An Archive of Email Forwards - Ouija Cat '98-'01

Some Classic Lateral Thinking Exercises....

1. There is a man that lives on the top floor of a very tall building.
   Everyday he gets the elevator down to the ground floor to leave the
   building to go to work. Upon returning from work though, he can only
   travel half way up in the lift and has to walk the rest of the way
   unless it's raining!  WHY?

This is probably the best known and most celebrated of all lateral
thinking puzzles. It is a true classic. Although there are many possible
solutions which fit the initial conditions, only the canonical answer is
truly satisfying.

2. A man and his son are in a car accident. The father dies on the
   scene, but the child is rushed to the hospital. When he arrives the
   surgeon says "I can't operate on this boy, he is my son!" How can
   this be?

3. A man is wearing black. Black shoes, socks, trousers, jumper, gloves
   and balaclava. He is walking down a black street with all the street
   lamps off. A black car is coming towards him with its light off too
   but somehow manages to stop in time. How did the driver see the man?

4. Title : The Elder Twin
   One day Kerry celebrated her birthday. Two days later her older twin
   brother, Terry, celebrated his birthday. Why?

5. Title : Manhole Covers
   Why is it better to have round manhole covers than square ones?

This is logical rather than lateral, but it is a good puzzle which can be
solved by lateral thinking techniques. It is supposedly used by a very
well-known software company as an interview question for prospective

6. Title : The Deadly Party
   A man went to a party and drank some of the punch. He then left early.
   Everyone else at the party who drank the punch subsequently died of
   poisoning. Why did the man not die?

7. Title : Heaven
   A man died and went to Heaven. There were thousands of other people
   there. They were all naked and all looked as they did at the age of
   21. He looked around to see if there was anyone he recognized. He saw
   a couple and he knew immediately that they were Adam and Eve. How did
   he know?

8. Title : Trouble with Sons
   A woman had two sons who were born on the same hour of the same day of
   the same year. But they were not twins. How could this be so?

9. Title : The Man in the Bar
   A man walks into a bar and asks the barman for a glass of water. The
   barman pulls out a gun and points it at the man. The man says 'Thank
   you' and walks out.

This puzzle has claims to be the best of the genre. It is simple in its
statement, absolutely baffling and yet with a completely satisfying
solution. Most people struggle very hard to solve this one yet they like
the answer when they hear it or have the satisfaction of figuring it out.

Scroll down for the answers.


1) The man is very very short and so can only reach half way up the lift
   buttons! However, if it is raining then he will have his umbrella with
   him and so can press the higher buttons with it.

2) The surgeon is the boy's mother.

3) It was day time.

4) At the time she went into labor, the mother of the twins was
   travelling by boat. The older twin, Terry, was born first early on
   March 1st. The boat then crossed a time zone and Kerry, the younger
   twin, was born on February the 28th. Therefore, the younger twin
   celebrates her birthday two days before her older brother.

5) A square manhole cover can be turned and dropped down the diagonal
   of the manhole. A round manhole cannot be dropped down the manhole.
   So for safety and practicality, all manhole covers should be round.

6) The poison in the punch came from the ice cubes. When the man drank
   the punch, the ice was fully frozen. Gradually it melted, poisoning
   the punch.

7) He recognized Adam and Eve as the only people without navels because
   they were not born of women, they had never had umbilical cords and
   therefore they never had navels. This one seems perfectly logical but
   it can sometimes spark fierce theological arguments.

8) They were two of a set of triplets (or quadruplets etc.) This puzzle
   stumps many people. They try outlandish solutions involving test-tube
   babies or surrogate mothers.  Why does the brain search for complex
   solutions when there is a much simpler one available?

9) The man had hiccups. The barman recognized this from his speech and
   drew the gun in order to give him a shock. It worked and cured the
   hiccups - so the man no longer needed the water. This is a simple
   puzzle to state but a difficult one to solve. It is a perfect example
   of a seemingly irrational and incongruous situation having a simple
   and complete explanation. Amazingly this classic puzzle seems to work
   in different cultures and languages.

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