Martin Gardner’s Mathematical Games: The Entire Collection of His Scientific American Columns

Tuesday 28 December 2004 at 3:53 pm | In Articles | 10 Comments

Martin Gardner was an inspiration to many of us with his Scientific American articles. I remember devouring them avidly when I was at school many, many years ago. Some of the articles were published in various books, but now all of his columns are about to be published by The Mathematical Association of America on CD-ROM in February. American readers can pre-order it from Barnes & Noble and more details are available from

Being able to read all his columns would be wonderful but I would still prefer to read it on old-fashioned paper. If it were published as a book in the UK, I would be the first to buy it.

In 1964, Scientific American devoted a complete issue to mathematics, so Martin Gardner devoted his column to word play

    … not discussed in any mathematical books, yet it has a about it a quasi-mathematical air … perhaps the combinatorial aspect is the reason why so many mathematicians are addicted to language play.

A few teasers he set from that issue:

    1. The letters omitted from these common English words are all consonants

      _ _ _ E _ _ _ _ _

      _ A_ E _ I O U _ _ Y

    2. I never did manage to find the missing letters (vowels or consonants) in

      _ _ M N O P _ _ _ _

    3. He didn’t mention this word where the missing letters are again all consonants

      _ _ Y _ _ _ _


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  1. 1. is f A t E T I O U s l Y, I think. The other ones seem harder.

    Comment by didier — Thursday 30 December 2004 7:35 pm #

  2. I think you meant to type f A c E t I O U s l Y 🙂
    ABSTEMIOUSLY doesn’t fit but has the same pattern of vowels and Y.

    1 & 3 are even more common words but I never did solve 2. Eric Satie’s Gymnopedie fits but I don’t think it counts as an English word.

    Comment by steve — Thursday 30 December 2004 7:54 pm #

  3. 3. RHYTHMS?

    I think your spacing in Q1 b doesn’t quite work.

    Comment by Higherpi — Friday 31 December 2004 12:24 am #

  4. 3. Is correct
    1b Whoops! How did that T get there? Corrected now and thanks for pointing it out.
    I have double-checked that 1a is written properly

    Comment by Steve — Friday 31 December 2004 10:38 am #

  5. I don’t know where this came from in my head, but STRENGTHS seems to fit.

    Comment by Higherpi — Wednesday 5 January 2005 11:34 pm #

  6. Yes, that’s it!

    Comment by steve — Thursday 6 January 2005 8:32 am #

  7. #2: gyMNOPhobe, perhaps?

    Comment by cunctipotentcunctator — Friday 7 January 2005 10:19 pm #

  8. That’s a good one. Was that word around in the 60s when the article was published?

    Comment by Steve — Friday 7 January 2005 10:25 pm #

  9. limnophile and somnopathy both fit 2, but I’m not sure that either of them are that common…

    Comment by greg — Monday 10 January 2005 12:41 pm #

  10. 2 could be GYMNOPLAST

    Comment by foo won yu — Tuesday 11 January 2005 4:47 pm #

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