Solutions to Last Week’s Detective Riddles!

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Last week, we delved into a curious cousin of brain teaser family — detective riddles. These crime-fueled and investigation-filled little logic problems often cast you as the detective, the accused, or simply someone putting on their deerstalker hat and endeavoring to suss out the actual truth.

And we couldn’t resist putting your puzzle skills to the test with a few detective riddles. Did you unravel them easily or find yourself stumped?

Let’s find out, shall we?


#1

A Japanese ship was leaving the port and on its way to open sea. The captain went to oil some parts of the ship and took his ring off so it wouldn’t get damaged. He left it on the table next to his bunk. When he returned, it was missing. He suspected three crew members could be guilty and asked them what they had been doing for the ten minutes that he had been gone.

The cook said, “I was in the kitchen preparing tonight’s dinner.”

The engineer said, “I was working in the engine room making sure everything was running smoothly.”

The seaman said, “I was on the mast correcting the flag because someone had attached it upside down by mistake.”

The captain immediately knew who it was. How?

Answer: The seaman was to blame.

The key to this one is paying attention to the ship and the flag. A Japanese ship would be flying the Japanese flag, and it’s hard to believe a white field with a red circle in the center could be hung “upside down.”

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#2

A chemist was murdered in his own lab. The only evidence was a piece of paper that had the names of chemical substances written on it. The substances were nickel, carbon, oxygen, lanthanum, and sulfur. The chemist only had four people come by his lab on the day of the murder: fellow scientist Claire, his nephew Nicolas, his wife, and his friend Marc.

The police arrested the murderer right away. How did they know who it was?

Answer: Nephew Nicolas was to blame.

If you know your elemental abbreviations, you probably noticed the correlation between what the chemist wrote down and one of the suspects. Ni + C + O + La + S spells the criminal’s name and points the finger at the criminal from beyond the grave.

#3

A man was found on the floor dead with a cassette recorder in one hand and a gun in the other. When the police arrived at the scene they pressed play on the recorder. It was the man’s voice. He said, “I have nothing else to live for. I can’t go on,” followed by the sound of a gunshot.

After listening, the police knew that this was a murder, not a suicide. How?

Answer: Dead men don’t rewind.

The cassette recorder was all prepped for someone to press play, which means someone stopped the tape and rewound it after the gunshot was recorded. If it had been a suicide, the tape recorder would have just kept running after the gunshot, since there wasn’t anyone alive to stop it.


How did you do, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers? Did you solve all three? Let us know in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you.

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Be a Sleuth with Detective Riddles!

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Brain teasers come in many forms. Riddles, logic problems, math puzzles, and deduction games all fall under the umbrella of brain teasers.

One variety of brain teasers that has always appealed to me is the detective riddle. It’s probably because, deep down, who wouldn’t want to glance at a crime scene and deduce what happened, a la Sherlock Holmes?

While brain teasers can consist of all sorts of scenarios, detective riddles usually center around a crime committed or a police investigation to be completed.

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Here’s an example of a detective riddle:

A dead female body lies at the bottom of a multistory building. It looks as though she committed suicide by jumping from one of the floors.

When the detective arrives, he goes to the first floor of the building, opens the closed window, and flips a coin towards the floor. He goes to the second floor and does the exact same thing. He continues to do this until he gets to the top floor of the building.

When he comes back down, he states that it was a murder and not a suicide. How does he know that?

This is a good example of the detective riddle, because you’re given all of the information you need in the writeup. Some detective riddles involve making strange, unlikely assumptions, which are a sign of a poorly constructed brain teaser. This one is fair, but not ideal.

The solution, of course, is that the window was closed on every floor, meaning that someone shut the window after the person’s body went out the window. (We ARE told that the body fell from “one of the floors,” but doesn’t that necessarily preclude the roof? That little question mark keeps this riddle from being an ideal example of the form.)

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Now, here’s an example of a bad detective riddle:

Nicole went to the police to report that someone had stolen her vintage ring. When the police got to her house they notice that the window was broken, there was a total mess inside, and there were dirty footprints on the carpet. But, there were no other signs of a break-in.

The next day, the police arrested Nicole for fraud. Why?

The solution? Well, according to the source I found: As soon as the police got to the “crime scene,” they knew that Nicole has most likely staged the break-in. The glass from the broken window was all outside of the house, meaning that it had been broken from the inside.

But the riddle doesn’t mention any glass. In fact, it says there were “no other signs of a break-in,” which would include the glass on the OUTSIDE.

See? This one is full of holes.

Now that you have a sense of how detective riddles work, let’s test your puzzly skills with a few!


#1

A Japanese ship was leaving the port and on its way to open sea. The captain went to oil some parts of the ship and took his ring off so it wouldn’t get damaged. He left it on the table next to his bunk. When he returned, it was missing. He suspected three crew members could be guilty and asked them what they had been doing for the ten minutes that he had been gone.

The cook said, “I was in the kitchen preparing tonight’s dinner.”

The engineer said, “I was working in the engine room making sure everything was running smoothly.”

The seaman said, “I was on the mast correcting the flag because someone had attached it upside down by mistake.”

The captain immediately knew who it was. How?


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#2

A chemist was murdered in his own lab. The only evidence was a piece of paper that had the names of chemical substances written on it. The substances were nickel, carbon, oxygen, lanthanum, and sulfur. The chemist only had four people come by his lab on the day of the murder: fellow scientist Claire, his nephew Nicolas, his wife, and his friend Marc.

The police arrested the murderer right away. How did they know who it was?


#3

A man was found on the floor dead with a cassette recorder in one hand and a gun in the other. When the police arrived at the scene they pressed play on the recorder. It was the man’s voice. He said, “I have nothing else to live for. I can’t go on,” followed by the sound of a gunshot.

After listening, the police knew that this was a murder, not a suicide. How?


Did you unravel these detective riddles? Let us know in the comment section below! We’d love to hear from you.

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!

Make the Season Bright (and Puzzly)!

Christmas is fast approaching, but there’s still time to put a nice puzzly spin on this festive holiday.

Naturally, we have a few ideas for how to do that without shelling out more of your hard-earned cash. (This is why you won’t see puzzle boxes or those marble-run boxes for gift cards here. This is all DIY!)

So let’s look at some puzzle-inspired ways to enhance your Yuletide endeavors!


[Image courtesy of Destination Imagination.]

Scavenger Hunt / Puzzle Hunt

Yes, this is always the first suggestion on our list because it’s a fun idea you can tailor to any age group. Whether they’re solving riddles, figuring out vague references to places in the house, or simply searching for gifts like Easter eggs, it can freshen up the Christmas morning experience to exercise their brains before they put their arms to work tearing open wrapping paper.

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Puzzles for Presents / Puzzle Password

I know a couple who absolutely love cryptic-style crossword clues, and on more than one occasion, before one gives the other a birthday or Christmas gift, they’ll have to solve a cryptic clue.

Often they’re about the couple themselves, or multiple clues will spell out a message. It’s a sweet little puzzly way to “earn” your gifts, if you’re into that sort of thing.

You can easily do this with kids by pretending the wrapped gifts are “locked” and they have to figure out a code or find a “key” to free the present. (Heck, some ribbons are so resilient that you really can lock up a present!)

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Paper Locks

Similarly, you can create actual paper locks to be opened or employ the puzzly art of letterlocking to create a little mechanical puzzle to be unraveled before opening a gift.

There are some wonderful DIY tutorials and YouTube videos out there detailing how to create these whimsical little challenges, and it’s pretty impressive how much you can do with some paper, glue, and creativity.

[Image courtesy of Nadim’s Craft.]

Origami Puzzle Box

And speaking of all the things you can do with paper, it should come as no surprise that there are puzzle boxes out there that you can create with the Japanese paper-folding art of origami.

Some are simple, some are complex, and yes, none of these will stop a child determined to get to that gift, but these are wonderfully intricate and stylish ways to present someone you care about with a gift experience they’re remember.


Do you have any suggestions for making the holiday season puzzlier? Let us know in the comment section below! We’d love to hear from you.

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PuzzleNation Product Review: Escape the Room: The Cursed Dollhouse

[Note: I received a free copy of this game in exchange for a fair, unbiased review. Due diligence, full disclosure, and all that.]

All this week, we’ve been discussing different ways to enjoy escape room-style solving from home. We’ve measured each style against the various elements present in most escape rooms — searching the space, finding clues, interacting with the environment, solving puzzles, and experiencing the narrative — to see which ones help scratch this particular puzzly itch from the comfort of your own house.

Today, we continue that journey as we look at ThinkFun’s most elaborate and engaging escape room puzzle game yet. Join us as we accept the challenge of Escape the Room: The Cursed Dollhouse.

Now, unlike our typical reviews which are absolutely loaded with pictures showing you the art, the puzzle layout, different solving styles, and so on, this review may feel a little sparse on the details. But unfortunately, when you’re talking about an escape room puzzle game that’s this involved, this elaborate, and this labor-intensive to bring it to fruition, I wouldn’t want to ruin a single moment of puzzle-solving fun for one of our readers.

So instead, let’s get into the spirit with a nice, spooky little intro.


Every neighborhood has that one house, the one kids whisper about. The one that inspires spooky stories and dares to see how far you can progress into the yard before you panic and run back to your friends.

Your neighborhood is no different. Mr. Garrity’s house has become that mysterious house, ever since his young daughter went missing. Now there are strange lights coming from the shed in his backyard, and other children have been reported missing.

What is going on in that mysterious shed? You decide to find out.

You sneak in, and you’re baffled to find nothing suspicious at all. Just a dollhouse sitting on the work table.

Except it’s glowing…

Drawing you closer…

Until you take one step too many…

Suddenly, the real game begins. And your puzzly skills are the only thing standing between you and a monstrous curse!


A three-dimensional interactive puzzle-solving experience, Escape the Room: The Cursed Dollhouse is one of the most impressive puzzle games I’ve ever seen from ThinkFun. (And when you consider their previous efforts involving magnets, lasers, and other fantastic elements, that’s really saying something.)

Designed for solvers 13 and older, The Cursed Dollhouse is expected to take upwards of two hours to solve, and between the setup, exploring the various rooms, and tackling the numerous different puzzles inside, that feels like a very fair assessment.

After sliding the box from its protective (spoiler-preventing) sleeve, both the top and bottom of the box itself open up to form the frame of the dollhouse. Thick punch-out boards provide the floor, roof, and various pieces of furniture for the house, and an envelope full of different materials await eager solvers to challenge their minds with mechanical puzzles, riddles, deduction, and outside-the-box thinking.

Furniture, walls, ceiling, floor… every inch of the playspace is utilized in some form or fashion, creating one of the most immersive escape room game experiences I’ve ever played. Heck, some puzzle apps aren’t this engaging, and that’s with no physical barriers or restrictions when it comes to the puzzles.

One of the hardest things to replicate from the escape room experience is the tactile sensation of puzzle solving. The sheer joy and satisfaction of physically manipulating pieces, moving objects, finding secrets, fitting pieces together, and completing tasks is very difficult to simulate in miniature.

But this game has that solving fun in SPADES. Virtually every piece has to be handled or used in some way, and getting to play around with these pieces puts all sorts of solving skills to the test, whether it’s jigsaw-style puzzling, pattern recognition, brain teasers, or logical deduction.

And anyone who experienced their fair share of escape rooms knows the feeling of dealing with puzzles in stages. Some of the game pieces and items you find are relevant to the puzzles at hand, while others must be tucked aside or saved to be carried forward into different areas. The Cursed Dollhouse is no different, offering puzzles for each room in the house as well as information and game pieces to keep with you that will prove vital later.

It can be a bit overwhelming to have so much at hand at once, but it’s immensely satisfying to slowly assign different pieces to their particular puzzles and eliminate them one by one. It’s like whittling down the puzzliest to-do list of all time, and it’s great fun.

They’ve even added a new spin to a classic puzzler’s tool.

Anyone who has bent their brain with one of ThinkFun’s earlier Escape the Room games, as well as readers of yesterday’s post, will be familiar with one of the key solving elements: the decoder ring.

Utilizing a system of symbols for every puzzle, the decoder ring even has a locking feature to add a touch more suspense to the proceedings. Once you’ve turned each wheel and lined up your symbols, you slide the locking lever to the side, and several small windows open in the center of the disc. If the symbols revealed match the puzzle symbol, you’ve got the correct solution!

It’s a nice little touch that adds a lot to an age-old solving trope, and seeing the faces of younger solvers light up when the ring confirms their solve is a terrific moment of puzzling to treasure.

Similar to the Exit: The Game products, The Cursed Dollhouse also has a guidebook. It offers descriptions of the narrative as you progress and instructions on when you can proceed. For younger solvers, it’s a solid framework for the sometimes chaotic and undirected energy of escape room-style solving.

The Cursed Dollhouse offers fewer moments of frantic running around, but you won’t miss it; you’ll be too busy poring over every inch of the house and the gameplay pieces to miss all the skittering about you’re used to.

Be careful, though; younger solvers and older alike should be wary of the tape and sticky substances holding many of the various gameplay elements in the house in place. I worried on more than one occasion that I might damage one of the gamepieces just trying to free it. They’ve traded a bit of user-friendliness in service to keeping the puzzle elements in their places.

The game also offers an online resource to print and recreate any puzzle elements you manipulate or destroy in the course of your solve, so that you can reset the game for other players. It’s a nice touch that ensures more players get a chance to tackle this devious series of puzzles, and also helps mitigate a price point that’s a little higher than the average at-home escape room set.

The webpage also offers solving hints and solutions for any puzzles that flummox you, complete with visuals and videos, so you can not only progress forward, but learn precisely how the puzzle works (so if you encounter a similar puzzle in the future, you’ll know what to do).

I really can’t say anymore with giving something away, so I can only hope this review has managed to convey just how impressed I am by this puzzle game. The amount of thought, detail, and care that has gone into it is staggering, only matched by the ingenuity and deviousness of the puzzle designers. It brings the escape room experience home like never before, and young solvers and older alike will find plenty to enjoy in this meticulously crafted package.

Plus it’s gloriously spooky, which makes it perfect for fall and Halloween solving.

Escape the Room: The Cursed Dollhouse will be available on October 1st from Amazon for $42.99, and it’s worth every penny.


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You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!

What makes a great riddle?

[Image courtesy of PNG Find.]

I have always suspected that riddles were our first experiments with puzzles and puzzly thinking. Long before crosswords, Sudoku, codebreaking, and magic squares, the potential for wordplay and outside-the-box thinking would have appealed to storytellers, teachers, philosophers, and other deep thinkers.

Who doesn’t enjoy unraveling a riddle, parsing the carefully constructed sentences for every hint and nuance lurking within, and then extracting that tiny purest nugget of a solution from the ether?

Riddles appeal to our love of story and adventure, of heroes with wits as sharp as their swords. Riddles are the domain of gatekeepers and tricksters, monsters and trap rooms from the best Dungeons & Dragons quests.

And so, for centuries upon centuries, even up to the modern day, riddles have been a challenging and intriguing part of the world of puzzling.

We can trace them back to the Greeks, to Ancient Sumeria, to the Bible through Samson, and to mythology through the Sphinx. Riddles abound in literature; we find riddles in Shakespeare, in the works of Joyce, Carroll, and Austen, all the way up to the modern day with The Hobbit and Harry Potter. Every locked room mystery and impossible crime is a riddle to be unraveled.

[Image courtesy of Campbell County Public Library.]

But this raises a crucial question: what makes a good riddle?

At first glance, it should be confusing or elusive. But after some thought, there should be enough information within the riddle to provide a solution, either through wordplay/punnery OR through looking at the problem from a different perspective.

Let’s look at an example. In this instance, we’ll examine the riddle from Jane Austen’s Emma, which is posed to the title character by a potential suitor:

My first displays the wealth and pomp of kings,
Lords of the earth! their luxury and ease.
Another view of man, my second brings,
Behold him there, the monarch of the seas!

The answer is “courtship.”

The first half of the riddle refers to the playground of royalty — court — and the second half to the domain of her suitor — ship — and when combined they form the suitor’s desire. This riddle is confusingly worded, to be sure, but it makes sense when analyzed and it’s totally reasonable when the clever Emma figures out the answer… and turns down the suitor’s attempt at riddly courtship.

[Image courtesy of Yale.edu.]

So, what’s an example of a bad riddle? Well, unfortunately, we don’t have to look too hard for an example of one. Let’s examine Samson’s riddle from The Book of Judges in the Old Testament, which he poses to his dinner guests (with a wager attached):

Out of the eater,
something to eat;
out of the strong,
something sweet.

The answer, bafflingly, is “bees making a honeycomb inside the carcass of a lion.”

This is borderline nonsense unless Samson actually told you the story of killing a lion with his bare hands and later returning to the corpse to find bees building a hive inside. So, basically, this riddle not only screws over his dinner guests — who lost a wager to buy fine clothing if they couldn’t solve the rigged riddle — and serves as an excuse to brag about killing a lion. Samson is a jerk.

This is a bad riddle, because it’s designed to be confusing, but does not offer enough information to get to the desired solution. It’s purposely unsolvable, and that sucks. Riddles shouldn’t be arbitrary or nonsensical.

James Joyce pulled this in Ulysses. Lewis Carroll pulled it in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. And each of these examples give riddles a bad name. (Even if they do serve a literary purpose, as scholars claim they do in the Joyce and Carroll examples.)

Even if you want the hero to seem (or be) smarter than the reader, the riddle should still make sense. When confronted with five riddles by Gollum in The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins solves four of them (and answers the fifth through charmingly dumb luck). It doesn’t hurt his character or make the reader feel like they’re being cheated when these riddles are resolved.

That’s another quality of a great riddle. Even if you don’t solve it, when you DO find the answer, it should feel like you were outwitted and you learned something, not that you were involved in a rigged game.

Oh, and speaking of learning, that reminds me of another example of a challenging yet fair riddle, one that comes from Ancient Sumeria (now, modern-day Iraq):

There is a house. One enters it blind and comes out seeing. What is it?

The answer, as you might have puzzled out, is “a school.”

Riddles can be devious or tricky; they can rely on misdirection, our own assumptions and biases, or careful word choice to befuddle the reader. But they should always be learning experiences, like the house you enter blind and leave seeing.

What are some of your favorite riddles, fellow puzzlers? Let us know in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you!


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Win a Shakespearean Lady’s Heart… With a Puzzle

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In the past, we’ve discussed some of the puzzly conspiracies and theories that surround the works of William Shakespeare. But we’ve never discussed the actual puzzle that appears in one of his plays.

No, we’re not talking about the clever wordplay that leads Macbeth to believe his reign is unassailable. In today’s post, we’ll look at the puzzle from The Merchant of Venice that held the fate of the heiress Portia locked away.

In the play, Portia’s father devises a brain teaser to prevent unworthy suitors from winning his daughter’s hand. It is most likely inspired by those mind ticklers where there are three guards or three doors to choose from, each with different conditions.

Any suitor seeking Portia’s hand must choose one of three caskets in the hopes of picking the one with Portia’s picture inside. If the suitor chooses the wrong casket, he leaves empty-handed.

The prospective suitor’s only hints are the words on each of the three caskets.

  • On the gold casket: “Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire.”
  • On the silver casket: “Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves.”
  • On the lead casket: “Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath.”

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[Image courtesy of Pinterest.]

The puzzle is less about being tricked by logic or wordplay than it is carefully reading what is right in front of you. It’s about presentation, assumption, and intention.

Not only is the gold casket the most ostentatious, but it stabs at the heart of “what many men desire.” It represents the fallacy of choosing something for beauty and aesthetics alone, warning the wrong-headed suitor that “all that glitters is not gold.”

The silver casket isn’t as eye-catching, but the inscription reveals how presumptuous the suitor is. After all, “as much as he deserves” implies the hand of Portia, and it’s presumptuous in the extreme to assume that he was automatically worthy of Portia’s hand for the simple act of picking a casket.

The lead casket is the least attractive physically, but the most insightful. The inscription of the lead casket is all about one’s intentions. The suitor who chooses it is promising to not only be generous and work hard — to give all he hath — but be willing to sacrifice for the hand of Portia.

The suitor who chooses the lead casket — and finds the picture of Portia — doesn’t do so out of trophy-hunting vanity or grossly overestimating himself, he does so by pledging to devote everything he is and has to the task at hand… being worthy of Portia.

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[Image courtesy of Pinterest.]

Of course, when it comes to both the play and Portia’s feelings on the matter, it works out nicely that the suitor who chooses the lead casket is also the man Portia loves.

It does raise the question, though, of what happens to the three caskets when Portia is married. Hopefully her father gave them to her as a wedding gift. Or at least melted them down into something more manageable. Imagine trying to pay your bills with caskets made of precious metals.


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