Thursday, December 17, 2009

Holiday Logic Puzzles

I'd like to share two puzzles here. One is by Mike Shenk, who has a site called puzzability, and is interviewed here. It's called Oh Deer!, and it's a killer. The other I created last week. I wanted a logic puzzle with a holiday theme for my math salon, and I wanted it to be much easier than Oh Deer! When I searched online, I got tired of seeing so much about buying presents. I also wanted to include other holidays besides xmas.

I've always loved doing these puzzles, but this is my first attempt at creating one. I believe it has a unique answer. Please let me know if I goofed.

I wish you all peace and joy during these winter holidays.

Holiday Logic
by Sue VanHattum

1. The Green girl’s favorite Christmas tradition is singing carols.
2. The Brown boy celebrates Kwanzaa indoors.
3. DJ and Jordon joined their friend in her candle lighting ceremony.
4. Layla and Amani joined their friend for his annual walk through the woods.
5. The Gold girl came to Jordon’s house to join his family in their feast.
6. The Fox family celebrate the Yuletide, and Amani comes to their party.
7. Amani couldn’t make it to the Gold family’s Hanukkah celebration.

[Edited for clarity.] Each child celebrates just one holiday with one special activity as a tradition in their family, though they do join in the fun with their friends this year. Your mission: Decide who celebrates each holiday, and what they do to celebrate.

Oh Deer! A logic problem by Mike Shenk
(first published in Games Magazine, December 1992)

Twas the night before Christmas, and at the North Pole
The last-minute planning was taking its toll.
As Santa was hastily making a scheme
For the placement of deer in his sleigh-pulling team,
The good Mrs. Claus was crocheting bright bows
To be worn by these reindeer (four bucks and four does).

The ribbons were colored in eight festive hues:
One ocher, one rose, one cerise, one chartreuse,
One maroon, one magenta, one white, and one blue.
(These ribbons helped Santa keep track of who's who.)
The deer pulled the toy-laden sleigh in four rows,
Arranged so no row held two bucks or does.

The order of pullers was changed year by year,
For Santa was thoroughly fair with his deer.
He summoned the elves and instructed them thus:
"Let's hitch up the reindeer with minimum fuss.
The bow on the buck behind Dasher is white,
While Blitzen, a doe, sees cerise to her right.

The blue bow is nearer my sleigh than is Dancer,
But nearer the front of my team than is Prancer.
The doe in chartreuse gets a front-of-team honor,
But not on the same side as Cupid or Donner.
Now Comet stands two spots ahead of the rose.
And three deer of four on the right side are does.

The cerise bow is worn two in back of maroon,
One of which is beside the bright ocher festoon.
Oh-Cupid's in front of a buck, by the way.
Well, that's how they line up for pulling my sleigh.
I trust that you elves, being clever, now know
Each reindeer's position and color of bow."

In no time each colorful ribbon was tied
And the team was hitched up for the transglobal ride.
Can you ascertain where each member fits in?
Who's Comet? Who's Cupid" Where's Donner? And Blitzen?
Who's Dasher? Who's Dancer" Where's Vixen? And Prancer?
With logical thought, you'll determine the answer
And write down the color and place for each deer.
Happy Christmas to all, and to all much good cheer!


  1. For your puzzle, I am stuck. I think there is either significant cultural literacy required, or there is some interpretation that must take place.

    In 2 Kwanzaa is celebrated indoors and in 4 there is a walk in the woods. Are these meant to be contradictory?

    In 1 there are carols. Are these compatible with a walk in the woods?

    In 5 there is a feast. Is this compatible with a walk in the woods? with caroling?

    And so on...


  2. I had meant to say that each celebrates only one holiday with one special activity as a tradition in their family, though they do join in the fun with their friends this year.

    Thanks for pointing out how unclear it is.

  3. Yup, I think I have it now!


  4. the cover of _games_ for this month
    causes its solver to find an optimal
    weighted hamilton path.

    this topic's in lotsa math-for-poets
    texts. _games_ is great.

  5. I am stumped by Oh Deer. Will you post the solution?

  6. I googled and found the solution here. (I've solved it, but I don't know where my notes are.)

  7. Thank you for posting this on Math Monday!


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