Beach Day by Rodger Bliss
April 2024

Drunken Servents

The King of a small country invites 1000 senators to his annual party. As gifts, each senator brings the King a bottle of wine, for a grand total of 1000 bottles of wine. Each bottle is signed by the senator who gave it.

At the end of the party, the Queen tells the King that one of the senators is trying to assassinate him, and has put deadly poison in the bottle of wine he gave as a gift. Unfortunately, the Queen doesn’t know which senator is the traitor (and thus doesn’t know which bottle of wine has the poison in it).

The King has 10 servants. He views them as expendable, and does not care if they live or die. He decides to use them to figure out which bottle is poisoned, which will then indicate which senator is trying to assassinate him.

His plan is to make each servant drink from zero or more of the bottles of wine. The King knows that the poison is such that if a servant drinks it, he will feel fine until noon on the next day, at which point he will instantly drop dead.

The King must know for sure who the traitor is by noon on the day after the party, or else the traitor will try to find another way to assassinate him. This essentially means that he has one shot to make his servants drink the wine in order to figure out which is the poison wine.

Note that the King can make any of the servants drink from any of the wine bottles. He does not need to make all of the servants drink wine if he doesn’t want to. Any servant who drinks from the poisoned bottle will die the next day at noon.

How can the King figure out for sure who the traitor is by noon on the following day?

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3 guesses to Drunken Servents

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  • Daniel Newell

    None of the servants must drink the wine. The king must assign his servants to make and send wine cakes as thank you gifts to every senator, secretly giving them each a dose the wine that they gifted to him. The only one to die will be the senator that attempted to poison him, thereby letting him know which senator it was.

  • Excellent alternate solution, Daniel. But that does not answer the riddle. How can he figure it out before noon tomorrow?

  • hebrewlad

    The key is to have each bottle of wine to be drank by a unique combination of servants. The first ten bottles are easy as you just give one bottle to each servant, i.e. Servant 1 drinks bottle 1, Servant 2 drinks bottle 2, and so on. but after the first ten bottle you cannot do this anymore as the combination will not be unique, so now you have multiple servants drink the same bottle, i.e. Servants 1 and 2 drink bottle 11, Servants 1 and 3 drink bottle 12, or Servants 1, 3, 5, and 7 drink bottle 13. You keep on assigning unique servant combinations to each bottle until there are no more bottles, and with 10 servants there are more than enough unique combinations. Then the next day when however many servants die, you match that combination with which bottle of wine it was, so if only Servant 2 dies you know it was bottle 2, or if Servants 1, 3, 5, and 7 die you know it is bottle 13. And that is how you find you if trying to assassinate you.