Problem: Find The Man's Wife

One summer day in 1903, I was loitering on the Brighton front, watching the people strolling about on the beach when the friend who was with me suddenly drew my attention to an individual who was standing alone, and said, "Can you point out that man's wife? They are stopping at the same hotel as I am, and the lady is one of those in view." After a few minutes' observation, I was successful in indicating the lady correctly. My friend was curious to know by what method of reasoning I had arrived at the result. This was my answer:—


"We may at once exclude that Sister of Mercy and the girl in the short frock; also the woman selling oranges. It cannot be the lady in widows' weeds. It is not the lady in the bath chair because she is not staying at your hotel, for I happened to see her come out of a private house this morning assisted by her maid. The two ladies in red breakfasted at my hotel this morning, and as they were not wearing an outdoor dress I conclude they are staying there. It, therefore, rests between the lady in blue and the one with the green parasol. But the left hand that holds the parasol is, you see, ungloved and bears no wedding-ring. Consequently, I am driven to the conclusion that the lady in blue is the man's wife — and you say this is correct."

Now, as my friend was an artist, and as I thought an amusing puzzle might be devised on the lines of his question, I asked him to make me a drawing according to some directions that I gave him, and I have pleasure in presenting his production to my readers. It will be seen that the picture shows six men and six ladies: Nos. $1, 3, 5, 7, 9,$ and $11$ are ladies, and Nos. $2,$ $4, 6, 8, 10,$ and $12$ are men. These twelve individuals represent six married couples, all strangers to one another, who, in walking aimlessly about, have got mixed up. But we are only concerned with the man that is wearing a straw hat — Number $10.$ The puzzle is to find this man's wife. Examine the six ladies carefully, and see if you can determine which one of them it is.

I showed the picture at the time to a few friends, and they expressed very different opinions on the matter. One said, "I don't believe he would marry a girl like Number $7.$" Another said, "I am sure a nice girl like Number $3$ would not marry such a fellow!" Another said, "It must be Number $1,$ because she has got as far away as possible from the brute!" It was suggested, again, that it must be Number $11,$ because "he seems to be looking towards her;" but a cynic retorted, "For that very reason if he is really looking at her, I should say that she is not his wife!"

I now leave the question in the hands of my readers. Which is really Number 10's wife?

The illustration is of necessity considerably reduced from the large scale on which it originally appeared in The Weekly Dispatch (24th May 1903), but it is hoped that the details will be sufficiently clear to allow the reader to derive entertainment from its examination. In any case, the solution given will enable him to follow the points with interest.

Solutions: 1

Thank you to the contributors under CC BY-SA 4.0!



Project Gutenberg

  1. Dudeney, H. E.: "Amusements in Mathematics", The Authors' Club, 1917

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