In article <3ig070$> of rec.puzzles, Pete Kimball <> wrote:

"So, what happened all last week while I was on vacation?" said Sheila.

"You wouldn't believe it. It was TERRIBLE!" said Marcia. "The boss came in on Monday and said, 'These notepads are a mess. Count them all and put them in even piles.' And all last week we did JUST THAT - count notepads and try to put them in even piles."

"My god!!" said Sheila. "There must be half a million of them!"

"Not that many," said Helen. "But I know I counted over 10,000 myself on Monday alone, so there are more than that. Marcia has all the totals."

"We spent a good HALF the week trying to figure out how we could put them in even piles. It turned out there were only three reasonable ways to do it," added Sandra.

"What do you mean by reasonable ways?" asked Sheila.

"Well, putting them in piles of one each, or leaving them all in one big pile, would be UNreasonable ways, I would think," explained Sandra. "There were three other ways to arrange them."

"But you haven't actually done it yet?" asked Sheila, looking at a huge, undifferentiated pile of notepads.

"No, we were going to decide on the best way this morning and then spend all day on it, so we can have it all done when the boss comes in tomorrow," said Helen.

"So, how many WERE there?" asked Sheila.

"Oh, Marcia has all that," said Helen. "On Friday night she wrote down the grand total, and the possible numbers that could go in each pile, on a slip of paper. You DO still HAVE that paper, don't you, Marcia?" she asked with a laugh.

"Don't worry, it's right here.." said Marcia, reaching into her pocket. Then her face went white. Her eyes widened. Involuntarily she murmured, "I washed these jeans......"

Slowly she pulled her hand from the pocket from her jeans. She pulled with it a tangle of tiny fragments of paper, on which the only recognizable writing - on the largest piece - was a single zero.

The others stared at her, then at the pile of notepads. Nobody said a word for a long time.

"Well," said Helen at length, "we'd better get started. It's going to be a LONG day - and a LONG night - counting them all over again."

"Wait a minute," said Sheila, pulling out a calculator with a thoughtful look. "Things might not be so bad....."

What had she deduced? How should they proceed?

P. Kimball

American College of Healthcare Executives

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