Matty the math mouse meandered through the forest one day.

Alas! He was attacked by the famous unwise owl. Oft Matty had heard of the unwise owl - the bane of the forest for his kind. Fearing making a starring appearance in a third grader's biology lesson, Matty ran for a hole.

But the unwise owl was keen and quick and rapidly cornered poor Matty.

They were at an impasse. The owl could catch him only with great exertion, but Matt could not escape. And the powerful owl knew other game was about. So the unwise owl offered a challenge.

You say a word, then deterministically, I say a number, little mouse.
If you can make me say 0 in 10 tries, I will let you go.

Matty felt sure of himself: he was not just another math mouse, he was the math mouse! So he attempted to earn his safety.

Zero! (he proclaimed)
> 6 (said the owl)
Six. (he said distinctly less assuredly)
> 3 (came the bemused hoot)
Twenty (said the baffled Matt)
> 2 (came the condescending reply)
BKLASFJBIOASf (said Matt trickerishly)
> Sorry, I do not recognize non words. 
> But I won't charge you a guess.
---(worried Matt started looking at things around him)
Mouse? (he inquired)
> 11 (came the abrupt hoot, truly baffling Matt)
Owl (he stated)
> 4, for sure said the owl.
> 5 (replied the owl)
> 2
Twelve (returning to his math comfort zone)
> 4
---Matt suddenly had an idea!
> 21 (the owl said after some thought)
---AHA! Proclaimed Matt finally,
---(I know your tricks Mr. Owl, you are most

Name a word Matt could have used to escape. (With Reasoning)

  • $\begingroup$ I feel like the challenge posed by the owl doesn't indicate that there is necessarily any link at all between the word said by the mouse and the number said by the owl. He could simply choose a non-zero number at random to say each time. If I were the mouse, I wouldn't agree to such a wager unless more rules were specified. $\endgroup$ Jul 21, 2015 at 14:58
  • $\begingroup$ The theory is the owl could just kill you anyways, but sure I will edit it to specify a deterministic relationship. $\endgroup$ Jul 21, 2015 at 15:02
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Nice story. Does it read "and rapidly corner poor Matty" instead of cornered on purpose? Or is the whole upper text pure flavour? $\endgroup$
    – BmyGuest
    Jul 21, 2015 at 15:19
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This dialogue is reminiscent of a computer's... Out of curiosity, was that intended? $\endgroup$ Jul 21, 2015 at 16:37
  • $\begingroup$ @CᴏɴᴏʀO'Bʀɪᴇɴ eh just a convenient way of delineating who is saying what. $\endgroup$ Jul 21, 2015 at 16:38

2 Answers 2


There are a a number of words that could be used:

Why Try Sky ... Anything that lacks a true vowel. The Owl is adding the total of vowels based on the following: A=1, E=2, I=3, O=4, U=5

  • $\begingroup$ Correct, alas the unwise (un y's) pun did very little to aid in solution it seems. Also Humbug, I wish I used fewer questions... Too much info. $\endgroup$ Jul 21, 2015 at 15:42
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I don't know if this is common on Puzzling but it would be very interesting if you'd share your thinking / solution process. Because I got no idea how you found it $\endgroup$
    – Roy
    Jul 21, 2015 at 22:29
  • $\begingroup$ I wish I had a better explanation, After staring at the page for a bit I saw it, or thought I saw it, then did the math to confirm. Probably not the answer you were looking for $\endgroup$
    – J K
    Jul 21, 2015 at 23:23
  • $\begingroup$ Strange puzzle to offer someone, given that "Hmm..." would get them out of the conundrum without them actually solving it! $\endgroup$
    – Kingrames
    Jul 22, 2015 at 11:31

The mouse could escape with the word

rhythm, shy or any word without aeiou

The reasoning:

The owl determines the number by adding the value of the vowels in the word, with a=1, e=2,i=3,o=4 and u=5


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