Thursday, March 14, 2013

Top 10 Brain Twisters/Riddles

I consider brain twisters/riddles as one of the most pleasurable types of mental stimulation.  Primarily because – since it’s, first and foremost, designed for fun – they don’t usually have the burden of pressure and consequences, as what is involved with most problem solving thinking situations.  And, of course, the overwhelming experience of getting your “mind blown” is always thrilling (though the best mind blowing experiences are still found in thought experiments, which can be a considered a “higher” kind of brain twisters), and finding a solution to a problem or solving any mystery by using your mind gives a feeling of special satisfaction.        

Throughout my life of enjoying brain twisters, I share here the top 10 that fascinated me most… by the way, the answer to each brain twister is after the “SOLUTION:” notice.  Just highlight the yellow-shaded parts with your mouse to reveal the answers.   

Once upon a time, in the West Lake village, a servant lived with his master. After service of 30 years, his master became ill and was going to die. One day, the master called his servant and offered him for a wish. It could be any wish but just one. The master gave him one day to think about it. The servant became very happy and went to his mother to discuss the wish. His mother was blind and she asked her son to wish for her eye-sight to come back. Next, the servant went to his wife. She became very excited and asked for a son as they were childless for many years. After that, the servant went to his father who wanted to be rich and so he asked his son to wish for a lot of money. The next day he went to his master and made one wish through which all the three (mother, father, wife) got what they wanted. What was his wish?
To be honest, I wasn’t able to solve this at all. 

SOLUTION: "I wish for my mother to see her grandson swinging on a swing of gold."

This geometrical paradox blew me away when I first encountered it.  “How could this be?  How come when the parts of the 13x5 triangle are rearranged, a missing 1x1 square part is exposed?  Bah, Math is sorcery!”   Clue: It’s an optical illusion (which means it’s not what it seems), thus, trickery is involved.  

SOLUTION: Neither of the “triangles” is actually a triangle.  It only appears that they are.  But they aren’t.  The “hypotenuse” is flawed.  It is bent and doesn’t have a proper slope.  Thus, with no proper slope, a proper 13x5 triangle can’t be actually made from the given parts.      

A basket contains 5 apples.  There are 5 people in the room.  You need to distribute the apples among the 5 people so that each one has an apple, with one apple still remaining in the basket.  How can it be done? 
The answer to this riddle is very easy.  You just need to think out of the box.  Tip: some simple smartassery is required.  I’ve always been a smartass that on the first time I encountered this riddle, I gave the correct answer in a second. 

SOLUTION: 4 persons each get an apple.  The fifth gets the basket with the fifth apple still in it.   

The Pope has it but he does not use it.  
Your father has it but your mother uses it. 
Nuns do not need it. 
Arnold Schwarzenegger has a big one, 
Michael J. Fox’s is quite small. 
What is it?
This one is guaranteed to incite chuckles and giggles.  Especially if it’s the first time you hear this.  The answer is obvious when you think about it (and, oh, it’s not green at all!).  



There are several variations of this sock riddle.  But the first time I encountered this riddle was on the Vol. 1 No. 2 issue of the International Edition of Disney Adventures magazine.  Here’s how it went:
Jacquie got up before sunrise to set off on the annual family holiday.  She was a hopeless early-morning riser, so before she went to bed she had packed her bags and carefully laid out on the chair at the end of her bed the clothes she would wear on the first day of journey. 

When Jacquie awoke and began to get ready, the light globe in her room blew.  She managed to find all her clothes in the dark except her socks, which she had forgotten to lay out.  She knew she had 10 red socks and 10 polka-dot socks in her drawer, and could find them by touch, but the trouble was the socks were not paired. 

She didn’t care whether she wore red socks or polka-dot socks that day, but she did want to wear a matching pair. 

Jacquie could hear her folks yelling at her to hurry up.  She didn’t have much time.  What was the least number of socks Jacquie would have to take from her drawer to make sure she had a matching pair of socks?  
Again, this is actually quite easy when you carefully think about it. 

SOLUTION: Three.  The possible combinations are: a.) she’ll get three red socks; b.) she’ll get three polka-dot socks; c.) she’ll get two red socks and a polka-dot sock; and d.) she’ll get two polka-dot socks and a red sock.  No matter what of the four possibilities turns up, she’ll surely get a matching pair.    


Much like number 6, there are several variations of this.  But the first one I encountered – and still the best so far – went something like this:
A hunter returns to his tent to find it trashed by a bear.  Furious, the hunter quickly went back out to search for the bear.  He walked one mile south and then one mile west.  He found the bear and killed it with his rifle.  He then traveled one mile north back to his tenth.  What color was the bear?  
This brain twister would require someone to have decent analytical and logical skills.  Once a proper train of thought or reasoning is established with the help of the given facts, an answer can be easily derived. 

SOLUTION: White.  It was a polar bear since the hunter’s tent was located on the North Pole (as established by the description of the hunter’s journey from and back to the cabin). 

Three gods A , B , and C are called, in some order, True, False, and Random. True always speaks truly, False always speaks falsely, but whether Random speaks truly or falsely is a completely random matter. Your task is to determine the identities of A , B , and C by asking three yes-no questions; each question must be put to exactly one god. The gods understand English, but will answer in their own language, in which the words for yes and no are “da” and “ja”, in some order. You do not know which word means which.
Now, I don’t expect you to be able to solve this puzzle.  There’s a reason that this puzzle invented by the logician and puzzle-master Raymond Smullyan, and slightly modified by the computer scientist John McCarthy, has been coined “The Hardest Logic Puzzle Ever” by George Boolos (a legendary philosopher, logician, and teacher in MIT).  You should be a logician in the super-genius level to solve this.  Nonetheless, this puzzle is pretty fascinating to me.  I was intrigued that a puzzle has been given such a title as “The Hardest Logic Puzzle Ever”.  This hard, complex problem puts perspective on, no matter how good of a logician I am, I am still so far off from the big leagues.  Really made me feel small.  LOL.

Anyway, just Google for the solution if you are interested in knowing the solution.

I think the most popular of this is the “Who owns the fish?” Logic Problem, which is a variation of the “Zebra Puzzle.”  The “Zebra Puzzle” is also known as “Einstein’s Puzzle” or “Einstein’s Riddle” because, according to legend, he invented it when he was a boy.  It is very hard to solve (but easier than number 3) that it’s sometimes said that only 2% of the world’s population can solve it.  Anyway, this is how the “Who owns the fish?” variation goes:

There are five houses in a row and each house is a different color.
A different man lives in each house and is from a different country.
Each person drinks a certain drink, plays a certain sport, and keeps a certain pet.
No two people drink the same drink, play the same sport, or raise the same pet.
Use the following 15 facts to determine who owns the fish:
-The Brit lives in a red house
-The Swede keeps dogs
-The Dane drinks tea
-The green house is on the left of the white house
-The green house owner drinks coffee
-The person who plays polo rears birds
-The owner of the yellow house plays hockey
-The man living in the house right in the center drinks milk
-The Norwegian lives in the first house
-The man who plays baseball lives next to the man who keeps cats
-The man who keeps horses lives next to the one who plays hockey
-The man who plays billiards drinks beer
-The German plays soccer
-The Norwegian lives next to the blue house
-The man who plays baseball has a neighbor who drinks water.  

SOLUTION: The German owns the fish.  (Google for yourself the process how)

This kind of logic problems is solvable by the help of making matrixes.  Example, if you have five characters with five different things for five different occasions, you’ll need three 5-by-5 charts: characters to things, characters to occasions, and things to occasions. (If you have four things to solve for, you’ll need six charts.  You get the idea.)  Then merely use logic to eliminate and connect.

Here’s an easier Logic Problem, one of the earliest I have encountered and was able to solve (this is found in the book “The Complete Book of Bible Puzzles 1” by Randy Petersen):

Zechariah saw a vision of seven lamps on a lampstand.  Each was connected by a pipe to a bowl of oil, which was supplied by olive trees.  Well, let’s play with this picture a bit.  Let’s say each of the lamps bears a different name – in honor of the promised Messiah.  The names are “Branch”, “Son of Man”, “Ancient of Days”, “Root”, “Ruler”, “Prince of Peace”, and “Sun of Righteousness.”
In addition, each of the pipes is made of a different metal – gold, silver, bronze, zinc, iron, copper, and tin.  Each pipe connects with one of the two trees – either to the left one or the right one.  See if you can determine which metal made up the pipe leading to which lamp, and which of the two trees it got its oil from.
1.) The gold pipe leads to the lamp that gets its name from Zechariah 6:12.
2.) The olive tree on the left supplies tree of the lamps.
3.) The silver and tin pipes lead to lamps whose names begin with the same letter.  Those two pipes also hook up to the same tree.
4.) There are two lamps that get their names from Daniel 7:13.  These are connected to two pipes whose metals are mentioned in Daniel 2:32.
5.) Two of the pipes leading from the left tree are copper and zinc.
6.) The lamp whose name comes from Isaiah 9:6 is hooked up to the same tree that supplies the iron pipe.
7.) The names of the lamps supplied by the copper and zinc pipes begin with different letters.
8.) The lamp named “Ruler” is supplied by a pipe whose metal also ends with an R.
 Those clues should be enough. But if you need more, here are some more clues…
9.) Only one name starts with a vowel.  Its lamp is hooked up to the tree on the right.
10.) The lamps named “Baruch” and “Root” are hooked up to different trees.
11.) The lamp whose name comes from Micah 5:2 is connected to a different tree from the one that supplies the bronze pipe.
12.) Of the lamps named “Ancient of Day”, “Ruler”, and “Prince of Peace”, only one hooks up to the tree on the right.

This time, I won’t provide the solution.   (Too lazy to type it. LOL)  It’s easy.  Just work on it.


I was first introduced to this kind of puzzle during my freshmen English class (our English teacher was awesome; she is probably my most favorite teacher ever).  The objective of the puzzle is to determine what common saying, term, word, or phrase is being interpreted by the picture.  Example:
The answer is “Tricycle” because of the word “Cycle” being repeated three times. 

Another example:
That’s “Reading between the lines”.

Here’s some that you can try solving:
SOLUTION: “Six feet underground”, “Apple pie”, “Seven seas”, “Three degrees below zero”, “Standing ovation”, “Just around the corner”, and “Jack in a box”


This is my most favorite kind of brain twister.  “Two-Minute Mysteries” (written by Donald J. Sobol) are bite-sized cases (which had been compiled into paperback volumes) featuring Dr. Haledjian, who is arguably one of the most brilliant detectives in fiction.  After each short tale (in which the clues and details are presented), the reader is given the opportunity to solve the mystery.  Thus, reading “Two-Minute Mysteries” is guaranteed to be both engagingly entertaining and mentally stimulating.  It tests the extent of the reader’s stock knowledge, attention to detail, and analytical skill.  Here’s a two-minute mystery sample, “The Case of the Dead Frenchman”:
The body of Yves du Motier was found in the bedroom of the apartment belonging to Silas Howe, the coin collector.
Du Motier had been stabbed to death with a letter opener.  The body lay four feet from the rumpled bed.
“Death occurred about 8:30 am, or half an hour before the body was discovered,” Inspector Winters told Dr. Haledjian.
“I telephoned Silas Howe, who has been in Philadelphia attending a numismatics convention.  He says that last month he brought du Motier, a French coin collector and an old friend, from France for an operation to restore du Motier’s hearing.
“The way it looks, somebody used a skeleton key to get into Howe’s apartment and tried to steal his rare coin.  Du Motier must have awakened, seen the intruder, and in the struggle was slain.  The safe where Howe keeps his coins was unopened.  No coins are missing as far as we can tell.”
“Who notified the police?” inquired Haledjian.
“James Wilkes, a neighbor in the apartment house.  Wilkes was on his way to work when he saw Howe’s door open, and hearing the alarm clock ringing, investigated.  He found the Frenchman dead on the floor.”
“When did Howe leave for Philadelphia, and who can verify his presence there?” asked Haledjian.
“He left three days ago,” said the Insepector.  “We contacted his hotel manager, who swears Howe was in and out on each of the past three days. Say – I see what you’re getting at!”
Whom did Haledjian suspect?        
SOLUTION: Wilkes – who claimed to have been attracted by the ringing of the alarm clock – a fatal slip, since du Motier who was deaf would not have set the alarm. 

If you are able to find a volume of “Two-Minute Mysteries” in a bookstore, buy it.  It’s going to be worth it.  

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