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Wolf, Goat and Cabbage Puzzle

This is probably one of the most famous riddle in the so-called river-crossing category.

What is the Wolf, Goat and Cabbage Puzzle

When you listen to the riddle it sounds a bit childish. Basically, it’s a little story about a farmer who went to the market and bought a wolf, a goat and one cabbage. Don’t bother asking why on Earth would someone buy a wolf, maybe he just liked wolves, OK? Now, the man gets to a river and hires a boat to cross it. The problem is he can only take one thing or animal with him, which puts him in a terrible dilema. If he first takes the cabbage across, he will have to leave the goat and the wolf behind and you can guess what happens next.

How to Solve the Wolf, Goat and Cabbage Puzzle

Maybe if he hadn’t bought the wolf, the poor guy wouldn’t be in such a pickle, but that’s a different story. The farmer needs to play it safe which means taking the goat across, leaving the wolf to stare at the cabbage. When he gets back for the second crossing he can choose either the cabbage or the wolf. In both cases he is faced with the same problem. If he takes the cabbage across the goat will surely eat it and if he takes the wolf it will probably feast on the goat as soon as the farmer leaves for the third crossing. The trick is to take the goat back. It seems like a lot of trouble but it’s the only way to keep all the purchases safe.

Let’s say the second trip he leaves the cabbage on the other side and takes the goat back. Then he can move the wolf to the other side, leaving the goat to wait for its turn.


History of the Wolf Goat and Cabbage Problem

The first documented reference to this puzzle can be traced to the 9th centuries and variants involving different animals can be found in the folklore of many people, especially in Europe and Africa.

This type of river crosing puzzle has appeared in many video games and even TV shows, including ‘The Simpsons’.


Variants of the Wolf, Goat and Cabbage Puzzle

One of the most funny version is the one with the Cannibals and the Missionaries. You have to figure out how to cross 3 cannibals and 3 missionaries. The rule is that if the missionaries are outnumbered by cannibals they will be eaten.

Another version refers to three married couples and the problem is you cannot leave one woman with another man if her husband is not present.

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15 Puzzle

It’s not even about math, although it’s not as simple as it might seem.


How to play 15 Puzzle

The name of this puzzle comes from the fact that there are 15 sliding tiles set in a 4×4 square and also because you must arrange them in ascending or descending order. Since there are 16 slots and only 15 tiles, that leaves you with an empty slot so you can slide the pieces around.

The numbers on the tiles go from 1 to 15. You can start by placing the the target number, 15, in the upper left corner and place the tiles in descending order or you can start with 1 and work your way up.

You might think it’s child’s play, but the fact is that many mathematicians have analyzed the puzzle. They came up with the startling conclusion that depending on the way the tiles are arranged at the beginning half of the initial positions are impossible to solve no matter how many moves you make. This has to do with terms like invariant, parity of the permutation of the 16 tiles, which sure don’t sound like much fun. If you ever find such a toy in a shop it will probably be solved, just as Rubik cubes are sold, which means that no matter how much you scramble the tiles you will always be able to arrange the tiles in order. So don’t try to excuse yourself by saying it’s probably one of the unsolvable configurations.


History of the 15 Puzzle

Today, a Canadian postmaster named Noyes Palmer Chapman is credited with inventing the 15 puzzle in 1874. His original design was passed from hand to hand until it reached Boston, where the first commercial 15 puzzles were manufactured in 1879. The odd thing is that following the 1880s craze with the 15 puzzle, the famous American chess player and puzzle inventor Sam Loyd claimed that he had created the popular toy.

Another famous American chess player, world champion Bobby Fischer was a fan of the 15 puzzle and his personal record was solving the puzzle in 25 seconds, a feat he demonstrated on a popular TV show.

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Einstein’s Riddle Called the Zebra Puzzle

How to solve einstein's riddle, the zebra puzzle

You probably won’t come up with a revised relativity theory, but at least you’ll feel pretty good about yourself once you get to the solution.


History of Einsteins Puzzle

If you like riddles you may have heard of this puzzle before, as it is quite famous. Not because it was invented by Albert Einstein, actually he didn’t have anything to do with it. Lewis Carroll is sometimes referred to as the author, but such claims are also baseless.

Einstein’s Puzzle or the Zebra puzzle first appeared in print in 1963 in Life magazine. Besides being called the Zebra puzzle, it is also sometimes referred to as Einstein’s riddle, or Einstein’s problem.


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What is Einsteins Puzzle

The riddle, for it’s practically a very complex riddle, is made up of 15 statements or clues about five houses and their occupants. Here are the first two clues of this puzzle.

1.There are five houses.

  1. The Englishman lives in the red house.

The rest of the clues refer to the position of the houses, the nationality of their owners, the color of each house, the cigarettes and drinks they prefer and the sort of pets they keep. You have to answer to questions – who owns a zebra and who drinks water.


How to Solve Einsteins Puzzle

What you need are good detective skills. You ca start by simply drawing five houses and listing what attributes you can be certain of under each of them. You need to read carefully all the statements and see which are clear facts and which clues require further deductions and inferences. For instance, clue number 10 says that

The Norwegian lives in the first house. You have something tangible to write under the first house in your drawing – that’s where the Norwegian guy lives.

There are those who point out the riddle doesn’t say if it’s the first house from the right or the left, but that doesn’t affect the solution.

At least now you have something to work with. For instance you know the first house cannot be red because its owner is Norwegian, not English. And so on. Make sure you write any deductions in pencil and have a good eraser at hand.

Over time there have been many versions of this riddle, but they only differ in attributes like the brands of cigarettes mentioned or the drinks. The principle is the same though.


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Eight Queens Puzzle

How to solve eight queens puzzles

What would happen if you had not two, but eight queens on a chess board?


How to Solve the Eight Queens Puzzle

Solving this puzzle requires not only basic knowledge of chess rules but also mathematics.

The original Eight Queens Puzzle refers to placing the eight chess pieces on a 8×8 board, making sure that no queen threatens another one. As you probably know the queen can move any numbers of unoccupied squares in any direction – horizontally, vertically or diagonally. It is obvious that, in order to solve the puzzle, no two queens can occupy the same row, column or diagonal.

In theory, the number of ways you can place the eight pieces on an 8×8 board is huge, 4,426,165,368, to be exact. You don’t have to go through all of them to find one of the 92 solutions to the puzzle.


Since such puzzles are meant to be fun, better forget about math and just look at the board. One thing you know from start is that there has to be only one queen to each row or column and you work your way to a solution from here.


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History of the Eight Queens Puzzle

This fiendish puzzle was invented in 1848 by Max Bezzel, a German chess enthusiast who created many chess problems. Two years later, Franz Nauck came up with several solutions and also invented the n queens problem. This refers to placing an n number of queens on an nxn board, thus offering the possibility of playing the same game on a larger or smaller board.


Chess Puzzle Variants

If you like this brain-racking puzzle, you should try one of its variants that use other chess pieces, knights, bishops, kings and even rooks. The easiest to solve is the version with knights. Since knights move in an L shape they always land on a square of the opposite color. A simple solution to prevent them from attacking each other is to place all the knights on squares of the same color and it doesn’t even matter where you place them.

Other versions allow for two different types of pieces to be used, like queens and pawns or knights, the goal being the same – keeping the peace on the board.


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Disentanglement Puzzle

How to solve a disentanglement puzzle

Also known as entanglement puzzles, these are more than simple toys (How to solve video below).


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Types of Disentanglement Puzzles

There are many version of this popular toy and all have a common goal, trying to disentangle an element, like a ring, from the loops or plate it seems firmly attached to.

Wire and string puzzles

The string can be made of a string or a ribbon and there are various elements attached to it. The toy also has at least one stiff wire, but some also have a ball though which the string is threaded.

You usually have to detach the string from the wire. The loop the string makes can be closed, which makes the puzzle seem impossible to solve, or the loop can be open, but the string has balls or wooden elements to prevent it from slipping.

One famous example in this category is the Boomhower puzzle, notoriously difficult to solve. Subsequent variants use the Boomhower idea and consist of one or two vertical beams on a wood support with various elements attached to them.

Plate and rings puzzles

All the pieces are usually made of metal and the goal is to detach the ring from the plate. Typically, the plate will have holes or indentations, some meant to help you, some to make your task more challenging.

Wire puzzles

Sometimes referred to as nail puzzles, these puzzles are made from stiff pieces of wire in various shapes, forming closed or open loops, that you need to disentangle.

As complicated as disentangling such crazily linked pieces, putting it back together can be even harder, but that is also part of the game.

Possibly Impossible

While most disentanglement puzzles take some time and a lot of effort to solve, there are some that are actually unsolvable. Should anyone ever challenge you to solve the “Notorious Figure Eight Puzzle” stay away from it. The puzzle created by Stewart Coffin in 1974 looks deceptively simple, like the figure 8 with a loop string attached to it. Many people have tried in vain to solve it, mathematicians have also looked into it and came up with the conclusion it is unsolvable, which is why it is sometimes referred to as the Possibly Impossibly puzzle.


Watch Video Below



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Cryptogram Puzzle

How to solve cryptogram puzzles

Good for sending secret messages to your loved one as well as to encrypt sensitive military information.


How to Solve Cryptogram Puzzles

A Cryptogram is basically a row made up of lines of empty cells that stand for words. Under each cell there is a certain letter or number. The aim of the puzzle is to understand what letter each of the letters or numbers in the printed cryptogram stands for. These are called substitution cryptograms, meaning that a letter (or number) substitutes for another letter. If you want to use cryptograms to communicate with someone both of you will have the key, but as a puzzle you have to use logic to find the key.

The first step in solving a cryptogram is looking at one letter words, if any. In English, only I and A form one letter words, so you already have an important clue. Also, you need to check for double letters (OO, SS, etc) and spot id there are any apostrophes. Another important part is looking at three-letter words, as in English the most common are AND and THE. No letter can substitute for itself.


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History of Cryptogram Puzzles

Using a cypher to encode a message dates back many centuries, if not more. It is believed cryptograms were invented by monks for entertainment purposes. The oldest known reference to the use of cryptograms can be found in a manuscript dating from the 9th century.  A manuscript discovered at Bamberg, in modern Germany,  mentions the fact that that Irish visitors to the court of Merfyn Frych ap Gwriad (died 844), who reigned over Gwynedd in Wales were presented with a cryptogram which could only be solved by transposing the letters from Latin into Greek.

In modern times, Edgar Allan Poe used cryptograms in some of his works and as a magazine editor he often asked readers to submit their own cyphers, which he would then publish, challenging the public to come up with the solution.

The infamous Zodiac Killer also used cryptograms in messages meant to taunt the police. Only one of the four messages has been solved to this day.

A version of this traditional puzzle very popular today is the CryptoQuiz which is a themed puzzle, and all the words fall in the same category.


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Crossword Puzzle

How to solve crossword puzzles

One of the most popular puzzles of all times to test your knowledge and skill at guessing words.


How to Solve Crossword Puzzles

A crossword puzzle is a square or rectangular grid you must fill in with words or sometimes phrases, based on the clues you are given for the horizontal and vertical lines. The end to a word is marked by a black cell. When you think you know the answer to a clue, let’s say in a vertical line, check how each letter affects the solutions to the horizontal lines it crosses.

Many crosswords are themed so most of the clues refer to a certain topic – music, literature, geography, TV shows, sports etc.


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Versions of Crossword Puzzles

Straight Clues

The most basic, and most popular, variant of crossword puzzle is that in which the clues are straightforward. An example of straight clue reads like ‘The capital of France’, with the obvious solution – PARIS. The clues must be consistent with the time of the verb, distinguishing between present and past, and must indicate if a noun is in the single or plural form.

Indirect clues

Indirect clues involve lateral thinking rather than a direct answer. For instance, ‘Start of spring’ could mean MAR (as in March) or ESS the way you spell S, the first letter in the word spring.

Cryptic clues

Puzzles for crossword aficionados tend to have very challenging cryptic clues, Basically, the clue itself is a puzzle you must figure out before filling in the solution to the crossword puzzles. Anagrams are sometimes used as clues, and the rule is to indicate that in the clue, but they are easier to understand than other cryptic clues.

One type of cryptic clues refers to words that can have more than one meaning. The solution to a cryptic clue like‘Cat’s tongue’ is PERSIAN, as it’s a type of cat, but also a language or tongue.

Sometimes, the list of clues includes cross-referencing, which means that the clue for a certain word points to another clue you need to guess.

If the solution to a clue is a hyphenated word, the clue might indicate the number of letters in the two words linked together.


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Cross Sums aka Kakuro Puzzle

How to solve Kakuro puzzles

Crossword puzzle meets Sudoku, that’s the easiest way to explain Kakuro.


How to Solve Kakuro Puzzles

First, let’s have a look at what Kakuro puzzles look like. The traditional version is a 16×16 grid, filled with white cells divided by black cells. A line of white cells is called an entry.

In a crossword puzzle you have the cues listed on the side, but in Cross Sums your clues are numbers and are printed on the black cells that form the top row and the the leftmost column. If the clue is, say, 7 the numbers in the solution must add up to 7. You can use any number from 1 to 9 to arrive at a sum, which represents the solution to an entry. You are not allowed to use the same digit twice in the same line.

Each line or entry has to contain at least two digits, while the longest possible line has nine cells, so you have to use all the numbers from 1 to 9.

Some version have an added constraint, the rule being that you cannot have the same combination used twice in a grid. For instance, if you have 7 as a clue twice, you cannot use 4+3 in both cases.


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Tricks to help you with the Kakuro Puzzle

Guessing is not a good strategy to solve a Cross Sums puzzle, you have to use logic, make deductions as to the digits you should input by considering their position both in the horizontal and the vertical clues.

Start by looking at the shortest entries, preferably those with two cells. Also, see if there are any 3 or 4 clues. If you have 3 as a clue, the only possible answer is 1 plus 2. When the clue is 4, the answer can only be 1+3, as you cannot duplicate the twos in 2+2. Even higher sums can be easy to solve. If you have to use two digits to add up to 17, those two digits can only be 8 and 9, and you have to decide where each of them fits best.


History of Kakuro Puzzles

In Japan, these puzzles are almost as popular as Sudoku and the name Kakuro means addition cross. In the Western part of the world, the term Cross Sums was coined in 1966 by Canadian Jacob Funk, but today most publications use the term Kakuro.


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Burr Puzzles

How to solve a Burr puzzle

Playing with sliding wood blocks, what could be more fun? Well, if it’s a Burr puzzle you’re in for so

me head-scratching.


How to Solve Burr Puzzles

This popular game belongs in the interlocking puzzles category and they all use the same basic idea. The set consists of six (or more) notched sticks, or little pieces of wood which the player must use to recreate a certain shape.


The most popular interlocking puzzle is the 6-piece burr, also known as “Puzzle Knot” or “Chinese Cross”. The aim is to slide and lock the 6 sticks into position to form some sort of a cross. Some variants of the game have a so-called key, an unnotched piece which can easily slide in and out.

No matter what shape you need to replicate, the notches on the pieces fall on the inside, where they cannot be seen, leaving the outer surface smooth and quite puzzling as it is impossible to tell how the sticks fit together. In fact, taking apart such puzzles is as challenging as creating the required shape.

There are two main types of such puzzles – Solid Burr puzzles which don’t have any voids or empty spaces inside, and Holey Burrs which have at least one empty space inside, usually not visible from the outside.


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Burr Puzzle Variants

The Altekruse puzzle consists of 12 identical pieces and in order to take it apart the two halves of the puzzle have to be moved in opposite directions. Versions of the Altekruse puzzle can have 6, 24, or 36 pieces.

The Chuck puzzle differs from other Burr puzzles because it consists mostly of U-shaped pieces of various lengths. Some of the sticks have an extra notch ande are used as key pieces.

Another version of the classical Burr puzzle is the Pagoda, also known as “Japanese Crystal”. The smallest version, Pagoda 1, has only three sticks and does not even require notches to be assembled or taken apart. A Pagoda of size 2 has 9 pieces, while bigger variants come in sets with 19, 33, 51 or even more pieces. This might seem a bit complicated but, the truth is once you understand how the pieces fit together it’s easy to assemble the puzzle.

Diagonal Burr puzzles present an interesting variation. The notches on the pieces are not square as in the classical Burr puzzles, but diagonal, which changes the way the pieces slide against each other.


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Ball-in-a-maze Puzzle

What started out as a simple toy, a hand-held dexterity puzzle gave rise to a wide range of platform games.


How to Play Ball-in-a-maze Puzzles

Whether you have a traditional toy or you want to play this game on your computer or console the aim of this labyrinth puzzle is to guide the ball or balls towards a designated goal.

Traditional toys are made out of wood or plastic and the top of the board has a transparent plastic cover so there can be no fiddling with the balls. In the most basic game you have to tilt the board to guide the ball and prevent it from falling into holes until you reach the goal. Other variants have two little knobs that allow you to control the movement of the ball.

Also, there are some versions that use magnets you can use to steer the metallic ball.


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History of the Ball-in-a-maze Puzzle

This fun toy was invented back in the 1880s by American toy-maker Charles Martin Crandall and it was first sold as ‘Pigs in Clover’.

In 1946, Swedish company BRIO came up with a version of this game called simply ‘Labyrinth’ and the aim is the same, guiding the steel ball to the end of the puzzle.

‘Perplexus’ is a 3-D version of the old Ball-in-a-maze, but in this case you have to guide the ball through a very complex labyrinth encased in a transparent plastic sphere.


Video Labyrinth Puzzles

There is a huge number of platform video games that use the Ball-in-a-maze principle. One of the most popular is ‘Super Monkey Ball’, created in 2001 by Sega. Instead of a steel ball, the player has to guide through the maze one of the game’s four monkeys which are encased in transparent ball across a series of platforms which make up a floor.

Another game using the same principle is ‘Marble Blast Gold’ which was released in 2002 and was pre-installed on some Apple computers, but was later made available for Windows or Linux computers.


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