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Van houten’s Septum Coin Puzzle


This is a printable antique puzzle card put out many years ago as an advertisement for Van Houten’s Cocoa. On the back of the card, it says:  ‘BEST & GOES FARTHEST, Pure, Soluble, and Easily Digested’. One of the medical journals from way back when- Medical Annual– called it “A PERFECT BEVERAGE”.  The final line of the advertisement proudly states: “Houten’s  Cocoa contains all the nutritive properties of the cocoa bean in a highly concentrated an easily digested form”.

I guess Coca-Cola once too contained all the nutritive properties of the coca plant in a highly concentrated and easy to drink form ; )

OK, so here’s the challenge:

With seven coins, try to cover seven of the circles of the eight-pointed star, taking care that a circle is not covered when the opposite two points (at the ends of the two black lines) are already occupied. For example, points 5 and 7 both being covered, nothing more may be set on point 2.

Interestingly, the fine print just below the picture went on to say:  “Although the solution is very simple, many persons will not be able to cover more than four or five instead of the seven circles”.  Is that a challenge I hear?!

Answers to this printable puzzle can be entered into the section below; submissions will automatically be revealed when time is up!

17 Comments to “Van houten’s Septum Coin Puzzle”

  1. engjs1960 | Profile

    1,4,7,2,5,8,3, although any walk will do it.

  2. Mashplum | PUZZLE MASTER | Profile


  3. suineg | PUZZLE MASTER | Profile

    I have a question about the challenge, must all the seven points be covered at the same time, or is like an method to cover 7 differents circles without any of the 2 other extremes already occupied but you never occupy the seven spots at the same time?

  4. joe | Profile

    I think the trick is to also cover the two O ´s that make up the word cocoa in the star and then five red circles at the points …

  5. Bobo The Bear | PUZZLE MASTER | Profile

    One way would be to place coins in the following order:
    4, 7, 2, 5, 8, 3, 6.
    In general, any sequence that a person would follow while tracing the star pattern would work as a solution.
    At first, I thought this would mean there were only 16 solutions (8 starting points X 2 directions), but I realized that , at any junture, you could “reverse” the trace. For example, another solution would be 4, 7, 2, 6, 3, 8, 5.
    At this point, I think there are 8x(2^6)=512 solutions (8 starting points, and 2 choices for the next placement for the next 6 placements).

  6. trunicated | Profile

    Let’s start at point 1. Cover in the following order:

    1, 4, 7, 2, 5, 8, 3.

    Can’t cover 6, as that would break the rules.

    Really had to read the problem a few times, as I thought it wanted us to put down 7 simultaneously without breaking the condition, not one at a time. Once I actually read it properly, the solution was simple to find :-)

  7. cheddarmelt | Profile

    Pick a circle, put a coin there, follow the black line, put a coin on that circle, follow the black line again, put a circle there, and continue until you have seven circles covered.

  8. suineg | PUZZLE MASTER | Profile

    Ok, One “out of the box” solution could be this:
    Put four coins in points 2,3,6,7
    Put three coins in the three Os of VANHOUTENCOCOAS

  9. Hex | PUZZLE MASTER | Profile

    Put coins on 1, 2, 6, 7, 8 and on the letter O (a circle as well) next to 1 and 8

  10. bizarette18 | PUZZLE MASTER | Profile

    Pick a point, then follow line- point to point. Only last point can’t be covered.

  11. suineg | PUZZLE MASTER | Profile

    jajaja cool, I knew that this was a tricky one, I liked the ordered sequence, its very similar to a harder challenge called Napoleon star, however why do you need seven coins, I does not make sense, you could do it with the same coin, following the sequence, thats why I opted for the “out of the box” answer, it was the only way I knew that you could put all the seven coins at once. but cool man.

  12. Hex | PUZZLE MASTER | Profile

    I am not sure the puzzle given can be interpreted as many have done (sequential).

    The given says: “taking care that a circle is not covered when the opposite two points are already occupied”

    One can argue that covered means the act of covering or placing a cover, while occupied means that the circle was covered at a certain point of time in the past. However, the given cites an example: “points 5 and 7 both being covered, nothing more may be set on point 2”. This contradicts the above and shows that covered is the state of having a cover, or in more simple terms “occupied”.
    The given becomes:
    “taking care that a circle is not occupied when the opposite two points are already occupied”

    Assume that the coins are laid sequentially as follows: 1,4,7,2,5,8,3
    We know for a fact that 5 and 7 are already occupied and 2 is occupied. This contradicts the given.

  13. Bobo The Bear | PUZZLE MASTER | Profile

    For those of you who are disinclined to accept the “sequentially placed” solution, here’s an alternative:

    Place 8 coins on the numbers 1 through 8. Not on the big red spaces, mind you, but on the little green circles that the actual number labels are on. Then place coins on each of three capital O’s. Each capital O has two circles, an outer one and an inner one. You have now covered 14 circles without even coming close to violating the “opposite two points” constraint.

    Personally, I reject this solution (and those similar) because I interpret the phrase “circles of the eight pointed star” to refer only to the red spaces at the endpoints, not the letters or the number labels.

  14. Hex | PUZZLE MASTER | Profile

    And for those of you who reject the challenge to the sequential solution, here is an alternative:

    Place sequentially as many coins on the circles below, adding new circles if needed. You have now covered as many circles as you’d like without even coming close to violating the “opposite two points” constraint.

    Personally, I reject this solution (and those similar) because “circles of the eight pointed star” means circles belonging to the star, whether on the endpoints or inside the star.

    Anyway, if one wants to be finicky, the shapes at the endpoints of the star are arcs and not circles.

  15. Shawn | PUZZLE GRANDMASTER | Profile


  16. joe | Profile

    Yes I have to admit I have to prefer Hex, Suineg and my own solution even after having re-read and seen the sequential method.. sorry.
    But good to argue occasionally about things like this … makes it better ..

  17. bcrox | Profile

    Just place coin on 1 piont then continue placing then on next piont following the the line that leads towards the next uncovered piont and keep repeating!

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