Classic Lateral Thinking Exercises
Take a break from the
drudgery with some of these jokes, song parodies, anecdotes and assorted humor that has been collected from friends & from websites across
the Internet. This humor is light-hearted and sometimes slightly offensive to the easily-offended, so you are forewarned. I have taken care
to censor "humor" with reproductive function innuendo and hateful tirades, so it is all workplace-safe. I have also tried to warn
of any links that will result in audio clips so you can take appropriate precautions. Please send any potential candidates for this humor page
to the e-mail link above.
Humor #1 | Humor #2 | Humor #3
Test yourself with these thinking exercises. The solutions are at the
bottom of the page. Try hard to figure these out before you look! It'll
be a lot more satisfying.
- 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 truly satisfying.
A man and his son are in a car
accident. The father dies on the scene, but the child is rushed
to the hospital. When he arrives the surgeon says, "I can't operate
on this boy, he is my son! " How can this be?
- A man is wearing black. Black shoes, socks, trousers, coat,
gloves and ski mask. He is walking down a back street with all the
street lamps off. A black car is coming towards him with its light
off but somehow manages to stop in time. How did the driver see
One day Kerry celebrated her birthday. Two days later
her older twin brother, Terry, celebrated his birthday. How?
- Why is it better to have round manhole covers than square ones?
This is logical rather than lateral, but it is a good puzzle that
can be solved by lateral thinking techniques. It is supposedly used
by a very well-known software company as an interview question for
- A man went to a party and drank some of the punch. He then left
early. Everyone else at the party who drank the punch subsequently
died of poisoning. Why did the man not die?
- A man died and went to Heaven. There were thousands of other
people there. They were all naked and all looked as they did at
the age of 21. He looked around to see if there was anyone he recognized.
He saw a couple and he knew immediately that they were Adam and
Eve. How did he know?
- A woman had two sons who were born on the same hour of the same
day of the same year. But they were not twins. How could this be
- A man walks into a bar and asks the barman for a glass of water.
The barman pulls out a gun and points it at the man. The man says
'Thank you' and walks out. This puzzle claims to be the best of
the genre. It is simple in its statement, absolutely baffling and
yet with a completely satisfying solution. Most people struggle
very hard to solve this one yet they like the answer when they hear
it or have the satisfaction of figuring it out.
- A murderer is condemned to death. He has to choose between three
rooms. The first is full of raging fires, the second is full of
assassins with loaded guns, and the third is full of lions that
haven't eaten in 3 years. Which room is safest for him?
- A woman shoots her husband. Then she holds him under water for
over 5 minutes. Finally, she hangs him. But 5 minutes later they
both go out together and enjoy a wonderful dinner together. How
can this be?
- There are two plastic jugs filled with water. How could you
put all of this water into a barrel, without using the jugs or any
dividers, and still tell which water came from which jug?
- What is black when you buy it, red when you use it, and gray
when you throw it away?
- Can you name three consecutive days without using the words
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday?
(or day names in any other language)
- This is an unusual paragraph. I'm curious how quickly you can
find out what is so unusual about it. It looks so plain you would
think nothing was wrong with it. In fact, nothing is wrong with
it! It is unusual though. Study it, and think about it, but you
still may not find anything odd. But if you work at it a bit, you
might find out.
The solutions are below.
- The surgeon was his mother.
- It was day time.
- At the time she went into labor, the mother of the twins was
traveling by boat. The older twin, Terry, was born first early on
March first. The boat then crossed a time zone and Kerry, the younger
twin, was born on February the 28th. Therefore, the younger twin
celebrates her birthday two days before her older brother.
- A square manhole cover can be turned and dropped down the diagonal
of the manhole. A round manhole cannot be dropped down the manhole.
So for safety and practicality, all manhole covers should be round.
- The poison in the punch came from the ice cubes. When the man
drank the punch, the ice was fully frozen. Gradually it melted,
poisoning the punch.
- He recognized Adam and Eve as the only people without navels.
Because they were not born of women, they had never had umbilical
cords and therefore they never had navels. This one seems perfectly
logical but it can sometimes spark fierce theological arguments.
(Just what a HUMOR list needs!!) ;^)
- They were two of a set of triplets (or quadruplets, etc.). This
puzzle stumps many people. They try outlandish solutions involving
test-tube babies or surrogate mothers. Why does the brain search
for complex solutions when there is a much simpler one available?
- The man had hiccups. The barman recognized this from his speech
and drew the gun in order to give him a shock. It worked and cured
the hiccups--so the man no longer needed the water. The is a simple
puzzle to state but a difficult one to solve. It is a perfect example
of a seemingly irrational and incongruous situation having a simple
and complete explanation. Amazingly this classic puzzle seems to
work in different cultures and languages.
- The third. Lions that haven't eaten in three years are dead.
- The woman was a photographer. She shot a picture of her husband,
developed it, and hung it up to dry.
- Freeze them first. Take them out of the jugs and put the ice
in the barrel. You will be able to tell which water came from which
- The answer is Charcoal.
- Sure you can: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow!
- The letter "e," which is the most common letter in the English
language, does not appear once in the long paragraph...
...from the Wilkenson Family website
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