Law Thirty-Six

You gotta go with what works

12 eggs in a tray
12 eggs in a tray

Maintaining proper standards for egg arrangements


Maintaining some semblance of order in the chaos that is our household is a constant battle for me. Despite several attempts at explanation, sometimes with diagrams, Becky still refuses to arrange her book shelves with the books in descending order of height. In fact, there is no discernible strategy to the way in which she stores her books. She sometimes claims to be following Rob Fleming‘s dubious autobiographical approach, but I haven’t once observed her auditing the her book sequencing. Indeed, it’s over a year now since I transposed two Murakami books on the shelf just above the TV, and they’re still out of place today.

I have at least been able to put my foot down with regard to DVDs/Blu rays, which are sorted alphabetically by title. I can tell you’re wondering about the details, so I’ll elaborate – and please feel free to use or share the following (with attribution):

  • Titles that begin with an actual digit are shelved first and in numerical order. Hence we have 8 Mile sat next to 27 Dresses.
    • (500) Days of Summer presented an interesting challenge, and after some debate and research on the matter, I decided to shelve it under 500 rather than have to come up with a sort order for punctuation (whilst BODMAS might have sufficed in this case, I would probably have chosen UTF-8 if I’d taken that route, putting this film before 8 Mile).
    • I think you’ve all understood by now, but just for absolute clarity, Four Weddings and a Funeral is shelved between Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Season 1 of Friends, and not just before 8 Mile, because that would be silly.
  • Film/TV collections are sorted chronologically, based on the title of the first volume if necessary. So Batman Begins is followed by The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises rather than shelve the latter two titles under ‘D’.
    • Star Wars presented an interesting choice, and I relaxed my rule and went for the perhaps controversial decision to place The Phantom Menace comes first and Return of the Jedi  last (followed by The Clone Wars film, then the TV series in season order), rather than the more obvious approach of putting A New Hope first and Revenge of the Sith last.
    • I further court controversy by placing The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and Return of the King between Looper and Lorenzo’s Oil, not to mention that the first volume of The Hobbit is sandwiched between Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Horrible Bosses.
  • Japanese DVDs are most often sorted by the English translation of their title. So, はねるのトびら (haneru no tobira) is shelved under the translation You Knock on Jumping Door!
  • Generally, we shelve the children’s DVDs separately. Star Wars is an exception, because the boys aren’t allowed to watch Revenge of the Sith.

Okay, glad we got all that sorted.

Admittedly, not everyone subscribes to Sheldon Cooper‘s theory that breakfast cereal should be arranged based on fibre content. The cereal shelf in our food cupboard is often very full, and even I’ll admit that order has to give way to practicality sometimes – Law Thirty-Six applies. But I think we can all agree on the need for proper standards in the arrangement of eggs in an egg box. Now if you’re just dealing with a standards six-egg carton, the appropriate layouts for different numbers of eggs is so straightforward that I won’t even bother to go through it here – there are plenty of other resources on the Internet and I won’t teach you to suck eggs.

But earlier this year I was given an egg tray that holds twelve eggs in a 4×3 arrangement, and the question of how to arrange the eggs in this larger tray is clearly one of import. Experience to date has been that my family are woefully ignorant of the correct layouts for all but the most straightforward of cases. They can deal with n=12 and n=0, but everything else comes out scrambled. For their benefit, and in the interests of documenting this for the general good, here’s the proper way to arrange your eggs in a 4×3 tray.

The layouts below are for use where your egg tray is arranged as 4 rows of 3 eggs (‘portrait style’, if you like), and clearly do not translate with ease if your egg tray is arranged as 3 rows of 4 eggs. That more complex arrangement is left as the topic for another post.

First of all, the starting layout of n=12, a full tray of eggs:

12 eggs in a tray

12 eggs

Even where to place the gap in n=11 when the first egg has been consumed seems to elude my family. The best layout is this one:

11 eggs in a tray

11 eggs

From here, n=10 should be easy to deduce:

10 eggs in a tray

10 eggs

Unsurprisingly, the leap to n=9 does trip up a few people. Those who consume eggs in even numbers may not even come across this layout very often, as they skip merrily from n=10 to n=8.

9 eggs in a tray

9 eggs

How often have we seen this mistake? It’s shocking that some people think that this might be acceptable:

Incorrect layout of 8 eggs in a tray

8 eggs – incorrect layout

In fact, the correct layout for n=8 is:

8 eggs in a tray

8 eggs

For those needing some kind of aide memoire, 9 eggs is often seen as a wine glass arrangement, and 8 eggs is clearly a short-stemmed wine glass.

It’s a short leap from there to n=7, which is a cocktail glass:

7 eggs in a tray

7 eggs

We break the sequence with n=6, which is a simple layout that most can master with ease:

6 eggs in a tray

6 eggs

Some textbooks still show the following for n=6, but this has now been deprecated:

Deprecated layout of 6 eggs in a tray

6 eggs (deprecated)

The easiest way of remembering n=5 is a flux capacitor:

5 eggs in a tray

5 eggs

The debate around n=4 seems to be over, and we can all safely use the following without fear of ridicule:

4 eggs in a tray

4 eggs

For completeness, although I think the rest of the sequence is now obvious, here is n=3:


3 eggs in a tray

3 eggs


2 eggs in a tray

2 eggs

and n=1:


1 egg in a tray

1 egg

For some reason, many people get n=1 wrong still, assuming it to be an inverse of n=11, although they don’t seem to apply this mistaken rule to any of the other layouts. It’s puzzling the things that confuse some people.

Ultimately, when the last egg has been consumed, we’re left with n=0:

An empty egg tray

0 eggs

Hopefully, this should explain in sufficient detail for all. As far as I’m concerned, this is one French egg — un oeuf.

And so the challenges presented by this are left as an exercise for the reader:

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