Friday, December 26, 2014

Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire

The Old Chestnuts
There are some puzzles we just don't normally touch on Wandering Puzzler, mainly because most puzzle fans have seen them before. However, like in any field of study there are things that can be learned from the classics. Join us this Christmas as we take a look a puzzles past and see what we can learn.

For Christmas 2013 we looked at The Adventure Game and its system of currency. In one episode of the show the team are presented with a puzzle they must solve, as the answer dawns on Robert Malos he exclaims 'Oh no, not that old chestnut'. Which of course gave me the idea for this years festivities.

In puzzling circles an old chestnut is a puzzle that has been around a long time, and is well know to puzzle enthusiasts, We have covered a few in the years that we have been looking at puzzles, like the GRY puzzle, and even reinvented one or two riddles to bring them up to date.

Of course different people will have different ideas of just how chestnutty a puzzle is; but I have tried to choose some of my favourites, alongside some which i am going to use to teach some valuable lessons about puzzling.

In Christmas 2012 we examined the Puzzling Parables, and hopefully learned a little about just how genuinely evil puzzle setters can be. I am course am lovely, and am entirely on the side of the solver, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy a little trickery now and then. Therefore the first lesson in this little group of posts on chestnuts is - always read the question.

That's obvious, I hear you cry but I really cannot stress this first festive lesson enough; always read the question. Presume nothing, question everything and never, ever, let a puzzle setter trick you into doing a load of work you didn't need to do.

Sometimes puzzle setters hide a key piece of information, sometimes the information that might be useful is omitted, and sometimes the introduction has more of the puzzle in it, than the puzzle itself.

Below are three examples of puzzles where the most important thing is to read the question, they all require different puzzling skills to solve but all of them might loosely be termed language puzzles, if only because the clue is quite definitely in the question.

Have a go at these and see how you get on with them.

Logic Puzzles
Tennis Trouble

Rosie and Danielle go out on Boxing Day to play Tennis and burn off some of those festive calories. While they are there they play five sets, when they come to tally up the scores they discover they have each won the same number of sets and have no drawn sets at all.

How is this possible?

You should be able to find not just one, but two perfectly sensible answers to that puzzle. The key is to focus not on what the puzzle tells you, which is mainly flavour and fluff, and instead focus on what you have not been told.

Lateral Thinking
To the Vaalserberg

The Vaalserberg is unusual in that it is a place on lang where three countries share a border, in this case Belgium, Netherlands and Germany. It also throws up some interesting legal questions.

For example, in the event that a plane, from none of those countries, crashed right at Vaalserberg; in which country would the survivors be buried?

That of course is not only a chestnut, although presumably in the form, only as long as air travel; but also a kick-self puzzle and one that, which glossed as a lateral thinking problem, is really a word puzzle.

Here is one final puzzle where understanding the question is of utmost importance.

Word Puzzles
A Strange Sequence

Can you tell me what is the last letter in this sequence?


If you're having difficulty with that one, read the question carefully, word by word. If you're still having trouble after that of course, you can find the answers to these puzzle by clicking the answer  buttons, and use them to entertain your friends over the holidays.

Next time we break out into the world of chestnut related mathematics. That is, the kind of maths that leaves you hot and bothered like a chestnut when you realise you didn't need to do it!

I hope you're having a wonderful Christmas, and until next time, do keep puzzling!

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