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Great Riddles:

When you rotate a bolt clockwise, it travels into the threads of a nut. When that same bolt is rotated counterclockwise, the nut and bolt will separate. Suppose you have two bolts aligned within each other's threads. If both bolts are rotated clockwise, will they move together, separate, or remain the same distance apart?

Answer: As you rotate each screw in a clockwise direction, they come together.

In many large cities, the light bulbs used in places such as subway stations are unique. Instead of screwing into the socket with a clockwise motion, they require counterclockwise turns. What sense does it make to have these different from most bulbs.

Answer: City-owned bulbs have opposite threads so that they won't screw into the standard light sockets that people have in their homes. Therefore, this discourages theft.

Suppose this is the early 1900s and you're in New York City's Little Italy getting a Pizza Margherita, named in honor of a pizza-loving Italian princess. Can you divide the pie into eight equal slices in only three straight cuts? All of the pieces must be identical.

Answer: Make two cuts to divide the pizza along its diameter into four equal parts. Then stack the quarters on top of each other. Make another cut down the middle of the stack. Although it might be messy, you will have eight equal slices.

If Erica lives in Washington and Tina lives in Buenos Aires, where does Mark live?

Answer: Copenhagen. Each person's name is the end of the name of the country in whose capital city they live.

What letter, apart from W, can be placed next to the V to leave a straightforward sequence? V?XYZ

Answer: V, because when placed next to the V it forms W.

A prince asks the king of a neighboring land for his daughter’s hand in marriage. The mischievous king tells him that he will only consent to the marriage if the prince can arrange ten coins to form the phrase “I consent”. The prince takes out ten coins from his pocket and begins to arrange them on the table in front of him. But no matter how he positions them he cannot form the phrase. Can you help him?

Answer: Arrange the letters in "ten coins" to form the phrase.

Sherlock Holmes was relaxing in his study when, suddenly, a snowball struck one of the windows overlooking the street below, causing it to shatter. Quickly, he went over to the windows to investigate and, looking out, just caught sight of the Willoughby triplets, Danny, Mark and Oliver, disappearing rapidly round a street corner. The next morning he received this anonymous message: “? Willoughby. I am certain he broke your window.” According to this, which one of the triplets should he question about the incident?

Answer: Mark. Substitute “?” for Question Mark.

Joe went to his hometown and met an old school friend he had not seen for years. His friend said, "I'm married now but not to anyone you know. This is my daughter. "Joe turned to the little girl and asked her name. She said, "I have the same name as my mother." "Then you must be called Louise," said Joe. He was right, but how did he know?

Answer: Joe's old school friend was a woman called Louise.

Two bicyclists are situated 60 miles apart. One has a falcon on his shoulder. The bicyclists start riding toward each other at the same time, both maintaining a constant speed 30 mph. The moment they begin, the falcon flies off the first cyclist's shoulder and towards the other. The falcon flies at a constant ground speed of 45 mph. When the falcon meets the other rider, he reverses direction and flies back to the first cyclist (who is now considerably closer). The falcon continues this back and forth pattern until the riders finally meet. How far did the falcon fly?  

Answer: The falcon's total distance is determined by the amount of time he was aloft and the speed he maintained. The speed is given. The time is derived from the two cyclists. Since the cyclists are 60 miles apart and drive towards each other at 30 mph, the total time elapsed is 2 hours. The bird flying at 45 mph will cover 90 miles I this two hour period.

Suppose you need to measure exactly 1 cup of water. All you have in your kitchen are two unmarked containers. The smaller container holds 3 cups and the larger holds 5 cups. How can you use these two containers to measure exactly 1 cup of water?

Answer: Fill the three-cup container with water. Pour it into the five-cup container. Fill the three-cup container again, and fill up the five-cup container. This will leave you with exactly on cup of water in the three-cup container.

You are driving a car with three wheels that can reach a top speed of 10 miles per hour. For safety, you bring a spare tire. As you drive the 50,000 miles, you rotate the spare with the other tires so that all four tires get the same amount of wear. Can you figure out how many miles of wear each tire accumulates?

Answer: Since the four wheels of the three-wheel car share the journey equally, simply take three-fourths of the total difference (50,000 miles) and you will get 37,500 miles for each tire.

A problem which had caused the loss of many thousands of lives and the loss of millions of dollars worth of property was solved with a can of paint and a brush. What was the problem?

Answer: Samuel Plimsoll initiated a movement, which led the British in 1875, and subsequently other nations, to draw a line, the Plimsoll line, on the hull of every cargo ship showing the maximum depth to which the ship could be loaded. Prior to this, many ships had sunk because they were overloaded.

A scientist weighs a jar of sleeping flies. Then, she shakes the jar to wake them up. While they are flying, the scientist weighs the jar again. Does the jar full of the flies weigh less when the insects are flying?

Answer: The weight of the jar doesn't change. In order to fly, the insects must produce downward currents that are equal in force to their weight. Therefore, whether standing or in flight the insects push down with the same force.

Suppose quintuplets, two boys and three girls, go to a movie theater and they all sit in the same row. If the row has only five seats:

1. How many different ways can the quintuplets (order of boys and girls) be seated in this row?

2. What are the chances that the two children at the ends of the row are both boys?

3. What are the chances that the two children at the end of the row are both girls?


1. There are ten possible combinations: BBGGG, BGBGG, BGGBG, BGGGB, GBGBG, GBGGB, GGBBG, GGBGB, and GGGBB.

2. The chances for two boys being at the ends are 1 in 10.

3. The chances for two girls being on the ends are 3 in 10

John wants to ship a baseball bat to his sister. The bat is 4 feet, 11 inches long. He places it in a rectangular box that is 5 feet long. When he takes it to the shipper, they can't send the package because it is too long. All dimensions of the package must be 4 feet or less in order to be shipped. When John comes home, he figures out how he can repack the bat. What does he do?

Answer: A box with 3 X 4 dimensions has a diagonal length of 5 feet.

There is one 8-ounce cup filled with root beer and another 8-ounce cup filled with cola. Take 1 tablespoon of root beer and add it to the cola. Stir the mixture. Now take one tablespoon of the mixture and add it to the root beer. Is there more root beer in the cola or cola in the root beer?

Answer: There is the same amount of root beer in the cola as there is cola in the root beer. For every drop of root beer that is in the cola cup, a drop of cola has been displaced and put in the root beer cup.

Suppose you have four pairs of black socks, three pairs of white socks, and a pair of red socks. What is the least number of socks that you need to remove to insure that you have at least one matching pair?

Answer: Four socks. In a worst-case scenario, if you draw three socks, each of a different color, the next sock you draw guarantees a matching color.

You start a hike by traveling directly south for 500 paces. Then, you turn and go due east for another 100 paces. You turn once more and go due north 500 paces. You are now in the exact spot you started from, but in front of you is a bear. What color is it?

Answer: White. The bear must be a polar bear. To conform to the given pattern, the hiker must begin the trek at the magnetic North Pole.

Joe and Max are identical twins. Joe was born before Max but Max is older than Joe. How can this be?

Clue 1: They are normal twins.

Clue 2: Joe was born first, but the birth certificates correctly show Max's time of birth as being before Joe’s.

Answer: Joe and Max were born on the night that the clocks are set back for summer time. Joe was born at 1:45 A.M. Max was born 30 minutes later. The clocks were set back one hour at 2 A.M., so Max’s official time of birth was 1:15 A.M.

She died because she packed to quickly. How did she die? Clue 1: She packed one essential item for a particular kind of journey. Clue 2: She packed material and string.

Answer: She was a sky diver who packed her parachute too quickly. It did not deploy correctly when she pulled the ripcord.

A man was born in Boston, Massachusetts. His parents were born in Boston, Massachusetts. He lived all his life in Boston, but he was not a U.S. citizen. How?

Clue 1: There was nothing strange or unusual about this man.

Answer: He was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in the early eighteenth century when it was still a British colony. He was British.

A pet store owner is counting all the birds and lizards that were delivered to the store. For some odd reason, she decides to tally only the heads and scaly legs of these animals. When she has finished, she has counted thirty heads and seventy legs. How many birds and how many lizards were delivered?

Answer: Let’s do it visually. If all the thirty heads belonged to two-legged birds, then there’d be only sixty legs. If one of the animals has four legs, then there’d be sixty-two legs. If two animals are four-legged, there’d be sixty-four legs. By continuing in this pattern until we reach seventy legs, we will get a combination of twenty-five birds and five lizards.

Suppose you have a list of numbers from 1 – 100. How quickly can you add them all up without using a calculator? HINT: There is a swift way to add these numbers. Think about how the numbers at the opposite ends of the list relate to each other.

Answer: The list contains fifty pairs of numbers that add to 100 (100+0, 99+1, 98+2, 97+3, etc.) with the number 50 as an unpaired leftover. 50 x 100 +50 = 5,050

Now it’s time to play with marbles. Place a marble in a large coffee cup and carry it to the opposite side of the room. Too easy? To make this task more challenging, turn the cup upside down with the marble in the part of the cup that holds liquid with nothing covering the opening and carry it to the opposite side of the room. Can you figure out the secret to doing this?

Answer: Start spinning the marble along the bottom of the cup so it pushes against the inner wall. When the spin is fast enough, the force overcomes the pull of gravity and the cup can be turned upside down without losing the marble.

While you were raiding the refrigerator, you discover a piece of bread that had fallen between the refrigerator and the wall several weeks ago. Needless to say, it is covered with mold. Since the mold started growing, the area it has covered has doubled each day. By the end of the eighth day, the entire surface of the bread is covered. When was the bread half-covered with mold?

Answer: This is much simpler than it may seem. Since the mold doubles in size every day, it covered half as much area only one day before on day 7!

This is an unusual paragraph. Study it, and think about it, but you still may not find anything odd. I'm curious how quickly you can find out what is so unusual about it. If you work at it a bit, you might find out. It looks so plain you would think nothing was wrong with it. In fact, nothing is wrong with it! It is unusual though.

Answer: The letter "e," which is the most common letter in the English language, does not appear once in the long paragraph.

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)?

Answer: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow!

What is black when you buy it, red when you use it, and gray when you throw it away?

Answer: Charcoal

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?

Answer:  The woman was a photographer. She shot a picture of her husband, developed it, and hung it up to dry.

Why is it better to have round manhole covers than square ones?

Answer: 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.

One day Kerry celebrated her birthday. Two days later her older twin brother, Terry, celebrated his birthday. How?

Answer: At the time she went into labor, the mother of the twins was traveling by ship. The older twin, Terry, was born first early on March 1st. The ship 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 every leap year.

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 the man?

Answer: It was day time.

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?

Answer: The surgeon was his mother.

There is a man who lives on the top floor of a very tall building. Everyday he gets the elevator down to the ground floor to leave the building to go to work. Upon returning from work though, he can only travel half way up in the elevator and has to walk the rest of the way unless it's raining! Why?

Answer: The man is very, very short and can only reach halfway up the elevator buttons. However, if it is raining then he will have his umbrella with him and can press the higher buttons with it.

What is everything to someone, and nothing to everyone else?

Answer: your mind

How many bricks does it take to complete a building made of brick?

Answer: Only one; the last one.

What does no man want, yet no man wants to lose? 

Answer: His job.


What has to be broken before it can be used? 

Answer: An egg.

           What has no beginning, end, or middle?


Answer: A doughnut.

What gets whiter the dirtier it gets?

Answer: A chalkboard or chalkboard eraser.

The more you have of it, the less you see. What is it?

Answer: Darkness

What book was once owned by only the wealthy, but now everyone can have it? You can't buy it in a bookstore or take it from a library.

Answer: A telephone book.

What happened in the middle of the twentieth century that will not happen again for 4,000 years?  

Answer: The year 1961 can be read upside down and that won't happen again until 6009.


Updated 2/19/10