Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter


Forgot your password?
DEAL: For $25 - Add A Second Phone Number To Your Smartphone for life! Use promo code SLASHDOT25. Also, Slashdot's Facebook page has a chat bot now. Message it for stories and more. Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 Internet speed test! ×
PC Games (Games)

Journal Chacham's Journal: Where are the *good* puzzle books? 21

Where are good puzzles found? I enjoy puzzles that challenge my thinking. Though, puzzles that just make me use my thinking are boring. As an example, here's what I don't like:

A. Tom and Bill are Brothers.
B. Tom likes cats.
C. Bill likes Dogs.
D. Bill's cat ate cheese yesterday.

Who is sitting next to Arthur's pig?

I find those types silly. They mean to make you create a chart and figure it out. It is extremely difficult to do in the head, which is a bad sign already, and, like Mastermind, you can use the process of elimination to figure it out in an easy standardized method. Overall, it is just plain boring. Yet when I see magazines and books about logic puzzles, that's all they are! Those very types of questions. Many of them.

There are also puzzles that try to make you think outside the box. The concept is nice, but they take it *way* too far. Such as:

Q: A guy got into an elevator and asked someone else to hit his floor button. Why?
A: He was a midget.

Sure, they sugar-coat the question, but in the end, they want you to come up with the one out of a thousand answers they they deemed the most plausible. That's just plain stupid. Some books call it "lateral" thinking. I'd advise steering clear of those books.

And then there's the Mensa books. The fact that it's Mensa book scares me (though I just bought one with their approval) and on the inside are general picture puzzles such as:

Here's five pictures. Which is the odd one out. Or, what is the next picture in the sequence? The puzzles are so arbitrary to how you look at them, they're ridiculous.

So, what type of puzzles do I like? Glad you asked. I like puzzles that challenge my thinking, or one's that make me think outside the box, or rather, to challenge the artifical boundaries that I placed on myself. Such as:

There are nine dots arranged in a 3x3 pattern:

. . .
. . .
. . .

With four consecutively connected lines, where the end of the first line touches the beginning of the second line, and so on, go through all nine dots. People naturally cynpr na vzntvanel obeqre ba guvf chmmyr, and rack their brains over it. Then someone shows them the answer, be ubcrshyyl rkcynvaf gur obeqre vffhr, and the puzzle is easy as a nice round pi.

Another example of challenging thought, would be to trick the person into believing flawed logic, and then having the person answer a question that they themselves agree with:

Three people walked into a hotel and asked to rent a room for the night. The owner said that the charge was thirty dollars. They each paid ten dollars, and went to their room. Later on, the owner realized that he overcharged them for the room, and that the cost was really twenty-five dollars. He immediately called the bellboy and gave him five dollars, and asked him to give it back to the three men. The bellboy couldn't figure out how to divide five dollars amongst three people, so he decided to give each man one dollar, and pocketed the other two dollars.

Now, let's figure this out. Each man originally paid ten dollars and got one dollar back. That means that each paid nine dollars, for a total of twenty-seven dollars. The bellboy kept two dollars, which added to the twenty-seven, brings the total to twenty-nine. Where's the thirtieth dollar?

The trick here is abg gb svther bhg jurer vg vf, ohg engure, gb svther bhg jul gur dhrfgvba vf jebat. It can drive you crazy if you don't realize the answer, yet the answer is so painfully obvious.

Then there's the puzzles that seemingly logically cannot be proven. Rkprcg, gurl pna or cebira ol fubjvat jung vg pna'g or:

Three boys were playing on the beach, and all had mud on their foreheads. And old man came up to them and asked each to look at both of their freinds foreheads to see if they had mud on them. All three looked at both of their friends' foreheads. He then asked each boy to raise their hand if one or both of their freinds had mud on their foreheads. All three raised their hands.

"Now", he said, "for a dollar, who can tell me if they do or do not have mud on their own forehead, and tell me why?" For a while all three just thought about it, not being able to figure it out. All of a sudden, one boy screamed, "Aha!". He then explained that he obviously had mud on his forehead. When the man asked how he knew that, he explained his reasoning to the old man's satisfaction, who then gave him a dollar.

What was his reasoning?

Especially these last two, are not to be done on paper. There are no charts, and not too many details to remember. It can all be done in the head, and end up being delightfully challenging. But why are puzzles like these so rare? Why do most books ignore these enjoyable challenges and instead use the boring, standard logic-chart puzzles?

A couple other example of puzzles are the quick ones, such as "How many weighings does it take to find the counterfeit coin?" Or, "With two pitchers that hold such and such amounts of water, measure such an amount." Or, "You have two strings that if lit, would burn for one hour each. How can you burn them to time fourty-five minutes?" If a book even had mostly the quick ones, and one or two really good ones, I'd probably want to get it.

Do such books exist? Or must I live with the very few really good puzzles that I happen to chance upon?

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Where are the *good* puzzle books?

Comments Filter:
  • why is the question wrong? I mean, it's subtraction from a whole, not multipication of the's freakin' me out.

    Good riddle. :)

    Unfortunately, I don't know where the good puzzle books are, either.

    • Think it out.
      A,B,C are the three men, BB is the bellboy, and IK is the inn keeper.
      All three pay the IK 10
      IK give BB 5
      BB gives A,B,C 1 each
      Add them together and you get 30
      Now go this way:

      What is wrong with the math?
      • Yeah, I get what's going on, but I'm not sure what's wrong with the math! It's different, one is easy, 3 x 10. But 3 x 9 does equal 3 x 10 - 3. It's creepy math. IT'S DEVIL MATH!!! :)

        No, if there's a real answer other than plain trickery, I'd like to hear it. I mean, it's not "trickery" as in slight of hand, just weird math.

        • It's the order that you do the calculations in that is the trick. It's hard to explain for me, but here it goes.
          the missing dollor is in the innkeepers hand, the people payed 28, two went to the bell boy, and then they got 3 back so the total was 27, but that includes the bell boys 'tip', so you don't add it again. It is creepy math, but maybe someone else here can explain it better.
          • Actually, it's even more simple than that. They payed 27, they got back 3, 27+3=30. So, the 30 dollars are 27 out-of pocket (25 to the innkeeper, 2 to the bellboy) and the 3 dollars that they just got back. The 2 that the bellboy has is part of the 27 that they paid, since they never got it back! Adding the 2 two to the 27 is where the question is misleading.

            The funny thing is, I asked it to my brother-in-law. He's an accountant. He didn't even accept the problem. :-)
  • by dmorin ( 25609 )
    Have you been to NPL, the National Puzzler's League []? This is pretty much what these people do with their lives. I don't expect that there's a list of puzzle books on the front page, but I'm sure that if you ask you'll get lots of responses. In fact, I'm going to point my NPL friend at your post and I'm quite sure she'll have a bunch of resources for me. They have a monthly newsletter full of puzzles, but I expect that from your description you would find only a small percentage of them interesting to yo
  • I have a 6' chain that I wish to hang on my wall. I will use two tacks (one for each end of the chain) and I wish to have exactly 3' of chain dangling in the middle (between the two tacks). How far apart are the two tacks?
      • Umm... 3'?

        Incorrect. You would like the center to be hanging 3' down from the two ends. If you put the two ends at 3' apart the center will hang less than 3' from the top. Think about it with the hint I just gave you.
        • I was about to dismiss it as a stupid question that required knowledge of who-knows-what. Then I read the reply. Um... wouldn't one tack do it?


          Anyway, on trick questions, there's "A pond is filling with lily pads every day, each day adding as many as were there the day before.* After thirty days the pond was full. On which day was it half-full?"

          * That is, on the first day it has one pad, on the second day one more pad came bringing the total to two, on the third day two more came bringing the total to
          • Your responce, yeah, one tack will do it.

            Q1: 29 days.
            Q2: I want to know if the 20th step is still slippery. As stated the frog would be out of the well (when jumping from the 17th step) however this position was labeled as a "step" and steps are defined to be slippery, implying a fall down to step 18.
            Q3: Is this one of those biblical questions?
            Q4: "A man with three sons and seventeen sheep died..." Is this one of those gramatical problems where the seventeen sheep are one ones that died?
            • Q2: I'm not going to answer that. :-) Just keep thinking about it.
              Q3: No, not at all. Though it may be about a millenium old.
              Q4: No. I said the Judge did something. Imagine it being a case in reality, rather than puzzle. What would you do?
              • Regaring Q2, I think part of my issue is when I heard the question originally it was a vertical wall problem where the frog could hold onto the side and would slip down. The height was in feet (not steps) thus when the frog was on top (the edge of the well, but out side) he couldn't fall back down in it.

                I'll ponder Q3 / Q4 sometime, they aren't just like hitting-me-over-the-head obvious right now, but I do likes a good puzzle.
          • This is how I would split the sheep. Each son ends up with more sheep than he was willed.

            Son 1: 9
            Son 2: 6
            Son 3: 2

            9 is 1/2 18, so Son 1 gets an extra half of a sheep.
            6 is 1/3 18, so Son 2 gets an extra third of a sheep.
            2 is 1/9 18, so Son 3 gets an extra ninth of a sheep.

            Like the bellboy problem, the math hurts if you think too hard.

            • Very good. And you almost have what the judge did. What the judge did worked perfectly though. Gur whqtr yrag uvf bja furrc hagvy gur fcyvg jnf hc. Gung npghnyyl oebhtug gur gbgny gb rvtugrra. Nyybjvat gur senpgvbaf gb jbex. Jura rnpu bs gur fbaf unq gurve furrc, gur whqtr gbbx uvf furrc onpx, naq nyy jnf jryy.

              The bellboy problem is actually very easy. :-)
        • Ah, I misunderstood the question; I thought you meant just having 3' inbetween (does ' mean inches or feet anyway? Never known as I don't use imperial myself...). Thought it seemed a bit simple :).
  • Forwarded by NPL friend who does not do Slashdot...

    The ones he mentions are all old and well-known. Many similar types of mathematical diversions can be found in collections of Dudeney (Henry Ernest Dudeney). The one I have from childhood, which seems to be currently out of print (but see below), is "536 Curious Problems and Puzzles". Dudeney was the "inventor" (or at least is credited as such) of many different types of puzzles.

    Here is a short bio: i

    • Thanx. Amazon (don't like B&N because they obviously screen comments) has the hard cover at about $4.00. I ought to check later. As for Martin Gardner, I have a couple of his books (Aha!) but he is a pompous fool. I'll read his books, but my view of him is low. He writes good stuff though, but some of his logic misses the point. As for Raymond, never heward of him, but I think I'll check it out later. Hmmm... I do have the Schezerhade book. The story is stupid, but some of ther puzzles are

It's later than you think, the joint Russian-American space mission has already begun.