A True and Delightful Incident

Friday November 7, 2014

The mathematician Raymond Smullyan writes in the preface to his book To Mock a Mockingbird:

Shortly after the publication of my first puzzle book—called What Is the Name of This Book?—I received a letter from an unknown female suggesting an alternative solution to one of the puzzles, which I found more elegant than the one I had given. She closed the letter with “Love” and signed her name. I had absolutely no idea who she was, or whether she was married or single. I wrote back expressing my appreciation of her solution and asked whether I might use it in a subsequent edition. I also suggested that if she had not already graduated from college she might consider majoring in mathematics, since she showed a definite mathematical talent. Shortly after, she replied: “Thank you for your gracious letter. You have my permission to use my solution. I am nine and a half years old and am in fifth grade.”