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How Many Were Going To Saint Ives?


Best Answer unreality, 12 September 2007 - 02:36 AM

It is 1

you are PASSING those ppl.. you are the ONLY person going from X to St Ives, they are going from St Ives to X

this is an old one... saw it in the Moscow Puzzles, i think, a while ago (i love that book) Go to the full post


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#1 comperr

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Posted 12 September 2007 - 01:51 AM

As I was going to Saint Ives,
I crossed the path of seven wives.
Every wife had seven sacks,
Every sack had seven cats,
Every cat had seven kittens,
Kittens, cats, sacks, wives,
How many were going to Saint Ives?


Remark of Site Admin:
Note that solution for this puzzle is already given in the following post by unreality
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#2 Ploper

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Posted 12 September 2007 - 02:00 AM

I think the answer is seven
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#3 unreality

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Posted 12 September 2007 - 02:36 AM   Best Answer

It is 1

you are PASSING those ppl.. you are the ONLY person going from X to St Ives, they are going from St Ives to X

this is an old one... saw it in the Moscow Puzzles, i think, a while ago (i love that book)
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#4 bonanova

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Posted 12 September 2007 - 07:09 AM

It was also in Die Hard with a Vengeance.
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#5 rookie1ja

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Posted 12 September 2007 - 11:23 AM

It was also in Die Hard with a Vengeance.


exactly, there were a few more riddles ... for instance, I have posted the water jug riddle - check Pouring water I.
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#6 trent benoit

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Posted 28 September 2007 - 06:35 PM

There is only one person going to Saint Ives. I passed all those ladys with all of that s*** they were carrying?
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#7 Writersblock

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Posted 28 September 2007 - 08:43 PM

My grandmother told me this when I was about 4. I knew it's really old and I thought I'd Google it to find out how old. Turns out it first appeared about 1650 b.c.

I was interested in what Wiki had to say about it as a solution and thought I'd post it.

The following interpretations of the riddle reflect the ambiguity of the language, which could originally have been specific to the normal social expectations of a period in history. The idea of meeting somebody on a journey obviously depends on the means of transport and the kind of journey being undertaken. If the route to St Ives is basically one road with traffic moving both ways along it, it is reasonable to assume that "meeting" someone will involve them coming the other way towards you. To be accurate you would "pass" somebody going in the same direction or stationary by the roadside. You could also meet them at a junction if they were crossing your route on their way to somewhere else.

Depending on how the question is interpreted, the answer could also be zero: the person travelling to St Ives is not any of "kits, cats, sacks, wives". Even with this interpretation, however, the answer could be one: in the case the narrator is a wife.

Going away from St Ives were: one (1) man, seven (7) wives, seven times seven (49) sacks, seven times seven times seven (343) cats, and seven times seven times seven times seven (2,401) kits, making a total of 8 humans, 49 sacks, and a somewhat implausible 2,744 felines; a grand total of 2,800 kits, cats, sacks, and wives (or 2,801 if you include the man). However, as "sacks" are inanimate objects, 2752 presumably living creatures were headed away from St. Ives.

Although it is usually assumed that the man with the wives was going away from St Ives, it may well be true that they were going to St Ives: obviously, one might easily overtake them if they had to drag along sacks filled with 2,744 cats and kittens. The sheer weight of the animals would slow them down. In that case, the answer is 2802, or 2753 if the sacks are not counted.

Another solution derives from the fact that the narrator mentions that the man has seven wives, but does not explicitly state that the wives are present, nor their sacks, cats, and kits. If the man is travelling to St. Ives and not away, the answer could be two, one, or zero (depending on if you count only wives, sacks, cats, and kits, and if the narrator be a wife).

Yet another answer could be that the man and his cadre of wives, cats, and kittens could be living in a house along the way to St Ives, and the narrator simply paused along the way at his house.

Another solution would treat the riddle as a red herring, and state that the average number of wives, sacks, cats and kittens travelling to a large market town in the 18th century could easily number much more than the 2801 mentioned in the riddle.

One could also look at it in another way. "...I met a man..." could indeed refer to a man moving from the place, moving to the place or just standing or living somewhere along the track.

Another involves the use of past tense – "Every wife had seven sacks,". Yesterday he had money, today he has not. Using this past tense could mean that either a wife was carrying seven sacks, or used to carry seven sacks but at the moment both men meet one or more sacks were missing. The same would apply for a cat which had seven kits. Perhaps 1 of the kits died; The cat still has 6 kits, but had 7.

Another solution is that the man met was not monogamous, and had 7 wives. Therefore, this scenario is brought forth:

The narrator is going to St. Ives, and stops at a pub, or someplace similar, for a quick rest. While there, he meets the man, who tells the narrator about his multiple wives, who are at home, each with their seven sacks, cats, and kittens.

That means that only one, the narrator, was going to St. Ives.



I just love the ambiguity of language when you are trying to defend a concept.
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#8 Writersblock

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Posted 28 September 2007 - 08:47 PM

Another riddle from granny I just remembered:

There was a girl in our town,
Silk an' satin was her gown,
Silk an' satin, gold an' velvet,
Guess her name, three times I've telled it.
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#9 unreality

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Posted 29 September 2007 - 02:41 AM

An' was said 3 times


so her name is Ann or Anne or something?
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#10 brhan

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Posted 06 February 2008 - 12:25 PM

An' was said 3 times


so her name is Ann or Anne or something?



or may be ... Anna.

Edited by brhan, 06 February 2008 - 12:25 PM.

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