Quiz: Are you a creative problem-solver?

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Lateral thinking is solving problems through an indirect and creative approach, using reasoning that is not immediately obvious and involving ideas that may not be obtainable by using only traditional step-by-step logic. The term was coined in 1967 by Edward de Bono.

Below is a test that supposedly tests lateral thinking. I prefer to call this simply a test of creative thinking.


1. There is a man who lives on the top floor of a very tall building. Every day he takes the elevator down to the ground floor to leave the building and go to work. Upon returning from work though, he can only travel half way up in the lift and takes the stairs the rest of the way, unless it’s raining, in which case he goes all the way up. Why?

This is probably the best known and most celebrated of all lateral thinking puzzles. It is a true classic. Although there are many possible solutions which fit the initial conditions, only the canonical answer is truly satisfying.

2. A man and his son are in a car accident. The father dies on the scene, and the child is rushed to the hospital. When he arrives, the surgeon arrives, the surgeon says “I can’t operate on this boy, he’s my son!” How can this be?

This is a classic puzzle that you’ve probably seen many times.

3. A man is wearing all black. Black shoes, socks, trousers, jumper, gloves and balaclava. He is walking down a black street with all the street lamps off. A black car is coming towards him with its lights off, but somehow manages to stop in time. How did the driver see the man?

4. One day Kerry celebrated her birthday. Two days later her older, identical twin brother, Terry, celebrated his birthday. How can this be?

5. Why is it better to have round manhole covers than square ones?

This question tests more our logical, than lateral thinking. It is supposedly used by a very well-known software company as an interview question for prospective employees.

6. A man went to a party and drank some of the punch. He then left early. Everyone else who stayed late at the party drank the same punch and subsequently all died of poisoning.  Why did the man not die?

7. A man died and went to Heaven. There were thousands of other people there. They were all naked and all looked just as they did at the age of 21. He looked around to see if there was anyone he recognized. He saw a couple and he knew immediately that they were Adam and Eve. How did he know?

8. A woman had two sons who were born on the same hour of the same day of the same year. But they were not twins. How could this be so?

9. A man walks into a bar and asks the bartender for a glass of water. The bartender pulls out a gun and points it at the man. Surprised, the man says “Thank you,” and leaves the bar.

This puzzle has claims to be the best of the genre. It is simple in its statement, absolutely baffling and yet with a completely satisfying satisfying solution. Most people struggle very hard to solve this one, yet they like the answer when they hear it or have the satisfaction of of figuring it out.

Please be honest and only scroll down when you have answered the questions!!


  1. The man is very very short and so can only reach half way up the lift lift buttons! However, if it is raining then he will have his umbrella with him and so can press the higher buttons with that!

  2. The surgeon is the boy’s mother!

  3. It was day time!

  4. At the time she went into labor, the mother of the twins was traveling by boat. The older twin, Terry, was born first early on March 1st. March 1st. The boat then crossed a time zone and Kerry, the younger twin was born on February the 28th. Therefore, the younger twin celebrates her birthday two days before her older brother.

  5. A square manhole cover can be turned and dropped down the diagonal of the manhole. A round manhole cannot be dropped down the manhole. So for safety and practicality, all manhole covers should be round.

  6. The poison in the punch came from the ice cubes. When the man drank the punch, the ice was fully frozen. Gradually it melted, poisoning the punch.

  7. He recognized Adam and Eve as the only people without navels. Because they were not born of women, they had never had umbilical cords and therefore they never had navels. (This one seems perfectly logical but it can sometimes sparks fierce theological arguments!)

  8. They were two of a set of triplets (or quadruplets etc). This simple little puzzle stumps many people. They try outlandish solutions involving test-tube babies or surrogate mothers. Why does the brain search for complex solutions when there is a much simpler one available?

  9. The man had hiccups. The barman recognized this from his speech and drew the gun in order to give him a shock. It worked and cured the hiccups — so the man no longer needed the water. (This is a simple puzzle to state but a difficult one to solve. It is a perfect example of a seemingly irrational and incongruous situation having a simple and complete explanation. Amazingly this classic classic puzzle seems to work in different cultures and languages.)

So, how did you score? LOL

I disagree with the answer to question no. 6. There can be more than one correct answer. Mine was: “The man wasn’t poisoned like the other party-goers because he was the poisoner! He put the poison in the punch bowl after he drank from it.”

H/t my sis-in-law Shireen


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0 responses to “Quiz: Are you a creative problem-solver?

  1. I remember # 2 from the movie ” Tin Cup ” . As far as # 6 goes , my first thought was that he didn’t ingest enough of the poison . # 7 , thought for sure the answer would be Jesus . I should have known # 5 , duh . As far as the others , I’ll pass !

  2. I got six. Said the walking guy in #3 had a flashlight, Kerry in #4 was born right before midnight on Feb 28 (Terry right after on Mar 1) and it’s a leap year the year they’re celebrating (no boat involved), and the guy in #6 who drank the punch and left early was the one who then poisoned it, otherwise.

  3. I thought the guy in #6 didn’t die because he left early and didn’t drink enough punch to kill him. #3–daylight, and I flunked the rest.

  4. The punch question doesn’t state the punch was poisoned. Maybe something else was.
    I thought manhole covers were round because manholes are round…
    I don’t like the umbrella riddle. If he really wanted to ride the lift he’d carry a stick or something every day. But that’s just me.

  5. Some of these I had heard of before on a game called Mindtrap. What made me mad about that game was some things were physically impossible and scientifically inaccurate so there was no real correct answer. For example, a man crossed a bridge, and he and all the items he carried exceeded the weight limit of the bridge. The “answer” was he juggled the items, but the problem with that is that the force of throwing the items up and the force of them falling into his hands would add more pressure on the bridge than the original weight of the items.

  6. I had some way different answers!:
    4) Kerry and Terry are both “twins” but not part of the same set of twins. Therefore maybe Kerry and, say…Mary were born on 1/3/15, but Terry and, i don’t know…Larry, were born on 1/1/14. No one said the birthdays were the same year!!

    6) The punch wasn’t the thing that was poisoned– it was something else.

    8) She didn’t say they were born in the same month. So maybe the two kids were born at 1:00 pm on the 1st in the year of 2015, but one was born in May and one was born in June!


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