# New Scientist Enigma 531 – Petits Fours

### by Chris Maslanka

#### From Issue #1683, 23rd September 1989

“Four-armed is four-warmed,” declared Professor Torqui as he placed the petits fours in the oven in his lab at the Department of Immaterial Science and Unclear Physics.

“There are 4444 of them: a string of 4s. By which I mean, naturally enough, a number in base 10 all of whose digits are 4. Do you like my plus fours? (*) Speaking of 10s and plus fours, you can hardly be unaware of the fact that all positive integral powers of 10 (except 10^1, poor thing) are expressible as sums of strings of 4s.

The most economical way of expressing 10^2 as a sum of strings of 4s (that is, the one using fewest strings and hence fewest 4s) uses seven 4s:

10^2 = 44 + 44 + 4 + 4 + 4

The most economical means of expressing 10^3 as a sum of strings of 4s requires sixteen 4s:

10^3 = 444 + 444 + 44 + 44 + 4 + 4 + 4 + 4 + 4 + 4

“Now, it’s four o’clock, and just time for this puzzle: Give me some-where to put my cake stand and I will make a number of petits fours which is an integral positive power of 10 such that the number of 4s required to write it as a sum of strings of 4s in the most economical way is itself a string of 4s.”

What is the smallest number of petits fours Torqui’s boast would commit him to baking? (Express your answer as a power of 10).

(*) £44-44 from Whatsit Forum.

One Comment Leave one →
1. This teaser can be solved manually by considering the following sum:$\begin{array}{rr}\text{value} & \text{digits}\\444….44 & n\\444….44 & n\\44….44 & n-1\\44….44 & n-1\\4….44 & n-2\\4….44 & n-2\\4….44 & n-2\\4….44 & n-2\\ \hline 999999996 & 9n-12 \\ \hline\\ \end{array}$This shows that $$10^n – 4$$ can be expressed as the sum of numbers using only the digit four with a total of $$9n -12$$ fours. So $$10^n$$ will use a total of $$9n-11$$ fours. We are told that to find a power of 10 for which the number of fours used consists only of fours:$9n-11=4(10^k-1)/9$ for an integer $$k$$. Rearranging this gives:$81n=4\cdot10^k + 95$. We can solve this for $$n$$ by reducing it modulo $$10^k$$:$n=81^{-1}\cdot 95\pmod{10^k}$where we need the modular inverse of $$81$$ modulo $$10^k$$. For $$k=1,2$$ and $$3$$ this has the values $$1$$, $$21$$ and $$321$$ respectively.  Trialling these values shows that $$n=495$$ for $$k=3$$ with $$10^{495}$$ requiring a total of 4444 fours.