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Monday, January 16, 2012

Life in a Minute Mystery

Minute mysteries are a fun form of puzzle that challenge the thinker to think laterally, or “out-of-the-box.” Most, but not all, involve murders of some sort. Sketchy, and sometimes misleading, information is provided. “Detectives” are allowed to ask questions that elicit yes, no, maybe or not relevant as answers. Strictly speaking, there is a one minute time limit, but I can never remember observing that rule. I worked for a small company about thirty years ago. About once a month, six of us would have dinner. We would bandy about new minute mysteries during the meal, while the person who challenged us would don a smile of arrogance and condescension. The thing is, that once the puzzle is solved, the answer is usually so patently ridiculous, you can’t help but wonder how you missed it. An example is .....
53 Bicycles in a Room There are 53 bicycles and four men in a room. One man gets shot. Why?
My own real-life version of a minute mystery cropped up the other night. I fell asleep briefly with the television on in my hotel room. I woke up, turned off the television with the remote and placed the remote on the bed by my side. Three hours later, I was awakened by the television. Thinking I had pressed the remote button inadvertently, I reached for the control. The remote was not there. I sat up and looked under the blue light shed by the television. Not locating it, I switched on the bedside lamp. I could not find the remote. I pulled off the covers, used a flashlight under the bed and then looked under the other bed. No remote control. For 45 minutes, I searched. Knowing that I am prone to sleepwalking, I checked that the door was double-locked. I had not left the hotel room in thirty hours. I looked in the garbage, closet and drawers. I emptied my luggage. I pulled the mattresses off the bed frames after stripping the beds. At 2:45am, I called the front desk and asked them for a new remote. It was never delivered. I unplugged the television and went to sleep.When I opened the window shades in the morning, I found the remote control. Why?
Answer: The rug was patterned in a tiger design, with long stripes of black. The remote control was under the bed next to mine, behind the leg, on a black stripe. When sunlight hit that spot, the remote was illuminated. For more fun with minute mysteries, go to the following sites:
http://www.coolquizes.com/archives/2006/10/29/one-minute-mysteries/ http://www.math.umass.edu/~diehl/mysteries.html http://www.5minutemystery.com/
iPhone App: Sleuth
The 53 Bicycle Solution: 
Remember that "Bicycle" is a name brand of playing cards. There are only 52 cards in a deck. The men were playing poker or some other card game. One man had an extra Ace up his sleeve (i.e. he was cheating), and so another man shot him.

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