A man walks into a bar, orders a drink, and starts chatting with the bartender. After a while, he learns that the bartender has three children. "How old are your children?" he asks. "Well," replies the bartender, "the product of their ages is 72." The man thinks for a moment and then says, "that's not enough information." "All right," continues the bartender, "if you go outside and look at the building number posted over the door to the bar, you'll see the sum of the ages." The man steps outside, and after a few moments he reenters and declares, "Still not enough!" The bartender smiles and says, "My youngest just loves strawberry ice cream." How old are the children?

Answer :

First, determine all the ways that three ages can multiply together to get 72:

72 1 1 (quite a feat for the bartender)

36 2 1

24 3 1

18 4 1

18 2 2

12 6 1

12 3 2

9 4 2

9 8 1

8 3 3

6 6 2

6 4 3

As the man says, that's not enough information; there are many possibilities. So the bartender tells him where to find the sum of the ages--the man now knows the sum even though we don't. Yet he still insists that there isn't enough info. This must mean that there are two permutations with the same sum; otherwise the man could have easily deduced the ages.

The only pair of permutations with the same sum are 8 3 3 and 6 6 2, which both add up to 14 (the bar's address). Now the bartender mentions his "youngest"--telling us that there is one child who is younger than the other two. This is impossible with 8 3 3--there are two 3 year olds. Therefore the ages of the children are 6, 6, and 2.

Question

A variant of the problem is for the sum of the ages to be 13 and the product of the ages to be the number posted over the door. In this case, it is the oldest that loves ice cream. Then how old are they?

In the sum-13 variant, the possibilities are:

11 1 1

10 2 1

9 3 1

9 2 2

8 4 1

8 3 2

7 5 1

7 4 2

7 3 3

6 6 1

6 5 2

6 4 3

The two that remain are 9 2 2 and 6 6 1 (both products equal 36). The final bit of info (oldest child) indicates that there is only one child with the highest age. This cancels out the 6 6 1 combination, leaving the childern with ages of 9, 2, and 2.

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