Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Lateral Thinking

Vizzini: He didn't fall? INCONCEIVABLE.
Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
- from the book/movie The Princess Bride
Have you every noticed how different puzzles test different skills? I'm pretty good at jig-saw puzzles (pattern matching) and logical puzzles like Sudoku (math/logic). I don't like Rubiks's cube (memorization of sequences?).  Then there's a type of puzzle I love for it's cleverness, a way of thinking that is so different than my math/computer skills. These are out-of-the-box or "Lateral" thinking puzzles.

I often find that I over calculate and over complicate when the solution is actually quite simple. In college I got a C on a math assignment where I turned in 5 or 6 pages of work. A friend got an A. I asked to see his solutions which turned out to be a single page, front and back. I realized then that I was missing the big picture (and that more was not better).

Recently I volunteered to help move a collection of canned food that was piled up on a table at church. I grabbed serveal cans and recruited others to help carry. Someone more clever than I teamed up with a second person to carry the entire table with food to where it needed to go.

How are you at finding simple solutions? Here are some examples of Lateral Thinking puzzles from http://www.wilk4.com/humor/humore14.htm

1.  There is a man who 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!

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, coat, gloves and ski mask. He is walking down a back street with all the street lamps off. A black car is coming towards him with its light off but somehow manages to stop in time. How did the driver see the man?

6. 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. 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. 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. 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.

10. A murderer is condemned to death. He has to choose between three rooms. The first is full of raging fires, the second is full of assassins with loaded guns, and the third is full of lions that haven't eaten in 3 years. Which room is safest for him?

11. A woman shoots her husband. Then she holds him under water for over 5 minutes. Finally, she hangs him. But 5 minutes later they both go out together and enjoy a wonderful dinner together. How can this be?

12. There are two plastic jugs filled with water. How could you put all of this water into a barrel, without using the jugs or any dividers, and still tell which water came from which jug?

14. Can you name three consecutive days without using the words Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday? (or day names in any other language)

15. This is an unusual paragraph. I'm curious how quickly you can find out what is so unusual about it. It looks so plain you would think nothing was wrong with it. In fact, nothing is wrong with it! It is unusual though. Study it, and think about it, but you still may not find anything odd. But if you work at it a bit, you might find out.

Bottom Line

The answers can be found at http://www.wilk4.com/humor/humore14.htm
But don't peak until you've given it some thought!

P.S.
The Princess Bride is a delightful book/movie full of witty quotes that make you think.

Westley: I told you I would always come for you. Why didn't you wait for me?
Buttercup: Well... you were dead.

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[In the sail boat]
Inigo Montoya: He's right on top of us. I wonder if he is using the same wind we are using.

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Inigo Montoya: You seem a decent fellow. I hate to kill you.
Man in Black: You seem a decent fellow. I hate to die.

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[On entering the fire swamp of inescable death]
Buttercup: We'll never survive.
Westley: Nonsense. You're only saying that because no one ever has.

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Fezzik: Why do you wear a mask? Were you burned by acid, or something like that?
Man in Black: Oh no, it's just that they're terribly comfortable. I think everyone will be wearing them in the future.

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