Please read the questions here 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!
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
For more puzzles visit the Lateral Puzzles Forum.