Riddle me this.
October 30, 2012 2:18 AM   Subscribe

I need riddles and puzzles for a bright bunch of high school students. Like the ones below that they taught me...

1. My grandmother has odd preferences for things.
She likes spoons, but hates forks.
She like grass, but hates flowers.
She loves cellos, but dislikes violins.
(Students have to work out the key behind the preferences, by offering their own suggestions, works best if they don't write down the clues)

2. We are having a party. You can come if you bring the right thing. I (robotot) will bring the root beer. The next person (John) will bring jelly. Next person (Blake) will bring bananas...What will you bring? (You can only come if you bring something that begins with the same letter as your first name)

I don't even know what these things are called so having trouble trying to google them - tried brain teasers, lateral thinking puzzles...
posted by robotot to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (16 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
When I was at school, I'm pretty sure they were called "verbal reasoning"
posted by missmagenta at 2:59 AM on October 30, 2012

Best answer: The two that spring to mind are lateral thinking, but not wordy.

First is relatively well known and involves passing a pair of scissors (or similar) around a circle. Each person states that they're passing the scissors crossed or uncrossed.
Players who know the game then judge if they passed them correctly. The trick of it being that it is whether the passers legs are crossed and nothing to do with the scissors.

The next is in a similar category and I warn you it is quite infuriating. Each person in a circle points at someone and asks "who am I pointing at?" everyone gets to shout out guesses until someone guesses correctly (again, judged by people who have played the game before).
The trick to this one is that it is the first person to speak after the question "who am I pointing at?" is asked.
It seems so simple, but when I was in school it confused us for years. The teacher who showed us the game wouldn't tell us the secret until we left school, so we went off to his office on our last day (years after we played the game) and demanded to know.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 3:18 AM on October 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

You might find quite a few of the Car Talk puzzlers to be of use. They're on this page of the Car Talk website. Select a year from the Puzzler Archive and browse.
posted by wjm at 3:48 AM on October 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

You should also get the books of Raymond Smullyan. They are full of logic puzzles.
posted by King Bee at 4:06 AM on October 30, 2012

See also: situation puzzles.
posted by Specklet at 4:16 AM on October 30, 2012

Stories with a Hole! I was in a gifted class in grade school and Stories with a Hole were always my favorite. I remember them being hard to get when I was younger so I imagine they'd be perfect for your age group.
posted by youandiandaflame at 4:54 AM on October 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Zendo is a version of this with plastic pieces. (Wiki article also links to Eleusis and Penultima, same thing with cards and chess pieces, and calls them games of inductive logic.)

In elementary school, kids did this with a scrunchie (hair thing), judging the manipulation of the scrunchie and what you said.

But be careful, if they start getting too into it there's always one asshole kid who will say "that's not the rule" to anyone he/she doesn't like, regardless of the rules of the game (bitter much?... well, maybe a little).
posted by anaelith at 5:11 AM on October 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Petals Around the Rose?
posted by mail at 6:02 AM on October 30, 2012

There's a game like your example that's even more fun since it lets students participate on both sides. Collect a bunch of random objects. Have one student create a (secret) rule that divides the set of objects in two and have them start two piles with one object each. Other students then pick an object and place in what they think is the correct pile. The first student will let them know if they're correct or not. Continue until someone can state the rule. E.g. big vs. small, heavy vs. light, round vs. square, metal vs. not metal, begins with a vowel vs. consonant, etc.
posted by zanni at 6:09 AM on October 30, 2012

Take a stroll (when you have an hour or so to kill) through the rec.puzzles archive.
posted by jquinby at 6:42 AM on October 30, 2012

The first example is often called a sorites or polysyllogism. As King Bee mentioned, Raymond Smullyan has published several books full of these and other kinds of puzzles, including What is the Name of this Book? and The Lady or the Tiger?

You might also want to look at the work of Martin Gardner, who collected a number of these sorts of logic puzzels in his books - some of which are here.
posted by googly at 6:45 AM on October 30, 2012

I learned my favorite one of these as a child (thank you, Trixie Belden), and my stepdaughters enjoyed it when I told it to them.

Someone said, "Last week I was thirteen years old. Next year I will have my sixteenth birthday." How is this possible?

(Answer: she spoke during the week after New Year's Day. Her birthday was on December 31, so during the previous week she was 13. She is now 14, and will turn 15 on December 31 of this year. Next year, she will turn 16.)
posted by dlugoczaj at 6:52 AM on October 30, 2012

My absolute favourite of these involves five (or ten) matches. It's another "keep going around the table until only one poor sap hasn't worked it out" thing, and it's devilishly clever if done well.

Person A, initially the only one who knows the gimmick, takes the matches and carefully arranges them in a certain pattern on the table. Then s/he declares "That's five". (Or four, or two, or zero, or...). The pattern bears no obvious relation to the number five. Or maybe it does. Anyway, the matches pass to the next person who makes an attempt at a similar pattern/number pairing. Person A will snort with derision and tell them they are wrong. But not why they are wrong. Everyone has to keep watching what person A does until some bright spark figures it out. They then start getting it "right" too, and Person A praises their acuity.

And so on.

The trick? Well, the matches are irrelevant, of course. You have to watch the person's hand (five match version) or hands (ten match version). After making your irrelevant but carefully organised pattern you sit back as you declare "That's three" or whatever, and your hand, or hands, casually rest on the edge of the table. The number of fingers you show is the number you declare. Done subtly and with all appropriate misdirection this one can keep 'em puzzled for a surprising stretch of time.
posted by Decani at 7:38 AM on October 30, 2012

one up one down?
posted by bowmaniac at 12:51 PM on October 30, 2012

The first example you give is a Fannee Doolee--made popular in the early 1970s by WGBH's 'Zoom' (link contains a description of the Fannee Doolee game).

A fun game (that isn't really a game as much as it is an in-joke for people who've had it played on them before and then torture other people with) is Mornington Crescent. You can play a variation of it with subway stations from any system, as long as you get the conceit right: There are no rules. New players take a very long time to figure this out. Just the kind of thing high school kids love.
posted by yellowcandy at 2:31 PM on October 30, 2012

This works well with coin props: Johnnys mother has three kids. She named the first one, Penny. She named the second one Nicholas. What did she name the third one?
posted by Jacen at 8:54 PM on October 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

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