A particular kind of brain teaser, in which the participants are given a very minimal description of the situation, and determine the full story by asking yes or no questions. They differ from the examples in the lateral thinking node in that the answers can't be immediately derived from the questions. The game requires at least two people -- one person who knows the solution and can answer questions ("yes," "no," or "irrelevant"), and at least one person to ask them. If you try to solve them through sheer brainpower, you'll feel badly betrayed when you peek at the solutions -- at first glance they look totally impossible. With assiduous questioning and creativity, though, they're entirely tractable.

Below are some good examples of the lateral thinking puzzle genre. Most of the questions could be phrased differently, with more or less information depending on how hard you want to make people sweat. Solutions are in another node, more for space issues than for spoilers.

This is a really good party game, incidentally, for smart people who like questioning, pondering, and observing a problem from all sides (which should apply to most people here). In fact, the problems marked with an asterisk were made up by friends for use at our last social gathering.

  1. A man walks into a restaurant and orders albatross soup. He takes one taste, runs outside, and kills himself.
  2. A man hears something on the radio that makes him kill himself.
  3. A man lies dead in his room. Under the bed are several small discs of wood.
  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.
  5. A man (they're always men, for some reason) is dead in a phone booth.
  6. A bell tolls. A man dies. A bell tolls.
  7. A man wakes up at night and turns off the light. In the morning he looks out the window and kills himself.
  8. A man lies dead on the sidewalk.*
  9. A healthy man checks into the hospital. Soon afterwards he is dead.*
Solutions here...

The Polar Bear game

The Polar Bear Game is a lateral thinking puzzle that requires equipment in the form of several plain dice. It is best played around a table with a number of people who do not know the answer.

To begin the game you tell the following story:

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?

If nobody can tell you the correct answer (for example twelve bears around three holes), tell them the answer and repeat the whole process.

If someone gets it right, make sure that they keep the secret quiet. Check that they really understand by throwing the dice again and ask them for the new solution.

The game gets better as more of the group get the gist. Don't feel the need to let anyone know the secret, it will be far more rewarding if they work it out for themselves. That is the reason that I am not going to provide the answer to the dice example above. Oh ok then, the solution and an explanation is here. Thanks for the alternative version 'How many petals on the rose'

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