“Silence is not always tact and it is tact that is golden, not silence.” — Samuel Butler
Here are six new lateral thinking puzzles — play along with us as we try to untangle some perplexing situations using yes-or-no questions.
Lili McGrath’s 1915 “floor polisher” is a pair of slippers connected by a cord.
Eighteenth-century English landowners commissioned custom ruins.
The sources for this week’s puzzles are below. In some cases we’ve included links to further information — these contain spoilers, so don’t click until you’ve listened to the episode:
Puzzle #1 is from listener Moxie LaBouche.
Puzzle #2 is from listener Cheryl Jensen, who sent this link.
Puzzle #3 is from listener Theodore Warner. Here’s a link.
Puzzle #4 is from listener David Morgan.
Puzzle #6 is from listener John Rusk, who sent this link.
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Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.
If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for listening!
This secret message appears in J.J. Connington’s 1933 novel Tom Tiddler’s Island:
TEIIL LFILH TCETU FDHSO OENPR YYUGO HNGOF
LOVTU GCHAN NOATN AEHAT ISUWE ETFST GSCAD
OFRGH PELPE HASLE GASTH HGSMR LHLAR ARNIF
THRDL NITFO SSWSG NYILE EFALT ODECT IESOL
NTSNT COOUE AODNT IUTAI TIOON LEANR IIGOT
AHNOM FINHE YLMFD ATTTS MANHH OFEII ETODD
OTPCA MOTIE FMONG IMCLA TTCHB YIMNN ETROX
EMCOU VSFHE ELMPN NCTAW ETRWO OAHEE IYCNA
OIRBT RTXET PEIZN RSCSA TIKOH NITHT EMFNE
NNRUO GOTGP ENETP SYANS Z
What does it mean?
Maxims of the French woman of letters Diane de Beausacq (1829-1899):
- To say of a man: he never grows angry when he is scolded, never scolds when he is angry, is to give him a good character.
- There are two ways of diminishing the tedium of a tedious task — to do it with all your might, or in the company of one you love.
- Those who die a lingering death are never so bitterly lamented; they have been mourned in advance.
- Honor exists but for the honorable.
- There are people who spend their lives in searching in the conduct of others for some cause for anger.
- Light folk take light things seriously and serious things lightly.
- Trust not your mistrust; you will be more often deceived by it than by mankind.
- Doubt poisons everything but destroys nothing.
- To the noble, ability is a merit — to the mean, a defect.
- Of the lives of others, we see only the pretexts.
- Of two duties, it would seem that the more irksome is ever the more imperious.
- If God knows all, I do not fear him.
- To spoil children is to deceive them concerning life; life herself does not spoil us.
- To be loved and yet unhappy savors of ingratitude.
- Men resemble one another most in the heart and differ most in character; we can speak of the human heart, but not of the human character.
- We are inclined to imagine that, in making a sacrifice, we are bound to do good. Self-denial, like selfishness, has its moments of blindness.
- Following a long and difficult path, we penetrate to the root of things; then, when we utter the truth we have arrived at, we are astonished to find that we are not always understood: it is the recollection of the path that leads to it that renders a truth obvious.
- The less a man thinks of himself, the less unhappy will he be.
“Strong reasons determine our resolves, slight reasons arrest us, on the eve of executing them. Most of us have looked forward eagerly to going a journey, and yet, when the hour of departure has come, many a one has been stopped by the fear of the bad cooking and comfortless beds of the inn.”
By Edith Baird. White to mate in two moves.
In 1990, entomologists J.W. Early and I.D. Naumann named a new species of solitary wasp Rostropria garbo — because it wants to be alone.
When you are flying, everything is all right or it is not all right. If it is all right there is no need to worry. If it is not all right one of two things will happen. Either you will crash or you will not crash. If you do not crash there is no need to worry. If you do crash one of two things is certain. Either you will be injured or you will not be injured. If you are not injured there is no need to worry. If you are injured one of two things is certain. Either you will recover or you will not recover. If you recover there is no need to worry. If you don’t recover you can’t worry.
— W.E. Johns, Spitfire Parade, 1941
The birdhouse at George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch is a replica of the 50,000-foot main house. Working from the original blueprints, architect Thomas Burke produced the structure in four months and installed it in April 2011. Roughly the size of a Volkswagen Beetle, it has four levels and 50 individual compartments, each with a separate entry made of PVC piping.
(Via Anne Schmauss, Birdhouses of the World, 2014.)
A puzzle from Daniel J. Velleman and Stan Wagon’s excellent 2020 problem collection Bicycle or Unicycle?:
Before you is a field of 225 squares arranged in a 15×15 grid. One of the squares contains a perfectly camouflaged tank that you’re trying to destroy. You have a weapon that will destroy one square of the grid with each shot, but it takes two shots to destroy the tank, and you know that when the tank has been hit the first time (and only then) it will flee invisibly to an adjacent square (horizontally or vertically). What’s the minimum number of shots you’ll need to be sure of destroying it?
These compounds are named housane, churchane, basketane, and penguinone.
Below: To celebrate the 2012 London Olympics, chemists Graham Richards and Antony Williams offered a molecule of five rings. They called it olympicene.