Einstein's Riddle, the Answer, and What It All Means
Einstein's Riddle, also known as the zebra riddle, is a very famous puzzle, and it is said that only 2% of the population could solve it. Rumored to have been written by Einstein as a boy, the mysterious true author of the riddle contains a line up of geniuses, including Lewis Carroll. The burning question remains—are you able to figure it out?
In order to aid you in the puzzle, you can find a very helpful link here. This interactive game will allow you to more readily keep things in order and refer to the conditions given, a great resource!
There are 5 houses in 5 different colors in a row. In each house lives a person with a different nationality. The 5 owners drink a certain type of 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 beverage. One person owns fish, who is it?
- The Brit lives in the 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 homeowner drinks coffee.
- The person who smokes Pall Mall rears birds.
- The owner of the yellow house smokes Dunhill.
- The man living in the center house 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 Bluemaster 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.
Stop Now! Solution Below.
If you've given up, take this moment to summon courage and try again! I broke down too, and the hint I got made perfect sense when I completed the puzzle. The hint is this: it just takes time. Keep at it. If you haven't already, use the game linked above or draw brackets for each item in a way that makes sense to you. You can do it!
All numbers here relate to the numbered lines given above. Scroll down for the short answer.
- Let's start with what's immediately given to us, 8 and 9. The homeowner in the center house drinks milk, and the Norwegian lives in the first house.
- Because of 9 and 14, we know that the second house is blue, since the Norwegian lives next to the blue house and the only thing next to the first house is the second house.
- Because of 4, we know that the green house must be the third or fourth house from the left. Because of 5, it cannot be the third house. Therefore, because of 4 and 5, the green house is the fourth house from the left, and coffee is its beverage. The white house is the fifth house.*
- Because of 1, we know that the British man lives in the red house, which is in the center.
- The only remaining house color available is yellow, which is the Norwegian's house.
- Because of 7, the first house smokes Dunhill.
- Because of 11, the second house raises horses.
- This step involves some imagination. The key step lies in 10 and 15. The person who smokes Blends must be in the second house or the forth house to allow for the first house or the fifth house to drink water as their beverage. Let's assume for now that:**
- If the person who smokes Blends owns the fourth house, then the fifth house drinks water because of 15. The only house that fits the bill for 12 is the second house, so the second house has beer as its beverage and the owner smokes Blue Master. That leaves tea for the Norwegian, but because of 3, we know that is not the case due to contradiction.This leaves our alternative:
- If the person who smokes Blends owns the second house, then the first house drinks water because of 15.
Thus, the German owns the fish!
- Because of 12, we know that the house who smokes Blue Master must drink beer. Our assumption means the second house already smokes, so that leaves the fifth house drinking beer and smoking Blue Master.
- That leaves tea for the second house.
- Because of 3, we know the Dane drinks tea, so the Dane lives in the second house.
- The only house who fits the bill for 13 is now the fourth house.
- The fifth house is the Swede's.
- Because of 2, the fifth house keeps dogs.
- The only brand of smoke left belongs to the third house, Pall Mall.
- Because of 6, the middle house keeps birds.
- That leaves fish and cats. Because of 10, the first house keeps cats.
It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
What It All Means
In order to solve this riddle, a person needs three things, persistence, critical thinking, and foresight. When we look at these qualities, we can see why it might be said that only 2% of the population could solve this riddle.
- Persistence. The riddle doesn't require a high level of creativity. It's more about methodically looking at all the possibilities. It probably took quite a bit of time, and that's the way it's designed. A large portion of people don't exercise the patience necessary to see the solution through. Even you might've thought about quitting at some point.
- Critical thinking. Reasoning is the name of the game. I consider critical thinking here to be making sure that there are no contradictions. This involves holding several factors in your working memory.
- Foresight. There is a specific point where you must make an assumption and see how it plays out (noted by the **). This involves entertaining an idea without knowing it to be true in order to further explore the puzzle.
When viewed this way, the riddle can serve to teach a very important lesson about the qualities of an intelligent and successful person. Now, we must apply these skills conscientiously to all our serious endeavors rather than just to a pleasant puzzle done only for fun! That's the hard part.