Lt’ba(t) Iblīs
The Devil's Game


Figure 13

[Page 148] Eight hollows are scooped in the sand and four counters put in each (Fig. 13). The propounder of the puzzle tells his victim to pick up two counters from "house" No. 1, he himself picking up the remaining two. This is repeated for houses 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7. When they come to No.8 the puzzle-monger asks, "will you take three or one?" and the victim makes his choice and acts on it, the puzzle-monger picking up the remaining one or three, as the case may be. Suppose the choice of the victim to have been three.

Each now shakes his double handful of counters, the propounder saying, "give me my little three," and the other, under instructions, "give me my little one."

When the Devil has had due time to work, the puzzle-monger tells the other to put four counters into house No. 1; he himself puts four into No.2; and so on, alternately, until house No. 7 has been filled. It will then be found that the victim, who chose three counters, has one left in his hand, while the propounder of the puzzle, who took one counter, has three.

The explanation is, of course, simple. When the counters were being picked up, each player had taken up fourteen by the time the choice was offered to the victim who, by choosing three, made the number in his hands up to seventeen. These, when distributed finally by fours instead of by twos, filled four houses and left one counter over. So also the propounder had fourteen and takes one, making fifteen, which, on redistribution by fours, fill three houses and leave three counters over.

This puzzle is regarded as very mysterious by unsophisticated Arabs, and it offers a temporary check to the European.

Last update January 6, 2010