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Lady Isabel's Casket


Sir Hugh's young kinswoman and ward, Lady Isabel de Fitzarnulph, was known far and wide as "Isabel the Fair." Amongst her treasures was a casket, the top of which was perfectly square in shape. It was inlaid with pieces of wood, and a strip of gold ten inches long by a quarter of an inch wide.

When young men sued for the hand of Lady Isabel, Sir Hugh promised his consent to the one who would tell him the dimensions of the top of the box from these facts alone: that there was a rectangular strip of gold, ten inches by 1/4-inch; and the rest of the surface was exactly inlaid with pieces of wood, each piece being a perfect square, and no two pieces of the same size. Many young men failed, but one at length succeeded. The puzzle is not an easy one, but the dimensions of that strip of gold, combined with those other conditions, absolutely determine the size of the top of the casket.

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