Ray's Matchstick Puzzler

Nov 07, 2005

RAY: This puzzler is from the matchstick series. Imagine, if you will, that you have four matchsticks of equal length. From those, you can easily make a square.

At each of the vertices, there is a right angle, or a ninety-degree angle, so there are four right angles.

TOM: I'm with you!

RAY: Now, using those same four matchsticks, make not 4 but 16 ninety-degree angles.

You might say, "Can I use the third dimension?" You can use any dimension you want.

I should mention, you are not allowed to fold, bend, break staple, or mutilate the matches in any other way.

TOM: Can you use mirrors?

RAY: No, but that shows you're on the right track.
RAY: I did something awful.

TOM: You misled us?

RAY: Yeah, and ordinarily--I know you're going to find this hard to believe--when I unclarify and obfuscate and all that, most of that is done by accident.

TOM: Sure.

RAY: But by design last week, I suggested that you could use the third dimension to solve the puzzler. That was a clear misrepresentation. You don't have to use any stinkin' third dimension, it's all done on a flat tabletop.

Here's how you do it. Take the four matches, take the two on the sides, and move them toward the middle. Take the two on the top and the bottom and move them toward the middle.

What are you left with?

TOM: A Tic-Tac-Toe grid. One, two, three, four, there's 16 right angles.

RAY: QED. Do we have a winner?

TOM: Yeah we have a winner. It's Michele Sumner from Tallahassee, Florida. And for having her answer selected at random from among all the correct answers that we got Michele gets a 26-dollar gift certificate to the Shameless Commerce Division at cartalk.com with which she can get our official Car Talk merino wool muffler. Hey, it's ideal for staying cozy on those chilly evenings, and it fits perfectly over most radio speakers to help muffle our show.

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