The Weekender Puzzle

Last night, I went to a sushi restaurant and, in order to impress my delicious companion, I decided to order a platter of fugu, otherwise known as the Japanese pufferfish. Now, in case you don’t know, this is the dish that — if prepared incorrectly — can kill you in a manner of minutes. But with all that testosterone coursing through my body, well, I wasn’t exactly thinking straight. It turns out, though, that the itamae also found my date to be particularly fetching, and he decided to do me in by improperly slicing the fugu, leaving a lethal dose of tetrodotoxin on the plate. A few moments later, I found myself on the floor, the world slowly coming to an end around me. The young lady pleaded and pleaded with the evil chef to save my life.

Finally, as my heart continued to slow, my breathing shallow, he agreed to offer me the chance to live: “There is said to be no known antidote for this poison, but actually, that is just something that we say to make the fugu seem more dangerous than it is, thereby driving up the price. I do, in fact, have the antidote right here in my kitchen, but as I am a sporting fellow, I can’t just give it to him.” He sat the girl down at a table, placing a tray and two empty bowls in front of her. On the tray were 20 grains of white rice and 20 grains of Japanese black rice. “Divide these 40 grains of rice into these two bowls. You can do this any way you want, so long as you use up all of the rice and so that the total number of combined grains in the two bowls when you finish is 40. Then, I will place a blindfold over your eyes and switch the bowls around several times so that you do not know which bowl is on which side of the table. I will then let you choose one bowl and remove one grain of rice from that bowl. If the grain of rice is black, I will give Victor the antidote. If the grain is white, he dies.”

Two hours later, we were making out at some dive bar in South Philly, my chest quite sore from having a needle jammed into it a la Pulp Fiction. She did save my life and, sharp gal that she is, she divided the rice grains in such a way that she had the greatest probability of choosing a black grain. How did she divide the rice?

If you know the answer, don’t post it here. E-mail it to me. At 3 p.m., I will randomly select one name from the correct answers. The winner will get a pair of tickets to tonight’s Sake Fest. As this is such a last minute giveaway, please only respond if a) you are 21+, b) you provide a cell or daytime phone number where I can contact you at 2 p.m., and c) you can actually go to the party tonight. It’s at the Loews Hotel at 6 p.m.

UPDATE: Congratulations to Erin A., who won a pair of tickets to tonight’s SakeFest at the Loews Hotel. If you want to see the solution, click here.