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What's best lateral thinking problem you've heard ?

 
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Here's one of my favorites:
The police got a tip about a criminal named Richard who had taken shelter in a house. They didn’t have a picture or clue about how he looks like or what he does for a living. When then busted the door open, they found a large table with a group of 5 people eating dinner. Two of them were wearing a doctor's apron. Two were wearing a chef's apron and the last one was wearing a painter's apron. One of the cops, without uttering a word, goes and arrests the person with the painter's apron. How did they identify him?
 
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That's a good one. I'd say it wouldn't necessarily be a correct conclusion to draw though. Why? Well, think laterally, why don't you?

I could add a related twist to the puzzle. So all the same, ending up with the cop arresting the person with the painter's apron. But the real criminal gets away. Why?
 
salvin francis
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There were 4 females and a male seated at the table  
 
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salvin francis wrote:There were 4 females and a male seated at the table  



It was a chapter meeting for RuPaul's Drag Race. And Richard is trans.

As with so many programming aptitude tests, it's not only what you know, it's what you must not know that reduces the problem to a simple solution.

Seriously, I got stuck on culture. The only doctors I know of who wear "aprons" are surgeons, and it would be very disturbing to see them in sterile gear on the street. And if cooking shows are any indication, when a chef gets done in the kitchen and joins the meal, one of the things he does is take off the apron - which is probably dirty. And what a painter is doing wearing painting clothes at table is definitely questionable, but the real puzzle wasn't who was whom, but what criteria would make it supposedly an obvious choice. It's not so much "lateral" as it is undeclared circumstances. It's like being asked to pull a black cat out of a dark cellar where the colors of the other cats is not known. You have a certain probability of coming out with the right cat, but if you go chasing cats in a dark cellar, you'll probably come out with a few other things as well. Most involving bandages.

My idea of lateral thinking is less about obscured knowledge and more about using what everyone knows, but doesn't think to apply their knowledge unconventionally.
 
salvin francis
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Maybe this one was not so good after all..

What's the best one you've heard/know about ?
 
Tim Holloway
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Dos medicas, dos cocineras y un pintor...

You can only get away with that sort of stunt in languages that aren't heavily gendered.

I think there was a chapter in James Fixx's "Games for the Super-Intelligent" series on lateral solutions, but I can't find it at the moment. Poorly remembered, however, I think one had to do with an airplane that couldn't land because a hydraulic cylinder had sprung a leak, and all the crew had was some duck tape and an empty water bottle. (hint, there's more than one way to obtain liquid).

Another was more complex and I forget the exact stipulation, but it involved a candle, a box of matches, a thumbtack and string. To hang the candle where it was needed you had to use the matchbox as the platform and suspend it via string from the thumbtack, but the exact statement was less obvious than that.

And of course, if you've a cruel bent, you supply more ingredients than are actually required to solve the problem. But that one sometimes backfired if someone thinks more laterally than you do.
 
Junilu Lacar
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Yeah I didn't like this one so much either. The assumption was that Richard was a first name but it just as well could be the last. Of course using "he" and "him" is really the key. The aprons were just a red herring. Kind of not fair.

There a couple of similar problems I like better.

Father and his son were in a bad car crash and the father dies. At the hospital, the emergency room doctor says "I can't treat him because he is my son." How can this be?
 
Junilu Lacar
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I dont know if this qualifies as lateral thinking but it still gets a lot of people: If you're in a race and pass the guy in second place, what place are you in now?
 
Junilu Lacar
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The old sheik needs to divide his wealth between his three sons but no matter how hard he tries, one of them will end up getting more than the other two. So he tells them: "You will have camel race. The one whose camel finishes last will inherit the largest share." The sons held the race, driving the camels as fast as they would go and the matter of inheritance was settled fair and square. How?
 
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Did they drive each others' camels?
 
salvin francis
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Junilu Lacar wrote:... says "I can't treat him because he is my son." How can this be?


I know this one

Junilu Lacar wrote:... pass the guy in second place, what place are you in now?


I know this one too.
I think red herrings are pretty common for most lateral thinking puzzles

Here's another one I know that's a bit complex.

A mathematician went to a bar. While drinking he noticed a picture of the bartender's three sons. Curiously, he asked what are their ages. The bartender replied “If you multiply their ages, it totals to 36”. The mathematician says this is not adequate information. The bartender agrees, “Alright, the glass you're holding has a number written on it. That's the sum of their ages.”. The mathematician says “It's still not adequate”. The bartender points at one of them and says “Simon is my youngest son and he loves vanilla ice-cream.”. At this point, the mathematician was able to guess their ages.

What are their ages ?
 
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The problem is flawed if you consider that two people can have the same age in whole years, but one of them can still be younger than the other.
 
Campbell Ritchie
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Stephan van Hulst wrote:. . . two people can have the same age in whole years . . .

I have a friend who is the same age as his brother for two months of every year. That problem applies even more so if you have twins.
 
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I have a friend who is the same age as his brother for two months of every year.


Parents in a hurry!
 
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Fairly simple:

A young boy is injured and his father rushes him to the hospital.  Once there the doctor says, "I can't operate on this boy.  He is my son."

Maybe a little harder:

A man stands holding a picture in his hand and says,

Brothers and sisters have I none
But this man's father is my father's son


Who is the picture of?
 
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Not sure if you heard it... but this one one of those I liked it when I heard... maybe because it was told to me in the atmostphere where it made it even slightly scary/uncomfortable. Let me try to translate it to English.

"A small group of scientists found a human frozen in an ice cube. After some time they made a conculusion it was a very first human in the world. How did they find out?"
 
Tim Holloway
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Liutauras Vilda wrote:"A small group of scientists found a human frozen in an ice cube. After some time they made a conculusion it was a very first human in the world. How did they find out?"



Assuming that a more accurate translation of "it was a very first human" is "one of the very first humans", then assuming that this wasn't a naturally-formed ice cube (and stranger things exist in nature), then that would imply that other first humans froze this one. Either that or he/she froze him/herself. Or aliens.

Come to think of, there's nothing that explicitly states that the freezing was done a long time ago. Maybe last week, for all I know.
 
Liutauras Vilda
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Tim Holloway wrote:Assuming that a more accurate translation of "it was a very first human" is "one of the very first humans"


No. But you can assume that former is correct.

Tim Holloway wrote:then assuming that this wasn't a naturally-formed ice cube


You can assume it was naturally.

Liutauras Vilda wrote:After some time they made a conclusion it was a very first human in the world.


To add more to that if that would be easier. You can think they've made a conclusion after they unfreezed him/her.
 
Junilu Lacar
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Knute Snortum wrote:
Maybe a little harder:

A man stands holding a picture in his hand and says,

Brothers and sisters have I none
But this man's father is my father's son


Who is the picture of?


His son
 
Campbell Ritchie
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Dubya went to visit the Queen and asked how she kept her composure during trying times.
“One always keeps oneself surrounded by very intillegtnt people. Equerry! Get Blair on the phone.
“Blair, HM here. I have a riddle: He's not my brother ot my sister, but his father is the same as my father and his mother is the same as my mother.”
“That sounds like myself, Ma'am.”

Dubya went home and called Colin Powell, “Powell. I have a riddle: He's not my brother or my sister, but his father is the same as my father and his mother is the same as my mother.”
“That sounds like me, Mr President.”
“Of course not, you bozo. It's Tony Blair.”

* * * * *

Which proves that the photo in question is of Euan Blair.
 
Knute Snortum
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Junilu Lacar wrote:

Knute Snortum wrote:
Maybe a little harder:

A man stands holding a picture in his hand and says,

Brothers and sisters have I none
But this man's father is my father's son


Who is the picture of?


His son


Not quite.
 
Junilu Lacar
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Are you sure? Because I'm pretty sure that the answer is that the picture is that of the man's son..
 
Knute Snortum
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The answer is, it's a picture of himself.  This man's father, the father of the man pictured, is my father's son.  Well, isn't the man his father's son?  Sure he is.  Therefore, it's a picture of him.
 
Liutauras Vilda
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Yup, but technically both outcomes are possible
 
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"My father's son" is either me or my brother. We're told that I have no brother, so it's me.

Now I'm holding a picture of X, who we're told is a man. And we're told that X's father is "my father's son", so therefore X's father is me.

Here I'm assuming that "this man" refers to the person in the picture, not the man holding the picture.

Did I go wrong somewhere?
 
Junilu Lacar
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Knute Snortum wrote:The answer is, it's a picture of himself.  This man's father, the father of the man pictured, is my father's son.  Well, isn't the man his father's son?  Sure he is.  Therefore, it's a picture of him.


Sorry, but you are mistaken. You're missing a level of indirection. The question is who is the man *in the picture*, not the man holding the picture.

Let's give the man speaking a name, so it's clear. Let's say the man who's speaking, the one holding the picture, is Stephen. Stephen is saying that the man in the picture has a father (let's call him PicMansDad). Now PicMansDad is Stephen's father's son. Since Stephen has no siblings, then PicMansDad must be Stephen himself.  We already established that PicMansDad is the pictured man's father or conversely, the man in the picture is PicMansDad's son. Since PicMansDad is Stephen himself, then the man in the picture is Stephen's son.

The man speaking is holding a picture of his son.
 
Junilu Lacar
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If you really want to get your brain twisted, Google for the song "I'm my own grandpa" -- it's hilarious.
 
salvin francis
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Liutauras Vilda wrote:...After some time they made a conculusion it was a very first human in the world. How did they find out?"


Maybe the navel was missing ?
 
Paul Clapham
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Junilu Lacar wrote:If you really want to get your brain twisted, Google for the song "I'm my own grandpa" -- it's hilarious.



Or you could track down Robert Heinlein's 1959 short story "All You Zombies", which has a similar premise. It involves some time machines and a sex change operation...
 
Liutauras Vilda
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salvin francis wrote:

Liutauras Vilda wrote:...After some time they made a conculusion it was a very first human in the world. How did they find out?"


Maybe the navel was missing ?


Bingo!
 
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Liutauras Vilda wrote:

salvin francis wrote:

Liutauras Vilda wrote:...After some time they made a conculusion it was a very first human in the world. How did they find out?"


Maybe the navel was missing ?


Bingo!



Oorg. The correct translation was that it was the very first human in the world. And you have to be theologically-oriented to consider that as an answer. Indeed, one of the most historically famous theological speculations was "Did Adam have a navel?"

The race question remininds me of something Einstein once said about the curious fact that if you have a ruler divided into 10ths of an inch there will be 11 markings in an inch.
 
Liutauras Vilda
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Tim Holloway wrote:Indeed, one of the most historically famous theological speculations was "Did Adam have a navel?"


Interesting they didn't mention the same about "Eve". Technically they both had to be the very first...
 
Tim Holloway
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Liutauras Vilda wrote:

Tim Holloway wrote:Indeed, one of the most historically famous theological speculations was "Did Adam have a navel?"


Interesting they didn't mention the same about "Eve". Technically they both had to be the very first...



That question has been discussed as well, although less often as historically the people doing the discussing were patriarchal chauvinists. Although the usual consensus is that what's good for one is good for the other.

I believe that Michelangelo weighed in on the pro-navel side, however.
 
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Oh - I happen to have a whole unread book of spook puzzles that seem to require some rather odd thinking to solve.  Here's an example;


Yesterday I looked out of the window and saw something.  I then glanced at my watch and noticed two things;

1) it was three minutes past eight
2) what I had just seen through the window was written on my watch

What had I seen?



Annoying thing is I once interviewed for a local developer job which I felt I had a good chance of getting, since I had the technical knowledge and domain knowledge (finance and derivative trading).  Only problem is I was not asked any technical questions, they just kept asking me strange and odd puzzle questions.  Found it annoying and was not really interested in them after that experience.  I do hear that they struggle to find people!    
 
salvin francis
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Peter Rooke wrote:...


...
What had I seen?

...

A wild guess : A bearded guy wearing specs
 
Paul Clapham
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Liutauras Vilda wrote:

Tim Holloway wrote:Indeed, one of the most historically famous theological speculations was "Did Adam have a navel?"


Interesting they didn't mention the same about "Eve". Technically they both had to be the very first...



But if you have read Science Made Stupid you will have seen the diagram in which that issue is settled by conscripting some australopithecines to be Adam and Eve's daughters in law. (Chapter 5: The Descent of Man.)
 
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Yesterday I looked out of the window and saw something.  I then glanced at my watch and noticed two things;

1) it was three minutes past eight
2) what I had just seen through the window was written on my watch

What had I seen?  



The watch said 20:03, which when read sideways spells MOON.  

Here's another;

Last night I wrote down the numbers from one to ninety nine.  I then rearranged them into alphabetical order, which number did not move?



In case anyone is clever (or mad) enough the book is here;  Puzzle Book

 
Campbell Ritchie
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But 20:03 sideways will read NO..OM. Unless the puzzle book's window is clean enough to give you a reflection.
 
Tim Holloway
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Paul Clapham wrote:

Liutauras Vilda wrote:

Tim Holloway wrote:Indeed, one of the most historically famous theological speculations was "Did Adam have a navel?"


Interesting they didn't mention the same about "Eve". Technically they both had to be the very first...



But if you have read Science Made Stupid you will have seen the diagram in which that issue is settled by conscripting some australopithecines to be Adam and Eve's daughters in law. (Chapter 5: The Descent of Man.)



The Australopithecenes almost certainly had navels, though. I think at last count we have one "mitochondrial eves" and about 7 genetic "adams", who didn't all live in the same time or place.

What I saw when I looked out my window was a billboard. It said "Casio" on it.  
 
Tim Holloway
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BTW, how do you get a stereotypical watch (with hands) to spell "MOON"? Or am I just showing my age, here?
 
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