Top Ten Lateral Thinking Puzzles – the Answers

Please read the questions  first before reading the answers:

1. The man in the Elevator

The man is (of course) a dwarf. Variants of this puzzle include the clue that on rainy days he goes up in the elevator to the tenth floor (he uses his umbrella!)

2. The Man in the Bar

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.

The 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.

3. The Man who Hanged Himself

He climbed on a block of ice which has since melted.

This one is often stated with the clue of a puddle of water, but surely this is too much assistance. It is one of several problems which depend on the change of state of water (snow or ice to water or steam).

4. Death in a Field

The man had jumped from a plane but his parachute had failed to open. It is the unopened package.

This is sometimes given with the following rather elegant clue – as he approached the centre of the field he knew he was going to die. This is another of the top classics which is right up there with ‘The Man in the Bar’. If the solver is thinking along the wrong lines (i.e. in the two dimensions of the ground) then the lateral jump to the third dimension can be tough to make.

5. The Deadly Dish

The dish that the two men ordered was albatross. They had been stranded many years earlier on a desert island. When the man tasted albatross he realized that he had never tasted it before. This meant that the meat he had been given on the island was not albatross as he had been told. He correctly deduced that he had eaten the flesh of his son who had died when they first reached the island.

This has something in common with No. 9 below but is in my opinion even better. It is fiendishly difficult to figure out from a standing start. A beautiful aspect of this problem is the subtle fact that he shot himself because he did not recognise the taste of the dish!

6. The Coal, Carrot and Scarf

They were used by children who made a snowman. The snow has now melted.

Another change of state puzzle. After this you should be on the look-out for them!

7. Trouble with Sons

They were two of a set of triplets (or quadruplets etc.)

This simple little 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?

8. Push that Car

He was playing Monopoly.

9. The Arm of the Postal Service

The three men had been stranded on a desert island. Desperate for food, they had agreed to amputate their left arms in order to eat them. They swore an oath that each would have his left arm cut off. One of them was a doctor and he cut the arms off his two companions. They were then rescued. But his oath was still binding so he later had to have his arm amputated and sent to his colleagues.

This is often told with a further twist whereby a doctor pays a tramp a large sum in order to amputate the tramp’s arm which the doctor then sends to another man who inspects it etc. This variation can make for a long night of questioning!

10. Heaven

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!

Paul Sloane has written 20 books of lateral thinking puzzles including Lateral Thinking Puzzlers and Infuriating Lateral Thinking Puzzles. Many of the books are co-authored with Des MacHale

Lateral Puzzle Books on Amazon.co.uk



Lateral Puzzle Books on Amazon.com


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12 thoughts on “Top Ten Lateral Thinking Puzzles – the Answers

  1. The man who hanged himself puzzle answer can’t be correct
    because the barn was “completly empty” exept for the dead man and the rope.
    So, the 3 feet high melted block of ice would leave at least 1 or more puddle’s of water which means the barn was’nt completly empty, and to turn water into steam you would surely need a heat source!

  2. If the man’s feet were hanging 3 feet off the ground (36 inches) and the rope was tied around his neck, that would imply that the bottom of the rope was likely only about 28 inches above the man’s head, as the average human head is probably around 8 inches from jaw to the tip. If the man was a rather tall gentleman, it would be all too easy for him to reach up with his long arms and pull himself up into the noose, maybe even a slight hop is all that would be needed. No ice block necessary. You should imply that he was a weak, elderly man or something of the sort to rule this out.

  3. First of all people don’t just put ropes in their barns with a noose at the end ready for a hanging.
    1. He might have climbed the rope up to the bean then made the noose,
    making sure it is way off the ground and then jumped from the beam and hung himself.
    2. There was a horse in the barn which the man used to step on, then he put the noose on his own neck, he then kicked the horse and the horse run out of the barn.

  4. My thought on the man hanging himself was that he was astride a horse, put the rope around his neck, and made the horse walk away. The horse would’ve wondered away, leaving an empty barn. This similar feat is seen in Western movies, and has happened many times in the old west. Typically as a form of punishment in remote areas.

  5. There is a much more simple and elegant solution to the man that shot himself after eating the dish that the stupid answered posted.
    The man was allergic to one of the ingredients on the dish (peanuts, shellfish, etc) which he only realized was part of the dish after tasting it. Because this happened to him before, he has aware of his allergy and always carry an epi-pen with him (epinephrine) which this time he forgot in the car right outside. As soon as he tasted the dish his allergy begun so he run outside to the car, grabbed the Epi-pen and shot himself (with the medicine) saving his life. (the puzzle says that he shot himself, not that he killed himself or committed suicide)

      1. ‘Stupid’? I’m not sure what was gained by being offensive.
        In addition, I’ve not come across anyone using the term ‘to shoot oneself’ in reference to any form of injection. We ‘shoot up’ (when it’s recreational drugs), we ‘have a shot’ when it’s medicinal (as here), but to use the term you suggest would be misleading in the puzzle. Not stupid. But inappropriate.
        These puzzles are often used to stimulate creative thinking and insightful questioning – and the original answer certainly manages this.

  6. The Arm of the Postal Service
    Here’s my interpretation
    The cycle of postal service was a part of drug trafficking, using human arm of a dead body out of a morgue as their storage for the same. The last receiver of the drugs is bound to bury the arm as it would start to decompose heavily soon after, and hence avoiding any suspicion and evidence of drugs . The process of examining the arm equals the receivers retrieving their orders and passing it on.

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