# Lateral thinking puzzles

I noticed that this question was put on hold because "This question may invite speculative answers, as the question is not fully defined. The validity of some answers may be based upon opinion."

It is true that the puzzle, as it was stated, does not have a definite answer: an American and a Briton would give a different answer. But I think that the site would benefit if the statement was changed to avoid this ambiguity: and anyway other answers which based on lateral thinking - for example, "if the bus was running in reverse gear, then its direction would be..." are also useful.

What do you think?

• Note that it had previously been closed by five independent users with a custom close reason similar to the one I used - I just changed it for clarity.
– user20
Jun 11 '14 at 15:23

As I understand the problem it is dilemma between amount of information ("does it exists?") and access to the information ("is it easy to find?").

In case of this site amount of information is number of puzzles the site can covers. Access is amount of opinion based discussions on topics, that a person needs to read to find what he wants.

From this, personally me (I understand most high-ranked people on this site disagree with item 3. here by some reason), conclude that:

1. Opinion based questions like "What puzzle do you like?" clearly must be avoided. Why? Because there is no right answer and this leads to:

• big amount of answers, each user will have it's own answer. More answers - harder to find the one you want.
• the highest (with maximum votes) answer will be a random one. Therefore a person would need to read all answers before he(she) finds what he needs.
2. "Objective" puzzles (and questions), which are based on common terminology and assumptions like "What is number of queens to cover chessboard?", which tend to have only one meaning (in one field of knowledge) clearly are welcome. Why?

• because they have only few correct answers, or few ideas (answers can be grouped together). Therefore such questions adds information, which are easy to find.

• because very different people will judge about correctness of the same answer in more or less the same way. Therefore vote system will work - answer with more votes will have bigger probability to be the correct one.

3. "Subjective" puzzles, which are based not on the terminology, but on simple english words, which tend to have much more meanings. I would call such a questions rather interpretation based than opinion based. They can have different answers first of all because they have different interpretations, but not because people are different. Therefore they do not have the 2nd drawback described in item 1. They will have 1st drawback (they have a lot of answers), but it will be much less critical, because number of interpretations is much less than number of people and, most importantly, because there is voting system(!). For example this question shows how greatly it works on such a question: Lighthouse keeper stuck the bath. This question added information on the site, and this information is easy to find among answers.

Concluding, I think questions in form of subjective puzzles should exist, question in opinion based form - must not.

Regarding the lighthouse keeper I think the test is whether the answer stands out when given. In both this case and the school bus I think the given answer is clearly the best one. There are often others (I saw the bus as coming out of the page, with the two big circles being headlights) A similar situation comes on math.stackexchange with what is the next term in the sequence. Some people complain that there are an infinite number of sequences that start like that, so no good answer. On the other hand, if the given terms are \$1,2,3,4,5,6\$, any answer other than \$7\$ strikes me as perverse. I recognize that on this standard it is hard to determine acceptability until we see the answer, but accept it.

• The reason I disagree with this is that it's impossible to tell whether one answer will stick out by the question itself. One needs to look only at the question to figure out whether it should be closed - by the time there are answers, that defeats the purpose of closing the question. The difference on Math.SE is that if I list an integer sequence 1,1,2,3,5, and ask for the next term, I'm probably not talking about A240733, but the Fibonacci sequence. In this question, "the door doesn't seal properly" is just as valid as "I pull the plug on the bathtub."
– user20
Jun 11 '14 at 22:47

This question wasn't closed because it omitted to specify left- or right-hand side driving. It was closed because it is open-ended. The answer about the door is the classic one, but not the intrinsically correct one, because there is no intrinsically correct answer to this kind of situational puzzle. This is why this kind of puzzles is off-topic.

• and what's the problem in having non-classic answers besides the classic one? Since the times of Sam Loyd and Henry Dudeney (not mentioning Lewis Carroll and his Pillow problems) puzzles which may have additional twisted solutions are published.
– mau
Jun 12 '14 at 8:40
• @mau The problem is not having non-classic answers, it's that this kind of puzzle is a discussion starter, which doesn't fit on a questions-and-answers site. See the thread I link to and the threads it links to. Jun 12 '14 at 15:06

It's a kind of question when the answer is localized (the answer can be both right and left, depending on which side the doors of the bus is that particular country happen to be), but there's a correct answer that gives the way for solving such puzzles, and namely: where is the door?

I think it was a mistake to close that question because it do has definite answer. For most people it would be enough to say "Think on which side of the bus the doors are".

Of course, one could always argue that the doors can be behind, or on the roof, or there can be no doors at all, etc. It's a kind of classical "I don't know the answer so the puzzle is stupid" rant ;)