Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Sam Loyd's 14-15 Puzzle: Part I


The 14-15 Puzzle in Puzzleland by Sam Loyd

The text and artwork come from “Sam Loyd’s Cyclopedia of 5000 Puzzles Tricks and Conundrums with Answers” page 235 and 371.  This book was published in 1914, after Sam Loyd’s death in 1911, by Sam Loyd’s son.

Figure 1:
The older inhabitants of Puzzleland will remember how in the early seventies (the 1870’s) I drove the entire world crazy over a little box with movable blocks which became known as the “14-15 Puzzle.”  The fifteen blocks were arranged in the square box in regular order, only with the 14 and 15 reversed, as show in the above illustration.  The puzzle consisted in moving the blocks about, one at a time, so as to bring them back to the present position in every respect except that the error in 14 and 15 must be corrected.
A prize of $1,000, which was offered for the first correct solution to the problem, has never been claimed, although there are thousands of persons who say they performed the required feat.
People became infatuated with the puzzle and ludicrous tales are told of shopkeepers who neglected to open their stores, of a distinguished clergyman who stood under a street lamp all through a wintery night trying to recall the way he had performed the feat.  The mysterious feature of the puzzle is that no one seems to be able to recall the sequence of moves whereby they feel sure they succeeded in solving the puzzle.  Pilots are said to have wrecked their ships, engineers rush their trains past stations and business generally became demoralized.  A famous Baltimore editor tells how he went for his noon lunch and was discovered by his frantic staff long past midnight pushing little pieces of pie around on a plate!  Farmers are known to have deserted their plows and I have taken one of such instances as an illustration for the sketch.


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