Blog Post #97: Early happy birthday wishes for Helen, a bright, shining light

Dear Readers,

The meaning of the name Helen is ‘bright, shining light’, and that well describes Mrs. Helen Coyne-Wincott, a lovely English teacher colleague of mine at Musica Mundi School.

In addition to being fluent in several languages, Helen is also very good at Mathematics, and she’s a highly talented musician, too, with special expertise on a particular instrument… You’ll discover which one, and lots more, in the following feast of fun puzzles that is an early celebration for Helen’s birthday coming in 3 days’ time! I have Helen’s permission to post numerous surprises. So, let’s magnify Helen’s enjoyment, OK!

Wee Note/Joke: This is perhaps too much under the looking glass, but the sneaky little fellow sees clearly that Helen didn’t make the sign on the communal staffroom door, because otherwise it would read TEACHERS’ ROOM! Then again, ´perhaps too´ is a noteworthy anagram of ´apostrophe`!

Just to be sure that we know this, all the signs there were wrong and in need of urgent grammatical assistance from our superhero Helen!

A Personal Apostrophe Joke/Brainteaser for Helen!

My caption for the photo is: IT’S U SLICING.

You all have my permission to drop the apostrophe and just rearrange and use the letters I-T-S-U-S-L-I-C-I-N-G to make a proper 11-letter English word that is one of Helen’s favourites!

Congratulations for finding Helen’s LINGUISTICS!


Eye calculated that Helen is about to turn 25.

Eye could even adjust that to 21 ! This is absolutely true: In honour of Helen’s sons aged 23 and 21, Helen is turning 25 (in base 23), and she’s turning 21 (in base 25).

2 x 23 + 5 and 2 x 25 + 1 give the same result!

You may wish to not scroll down too quickly, so as to avoid seeing the answers to the puzzles until you’re ready…

Puzzle #1 Remove just one letter from FLUENT, then make a proper 5-letter English word by rearranging and using the letters remaining.

Congratulations this time for finding Helen’s FLUTE !

Puzzle #2 Think of a common 4-letter colour beginning with N and ending with Y. Then, just as in the first puzzle, let the N go, but keep the other three letters.  Combine them with all the letters of HELEN. Now use them to make a nice 8-letter English adjective that describes Helen.

The intended steps were NAVY–AVY–HELENAVY–HEAVENLY !

Puzzle #3 As Helen’s favourite number is 9, your next fun challenge is to find the smallest positive whole number which contains a digit 9, and also contains a 9 when multiplied by 2 AND also contains a 9 when multiplied by 3 !

It’s quite beautiful, here in Blog Post #97, that the answer is 97 !

97 clearly contains a digit 9, as does 97 x 2 = 194, and 97 x 3 = 291.

Puzzle #4 As Helen’s second son is 21 years old, and Helen’s favourite number is 9, we’re going to use the nine consecutive numbers 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 and 21 to make a 3 x 3 Magic Square !

If we place the nine numbers correctly, then the total sum in each row, and in each column, and in the two main diagonals, will be the same in each case. Furthermore, it will match the age that Helen will be turning in just three days’ time, from now! However, if I’m reading your mind correctly, I totally agree with your thinking: Helen does look even younger!

Here is one correct solution.

Though certain numbers may swap positions, the number 17 must be at the centre for this Magic Square to work. That’s quite fitting, given that 17 is the total number of letters in HELEN COYNE-WINCOTT, and Helen is about to turn 17 x 3 = 51.

Puzzle #5

  1. Start with the numbers 3, 13 and 23, the last of which is the current age of Helen’s first son.
  2. Consider the idea of appending (or attaching) a single extra digit 9 (Helen’s favourite!) to the right-hand side of either the 3 OR the 13 OR the 23. We’ll then multiply your three numbers together. Without yet using a calculator, what does your intuition say to you regarding which of these will produce the largest result…?
  3. Is it 39 x 13 x 23 OR 3 x 139 x 23 OR 3 x 13 x 239 ?
  4. Don’t worry if you happened to pick the last one, 3 x 13 x 239. It actually gives the smallest result of the three options, but I still love it because 3 x 13 x 239 = 9321, which is nice for wishing Helen a really happy birthday this coming Tuesday, 9.3.21 !

I’m going to finish soon by giving priority to Helen’s favourite 9 and subtracting my own favourite 3 !

9-3 = 6, and so Puzzle #6 will be the final one here today. It contains a message which is truly wonderful news for every person, whether or not they yet know or believe it. The message is this: You Are Loved.

Yes, you are loved perfectly by God. Though our lives now may be deeply troubled by very many problems, that will not last forever. Happily, what really will last forever is the promise of eternal joy and peace in Heaven with God, if we will simply believe in and accept in our hearts the perfect gift that is prepared for us.

Puzzle #6

  1. Start with 17, the total number of letters in HELEN COYNE-WINCOTT.
  2. Multiply by 23, the current age of Helen’s first son.
  3. Multiply by 21, the current age of Helen’s second son.
  4. Multiply by 11, the total number of letters in YOU ARE LOVED.

The result of 90321 is to again wish Helen and her husband and their whole family a wonderful weekend now and particularly happy celebrations for Helen’s birthday on Tuesday, 9.03.21 !

With kindest wishes as always to everyone,

Paul Motwani xxx

P.S. As Helen, her husband and their two sons are a family of four, let’s have a quick bonus Chess puzzle in which it’s White to play and force checkmate within 4 moves!

Are you ready now to compare your solution to the one offered just below…?

White forces checkmate via 1. Qh7+ Kf8 2 d6! (preventing the black king from escaping to e7, and so the threat of Qh8# can only be delayed for a fleeting moment now) 2…Bxg2+ 3 Kg1! (see diagram)

3…Bxf1 (nothing else helps either) 4 Qh8#, checkmate!




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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