Two lateral thinking puzzles


I’m confused as to the travel agent puzzle. How could he be their travel agent if he never met them?

These read more like creative writing prompts than “puzzles”. My thought on the first was that the package contained the medicine he needed to not die, and he was so close to getting it. The parachute answer is better, but it’s still a pretty wide open puzzle.

I was thinking that there must not be very many 7 story buildings in Rome, maybe that’s the clue? Like the only 7 story building that you could rent a room in is called the murder your wife building?


The perfect takedown of this kind of puzzle is “Match Wits With Inspector Ford,” from the collection Without Feathers by Woody Allen (cursèd be his name, I know). Unfortunately I don’t have it handy, and I can’t find it online or even in Google Books. But one story ends along these lines (entirely paraphrased from vague memory, wildly inaccurate, disclaimer disclaimer):

“I don’t know about the curse,” said Inspector Ford. “But if you want the gem back, go to Katz’s Delicatessen and arrest Leo Katz. He has the gem.” How did Inspector Ford know?

Answer: The day before, Leo Katz had said: “If I could just get my hands on a priceless gem, I could get out of the delicatessen business.”

I laughed for days the first time I read that.


Maybe if the guy in the field had been found in a divot or depression, it would give a clue that he had fallen from a plane and impacted.

Maybe even say “the man was in a depression” as if it were a mental state, to disguise the real clue a bit.

Not sure how the 2nd one can be salvaged.

  1. The package in the field bore the legend “Acme Drone Delivery,” and it contained an anvil. The man was dressed as a coyote.

  1. Mr. Jones had been living a double life, and he couldn’t resist gloating over the clever way he ended it.


Or even better, start a new BBS thread in “games”- Fun Answers to Scenarios that Are Not Lateral Thinking Puzzles.


Now imagine that these are questions used for vetting C-suite applicants in their interviews and suddenly a lot about America is explained.


Mr. Jones couldn’t be a travel agent. The whole point of a travel agent is that you MEET them in order to book your plane ticket. And the woman had a completely legitimate reason for having a one-way ticket. She was booking herself into a Swiss spa indefinitely in order to be treated for an Oxycodone addiction.

Obviously, Mr. Jones must have seen a newspaper photo of the women who fell to her death, in which the woman was in a wheelchair. She couldn’t possibly have fallen off the balcony unless somebody lifted her up and threw her over.

If these puzzles were really lateral thinking problems, they would have completely different solutions.

I’m not sure how these “puzzles” actually work; but that they are “puzzles” at all is a very peculiar reflection on how badly humans think. We need to get some cognitive scientists to dig into this a bit, and provide some insight into what exactly is going on.


In this scenario, the answer to #1 clearly is “too much regulation”.


They probably work best if everybody comes up with a solution and then declare a winner based on the best answer. Something with a clever twist or two.

The travel agent answer would probably not win because it doesn’t incorporate the fact that the building has 7 stories and also contradicts the fact that he had never met the couple. Lame answers like “he’s a cop and got a notification about an overseas murder” also don’t score high. You need something that uses the clues provided.


#2 probably is along the lines that Mr. Jones knows that Mrs. Rigby-Brown had vertigo and would have never set foot on a balcony on the 7th floor on her own accord.


How would he know that if he never met her?


Because he’s a lateral thinker, duh.


Maybe the answer for the second puzzle is that none of the hotels in the tourist part of Rome are that tall because they can’t be taller than Saint Peters Basilica, so this means the people on holiday booked a hotel in the expensive financial district that has few tourist attractions. The only reason for people on holiday to choose the hotel is for murder purposes. Not because he had points or the others were full or anything.

Note that I’ve never visited Rome and am talking totally out of my ass here, but it’s the most plausible explanation I can think of.


I’ve heard the unopened package one before. It included one other piece of information: a man found dead in a field, unopened package, and a ring on his finger. Presumably the end of the rip cord.


When I first heard these kinds of puzzles as a kid, they were more like Q&A puzzles. You have to ask the person posing the puzzle enough yes/no questions to figure out the intended answer. “Did the package contain a present” “Did the contents of the package kill him?” “Did he pack it himself?” In that context, these kinds of puzzles make more sense than the way they’re presented here.


Death in the Field

A man is lying dead in the field. Next to him is an unopened package. There is no other creature in the field. How did he die?

Easy, he “bare backed” some street tacos in Tijuana, the pathogens / bacteria got’em, that’s it, easy.

What’s in the box? Doesn’t matter, the moral of the story is “no street tacos when drinking in Tijuana”.


As others have noted, these aren’t intended as a solo activity; they’re a party/parlor game, where you ask yes-or-no questions to arrive at the unintuitive answer.
Jed Hartman has compiled a list of many dozens of them. (Full disclosure: I was one of his helpers on the project.)


That one seemed too easy. If there’s a right answer that was my first thought.


Mr Jones committed the murder. It’s the only way he knows for sure.