A Brief History of Puzzles – the answer!

6th January 2021

The Solution to the Prize Puzzle in William Hartston’s A Brief History of Puzzles


The Clue:

To reach your end, you’ll need the ends,

Begin at the last and work back.

Add one each time, repeat these trends,

And soon you’ll find the knack.

But remember, no matter how hard you look,

You won’t find the answer without this book.


The Puzzle:

What letter completes this sequence:

r, o, m, i, f, a, h, q, x …


Explanation and answer:

In the first line of clue, ‘the ends’ refers to the final letters of the chapters of the book.

‘Begin at the last and work back’: take the chapters in reverse order, starting with the last.

‘Add one each time’: start with the last letter of the last chapter, then the penultimate letter of the second-to-last, then the third letter from the end of the next, and so on.

This process produces the letters in the puzzle:

r (last letter of ‘unfair’)

o (second to last in ‘you’)

m (third from end in ‘man’)

i (fourth from end in ‘logical’)

and so on.

The final letter in the sequence will therefore be the tenth letter from the end of chapter 1, which is ‘i’.