“I never talk back. I listen and always remember your every word, so come pen or mouse, never forget that I will treasure your thoughts forever. Yours truly, Paper.”
- LM Fields
One of the ways we keep our brains alert and our minds active is to keep challenging them with things which make us think. Riddles and brain teasers are designed to do just that. For example, before Mt. Everest was discovered, what was the highest mountain in the world? Answer: Mt. Everest; it just wasn’t discovered yet.
Or, if you are running a race and you passed the person in second place, what place would you be in now? Answer: Second; because there would still be one person ahead of you. How much dirt is there in a hole that measures two feet by three feet by four feet? There is no dirt in a hole.
These are known as simple brain teasers which surprise us and also make us smile. We think about them for a short while and then move on.
Another kind of brain teaser is known as a palindrome. A palindrome is a word, phrase, verse, number or sentence which can be spelled the same way backward or forward. Someone had to think long and hard to create these: Was it a cat I saw; Ten animals I slam in a net; Lee has a race car as a heel; Not a tub but a ton.
Then there are double speak proverbs: An excess of culinary experts impairs the quality of a thin derivative of meat or, simply stated, too many cooks spoil the broth; Superfluous chronological dispatch institutes riddance of valued effects or, simply stated, haste makes waste.
Now that you are warmed up, see if you can solve this genealogical riddle. Two men met at a bus stop and struck up a conversation. One of them kept complaining of family problems. Finally, the other man said, “You think you have family problems? Listen to my situation:
“A few years ago I met a young widow with a grown-up-daughter. We got married and I got myself a stepdaughter.
Later my father married my stepdaughter. That made my stepdaughter my stepmother. And, my father became my stepson. Also, my wife became mother-in-law of her father-in-law.
Much later, the daughter of my wife, my stepmother, had a son. This boy was my half-brother because he was my father’s son. But he was also the son of my wife’s daughter which made him my wife’s grandson.
That made me the grandfather of my half-brother.
This was nothing until my wife and I had a son. Now the half-sister of my son, my stepmother, is also the grandmother.
This makes my father the brother-in-law of my child, whose stepsister is my father’s wife. I am my stepmother’s brother-in-law, my wife is her own child’s aunt, my son is my father’s nephew and I am MY OWN GRANDFATHER.”
When my brother, Ken, first read about half of that genealogical riddle to Evie and me, our sides literally ached from laughing. We asked him to stop several times as he kept reading. Someone had to think very hard to create that.
Puzzling proverbs are not nearly as thought provoking. What three numbers have the same answer when added together and multiplied together? Answer: 1,2,3. What did you create when the more of them you make and the more of them you leave behind? Answer: Footprints. What flies without wings? Answer: Time.
Here is one final brain teaser. A murderer is condemned to death. He has to choose between three rooms. The first is full of raging fires, the second of assassins with loaded guns, and the third of lions that haven’t eaten in three years. Which room is the safest for him to go to? Answer: The third. Lions that haven’t eaten in three years would certainly have been dead.
Think about it.
Dr. Don Meyer is President of
Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA
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