31 Tricky Lateral Thinking Puzzles (with Answers) - IcebreakerIdeas (2022)

Lateral thinking is defined as the solving of problems by an indirect and creative approach, typically through viewing the problem in a new and unusual light. Lateral thinking is used to move from a known idea to create new ideas. The skill of thinking laterally can be acquired through practice and use. Doing so provides the key to innovative thinking and creativity.

Table of Contents

  • 1 Lateral Thinking Questions
  • 2 Lateral Thinking Questions
  • 3 The Carrot, the Scarf, and Pieces of Coal
    • 3.1 Adam and Eve in Heaven
    • 3.2 Double Sons
    • 3.3 The Man and the Elevator
    • 3.4 The Man Who Hung Himself
    • 3.5 A Deadly Dish
    • 3.6 The Arm in the Parcel
  • 4 Lateral Thinking Questions Answered
    • 4.1 The Carrot, the Scarf, and Pieces of Coal
    • 4.2 Adam and Eve in Heaven
    • 4.3 Double Sons
    • 4.4 The Man and the Elevator
    • 4.5 The Man Who Hung Himself
    • 4.6 A Deadly Dish
    • 4.7 The Arm in the Parcel
  • 5 Lateral Thinking Questions and Answers
    • 5.1 The Bus Driver
    • 5.2 Harried Hens
    • 5.3 Stolen Goods
    • 5.4 Terrifying Tiger
    • 5.5 The Stranger in the Car
    • 5.6 Tube Torment
    • 5.7 Smart Dad
    • 5.8 A Jump Survived
    • 5.9 Locked Out
    • 5.10 Pile-up
    • 5.11 Sunny Day Weather?
  • 6 Lateral Thinking Riddles
    • 6.1 The Choice
    • 6.2 A Deadly Decision
    • 6.3 A Missing Man
    • 6.4 Push the Car
    • 6.5 The Clever Barman
    • 6.6 Death and the Unopened Package
    • 6.7 Related Posts

In this article, we provide some lateral thinking puzzles to help you begin to think laterally. First we will challenge you with some lateral thinking questions. Next, we will provide some lateral thinking questions and answers to give you a foundation for your own lateral thinking. Finally, we will enjoy some fun lateral thinking riddles to tickle your mind and get you to think outside the box.

Lateral Thinking Questions

Lateral thinking questions create a scenario that, at first reading, seems either confusing or impossible. They may also have multiple solutions, although there is one that is usually considered “the best.” We have chosen some rather well-known lateral thinking questions to get you started. We have listed the questions first, followed by a list of answers. Many times you will think, “Oh, that was obvious.” when presented with the answer. We have also started with those we believe to be the easiest and worked our way to the most challenging. Enjoy!

Lateral Thinking Questions

The Carrot, the Scarf, and Pieces of Coal

A carrot, a scarf, and five pieces of coal are found lying on the lawn. Nobody put them on the lawn, but there is a simple, logical reason why they are there. What is it?

Adam and Eve in Heaven

A man died and went to heaven where there were millions of other people. Everyone was naked and looked as they did at the age of 21. He looked around to see if he recognized anyone. He saw a couple and he knew immediately they were Adam and Eve. How did he recognize them?

Double Sons

A woman had two sons. They were born at the same hour on the same day of the same month in the same year. However, they were not twins. How could this be?

The Man and the Elevator

A man lived on the tenth floor of a building. Every day he took the elevator down to the ground floor to go to work or to go shopping. When he returned, he took the elevator to the seventh floor and then walked up the stairs to reach his apartment on the tenth floor. On a rainy day, he took the elevator all the way to the tenth floor. He hated walking, so why does he do so?

The Man Who Hung Himself

In a large, completely empty, wooden barn is a dead man hanging from the middle of the central rafter. He is hanging three feet off the ground by a rope ten feet long. The closest wall is 20 feet away from the hanging man. It would not be possible to climb up the walls or along the rafters. Below him is a puddle of water. How did the man hang himself?

A Deadly Dish

Two men ordered dinner in a restaurant. They both ordered the same items from the menu. After they both tasted it, one of the men went outside the restaurant and shot himself. Why did he do so?

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The Arm in the Parcel

One day a man received a parcel in the mail. He found a carefully packed human arm inside. He examined it, repacked it, and sent it on to another man. The second man also carefully examined the arm and then took it to the woods and buried it. Why did they both do these things?

Lateral Thinking Questions Answered

The Carrot, the Scarf, and Pieces of Coal

The items were used by children to build a snowman that has now melted.

Adam and Eve in Heaven

Adam and Eve were the only people without navels. They were not born of women, so they had never had umbilical cords and, therefore, they never had navels.

Double Sons

Her two sons were part of a set of triplets (or quadruplets, etc.).

The Man and the Elevator

The man is extremely short. He can only reach the button for the seventh floor. However, on rainy days, he uses his umbrella to push the tenth floor button.

The Man Who Hung Himself

The man stood on a block of ice and hung when it melted.

A Deadly Dish

The food the two men ordered was swordfish. Many years earlier they had both been stranded on a desert island. When one of the men tasted the swordfish, he realized he had never tasted it before. This meant that the meat he had been given on the island was not swordfish as he had been told. He realized that he had eaten the flesh of his son who died when they first reached the island. The thought drove him to the brink and he killed himself.

The Arm in the Parcel

Years earlier, three men had been stranded on a desert island. When they became desperate for food, they agreed to amputate their left arms in order to eat them. One of them, a doctor, cut off the arms of the other two men. Because they swore an oath to all have their left arm cut off, after they were rescued, the doctor had his arm amputated and sent to the other two men.

Lateral Thinking Questions and Answers

In this next section, we have listed lateral thinking questions and answers without separating the questions from the answer. You may find these considerably easier than those in the previous section. Again, we have started with those we believe to be easier and worked to those more challenging. You may find having the questions and answers together helps you to recall those listed quickly and easily so that you can share them with friends, family, and colleagues.

The Bus Driver

You are driving a bus. The bus is empty when you begin your route. At the first stop, four people get on. At the second stop, eight people get on and 2 get off. At the third stop, 3 people get off and 4 get on. What colour are the bus driver’s eyes?

You are driving the bus, so what colour are your eyes?

Harried Hens

A family had a chicken coop for their one dozen, egg producing hens. Late one night, a terrible storm came through their area and killed all but eight chickens. How many chickens did the family have in the next morning?
The family still had twelve chickens, four dead and eight alive.

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Stolen Goods

A woman who is in a department store fills her shopping cart to the top and leaves the store without paying. Although she is seen, no one calls the police or attempts to stop her. Why?
The woman is an employee of the department store. She is filling the shopping cart with trash and taking it out to the dumpster.

Terrifying Tiger

On a hot Saturday afternoon, a woman was walking slowly through the savannah when she spotted a tiger in the distance. Instead of turning around, hiding, or seeking help, the woman began to run towards where the tiger was. Why wasn’t she afraid and run away?

The woman was visiting a zoo.

The Stranger in the Car

A man raced his car through the streets with his wife as his only passenger. When they stopped, the husband got out of the car. When he returned, his found his wife dead and a stranger in the car. What had happened?
The wife was pregnant and they were racing to the hospital for the birth of the baby. The husband jumped out of the car to get help and a wheelchair. When he returned, his wife had given birth to the baby, but died in childbirth.

Tube Torment

A woman enters a large metal tube. She is overcome with fear and clenches her husband’s hand tightly. She is visibly shaken. Her husband gently rubs her arms and speaks softly to her, but is unaffected himself. A few hours later, the woman’s husband tells her that it’s time to go and her torment ends. What was happening to the woman?

The woman is terrified of flying, but must travel to see a dying relative; this adds to her emotional turmoil. Her husband does his best to comfort her during the few hours of the flight.

Smart Dad

Jacob’s dad could not stop his son from playing video games. As soon as he wasn’t watching Jacob, he would be back on playing away. Jacob’s dad decided to fix the problem permanently. He grabbed his hammer and solved the problem. Jacob could not play anymore, however, Jacob’s dad could do so. What did Jacob’s dad do?
Jacob’s dad used the hammer to install a shelf high up on the wall. He placed the video game console and the controllers up on the shelf out of Jacob’s reach; however, Jacob’s dad could still reach them.

A Jump Survived

A man who lives in a fifty-story building decides to jump out of his window. He survives his fall with no injuries. How did he do this?

The man jumped out of his first-floor window, which was only a few feet from the ground.

Locked Out

After a long night of partying with her friends, a woman arrives home and finds that she cannot enter the house. She’s certain that she’s at the right home, but she cannot get inside. What happened that makes entering her home impossible?

The woman’s keys were taken away from her by a concerned friend when she began to be inebriated earlier that night. The woman called and hired a driver to take her home, but did not have her keys to unlock the doors.

Pile-up

At the bottom of a large hill, more than 40 cars are involved in an accident. Some of the cars are overturned and others are resting on top of other cars. The pile-up is so large that a few military vehicles and a fire truck are also involved in the crash. What happened to cause this big wreck?

The cars, trucks, and other vehicles are toys being played with by a small child.

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Sunny Day Weather?

A man is driving on a sunny day. He makes a turn and water suddenly starts to pelt his car very hard for about five minutes. Then the car is buffeted by extremely hard blowing. The car even begins to shake. The blowing stops, and the man makes another turn onto the main road and heads home safely. What is happening?

The man drove his car into a drive-through car wash. After about 10 minutes, he leaves and drives his clean car home.

Lateral Thinking Riddles

Lateral thinking riddles are similar to lateral thinking questions. However, the phrasing is a bit different, more like a riddle. We have chosen some lateral thinking riddles that may stump even the cleverest thinker.

The Choice

A murderer is condemned to death. He must choose between three rooms after his sentence is passed. The first is full of raging fire. The second is full of assassins with their guns loaded. The third is full of lions that haven’t eaten in six months. Which room should he choose?

The third room, because lions who have not eaten in six months are dead.

A Deadly Decision

A man decided to open a door. He screamed and was found dead a few minutes later. No gunshots were heard in the area and no weapons were found. What happened?

The man was on an airplane. He opened the hatch and fell to his death.

A Missing Man

Three men enter a room, but only two walk out. The room is empty. Where is the third man?

The third man uses a wheelchair, so he rolls out of the room instead of walking out.

Push the Car

A man pushed his car. When he reached a hotel, he knew he was bankrupt. How did he know this and why was he bankrupt?

The man was playing Monopoly.

The Clever Barman

A man walked into a bar and asked the bartender for a glass of water. The bartender pulls out a gun and points it at the man. The man says, “Thank you,” and leaves. What really happened?

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The man had hiccups. When the bartender recognized this, he drew the gun in order to give the man a shock. It worked and the man’s hiccups were cured. Then the man no longer needed water.

Death and the Unopened Package

A man is found lying dead in a field. Next to him is an unopened package. No other person or living thing is in the field with him. How did he die?

The man jumped from a plane with a parachute that failed to open. The parachute is the unopened package.

The classic method for problem solving is logical or vertical thinking – coming to a conclusion by working through a step-by-step process using given information. Lateral or horizontal thinking involves having many ideas and looking at alternative ways of solving a problem by viewing the information in a broader sense. Using lateral thinking puzzles can help you unlock your ability to approach many of life’s problems and challenges in new and exciting ways. It is our hope this article begins you on a path to productive lateral thinking. Puzzle on!

31 Tricky Lateral Thinking Puzzles (with Answers) - IcebreakerIdeas (6)

Susan Box Mann

Susan majored in English with a double minor in Humanities and Business at Arizona State University and earned a Master’s degree in Educational Administration from Liberty University. She taught grades four through twelve in both public and private schools. Subjects included English, U.S. and world history and geography, math, earth and physical science, Bible, information technologies, and creative writing.

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Susan has been freelance writing for over ten years, during which time she has written and edited books, newspaper articles, biographies, book reviews, guidelines, neighborhood descriptions for realtors, Power Point presentations, resumes, and numerous other projects.

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FAQs

What are lateral thinking exercises? ›

With lateral thinking, someone might come up with a solution to a riddle or scenario that requires you to piece facts together to come up with a creative answer. You can stretch your lateral thinking by taking on a lateral thinking puzzle. All you have to do is look at the scenario presented and find context clues.

How do you solve a lateral thinking puzzle? ›

Solving Techniques
  1. Assume nothing.
  2. Break the rules, especially the unwritten ones.
  3. Keep an open mind.
  4. Keep a sharp eye out for subtle clues or hints.
  5. Try lots and lots of different theories.
  6. Work with a partner.
  7. Beware of the obvious answer.
Sep 20, 2007

What are some good brain teasers? ›

  • The river was frozen.
  • An hourglass, with thousands of grains of sand.
  • Take the first letter of each word and place it at the end. ...
  • It contains each number, zero through nine, in alphabetical order.
  • Push the cork down into the bottle. ...
  • Both boxers are female.
  • The person was born in 2005 B.C.
  • The man is playing Monopoly.
Nov 6, 2012

What is the albatross soup riddle? ›

A man walks into a restaurant and orders albatross soup. He takes one taste, runs outside, and kills himself. The proper answer: The man had been in the Navy, and was shipwrecked on an island with his crewmates.

How is lateral thinking different from vertical thinking? ›

Vertical thinking is a sequence of direct and logical steps that are used to come to a conclusion. Lateral thinking, on the other hand, is using an indirect and creative approach to come to a conclusion.

What is the creative thinking? ›

Creative thinking is the ability to consider something in a new way. Creative thinking includes analysis, open-mindedness, problem-solving, organization, and communication. Many employers value creative thinkers, so consider highlighting your creative thinking skills on your resume and in interviews.

What are linear thoughts? ›

Linear thinkers view a problem as a process with a set starting point that follows a sequence of connected series, ultimately leading to a solution. It's also known as sequential thinking because it follows a stepwise progression. The thoughts flow in a straightforward, logical way, and progress in a stepwise fashion.

What is an example of lateral thinking? ›

Lateral thinking, a term coined in 1967 by Edward de Bono, is the process of solving a problem using an unusual or creative approach. One example of lateral thinking is applied when solving this classic riddle: “A woman had two sons who were born on the same hour of the same day of the same year.

How useful is lateral thinking? ›

Lateral thinking (horizontal thinking) is a form of ideation where designers approach problems by using reasoning that is disruptive or not immediately obvious. They use indirect and creative methods to think outside the box and see problems from radically new angles, gaining insights to help find innovative solutions.

Why is lateral thinking important? ›

Lateral thinking is vital for organisations because it is the key to finding new and better ways to do things. Innovation is a necessity for competitive advantage and survival. Lateral thinking is a tool for creativity which leads to innovation.

Which of the following is a major activity available to promote lateral thinking? ›

Three major activities promote lateral thinking processes: (1) creativity, (2) analysis and (3) initiative. Opposite thinking takes the position that certain elements within a problem context are more critical to any solution outcome.

Can you match the high school graduates to their fathers at this joint celebration? ›

Can you match the high school graduates to their fathers at this joint celebration? Answer: Alberto is Elias' dad, Ken is Stephanie's dad, and Michael is James' dad. Here are some long riddles to give your brain a workout.

What is lateral thinking in business? ›

Originally created by Edward De Bono, lateral thinking is about reasoning that is not immediately obvious and about ideas that may not be obtainable by using only traditional step-by-step logic. Lateral thinking is sometimes called "thinking outside the box" – it tries to come up with new and unexpected ideas.

What has 21 eyes but Cannot see? ›

A die (plural: dice) 🎲 Each side of a cube is called it's "face". There are a total of 6 + 5 + 4 + 3 + 2 + 1 = 21 dots or "eyes" over the 6 surfaces.

What goes from Z to A? ›

The Word Zebra starts with the Letter 'Z' and ends with the Letter 'A'. So, the correct answer to the riddle is Zebra.

What is the hardest key to turn? ›

The correct answer to What Is The Hardest Key To Turn? Riddle is Donkey. The answer to this Hard riddle is Donkey. Most people must have guessed about keys made of all kinds like wood, steel or metal.

What does being an albatross mean? ›

Definition of albatross

b : something that greatly hinders accomplishment : encumbrance Fame has become an albatross that prevents her from leading a normal life.

How do I know if Im a lateral thinker? ›

Are You A Linear or Lateral Thinker?
  1. Thinks “outside the box” to solve problems.
  2. Uses reasoning that cannot be explained in a step-by-step analysis.
  3. Is willing to jump from idea to idea, taking a leap of faith that the ideas will find a way to connect themselves and will provide her with a solution.
Jun 11, 2015

Whats the opposite of a lateral thinker? ›

Vertical thinking is a type of approach to problems that usually involves one being selective, analytical, and sequential. It could be said that it is the opposite of lateral thinking.

What is lateral thinking in psychology? ›

creative thinking that deliberately attempts to reexamine basic assumptions and change perspective or direction to provide a fresh approach to solving a problem. This term is often used synonymously with divergent thinking. [

What are the 5 creative thinking skills? ›

Aesthetic thinking, divergent thinking, lateral thinking, convergent thinking, and inspirational thinking are five types of innovative thinking to get the ball rolling. Divergent and convergent thinking are the most common ways to foster more creative thought.

What is a good example of critical thinking? ›

Examples of Critical Thinking

A triage nurse analyzes the cases at hand and decides the order by which the patients should be treated. A plumber evaluates the materials that would best suit a particular job. An attorney reviews evidence and devises a strategy to win a case or to decide whether to settle out of court.

What is fragmented thinking? ›

Fragmented Thinking is the way many people, who are perceived to have Learning Disabilities, think. They do not move in a straight line. Getting from one place to another efficiently is impossible, since they are incapable going in a straight line. They understand order differently.

Which is better linear or lateral thinking? ›

It's possible to come up with more creative, innovative, and novel solutions when you flex your lateral thinking muscles. This is not to suggest, though, that lateral thinking is superior to linear thinking (or vice versa). Both of these approaches to problem-solving have their place.

What is a straight line thinker? ›

If you are a linear thinker, you are considered left-brained (the seat of logic), meaning that one side of your brain is dominant. Linear thinkers use information they have learned from one situation to apply it to another situation in order to solve problems.

Which of the following is a major activity available to promote lateral thinking? ›

Three major activities promote lateral thinking processes: (1) creativity, (2) analysis and (3) initiative. Opposite thinking takes the position that certain elements within a problem context are more critical to any solution outcome.

How is lateral thinking different from vertical thinking? ›

Vertical thinking is a sequence of direct and logical steps that are used to come to a conclusion. Lateral thinking, on the other hand, is using an indirect and creative approach to come to a conclusion.

What are linear thoughts? ›

Linear thinkers view a problem as a process with a set starting point that follows a sequence of connected series, ultimately leading to a solution. It's also known as sequential thinking because it follows a stepwise progression. The thoughts flow in a straightforward, logical way, and progress in a stepwise fashion.

Can you match the high school graduates to their fathers at this joint celebration? ›

Can you match the high school graduates to their fathers at this joint celebration? Answer: Alberto is Elias' dad, Ken is Stephanie's dad, and Michael is James' dad. Here are some long riddles to give your brain a workout.

What are the 4 main categories tools of lateral thinking? ›

What are lateral thinking techniques? Edward de Bono proposed four techniques for lateral thinking: awareness, random stimulation, alternatives, and alteration.

How can I improve my lateral thinking skills? ›

How to improve lateral thinking skills
  1. Be more aware. The first step in improving lateral thinking is to be aware of how the brain processes information. ...
  2. Open your mind to random stimulation. ...
  3. Look for alternatives. ...
  4. Alter your existing process. ...
  5. Use transitional objects. ...
  6. Ask random questions. ...
  7. Challenge your habits.
Nov 23, 2021

Can lateral thinking be taught? ›

Schools have traditionally focused on critical thinking, only. That vision that was served by this policy is slipping away, and schools need to adapt. Thinking- and lateral thinking in particular- can be taught by any teacher to any student using specific techniques.

How do I know if Im a lateral thinker? ›

Are You A Linear or Lateral Thinker?
  1. Thinks “outside the box” to solve problems.
  2. Uses reasoning that cannot be explained in a step-by-step analysis.
  3. Is willing to jump from idea to idea, taking a leap of faith that the ideas will find a way to connect themselves and will provide her with a solution.
Jun 11, 2015

What is an example of lateral thinking? ›

Lateral thinking, a term coined in 1967 by Edward de Bono, is the process of solving a problem using an unusual or creative approach. One example of lateral thinking is applied when solving this classic riddle: “A woman had two sons who were born on the same hour of the same day of the same year.

Whats the opposite of a lateral thinker? ›

Vertical thinking is a type of approach to problems that usually involves one being selective, analytical, and sequential. It could be said that it is the opposite of lateral thinking.

What is fragmented thinking? ›

Fragmented Thinking is the way many people, who are perceived to have Learning Disabilities, think. They do not move in a straight line. Getting from one place to another efficiently is impossible, since they are incapable going in a straight line. They understand order differently.

Which is better linear or lateral thinking? ›

It's possible to come up with more creative, innovative, and novel solutions when you flex your lateral thinking muscles. This is not to suggest, though, that lateral thinking is superior to linear thinking (or vice versa). Both of these approaches to problem-solving have their place.

What is a straight line thinker? ›

If you are a linear thinker, you are considered left-brained (the seat of logic), meaning that one side of your brain is dominant. Linear thinkers use information they have learned from one situation to apply it to another situation in order to solve problems.

What's higher than the king? ›

An Emperor is higher than a King.

Is Sudoku a logic puzzle? ›

Sudoku is a logic-based puzzle. It is a type of constraint satisfaction problem, where the solver is given a finite number of objects (the numerals 1-9) and a set of conditions stating how the objects must be placed in relation to one another.

What are those logic puzzles called? ›

These are often referred to as "logic grid" puzzles. The most famous example may be the so-called Zebra Puzzle, which asks the question Who Owned the Zebra?.

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