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rec.puzzles Archive (logic), part 24 of 35

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Archive-name: puzzles/archive/logic/part3
Last-modified: 17 Aug 1993
Version: 4

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==> logic/situation.puzzles.p <==
                      Jed's List of Situation Puzzles

   "A man lies dead in a room with fifty-three bicycles in front of him.
What happened?"

   This is a list of what I refer to (for lack of a better name) as situation
puzzles.  In the game of situation puzzles, a situation like the one above is
presented to a group of players, who must then try to find out more about the
situation by asking further questions.  The person who initially presented
the situation can only answer "yes" or "no" to questions (or occasionally
"irrelevant" or "doesn't matter").

   My list has been divided into two sections.  Section 1 consists of
situation puzzles which are set in a realistic world; the situations could
all actually occur.  Section 2 consists of puzzles which involve double
meanings for one or more words and those which could not possibly take place
in reality as we know it, plus a few miscellaneous others.

   See the end of the list for more notes and comments.

   The answers to these puzzles are available in a separate file.

Section 1: "Realistic" situation puzzles.

1.1.  In the middle of the ocean is a yacht.  Several corpses are floating in
the water nearby.  (SJ)

1.2.  A man is lying dead in a room.  There is a large pile of gold and
jewels on the floor, a chandelier attached to the ceiling, and a large open
window.  (DVS; partial JM wording)

1.3.  A woman came home with a bag of groceries, got the mail, and walked
into the house.  On the way to the kitchen, she went through the living room
and looked at her husband, who had blown his brains out.  She then continued
to the kitchen, put away the groceries, and made dinner.  (partial JM

1.4.  A body is discovered in a park in Chicago in the middle of summer.  It
has a fractured skull and many other broken bones, but the cause of death was
hypothermia.  (MI, from _Hill Street Blues_)
1.5.  A man lives on the twelfth floor of an apartment building.  Every
morning he takes the elevator down to the lobby and leaves the building.  In
the evening, he gets into the elevator, and, if there is someone else in the
elevator -- or if it was raining that day -- he goes back to his floor
directly.  However, if there is nobody else in the elevator and it hasn't
rained, he goes to the 10th floor and walks up two flights of stairs to his
room.  (MH)

1.6.  A woman has incontrovertible proof in court that her husband was
murdered by her sister.  The judge declares, "This is the strangest case I've
ever seen.  Though it's a cut-and-dried case, this woman cannot be punished."
(This is different from #1.43.)  (MH)

1.7.  A man walks into a bar and asks for a drink.  The bartender pulls out a
gun and points it at him.  The man says, "Thank you," and walks out.  (DVS)

1.8.  A man is returning from Switzerland by train.  If he had been in a
non-smoking car he would have died.  (DVS; MC wording)

1.9.  A man goes into a restaurant, orders abalone, eats one bite, and kills
himself.  (TM and JM wording)

1.10.  A man is found hanging in a locked room with a puddle of water under
his feet.  (This is different from #1.11.)

1.11.  A man is dead in a puddle of blood and water on the floor of a locked
room.  (This is different from #1.10.)

1.12.  A man is lying, dead, face down in the desert wearing a backpack.
(This is different from #1.13, #2.11, and #2.12.)

1.13.  A man is lying face down, dead, in the desert, with a match near his
outstretched hand.  (This is different from #1.12, #2.11, and #2.12.)  (JH;
partial JM wording)

1.14.  A man is driving his car.  He turns on the radio, listens for five
minutes, turns around, goes home, and shoots his wife.  (This is different
from #1.15.)

1.15.  A man driving his car turns on the radio.  He then pulls over to the
side of the road and shoots himself.  (This is different from #1.14.)

1.16.  Music stops and a woman dies.  (DVS)

1.17.  A man is dead in a room with a small pile of pieces of wood and
sawdust in one corner.  (from "Coroner's Inquest," by Marc Connelly)

1.18.  A flash of light, a man dies.  (ST original)

1.19.  A rope breaks.  A bell rings.  A man dies.  (KH)

1.20.  A woman buys a new pair of shoes, goes to work, and dies.  (DM)

1.21.  A man is riding a subway.  He meets a one-armed man, who pulls out a
gun and shoots him.  (SJ)
1.22.  Two women are talking.  One goes into the bathroom, comes out five
minutes later, and kills the other.

1.23.  A man is sitting in bed.  He makes a phone call, saying nothing, and
then goes to sleep.  (SJ)

1.24.  A man kills his wife, then goes inside his house and kills himself.
(DH original, from "Nightmare in Yellow," by Fredric Brown)

1.25.  Abel walks out of the ocean.  Cain asks him who he is, and Abel
answers.  Cain kills Abel.  (MWD original)

1.26.  Two men enter a bar.  They both order identical drinks.  One lives;
the other dies.  (CR; partial JM wording)

1.27.  Joe leaves his house, wearing a mask and carrying an empty sack.  An
hour later he returns.  The sack is now full.  He goes into a room and turns
out the lights.  (AL)

1.28.  A man takes a two-week cruise to Mexico from the U.S.  Shortly after
he gets back, he takes a three-day cruise which doesn't stop at any other
ports.  He stays in his cabin all the time on both cruises.  As a result, he
makes $250,000.  (MI, from "The Wager")
1.29.  Hans and Fritz are German spies during World War II.  They try to
enter America, posing as returning tourists.  Hans is immediately arrested.

1.30.  Tim and Greg were talking.  Tim said "The terror of flight."  Greg
said "The gloom of the grave."  Greg was arrested.  (MPW original, from "No
Refuge Could Save," by Isaac Asimov)

1.31.  A man is found dead in his parked car.  Tire tracks lead up to the car
and away.  (SD)

1.32.  A man dies in his own home.  (ME original)

1.33.  A woman in France in 1959 is waiting in her room, with all the doors
locked from the inside, for her husband to come home.  When he arrives, the
house has burned to the ground and she's dead.  (JM, from _How Come --

1.34.  A man gets onto an elevator.  When the elevator stops, he knows his
wife is dead.  (LA; partial KH wording)

1.35.  Three men die.  On the pavement are pieces of ice and broken glass.

1.36.  She lost her job when she invited them to dinner.  (DS original)

1.37.  A man is running along a corridor with a piece of paper in his hand.
The lights flicker and the man drops to his knees and cries out, "Oh no!"

1.38.  A car without a driver moves; a man dies.  (EMS)

1.39.  As I drive to work on my motorcycle, there is one corner which I go
around at a certain speed whether it's rainy or sunny.  If it's cloudy but
not raining, however, I usually go faster.  (SW original)

1.40.  A woman throws something out a window and dies.  (JM)

1.41.  An avid birdwatcher sees an unexpected bird.  Soon he's dead.  (RSB

1.42.  There are a carrot, a pile of pebbles, and a pipe lying together in
the middle of a field.  (PRO; partial JM wording)

1.43.  Two brothers are involved in a murder.  Though it's clear that one of
them actually committed the crime, neither can be punished.  (This is
different from #1.6.)  (from "Unreasonable Doubt," by Stanley Ellin)

1.44.  An ordinary American citizen, with no passport, visits over thirty
foreign countries in one day.  He is welcomed in each country, and leaves
each one of his own accord.  (PRO)

1.45.  If he'd turned on the light, he'd have lived.  (JM)

1.46.  A man is found dead on the floor in the living room.  (ME original)

1.47.  A man is found dead outside a large building with a hole in him.  (JM,
modified from PRO)

1.48.  A man is found dead in an alley lying in a red pool with two sticks
crossed near his head.  (PRO)

1.49.  A man lies dead next to a feather.  (PRO)

1.50.  There is blood on the ceiling of my bedroom.  (MI original)

1.51.  A man wakes up one night to get some water.  He turns off the light
and goes back to bed.  The next morning he looks out the window, screams, and
kills himself.  (CR; KK wording)

1.52.  She grabbed his ring, pulled on it, and dropped it.  (JM, from _Math
for Girls_)

1.53.  A man sitting on a park bench reads a newspaper article headlined
"Death at Sea" and knows a murder has been committed.

1.54.  A man tries the new cologne his wife gave him for his birthday.  He
goes out to get some food, and is killed.  (RW original)

1.55.  A man in uniform stands on the beach of a tropical island.  He takes
out a cigarette, lights it, and begins smoking.  He takes out a letter and
begins reading it.  The cigarette burns down between his fingers, but he
doesn't throw it away.  He cries.  (RW)

1.56.  A man went into a restaurant, had a large meal, and paid nothing for
it.  (JM original)

1.57.  A married couple goes to a movie.  During the movie the husband
strangles the wife.  He is able to get her body home without attracting
attention.  (from _Beyond the Easy Answer_)

1.58.  A man ran into a fire, and lived.  A man stayed where there was no
fire, and died.  (Eric Wang original)

1.59.  A writer with an audience of millions insisted that he was never to be
interrupted while writing.  After the day when he actually was interrupted,
he never wrote again.  (JM, from _How Come?_)

1.60.  Beulah died in the Appalachians, while Craig died at sea.  Everyone
was much happier with Craig's death.  (JM, from _How Come?_)

1.61.  Mr. Browning is glad the car ran out of gas.  (JM, from _Home Come?_)

1.62.  A man is sitting suspended over two pressurized containers.  Suddenly,
he dies.  (NK original)

1.63.  A man leaves a motel room, goes to his car, and honks the horn.  (AS

1.64.  Two dead people sit in their cars on a street.  (AG)

1.65.  A woman lies dead in the street near a car.  (AG)

1.66.  A riverboat filled with passengers suddenly capsized, drowning most of
those aboard.  (from _How Come -- Again?_)

Section 2: Double meanings, fictional settings, and miscellaneous others.

2.1.  A man shoots himself, and dies.  (HL) (This is different from #2.2.)

2.2.  A man walks into a room, shoots, and kills himself.  (HL) (This is
different from #2.1.)

2.3.  Adults are holding children, waiting their turn.  The children are
handed (one at a time, usually) to a man, who holds them while a woman shoots
them.  If the child is crying, the man tries to stop the crying before the
child is shot.  (ML)

2.4.  Hiking in the mountains, you walk past a large field and camp a few
miles farther on, at a stream.  It snows in the night, and the next day you
find a cabin in the field with two dead bodies inside.  (KL; KD and partial
JM wording)

2.5.  A man marries twenty women in his village but isn't charged with

2.6.  A man is alone on an island with no food and no water, yet he does not
fear for his life.  (MN)

2.7.  Joe wants to go home, but he can't go home because the man in the mask
is waiting for him.  (AL wording)

2.8.  A man is doing his job when his suit tears.  Fifteen minutes later,
he's dead.  (RM)

2.9.  A dead man lies near a pile of bricks and a beetle on top of a book.

2.10.  At the bottom of the sea there lies a ship worth millions of dollars
that will never be recovered.  (TF original)

2.11.  A man is found dead in the arctic with a pack on his back.  (This is
different from #1.12, #1.13, and #2.12.)  (PRO)

2.12.  There is a dead man lying in the desert next to a rock.  (This is
different from #1.12, #1.13, and #2.11.)  (GH)

2.13.  As a man jumps out of a window, he hears the telephone ring and
regrets having jumped.  (from "Some Days are Like That," by Bruce J.
Balfour; partial JM wording)

2.14.  Two people are playing cards.  One looks around and realizes he's
going to die.  (JM original)

2.15.  A man lies dead in a room with fifty-three bicycles in front of him.

2.16.  A horse jumps over a tower and lands on a man, who disappears.  (ES

2.17.  A train pulls into a station, but none of the waiting passengers move.

2.18.  A man pushes a car up to a hotel and tells the owner he's bankrupt.
(DVS; partial AL and JM wording)

2.19.  Three large people try to crowd under one small umbrella, but nobody
gets wet.  (CC)

2.20.  A black man dressed all in black, wearing a black mask, stands at a
crossroads in a totally black-painted town.  All of the streetlights in town
are broken.  There is no moon.  A black-painted car without headlights drives
straight toward him, but turns in time and doesn't hit him.  (AL and RM

2.21.  Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice all live in the same house.  Bob and
Carol go out to a movie, and when they return, Alice is lying dead on the
floor in a puddle of water and glass.  It is obvious that Ted killed her but
Ted is not prosecuted or severely punished.

2.22.  A man rides into town on Friday.  He stays one night and leaves on
Friday.  (KK)

2.23.  Bruce wins the race, but he gets no trophy.  (EMS)

2.24.  A woman opens an envelope and dyes.  (AL)

2.25.  A man was brought before a tribal chief, who asked him a question.  If
he had known the answer, he probably would have died.  He didn't, and lived.
(MWD original)

2.26.  Two men are found dead outside of an igloo.  (SK original)

2.27.  A man is born in 1972 and dies in 1952 at the age of 25.  (DM)

Attributions key:

   When I know who first told me the current version of a puzzle, I've put
initials in parentheses after the puzzle statement; this is the key to those
acknowledgments.  The word "original" following an attribution means that, to
the best of my knowledge, the cited person invented that puzzle.  If a given
puzzle isn't marked "original" but is attributed, that just means that's the
first person I heard it from.  I would appreciate it if attributions for
originals were not removed; however, this list is hereby entered into the
public domain, so do with it what you wish.

LA == Laura Almasy               RSB == Ranjit S. Bhatnagar       
CC == Chris Cole                 MC == Matt Crawford
MWD == Matthew William Daly      KD == Ken Duisenberg
SD == Sylvia Dutcher             ME == Marguerite Eisenstein
TF == Thomas Freeman             AG == Andreas Gammel
JH == Joaquin Hartman            MH == Marcy Hartman
KH == Karl Heuer                 GH == Geoff Hopcraft
DH == David Huddleston           MI == Mark Isaak
SJ == Steve Jacquot              JJ == J|rgen Jensen
KK == Karen Karp                 NK == Nev King
SK == Shelby Kilmer              KL == Ken Largman
AL == Andy Latto                 HL == Howard Lazoff
ML == Merlyn LeRoy               DM == Dan Murray
RM == "Reaper Man" (real name unknown)
TM == Ted McCabe                 JM == Jim Moskowitz
DM == Damian Mulvena             MN == Jan Mark Noworolski
PRO == Peter R. Olpe (from his list)
MP == Martin Pitwood             CR == Charles Renert
EMS == Ellen M. Sentovich (from her list)
AS == Annie Senghas              ES == Eric Stephan
DS == Diana Stiefbold            ST == Simon Travaglia
DVS == David Van Stone           RW == Randy Whitaker
MPW == Matthew P Wiener          SW == Steve Wilson (not sure of name)

Special thanks to Jim Moskowitz, Karl Heuer, and Mark Brader, for a lot of
discussion of small but important details and wording.

Notes and comments:

   My outtakes list (items removed from this list for various reasons, most
of which came down to the fact that I didn't like them) is now available from
the rec.puzzles archive server.

   There are many possible wordings for most of the puzzles in this list.
Most of them have what I consider the best wording of the variants I've
heard; if you think there's a better way of putting one or more of them, or
if you don't like my categorization of any of them, or if you have any other
comments or suggestions, please drop me a note.  If you know others not on
this list, please send them to me.
   Of course, in telling a group of players one of these situations, you can
add or remove details, either to make getting the answer harder or easier, or
simply to throw in red herrings.  I've made a few specific suggestions along
these lines in the answer list, available in a separate file.  Also in the
answer list are variant problem statements and variant answers.


   The game of situation puzzles is also known by a variety of other names:
mystery questions, story riddles, lateral thinking puzzles, mini-mysteries,
minute mysteries, missing links, how come?, situational puzzles, law school
puzzles, quistels (in the Netherlands and other parts of Europe), mystery
puzzles, and so on.  I prefer the term 'situation puzzles,' but I change my
mind every few years when a new term that I like more comes along.  At any
rate, here are some sources for these puzzles, under a variety of names.
Unfortunately, almost all of these books are out of print and extremely
difficult to find.  Try inter-library loan, and be prepared to wait.  I don't
know of any such books outside of the US (though at least the Sloane book is
also printed in Canada, Europe, and Australia), but I'd be happy to include
references to such in future editions if anyone sends me bibliographical
   On this edition of my list, I have included a few puzzles from these books
which I didn't previously have.  I've paraphrased them and cited the sources,
which I hope should be good enough to avoid copyright infringement; however,
I hope to contact the various copyright holders soon and get explicit
permission to include more of their puzzles.  If I fail to get that
permission, a few of the items on this list may go away in the next edition.

   _Games_ magazine (bibliographical data currently unavailable).  They ran a
situation-puzzle contest recently, but I have yet to see any of the results.

   _Math for Girls_ (bibliographical data unavailable).

   Rogers, Agnes, _How Come?_ (1953: Doubleday & Company, Inc., New York).
Library of Congress catalog number 53-5756.  OCLC #1612919.  The author may
also be listed as Agnes Rogers Allen.  With its sequel (see below), the
classic volume on the subject; is probably the original source for quite a
few standard situation puzzles, though Rogers says she does not know who
invented the form.  Nor does she know the source of most of those she
includes -- like all good folklore, situation puzzles are difficult to trace
to their origins.  Unfortunately, both these books are long out of print.
Besides their historical value, these two come furnished with delightful
illustrations of various wrong approaches to some of the puzzles.  These
versions were definitely intended to be read from the book, though; the
puzzle statements are much more long-winded than the versions in my list.

   Rogers, Agnes, and Sheehan, Richard G., _How Come -- Again?_ (1960:
Doubleday & Company, Inc., New York).  Library of Congress catalog number
60-13745.  OCLC #2580602.

   Sloane, Paul, _Lateral Thinking Puzzlers_ (1992: Sterling Publishing Co.,
Inc., 387 Park Avenue South, New York, 10016).  ISBN 0-8069-8227-6.  There's
a lot of overlap here with the rec.puzzles archives, including a lot of
puzzles that I wouldn't even consider doing as situation puzzles (such as the
infamous "12 balls" problem).  Still, it does have one or two nice situation
puzzles in it.  Warning: these are not lateral thinking puzzles in the sense
in which I like to use that phrase -- each puzzle has a definite correct
answer, and creativity and sideways leaps of logic aren't rewarded unless
they result in that answer.  Cover price $US 4.95; should be available (or
orderable) in most chain bookstores in the US.

   _Stories With Holes_ (bibliographical data unavailable).

   Weintraub, Richard, and Krieger, Richard, _Beyond the Easy Answer:
exploring new perspectives through creative problem-solving games_ (1979:
Zenger Publications, Inc., Gateway Station 802, Culver City, CA 90230).  ISBN
0-934508-00-3.  Contains a variety of puzzles and games, most of which aren't
really situation puzzles (and many of which are in the rec.puzzles archives),
plus some creativity games.  Out of print.

History of List:

   original compilation            11/28/87
   major revision                  08/09/89
   further additions               08/23/89 - 10/21/90
   variants added to answer list   07/04/90
   editing and renumbering         07/25/90 - 11/11/90
   items removed; title changed    09/20/90 - 11/11/90
   editing and additions           02/26/92 - 09/17/92
   more additions (incl. biblio.)  03/31/93 - 05/03/93

--Jed Hartman (as of 5/93)

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