Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Whimsical Wednesday: Riddle Me This!

Perhaps it’s the curse of being an only child, but ever since I was a kid, I’ve had a fascination with riddles and logic problems. In fact, I’m mad about them – mad, I tell you!

Occasionally, when free time has seemed possible, I’ve even been known to purchase mini-mystery collections and those giant puzzle books often available on the bargain racks of Borders and Barnes & Noble. Although such volumes usually teem with crossword puzzles, acrostics, and other similar word challenges – all of which I happily attempt – I’m truly tickled when I stumble across a logic problem, which is essentially a complicated riddle.

When I was really young, the riddles were fairly simple, but I have no doubt that they still helped to develop my intellect and stimulate my creativity. Here’s one that I recently remembered:

What word can be written forward, backward, or upside down, and can still be read from left to right? (Hint: You must use capital letters to figure it out, and although there’s only one accepted answer, I’ve since figured out at least two more.)

As the years passed, I began looking for harder and harder riddles, especially the philosophical ones... which is probably why I liked Gollum so much. Although he’s a selfish, pathetic, conniving creature in J. R. R. Tolkien’s masterpieces, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, he won me over with his repertoire of riddles. Here’s one of the oft-quoted ones (which Bilbo figures out by accident):

This thing all things devours:
Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;
Gnaws iron, bites steel;
Grinds hard stones to meal;
Slays king, ruins town,
And beats high mountain down.


As a teenager, I was especially intrigued by the rash of mystery riddles (usually involving a murder or suicide) that my classmates and I exchanged in the schoolyard. Here’s one that I actually figured out on my own:

A dead man is found in a locked room, hanging from the ceiling a few feet above the floor. The room is completely empty, except for a puddle of water below him. How did he die?

No doubt, you’ve heard all of these before. But, if not, do you care to venture a guess? Oh, and please feel free to share a riddle of your own – I’m always on the lookout for a challenge.

(Note: If you’re curious about other clever – and not-so-clever riddles – check out RiddleNut.com or Riddles.com.)

34 comments:

Lazy Writer said...

Oh, I love riddles! My dad used to throw them at me all the time. Here's one I remember from when I was a kid:

Seven people were found dead in a cabin on the top of a mountain. They all died at the same time. What was the cause of their death?

J.J. Bennett said...

These remind me of a Dan Brown book...LOL! Have you looked at your family tree?...Hmm....?

Laura Martone said...

Oh, goody, a fellow riddle-lover! That's cool that your dad taught you some... I don't remember my dad sharing any riddles with me, but he did teach me how to fish - which I always thought was cool.

Now, as to the riddle... carbon monoxide poisoning was the first thing that came to mind. But I'm sure that's not it. There must be a significance to the number seven and the fact that they died on the top of a mountain. Ooh, I know, an avalanche or hot lava flow from a taller mountain killed them... Obviously, I need more time to figure this out. :-(

Strange Fiction said...

NOON.

Strange Fiction said...

Time

Strange Fiction said...

He was standing on a block of ice when he done it?

Strange Fiction said...

'It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key.'

Laura Martone said...

Hey, J.J. Funny you should mention Dan Brown. :-) I was thinking about ANGELS AND DEMONS and THE DA VINCI CODE when I wrote this post... In A&D, the killer used words that could be read in multiple ways - like the first riddle in my post. And I've always been a little jealous of Sophie Neveu in TDVC, whose "grandpa" taught her riddles as a kid. Man, I wish. (Hey, if Dan Brown is related to me somehow, you think he could help me get an agent?)

Strange Fiction said...

Hmmm-What's the difference between an orange?

or

Which you rather be or a fire hydrant?

Sorry for the spam--I'm so not okay after I shop.

Laura Martone said...

Hi, Deb! Wow, aren't we the little commenter tonight? Apparently, shopping does do weird things to you. :-)

As for my wee riddles, you're correct on all three counts. But I'm a bit unclear on yours... am I not supposed to figure them out, or should I have foregone the wine tonight? Hmmm...

Strange Fiction said...

LOL! Yeah, I'm unclear on them as well. The cowpoke has thrown those at me for years... I thought maybe someone else could figure them out...cause I haven't :)

Bane of Anubis said...

Lazy -- I know that one -- airplane cabin (the one that always got me as crazy was the one about a guy who walks into a bar, orders an albatross sandwich and then shoots himself after taking a bite).

I'm a puzzle/riddle quitter -- if it stumps me for more than 5 minutes, I move on. Get me a game of boggle going though, and I can do alright.

Is that little Laura up there? Very cute -- looks like you're trying to pack dynamite or something ;)

Laura Martone said...

Deb - Well, I don't think I'd want to be an orange or a fire hydrant, but I wouldn't mind being a sprinkler. Does that help?

Bane - Argh! You figured out Susan's riddle - darn it! Okay, that makes sense, though my husband still insists it's a volcanic explosion that killed them all at once. Course, try explaining to him that there would probably no cabin or bodies left. ;-) I've heard the albatross one, too - doesn't it have something to do with the fact that, after discovering what a real albatross tastes like, he realizes that it was human he ate elsewhere, and he can't deal with being a cannibal? I don't quit puzzles, but I do let them go for a while and come back to 'em again after a rest. Ooh, boggle, Yahtzee, balderdash, I could go on. I love me some games.

P.S. Yep, that's me up there. I think I was three at the time - probably too young for riddles, but I don't have many childhood pics (post-Katrina), so a beggar can't be a chooser. Wait, are you saying I look constipated? That's my "bad" face. There were a lot of pictures with me making that face. Maybe I had issues as a child...

Laura Martone said...

Oh, my bad, Bane. I thought "pack dynamite" was a euphemism for bodily functions... where is my freakin' head?

LJWDesign said...

Laura, not to worry about where your head is. Given the people you hang out with, it's the conlclusion I would have drawn in your shoes...

Laura Martone said...

Teehee. Thanks, LJW. That makes me feel a little better... I think. Of course, now I'm questioning the company I keep. :-)

Laura Martone said...

Hey, wait, was that Linda?

marthawarner said...

*sigh* I so hate these things. I love crossword puzzles but this? Not so much. Of course I hated word problems in math class too. Which is weird since I excel at math- anyway, I digress.

Back to what I was saying. For instance, Bane's puzzle: How are you supposed to figure out the guy has eaten human before?

BTW, the only one I figured out was the dead guy and the puddle of water... :P Maybe I'm just not awake enough yet for these! lol!

Natalie said...

I like riddles too. My husband is crazy about them.

Your first riddle the work "I" would work too (or does that not count because it's only one letter?).

Becky said...

Have you "fished" through relatives' photos? I found childhood pictures in my grandma's things, aunt and uncles' house, etc... I'm still missing a good chunk of my childhood pictures though, but as my folks' house "only" had 3-4 feet of water, there were some up high that were spared. I had a few copies of really important family events that I was able to copy and return to my parents too. sigh....

I've always liked riddles too, but especially love those mechanical puzzles. My grandpa used to make those out of wood and wire and give them to me to solve. He was a high school math teacher way back when.

Becky said...

Oh, Is that City Park on a Live Oak Tree? My kids LOVE to go there. That and Audubon Park. Anywhere they can climb those wonderful trees!!

Regina Milton said...

Riddles, Logic games, Lord of the Rings. All my favorite things (except for chocolate and classical movies) in one blog post. Thanks!

Bane of Anubis said...

You do need to get your head out of the gutter -- yeah, that's the albatross one -- completely random and way out there...

Laura Martone said...

Martha - I'm sorry to hear that riddles and word problems torment you so. I used to love word problems in math class... even though I excelled at math, I guess I could see even then how much more I liked words... You must, too, given your recent post. :-)

Anyway, I'm also a big fan of crosswords, sudoku, Jumble, and all sorts of other puzzles. But you're right - Bane's example is one of the more ridiculous ones... you really can't figure it out without help. I'm more a fan of those like the one with the hanging man over the puddle of water... if you think about it in a creative way, you can figure it out.

There's another one kind of similar... about a guy found dead in his car, shot in the head, with no gun in sight and all the doors and windows locked from within (although how police would know that's true is anybody's guess - LOL).

Laura Martone said...

Natalie - Glad you and the hubby are also fans of riddles. My hubby's not too nuts about them. :-(

With the first riddle, yes, "I" and "O" (as in an exclamation - "O, Fortuna!") would also work... they are in fact one-letter words. That's the snag with most riddles - unless they indicate details like "must have more than one letter," all bets are off, IMHO. :-)

Laura Martone said...

Becky - In fact, that's how I found the photo above. My dad had it by chance. My mom, grandma, and aunt lost ALL of their photos... so I only have a few childhood ones out there. Believe me, right after Katrina, I searched every relative's stash available. Most of the houses in my family were COMPLETELY destroyed... either by Katrina herself or by the ten feet of water that poured into the houses.

As for riddles and puzzles... oh, I love the mechnical ones! You mean, those involving chains and rings and such? Like Rubik's cubes, they take me forever... but I'm a determined soul. :-)

P.S. And, yes, that is most certainly a live oak tree in City Park. How I used to love climbing trees there... sometimes, the urge even overtakes me as an adult, much to my hubby's chagrin.

Laura Martone said...

Regina - You're welcome! I'm glad I could accommodate you. I obviously love riddles, logic games, and LOTR, too. And I covered chocolate and classic movies in two other posts! :-)

Bane - But my head is often in the gutter - it's a natural occurrence, one for which I refuse to apologize. ;-P P.S. The albatross one is indeed random and crazy... I remember being so infuriated by that one as a child. One of my first WTF moments!

J.J. Bennett said...

Speaking of Dan Brown...Anyone finish reading his new book yet? My Mom bought a copy and I'm stealing it when she's done with it.

Laura Martone said...

Hi, J.J. My editor just "suggested" that I read THE LOST SYMBOL in order to write a travel post (on my travel blog) about the D.C. sites Brown mentions in his book, but, no, I haven't read it yet. I was hoping to boycott it in favor of smaller debut novels, but now it looks like I might HAVE to read it. Or maybe you could just read it, J.J., and take a few notes for me. I'm kidding - sort of. Teehee. ;-)

Bane of Anubis said...

Ha - I grew up in the DC area... one of the funniest things I saw recently was in the Transformers 2 movie -- these robots break out of the Smithsonian (Air and Space museum) and somehow end up in this area that resembles the foothills of The Rocky Mountains (mind you, the A&S museum is smack dab in the middle of the city)... I'm assuming DB did a bit more research than MB.

Laura Martone said...

That's right - I knew that, Bane - I mean, that you grew up in DC. I saw TRANSFORMERS 2 as well - and not that I'm defending Michael Bay, but I thought they "transported" from the Smithsonian to the Western desert. Still, I have no doubt that Dan Brown did a bit more research. He's good at that... and being an atheist, I think he's on to something in his previous books. :-)

Bane of Anubis said...

Perhaps I missed the 'transportation' part -- I just remember them knocking a hole in the wall and coming out into the mountains -- thought they did all the transporting later... ah well, I just figured it's an MB movie, go along for the ride, but I could have very well spaced for a a minute or two.

Angie Ledbetter said...

Who loves riddles & word games, hears crazy voices, fills in stories for strangers they see on the street, people watches, and analyzes motives and words spoken to them? Yep, writers. :)

Laura Martone said...

Hi, Bane! I just asked my hubby and he remembers the transporting bit, too, but we could both be wrong. We do share the same brain, you know. Besides, I think we can all agree on one important fact: TRANSFORMERS 2 was pretty awful. ;-)

Oh, Angie, truer words were never spoken! Although you forgot one... "Who fills notebooks with observations in tiny, cramped handwriting like that of a serial killer?" Oh, wait, that could just be me. Hehe.