It’s the Friday Puzzle!


Please do NOT post your answers, but do say if you think you have solved the puzzle and how long it took. Solution on Monday.

Imagine that the following equation (5 – 2 x 501=802) has been made from matchsticks….


What is the smallest number of matchsticks that can be moved to make it correct? Oh, and you are not allowed to move one to the equation sign to create a ‘not equals to’ sign.

I have produced an ebook containing 101 of the previous Friday Puzzles! It is called PUZZLED and is available for the Kindle (UKhere and USA here) and on the iBookstore (UK here in the USA here). You can try 101 of the puzzles for free here.


62 comments on “It’s the Friday Puzzle!

  1. Anonymous says:

    Think I’ve got it but it seems too easy!

  2. Julian says:

    About 20 seconds

  3. Anonymous says:

    🙂 a few seconds to check it

  4. Mad Kev says:

    I can do it in 3, can anyone beat that ?

  5. Critical Bounce says:

    Think i have an answer in a minute. Wonder if it can be done lower though…?

  6. Errol B says:

    Less than 10 seconds with a bit of upside down thinking

  7. I took 3 minutes to get one possible answer, but it’s probably much more than the smallest possible number.

  8. Ralph says:

    About a minute but let’s see if I have the minimum number.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I think I got it in a few minutes.

  10. Martha says:

    I’ve done it in my head, but it means taking a match away – is that allowed?

  11. laconicsax says:

    I either got it in a couple minutes or am catastrophically wrong.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I’m slow… Took me about 10 minutes & I’m still not certain…

  13. Paul Durrant says:

    Assuming we’re evaluating it left to right, I think I have the solution in about a minute. I don’t think it can be done with fewer moves that the solution I’ve found.

  14. lizzy says:

    It me 5mins to the Friday puzzle and I think I did it right.

  15. Mark Murphy says:

    Depends if BODMAS is used or not… If not, got a very low answer in about a minute.

  16. Jay says:

    I got it so quickly my head traveled backwards in time and I witnessed my own birth. Ugly scenes.

  17. Stephen Barnes says:

    I can do it in 3 moves…

  18. Bert Trautman says:

    Can anybody beat 2 moves?

  19. Lazy T says:

    I’m not allowed to play with matches since the incident, but I can do it by moving two and adding one and also by moving two then moving to somewhere else.

  20. Duncan says:

    Crap, I thought I had it, but I might have the wrong answer that will be presented as the right one on Monday!

  21. Natura Umana says:

    I’ve done it in 2 moves and a different perspective.

  22. Duncan says:

    I’ve got another answer, still not sure if it’s right though…

  23. Technically only the number of matches is asked for, so the solution is simply a number.

    But I guess Richard wants us to show our work, so posting the number of matches shouldn’t be disqualifying.

    I can do it with a maximum of three moves, and a minimum of 2 depending on which rules are applied. The 3 should work under normal rules, the 2 relies on hidden assumptions.

  24. Anonymous says:

    I can do it in no matches and one, maybe two, perceptual/perspective alterations.
    The expression “get my head round it” is apposite.
    Beat that.

  25. Julia says:

    I’ve got an answer, but I don’t know if it’s cheating. I kind of prefer this to the usual ‘can you make the equation correct by moving x matches’.

  26. The Masked Twit says:

    I can do it in no matches
    Beat that

  27. Mickey D says:

    Found the 3 match solution in 5 mins and than suddenly the 2 match solution in 10 secs!

  28. ctj says:

    got a 2 match solution within a minute. curious if there are more solutions, or even a 1 match solution.

    • ctj says:

      after a bit more, i came up with a separate 2 match solution. i’m pretty sure there is no legitimate* 1 match solution, but we’ll see on monday.

      *there are at least two 0 match solutions, and at least two1 match solutions, that i think would be universally regarded as cheating.

    • Segway Drivin Troll (in da' Hood) says:

      Au contraire ctj.
      In my experience when you get the “right” answer to RW’s questions you normally know it.
      If your answer is a number greater than zero there must always be that doubt as to whether you could have done better. With zero as an answer there is no such doubt.
      I do not think the answer zero is “universally regarded as cheating”. That makes it axiomatic then.
      Re debate above, I do not consider this to be a spoiler as I am not saying how or if I have achieved the answer zero.

  29. Alistair says:

    I have the wrong answer but it works according to the rules laid out.

  30. The Moron says:

    Leonardo da Vinci would have had no problem with this puzzle……but I am no Leonardo, just a moron

  31. Skepdirk says:

    After dismissing my first 2-matches-solution (as it is not allowed to create the “not equal” sign, I’m assuming that it is also forbidden to create the “is less” sign), I found one correct 2-matches-solution 🙂

  32. Anonymous says:

    I have to assume brackets around the 5-2, so it says (5-2) x 501 = 802. But then it’s fairly easy.

  33. gbbailey says:

    I got a 2-match solution in a roundabout way.

  34. Tony says:

    I’m impressed by two! In one way “The lazy twit” solution actually involves moving all the matches but is surely the Monday answer as zero is hard to beat.

  35. Anonymous says:

    about a minite. wasn’t too hard

  36. Eddie says:

    Got an answer I’m happy with. So at least I can forget about this ’til Monday morning unlike last week’s puzzle (which was brilliant).

  37. moo says:

    that was so easy I could do it in 1, standing on my head!

  38. Joe in San Francisco says:

    Two matchsticks in about 15 seconds.

  39. Got it. Two moves. Thought about it; came back an hour or so later with an idea that worked. Though I wonder if someone found a way of doing it in one move.

  40. Got a likely answer in less than a minute, but proving it will take a little longer.

  41. ladymac says:

    I was taught not to play with matches, never did, and certainly won’t now as I hate these kinds of puzzles among the most. 🙂 Kudos to all who liked and got it. I don’t play these games.

  42. Then kudos also for those who didn’t like and got it,Anon. Happy now. As I said ,honestly and in good humor,I thought, I just don’t play these games-congrats to all who got this puzzle 🙂

  43. Anonymous says:

    maybe ! 5 sticks would be moved….

  44. Deena says:

    Nando shirtless is constantly a eyecatcher!

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