Disruptive Creativity

Or, as coined by Edward de Bono

Lateral Thinking


Lateral Thinking Puzzles 21 to 30

21. Too close for comfort Puzzles.

A man cannot sleep. He picks up the phone and dials someone and says, “I’m just ringing to let you know that you’ve won the lotto jackpot. I’ll call you back soon to let you know how much you’ve won.” He can sleep now. Why?

     Clue – He called someone that was near.

Experts regurgitate what is already known. Lateral thinkers create the future.

     Answer – The man called his snoring neighbor

22. The Fresh Coffee Puzzles.

Something more complex?  Take a look at my lateral thinking exercises page.

A man orders a cup of black coffee. He notices a fly in it so he asks for a fresh cup. The waitress takes away his cup with the fly in it and brings a fresh cup back. The man says to the waitress “This isn’t a fresh cup of coffee.” How did he know?

     Clue – Not everyone would be able to pick this. It depends on how you drink your coffee.

Edward de Bono’s research concludes that the brain is a self-organizing system that interprets inputs into patterns. It is not then inherently designed for creativity. However, if certain lateral thinking tools are applied, the brain can learn to become more creative.

     Answer – The coffee that the waitress brought out had sugar in it already.

23. The Ping Pong Ball Puzzles.

Don’t bounce off walls trying to come up with fresh ideas. Free lateral thinking lessons.

You are locked in a room without windows, but there is a light on. In the center of the room is a twelve-inch tube solidly embedded six inches deep in a cement floor. At the bottom of the tube is a ping pong ball with a diameter slightly smaller than the tube. You have an apple, a piece of chalk and a six-inch piece of string. How do you get the ping-pong ball out?

     Clue – The items are meant to mislead you.

Being correct is what matters in vertical thinking. Innovation is what matters with lateral thinking.

     Answer – Pee in the tube and the ping-pong ball will float out.

24. No Compass Required Puzzles.

Why not bookmark this page for use later?

If you stand at the actual North Pole, there is only one direction . . . South!

If you stand at the actual South Pole. there is only one direction . . . North!

Where would you be, if you could go north or south, but not east or west?

     Clue – You can only be at this location in theory.

With vertical thinking, one may look for different approaches until one finds a promising one. With Lateral Thinking one goes on generating as many approaches as one can even after one has found a promising one.

     Answer – You are somewhere on the Earth’s axis.

25. The Greedy Moneylender ULTIMATE Puzzle.

This is one of the all-time classic lateral thinking puzzles.

If you’re having difficulty with these puzzles, why not try the free lessons available on this website.

A merchant owes a great deal of money to an old and evil moneylender. Due to unfortunate business circumstances, he finds himself unable to make a payment. So he goes to see the lender and inform, ready to accept the legal consequences.

Not to worry”, the old man says. “You have something I want that could cover all of your debts. I took notice of your beautiful young daughter. If she accepts me as her husband, I wouldn’t throw my new father-in-law in jail”.

The merchant reluctantly brings this offer to his daughter and asks her if she is willing to make such a sacrifice.

I am terribly sorry papa”, she manages to say in between her sobs, “but he is over 70 years old and I am not even 20, I would be throwing my entire life away. I love you dearly but this is too much. I cannot possibly do this”.

So the merchant returns to the old moneylender and informs him of her response. Yet the moneylender is not discouraged; he has another proposal to make.

I understand. And, contrary to what most people think, I am not a cruel man”. He takes a moment to compose himself and smiles. “Yes, I am sure that your daughter will not object to the following agreement: tomorrow morning we shall go down to the river. In a leather pouch, I shall place two stones, a black one and a white one. I will swear in front of witnesses that if your daughter pulls out one of them, all debts of yours towards me are forgiven”.

Moreover”, he continues, “if she happens to pick the white one, she shall have no obligation to marry me. If however, she picks the black one, all debts will still be forgiven, but she will now have to marry me”.

When the new proposal is presented to the daughter she accepts, hoping that the 50–50 odds will be enough for her to escape the marriage.

The next morning they do go down by the river, both the merchant and the old man swear in front of witnesses of their agreement. However, the daughter catches with the corner of her eye the moneylender picking up two black stones, instead of a black and a white one, and dropping them both in his pouch. She dares not say anything because if she ruins the deal her father is going to jail.

So now you are in the daughter’s shoes.

The old man, smirking, is offering you the pouch for you to pull out the one stone agreed upon. The stone that will determine your future.

What do you do?

     Clues – Refusing to draw a stone or pointing out the moneylender’s trick do not work: you may feel vindicated – but your father ends up in jail for his debts.

Attempting to substitute a black stone with a white one of your own or trying to change the deal so that black now means no obligation to marry him do not work either: the old man is the one holding the pouch, he can feel its weight – and he is not stupid.

Throwing the old man into the river to drown is no solution either: your father goes to jail for his debts to the old man’s estate and you go on trial for murdering him.

Finally, this is not a play-on-words kind of a puzzle. So “drawing” a white stone on a piece of paper may sound cute but will not allow you to escape the old man’s intentions.

Lateral thinking puzzles are often strange situations that require explanation.

     Answer – You drop the stone as if by accident so that the stone falls amongst the many others on the ground so that it is impossible to tell which is your stone. You then say it is easy enough to know which stone you selected by looking at the stone left in the bag. It is a black stone, so, you must have chosen the white stone. The moneylender must accept the outcome or be found out as being a cheat.

Half way! How are you going? Here’s something different to refresh you.

If you’re struggling with these lateral thinking puzzles, consider engaging the lateral thinking lessons offered FREE here on this website. Here’s a bit of a brainteaser to freshen you up before the next 25 puzzles:

Puzzle I like

The answer to the Brain Teaser: FIVE

One rabbit, two monkeys, and two parrots. The six elephants (who aren’t heading to the river) all see the same two monkeys. LOL

26. Dead Man and a Beetle Puzzle.

Education can sometimes be a disadvantage when solving these lateral thinking puzzles. Check out Lesson One on this website to understand how.

A man lies dead with a beetle on his chest. How did he die?

     Clue – This beetle featured in several great movies.

“I solve the crimes of our preconceived thinking”

Michael John Muxworthy – Lateral Thinking Author of Fiction

     Answer – The beetle is actually a Volkswagon beetle. It fell on the man as he was underneath doing repairs.

27. No Trophy Puzzle.

The stimulated mind is more accepting of new concepts.

Brian wins the race, but he doesn’t get the trophy. Why?

     Clue – The trophy is never given to winners like Brian.

“Lateral thinking is an ESCAPE from the prison we’ve constructed from our beliefs and understandings”

Michael John Muxworthy – Lateral Thinking Author of Fiction

     Answer – Brian is a horse. (A second answer often given is that Brian cheated)

28. What Lights?? Puzzle.

Try this. Open your meetings with one of these lateral thinking puzzles and see how much more productive they are.

A man living an isolated life goes to bed and turns off the lights. This causes the death of hundreds. How?

     Clue – His actions created quite a storm.

“We are all prisoners of what we believe”

Michael John Muxworthy – Lateral Thinking Author of Fiction

     Answer – The man was a lighthouse keeper.

29.  I Don’t Buy That Puzzle.

My friends sometimes think I’m a little eccentric when I throw these types of puzzles at them. They keep coming back for more though.

What is the historic reason for items being sold for $1.99, $0.99 etc, instead of $2, or $1?

Clue – It isn’t because it makes the items sound cheaper.

“Lateral thinking involves the solving of problems by an indirect or creative approach, typically by viewing the problem in a new and unusual light”

     Answer – It is because it is necessary to give the customer change. This means that the register must be opened for each sale, discouraging staff from pocketing the sale proceeds.

30.  Finger Puzzle.

I often use this puzzle when I do training or lectures. The stimulated mind is more accepting to new concepts.

If we took the number of fingers on every left hand in the world and multiplied by each other, what will the answer be?

     Clue – The answer will always be the same.

“We should never have trusted the aliens” 


Michael John Muxworthy – Lateral Thinking Author of Fiction

     Answer – Zero. It only takes one person without fingers on their left hand for that result to happen. Zero times anything is always zero.







Michael Muxworthy Sci-fi Novel
Coming soon – Michael Muxworthy

Michael Muxworthy – Lateral thinking author of fiction