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The Riddle Of The Tiled Hearth


It seems that it was Friar Andrew who first managed to "rede the riddle of the Tiled Hearth." Yet it was a simple enough little puzzle. The square hearth, where they burnt their Yule logs and round which they had such merry carousings, was floored with sixteen large ornamental tiles. When these became cracked and burnt with the heat of the great fire, it was decided to put down new tiles, which had to be selected from four different patterns (the Cross, the Fleur-de-lys, the Lion, and the Star); but plain tiles were also available. The Abbot proposed that they should be laid as shown in our sketch, without any plain tiles at all; but Brother Richard broke in,—

"I trow, my Lord Abbot, that a riddle is required of me this day. Listen, then, to that which I shall put forth. Let these sixteen tiles be so placed that no tile shall be in line with another of the same design"—(he meant, of course, not in line horizontally, vertically, or diagonally)—"and in such manner that as few plain tiles as possible be required." When the monks handed in their plans it was found that only Friar Andrew had hit upon the correct answer, even Friar Richard himself being wrong. All had used too many plain tiles.

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