These clog-dancers were performing at the Monument last Saturday as I was passing through...

Inspired by the recent regular inclusion of the Royal Oak Quiz which Ross has been sending me, a blogreader hitherto unknown to me has got in touch via email.

He calls himself Doctor Malevolent and you’re about to find out why…

‘Thanks to you and Ross for the quizzes, Ian’ he says, ‘but how about some really sadistic, mind-mangling puzzles to get truckshunters tearing their hair out over the summer.  Not just brain-teasers - brain annihilators!!!’

He says he has a bottomless pit of such migraine-inducing conundrums and - being a truckshunter and therefore a man of his word - some of them were attached to his email. 

I received them almost a week ago and, being something of a sadist, I undertook to do as he requested - namely, not to look at the answers until I had tried to solve the puzzles.

I have to be honest, though, and say that, after 3 sleepless nights, I gave up and peeked at the solutions.  The funny thing is - having read the answers, I’m none the wiser.

Try solving this first one of yourself, and you’ll see what I mean - they’re absolute stinkers!!

Doctor Malevolent tells me that, in ancient China, prisoners condemned to death were given this puzzle to solve at sunset on the night before their execution.  If they solved it by sunrise, they were allowed to live or, if the Emperor was feeling particularly generous, set free.

So no pressure, then.

Here goes….

'You are on the road of death.

You reach a place where the road divides - one to the left and one to the right.  You know that one road goes to heaven and one road goes to hell - but you do not know which is which.

Three ghostly phantoms are standing at the roadside to help you.

One of them - Gandhi - always tells the truth.

Another - Goebbels - never tells the truth.

The third - de Gaulle - sometimes tells the truth and sometimes does not.

You do not know which ghost is which.

Naturally, you want to take the road to heaven.  To determine which of the two roads that is, you are allowed to ask the phantoms two questions - of the kind that can be answered Yes or No.

You cannot ask all three of them at once, though.  You may only ask each question once and you may address only one phantom at a time.'

I found this puzzle so heartbreakingly difficult that I am prepared to offer a prize to the first person who contacts me with the right answer.

And - er - thanks, Doctor Malevolent.

* *
To make up for the damage he/she has probably done to our collective psyche, the good Doctor has also included some jokes which, he claims, scientists tell each other to prove that science (and philosophy and stuff like that) has a sense of humour.

* Pavlov is having a drink in the pub when his phone rings.  He jumps up and shouts ‘Hell! I forgot to feed the dogs!’
* How many surrealists does it take to change a light-bulb?  A fish.
* There are ten types of people in this world - those that know binary and those that don’t.
* A Buddhist monk approaches a hot-dog stand and says ‘Make me one with everything.’
* What do you call two crows on a branch?  An attempted murder.
* An Englishman, a Frenchman, a Spaniard and a German are walking down the street.  They see a juggler performing but there are so many people that the four men can’t get a good view of the juggler.  So the juggler gets up on a platform and asks ‘Can you see me now?’  The four men reply ‘Yes’ ‘Oui’ ‘Si’ ‘Ja’.
* A Roman walks into a bar, holds up two fingers and says ‘five beers, please’.
* A computer programmer’s wife tells him ‘Go to the supermarket for a loaf of bread and if they have eggs, get a dozen’.  He comes back with 12 loaves of bread.

* *
Post comments on this blog or email me:  truckshunters@googlemail.com


Kev said...

While I peruse the problem, her's one for the esteemed Doctor:

Picture, if you will, the Isle of Row, a one-acre forsaken swatch of desert in the middle of the Sea of Troubles. Despite its diminutive size, Row has no less than four kinds of people, all outwardly indistinguishable from one another. There are the members of the First Family, who always tell the truth, and the Pretenders, who never do. There are the Eccentrics, who may or may not tell the truth, depending on whim. Finally there are the Wimps, who are incapable of speaking unless they have heard one of the other kinds of people speak, and then they obsequiously chime in.
There is only on crossroads on the island, facing four possible routes. Three Rowians stood by, milling about, and I had only two questions to ask in order to reach, as directly as possible, the fabled 100-foot Tower of Babble, the island's premier, albeit only, tourist attraction. What did I do?

Ian Robinson said...

You scoundrel! You mountebank! I just KNEW you would do that!!!!

Kev said...

The answer is in the riddle. The island is 'a one-acre forsaken swatch of desert'. The fabled Tower of Babble is 100 foot high.
the tower would be visible from anywhere on the island, it would stick out like a sore thumb. Who needs the questions?

Bentonbag said...

Mountebank - now that's a word you don't often hear these days - I think a revival is due - there's plenty of them about.

Ian Robinson said...

Kev - you are not only a mountebank but a smug clever-clogs. Right, Brenda?