Brilliance Expected

8 May, 2009

I have come to the conclusion that commenter’s on this blog (well, most of them) are brilliant people.  I spend hours, sometimes days, working on a post.  I put it out there and, within hours (sometimes minutes), one of you has either pointed out the obvious (in retrospect) hole, or added the one insight which would have made the post perfect.  Fine.  Be that way.

Here, then, is a challenge.  Five questions of cunning stupidity.  I got three rather quickly.  The other two, I had to look at the answers.  Ready for the quiz?

 1. A murderer is condemned to death. He has to choose between three  rooms. The first is full of raging fires, the second is full of assassins  with loaded guns, and the third is full of lions that haven’t eaten in 3  years. Which room is safest for him?

  2. 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?

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

 4. Can you name three consecutive days without using the words Wednesday,  Friday, or Sunday? 

 5. This is an unusual paragraph. I’m curious as to just how quickly you  can find out what is so unusual about it.  It looks so ordinary and plain  that you would think nothing was wrong with it.  In fact, nothing is  wrong with it!  It is highly unusual though. Study it and think about it,  but you still may not find anything odd.  But if you work at it a bit,
 you might find out.  Try to do so without any coaching!

Go ahead and put your answers in the comments.  Now for the tough part:  are there non-obvious answers out there?  Ones which normal Americans would not grok?  After all, ya’ll rocked when I did these about a year ago (and here are the highly imaginative answers).  Go for it.



  1. 1. Assasins do not kill indiscriminately.

    2. Shoots him with a toy gun. Holds him underwater while they’re in a warm embrace in a bathtub. It didn’t say hold her husbands head underwater. She then scolded him and hung him out to dry for something he did.

    4. 1st, 2nd and 3rd of May.

    Need to think more about 3 and 5.

  2. 1. Lion skeletons are very interesting.
    2. Photographers have (or had)darkrooms and often photograph those they love.
    4. Like Temaskian said OR Luni, Mardi, Mercredi, etc. in your non-English language of choice.
    5. That’s a long time to go without using E.

    #3 I’m still thinking about. It’ll come to me or else I’ll feel really really stupid when you tell us, won’t I?

    Thanks, Billy. I enjoy your blog, and it’s now on my daily cruise.

  3. 1. Dead lions, even a room full of them, probably will be easy to avoid.

    2. it’s difficult to write these answers without seeing other people’s comments… so you’ll just have to trust me that I got the photography thing before I saw the one above. Really.

    3. Er… a badly-printed newspaper… with caltrops?

    4. 5th, 6th & 7th of May?

    5. No contractions?

  4. I didn’t get 1. or 2. or 4. or 5., but I think 3 is coal.

  5. Good call, Demian.

  6. Yay, Demian! Just as I thought, it is an uh-duh when someone tells you. Of course, I haven’t actually seen or used any coal in, oh, 40 years or so, living in Chicago where natural gas is the main heat source and much of our electricity is nuclear.

    I suppose it could also be charcoal, which is something that IS around here.

  7. 1. The lions. After three years with no food, they’re dead.
    2. No idea. I haven’t cheated by looking at the other comments, but as soon as this is posted, I will.
    3. See #2.
    4. Christmas Eve, Christmas day, Boxing day.
    5. No “the”.

  8. Well seeing as the others have been most adequately answered, I will take on number five. There is not one “e” in the entire thing and e is the most commonly used letter in the english language.

  9. 1) How can they force him to do anything? What, will they threaten to kill him if he doesn’t choose?

    2) A woman upset with her husband for not calling a plumber to fix the sink shoots him looks that could kill. She then holds him to going under the leaking sink and fix it. After 5 minutes, he gives up and she hangs him out to dry. To try to make it up to her, he takes her out to dinner.

    3) A piece of Black Black gum?

    4) Yesterday, today, and tomorrow

    5) No definite articles, and also unusual coming from you, no parentheses

  10. Number 1 the lions – for reasons others stated.

    I was thinking about photography for number 2 but I can’t remember if water used in the developing process or whether only chemicals are used and I don’t know if they hold a picture underwater for five minutes.

    Number 3 – I had no idea.

    Number 4 I came with up yesterday, today and tomorrow (like someone else did).

    Number 5 I had no idea.

  11. Temaskian: Creative, creative and creative.

    Sandi: 1, 2 and 5 were the expected answers. $, creative.

    Postie: Good with no contractions. The baby is not due yet. And what is a caltrop?

    Demian: I got charcoal which is embarrassing as I live in coal country.

    Tau: Good job spotting the ‘no e’ bit. I missed that myself.

    Philly: Very creative. You are quite good at barometer thinking. Number 2 sounds like a personal experience. Care to elaborate? And (I want you to note this) there have been (until this sentence) no parentheses in this comment. Thpppt!

    Thomas: Atain, number 4 was not the expected answer (not the one I got, anyway) but variations on it seem popular.

    All: Ya’ll are good.

    • (((Billy))),

      Caltrops are a long-outmoded weapon used against cavalry. Think jacks, (like the game), but bigger and sharpened.
      The “no contractions” thing wasn’t such a good answer – as immediately after I wrote it down I noticed the contraction in the second sentence. Story of my life: “Blah, blah, blah” without looking around first.

      • Damn. In retospect, I knew that one. I was in the wrong context.

  12. Ok, trying not to look at previous answers:
    1) Dead lions would be pretty safe
    2) She took his photograph and developed it
    3) Christmas eve, Christmas, and Boxing day
    5) There were no “e”s in the paragraph.

    Now I can look in previous answers for number 4

    • Laurie: Good to hear from you again. The charcoal/coal one does seem to give people the most trouble. Of course, it really doesn’t work for coal (I thought of this last night at around four (which would make it this morning, right?)) as coal cinders are yellowish, not gray.

  13. oops, I got the numbers mixed. I needed number 3 (which I see is coal)

  14. Just wanted to point out that the reason #2 is a little more difficult to figure out for some is because we don’t deal with photographs like that as much anymore, no thanks to digital cameras. I remember most of these riddles, except for #3.

    I didn’t get #3, but I think #5 is that there is no “the.”

    • Elidet: I agree. I think the last time I developed a roll of film was six years ago (and I was slow to adopt digital).

      Many years ago, we were driving somewhere and NPR came on (weekend edition, I think). This was back when they had the clickety-clickety of a typewriter as part of the intro to the letters and (((Boy))), from the back seat, asks, “What’s that clicking sound?”

      Damn kids.

  15. Nested comment threading is now on. I have no idea if I will like it or not, but I am trying it.

  16. Had another thought on #3 — Starting with iron as black or blackish, heat it to work it turns red if you hit the right temperature, forge etc., you get to shiny silver/white color. Colors are right, but it is black when you get it, red when you use (work?) it, white (silvery) when it is finished, but hardly thrown out.

    Okay, I admit, I have been playing with metal too much this week.

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