Brain Teaser Quizzes


THE PUZZLE IS ONE OF THE BEST TYPES OF GAME. Not only does it stop you doing something useful, and can actually keep you from your work for whole hours at a time, but if you are fortunate enough to “win” and solve the wretched teaser, you don’t have to tell anyone about it—so it’s almost as good as losing! If, on the other hand, you are naturally competitive, and enjoy a challenge, you can sit quietly in a corner with your puzzle or brainteaser, and all the pressures and tensions of the contest can seethe within as you wrestle with the problem, until that ecstatic moment when you solve it. Then you slump back into your seat with a smile of exhausted but self-satisfied triumph on your face.

For those who don’t think that tackling a puzzle matches up to the competitive thrill offered by the experience of running around, with other grown men or women, after balls of various sizes, let me assure you that the puzzle can not only be a most rewarding pastime, but is now actually an “in” thing. In fact, some of the most popular programs on TV are constructed round party games and puzzles. The mass audience show is the Brainteaser!

The time has come to look on puzzles as a social asset, ideal for breaking the ice on long journeys. So my advice is to learn a few by heart. Picture the scene . . a crowded train compartment, filled with silent commuters tired after a long day. Enter another such commuter, except that he has a spring in his step and a light in his eye . Courteously, he introduces himself, shaking hands with all the passengers. He settles himself down, and immediately senses that the atmosphere needs pepping up. “How many words can we get out of BRAINTEASER?” he says, turning with enthusiasm to his neighbor. “Come on, BAT, RAT, RESTRAIN; oh, there’s so many.” Soon the air is filled with many cries of “TAR,” “SEAT,” “ARAB,” “RABIES,” BEARSKIN,” “You can’t have that, there isn’t a K,” “BERATE,” and so on. “Are you allowed proper names?” and so on. The tedious journey has gone in a flash.

My dictionary defines a puzzle as “a puzzling question,” which doesn’t help much, but goes on to add that it is “contrived for the purpose of exercizing ones ingenuity and patience.” What is a little more surprising is that apparently a puzzle is also — and I quote—”a piece of wood, about a foot long, fastened to the lower jaw of a dog or horse, so that the pointed end projects in front, and prevents him from putting his head close to the ground.”

Finally let me leave you with the example by Ivan Morris, no mean puzzler himself, of the man from Mars who says to his friend, “As if that lot didn’t have enough unsolved problems already, they have to go and invent useless ones about blind Japa -nese professors in mazes, and men being each other’s uncles . . Maybe some of the problems on earth are insoluble, but the ones that follow here are not. So, if you want to escape from your own problems for a while, pick up this book. You can solve some of these problems and then the real ones may not seem half so bad!

Nicholas Parsons

THREE INTELLIGENT MEN, applying for a job, seem equal in all relevant attributes, so the prospective employer, also an intelligent man, sets a simple problem for them. He declares that the job will go to the first applicant correctly solving the problem. A mark is placed on each applicant’s forehead.. The three are then told that each has either a black mark or a white mark on his forehead. Each is to raise his hand if he sees a black mark on the forehead of either of the other two. The first one to tell correctly the color of the mark on his own forehead, and how he has arrived at the answer, will get the job. Each man raises his hand, and after a few seconds, one man comes up with the correct answer. What color is his mark, and how did he figure it out?

A man planted two poles upright in level ground. One pole was 6ft. 6in. and the other 7ft. 7in. above ground. From the top of each pole he tied a string to the bottom of the other, just where it entered the ground. Now, what height above the ground was the point where the two strings crossed? You may be wondering why we have neglected to tell you how far apart the two poles are. Their distance of separation is of no consequence. Two feet or two hundred feet, it will not affect the answer.

This is an unusual day, and so is this paragraph. How quickly can you find out what is so uncommon about it? It looks so ordinary that you may think nothing is odd about it until you match it with most paragraphs this long. If you put your mind to it, and study it, you will find out, but nobody may assist you. Do it without any coaching. Go to work and try your skill at figuring it out. Par on it is about half an hour. Good luck!

THREE MEN WENT TO A HOTEL and were told that there was only one room left and that it would cost $30 for the night. They paid $10 each and went to the room. The desk clerk subsequently realized that he had made a mistake and had overcharged the men $5. He asked one of the hotel’s other staff to return the $5 to the men. This other employee was not as honest as the desk clerk, though. He reasoned that, since $5 is not easily divisible by 3, he would keep $2 and return $3 to the men, so that each would get back $1. Each man therefore only paid $9 each, which totals $27 for the room. Add to that the $2 that the hotel employee kept, and

the total is only $29. What happened to the missing $1? Who had it, where did it go?


Dictionaries define JOHNSONESE in the following manner: “ponderous English, full of antitheses and words of classical origin.” The word is derived from the name of Dr. Samuel Johnson, the British lexicographer, who lived between 1709 and 1784. Johnson dominated the lexicographic world of the 18th century with his monumental dictionary which was published in 1755. Johnson had a great love of ornate diction and his pride in his mastery of it allowed him to contrive definitions for some of his words in his dictionary that were so intricate as to arouse amusement even in his own day. Given below are definitions of three common English words taken from Johnson’s dictionary. The definitions highlight what is meant by the term JOHNSONESE.

See if you can decide which three words Johnson was defining.

a.       an exotic and irrational entertainment

b.       a convulsion of the lungs, vellicated by some sharp serosity

c.       anything reticulated or decussated at equal distances, with interstices between the intersections

Two years ago, a man was offered a motorcycle for $1024, but he declined to buy it. A year later, he was offered the same motorcycle for $640, but again decided not to buy it. A little while after that, he was again offered the motorcycle, this time at $400. Again, he refused to buy it. Last week, he turned the motorcycle down even though the price had now fallen to $250. If the owner offers it for sale yet again, and he makes a consistent reduction, how much will it be for sale for the next time?

A commonly heard story is the one about the small sick boy in an upstairs bed-room, who hears his mother coming up the stairs with some reading material for him . He calls out to her, “Why are you bringing the book that I do not want to be read to out of up for?” This simple little question just happens to end with five consecutive prepositions! And didn’t our teachers drum into us that sentences shouldn’t end in prepositions? Goodness knows what a teacher’s reaction to five prepositions at the end of a sentence would be! However, we wonder if you can do better than the sick boy. Can you dream up a reasonable sentence that ends with more than five prepositions?


Oscar Wilde’s epigrams shocked and titillated late Victorian society. “I can resist everything,” he said solemnly, “except temptation.” Fox hunting he once described as “the unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable.” Some other Wilde epigrams have been scrambled and are presented below. Put the words back in order if you can.

a.       seriously to talk important is ever a far thing about life too

b.       charming and good people are absurd, to divide either into

          tedious or bad people is it

c.       us are we are in at but all some the stars of looking the gutter

d.       the one play cards one winning has always fairly when should

e.       in a sense romance spoils a woman as so much the humour of


f.       to be sure truth tells one later or if one is out the sooner found

A missionary visits an island where two tribes live. One tribe’s members always tell the truth. The members of the other tribe always lie. The truth-tellers live on the western side of the island, and the liars live on the eastern side. The missionary’s problem is to determine the truth by asking one native only one question.

The missionary, seeing a native walking in the distance, tells a nearby native: “Go ask that native in the distance which side of the island he lives on.” When the messenger returns he answers, “He says he lives on the western side.”

Is the messenger a truth-teller or a liar? How can you be sure?


Proverb of the Day: “A slight inclination of the cranium is as adequate as a spasmodic movement of one optic towards a equinine quadruped utterly devoid of any visionary capacity.” Well, could you put it any better?

Delete one letter from the word CHRISTMAS and rearrange the remaining letters to make a new word. Delete one letter from the new word and rearrange the remaining letters to make another new word . Keep doing this until there is just one letter left.


Only one 5-letter word is found in verse -------, Chapter ------, Book of ----------, in the Bible. What is it?

          (The numbers of dashes equal the number of letters in the words concerned.)

Two men at market were selling their apples, one at 30 for $1 and the other at 20 for $1. One day they were both called away when each had 300 apples unsold. These they handed to a friend to sell at 50 for $2. It will be seen that if they had sold their apples separately, they would have fetched $25, but when they were sold together, they fetched only $24. Now, you might ask, what has happened to the missing $1? Surely, 30 for $1 and 20 for $1 is the same as 50 for $2, isn’t it?

There is a well-known puzzle that runs as follows. An explorer walks one mile south, turns and walks one mile east, turns again and walks one mile due north. He finds himself back where he started. He shoots a bear. What color is the bear? The time-honored answer is ‘white’, because the explorer must have started at the North Pole. However, someone subsequently made the discovery that the North Pole is not the only starting-point which satisfies the conditions given in the puzzle. Can you think of another spot on the globe from which an explorer could walk one mile south, one mile east, one mile north, and find himself right back where he started from?



At first glance, this seems impossible. After all, it appears that the only thing any of the applicants can know is that at least one black mark is visible, and clearly the problem cannot be solved with just that information. Therefore, something else must be known, but what? The really intelligent person realizes that he also knows something of the reasoning process that must be going on in the minds of the applicants, and the solution may lie in that fact. Since all three applicants raised their hands, the intelligent person reasons, there were two possibilities: two black and one white, or all three black. If, there-fore, there were a white mark on any forehead, two men would see one black and one white and would instantly deduce that the third mark must be black. Since this instant solution did not occur, each of the three men saw two black marks. Therefore, all the marks were black, including that of the successful applicant.



TWO POLES UPRIGHT - - 42 inches. Use of simple geometry reveals that the answer to this type of problem is always obtained by multiplying together the heights of the two poles, and then dividing this by the sum of the poles heights.. Thus, 78 x 91 divided by 78 + 91.

AN UNUSUAL DAY - - The most common letter in the English language, E, does not appear at all in the paragraph.

THREE MEN WENT TO A HOTEL - - The cost of the room was $27 minus $2, or $25. The error comes from mistakenly adding $27. and $2., and getting the misleading figure of $29.



Opera, cough, and network. 


MOTORCYCLE - - - Each price was 5/8 of the previous price. So, the next price will be $156.25.

SICK BOY - - - The sick boy becomes an adult, he marries a girl from Australia, and she reads to him, just as his mother did, when he is ill. You should now be in a position to image him plaintively inquiring, “ What did you bring the book that I do not wish to be read on to out of up from Down Under for? Nine prepositions! Did you do better than that?


a. Life is far too important ever to talk seriously about.

b . It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious.

c. We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

d. One should always play fairly, when one has the winning cards.

e. Nothings spoils a romance as much as a sense of humour in the woman

f. If one tells the truth, one is sure, sooner or later, to be found out.

MISSIONARY - - The messenger is a truth-teller. If the native in the distance lived on the western side of the island, and was a truthteller, he would say so. If on the other hand, he lived on the eastern side of the island, and was therefore a liar, he would have say the same thing.


PROVERB - - - A nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse.

CHRISTMAS - - - Chartism, charism, charms, march, harm, ham, am, a

5-LETTER WORD. - -A book of 10 letters could only be Colossians or Revelation. A chapte r of 6 letters could be eleven, twelve or twenty. This eliminates Colossians because it has only four chapters. (Neither book has thirty chapters.) A verse of 7 letters could be fifteen or sixteen. The three chapters above (the 11th, 12th and 20th in Revelation) all have at least 15 verses, so any of the three are eligible. Chapters 11 and 12 in Revelation have more than one five-letter word in both verses 15 and 16. In Chapter 20, however, verse 15 contains only one 5-letter word which, oddly enough, is FOUND!


APPLES - -The two ways of selling are only identical when the number of apples sold at 30 for $1 and 20 for $1 is in the proportion of 30 to 20.

EXPLORER - - There is not just one other starting-point; there is an infinite

number. Imagine a circle drawn around the South Pole at a distance of about 1.16 miles from the Pole. Start from any point on the circle. After walking a mile south, your next walk of one mile east will take you on a complete circle around the Pole, and the walk one mile north from there will return you to the starting-point . So, the starting-point could be of an infinite number of points on this circle of radius 1.16 miles centered on the South Pole. But that’s not all. You could also start at points closer to the Pole, so that the walk east would carry you twice around the South Pole, or three times, or four times, and so on.


A FIRESIDE BOOK, published by:

Simon & Schuster Building, Rockefeller Center

1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10020

British edition © 1979 by Victorama Limited -

U.S. edition © 1981 by Prentice Hall Press

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