Classic lateral thinking puzzles with new twists – multiple original solutions – provocative clues – and a reader challenge to submit your own original answers


21. Too close for comfort.

A man can’t get to sleep one night.

He picks up the phone, dials someone, and says …

“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.


     Clue – He called someone close to him.

“I can finally afford to leave you!”

     Answer – The man called his snoring neighbor

Muxy’s Answer – The person he rang had done something to annoy him. By making the call, he knew it would keep the person up which made him feel as though the “books had been balanced”, thus giving him peace of mind to sleep.

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Experts regurgitate

Lateral thinkers evolve

Self-improvement with creativity. Take a look:

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22. NO CHARGE for the fly

A woman orders a cup of black coffee. She sees a fly has drowned in it, so she asks for a fresh cup.

The waiter takes away her cup and brings a fresh cup back. The woman says to the waiter …

“This isn’t a fresh cup of coffee”

How did she know?

     Clue – It depends on how you drink your coffee.

“Maybe if you tipped better …”

     Answer – The coffee that the waiter returned with had sugar in it.

Muxy’s Answer – The woman ordered her coffee “to go” so it was a disposable cup. She marked the cup with her fingernail.

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Imagine trying to build something without tools

Creative tools for evolutionary thinking:

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23. The Ping Pong Ball Retrieval

You’re locked in a room without windows. 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 several apples, a large piece of chalk, and a six-inch piece of string.

How do you get the ping-pong ball out?

     Clue – I’m deliberately distracting you LOL

 “Bounce that thing”

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

Muxy’s Answer – Break up the apples into tiny pieces that can fit between the ball and the tube. When you put the pieces of apple in the tube, blow onto the ball so it lifts and lets the pieces fall under it.

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SEE . . . “disruptive” lateral thinking in “action”:

Lateral Thinking Everyday Examples

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24. No Compass Required

If you stand at the magnetic North Pole, your compass has only one direction . . . South!

If you stand at the magnetic South Pole, your compass has 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.

“These things should come with instructions”

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

Muxy’s Answer – You are in a helicopter hovering exactly over the magnetic north or south pole.

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Life WITH creativity … is a better life

Try these useful pages:

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25. The greedy moneylender 

A farmer owes a great deal of money to an old and evil moneylender. There has been a terrible drought and he finds himself unable to pay his debts. He goes to see the lender, ready to accept the legal consequence of being sent to jail.

You have something I want that could cover all of your debts … your beautiful young daughter. If she accepts me as her husband, I will cancel all your debt”.

The farmer reluctantly takes the offer to his daughter.

“No, I couldn’t”, she manages, between her sobs, “He is over 70 years old and I am not even 20. I love you dearly but this is too much”.

The farmer returns to the old moneylender and informs him. The moneylender has another proposal …

What if we did this: tomorrow morning we go down to the river. In a leather pouch, I’ll place two stones, a black one and a white one. I will swear in front of witnesses that if your daughter pulls out either stone, all your debts are cancelled”.

However”, he continues. “If she picks the white stone, she shall have no obligation to marry me. If she picks the black one, she must marry me”.

The farmer is desperate, so takes the new offer back to his daughter and she accepts, hoping that the 50–50 odds will be enough.

The next morning they do go down by the river, both the merchant and the farmer 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 to say anything because if she ruins the deal her father will be sent to jail.

So now you are in the daughter’s shoes.

How can you be guaranteed that you don’t have to marry the evil, old moneylender, and ALSO guarantee that your father’s debts are fully forgiven and he doesn’t go to jail?

     Clues – Refusing to draw a stone or pointing out the moneylender’s deception does 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.

De Bono's tale of two pebbles

“Pay up … or let me marry your daughter”

     Answer – You drop the stone you pick as if by accident so that the stone falls amongst the many others on the ground and it is impossible to tell which is your stone.

You then point out that 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.

Muxy’s Answer – The daughter pulls out the stone, thus canceling her father’s debt, but immediately puts the stone back in the bag without revealing what it is.

     What’s Your Answer? – (Scroll to the bottom of the page to leave your answer in the comments section and PLEASE “like” this page)

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“Life’s greater purpose … is to evolve.

It is our capacity for creativity … that makes human evolution so exceptional

Lateral thinking is my passion … just in case you hadn’t figured that out yet LOL.

No matter what you do, where you live, or what you believe in … creativity “adds” something.

Take the time to do the free lessons on this site and bring creativity into your life.

If you genuinely need help with something on this site, contact me. I LUV a challenge.

 – Michael Muxworthy

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26. Bugged to death

A man lies dead with a beetle on his chest.

How did he die?

     Clue – This beetle featured in several great movies.

“Did he die of fright?”

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

Muxy’s Answer – The beetle is made of gold with jewels for eyes. It is part of the Pharaoh’s treasure as seen in the Indiana Jones movie. The man died in a fight for the treasure, the victor’s sense of irony compelling him to leave a small part of the treasure with the dead man.

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27. No Trophy For You

Brian wins the race, but he doesn’t get the winner’s trophy.


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

“It’s never about me”

     Answer – Brian is a horse.

Muxy’s Answer – Brian cheated or was disqualified. Cheats never win.

     What’s Your Answer? – (Scroll to the bottom of the page to leave your answer in the comments section and PLEASE “like” this page)

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Lateral thinking is an ESCAPE from the prison we’ve constructed from our beliefs and experiences

Why is creative and lateral thinking so important?

Break the shackles of our “BLINKERED THINKING”

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28. What Lights??

A man turns off the lights before going to bed.

His actions bring about the deaths of hundreds of people.


     Clue – He lives a solitary life.

“Those damned lights keep me up all night”

     Answer – The man is a lighthouse keeper.

Muxy’s Answer – The man recently went through a bitter divorce. He works as a maintenance engineer at the airport and found out his ex-wife was landing on the next flight.

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Creativity can be learned, and should be practiced

Practice. Easy examples:

Lateral thinking exercises

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29.  I Don’t Buy That.

Think of a historic reason for items being sold for $1.99, $0.99, $0.49 etc, instead of $2, $1, or $0.50?

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

“Don’t forget the five cents”

     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.

Muxy’s Answer – It also gives an opportunity for the salesperson to engage with the customer to offer additional services or products.

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Everything evolves eventually

It is our creativity that makes our own evolution exceptional

Embrace your creativity … realize your potential:

START this free creative course NOW!

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30.  Finger Puzzle

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.

“Left or right, it doesn’t matter”

     Answer – Zero.

It only takes one person without fingers on their left hand for that result to happen.

Zero times anything is always zero.

Muxy’s Answer – Which world are we talking about? If the question is asked by the first three visitors to Mars, the answer would be 125

     What’s Your Answer? – (Scroll to the bottom of the page to leave your answer in the comments section and PLEASE “like” this page)

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Go back to: New puzzles 1 to 12

Go back to: Classic puzzles 1 to 10

Go back to: Classic puzzles 11 to 20

OR … keep going!

Puzzles 31 to 40

Brainteasing puzzles for kids

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Submit your alternative answers here:


Check out the concise definition: What is lateral thinking?

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My work-in-progress first book is close …

Lateral thinking applied to the alien question.

Michael Muxworthy – Lateral thinking author of fiction