CRAIG CONLEY (Prof. Oddfellow) is recognized by Encarta as “America’s most creative and diligent scholar of letters, words and punctuation.” He has been called a “language fanatic” by Page Six gossip columnist Cindy Adams, a “cult hero” by Publisher’s Weekly, and “a true Renaissance man of the modern era, diving headfirst into comprehensive, open-minded study of realms obscured or merely obscure” by Clint Marsh. An eccentric scholar, Conley’s ideas are often decades ahead of their time. He invented the concept of the “virtual pet” in 1980, fifteen years before the debut of the popular “Tamagotchi” in Japan. His virtual pet, actually a rare flower, still thrives and has reached an incomprehensible size. Conley’s website is
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Presumptive Conundrums

Learn more about Presumptive Conundrums at

February 25, 2017 (permalink)

Here's a "23 skidoo" broken down into three fives and an eight.
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February 24, 2017 (permalink)

Remarkable properties of the number nine.  From Curiosities for the Ingenious by Ash and Mason, 1825.
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February 12, 2017 (permalink)

Here's Madame Square Root of Negative One.  From Jugend, 1904.
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February 10, 2017 (permalink)

There are those who would have you believe Shakespeare isn't all that puzzling.  No Cipher in Shakespeare by Aldwell Nicholson, 1888.
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January 2, 2017 (permalink)

Fourteen pairs of feet and fourteen pairs of faces.  From Hypnerotomachia Poliphili.
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December 5, 2016 (permalink)

We see too little spider mathematics.  Here's an equation from American Spiders and their Spinning Work by Henry C. McCook, 1889.  You can check the answer according to the techniques revealed in our Presumptive Conundrums: Rhetorical Math Questions (+ Answers).
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November 11, 2016 (permalink)

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November 6, 2016 (permalink)

Here are some tricky book titles we've encountered in the course of our eccentric research.  Can you do the math?
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August 16, 2016 (permalink)

"If AC are the same, and B is nowhere, unless he is in the other place, wouldn't this style of features make a lovely design for a bronze knocker?"  From Judy, Or The London Serio-Comic Journal, 1872.
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August 13, 2016 (permalink)

Six and half a dozen, from Pearson's, 1910.  Why phrase an equation this way?  It's the only way to add potaytos to potahtos.
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February 4, 2016 (permalink)

"I am equal to the other two fellows," from School: A Monthly Record of Educational Thought and Progress, 1908.

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January 26, 2016 (permalink)

So much for Jules Verne's 80-day circumnavigation in 1873.  Seven years later, the trip was up to 500 days.  At that rate of slack, it would take 8,240 days to circumnavigate in 2016.  We're now looking for that book cover.
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January 11, 2016 (permalink)

Prove that the chances of Holmes meeting Watson weren't 1 in the world's population but rather 1 in 1, as did Wendy C. Fries in Sherlock Holmes and John Watson: The Day They Met.
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December 28, 2015 (permalink)

An angel in the seventh heaven is said to have a rooster's shape (as per Romans de Mahon), but which is it — a rectangle or a triangle?  From A Little Journey Among Anconas by Cecil Sheppard, 1922.

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October 11, 2015 (permalink)

You knew that everything is just a little bit better in Scandinavia, but here's why: How "No. 1" Became "1 1/2" in Norway by J. Maitland Stuart, 1891.  Now it becomes clear — when Norwegians "turn it up to eleven," it's a bigger deal.

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September 14, 2015 (permalink)

Hey, let's take five and have these guys to do the math, eh?  "Appreciable only by mathematicians," from The Purchase of the North Pole by Jules Verne, 1891.
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August 24, 2015 (permalink)

As the symmetric property states, if a = b then b = a.  Antichrist the Pope of Rome: or, The Pope of Rome is Antichrist by Thomas Beard, 1625.  The math checks!

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June 23, 2015 (permalink)

You do the math: "Two stockings and two shoes added together make a great many when one has the dawdles."  From St. Nicholas magazine, 1910.

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February 16, 2015 (permalink)

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February 13, 2015 (permalink)

This unusual math problem is from a hilarious book that Jonathan Caws-Elwitt recommended, Three Rousing Cheers for the Rollo Boys by Corey Ford:

"Harry! Tom!"
"Dick! Tom!"
"Tom! Harry!"
"Stop!" cried Dick suspiciously; and, taking out a sheet of white paper, he wrote down: "Harry! Tom!" "Dick! Tom!" and "Tom! Harry!" He then added them together and divided through by Tom.

Can you guess the result?

Answer: "The result is Harry and Dick," he said seriously. "Tom cancels." (The answer is in black text on the black background. Highlight it to view.)
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