Urgent! Subtitle Needed!

The big Monty Hall book is working its way through production. Just received the proposed catalog copy on my destined for a Pulitzer masterpiece. Seems my book is, among other things, “light-hearted yet ultimately serious.” Why yes, come to think of it, I suppose it is!

But we’re having a little trouble coming up with a mutually agreeable subtitle. My editor suggested, “Mathematics’s Most Perplexing Brain Teaser.” I’m not so sure. “Perplexing” is not my favorite word in the world. Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. And I don’t like making nouns that end in s possessive. How do you pronounce it? Mathematicsez? Sounds weird.

My suggestion was “The World’s Most Frustrating Brain Teaser.” Alas, it has been pointed out to me that “Frustrating” is not exactly a happy word, especially in the context of a math book. Perhaps I don’t want that right in my subtitle. Point taken.

Well, I’m out of ideas. Of course, that’s partly because I have go teach my calculus class in a few minutes, which doesn’t exactly put me in a creative mood. So I figured I would turn the problem over to all of you. I will expect answers upon my return.


  1. #1 Divalent
    August 27, 2008

    What’s the main title?

  2. #2 mph
    August 27, 2008

    Perhaps “confounding” instead of frustrating or perplexing?

  3. #3 EastwoodDC
    August 27, 2008

    Monty Hall book? I must have missed something, but I think I can fake it.

    “What exactly is behind door number 2?”

    “Bayes Law was never this much fun.”

    “Why you should choose door number 3.”

    “The mathematics of Let’s Make a Deal.”

  4. #4 AxisofJared
    August 27, 2008

    The Monty Hall Problem: What’s Behind Door Number 1? An Exploded Brain


  5. #5 Blake Stacey
    August 27, 2008

    “The Puzzle Which Drove the World Mad”

    “The Devil of the Doors”

    “Behind Door Number Two Lies Madness”

    “Chance and Strategy in the Spotlight”

  6. #6 JimCH
    August 27, 2008

    How about, “or why evolution deserves better critics than religious-creationists”. Oops, I guess that’s a different book. By the way, has Monty Hall agreed to write a forward yet?

  7. #7 Wes
    August 27, 2008

    The Monty Hall Problem: Don’t let it get your goat!

  8. #8 ctw
    August 27, 2008

    Something like “Opening the door to mathematics as fun”.

    – Charles

  9. #9 Paul Grace
    August 27, 2008

    “The final answer…”

  10. #10 deep
    August 27, 2008

    The worlds most intricate brain teaser?
    Puzzling? (Most puzzling puzzle?)

    Yay, for the thesaurus. When I don’t want to use a word I don’t like in a paper I usually look up synonyms to find one that fits.

  11. #11 Koray
    August 27, 2008

    I’d stay away from “the world’s most XYZ”. Specifically, the problem is not frustrating (everybody is convinced that their answer is right). The problem is just good at showing how wrong you can be (and how you can’t convince others or be convinced yourself of the right answer) if you have a common sense approach to a technical subject. I’d say Monty Hall (presumed main title) : Check your common sense at the door. (bonus pun)

  12. #12 Romeo Vitelli
    August 27, 2008

    Pity you can’t use it but The Full Monty seems appropriate. Oh well, there’s always To Hall and Back

  13. #13 Jason Rosenhouse
    August 27, 2008

    The main title is simply The Monty Hall Problem. Sorry for not mentioning that.

  14. #14 Dave M
    August 27, 2008

    How about T.W.M. Controversial B.T. (alluding to the Vos Savant dustup)?

  15. #15 df
    August 27, 2008

    “The Monty Hall Problem: Epic Fail For Common Sense”

  16. #16 Blake Stacey
    August 27, 2008

    “How to Win a Car or Lose Your Marbles”

  17. #17 Optimus Primate
    August 27, 2008

    How about “A Mathematician’s Take on the World’s Most Contentious Brain Teaser”?

  18. #18 Frederick Ross
    August 27, 2008

    How about ‘Where intuition fails’?

  19. #19 HP
    August 27, 2008

    The Monty Hall Problem; or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Goat.

  20. #20 Ginger Yellow
    August 27, 2008

    “Counterintuitive” seems like a better word than either “perplexing” or “frustrating”, but it’s not really a book subtitle word.

  21. #21 Fox
    August 27, 2008

    The Shocking Truth Behind Door Number One!

  22. #22 BobbyEarle
    August 27, 2008

    “Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Winning The Cadillac, But Were Afraid To Ask”


    “Why First Impressions May Not Be Correct”

    Blake Stacey said:

    “Chance and Strategy in the Spotlight”

    This is good, Blake!

  23. #23 Luke
    August 27, 2008

    The Final Solution

  24. #24 DG
    August 27, 2008

    “Contentious” is a great substitute for “perplexing”. And, it doesn’t have to be “Mathematics”. Why not Math’s Most Contentious Brain Teaser?

  25. #25 Michael Fridman
    August 27, 2008

    “The puzzle that stumped 12,000 professionals”

    (or whatever the number is, estimating from the original responses to vos Savvant)

  26. #26 KeithB
    August 27, 2008

    “When Intuition Fails”

    “An exploration of probability”

  27. #27 Hemant Mehta
    August 27, 2008

    Opening the Door to the Most Mystifying Problem in Mathematics

  28. #28 R. Totale
    August 27, 2008

    The Monty Hall Problem: How Marilyn Vos Savant Pwned Your Ass

  29. #29 NJ
    August 27, 2008

    The Monty Hall Problem, When Common Sense is Neither.

  30. #30 Turcano
    August 27, 2008

    The Monty Hall Problem: You Don’t Need to Wear a Stupid Costume to Read This Book (But It Helps)

  31. #31 AL
    August 27, 2008

    The Monty Hall Problem: Even God is Scratching His Head.

  32. #32 itchy
    August 27, 2008

    I don’t have a good new suggestion, but keep the “brain teaser” part. That’s accurate, and it’ll also help sales. It’s the opposite of your criticism of “frustrating.”

  33. #33 Dick
    August 27, 2008

    How about The most Perplexing etc….

  34. #34 JCG
    August 28, 2008

    The Monty Hall Problem: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Open the Door

  35. #35 SpotWeld
    August 28, 2008

    The Monty Hall Problem: How Math can Really Lay Some Smack Down

  36. #36 Julian Gall
    August 28, 2008

    “How mathematics can help you win a game show”

  37. #37 3sigma
    August 28, 2008

    “Why it is better to switch than stick”

  38. #38 wazza
    August 28, 2008

    The Monty Hall Problem: The most controversial three doors ever

  39. #39 Jim Ramsey
    August 28, 2008


    “I’ll take door number n+1”

  40. #40 Jud
    August 28, 2008

    “The Mathematically Proven Method to Increase Your Odds of Winning Valuable Prizes!”

  41. #41 Bayesian Bouffant, FCD
    August 28, 2008

    You want something that will pump up sales, right?
    Behind the Green Door

  42. #42 Kevin
    August 28, 2008

    and I don’t like “teasers!”

    I think…”The Zombie Math Problem from the world’s most popular game show!”

    is best…

  43. #43 Divalent
    August 28, 2008

    The enigma behind door number 3.

    A mathematical enigma behind the doors.

  44. #44 Matt Penfold
    August 28, 2008

    It is quite legitimate to use “Mathematics'” rather than use “‘s”. It also solves the pronunciation problem, as you just say “Mathematics”

  45. #45 Derek James
    August 28, 2008

    How about something like,

    The Monty Hall Problem: The “Simple” Math Problem That Befuddles Even Professional Mathematicians

    And if you don’t like that, how about using the term “befuddled” in your original construction:

    Mathematics’ Most Befuddling Brain Teaser

    It’s a goofy word that doesn’t have a very negative connotation. Plus, you get some alliteration there.

  46. #46 Billy C
    August 28, 2008

    Math’s most Improbable Brain Teaser
    A Puzzle in Probability

    Or, assuming you’ll also discuss the Three Prisoners Problem
    Prizes, Prisoners, and Probability

  47. #47 tyaddow
    August 28, 2008

    “Increasing Probability and Perplexity”

  48. #48 Evan
    August 28, 2008

    That’s Number Wang!

  49. #49 gb
    August 28, 2008

    The Monty Hall Problem – Teasing The Odds Of Mathematics

  50. #50 gb
    August 28, 2008

    I also like Billy C’s use of ‘Improbable’

    The Monty Hall Problem – Teasing The Improbable Odds

  51. #51 fjgiie
    August 28, 2008

    The Monty Hall Problem: Best Choice, Stay or Switch?

  52. #52 Joe
    August 29, 2008

    Anyone with two ears to hear with knows to switch …

  53. #53 Joe
    August 29, 2008

    All the truly excellent suggestions above disrupted my juju. What I wrote was like saying “I just flew in from the coast, and boy am I tired.”

    I meant “Anyone with two ears to hear with can see that switching is better.”

    Trust me- choose one of the other subtitles offered, above.

  54. #54 Alex Whiteside
    August 29, 2008

    How about a quote from that classic masterpiece, The Thing?

    “You gotta be fucking kidding!”

    I know that was my reaction when I first ran into it. Or:

    “The scientific paradox you can try at home!”

  55. #55 JimV
    August 29, 2008

    “How a simple situation tripped up the thinking of some good mathematicians.”

    The point is to hook people’s attention, just as your attention got hooked on this problem. By calling it a simple situation (i.e., easily described), you let average-to-above-average people know they won’t be dealing with something from quantum physics that they aren’t going to follow. By stating that it baffled some mathematicians, you may arouse their competitive spirits to see if they can succeed where others failed. There may be better words, but that is the effect I would aim for.

  56. #56 Chris Bell
    August 30, 2008

    Do NOT use your editor’s subtitle! It sounds like your book is about solving the puzzle (a 200+ page proof). It doesn’t sound like a history, like your own choice.

  57. #57 SiMPel MYnd
    August 30, 2008

    “The Monty Hall Problem: What’s Wrong With Common Sense?”

    “The Monty Hall Problem: Where Math and Common Sense Collide”

    “The Monty Hall Problem: The History Behind the World’s Most Famous Brain Teaser”

  58. #58 Jason Rosenhouse
    August 30, 2008

    Thanks for all the suggestions. After much discussion with my editor, we have settled on The Monty Hall Problem: The Remarkable Story of Math’s Most Contentious Brain Teaser.

  59. #59 Ron
    September 13, 2008

    Have you considered:

    “Math’s most tantalizing brain teaser”?

New comments have been disabled.