Two lateral thinking puzzles


For the record, one does not ever have to meet a travel agent to be their customer. Even before computers, there were phones.


Mr. Jones is a paranoid conspiracy theorist who always tells his wife “this was murder” when he reads about somebody getting killed in an accident.


A dirty bomb. Turns out the guy was going to detonate it in the maternity ward of a Tijuana hospital because he’s bought into right-wing anti-Mexican rhetoric and because he had a brain lesion he got in the war (he enrolled in the military to be the first one in his family to go to college). The lesion impacted his ability to discern reality and control impulses (hence the drinking and tacos). Really, I don’t know whether to be relieved or sad.


Oh, no. I’ve seen Seven. You’re not getting me with that one.


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?

Package fell out of the plane on his head. Duh.

Death in Rome

Mr. Jones is reading his daily newspaper. He read an article with the following headline: “Woman dies in holiday accident.“ It goes on to say, “Mrs. Rigby-Brown, while on holiday with her husband in Rome, fell to her death from the balcony of her seventh-floor room.“

Mr. Jones turns to his wife and says “That was not an accident. It was murder.“ He had never met either of the Rigby-Browns, so how could he know it was murder?

Mr. Rigby called up Mr. Jones and told him over the phone that he pushed her. Duh.


Jeez, people. How hard is it?


These aren’t really puzzles, they’re mental masturbation on the part of the writer.


Indeed. This!


He was an admin on Reddit’s u/fearofheights group, and recognized the name.


As a cognitive scientist, I’ll bite: The famous lateral thinking puzzles created by cognitive psychologists include Luchin’s jugs (appeared in Die Hard pt. 2), and Duncker’s Candle Problem, and the two-chord problem. These are mainly used to investigate functional fixedness: You need to escape Einstellung:

The thing about puzzles is that–to the solver–the solution should be difficult before it is known, but obviously correct after it is known. I don’t think these two examples meet that standard. This is why cryptic crosswords do not qualify as puzzles for me. Even when I see the answer, I’m not smart enough to understand how it came from the clue.

I like the ‘Remote Associates’ test problems:

What word goes with each of the following. I’ll leave some of the less common ones here so it won’t ruin norms:

Cracker, Fly, Fighter
peach arm tar
water mine shaker

(solutions: I’m not telling)


The answer to number one is literally anything. Same with number two. So… eat me.

  1. Embarrassment. He was embarrassed to be in this lame puzzle.


Had to look that one up, and came across this:

The cheap-necklace problem experiment (Silveira 1971)
“You are given four separate pieces of chain that are each three links in length. It costs 2¢ to open a link and 3¢ to close a link. All links are closed at the beginning of the problem. Your goal is to join all 12 links of chain into a single circle at a cost of no more than 15¢.”

Control group:
Worked on the problem for half an hour.
55% solved the problem.

Experimental group 1:
Worked for half an hour, interrupted by a half-hour break in which other activities were performed.
64% solved the problem.

Experimental group 2:
As 1, but with a 4 hour break.
85% solved the problem.

Subjects were asked to talk as they worked on the problem. They came back to the problem where they left off, and did not have preformed solutions.

Fun! Puzzled over it about 10 minutes, stopped and read through the group results, then had it immediately when I came back to it.


this reminds me of a genre of non-joke jokes that sound like jokes but really aren’t–

my hometown was so small . . .

how small was it?

it was so small, the police station had a screen door.

or how about–

my hometown was so small . . .

how small was it?

it was so small the only hooker wore a crash helmet.


The doctor said, “I cannot bury that survivor! He is my son!”

But how?



The version of the riddle I’ve always heard (surprised it’s new to Mark, I’d always encountered it as sort of THE exemplary lateral thinking puzzle) was that the man was dead face down in a field wearing a backpack, which points more directly to the expected answer while still being vague.

I’ve found that these sorts of things suck as riddles from a riddle book, but are more fun if played as a sort of 20 questions game where on person has the answer and others try to flesh the story out (it was a great activity for practicing yes/no questions when I taught ESL classes, too).


Describing an unopened parachute as a “package” is intentionally misleading, so GFY whomever wrote this. Also, if one’s parachute fails to open, it will be securely attached to their corpse unless they intentionally removed it before impact. It would not be “next” to them in the field.


The bullet was made of ice!


Don’t worry. In another puzzle, it’s explained that Mrs. Rigby-Brown had packed the faulty parachute that failed to open, so she sort of had it coming.


Solutions for real this time:

fire, pit, salt