Get Out Your Matchsticks

Mar 13, 1999

RAY: Ha! We're back. You're listening to Car Talk with us, Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers, and we're here to discuss cars, car repair and, as promised, the second in the series of matchstick Puzzlers.

TOM: Yeah. So, where is the Puzzler presentation squad? Da, da-da-daah! OK. Yeah.

RAY: Here it is. In contrast to last week's Puzzler, this one is very brief.

TOM: Yeah. This is part of the setting.

RAY: Get out your matchsticks.

TOM: Get out your matchsticks.

RAY: OK? And make with your matchsticks the following Roman numeral: 7, which is V-I-I.


RAY: OK? Then an equals sign, two more matchsticks.

TOM: Equals.

RAY: Equals I, one matchstick. So, the equation reads: 7 equals 1.

TOM: Yeah.

RAY: OK. Now, as was the case with the other Puzzler like this, you must move one matchstick and make this...

TOM: An equation.

RAY: Right, a valid equation. And you cannot make the equals sign, again, an unequals sign. So, you can't say, 6, for example, does not equal 1. Now there are -

TOM: Nor can you touch the equals sign. All you can touch are the matchsticks making up the number 7, V-I-I, and the matchstick making up 1, the I.

RAY: Exactly. Now, I'll admit there are two possible solutions. One, our Producer Dougie Berman came up with a few weeks ago, and that one we all considered bogus. And then there is the creative one, which is the one that we'll accept.


RAY: Now, I mentioned that there are two possible solutions, and one of them Dougie came up with right away, and we decided that was one of the moron solutions.

TOM: Wow! What did he come up with?

RAY: Well, he came up with this, which is not too bad, and it's akin to the right answer. He said take the second I of the V-I-I, and put it below and to the left so it's 1 to the V-I power, or 1 to the sixth power, equals 1.

TOM: What's wrong with that?

RAY: What's wrong with that is, it's not on the right line.

TOM: Oh, gee...

RAY: Ah-ah-ah-ah!

TOM: Oh, I would have given him full credit for that.

RAY: No, I gave him 40 percent credit, and he had to clean the erasers after class.

TOM: There is no line here! It says, on...your right line.

RAY: There is...there is a... you're right, you're right, you're right--there is a line.

TOM: You're right. There is a line.

RAY: Yeah.

TOM: No credit! Give him nothing!

RAY: If you were running 1 to the sixth power equals 1, you'd write it 1, and the 6 would be above!

TOM: Right. The 6 would be above; yeah. Dougie, no credit.

RAY: No credit. My answer, however, I think is elegant.

TOM: Oh, yeah!

RAY: Isn't it?

TOM: It is, I admit it is.

RAY: You take that same 1 that Dougie...

TOM: Of the 7, so you got V-I-I and you take the last I from the V-I-I...

RAY: And you place it touching the right upper portion of the V, and you extend it in a horizontal direction across the remaining I, making a square-root sign...

TOM: How sweet it is!

RAY: ...Called the square root of 1 equals 1. I think that that's pretty snazzy. And that was the answer that I was looking for, so...

TOM: By the way, did we get some nasty mail.

RAY: Oh, about the....

TOM: About number one in the series! Twenty-two sevenths; I mean, we knew this, of course.

RAY: Well, we're going to get nasty mail about this, too, because the square-root sign...

TOM: Nah, that, well...

RAY: I mean, these are just matchsticks.

TOM: Yeah, I mean, what do you want?

RAY: And if you didn't get the answer, it's just sour grapes. If you didn't get 22 sevenths and you wrote to us saying 22 sevenths isn't pi, it's because you didn't get it! If you got it, you would be among the proud. The few, the proud.

TOM: That's true.

RAY: Et cetera. Who's our winner?

TOM: Oh.

RAY: Our winner this week...

TOM: Look at this!

RAY: Whoa!

TOM: That's where he is! He's in Phoenix, Arizona; the winner is Richard Kimball.

RAY: Who, of course, everyone knows as Doctor Richard Kimball.

TOM: Doctor Richard Kimball.

RAY: The "Fugitive"!

TOM: He's hiding out in Phoenix, Arizona!

RAY: Quick! Call Lieutenant Gerard!

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