The Answer to Columbo’s Puzzle

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I almost forgot to give you the answer to Columbo’s puzzle.

To recap: You have three bags filled with gold pieces, but the pieces in one of the bags are counterfeit. The only way you can tell the difference is that the genuine gold pieces weigh a pound apiece, but each counterfeit piece weighs one pound and one ounce. You need to discover which bag contains the counterfeits: but all you have, by way of equipment, is an old-fashioned penny scale, like they used to have in drugstores, and a single penny. How do you do it?

Well, no one here came up with the answer, so here it is.

From Bag #1 take one piece; from Bag #2, take two pieces; and from #3, three.

Weigh all six pieces at once.

If it weighs six pounds, one ounce, the counterfeits are in Bag 1. If it weighs six pounds, two ounces, they’re in Bag 2; if six pounds, three ounces, Bag 3.

Don’t feel bad. Columbo had help from his screenwriters.

About leeduigon

I have lived in Metuchen, NJ, all my life. I have been married to my wife Patricia since 1977. I am a former newspaper editor and reporter. I was also the owner-operator of my own small business for several years. I wrote various novels and short stories published during 1980s and 1990s. I am a long-time student of judo and Japanese swordsmanship (kenjutsu). I also play chess, basketball, and military and sports simulations. View all posts by leeduigon

3 responses to “The Answer to Columbo’s Puzzle

  • UnKnowable

    Durn, you’re smart! I hadn’t even thought of that. For some reason, it never occurred to me to open the bags.


  • Phoebe

    I’d thought of taking individual coins out of the bags, but I was counting on the penny scale being the kind that would adjust itself downward if part of the object on the scale was removed, so we could tell when the extra ounce disappeared as the coins were knocked off the scale one by one. Those scales were rare, though, and I was too lazy to look up when and where they were used. Anyway, I would never have thought of Columbo’s solution.


  • David Ingram

    Thanks for the solution – now I can go right to sleep at night 🙂


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