"There is much pleasure to be gained from useless knowledge." --Bertrand Russell
October 31, 2004 12:13 PM   Subscribe

"Sam Loyd's 'Trick Donkeys' is one of the most elegant puzzles ever invented... print out the page and cut the figure into three parts along the solid lines. Now, position the strip onto the other two pieces so that it looks like each jockey is riding a donkey. Folding is not allowed. Don't give up -- the solution is really quite simple!"
posted by limitedpie (46 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
More: "This puzzle was created by one of America's greatest puzzlists, Sam Lloyd (1844 -1911). Loyd sold his puzzle to P. T. Barnum, who marketed it as "P. T. Barnum's Trick Mules." It was printed on a card to be cut into the three pieces. Millions of the cards were sold, and supposedly Loyd earned a fortune -- $10.000 -- in just a few weeks." [From defectiveyeti]

.... This is such a fun puzzle, enjoy! I'll post the link to the answer in this thread in a day or two!
posted by limitedpie at 12:14 PM on October 31, 2004

Nice. I solved it accidentally. It was kind of shocking to see the answer appear before I expected it.
posted by farmerchris at 12:25 PM on October 31, 2004

Bastard ;) I had things to do today...
posted by sharpener at 12:27 PM on October 31, 2004

Gung'f na njshyyl fgenatr jnl gb evqr n qbaxrl.
posted by Eamon at 12:28 PM on October 31, 2004

Ha ha, speaking of asses, I did it totally wrong. Now I look like an idiot AND don't get the satisfaction of figuring it out.
posted by Eamon at 12:32 PM on October 31, 2004

Someone should do this in Flash. It's so old fashioned to print things on paper and cut them out.
posted by smackfu at 12:37 PM on October 31, 2004 [1 favorite]

k, i got it. lucky. i have pumpkins to carve.
posted by sharpener at 12:38 PM on October 31, 2004

Can you overlap the donkeys?
posted by iconomy at 12:39 PM on October 31, 2004

Someone did do it in Flash. (First link from Google search for "trick mules")
posted by jozxyqk at 12:40 PM on October 31, 2004

iconomy: nope, no overlapping the donkeys!
smackfu: I actually love how quaint it is to do a puzzle on paper. Even on my lousy inkjet printer, this looked really sweet. And this morning I was able to take the three pieces to a brunch with friends where the puzzle ended up being a blast for everyone...
posted by limitedpie at 12:45 PM on October 31, 2004

Got it - this is very cool. I shall now proceed to torture everyone I know with this. Thanks, limitedpie!
posted by iconomy at 12:45 PM on October 31, 2004

also: damn google! It is too easy to find the quick answers to these sorts of things.... *sigh*
posted by limitedpie at 12:47 PM on October 31, 2004

This rocks. I'm sitting at my desk working this out.
posted by elwoodwiles at 12:58 PM on October 31, 2004

I managed to hit upon the solution accidentally. Hooray for random rotating and clicking. Thanks for the flash link!
posted by Alison at 1:00 PM on October 31, 2004

Wow, I love it!
posted by Pretty_Generic at 1:10 PM on October 31, 2004

Got it! That's really clever!
posted by elwoodwiles at 1:13 PM on October 31, 2004

very cool. made my head bleed, but i finally got it. elegant
posted by quarsan at 1:18 PM on October 31, 2004

I wish I had a printer.
posted by kenko at 1:34 PM on October 31, 2004

kenko, use the Flash version jozxyqk linked to.

I actually got this right away... Perfectly gorgeous! "Get off the Earth" is another famous Loyd puzzle it seems. Here's an animation that lets you try it out.

Well done, limitedpie!
posted by taz at 1:57 PM on October 31, 2004

You call that riding a donkey? That's more like flying a donkey.
posted by epimorph at 2:19 PM on October 31, 2004

Excellent, thanks limitedpie!
posted by carter at 2:38 PM on October 31, 2004

It was a book of Loyd puzzles that turned me off of puzzles forever.

Curse you, Sam Loyd!
posted by mr_crash_davis at 3:44 PM on October 31, 2004

Hint follows!

Think about paintings of galloping horses from the pre-photographic era (mid 19th century and earlier). That should help you figure out a plausible way of placing the riders.
posted by maudlin at 4:01 PM on October 31, 2004

ok i'm ready to see this explained. on the flash site, the 'explanation' doesn't really help me, considering limitedpie said you cant overlap the donkeys.
posted by efalk at 4:48 PM on October 31, 2004

I have heard that if two donkeys love each other very much, they make new donkeys.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 5:22 PM on October 31, 2004

efalk: the puzzle has a few "extra lines" drawn in to draw your attention away from the answer. Don't think of the donkeys as being two donkeys, but as being four "parts" of donkeys.
posted by Jimbob at 5:28 PM on October 31, 2004

(The interactive one is Shockwave, not Flash. If someone hadn't already done it, I'd probably have hacked one up for y'alls.)

What I suspected to be the solution when looking at the original graphic turned out to be the right one. Piece of cake, woot.
posted by neckro23 at 5:30 PM on October 31, 2004

ok I'm an idiot :(

still not seeing this done without the donkeys overlapping.
posted by efalk at 7:47 PM on October 31, 2004

Sweet. Nailed it pretty quickly.

For once.
posted by Samizdata at 7:54 PM on October 31, 2004

Hint: it's not really a puzzle about arranging the mules.

It's really a puzzle about ignoring some of what you probably see as implicit rules of the game. There aren't two donkeys, one on each piece. There are four donkeyparts, two on each piece.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:01 PM on October 31, 2004

pretty sneaky, sis. Good puzzle.
posted by psmealey at 8:05 PM on October 31, 2004

Yay, my brain works...couple of minutes...

/looks down bashfully
posted by meech at 8:24 PM on October 31, 2004

posted by Vidiot at 8:59 PM on October 31, 2004

Don't know if this will help anyone else, but the two mules are supposed to be the same color. Even looking at the solution somehwere [the links in this thread are burned out] it still took me a minute to realize how it went.
posted by somethingotherthan at 9:01 PM on October 31, 2004

Finally. Flash of inspiration. Too long in coming.
posted by Vidiot at 9:18 PM on October 31, 2004

Ok, I figured out a different solution in which both are riding atop the bellies of the donkeys. Whatever.
posted by Mach3avelli at 11:28 PM on October 31, 2004

That was incredibly annoying. Thanks.
posted by squealy at 3:10 AM on November 1, 2004

Is this one of those things where the stupider you are, the shorter it takes? I got it in less than a minute...
posted by paladin at 4:10 AM on November 1, 2004

I'd be happy to post a solution if someone would tell me how you put a graphic in the thread. (That's one puzzle I've never figured out...)
posted by alumshubby at 6:01 AM on November 1, 2004

i love this sort of thing - and i did get it after a minute or two. it was the position of the donkey's noses that tipped me off. i knew there was something about it... now i'm torturing my friends!
posted by caution live frogs at 6:17 AM on November 1, 2004

Here is the answer for anyone who is frustrated.... but hope despite the frustration you still had a bit of fun :-)
posted by limitedpie at 6:30 AM on November 1, 2004

posted by page404 at 10:05 AM on November 1, 2004


After 4 hours...

I thought a phd would make me smarterer.
posted by dness2 at 11:19 AM on November 1, 2004

Loyd earned a fortune -- $10.000 -- in just a few weeks."
Though my pod mates are enjoying the puzzle, I'd asked for a refund back. It was cute but I suck at puzzles. Want a refund, as this was fairly easy solving since I read way too much into things. My first thought for the solution was placing the donkeys mules as one donkey mule packing (carrying) the other Then I saw where to place the jockeys.

Not to nitpick here, but these are mules in the picture. See the link's address. Mules are used for packing equipment, which was the reason behind my thinking in finding the solution.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:35 PM on November 1, 2004

I have to point out that the puzzle doesn't require that the jockeys be riding right-side up. There are two solutions.

Thanks, limitedpie.
posted by skyscraper at 7:52 PM on November 1, 2004

I'll also point out: If the puzzle is about literal interpretation, then overlapping is allowed, and the superficial, "stupid" answer is perfectly permissable.
posted by lodurr at 11:34 AM on November 2, 2004

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