might puzzle some readers in a way not desired. “Well, first of all I sold Mr. Jasper Tyler half of the flock and half a goose over; then I sold Farmer Avent a third of what remained and a third of a goose over; then I sold Widow Foster a quarter of what remained and three-quarters of a goose over; and as I was coming home, whom should I meet but Ned Collier: so we had a mug of cider together at the Barley Mow, where I sold him exactly a fifth of what I had left, and gave him a fifth of a goose over for the missus. These nineteen that I have brought back I couldn’t get rid of at any price.” Now, how many geese did Farmer Rouse send to market? My humane readers may be relieved to know that no goose was divided or put to any inconvenience whatever by the sales.

You can check your solution here

2) Tasting the Plum Puddings**/*****

“Everybody, as I suppose, knows well that the number of different Christmas plum puddings that you taste will bring you the same number of lucky days in the new year. One of the guests (and his name has escaped my memory) brought with him a sheet of paper on which were drawn sixty-four puddings, and he said the puzzle was an allegory of a sort, and he intended to show how we might manage our pudding-tasting with as much dispatch as possible.” I fail to fully understand this fanciful and rather overstrained view of the puzzle. But it would appear that the puddings were arranged regularly, as I have shown them in the illustration, and that to strike out a pudding was to indicate that it had been duly tasted. You have simply to put the point of your pencil on the pudding in the top corner, bearing a sprig of holly, and strike out all the sixty-four puddings through their centres in twenty-one straight strokes. You can go up or down or horizontally, but not diagonally or obliquely; and you must never strike out a pudding twice, as that would imply a second and unnecessary tasting of those indigestible dainties. But the peculiar part of the thing is that you are required to taste the pudding that is seen steaming hot at the end of your tenth stroke, and to taste the one decked with holly in the bottom row the very last of all.

You can check your solution here

3) Under the Mistletoe Bough***/*****



“At the party was a widower who has but lately come into these parts,” says the record; “and, to be sure, he was an exceedingly melancholy man, for he did sit away from the company during the most part of the evening. We afterwards heard that he had been keeping a secret account of all the kisses that were given and received under the mistletoe bough. Truly, I would not have suffered any one to kiss me in that manner had I known that so unfair a watch was being kept. Other maids beside were in a like way shocked, as Betty Marchant has since told me.” But it seems that the melancholy widower was merely collecting material for the following little osculatory problem.

The company consisted of the Squire and his wife and six other married couples, one widower and three widows, twelve bachelors[Pg 92] and boys, and ten maidens and little girls. Now, everybody was found to have kissed everybody else, with the following exceptions and additions: No male, of course, kissed a male. No married man kissed a married woman, except his own wife. All the bachelors and boys kissed all the maidens and girls twice. The widower did not kiss anybody, and the widows did not kiss each other. The puzzle was to ascertain just how many kisses had been thus given under the mistletoe bough, assuming, as it is charitable to do, that every kiss was returned—the double act being counted as one kiss.

You can check your solution here

Dudeney lists another puzzle, “Buying presents”, but this involves now outdated British coins, for which reason I do not include it in this collection.

New puzzles are published at least twice a month on Fridays. Solutions are published after one or more weeks. You are welcome to remark on the difficulty level of the puzzles, discuss alternate solutions, and so on. Puzzles are rated on a scale of 1 to 5 stars.

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