The boss, fed up with the scurrilous language flying around the office, instituted a "swear jar": employees overheard swearing would have to pay arbitrary fines, while those complimenting or praising others would be rewarded from the same fund.

One day, someone accidentally spilled coffee on the balance sheet that recorded the fines and rewards. The staff was convened, and a joint effort was made to recollect the lost tally.

"At present," said the boss, "there is exactly one hundred dollars in the jar."

"I remember," said Joan, "that last Thursday I was given some amount for calling you a sweetheart. And I remember that that brought the amount in the jar down to a hundred and fourteen."

"Are you sure?"

"Positively -- it caught my attention because my birthday is January fourteenth."

"Very well. Anyone else?"

"I remember," said Peter, "that I was fined eight dollars for calling you a b******."

"Ah-hah. And when was that?"

"Not a clue."

"I remember," said Rani, "that I was fined twelve dollars for calling you a s** ** * *****."

"Indeed. On what day?"

"I can't really recall."

"I was rewarded three dollars, I remember," said Munish, "for wishing you a good evening."

"Any idea when that was?"

"Sorry, no."

"I remember," said Cathy, "that I was fined fifteen dollars for calling you a c*********."

The boss grunted. "I seem to recall. What day was that?"

"Not sure. Recentlyish."

"I remember," said Louann, "that I was rewarded twenty dollars for calling you a little cherub."


"I don't know when it was, though."

"I remember," said Federico, "that I was fined seventeen dollars for calling you a m***********."

The boss said nothing.

"I remember," said Gary, "that I was rewarded thirty-five dollars for calling your Powerpoint presentation masterful."

The boss chuckled.

"I remember," said Eve, "that I was fined twenty-two dollars for calling you a d**** *** *****."

"And I remember," cried Yohan, "that I was fined thirty-one dollars for calling you a f*****-******* ***********!"

The meeting room fell variously silent.

"It seems to me," said Munish at last, "that, in terms of a timeline, the best we can do, assuming everyone is correctly remembering the amounts, is to deduce who was fined or paid out before Joan last Thursday, and who after."

Who was fined or paid out before Joan last Thursday, and who after?

  • $\begingroup$ Is this an original puzzle? $\endgroup$
    – bobble
    Commented Sep 7, 2021 at 2:41
  • $\begingroup$ @bobble, yes it is! $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 7, 2021 at 17:30

1 Answer 1


Let the amounts everyone started with before they were fined or rewarded be $x_1$ to $x_{10}$:

Joan: Thursday, $x_1$, reduced to 114
Peter: $x_2$+8
Rani: $x_3$+12
Munish: $x_4$-3
Cathy: $x_5$+15
Louann: $x_6$-20
Federico: $x_7$+17
Gary: $x_8$-35
Eve: $x_9$+22
Yohan: $x_{10}$+31

After Joan, the amount decreases by 14, which is only made possible by all the complimenters (-58) as well as Rani, Cathy and Federico (+44) following her. All the other insulters (Peter, Eve and Yohan) said their words before her.


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