Puzzlemaster

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The Independent Culture
I HAVE finally yielded to practicality and bought one of those suitcases on wheels. Rolling is certainly easier than lifting, but there still seems something ridiculous about those trundling objects. A suitcase when carried is an inanimate object, but put a suitcase on wheels and you have a pet-substitute with a will of its own. You feel like talking to it - Heel! Stay! Good boy!

Bonzo and I doggedly follow the arrows that mark the path to the Paddington- Heathrow Express, a process so hypnotic that if someone stands on an arrow you feel unable to continue until they move.

The Paddington-Heathrow Express is a gem. For a tenner cheerfully parted with, I boarded a clean and comfortable train with swish doors that open only on request (I had to press the button for an American couple who stood looking dumbly at the door for several minutes, as if willing it to open by pure thought-power).

I watched the news on a thin screen but missed some detail as the train went over a noisy section of track. There's no individual volume control, although the driver has one, which is like giving your TV remote control to your next-door neighbour. The 15-minute journey is so comfortable that you almost resent being turfed out so soon. I always thought the distance from Paddington to Heathrow was exaggerated.

Heathrow itself is still nostalgically cumbersome. Wheeling my trolley with the wobbly wheel down soulless walkways took longer than the journey from Paddington. You got here too soon. Now you must pay! At the Swissair desk, the man denied all knowledge of my booking. While handling the envelope with my tickets inside and my name on it in huge idiot-proof letters, he executed an exacting computer search to prove they didn't exist. Eventually, he grudgingly admitted that the MASLANKA on the envelope and the MASLANKA of my name were perhaps more than mere coincidence, and handed over my tickets. My heartbeat returned to normal.

Whoopee! On my way! The boarding of Swissair Flight SR831 was by zone: those with window seats emplaned first, then middle seaters and finally those with aisle seats, preventing the usual scrum in the gangway. Could we be in the hands of intelligent beings?

Point to re-ponder:

In transcribing last week's copy, the typist inadvertently introduced some extra digits (Butterfingers!). An intrusive "3" bumped up the weight limit on Icarus Airlines from 25kg to 325kg, and a "2" inflated the weight of the empty suitcase from 1 kg to 21 kg. Here is the question with the correct figures:

Professor Shiftless won't travel anywhere without his favourite breakfast cereal, All Brain. He has a set of reinforced Heavy Weighton suitcases all made from the same thickness of metal and all the same shape, but different sizes. The 10-cm Weighton weighs 1 kg and will carry 1/4kg of All Brain. The weight limit on Icarus Airlines is 25kg.

What size suitcase:

a) would oblige him to travel without any cereal?

b) would maximise the amount of cereal he took?

Point to ponder:

325 is not the smallest whole number that can be divided by 13 by striking off the first digit. What is?

Solution to last week's problem: 120 trips are required to exhaust the different selections of socks.

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