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THE INCONCEIVABLE INN
To my knowledge, the source of this puzzle poem is
unknown. Can you resolve the mystery? How was a 1-1 correspondence
established between two finite sets of unequal size?
Ten weary, footsore travelers,
All is a woeful plight,
Sought shelter at a wayside inn
One dark and story night.
"Nine rooms, no more," the landlord
"Have I to offer you.
To each of you a single bed,
But the ninth must serve for two!"
A din arose. The troubled host
Could only scratch his head,
For of those tired men no two
Would occupy one bed.
The puzzled host was soon at ease -
He was a clever man -
And so to please his guests devised
This most ingenious plan.
In room marked A, two men were placed,
The third was lodged in B,
The fourth to C was then assigned
The fifth retired to D.
In E the sixth he tucked away,
In F the seventh man,
The eighth and ninth in G and H,
And then to A he ran,
Wherein the host, as I have said
Had laid two travelers by;
Then taking one - the tenth and last -
He lodged him safe in I.
Nine single rooms - a room for each -
Were made to serve for ten;
And this it is that puzzles me
And many wiser men.
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