K S Lane has been an avid reader and writer her entire life and is passionate about helping others to improve their own written skills.
Riddles can be great pastimes. They’re an effective way to broaden your mind and challenge your presuppositions, and they can also be a funny way to trick your friends. In this article I’ve listed 10 of my favourite riddles that are good for children, teenagers and adults alike, as well as explanations for their answers if some of the more difficult ones get you stumped. Happy riddling!
Note: The answers appear just under each riddle, so make sure not to scroll too far until you're ready, or you'll spoil the fun!
10. The Boy in the Car Crash
Riddle: A boy and his father get into a serious car crash. The father dies instantly, while the son is rushed to hospital for emergency surgery. When they get to the operating theatre, one of the surgeons lets out a cry of shock. "That’s my son!" How is this possible?
Answer: The beauty in this riddle is that it’ll have you wanting to bang your head against a wall once you figure it out. Most people are confused at first, and try to complicate the riddle by wondering whether the surgeon is the step-father of the boy, or perhaps whether the son had been raised by a gay couple. The answer is much more simple than that; the surgeon is the boy’s mother. Feel a little bit guilty for not realising this sooner? Don’t worry; this one trips most people up.
9. The Prisoner and the Three Rooms
Riddle: A prisoner is forced to go in one of three rooms. The first room is on fire, the second room is rigged with explosives that will go off as soon as he steps inside and the third contains a pair of lions that haven’t eaten in years. Which room should he choose?
Answer: I’ve heard all sorts of answers for this one; "the room with the explosives, because could just step over the threshold and then quickly jump back so he’s safe." "The room with the fire- it doesn’t say how much fire. Maybe it's just a match!" The correct answer is actually the third room; the room with the lions who haven’t eaten in years. And animal who hadn’t eaten in that long would be long dead, and though I’m sure the smell of two decaying lion carcasses wouldn’t be pleasant, the prisoner wouldn’t be in any mortal danger.
8. Three Consecutive Days
Riddle: Name three consecutive days without using the words Wednesday, Friday or Sunday.
Answer: There are a few possible combinations to answer this riddle, and to can be fun to see how many you can come up with. Yesterday, today and tomorrow is the most popular answer, but the 1st, 2nd and 3rd of any month works as well, as does Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
7. A Woman Names Her Baby
Riddle: A woman named her six children Dorothy, Remy, Michael, Fabien, Sophia and Laila. What will she name her next child; Abraham, Jeremiah, Titus or Rocky?
Answer: It can take a good few minutes of staring at the names until you figure this one out. The first two letters of each of the children’s names correspond to the notes in a musical scale; Do, Re, Mi, Fa, So and La. Logically, the next child should have a name starting with Ti, and only one of the given options fits that criteria. Titus.
6. Thirteen Hearts
Riddle: What has 13 hearts but no other organs?
Answer: This riddle sounds like it might be alluding to some kind of fantastical, 13-hearted alien, but the answer is actually much closer to home. A pack of playing cards has 13 cards in the 'hearts' suit, and (hopefully) no brain or stomach or other organs.
5. Impossible Word Length
Riddle: This five-letter word becomes shorter when you add two letters to it. What’s the word?
Answer: This riddle seemed to defy all sense. How can something be shorter when you’re adding letters to it? Surely it would become longer, unless… shorter. What word can you extend to make shorter? Short!
4. Boy to Girl Ratio
Riddle: In the Republic of Zorgania, only girls can inherit their parents worth. Because of this, couples continue to have children until they have a girl. Once they have a girl, they stop. What’s the ratio of baby boys to baby girls in the Republic of Zorgania?
Answer: This riddle is so brilliant because it’s misleading. It sounds like the answer is going to involve a lot of complicated math and calculations of different probabilities. The answer, in fact, is actually quite simple. Say that there are twelve couples in total in the Republic of Zorgania. When they have their first child they’re going to have an equal chance of having a boy or a girl. Six of the couples will have a girl and then stop having children altogether, and six will have a boy. The six that have a boy will continue to have children, and of those children, half (three) will be boys and half (three) will be girls. The couples that have girls stop and the couples that have boys go on to have more children, half of those being girls and half being boys. You can continue this cycle for as long as you like, with whatever starting amount of couples that you desire, and the outcome will always be the same; half of the children are girls, and half of them are boys, corresponding to a 1:1 ratio. This logic is summarised in the diagram below.
3. World's Largest Island
Riddle: Before Australia was discovered by Western explorers in the 17th century, what was the world’s largest island?
Answer: It seems like you need to have some advanced knowledge of both geography and history to answer this question, but like all good riddles no outside knowledge is actually needed. What was the world’s largest island before Australia was discovered? It was still Australia. Just because the island hadn’t been discovered by the western world yet definitely didn’t mean that it didn’t exist.
2. Iced Tea
Riddle: Two girls ate dinner together, and both of them ordered iced tea. One of the girls was very thirsty and downed five iced teas in quick succession. The other one sipped at her drink more slowly. The first girl lived, and the second one died. All of the drinks were poisoned. How could the one who drunk more have survived?
Answer: This one requires a bit of good old-fashioned detective work. One girl drank five iced teas quickly and survived, while the other one drank one slowly and died. The answer, therefore, must lie in how fast they drank the drinks. What would cause the one who drank her tea slowly to die? If the poison was in the ice. The girl who drank her iced teas quickly didn’t leave time for the ice to melt and the poison to release into her drink, whereas the girl who drank slowly allowed the ice to melt and died because of it.
1. Window Cleaner
Riddle: A window cleaner is cleaning windows on the 50th story of a building. He has no safety equipment. Suddenly, he trips and falls. There is nothing on the ground to soften the blow, and yet he isn’t seriously hurt. How can this be?
Answer: "He slipped and fell on the 50th story and he was fine? What, was he made of rubber or something?" The reason so many people fail this riddle is their presupposition that the window cleaner is outside the building. It’s a logical assumption to make, seeing as regular people only ever see window cleaners dangling from precariously high buildings they work. In reality, though, window cleaners don’t just clean the windows on the outside of buildings. They also have to clean the insides of the buildings. The only way that the window cleaner in this riddle could have survived was if he was cleaning the windows on the inside of the 50th story, and his fall made him stumble to his knees harmlessly on the floor of the building.
Do You Have a Personal Favourite?
And there we have it: My top ten favourite riddles and explanations for their answers. If you have a personal favourite riddle that isn’t included on this list, feel free to post a comment down below!
© 2018 K S Lane
K S Lane (author) from Melbourne, Australia on September 28, 2018:
Thanks Pamela! I've always been a fan of riddles- I'm glad you enjoyed them!
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on September 26, 2018:
These riddles make you think, and they are fun. I would probably never think of writing a unique article like this one.