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Tricky Substitution Equation

Trick brain teasers appear difficult at first, but they have a trick that makes them really easy.


Fun:*** (2.36)
Difficulty:*** (2.74)
Submitted By:eighsse


Karl and his friend Larry are always pulling trick brain teasers on each other. Larry has been getting the best of Karl all too often lately, so Karl really wants to get him back. He comes up with a good one, and writes the following on a piece of paper:
= Y"
He shows it to Larry, and says, "Each different letter in this equation stands for a different digit. All instances of a given letter stand for the same digit. There are multiple true solutions, but what is the greatest digit that Y can stand for in a true solution?" Larry scans the equation over and over. He can't come up with any way that the answer could not be 4. "The answer must be four," he says, with confidence. Karl smiles and replies, "Sorry, you're incorrect."

What is the correct answer?

Show Hint


The answer is 8. Karl never said that the letters X, Y, and Z are used. Only the letters Y and Z are used in the equation, while the X's are actually multiplication signs. So the teaser actually reads: "Y times Z, minus Y times Y, equals Y," or YZ - Y^2 = Y
Y (Z-Y) = Y
Z-Y = 1
Z = Y+1
So, any digits can be used, as long as they are different and Z is one greater than Y. Z can be 9, with Y being 8, giving "9*8 - 8*8 = 8." This is true, so the answer is valid.


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Posted by charlottes-odd on Dec 17, 2013

Another good one eighsse!

Posted by eighsse on Dec 17, 2013

Thanks charlotte

Posted by koin_era345 on Dec 20, 2013

I don't know if this should be in trick, but I like it nonetheless.

Posted by eighsse on Dec 20, 2013

It's in Trick because at first sight, the X's will likely be considered letters, which must stand for digits. But they really are multiplication signs, not letters. The only other category I might consider it to be is Situation, as it's somewhat unfair to the solver, considering that the body of the teaser is typed with an actual letter "X" character. So it's written with a third-person perspective since an "X" and a multiplication sign, in writing, are generally interchangeable. This might make it more fit for Situation, but I still feel it is more of a Trick.

Posted by dalfamnest on Jul 04, 2014

As a trick, I think it's great - top marks!! Thanks for something new and different.

Posted by eighsse on Jul 04, 2014

Thanks dalfamnest, glad you enjoyed it

Posted by Zag24 on Jul 21, 2014

Nicely done. Of course, I can beat your solution with my own. No one said that the digits were DECIMAL digits. (Back in the old days, I used to have to add and subtract hexidecimal values all the time. But there's no reason these digits aren't in base 10000000.)

Posted by eighsse on Jul 21, 2014

Hah! This is true. Very nice, zag.

Posted by sarggames on Nov 04, 2014


Posted by flower-girl on Mar 14, 2015

Too hard & boring.

Posted by Captain_Obvious on Mar 28, 2015

It's a good teaser but I don't really understand why Karl said Larry's answer was incorrect when the answer was 4

Posted by eighsse on Mar 28, 2015

Because he asked what the LARGEST possible value is, not just any valid value.

Posted by Eminem on Jun 20, 2015

Solved it its 8

Posted by Eminem on Jun 20, 2015

Solved it its 8

Posted by Eminem on Jun 20, 2015

Solved it its 8

Posted by eighsse on Jul 01, 2015

Good job, Eminem!

Good job, Eminem!

Good job, Eminem!

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