CLASSICAL GAS --
SOLUTION TO LAST ISSUE'S PUZZLER
The most common wrong answer is "25."
The given conditions of the problem guaranteed that:
(a) there were 79 cocoanuts when the cannibals were first sighted;
(b) the thief immediately took 26 of the cocoanuts; and
(c) the thief's twin brother departed on his journey when his watch read EXACTLY 2:00 pm.
When the thief later gave one of the (26) cocoanuts to Diogenes the Monkey (leaving 52 for Gilligan), it became impossible to get enough material to build the dam.
The skipper's rhyme provides a way to answer the riddle. Thus, "if there is an honest man in the fort, then there are more cocoanuts on two of the islands."
There WERE honest men still in the fort (the cannibals, remember, had eaten cocoanuts instead of their usual afternoon snack), so the skipper was able to build the dam before the evening banquet began. As a result, when the thief's brother returned, the cannibals could have eaten at most seventeen of the honest men.
The correct answer, then, is "17."
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