Lateral Thinking Puzzles

Lateral thinking puzzles are strange situations where you are given a small amount of information and then have to try and figure out what is going on by asking questions. They work best as a game for a group. One person, who knows the answer, acts as quizmaster. Other people fire in questions. The quizmaster can only answer, ‘Yes, No or Irrelevant’. These puzzles are great fun and at the same time they teach techniques for questioning, testing assumptions, using your imagination and piecing together clues. Probably the best known puzzle is the man in the lift:

A man lives on the tenth floor of a building. Every day he takes the elevator to go down to the ground floor to go to work or to go shopping. When he returns he takes the elevator to the seventh floor and walks up the stairs to reach his apartment on the tenth floor. He hates walking so why does he do it?

If you do not know this one then you can find the answer in this list of the top ten lateral thinking puzzles.

Paul Sloane was described in the Independent as the ‘king of the lateral thinking puzzle.’ He has written 18 books of lateral thinking puzzles (many co-authored with Des MacHale). The books have proved to be extremely popular both with adults and children. They have been used in schools, on training courses, as an after-dinner game and as a great way to entertain any small group that likes a mental challenge. Over 2 million copies of the books have been sold and they have been translated into many languages. They are available at, at and some are here on our Books page.

For real aficionados here are some errors in puzzles.

A great place to set and solve lateral thinking puzzles is the Lateral Puzzles Forum.

Here are some of the most popular lateral thinking puzzle books by Paul Sloane and Des MacHale: