I came across this puzzle on Boing Boing earlier and much to my chagrin there is no solution provided so I figured I'd put it up here and see if anyone who came across it could come up with a different solution (I did email my solution to the address they have at the bottom of the story though so maybe they'll shed some light on this problem...).
Anyways, I like puzzles like these and I figured that some of you non-Boing-Boing readers might get a kick out of it as well.
Take a stab at it and then see what you think of my answer. I'm curious to know if anyone sees any glaring logical errors or stupid math mistakes (the bane of my puzzle-solving existence).
So, as I recall, you would normally solve this sort of puzzle with some simple algebra. You know that
and you know that
Uh, wait a minute. That won't work. Normally with 3 unknowns you can use 2 equations like that to solve them, but we actually have 4 unknowns. D'oh!
So, how else to solve the problem? Well, from my days in number sense, I recalled that 225 is actually 152 (i.e. 15 * 15). Hmmm interesting. If you break that down as far as it'll go, that works out to
Now you have 4 numbers that will give you the product 225. But we only want 3. So the simple solution is to combine two of the numbers and you have your ages.... except which 2 do we combine? Looks like you could do:
3 * 5 * 15 = 225 or
3 * 3 * 25 = 225
at which point you're still stuck without a definite answer. Until you think about what the puzzle actually says. A total of 3 people live at the home visited by our census taker. That implies that at least one of them would have to be an adult (i.e. over 18) and of our 3 possible solutions, only one gives us an age over 18. So
(which implies a single parent living with 2 kids which seems a bit surprising for a puzzle found in a magazine in the 1960s). So, does that follow, or did I make some really pathetic math error?