13 Omni-potent Puzzles from Scot Morris

From 1978 to 1995, Omni magazine brought popular science, paranormal musings, and science fiction to its readers, before briefly going electronic and then shutting down.

Scot Morris edited its "Games" column for many years, and several spin-off books were later published. Scot has known Martin Gardner since 1964, and his column was very much in the same spirit as the latter when presenting riddles, bafflers, brainteasers, bar bets, and "gotchas"—not to mention short items with real mathematics and physics content.

To honor Martin's centennial, Scot has kindly allowed us to extract 13 fun puzzles from the first 13 (of 53) chapters in his first Omni Games (Owl/Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1983) book. How lucky is that?


  1. Bookworm (page 2)

    title (Image courtesy of http://www.glencoe.com)

    Four volumes of Shakespeare's Collected Works sit on your bookshelf. Each book is exactly 2 1/3 inches thick. The pages in each book are 2 inches thick and covers are each 1/6 of an inch thick.

    A bookworm with a taste for the classics starts eating at page 1 of Volume I and eats straight through to the last page of Volume IV. What is the distance the bookworm covers?

  2. Letter Line (page 2)

    The first twenty-five letters of the alphabet are written out as shown — with some letters above the line and some below. Where should the Z go: above the line or below, and why?

         A   EF HI KLMN     T VWXY
          BCD  G  J    OPQRS U

  3. Money Matters (page 3)

    Ten coins are arranged as shown.

    title (Image courtesy of Richard Weisman)

    Can you move ust one coin to another position so that, when added up either horizontally or vertically, two rows of six coins each will be formed? (The problem is best solved with actual coins on a table.)

  4. Coins in Glasses (page 4)

    Place ten coins and three drinking glasses on the table.

    title (Image courtesy of Burkard Polster and Marty Ross)

    The Challenge: Distribute all ten coins into the glasses so that each glass contains an odd number of coins.

  5. Count 'Em (page 7)

    True or false: "There is three errers in this sentence."

  6. Ant's Walk (page 9)

    A subway train is approaching Times Square at 144 inches per second (ips). A man in one subway car walking forward at 36 ips, relative to the seats. He is eating a footlong hot dog, which is entering his mouth at the rate of 2 ips. An ant on the hot dog is running away from the man's mouth at one ips. How fast is the ant approaching Times Square?

  7. Triangles (page 11)

    Can you arrange six kitchen matches to form four equilateral triangles, all having sides that are one match long?

  8. Order (page 16)

    If you spelled out every number in English, you would find only one in which the letters are in alphabetical order. What's the number?

  9. "Eeny" Doesn't Count (page 16)

    What four-letter English word ends in "eny"?

  10. The Clock Problem (page 19)

    This problem is one of the best ones I know for starting arguments. You look at your clock at exactly 12 noon and notice that the big and little hands are exactly coincident with each other. How many more times, between now and midnight, will the hour and minute hands cross each other again?

  11. Family Reunion (page 22)

    Norman Pos tells of a gathering attended by a father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, cousins, nephew, niece, uncle, and aunt. All relationships are "within the group:" that is, saying that one person is a "son" implies that he the son of someone present at the gathering. What is the minimum number of persons who could be present at such a reunion?

  12. Tale of a Tub (page 22)

    A boy in a bathtub is sailing a plastic boat loaded with nuts and bolts. If he dumps all the cargo into the water, allowing the boat to float empty, will the water level in the tub rise, fall, or stay the same?

  13. How Many F's? (page 23)

    John Kirkland, of Santa Barbara, California, sent us a copy of the card that is reproduced below. Read the sentence carefully. How many times does the letter f occur? Count them once and once only.


We only got as far as page 23 of Omni Games by Scott Morris, and sampled just a fraction of the puzzles on those pages. There are 63 more pages of great head-scratchers, and another 60 pages of insightful solutions after that. Often, followup questions are posed, and eventually answered.

You could say we recommend it, highly.