The pearl merchant

Testing out another problem for my book. This is really just my trying to re-word a centuries old classic. So let me know if the wording is acceptable here:

On his twentieth year working for a pearl merchant Isaac was offered a reward. He was presented with three vases. He was told that each vase contains an equal number of pearls however the vases contain different types of pearls. One vase is labeled as containing white pearls, one vase is labeled as containing black pearls, and the remaining vase is labeled as contain an equal mixture of black and white pearls. The vases are opaque and have long throats the drawer has no way of seeing what the vases contain or the color of the pearl they have chosen until the pearl is removed from the vase.

The merchant tells Isaac that each vase is labeled inaccurately. The merchant suggests that they take turns drawing pearls from the vases in an effort to correctly re-label them.

As a reward for faithful service he tells Isaac that if he can identify how to correctly label each vase first – he can keep any pearls he has drawn. However if the merchant can correctly re-label the jars first Isaac has to return any pearls he has drawn.

The merchant offers Isaac the chance to draw first, should he accept?

One thought on “The pearl merchant

  1. First, in general, you need more punctuation. In particular the sentence beginning “The vases are opaque” is actually two sentences jammed together. The same sentence presupposes that there is a “drawer” who is choosing pearls, which is a bit odd since you haven’t talked about drawing pearls yet.

    The key to the problem, right, is that “each vase is labeled inaccurately”. This sentence sticks out because it is more precisely worded than the rest of the problem. If it is literally true, then one draw from the appropriate vase will correctly identify all three vases. I’m not sure how to make that sentence stick out less other than by putting in misdirection, since Isaac, the merchant, the value of the pearls, etc., are just dressing, and can’t be stated in as precise a manner without the whole thing sounding *really* strange.

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