The Tax Cheat

The attendant’s jaw drops as he listens to your solution. “You’re right! Tremendous! Come this way!” He leads you to the Queen and explains your answer.

“You have our thanks, stranger,” Her Highness intones. “Bursar, reward our faithful vassal.” A nervous man presses one of the medallions into your hand.

“Come,” continues the Queen, “Sit near us to resolve any future disputes. We shall not be ungrateful.”

You stand next to the throne and spend the next half hour bored beyond belief. The fact that everyone else is paying taxes and not you is only a marginal relief. Just as you’re wondering how to slip away unseen, a peasant runs into the throne room.

“Highness!” she cries out. “You have been cheated! Every obol is one ounce short!”

“All the obols?” demands the Treasurer. The peasant shakes her head.

“No,” she says. “Just the ones from Lord—” She gasps suddenly and falls to the floor, whereupon the entire court can see the knife protruding from her back. A quick search ensues, but the guilty party evidently has already escaped.

The Queen and the Treasurer survey the 12 bags of obols they have collected. “One ounce short,” answers the Treasurer. “And our balance is ruined.”

“Can’t you get another one?” you ask.

“It would take days to construct one of adequate accuracy,” answers the Treasurer. “In the meantime, all we have is our scale.”

You blink uncertainly. “You have a scale?”

“Yes,” answers the Queen. “And it will report anything’s weight right down to the nearest ounce. It is quite well made. Unfortunately, it requires a bountiful lubrication of mink oil to run; and we have enough only for one weighing.” Her Royal Highness stares down at you. “Can you tell us which bag of 8-ounce obols really contains 7-ounce obols in only one weighing?”

Find the bag of counterfeit coins in one weighing by submitting a solution

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