Lateral thinking puzzles with clues and answers

11. Coal, Scarf, and Carrot Puzzle.

Eight pieces of coal, a carrot, and a winter scarf are found lying on the ground.

How did they get there?

     Clue – Winter is finally over.

Lateral thinking is the DELIBERATE breaking of the shackles that inhibit creative and original thinking

Imagination is the key:

Creative Memory Technique

     Answer – A melted snowman

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12. The Puzzle of Heaven.

A man dies and goes to heaven.

When he gets there, everyone is naked and appears to be only 18 years old. He sees a couple and recognizes them immediately as Adam and Eve.


     Clue – Adam and Eve were the FIRST man and woman. They must be different.

Puzzles that have ONLY one answer are technically NOT lateral

Good creative habits:


     Answer – Adam and Eve weren’t born from a woman so they had no umbilical cords or navels.

Alternative Answer – The man is Cain or Able and therefore recognizes his parents

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13. The Surgeon Puzzles.

A father and his son are in a car crash. The father dies while the son is taken to the hospital gravely injured.

When he gets there, the surgeon says, ‘I can’t operate. This is my son!’ The boy was NOT adopted.

How is this possible?

Clue – It’s a family affair.

I use puzzles to help me overcome writers’ block … it works!

Positive outcomes:

Creative Problem-Solving

Answer – The surgeon was the boy’s mother.

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14. The Chicken Dilemma Puzzle.

Six eggs in a basket.

Six different people each take an egg.

How is it that there is still one egg in the basket?

     Clue The last person …

Lateral thinking is closely related to insight, humor, and creativity. All four processes have the same foundation. Insight, creativity, and humor can only be gifted, whereas lateral thinking is a more deliberate and learned process

Creativity is merely the combining of things that already exist … in new ways:

Creative Combinations

     Answer The last person took the basket with them.

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15. An Arm of the Postal Service Puzzle.

A man with no left arm receives a parcel in the post. He opens the parcel to find a severed human left arm carefully preserved. He then re-wraps the arm and sends it to a second man.

Several days later, the second man, who also has no left arm, receives the package. He inspects the arm and then throws it away satisfied.


     Clue – The left arm belongs to the man who sent it in the first place.

Sideways thinking involves approaching a problem from a new direction—not deriving a solution from something that already exists, but actually backing off, looking at in alternative ways and thinking from the side

NO FEAR! Speak impressively on any subject at any time:

Creative Public Speaking

     Answer – The three men without left arms had been marooned on a deserted island together. Starving, they drew lots to give up their left arms for food. They had agreed that ALL three would give up their left arms no matter what. They were rescued when two of the men had given up their arms.

The third man was living up to his obligation.

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16. Bags of Marbles Puzzle.

You have 12 marbles and 3 bags.

How many different quantities can you load in each bag yet still have the same number of marbles in each bag?

And what are those quantities?>

     Clue – There are three quantities.

Creativity is the most important human resource of all. Without creativity, we wouldn’t have progress.

Exceptional goals require exception vision:

Creative Goal-Setting

     Answer – !2, 6, and 4. You can achieve this by putting one or two bags inside another.

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17. Which Light Switch Puzzle.

(Start young. Share the lateral thinking journey with your kids)

Three possible light switches are a long way from the cellar, with a difficult trip down rickety stairs to check which switch works the single light.

You only want to make one trip.

You are told that the other two switches should never be left on for extended periods as they no longer work and could cause a fire.

How do you determine which light switch is for the cellar light and only make a single trip down to do so?

     Clue – There is a ladder in the cellar.

Creative thinking is not a talent, it is a skill that can be easily learned

Challenge the way things are … even if they appear to be working well:

Escape Dominant Thinking

     Answer – Turn on the first light switch and leave it on for a few minutes, then turn it off and turn on the second light switch.

When you go downstairs, if the bulb is off, but warm, it is the first switch.

If the bulb is on, it is the second switch.

If the bulb is off and cold, it is the third light switch.

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18. Tall and Short Puzzle.

Two men want to open a high window in a completely empty room.

One man is big and very tall, the other short.

The short man gets onto the shoulders of the big and taller man, but he is just short of reaching the window catch.

Without leaving the room, or receiving any help or tools, how do they open the window?

     Clue – Their combined hights may be the same, but their combined hights plus . . .

You might be lucky and be born intelligent, but everyone can learn to become a lateral thinker

“WHY?” … is never a silly question:

Challenge Existing Concepts

     Answer – If the taller man stands on the shoulders of the shorter man, they achieve the extra reach of the taller man’s arms.

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19. The Secret Entrance Puzzle.

During a war, a man builds an underground bomb shelter for his family.

The very heavy steel cover of the deep verticle entrance must remain unattached as it often serves a purpose elsewhere.

The man is not worried that the heavy steel might accidentally fall through the hole and onto one of his children or wife though.


     Clue – Manhole covers use this strategy.

If you never change your mind, why have one?

Creative advice for the entrepreneurial spirit:

Entrepreneurial Creativity 

     Answer – The cover is round and can’t fit through the hole

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20. Marble in a Bottle Puzzle.

You place a marble inside a bottle and put a cork firmly into the neck.

Is it possible to get the marble out without removing the cork or breaking/cutting the bottle?

     Clue – It happens sometimes at a dinner party.

A concept is a brick. It can be used to build a courthouse of reason. Or it can be thrown through the window. – Gilles Deleuze.

Creative role-play:

Alternative Perspectives

     Answer – Push the cork into the bottle

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