08 November 2005

Puzzling Wednesday

[I know it's not Wednesday yet, but I wanted you people to have a head start.]

You are to have an important meeting in Manhattan, New York at a certain time on a certain day with a person whom you don't know and have never seen. But you both have an esoteric insignia that will enable you to recognize each other. Unfortunately, you lose contact with the person before a meeting place was picked and now you have no way of reestablishing contact. (This puzzle dates from long before e-mail and cell phones.) Nevertheless, on the designated day at the designated time, you decide to be at some public place in Manhattan where you think the other person is most likely to be.

Where would you go to maximize your chances of meeting the other person assuming that the other person is also trying to find you? Assume that there had been no mention of a suitable meeting place between the 2 of you.

In the original puzzle1, the purpose of the meeting was not specified. However, the nature and purpose of the meeting could easily affect the selection of a meeting place and increase the chances of two people finding each other.

Now, where would you go if the meeting was about…

an archeological expedition to Egypt?

a research project about the microscopic animals that live in large ponds?

a new international organization to foster peace among countries?

Obviously, there are no correct answers to this puzzle, but, any number of possible, and rather subjective, answers.

I will post some answers of mine tomorrow nite in comments.

1. Modified and expanded from puzzle #12 in Mosteller, F., Fifty Challenging Problems in Probability. Dover Publications, 1965.


pascal said...

While I have not been to New York City, I would say:

The American Museum Steps for the Egypt Trip; I would say the biggest, most public pond in Central park; and the front steps of the UN building (provided you could loiter there).

This is just from the perspective of a simple midwestern boy that has heard about the Big Apple second-hand. I'd be really interested to see differences between those that have and have not been to the city. It's a fun puzzle that kind of reminds me of being lost as a kid and trying to figure out the best place to wait for my parents. :)

Deniz Bevan said...

I would say the same as the previous post, but, depending on how much time you have, another idea might be to go to all these places, and then maybe also the Empire State Building and leave messages at all the information booths at these places, giving a number where you can be reached. That way you can either spend the day in your hotel room or in a Greenwich cafe or at the Strand bookstore, or any one place else, as long as you leave the phone number of that place at the information booths...


Pascal: I suppose you mean the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which has a very rich collection of ancient Egyptian stuff.

Deniz: What information would you leave at information booths? You don't know the person you are supposed to meet & the "esoteric insignia" may be something secret or it could even be some hand sign that you would display to a person whom you suspect may be the right person.

Anyway, if there was no information about the purpose of the meeting, I'd probably go to the Statue of Liberty.

Otherwise, my picks would essentially be the same as those of Pascal: The MET, the Reservoir in Central Park & the UN building.

Oh, the original author suggested the E.S. Building & Times Square, but settled for the former.