Lateral thinking puzzles (or riddles)
In each case below, a scenario is given but without explanation and the challenge is to provide that explanation. The idea is not that you try and guess the answers. Rather, the idea is that you look at the answer and then ask one of your family or friends to guess. Before guessing, they ask you questions about the puzzle, to which you may answer only with ‘yes‘, ‘no‘ or ‘doesn’t matter‘ and then, when either you or they get bored doing this, they guess.
|A man is dead in a room with a small pile of wood chips and sawdust under his bed. A second man looks in through the window and is pleased.||The man is a blind dwarf, the shortest man in the world. Another dwarf, who is the second shortest man in the world, has been sawing small pieces off the other’s cane every night. When the first dwarf picks up his cane each morning, it appears to him that he’s grown a bit taller. Since his only income is from being the world’s shortest man, and he thinks that he is growing taller, he decides to kill himself. The second dwarf then becomes the shortest man in the world.|
|A man receives a package, opens it, looks at its contents, and sends it to another man. The second man opens it, looks at its contents, is satisfied and then buries it.||Three men got shipwrecked and had to spend several weeks in a lifeboat. One of the men was a doctor. After their food ran out, and they were desperate, they decided to have the doctor amputate their arms so they could have something to eat… but of course, he couldn’t amputate his own arm, and they weren’t so keen on letting him get away scot free. They came to an agreement: they would remove and eat one arm from each person besides the doctor, as long as he agreed to have his own arm removed when they were rescued. It was the doctor’s arm in the package; he sent it to both of the others so they could verify that he held up his end of the deal.|
|There are a carrot, a pile of pebbles and a pipe lying together in the middle of a field.||They are the remains of a melted snowman.|
|A woman has incontrovertible proof in court that her husband was murdered by her sister. The judge declares, “This is the strangest case I’ve ever seen. Though it’s a cut-and-dried case, this woman cannot be punished.“||The sisters are Siamese twins.|
|A man walks into a bar and asks for a drink. The bartender pulls out a gun and points it at him. The man says, “Thank you” and walks out.||The man has hiccups and the bartender scares them away by pulling a gun.|
|A man lives on the twelfth floor of an apartment building. Every morning he takes the elevator down to the lobby and leaves the building. In the evening, he gets into the elevator, and, if there is someone else in the elevator — or if it was raining that day — he goes back to his floor directly. Otherwise, he goes to the tenth floor and walks up two flights of stairs to his apartment.||The man is a dwarf. He can’t reach the upper elevator buttons, but he can ask people to push them for him. He can also push them with his umbrella.|
|A man is returning from Switzerland by train. If he had been in a non-smoking car he would have died.||The man used to be blind — he’s returning from an eye operation which restored his sight. He spent all his money on the operation, so when the train (which had no internal lighting) goes through a tunnel, he thinks he’s gone blind again and decides to kill himself. But before he could do it, he saw the light of the cigarettes people were smoking and realized he could still see.|
|A man is lying awake in bed. He makes a phone call, says nothing and goes to sleep.||He is in a hotel and is unable to sleep because the man in the adjacent room is snoring. He calls the snorer up (at this hotel, like many others, the phone numbers are based on the room number). The snorer wakes up and answers. The first man hangs up without saying anything and goes to sleep before the snorer starts snoring again.|
|A man is lying drowned in a dead forest.||He was scuba diving when a firefighting plane landed nearby and filled its tanks with water, sucking him in. He ran out of air while the plane was in flight; then the water, with him in it, was dumped onto a burning forest.|
|A car without a driver moves and a man then dies.||The murderer sets the car on a slope above the hot dog stand where the victim works. He wedges an ice block in the car to keep the brake pedal down, puts the car in neutral, and flies to another city to avoid suspicion. It’s a warm day; when the ice melts, the car rolls down the hill and kills the hot dog man.|
|David, wearing a mask and carrying an empty sack, leaves his house. An hour later he returns with a full sack. He goes into a room and turns out the lights.||David is a child who goes trick-or-treating for Halloween, returns, and goes to sleep.|
|A man is found hanging in an otherwise empty locked room with a puddle of water under his feet.||He stood on a block of ice to hang himself.|
|A man goes into a restaurant, orders albatross, eats one bite, and kills himself.||The man, his wife, and a second man were on a ship that was wrecked on a desert island. The man's wife died in the wreck. When there was no food left, the second man brought what he said was an albatross. Later they were rescued and, at some point, the first man decides to order albatross at a restaurant. It tastes nothing like the ‘albatross’ tht he ate on the island, which makes him realise he really ate his wife. Unable to cope with the realisation, he kills himself.|
|A hunter aimed his gun carefully and fired. Seconds later, he realised his mistake. Minutes later, he was dead.||The explanation, version 1: It was winter. He fired the gun near a snowy cliff, which started an avalanche.
The explanation, version 2: He shot an elephant with a low calibre rifle. Not powerful enough to kill it, the elephant became enraged and trampled him.
|A man gets into a lift. When the lift stops unexpectedly, he knows that his wife is dead.||The man is leaving a hospital after visiting his wife, who is on a life support system. The power goes out, stopping the lift and, he assumes, also the life support system. (He assumes that if there was an emergency backup generator then the lift wouldn’t have lost power.)|