Approaching a riddle

Riddles are something a person can get better at! Some riddles seem impossible at first sight. However, as you spend time thinking about them, analyzing (and re-analyzing) all the information you have, you do think of new concepts and ideas, and therefore manage to solve them.

And, as you solve many, many riddles, you start to find concepts and patterns. Applying these will, of course, help you in solving future ones. We decided to help you, and discuss a few things every riddle maniac should pay attention to when enjoying new problems.

Example riddle

Let’s provide an example riddle:

Two mathematicians meet each other in the street:

A: “Hey, how are you? Gosh, I haven’t seen you in ages! What’s new?”
B: “Well, I got married and have three children.”
A: “Wow! How old are they?”
B: “The sum of their ages is equal to the number of the floor where we played chess last time we saw each other.”
A: “This is not enough information.”
B: “The product of their ages is 36.”
A: “This is still not enough information.”
B: “My oldest child has blue eyes!”
A: “Ah, of course, now I know how old they are!”

How old are the children?

Click here for the answer.
(If you want to solve the riddle yourself, please do so now. The rest of the article contains the solution!).

Read it! Again!

The most important part of solving a riddle is properly reading a problem. Do note that in well written riddles nothing is by accident. Every word is crafted properly to give you just enough information to solve it, but trying to hide that information as much as possible.

I will just briefly touch the example above. At first reading, you only see that you are getting three pieces of information. Person B says that the sum of the ages is equal to the number of the specific floor, the product of children’s ages is 36, and the oldest child has blue eyes. Is this correct?

Also, how can this help, you don’t know where the hell they played chess? And the kid having blue eyes, how is that relevant? Thousands of people out there have blue eyes and you can’t guess their age (unless you are a fortune teller with a crystal ball).

Read the riddle again, and let’s analyze how much more info can be gained here.

First, let’s start from the floor number. Obviously to you, as the person solving the riddle, this means nothing, as you can’t know which floor that is. But, the person A was playing chess with person B on that floor, and to person A this is a known number. So, by getting this information you know that person A can do some calculations with that number, even if you don’t know what number it is.

Then, the person A responds with “This is not enough information.”. Most of the people do not see how they can gain any knowledge out of this. But – this answer tells you plenty. It tells you that there is at least two possible combinations with which person A can do the math where Age1 + Age2 + Age3 = Floor Number. As a basic example, had they played chess on the third floor, this would have been enough information, as the children would obviously be triplets aged 1 (for the simplicity here I am omitting the chance of a child being 0, even though that is an assumption that should not be made!).

Get the most out of the information you have

The next sentence coming from the person B about the product of the age being 36 is very direct. However, what does this mean to us? There is a lot of ways to get to 36, this is not enough to conclude anything! While this is your first thought, it is not really true. In order to get to a product of 36 there are not so many possibilities:

1, 1, 36
1, 2, 18
1, 3, 12
1, 4, 9
1, 6, 6
2, 2, 9
2, 3, 6
3, 3, 4

Not so many, but not so few either, ha? So – what to do with these combinations? Well, the person A responds that this is still not enough information! You have several clues that do not make sense on their own. However, we must combine them. Person A still not having enough information means that there must be more combinations coming to the same sum – the number of the floor where they played chess. If you sum up the combinations above, you will find that each of them gives a unique number, except two:

1 + 1 + 36 = 38
1 + 2 + 18 = 21
1 + 3 + 12 = 16
1 + 4 + 9 = 14
1 + 6 + 6 = 13
2 + 2 + 9 = 13

2 + 3 + 6 = 11
3 + 3 + 4 = 10

Hence, they have played chess on the 13th floor. In any other case, this would have been enough information for person A to deduce the children’s age.

So, when you find a new clue or piece of information, it is possible that it has no meaning by itself. But, combined with the other clues you have (or have not yet!) found, it takes you closer to a solution.

Misdirection

The oldest trick in the book. The magician makes you look one way while making a beautiful blonde appear behind you. You know you are being deceived, but because of the skill of the execution, you can’t figure exactly out where and when.

Misdirection is often used in riddles
as well. Sometimes in a really simple way, like the kids riddle where you tell them they are the captain of a boat, then go on and on about how big the boat is, how many cabins it has, how fast it can go, how many passengers it can hold… and after about a minute of this ask them about the captain’s shoe size. However, sometimes it is very tricky.

For example, when you read the riddle above for the first (and possibly even second or the third time), you must have thought about what blue eyes have to do with children’s age. Is it possible that one child is very young, and thus has blue eyes, as the pigment in the eyes has not fully developed?

It is far more simple, a trick of misdirection. When you hear the sentence: “My oldest child has blue eyes.”, you are immediately misdirected. Sentences in the English language (and any other language as well) have a basic concept of: subject – verb – object. Of course, any of these can have its own adjectives or adverbs, but the core message is always contained in this basic concept. So, the basic concept of the last clue is “Child has blue eyes”.

However, this is the misdirection. Had you read the clue properly, you would not have missed where the true piece of information is hidden:

“My oldest child has blue eyes!”

Blue eyes are purely a misdirection. The clue given in this sentence is the fact that there exists an oldest child! And, if you check the two combinations that were left from the earlier analysis, you see that the only possible combination is 2, 2, 9.

In a good riddle nothing is there by accident. Things are put in place to give you a minimal amount of information needed, while trying to hide its true meaning. So, make sure you don’t blink, otherwise you might miss an important clue.

How is this connected with Tailored Riddles?

A riddle is a riddle. Concepts are the same. The creators of Tailored Riddles are a sadistic bunch, and will do their best to hide clues and sources of information around as best as they can. A clue can be literally anywhere – in photos, in texts, in sounds, in the pub next door (well, probably not, but you should go and check anyway!). Our advice:

  • Read everything! Three times. If it is not readable (e.g. an image) – look at it. Three times. More if necessary.
  • Try to get all possible information from what you read or see. Sometimes you can get great value from what is there. Sometimes you can get value from what isn’t there.
  • Some clues have no meaning on their own. Pair them up with others. Google to learn more information about them.
  • Don’t get misdirected. Always bare in mind that the direction you’re looking at is the direction we wanted you to look at.

Think you are ready? Try creating a riddle for yourself and see if following these basic steps is enough to solve it. Good luck! Do note that we still have a few tricks up our sleeve.


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