Locking Out the KGB

Dec 17, 2007

RAY: This came from a fellow named Michael Wortman and it is from my lock and key series, which I just started today. I had to add a few things to make it sufficiently bogus.

Imagine you have a friend who lives in Russia where the KGB spies on everyone and everything and you want to send a valuable object to this friend. So you have a box which is more than large enough to contain the object and you have several locks with keys.

Now this box, I suppose you could call it a strongbox, has a lock ring which is more than large enough to have a padlock attached to it. In fact it's large enough to accommodate several locks. But your friend does not have the key to any lock that you have. Now you can't send a key in the mail because the KGB will intercept it and they will copy it. And you can't not lock the box, because the object is very valuable. So you have to send it through the mail. You can't hand deliver it. You want to lock it so that your friend can open it, but the KGB can't.

The question is, how would you do it?
RAY: So the question is how do you package your valuable objects so that the KGB cannot open it, but your friend can? Now instead of a key, I would have mailed a hacksaw. But in the spirit of the puzzler that wouldn't have been fair.

TOM: Sure.

RAY: You put the valuable thing in the box. You put as many locks as you want on the clasp, making sure you leave room for at least one more.

TOM: Yeah.

RAY: You mail the thing to Russia. Your friend gets it. He doesn't have a key to any of these locks that you put on it. He puts another lock on it for which he has the key. He mails it back to you. You remove all of your locks and you can't get it open now. But you don't have to.

TOM: He can.

RAY: When you mail it back to him.

TOM: Oh.

RAY: Do we have a winner?

TOM: We do, and that's a good one, man. I like it. Yeah, the winner is Melissa Metzger from Las Vegas, Nevada. And for having her answer selected at random from among the slag heap of correct answers that we got, Melissa is going to get a 26-dollar gift certificate to the Shameless Commerce Division at cartalk.com, with which she can get a set of CDs with four of our favorite shows on them, called Four Perfectly Good Hours.

RAY: Gee, of all the shows we've done, all you could come up with more than four.

TOM: That's all we got, that's it. Congratulations Melissa!

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