Humor: The Puzzle Wizard and the hat trick

Some of our readers are allowing their emotions to cloud their reasoning abilities.
Crosscut archive image.
Some of our readers are allowing their emotions to cloud their reasoning abilities.

Dear Puzzle Wizard:

I am in jail. The warden has announced that he will select 100 prisoners and put a hat, either white or black, on the head of each. There will be at least one hat of each color, but beyond that there is no limit to the number of hats of each color. We can see everyone else's hat, but not our own. After the test commences, we will not be able to signal or otherwise communicate other than to say that our hat is WHITE or BLACK. If any one person is incorrect, all 100 of us will be executed.

We will be given 20 minutes to discuss the situation and then will have the hats placed on our heads. What shall I do? — WORRIED IN WALLA WALLA

DEAR WWW: If you felt better about yourself, you would not be so dependent upon your fellow prisoners for validation. Your anxious reactions to your predicament may be related to hostility towards the warden — or they may stem from earlier insecurities you brought with you into prison. Unless you develop confidence about your self-worth, your relationships won't change.

Dear Puzzle Wizard:

I have been captured by the Taliban and sentenced to death. Mullah Omar has offered me a chance to live by playing a simple game. He will give me 50 black marbles, 50 white marbles and 2 empty bowls. I must divide these 100 marbles into these 2 bowls. I can divide them any way I like as long as I use all the marbles. Then he will blindfold me and mix the bowls around. I then can choose one bowl and remove ONE marble. If the marble is WHITE I will live, but if the marble is BLACK I will die.

How should I divide the marbles up so that you have the greatest probability of choosing a WHITE marble? — PETRIFIED IN PAKISTAN

DEAR PIP: Learning to handle problems like this one is part of growing up. Nobody likes to lose, yet winning and losing are a part of every competition. Remember it is how you play the game, not whether you win or lose, that counts. It is easy to be a gracious winner, but you must learn also to be gracious in defeat.

Dear Puzzle Wizard:

The CIA subjected me to an 'ꀜextraordinary rendition.'ꀝ They will execute me tomorrow unless I can figure out who lives in what color house. There are 5 houses in 5 different colors. In each house lives a person with a different nationality. These 5 owners drink a certain beverage, smoke a certain brand of cigar and keep a certain pet. No owners have the same pet, smoke the same brand of cigar or drink the same drink.

Hints: The Brit lives in a red house. The Swede keeps dogs as pets. The Dane drinks tea. The green house is on the left of the white house. The green house owner drinks coffee. The person who smokes Pall Mall rears birds. The owner of the yellow house smokes Dunhill. The man living in the house right in the center drinks milk. The Norwegian lives in the first house. The man who smokes Blend lives next to the one who keeps cats. The man who keeps horses lives next to the man who smokes Dunhill. The owner who smokes Blue Master drinks beer. The German smokes Prince. The Norwegian lives next to the blue house. The man who smokes Blend has a neighbor who drinks water. — GRUMPY IN GUANTANAMO

DEAR GIG: This is a simple problem. A five year-old could solve it. Therefore, I am concerned for you, and I hope you will take what I say seriously. If you are in trouble — and I suspect you may be — you should turn to someone experienced enough to give you the guidance you need.

If you want things to get better, it is very important that you work with someone on why you have difficulty with thinking logically. That in itself will be a giant first step in solving your problem because you need more help than I can give in this letter.


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