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Q: About three-quarters the way through the Illustrated Hitchhikers Guide there is a strange illustration of 42 multi-coloured balls lined up in columns 6×7. I can only assume this is the famed “42 Puzzle”. My question is, how do you play? What’s the puzzle?

A: The point of the puzzle was this: Everybody was looking for hidden meanings and puzzles and significances in what I had written (like ‘is it significant that 6 * 9 is 42 in base 13?’. As if.) So I thought that just for a change I would actually construct a puzzle and see how many people solved. Of course, nobody paid it any attention. I think that’s terribly significant.    –    Douglas Adams

Reality is frequently inaccurate    –    Douglas Adams

“Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard,” said Ford, “the wrong lizard might get in. Got any gin?”  –   Ford Prefect

The answer to this is very simple. It was a joke. It had to be a number, an ordinary, smallish number, and I chose that one. Binary representations, base thirteen, Tibetan monks are all complete nonsense. I sat at my desk, stared into the garden and thought ’42 will do’ I typed it out. End of story.   –   Douglas Adams

“The best advice I think was given by Douglas Adams: “Don’t panic.””    –    Arthur C Clarke


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