St. Patrick's Day Puzzles

Published on Sunday, March 17, 2013 in , , , , ,

SunOfErat's photo of 4-leaf and 5-leaf cloversHappy St. Patrick's Day!

In honor of the holiday, I thought I'd share some classic Irish-themed puzzles for you to ponder.

I'll start with a simple puzzle, which you can simply enjoy without choosing to solve it. Developed by Canadian puzzler and magician Mel Stover, this first one is called The Vanishing Leprechaun:

If you'd like to get a closer look at this page, there are several sites, such as this one, which feature the artwork in detail. On that linked page, you can click the top illustration to switch between the two modes yourself, of look at the 2 individual stages in the illustrations below that. The solution to the puzzle is also available on that page, but spend some time trying to figure it out for yourself first.

It seems the Irish have a knack for vanishing in tricky and amusing ways. Take the story or Casey, for example, who marched in many a St. Patrick's day parade. Sam Loyd's puzzle How Many Men Were In The Parade?, which comes to us courtesy of Martin Gardner, and can be read online (Part 1, Part 2), or as follows:

During a recent St. Patrick's Day parade, an interesting and curious puzzle developed. The Grand Marshall issued the usual notice setting forth that “the members of the Ancient and Honorable Order of Hibernians will march in the afternoon if it rains in the morning, but will parade in the morning if it rains in the afternoon.” This gave rise to the popular impression that rain is to be counted as a sure thing on St. Patrick's Day. Casey boasted that he “had marched for a quarter of a century in every St. Patrick's day parade since he had become a boy.”

I will pass over the curious interpretations which may be made of the above remark, and say that old age and pneumonia having overtaken Casey at last, he had marched on with the immortal procession. When the boys met again to do honor to themselves and St. Patrick on the 17th of March, they found that there was a vacany in their ranks which it was difficult to fill. In fact, it was such an embarrassing vacancy that it broke up the parade and converted it into a panic-stricken funeral procession.

The lads, according to custom, arranged themselves ten abreast, and did march a block or two in that order with but nine men in the last row where Casey used to walk on account of an impediment in his left foot. The music of the Hibernian band was so completely drowned out by spectators shouting to ask what had become of the “the little fellow with the limp,” that it was deemed best to reorganize on the basis of nine men to each row, as eleven would not do.

But again Casey was missed and the procession was halted when it was discovered that the last row came out with but eight men. There was a hurried attempt to form with eight men in each row; again with seven, and then with five, four, three, and even two, but it was found that each and every formation always came out with a vacant space for Casey in the last line. Then, although it strikes us as silly superstition, it became whispered through the lines that Casey's “dot and carry one” step could be heard. The boys were so firmly convinced that Casey's ghost was marching that no one was bold enough to bring up the rear.

The Grand Marshal, however, was a quick-witted fellow who speedily laid out that ghost by ordering the men to march in single file; so, if Casey did march in spirit, he brought up the rear of the longest procession that ever did honor to his patron saint.

Assuming the number of men in the parade did not exceed 7,000, can you determine just how many men marched in the procession?
I'll keep you guessing until Thursday, when I'll reveal the answer to this puzzle.

If your puzzle tastes run more towards the jigsaw variety, try one of Jigzone's St. Patrick's Day online jigsaw puzzles! The ones with the all-over clover patterns are especially challenging.

That's all for now. I simply wished to share some quick puzzles for the holiday. If you have any favorite St. Patrick's Day puzzles you'd like to share, let me know about it in the comments!

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