3. Riddles and Puzzles: Taking Things at Face Value?? Buyer, Beware!!

Life is full of instances where what you see may not be what you actually get. People are out to deceive you at every opportunity, and our own tendency to assume too much or read too much into things sometimes leads to us getting duped royally.

The rapid-fire puzzles that follow have something in them to mislead you and put you on the wrong path. Can you avoid the traps and get to the solution?


3.1    A man fell out of a twenty-four storey apartment building   window yet survived the fall without serious injuries. He was not Superman, so how did that happen?


3.2 A Maths professor asked his students to tell him how much dirt was there in a 1ft x 2ft x 3ft hole. All except one student failed to find the correct answer. Can you say what is the correct answer?


3.3 There was a cow tied to a rope of length 10ft. You had kept a bale of hay about 25 ft away from the cow. The cow was hungry but there was nobody present to help. Yet she managed to eat the hay. How was it possible for the cow to reach the bale of hay?


3.4 Would you say that the product of the first ten digits lies between 100 to 1000, or should it be greater than 1000?


3.5 Is it legal in any state of India for a man to marry his widow’s sister?


3.6 Publishers of dictionaries are supposed to know better, but I’ve always found an error in every English dictionary I’ve seen. And there always is a word that is spelled incorrectly in every dictionary. Do you know which two words I am talking about?


If you found the preceding rapid-fire round of puzzles too tame, the next set of puzzles should be much more intellectually stimulating, I believe!

3.7 The Sun is approximately 148 Million Km from Earth. This can also be expressed as 8.2 light minutes, as it takes light 8.2 minutes to reach the Earth from the Sun. The current speed of light is approximately 300,000 Km per second.

If we assume that daily sunrise time is at 5.52 am and something happened in the universe that the speed of light miraculously tripled to 900,000 Km per sec, what time will the sunrise happen tomorrow?


3.8    Most of us have seen a lot in our lifetime, but certainly there still is a lot left to discover and learn. Now, do you know of a place where Monday comes before Sunday?


3.9    You enter a bathroom and find the bathtub filled to the brim with water. You also see a short pipe, a gallon mug and a glass on the sink, and a very heavy iron bucket underneath it. How will you empty the bathtub in the least time?


3.10  Addition isn’t always straightforward, it seems. Do you know, once I added two to eleven and got one as the answer! Would you know what am I talking about? 


3.11  Two people want to cross a crocodile infested river. The only way to cross it is in a small boat tied on the side of the river, but the boat will only hold one person at a time. There is no way for the boat to get to the other side on its own, and there are no ropes which can be used to tow or pull it from the other side. Yet both persons cross the river safely. How is it possible?


3.12  A man dressed completely in black was walking down a road which was also black. He was wearing a black turtleneck sweater over black jeans, a black balaclava, black gloves, and black sunglasses. 

The streetlights were off and there was no Moon. Suddenly a truck with its headlights off came careening down the road straight towards him. Yet the truck stopped before hitting him.

The truck driver was an ordinary person with ordinary senses and ordinary reflexes, so how did he know he had to apply the brakes?


3.13  In the year 2015, a person was 30 years old but in the year 2020 the age of the same person was 25 years. How can this be possible?


3.14  My piggy bank is tubular with one end closed and a diameter just marginally bigger than the diameter of a 1 Rs Coin. Each coin is 2mm thick, and the piggy bank has a depth of 18cm. How many1Rs coins can I place in the piggy bank until the piggy bank is no longer empty?


3.15   Think it is an easy job designing a car? The quantum of Physics involved is mind-boggling. Now tell me this: which tire doesn’t rotate when a car makes a really sharp right turn?



How many correct answers do you think you got?  Check out the solutions below, and don’t hate me for some of the answers:

3.1 The building may be high, but where does it say that the man himself was on the top floors? In this case he fell out of his first-floor window, and hence was not seriously injured.

We put on mental blinkers so many times, assuming conditions and making presumptions without being expressly told. Sometimes we need to just absorb facts as they come in, and judge accordingly.

3.2  Hole (definition): An empty space in some discernible medium. “Empty”, isn’t it? Well, there can’t be anything in an empty space, so the correct answer is: “Nil”.

You can still thank me for brushing up your Mensuration formulae, though, if you did go about making those volume calculations.

3.3  The cow was tied to the rope, but nowhere is it mentioned that the rope itself was tethered to anything else. All the hungry cow did was to simply amble over to the bale of hay and eat it.

The lesson from this is: Never presume! Keep an open mind and an active imagination.  

3.4 Zero is one of the first ten digits, and we know what happens when we multiply by zero. Hence the answer to this is 0.

Did you really go about multiplying all those digits and numbers? I didn’t say ‘Natural numbers’, did I? Its amazing how many of us are so prone to seeing only what we want to see and acting on only what we think to be true, despite facts in front of us.

3.5 Well, if a man has a widow, then he is certainly dead, isn’t he?. Whatever you may feel about politicians, I don’t think they will ever get around to making marriage laws for dead people in any state.

Such “gotcha” type of puzzles show us how people get blindsided by an overload of data and simply can’t see the obvious. Master politicians so often make use of this tendency to divert attention and debate away from the real issues facing people. 

3.6 The word “ERROR” will of course be present in every dictionary. And the word “INCORRECTLY” will always be spelt so wherever it is published.

Sometimes we really should take given facts at face value! 

3.7 Irrespective of the time and effort you may have put into calculating the time differential due to changes in speed of light, I feel obliged to point out that the time of sunrise has absolutely nothing to do with the speed of light.

It would have mattered only if the Sun were to act as a lightbulb with an on-off switch, in which case while switching on the Sun the rays would have taken their due time to reach Earth. Currently, the only thing affecting time of sunrise is the rotational speed of the Earth about its axis, which hasn’t changed. The sun will still rise at 5.52am, just as usual.

In life, you will so often find obfuscation as the resort of those who don’t want you to see or realize the obvious truth. While the answer to this is a fairly straightforward fact that we all have learnt in our Middle School, the puzzle reels out a number of totally irrelevant facts and trivia to keep you mentally occupied and keep you from recalling this.   

3.8 The place where Monday will always come before Sunday is on the pages of a Dictionary.

We spend too much time seeking out complex solutions. Many times, simple solutions are the correct or the more elegant solutions. 

3.9 Well, the usual way of emptying the bathtub by pulling the plug will be quickest, don’t you think? Or do you really see yourself throwing bucketfuls of water down the drain with that heavy iron bucket?

Learn to look beyond diversions! Once again, the puzzle has a number of irrelevant facts in it to serve as a distraction. You must learn to weed out the irrelevant facts, and take into considerations only the facts necessary to arrive at a solution to a problem in life or at work.

3.10 I was adding time, of course:  When you add 2 hours to11 am, you get 1 pm as the answer.

Many a time, you will face a problem where some of the facts are implicit and not spelled out loud. When the obvious ways of getting to a solution fail, you need to consider alternatives: cases where the implicit facts will match what has been laid out before you. This would be another instance of thinking out of the box.

3.11 The two people were on opposite banks of the river, of course!  The person on whose end the boat was tied took it and crossed the river, then the other person took it and crossed safely too.

In this puzzle, once again many of us find ourselves the victim of strait-jacketed thinking. We narrow our focus so much that we fail to consider all possible alternatives. We must broaden our horizons. Never presume that restrictions to any of the possibilities are present, unless it is explicitly mentioned so.

3.12 The puzzle only insinuates, but never mentions we are talking about night-time. Everything given is valid for daylight: There will obviously be no moonlight, no streetlights and no headlights during the daytime. And the driver would have seen the man clearly in broad daylight. Thus, he stopped in time.

Here too, the imagery the wording of the puzzles conjures up in our minds is of blackness and darkness, but we need to be mindful of facts that are not explicitly given. The puzzle tricks us into coming to conclusions which are in a totally different direction from the truth. Once we begin to recognize this, the answer becomes glaringly obvious.

3.13 When we see that the man’s age is actually decreasing even though the years seem to be passing, this should tell us we are not talking about ordinary times. However, our conditioned thinking stops us from pursuing this line.

The only time in history when years get counted backwards was during the BC period. Hence it is obvious that we are talking about the year 2020 BC and 2015 BC, with 2015BC coming after 2020BC. Now we can calculate that the man was born in 2045 BC.

3.14 The moment I put in 1 coin, the piggy bank does not remain empty. How many coins did you calculate, by the way?

You see, all the ado about the dimensions and shape of the piggy-bank was merely a distraction to keep you from seeing the obvious. Smokescreens are the favorite resort of all tricksters, so you must learn to spot and evade them. That will stand you in good stead at work and in life too.

3.15 The spare tire, of course. If you believe your car can pivot completely on one stationary tire, you are watching too many fast & furious movies.

Common-sense is not so common anymore. We are far too used to complexities in life and convoluted ways of thinking nowadays. A good start would be to start relying on our common sense once again. That could really change a lot of things in our lives!