Questions tagged [optimization]

A puzzle where you have to optimize a certain objective function (maximize profit, minimize cost). There should ideally be a provable best answer, to avoid making the puzzle into an [open-ended] game.

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82 votes
15 answers
98k views

A camel transporting bananas

A somewhat well-known puzzle is described as such: You have a pile of 3,000 bananas. You wish to transport them to a place 1,000 miles away on the back of a camel; however, the camel can only carry ...
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34 votes
8 answers
6k views

Dinosaur egg drop

Archeologists discover two dinosaur eggs, and you are given the chance to test the durability of these eggs (bad move on their part). Suppose that these eggs will absorb a specific amount of force ...
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18 votes
3 answers
3k views

Knights and jokers

There are $N$ men. $K$ of them are knights, $M$ of them are jokers. $N$ is known, $K$ and $M$ are unknown. You know that: $K + M = N$, $K \gt M$, $M \ge 1$, $N$ is odd. Knights always tell the truth, ...
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11 votes
6 answers
15k views

1 Fake Coin among N Amount of coins

You are given $N$ coins which consists of only $1$ fake coin. You also have a sensitive old-fashioned Pan Balance Scale. You are asked to find the fake coin in totally 5 times weighing on the Pan ...
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57 votes
8 answers
5k views

Find a straight tunnel

There is a circular area with radius 1 km. And there is a tunnel, which is just under the surface, but invisible - unless you dig. It is known that the tunnel goes under the area (at least touches it ...
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22 votes
1 answer
975 views

Peaceful Encampments

This math puzzle is due to Donald Knuth (as far as I know; maybe he got it from someone else) circa 2014. Consider a plain represented by the unit square. On this plain we want to “peacefully ...
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20 votes
4 answers
1k views

Strategy to beat the casino over the long haul

$A$ and $B$ are attempting to beat the casino again, and the rules are the same: Each round, $A$, $B$, and the casino simultaneously decide to show a $0$ or a $1$. If all three numbers match, $A$ ...
20 votes
5 answers
933 views

Square Spin #1: Sun and Moon

Defining Square Spin Lets play a game! The aim of this game is to transform one image into another using the least amount of moves possible. Here is what a move consists of: ...
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17 votes
4 answers
1k views

My Mother's Dish Collection

From every trip she makes, my mother brings as a souvenir a well-decorated dish to hang in a wall. She now has a collection of 12 dishes, all disks, of radii 1, 2, 3, ..., 12 inches respectively. ...
10 votes
1 answer
312 views

Barrel - Part 3

An entry in Fortnightly Topic Challenge #35: Restricted Title 1. Title based on this xkcd. This is a continuation of Barrel - Part 1 and Barrel - Part 2, but this puzzle is still self-contained. ...
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8 votes
3 answers
601 views

Halve time with two timers

Two motorized 24-hour light timers are daisy chained between a power outlet and a light bulb. For these timers, devise schedules and choose initial times that produce the following repeated lighting ...
  • 21.5k
8 votes
3 answers
792 views

Odd hours with two timers

Two motorized 24-hour light timers are daisy chained between a power outlet and a light bulb. For these timers, devise schedules and choose initial times that produce the following repeated 9-hour ...
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2 votes
2 answers
5k views

The case of the 4 campers and the rickety bridge! [duplicate]

Four people need to cross a rickety rope bridge to get back to their camp at night. Unfortunately, they only have one flashlight and it only has enough battery left for seventeen minutes. The bridge ...
110 votes
3 answers
10k views

Prove that π > 3

It seems that once upon a time some politicians tried to pass a law fixing the value of π to be exactly 3. The idea being to "make math simpler so that our children can get better at math". ...
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49 votes
6 answers
5k views

Eight coins for the fair king

You are responsible for creating new types of coins for the court. King respects the forgetful: he wants you to create 8 coins of different value, no more. King respects the feeble: he wants that any ...
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38 votes
11 answers
4k views

Sudoku net that is always solvable

A sudoku net is a 9x9 grid where every cell is either (blank) or has a cross (block). A random solved sudoku is chosen. The net is placed on top of the sudoku (in any of the 4 ways). We can only see ...
21 votes
1 answer
2k views

Worst case scenario in 2048

The game 2048 can be thought as a two player game, where one player shifts the table around to get to the 2048 tile, while the other player tries to hinder them by putting down 2s and 4s on the table. ...
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20 votes
6 answers
3k views

Trapped in my Cellar

I have taken Doorknob hostage in my cellar. He is "perfectly" trapped - solid walls, solid floor, solid roof, no windows, etc. The only way out is a steel door and the only way to unlock the door is ...
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19 votes
8 answers
2k views

30 fake coins out of 99 coins

You are given 99 coins which consists of 30 fake ones. You also have a digital balance scale with perfect precision that shows how much difference between weighs you put on. For example, if you put 10 ...
  • 28.9k
14 votes
3 answers
2k views

How many distinct pentominoes are possible to place on an 8 x 8 board?

Rules Place some pentominoes into an 8 x 8 grid. They do not touch each other. They can touch only diagonally (with corner). Pentominoes cannot repeat in the grid. Rotations and reflections of a ...
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13 votes
7 answers
3k views

Fastest way to collect an arbitrary army

I am looking for solution of this puzzle: There is a kingdom with a square shape with sides of length 1. The castle is located at the center of the square. At the castle the king lives under the ...
  • 15.9k
13 votes
4 answers
1k views

Neighboring sums 4x4 game

Here is an interesting game. You start with an empty 4x4 grid. At each turn you can choose an empty cell and place a value in it. The placed value is given by the following rules: If the chosen cell ...
13 votes
7 answers
907 views

Minimize the longest King chain on a 5x5 binary board

Given a grid filled with numbers, let's define a King chain to be a path on the grid such that the path can be traversed with chess King's moves (moving to one of 8 adjacent cells at a time), the ...
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12 votes
3 answers
1k views

Day and night of the two timers

            Make a non - 24 - hour day /  night cycle       &...
  • 21.5k
11 votes
4 answers
584 views

Largest and smallest hexadecagon with sides 1, 2, 3, ...,16

Of all hexadecagons lying in the cartesian plane, all of whose vertices are lattice points, and whose sides are of length $1,2,3,\dots,16$ in some order, which two have the largest and smallest area? ...
9 votes
2 answers
484 views

Third timer's a charm

Three motorized 24-hour light timers are arranged between a power outlet and a light bulb, with timer A parallel to a daisy chain of timers B and  C. For these timers, devise schedules that ...
  • 21.5k
8 votes
1 answer
2k views

99 chips into more chips

You are at a casino in Vegas and you have earned 99 chips by playing poker! While you are checking out a slot machine, someone comes to you and congratulates you that you have a chance to make more ...
  • 28.9k
7 votes
3 answers
619 views

What is the minimum number of steps to solve this cloning particles on chessboard puzzle?

I'm creating a puzzle based on the idea from this numberphile video: pebbling a chessboard. You can see a working (yet unfinished) version here. I would like to give the user a feedback of how well ...
  • 1,003
7 votes
2 answers
398 views

Square Spin #2: Climb the Mountain!

Square Spin History: #1>#2 New Rules This puzzle introduces two new square types: Unmovable squares (Un) Replaceable squares (Re) Plus the concept of ambiguity! Ambiguity of squares Certain ...
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7 votes
3 answers
869 views

Dinosaur Egg Drop v2

This question is a little different and kinda follow-up version of Dinosaur Egg Drop 1- You have 100 story building and 6 Apatosaurus dinosaur eggs. 2- You have 81 story building and 3 ...
  • 28.9k
6 votes
2 answers
1k views

Knights covering a 10x10 chess board

What is the minimum number of knights you need to place on a 10x10 chess board, such that every empty cell is attacked by at least one knight? Good luck!
5 votes
1 answer
308 views

Four queens on public transport

The enlightened but, sadly, fictional country of Switzerland has it all: A strong democracy that resists centralism, a reliable public transport network and its own version of chess. Swiss chess ...
  • 2,996
4 votes
1 answer
560 views

Infinitely simple polygon solipsism

Solipsism — The self is all that can be known to exist. Above is a simple polygonal region divided into infinitely many different-sized copies of itself.   Each copy is √2 = 1.414... times as large ...
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42 votes
7 answers
7k views

How many Chess Pieces are needed to control every square on the board? No Piece Restriction

You may use as many pieces as you like. Pieces do not control the square they occupy. Accepted Answer goes to the person that has the least score. Piece cost: Pawn - 1 Knight - 3 Bishop - 3 Rook - ...
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30 votes
5 answers
5k views

How can 3 queens control the white squares?

It is well known that there is no way of arranging 4 queens on a checker board in such a way that every square is occupied or threatened. Now consider a slight variation where we only need to cover ...
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30 votes
5 answers
6k views

Two spies throwing stones into a river

There is a puzzle about two spies: Two spies must pass each other two secret numbers (one number per spy), unnoticed by their enemies. They have agreed on a method for doing this using only 26 ...
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28 votes
6 answers
5k views

A Special Parking Lot

There is a special kind of parking lot that stores special 1x1 cars that only can move to adjacent squares not including diagonals if they are empty (provided no car occupies the square). Every car ...
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24 votes
7 answers
3k views

From Puzzling to StackExchange

This is a variation of a game I used to play with my friends in my childhood. You are given a starting word, and using the following operations, you have to reach the target word. The solution that ...
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22 votes
7 answers
3k views

How much water do you need to cross the desert?

This question is inspired by Terry Pratchett's "Small Gods," in which an army crosses a vast desert by making multiple trips and caching water along the way. 1. Provide an answer. 2. I doubt I'm the ...
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17 votes
5 answers
1k views

Universal dissection

Alice has a squared paper 8 by 8. She cuts out one 1x1 square from it, at row N, column M. Bob cuts the rest of the paper into pieces. Once he is done, Alice asks Bob to put the pieces together in a ...
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16 votes
3 answers
668 views

Largest and smallest dodecagon with sides $1, 2, 3, \dots,12$

Of all dodecagons laying in the cartesian plane, all of whose vertices are lattice points, and whose sides are of length $1, 2, 3, \dots,$ and $12$ in some order, which two have the largest and ...
14 votes
5 answers
5k views

How many Chess Pieces are needed to control every square on the board?

You may only use pieces in the original set, and all your pieces must be the same color. The king is not allowed. Pawns do not get promoted. Pieces do not control the square they occupy. Accepted ...
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14 votes
3 answers
2k views

How many clues are required to ensure Einstein's Puzzle is solvable?

I used to play Einstein's puzzles a lot when I was younger, and very quickly learned to assess quite rapidly whether I thought a puzzle would be a quick solve or more time-consuming, but I never ...
13 votes
2 answers
7k views

Connect four towers by roads

Four guard towers are situated in a square formation of side length 1km. A general wants to build roads to connect the towers so that one can walk from any tower to any tower along the roads, possibly ...
  • 24k
12 votes
4 answers
2k views

Get 6 pawns in file A or H

This is somehow inspired by my other chess related question: Possible pawn combinations How can you get 6 pawns (white or black) on a chessboard on the files A or H using legal moves? Start with a ...
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10 votes
3 answers
1k views

(Almost) all hands on check

Historical note (skip if you like): In this interesting puzzle @TSLF asks for the "maximum number of black and white pieces that are involved in a checkmate position". Originally, they left ...
  • 13.6k
10 votes
2 answers
1k views

Chess Bloodshed

This puzzle is the idea of Dmitry Kamenetsky in a comment of my puzzle Devouring Nobility. Find, with the minimum number of moves, a legal game where all pieces are captured except the two kings.
  • 5,797
10 votes
2 answers
762 views

Turn on all squares

Take a square grid of size $a\times b$, with all squares being off. You can tap a square, to reverse the state of that square and all squares located in the same column and row as the tapped square. ...
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9 votes
2 answers
275 views

You Sign Me Right Round

This is a 9x9 grid, with a sign in the center cell like shown. You can add signs to this grid one at a time following these rules: Each sign placed must point to the next sign placed Placed signs ...
  • 3,532
9 votes
3 answers
3k views

$n$ couples crossing a river

There are $n$ couples on one side of the river. Nobody is on the other side. They have a boat that accommodates up to 2 people. For every trip across, someone(s) must bring the boat back as well. The ...