When one of his graduate students asks a chemistry professor for permission to marry his daughter, the old man sets up a puzzle. The prize if the student can solve it? As he puts it, “You will have my blessing.”
This is Asimov’s first sale to Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, and I’m surprised they took it, since the solution requires a certain amount of familiarity with the periodic table. I realize that the average reader of EQMM is well above the general population in intelligence, perhaps almost to the same degree that readers of, say, Asimov’s Science Fiction are, but I’m willing to bet that a lot of those readers don’t even know that the periodic table is. So as mysteries for the general population go, it’s rather weak.
What saves it is that, despite an obscure solution and a very artificial set-up, there is a nice bit of observation about human nature at the very end. This doesn’t seriously improve it as a story, but it does save it from the shame of being rated with a mule.