Blog Post #78: Super-Smart Young Ladies!

Dear Readers,

Every morning, I wake up with happiness and gratitude for God’s countless gifts,

including my job as the Mathematics teacher for wonderful students at Musica Mundi School, founded in Waterloo, Belgium, by Hagit Hassid-Kerbel and her husband, Leonid Kerbel.

I have always loved beautiful puzzles, and often I share them with my colleagues and students, who can win prizes when they send me good-quality answers by email.

In response to a puzzle (detailed below) that I sent at midnight 00:00, Hagit sent me the correct answers after only two times X minutes!

Others probably only saw the puzzle message later in the morning or afternoon, but I was delighted to also receive perfectly correct answers from the school’s Depute Headmistress, followed by Cansu (an outstanding Turkish girl) then Sophie, an 11-year-old Belgian girl who is the school’s youngest student at present, and Svetlana Kochenova who is a top-level Physics teacher. To celebrate this happy new year in style, all five super-smart young ladies will each receive a box of delicious chocolates. Warm congratulations to the ‘High Five’!!

I will share the puzzle with you now, too, and in the solutions (given near the end of this article) you can read the interesting background story explaining how this particular puzzle was ‘born’. There’s actually a hidden, special connection to Peter De Vleeschhouwer, the school’s ‘House Father’, whom I like to call ‘Peter The Great’!

Here’s the puzzle:

Penelope’s birthday is X days after Christmas Day.
Penelope was born exactly X months after Ally who was born in 1962.
Penelope will be three times X years old on her next birthday.
What was Penelope’s exact date of birth, and what was Ally’s exact date of birth? Also, at precisely what time did Hagit send her correct answers?
Just before we get to the solutions, I have decided to include a delightful chess puzzle that was posted earlier today by a friend of mine on Facebook.
International Master Cyrus Lakdawala of course credits the original composer of the chess puzzle, and explains how he got to know this gem through a gift from Danish FIDE Master Carsten.
Wishing everyone a very happy weekend now,
With lots of love from Paul Motwani & Family xxx
Here comes a wonderful, uplifting, positive message that I received just a few minutes ago from James Pitts, a great friend and former colleague at my previous school in Waterloo…

It was actually written by a former Airline 747 Pilot, and after James received it, he forwarded it to me, saying “Just had to share…”

“Good Morning, and welcome to Flight 2021. 

We are prepared to take off into the New Year.  Please make sure your Positive Attitude and Gratitude are secured and locked in the upright position.

All self-destruct devices: pity, anger, selfishness and resentment should be turned off at this time.

All negativity, hurt and discouragement should be put away.

Should you lose your positive Attitude under pressure during this flight, reach up and pull down a prayer.

Prayers will automatically be activated by Faith. Once your Faith is activated, you can assist other passengers who are of little faith.

There will BE NO BAD BAGGAGE allowed on this flight.

God, our Captain has cleared us for take-off.   Destination – GREATNESS!

Wishing you a New Year filled with new HOPE, new JOY and new BEGINNINGS! ❣️❣️

Stay Blessed! And Welcome in 2021!!! ✈️

Peace be with you.”

I would also like to say a personal “THANK YOU” here to James McDonald, a former pupil of mine long ago in Scotland, who sent me a very kind message earlier today.

P.S. = Puzzle Solutions!
The stunning solution to the chess puzzle is:
1. h8=Q+! Nxh8 2 Nh7+! Bxh7 (2…Ke8 or 2…Kg8 would allow 3 Nf6+ Kf8 4 Bh6#, checkmate!) 3 Bh6+ Ke8 (or 3…Kg8 4 Ne7#) 4 Ng7+ Kf8 5 Nh5+ after which either 5…Ke8 or 5…Kg8 are answered by 6 Nf6#, a ‘smothered mate’ of sorts!
In the mathematical puzzle, Ally (born in 1962) must presently be 58 (or at most 59) years old.
Given that Penelope is younger than Ally, and Penelope is about to turn three times X years old, her new age 3X must be 57=3 times 19. Why is that? Well, Penelope can’t yet get to a higher multiple of 3, because that would make her older than Ally. Also, imagine that Penelope was about to turn only 54=3 times 18, or less, then she’d have been born 18 months or less after Ally, but then Penelope couldn’t be as young as only 54 (or less).
So, in a nice, clear manner, we have established that Penelope is definitely about to turn 57=3X years old. Therefore, X is 57/3=19. Penelope’s birthday is 13 January (19 days) after Christmas, and
Penelope was born on 13 January 1964, making her 57 this coming Wednesday.
Ally was born on 13 June 1962, exactly 19 months before Penelope.
Hagit sent her winning answers at 00:38, exactly 2 times 19 minutes after midnight! She’s a very hardworking lady!
The puzzle is based on the lives of real people: American actress Ally Sheedy was indeed born on 13 June 1962, on the same day as PAM (Paul Anthony Motwani)!
Another ‘PAM’, Penelope Ann Miller (who’s an American actress too) was born on 13 January 1964, on the same day as Peter ‘The Great’ De Vleeschhouwer!
I would like to round off this article by wishing
my dear friend Peter a really happy birthday on Wednesday.
Shall we have another game of chess!?

Author: Paul A. Motwani

My name is Paul Motwani, but my colleagues, my students and their parents mostly call me "Mr. Mo"! My middle initial, A, stands for Anthony, because I was born on the official feast day of St. Anthony of Padua, the patron saint of miracles and of lost souls. I love teaching Mathematics and Chess, and giving fun-packed talks and shows in schools and clubs. The popular ingredients of Math, Chess, Mystery and Magic are my "Fantastic Four", and I give prizes too! I am an International Chess Grandmaster, and (loooooong ago!) I was the World Under-17 Champion. I am the author of five published chess books and hundreds of newspaper articles. I live with my wonderful wife and son in Belgium. I also love music, movies and puzzles. I blog at My e-mail address is You can find me on Facebook, too.

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