Magnifying Glass Mystery

Jun 16, 2001

RAY: This is from Malcolm Ross McDonald, who also happens to be the designer of the new Car Talk T-shirt. To start this Puzzler, first get a sheet of plain white paper with no lines on it.

TOM: Got it. I'm ready, man!

RAY: Using a fountain pen with black ink, I'm going to write my signature on the paper -- anyplace on the paper. I'm also going to write something else on the paper which will be plainly visible. When I look at my signature through the magnifying glass that I have, I'm not surprised to find out that it's enlarged.

But when I look at the other thing, it isn't.

TOM: Oh? Really? That's interesting!

RAY: The question is: What is the other thing?


TOM: Oh, man. Now, I will admit that I thought about this for 10 seconds as you were saying it last week. And I thought ... the only feeling I had was that, that it was a word trick.

RAY: Well, I didn't really write anything. I didn't write words or letters. By your definition, would using the pen on the paper constitute writing?

TOM: Assuming the tip of the pen touched the paper ...

RAY: Yeah. In other words ...

TOM: And made marks.

RAY: Would drawing something be equivalent to writing?

TOM: Yeah. I would accept that.

RAY: All right, then. All right.

TOM: Yeah. Did you?

RAY: Yeah, I did. What I drew was an angle. I drew two lines. So, if I drew a thirty-six ...

TOM: Oh. Oh. Play it. Oh, oh, gosh.

RAY: Oh, come on.

TOM: Well, that's no good, because you can't draw an angle without sides. And the length of the sides had to have been enlarged.

RAY: But did they enlarge the angle? You just didn't get it and it's sour grapes. That's all I can say.

TOM: What was the question again? When I looked at the other thing, it wasn't enlarged?

RAY: When I looked at the angle was it enlarged? Come on.

TOM: The other thing. I think you could have worded it better.

RAY: Well, I tried to word it to make it difficult.

TOM: I see. I would have said something like part of it was enlarged and part of it wasn't. Wouldn't that work better? That way the lines could have been longer. They would have been; they would have looked longer.

RAY: I don't think that was necessarily better. I think it is good just the way it is.

TOM: Well, if you do. I think it's bogus!

RAY: In any event, we do have a winner.

TOM: It is bogus. Because ...

RAY: Would it be better if I said I drew something on the paper?

TOM: No. It wouldn't have been better. Because you have to draw the two lines that made the angle. And those lines were bigger!

RAY: Did the angle get bigger? Do we have a winner?

TOM: Yeah, yeah.

RAY: Well, obviously, someone thought ... someone figured it out.

TOM: Yeah, sure. We give these prizes away for nothing. The winner this week is Sam Wallace from Moreland, Georgia.

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