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The Friar's Puzzle


The Friar was a merry fellow, with a sweet tongue and twinkling eyes. "Courteous he was and lowly of service. There was a man nowhere so virtuous." Yet he was "the best beggar in all his house," and gave reasons why "Therefore, instead of weeping and much prayer, Men must give silver to the needy friar." He went by the name of Hubert. One day he produced four money bags and spoke as follows: "If the needy friar doth receive in alms five hundred silver pennies, prithee tell in how many different ways they may be placed in the four bags." The good man explained that order made no difference (so that the distribution 50, 100, 150, 200 would be the same as 100, 50, 200, 150, or 200, 50, 100, 150), and one, two, or three bags may at any time be empty.

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