King for a Day

Copyright 1997 by Paul Niquette. All rights reserved.
Revised in 2014

King of
                PuzzlesThere was once a mighty king, who ruled the Land of Puzzles from horizon to horizon with firmness and fairness. His passion for problem solving was known throughout the land. One day he received a parchment upon which was inscribed the following unsigned limerick:
One star commands each day from East. 
Take seven steps to most from least; 
    Two weeks in days, a long month, too;
    Pack of cards with jokers, two;
Consequent: The Mark of Beast!

After many days and sleepless nights, the king summoned his Council of Advisors. "I must know the meaning of this limerick at once!" exclaimed the king.

The Council of Advisors included the king's scripture scholar, who was the first to speak up...

"The Mark of the Beast is 666, which is obvious to those who have studied the Book of the Revelation." {Reference}

"There is also the matter of that star," said the king's astrologer. "Although all stars rise in the East, only the sun commands the day."

"A child would know as much," scoffed the king's accountant. "The limerick talks of figures, barely concealing the decimal 14, the days in two weeks, and 31, the days in the longest month."

"Just as obvious to a gambler," chortled the king's minister of games, "is the number 52, which is the quantity of cards in a deck -- "

"You missed the two jokers," interrupted the king's grammarian. "No limericist would end successive lines with the same word, so 54 is the clue."

"The limerick speaks of a journey," mused the king's geographer. "A trip with seven steps, which seems plain enough."

"But not travel in space," suggested the king's logician. "It is clearly a pathway through a reasoned argument."

"Or a sequence of numbers!" exulted the king's mathematician. 

The king smiled, which was the traditional signal for huzzahs and table thumping from the Council of Advisors.

Sophisticated solvers will not be surprised to read that, under the guidance of the king's mathematician, the Council of Advisors applied themselves to numerical aspects of the limerick and eventually concluded as follows:

  • The first number is 1.
  • The last number is 666.
  • There are 7 steps in the series.
  • There are thus 8 numbers.
  • The first step is 14.
  • The second step is 31.
  • The third step is 54.
"What does the limerick mean by the word 'step'?" asked the king's grammarian.

"Only two choices," replied the king's mathematician. "Addition or multiplication."  

"Why not subtraction?" asked the king's accountant, always eager for down-sizing.

"Why not division?" asked the king's geographer, thinking of lands to be parcelled.

"Why not raising to powers?" asked the king's scripture scholar, with unctuous expectations.

"Why not extracting roots?" asked the king's astrologer, not really knowing what his own question meant.

"Subtraction would make the succeeding numbers smaller," explained the king's mathematician.

"Division will produce fractions. Raising to powers? -- well, the number one raised to any power will produce only the number one. And extracting roots might produce irrational numbers."

"Or imaginary numbers," corrected the king's logician, buffing his nails on his tunic.

"Which is it, then?" asked the king's minister of games. "Addition or multiplication?"

"Addition," answered the king's mathematician. "The word 'step' cannot mean multiplication, for the elementary reason that the first three steps would produce the number 23,436, which is much larger than 666 -- and we would still have four more 'steps' to go."

The king smiled, which was the traditional signal for huzzahs and table thumping from the Council of Advisors.

The king's mathematician took marker in hand. "Here is what we know." He wrote the following list of equations on the King's slate:

  1. 1 + 14 = 15
  2. 15 + 31 = 46
  3. 46 + 54 = 100
  4. 100 + ? = ?
  5. ? + ? = ?
  6. ? + ? = ?
  7. ? + ? = 666
"What we 'know'?" sniffed the king's logician. "I see a lot of question marks."

"Equations not words!" complained the king's grammarian, "We have merely translated an anonymous limerick into mathematical expressions."

The king's mathematician erased the slate and wrote a number sequence:
    1, 15, 46, 100, ___, ___, ___, 666
A long silence was heard in the king's court.

The king frowned, which was the traditional signal for each member of the Council of Advisors to update his curriculum vitae.  At last the king spoke. "Prepare a proclamation: 'Whosoever solves this puzzle shall be crowned King for a Day'!"

"Begging the king's pardon," said the king's minister of games. "The author of that limerick must surely know the solution and thus will have an unfair advantage over all your subjects."

"Read my proclamation!" thundered the king. "The reward shall be given only to the person who solves the puzzle, not to the person who created the puzzle."

The king smiled, which was the traditional signal for huzzahs and table thumping from the Council of Advisors.

here was much excitement throughout the Land of Puzzles. Within one day, the author of the limerick showed up at the castle gate. You are invited to create your own description of that person. For reasons that will soon become apparent, the anonymous limericist shall be known herein by the expression, "the king's tormentor."

The king's tormentor, grinning and strutting, was ushered immediately into the king's throne room, where the Council of Advisors were convened.  He handed over a parchment inscribed with the solution along with a complete explanation.

"Congratulations," said the king after perusing the parchment. "You succeeded in tormenting your king and humiliating my Council of Advisors.  Be gone at once!"

"Glad to meet you," said the king's tormentor, bowing and turning to leave.

The king held up his hand. "Don't you want to be King for a Day?"

"Yes, of course," replied the king's tormentor. "But I am not entitled to the prize since I did not 'solve' the puzzle, only created it."

"Fair is fair," said the king amiably. "I shall give you a limerick. Solve it, and you shall be King for a Day."

The king's scribe handed the king's tormentor a parchment inscribed as follows:

One star commands each day from East. 
Take seven steps to most from least; 
    To rule one day in place of me,
    Give rationale, six paces free.
Consequent: The Mark of Beast!

"Only one day?" inquired the king's tormentor with a shrug.

The king smiled, which was the traditional signal for huzzahs and table thumping from the Council of Advisors.

For how many days did the king's tormentor 
rule the Land of Puzzles?


Mark of the Beast

The Book of the Revelation is full of numbers: Recapitulations of the seven seals, trumpets, and bowls have the deliberate purpose of heightening enthusiasm to encourage the early church. Mysterious numbers and divisions (such as 3, 7, 12) recur and are part of the theme of assurance, the signs of a Providential plan, turning chaos to orderly cosmos.

The encrypted name of the second beast, 666, can be calculated by 'gematria,' assigning their numerical values to letters of the word, summing them up and getting the identity of the much despised Nero (the numerical value of the Hebrew letters for Caesar Neron equals 666), a demonic Nero redivivus (revived), who returns from the dead to torment and be tormented, like the limericist, perhaps, in King for a Day.

Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is six hundred threescore and six.
-- Revelation 13:18