Throckmorton Bottomfeeder and the Spiral Tower

Nov 16, 2009

RAY: The inspiration for this came from a fellow named Walter Newton and it's from my medieval castle series.

An obscenely wealthy hedge fund manager named Throckmorton Bottomfeeder IV decided to build for himself and his trophy wife, a modest little 40,000 square foot home. It was a stone castle complete with an observation tower at one end that was almost 100 feet high - perfect they thought to spot from afar the first wave of angry and disgruntled investors, the kind with the pitchforks and the torches.

The Bottomfeeders had employed the finest masons in all the land to ensure that their castle was as close to the real thing as possible. As the tower was constructed by a very talented and skilled crew of masons working on the outside, another even more skilled crew constructed a spiraling stone staircase that climbed the inside wall of the stone castle until it reached the observation deck at the top.

Finally, after many months, the castle was completed just in time to coincide with the end of the Bottomfeeders' lengthy vacation. And as you might expect upon their return, the BFs, as we will call them now, scrutinized the construction, pored over every detail and found everything perfect. The workers were brimming with pride. Then they came to the tower and Lady Bottomfeeder stood there in awe. Her eyes followed that spiral stair all the way to the top. Then her jaw dropped. 'This won't do. You must take it down at once to fix it. It's all wrong. You'd never see anything so ill-conceived in Europe. Why, we'll be the laughingstock of the entire world.'

What was she talking about?


RAY: Here's the answer. What Mrs. Bottomfeeder saw was that the staircase was wrong. Now the medieval castles had spiral stairwells that when viewed from the bottom climbed the inside tower wall in a counter-clockwise direction. However, Mrs. Bottomfeeder's stairs climbed the tower wall in a clockwise direction.

So imagine you are the princess and the castle is under attack. You are in the tower. The attackers are coming up the stairs and wielding their swords in their right hands. If the tower was built correctly, in a counter-clockwise direction, the attackers would find it difficult to swing their swords freely because the wall was on their right side.

TOM: Wow!

RAY: And the wall would be in their way. But the princess's defenders coming down the staircase would have no such impediment, and would have a clear advantage. But Mrs. Bottomfeeder is a goner since her expert masons built the staircase incorrectly. Who's our winner?

TOM: Our winner this week is David Anderson from Albion, Michigan. And for his answer selected at random from among all the correct answers that we got, David's going to get a $26 gift certificate to the Shameless Commerce Division at, with which he can get a set of Car Talk reusable grocery bags.

RAY: Congratulations, David!

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