Ain’t so smart

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Marilyn v. Savant has the biggest brain on the planet and likes to sit on motorcycles.

It’s a happy day for me when I can catch Marilyn vos Savant, supposedly the world’s smartest woman, in an error. For those not familiar with the suspiciously named Ms. vos S., she — according to her Web site — “was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for five years under ‘Highest IQ’ for both childhood and adult scores” and “has since been inducted into the Guinness Hall of Fame.” She also publishes a weekly column in Parade magazine, where she shares stimulating brain-teasers and smarty-pants opinions on all sorts of random subjects.

Well, I hate to gloat, but I’ve found a case where Marilyn got one wrong. In a recent column, she printed the following question (note the clever Three’s Company reference):

Jack, Janet and Chrissy meet at their corner coffeehouse and buy half a dozen doughnuts. Each friend always tells the truth or always lies. Jack says that he got one doughnut, but Janet says that Jack got two, and Chrissy says that Jack got more than three. On the other hand, all three friends agree that Janet got two. Assuming that each friend got at least one and that no doughnut was cut and divided, how many doughnuts did each friend get?


Marilyn’s answer was as follows:

Chrissy must be a liar because she said that Jack got four or more doughnuts and that Janet got two, which left none for herself. As Chrissy is a liar, Jack and Janet must be liars too, because all three friends agreed about Janet. As all three friends are liars, Jack must have gotten three doughnuts. (Jack lied when he said he got one; Janet lied when she said Jack got two; and Chrissy lied when she said Jack got more than three.) Janet must have gotten one doughnut. (All three friends lied when they said she got two. If she got three, none would be left for Chrissy.) Which means Chrissy got the two remaining doughnuts.

Can you spot the error? That’s right — the correct answer is:

Who gives a fuck?

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