It takes two to puzzle…

I’m always on the lookout for new and different puzzle styles to discuss here, because there’s a seemingly endless supply of puzzly inventiveness in the world, and I endeavor to share as much of it as possible with my fellow PuzzleNationers.

A few days ago, I was reminded of a brain teaser variation that’s a little different from our usual fare, and I thought I’d put it in the spotlight.

Today, we’re talking about guided lateral thinking puzzles!

Let me start you off with a standard lateral thinking puzzle (which is a fancy way of saying “brain teaser”). This one is an all-time favorite of mine:

A man is found murdered on the floor with 53 bicycles scattered around the room. How did he die?

Now, this may sound like a particularly violent end at a local bike shop, but the lateral thinkers and brain teaser proficient types out there have probably already sussed out the true answer.

The man cheated at cards and was killed for it. Bicycle is a famous brand of playing cards, and with 52 cards in your standard deck, 53 implies cheating.

That’s a pretty simple one.

The difference between regular brain teasers like that one and guided lateral thinking puzzles is that a guided lateral thinking puzzle requires two people: one to ask questions in the hopes of solving it, and the other to know the solution and answer the other player’s questions with only yes or no responses.

The scenarios are often more involved than your usual brain teaser, but you’re only given a brief story to start with. These are not rigid brain teasers like the seesaw one we tackled earlier this year. These puzzles depend on your ability to narrow down the possibilities with strategically worded questions.

Here’s an example of a guided lateral thinking puzzle:

Ann, Ben, and Chris are siblings who were conceived on the same day. This year, Ann will be attending third grade while Ben and Chris attend kindergarten. Why?

While you could try to come up with a solution with just this information, guided lateral thinking puzzles encourage you to talk through your suspicions as you ask questions and uncover the truth.

So, what would you ask? What’s your starting theory? (My first instinct was to go straight to imagining how Leap Day was involved, before quickly realizing that was a ridiculous supposition.)

But maybe you have a better theory. Were they conceived by different people? Was it the same day, but different years?

Posing these questions to your partner in puzzly crime could help you find the answer.

The folks at I09 posted a link to six guided lateral thinking puzzles (including the Ann/Ben/Chris one I mentioned above). Give it a listen and try cracking these puzzles alongside the podcasters!

And let me know how you did! Did you solve any of them right away? Did any of them thoroughly stump you? And would you like to see more puzzles like this on PuzzleNation Blog in the future?

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