My cultural highlight of recent weeks has been the brilliant BBC documentary Gods of Snooker, about the time in the 1980s when the sport was a national obsession. Today’s puzzle describes a shot to malfunction the Romford Robot (above left) and put the Whirlwind (above right) in a spin.

Baize theorem

A square snooker table has three corner pockets, as below. A ball is placed at the remaining corner (bottom left). Show that there is no way you can hit the ball so that it returns to its starting position.

The table is a mathematical one, which means friction, damping, spin and napping do not exist. 换句话说, when the ball is hit, it moves in a straight line. The ball changes direction when it bounces off a cushion, with the outgoing angle equal to the incoming angle. The ball and the pockets are infinitely small (i.e. are points), and the ball does not lose momentum, so that its path can include any number of cushion bounces.

One extra puzzle, for language lovers. When I lived in Brazil, I discovered that the Portuguese for ‘snooker’ is sinuca, pronounced ‘snooker’ even though the English and Portuguese words only share two letters, the ‘s’ and the ‘n’. 换句话说, 只要 2/6, 或者 1/3 of the letters in the translated word are in the original English word.

Does anyone have an example of an English word that has entered another language, and retains its English pronunciation, but has less than 1 在 3 of the original letters? Maybe there is an English transliteration that shares no letters with the English word at all?

(I don’t know if there are any, but would be intrigued to find out. Please post suggestions below the line.)

Thanks to Dr Pierre Chardaire, associate professor of computing science at the University of East Anglia, who devised today’s puzzle.