ALMOST THERE | ISSUE SEVEN
This week’s poser: Princess Charlotte’s problem.
A poser I can actually solve myself. The question is- can you?
Once upon a time there lived a beautiful princess named Charlotte. Though young, graceful and pure of heart, the fair princess was not happy. For she had a problem she simply could not solve! You see, Princess Charlotte was being courted by two fine young suitors, Alfonso and Roberto, who were princes from neighbouring kingdoms. The trouble was that both princes were equally handsome and kind, both were noble and true, both courteous and charming. How could she possibly choose between them? After much soul searching the princess decided the only way was to find out who was the wiser of the two and so she resolved to give them a test.
Calling the love-struck pair to her side she said: ‘He who can tell me the date on which my birthday falls will receive my hand in marriage.’
She revealed that her birthday fell on one of the following dates:
May 15 May 16 May 19
June 17 June 18
July 14 July 16
August 14 August 15 August 17
The princess then proceeded to do something rather strange. She whispered the month of her birth (but not the date) in the grateful ear of Prince Alfonso. To Prince Roberto she whispered the date, but not the month.
‘So,’ she said, addressing both. ‘When was the object of your affections born?’
‘Alas I cannot say when your birthday is,’ admitted Alfonso ruefully. ‘But at least I am sure Roberto doesn’t know either.’
‘It’s true that I didn’t know,’ replied Roberto with an air of triumph. ‘But I do now.’
Alfonso smiled. ‘In that case,’ he said, ‘so do I.’
True love. If only real life was that simple!
Each was given a piece of parchment and told to write down the date they had in mind. When the princess saw their answers she was absolutely astonished. Both had written the same date. And both were correct!
News of this intriguing puzzle spread far and wide. It was even adopted as a sort of logical test in the faraway land of Singapore, where it is used to hone the thinking skills of its secondary school pupils to this day. Apparently they can solve the problem without much ado. But the question is: can you? *
As for Princess Charlotte, once she realised that both her suitors were equally blessed with wisdom, she decided the only sensible option was to go for a ménage à trois.
And they all lived happily ever after.
* For those who haven’t the patience to solve the problem, you’ll find the solution here:
And there’s even an intriguing alternative version: