[Math Lair] Lateral Thinking Puzzles

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Lateral Thinking Puzzles on Math Lair:
Puzzles: Page 1, Page 2, Page 3, Page 4, Page 5.
Hints: Page 1, Page 2, Page 3, Page 4, Page 5.
Answers: Page 1, Page 2, Page 3, Page 4, Page 5.

Here are a few lateral thinking puzzles:

  1. Dan threw a tennis ball so that it travelled a short distance, stopped, and then reversed direction and returned to his hand. Dan did not bounce the ball off of a wall or any other object, and no strings or other items were attached to the ball. How did he do this?
  2. A king, in order to select which one of his two sons will inherit his fortune, decides to have his sons compete in a horse race. This is an unusual horse race, however, as the king specifies that the one with the slower horse will inherit the kingdom. So, the two brothers proceed very slowly, and a few days later have made very little progress. They come across a wise man and ask him for advice. The wise man speaks two words, after which the brothers jump on the horses and race as fast as they can. What did the wise man say?
  3. A magician stands on a concrete floor holding a raw egg in his outstretched hand. He is able to let go of the egg directly above the concrete floor and have it drop two feet without having it break. How does he do this?
  4. A man was walking along a railway track when he saw a train speeding towards him. To avoid it, he jumped off the track, but before jumping ran ten feet towards the train. Why?
  5. A customer in a hardware store asks the clerk, "How much will one cost?" "Twenty cents" was the reply. "And how much will twenty-eight cost?" "Forty cents." "I'll take one hundred fifty two." "That will be sixty cents." What was the customer buying?
  6. Two plastic jugs are filled with water. How can you take the water out of the jugs and put it into a barrel, and still tell which water came from which jug without the use of any dividers?
  7. In a basement, there are three switches, all switched off, each of which controls a light on the main floor of the house. You may turn any of the switches on or off, but you may only go upstairs once to see which lights were affected. How can you determine which switch controls which light bulb?
  8. If it takes 3 men 3 days to dig 3 holes, how long will it take 3 men to dig ½ of a hole?
  9. You have three bags: one labelled "nickels," one labelled "dimes," and one labelled "nickels and dimes." You know that all of the bags have been labelled incorrectly. Your task is to reach into just one bag and select just one coin, and then relabel all of the bags correctly. How can you do this?
  10. A boy at boarding school, short of money, wrote to his grandmother asking for a small contribution. His grandmother replied, not with money, but with a letter lecturing the boy on the evils of extravagance. Nonetheless, the boy was quite pleased. Why?

The answers can be found at Lateral Thinking Puzzles Answers. Need a hint?

Also available on this site are a second page of lateral thinking puzzles, a third page, a fourth, and a fifth.