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Puzzle corner

Allan Gottlieb ’67 signs off.

Who knew?

I would never have guessed that when, during my junior year at MIT, I agreed to edit a puzzle column for Tech Engineering News, I was making a decision that would affect my life for 50-plus years. During the ensuing half-century, I received a PhD, became a university professor, obtained a doctorate in mathematics, married Alice Bendix, a beautiful and talented woman with whom I have had two sons and three grandchildren, and authored a puzzle column year in, year out. I am unable to think of anything else I have done for such an extended period.

But now, as my skills begin to wane, it is time to turn Puzzle Corner over to younger, more capable hands.

During the half-century of its existence, Puzzle Corner has benefited greatly from my succession of editors at Technology Review, from John Mattill through Alice Dragoon. Whoever succeeds me will be lucky to have the expert guidance and assistance that the TR staff happily provides.

Wishing good luck and good health to you, my readers, I remain Allan (Gottlieb) at


Editor’s note: It’s truly the end of an era. After faithfully producing Puzzle Corner columns filled with challenging math, bridge, and chess problems in issue after issue for 58 years, Allan Gottlieb has decided to officially retire. But we hope that the end of the Gottlieb era does not mean the end of Puzzle Corner. To prevent that, we need your help in solving J/A1. We also invite you to celebrate the amazing (and, we’re pretty sure, record-breaking) achievement of Allan’s time at the helm of Puzzle Corner by tackling J/A2. 

J/A1. Devoted followers of Puzzle Corner understand that the shoes of Allan Gottlieb ’67, the column’s founding editor, will be extremely hard to fill. In mathematical terms, if you were to draw a Venn diagram representing people with a bachelor’s degree in math from MIT, alumni who’ve earned a red jacket, and editors who’ve shepherded a magazine column for more than 50 years, you’d find exactly one person in the space where the three circles intersect: Allan Gottlieb. And we’re pretty sure if you looked only at the third circle, Allan would still be its sole occupant.

Many readers have written in to bemoan the fact that the column has been on hiatus. While Allan is one of a kind and not easily replaced, we would like to preserve the grand tradition of Puzzle Corner. So MIT Alumni News is looking for alumni who would like to try out a stint as a guest editor of the column as we search for a long-term editor—or possibly a team of editors who could share the responsibility. (Please note that we do not expect anyone to sign up for a half-century commitment!) Editing Puzzle Corner involves collecting from readers new problems as well as solutions to previously published problems, and deciding which to include in each column. The editor receives a small honorarium, but the job is largely a labor of love. MIT Alumni News staff typeset and proofread the column, but the Puzzle Corner editor is responsible for providing the content (and verifying its mathematical accuracy) in a timely manner. If you’re interested in serving as a Puzzle Corner guest editor, please write to

J/A2. As we wish Allan well in his retirement, we’d also like to thank him for his unflagging stewardship of the column over the years. Do you recall a favorite Puzzle Corner problem, have a story about what it took to come up with a particularly elegant solution, or just want to tell Allan what it has meant to you to be able to look forward to a fresh p-set in every issue? Please submit your reminiscences and thanks to and we’ll share them all with Allan.

Speed department

If Allan Gottlieb created eight Puzzle Corner columns for Tech Engineering News and two for Technology Review in 1966, then for Technology Review went on to edit Puzzle Corner columns for nine issues a year for five years, eight issues a year for 26 years, six issues a year for 19 years, five issues a year for six years, and three issues a year for one year, how many total Puzzle Corner columns did he produce? (It’s a simple calculation, but the answer is impressive!)

Better late than never

If you missed our previous celebrations of Allan, read our 2015 profile, “Puzzle Corner’s Keeper,” and watch the MIT Alumni Association’s video “The Puzzle Guy” from his 50th reunion.

Solution to speed problem


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