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Best of Lateral Thinking Puzzles – No: 1

Lateral thinking puzzles involve unusual situations in which you are given a little information and then have to come up with a ‘fitting and correct’ explanation. They are best solved through a dialogue between the quizmaster who sets the puzzle and the solver or solvers who try to figure out the answer. The puzzles as stated generally do not contain sufficient information for the solver to uncover the solution. So a key part of the process is the asking of questions. The questions can receive one of only three possible answers – yes, no or irrelevant.

When one line of enquiry reaches an end then another approach is needed, often from a completely new direction. This is where the lateral thinking comes in.

Some people find it frustrating that for any puzzle it is possible to construct various answers which fit the initial statement of the puzzle. However, for a good lateral thinking puzzle, the proper answer will be the best in the sense of the most apt and satisfying. When you hear the right answer to a good puzzle of this type you should want to kick yourself for not working it out!

Lateral thinking puzzles are the best possible exercises that promote and teach you to check your assumptions about any situation. You also need to be open-minded, flexible and creative in your questioning and able to put lots of different clues and pieces of information together. Once you reach a viable solution you keep going in order to refine it or replace it with a better solution. 

Our first puzzle in this series is a ‘classic’ and probably the best known and most celebrated puzzle of all. Like all lateral thinking puzzles, there could be many possible solutions which ‘fit the facts’, however only the ‘real reason answer’ is the one that is most truly satisfying.

Have a think, and ask your friends to join in – it’s most fun when these puzzles are tackled in a group where many possible answers are put forward. Eventually you can scroll down to the right answer !! :-))

1. The Man in the Elevator

A man lives on the tenth floor of a building. Every day he takes the elevator to go down to the ground floor to go to work or to go shopping. When he returns he takes the elevator to the seventh floor and walks up the stairs to reach his apartment on the tenth floor. He hates walking so why does he do it?

Hint: The man was not in need of exercise, nor did he have a ‘friend’ on the 7th floor who he would visit every time he used the elevator. These seem to be the most common and obvious answers :-))

This is probably the best known and most celebrated of all lateral thinking puzzles. It is a true classic. Although there are many possible solutions which fit the initial conditions, only the canonical answer is most satisfying, as this ‘exposes’ the mistaken assumption that is inevitably made when the situation is ‘perceived’ in our minds :-)).  Enjoy.

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Solution: The man was a dwarf – and using the elevators going up, he could only reach up to the 7th floor button !! :-))

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