Solutions to the problems in lateral thinking puzzles:

  1. The man had been in the Navy, and was shipwrecked on an island with his crewmates. Some died of starvation, but the captain kept the rest alive by feeding them what he said was "albatross soup." When the man discovered how different the restaurant's albatross soup tasted, he knew he had really been eating his dead shipmates, and he killed himself out of guilt.
  2. The man was a radio DJ who had gotten himself in trouble with the Mob (or any threatening group). He had put on an old recording of his show so his pursuers would think he was at work, and was attempting to skip town while the ringer show was broadcasting. However, he was listening to the show in his car, and heard the record start to skip (reel-to-reel go wobbly, CD do whatever it is CDs do when they mess up... pick one), and he knew his antagonists would catch on and come looking for him. He killed himself preemptively. (People commit suicide easily in these stories.)
  3. The man was a blind midget, and was part of a sideshow act, billed as "The World's Shortest Man." The other midget travelling with the sideshow was seized with professional jealousy because this man was shorter than he. He contrived to saw small pieces, one every week or so, from the bottom of the blind man's cane. The World's Shortest Man noticed that his cane felt too short, and became convinced he was growing. He killed himself rather than lose his job, or possibly out of shame.
  4. The man was also in the Navy, probably with the guy from Albatross Soup. He was also shipwrecked, and spent several weeks in a lifeboat with two shipmates, one of whom was a doctor. After their food ran out, and they were desperate, they decided to have the doctor amputate their arms so they could have something to eat... but of course, he couldn't amputate his own arm, and they weren't so keen on letting him get away scott free. They came to an agreement: They would remove and eat one arm from each person besides the doctor, as long as he agreed to have his own arm removed when they were rescued. It was the doctor's arm in the package; he sent it to both of the others so they could verify that he held up his end of the deal. (A variant of this puzzle has one shipmate running into the doctor in a subway, then shooting him because he notices him holding the pole with his supposedly-amputated arm... the doctor had paid off a drifter to let him remove his arm, and sent that arm to the others.)
  5. The man has been fishing and caught a huge fish. He took fish, pole and gear into the phone booth to call a friend about his success. While he was saying "I caught a fish THIS BIG!" and doing the accompanying gesture, he put his hands through the sides of the phone booth and cut his wrists on the broken glass.
  6. The man is blind, and is swimming in the harbor. When it's time for him to come in, his wife is supposed to ring a bell to let him know which way to swim to get to shore. However, a buoy bell tolls first, and the man, thinking it was his wife's signal, swims out towards the buoy. He becomes exhausted and drowns.
  7. The man is a lighthouse keeper, and the light he turned off was the one on top of the lighthouse. In the morning he sees that an ocean liner has crashed into the rocks, killing everyone aboard. He kills himself out of guilt.
  8. He is homeless, and has been eating from a dumpster outside a Japanese restaurant. Unfortunately, what he found were the rejected parts of a fugu, and he died of the poison.
  9. The man was going in for an MRI, because he thought he might have a brain tumor. However, unbeknownst to him, a doctor had left a metal instrument inside him during an earlier surgery (let's say a stomach operation). The MRI's powerful magnet ripped the instrument out of his abdomen. (I like this one 'cause it's gross!)

Lateral thinking puzzles kind of annoy me.

My major issue with lateral thinking puzzles is not that they don't give you enough information to find the answer. It's the fact that they give you plenty of information - making it extremely easy to come up with a perfectly plausible solution which fits all the known facts perfectly but nevertheless is wrong. I mean, standing on a block of ice to hang yourself? Why? WHY? Does that make sense? What if there was just a water leak or something? "He takes the stairs up twenty floors to work every morning, but takes the lift down again." What if he's not a midget, he just likes the exercise? Surely a midget would ask somebody else to press the button for him?

"Thinking laterally" means to me that you should try methods of attack which don't seem immediately obvious. Such as Occam's Razor. Here are some answers which I used lateral thinking to come up with.

  1. A man walks into a restaurant and orders albatross soup. He takes one taste, runs outside, and kills himself.
    He doesn't speak the language very well, and ordered albatross by accident. Albatrosses are unlucky/cursed/sacred.

  2. A man hears something on the radio that makes him kill himself.
    It's 1960. He just heard that the Russians have launched all their nuclear missiles at America.

  3. A man lies dead in his room. Under the bed are several small discs of wood.
    He died in his sleep. He keeps coasters under his bed.

  4. A man receives a package, opens it, looks at its contents, and sends it to another man. The second man opens it, looks at its contents, and buries it.
    "Oh, this time capsule has been dug up ten years too early. Better get Jeff to bury it again."

  5. A man is dead in a phone booth.
    Heart attack.

  6. A bell tolls. A man dies. A bell tolls.
    He was sentenced to be hanged on the first stroke of midnight.

  7. A man wakes up at night and turns off the light. In the morning he looks out the window and kills himself.
    The Gestapo were outside. ("Then why did he turn off the light?" Because he forgot.)

  8. A man lies dead on the sidewalk.
    Car accident.

  9. A healthy man checks into the hospital. Soon afterwards he is dead.
    Elevator accident.

The Polar Bear game solution

It is winter in the arctic. An Inuk comes across the frozen sea and makes holes in the ice to fish through. After a few hours of fishing he decides that he has caught enough fish and departs. Slowly the polar bears emerge, wary of each other they circle the abandoned fishing holes to explore the potential for a meal.

At this point you throw the dice so that all can see them.

Next ask this question:

How many bears are gathered around how many holes?

 _____           |•   •|
|•   •|          |•   •|
|  •  |   _____  |•   •|         _____
|•   •|  |•    |  _____         |    •|
 _____   |  •  |                |     |
         |    •|         _____  |•    |
          _____         |     |  _____
                        |  •  |
                        |     |

Of course you did use white dice didn't you?

You are looking for bears around holes right? the answer is 6 bears around 2 holes.

How did I arrive at this? The holes are the dots surrounded by other dots (bears).

The dice that we get this from are: the five, clearly a hole with four circling bears (which establishes that the holes are centered on the dice), the 3 is then also a hole with two bears. The 6 is a group of bears on ice without a hole. the 1 is a hole without bears and the 2 is a couple of bears searching unsuccessfully for a hole.

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