Skip to main content

Puzzles, Games and Trivia Questions

Puzzles, games, trivia questions and answers for quizzes, team building activities, training and motivation

Free trivia questions, lateral thinking puzzles and exercises – free answers too!

On this page are lots of clever riddles, puzzles, lateral thinking puzzles, trick questions, number puzzles, logic puzzles and word games, all which can be used for team building exercises or party games.

Games, tricks and puzzles help team building, motivation, and warm up any gathering.

These free questions, games and puzzles are useful for ice breakers for training sessions, meetings, workshops, seminars or conferences.

Some of these puzzles are too tricky or time-consuming for quick quizzes.

If you want quick questions and answers for quizzes - or stand-alone ready-made quizzes - you'll find hundreds of quiz questions and answers at the Quizballs section.

You can also find content for quizzes and team games on the ditloids puzzles page, the tough complex puzzles, and try the expressions derivations quiz.

The team building games section gives advice on running games and exercises, and connects with the two big collections of team building and employee motivation ideas.

Giving groups or teams a mixed set of puzzles gets people working together and using each other's strengths. These puzzles are great for games and competitive team building exercises. Many of the puzzles can be adapted, enlarged or shortened, or made easier by turning into multiple-choice. Have fun, and try not to use them all at once tricky questions and puzzles need to be used sparingly, as dictinct from quizzes, which mainly test of people's knowledge, rather than their puzzle-solving capabilities.

If you need a warm-up quiz quickly, here's a free ready-made Quick Ten-Question Trivia Quiz in MSWord, with questions and answers sheets featuring questions from the list below.

See also the amazing mobius strip puzzle below, which is good creating a stimulating warm-up exercise.

Quizzes and trivia questions are fun and helpful for learning, for teambuilding, and quizzes are also good for your brain and your mental fitness. Research now proves that people who keep learning and keep their brains exercised tend to stay mentally fit and healthy longer than people who do not exercise their minds.

Send your own games, tricks, puzzles, warm ups and exercises.

Or share your puzzles and exerecises on the free self-publishing Businessballs Space.



businessballs puzzles and questions

for quizzes and team building games - puzzles answers here

Please note - the puzzles on this page are not really suitable for pub quizzes or quick quizzes for teams, because they take longer to work out than typical quiz questions.

If you are looking for ready-made quizzes which test knowledge rather than problem solving see the many quizzes on the Quizballs quizzes section, where each quiz has its own separate questions and answers pages.


What's special about 4th May 2006, and specifically two minutes and three seconds after one o'clock in the morning? (puzzles answers here)

What are the astrological star signs and the two months that each sign represents? (The symbols and precise dates are optional details and not necessarily required in quiz answers.)

Who wrote: "Bring me my bow of burning gold: Bring me my arrows of desire.." ?

What famous slogan was originally devised by Patrick O'Keefe for the Society of American Florists?

What connects the words sitcom, smog, brunch, muppet and cyborg?

What symbolic item did Lauren Bacall put into the urn containing Humphrey Bogart's ashes?

Which one of these is on the coast: Cairo, Johannesburg, Tripoli, Sarajevo, Nairobi, Khartoum?

Which of these is not on the coast: Venice, San Diego, Reykjavik, Marrakesh, Helsinki, Lisbon?

What upper case (capital) letter of the English alphabet (in plain sans serif font) requires that the pen be lifted from the paper twice (providing no lines are re-traced)? (Sans serif is like Arial; serif font is like Times - serif font has the extra decorative strokes at the ends of the main strokes - said to derive from engravers' practice, and actually useful in providing a horizontal reading flow for printed words.)

A famous leader's first name of Mohandas is commonly replaced by a first name that means 'great soul'; who was he?

Who was the 'The Wizard of Menlo Park' who said, "Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration." ?

Paul McGann, Peter Davidson and William Hartnell have each played the same famous sci-fi role. What's the character's name?

What is the largest English town or city never (as of 2005/06) to have been represented in the top English football division (the old First Division and now the Premier League)? Supplementary question: What is also unique about this full club name in the entire professional football league system?

There are four (known to us - perhaps there are more) perfectly recognisable and understandable words in the English language having one of each vowel in reverse alphabetical order (UOIEA), what are the words?

Why would the following stand no chance of being approved as official names for British racehorses? - Salisbury Cathedral, Wonderful Terminator, Sexy Disciplinarian or Sea Bee.

How much time elapses between any Sunday 29 February and (going forward in time) the next respective Tuesday 29 February? (This is not a trick question and is reasonably straight-forward to work out if you have that sort of brain...) A supplementary question is: what year was the last Sunday 29 February? (Again this is straight-forward to work out if you know the current day and date, and have the right sort of brain....)

how to put your entire body through a business card

This is a very impressive trick; especially because the solution is for real; it's not a trick.


the paintings puzzle

This is an excellent lateral-thinking and maths puzzle:

An art gallery features a modern work of 'moving art'. The artist stands by a stack of paintings, each featuring a different number. One of the paintings is displayed on the wall. At certain times the artist removes the painting from the wall and replaces it with a painting from the stack. At 11am, the artist hangs a painting of the number 30. At 4pm he hangs a painting of number 240. At 7.30pm he hangs a painting of number 315. What painting does the artist hang at 9.20pm? Answer

the spotlight puzzle

A conference room contains three separate wall-mounted spotlights - right, left and front of stage. Each is controlled by its own on-off switch. These three switches are numbered 1, 2 and 3, but they are in a back-room which has no sight of the the spotlights or the conference room (and there are no reflections or shadows or mirrors, and you are alone). How do you identify each switch correctly - right, left, front - if you can only enter the back-room once? Answer

What famous UK business institution has the postal code CF14 3UZ? (puzzles answers here)

Months of the year that begin on a Sunday (other than February in non-leap-years) always have five Sundays. What other notable feature do they (including all Februarys) contain?

What connects these words?... Dram, Colon, Won, Dong, Kip.

Hedy Lamarr achieved what notable cinematic 'first' in 1933? (If you can state any of her other interesting claims to fame, then award yourself a bonus point for each...)

With what papers do you associate Sam Weller?

What do these Shakespeare plays have in common?... Julius Caesar, Richard III, Hamlet, Macbeth.

Where was Britain's first escalator installed?

'Dieu Et Mon Droit' appears on which daily header?

What do these items have in common?... Arrow, Ladder, Spanner, Hockey-Stick, T-Square, Crutch.

The drummer with little known 1960's high school rock group the Iguanas became which music and style icon?

Christopher Leyland's discovery on his brother-in-law's estate near Powys, Wales in 1888, was what?

Scientist Dr Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, had what well known unit of measurement was named after him?

What is the connection between Ben Corson and Roger Stoughton and riot control?

What was Pall Mall before it was a famous London street and a brand of cigarettes?

The bacillus-based invention of French bacteriologists Albert Calmette and Camille Guérin, and the reason for their invention gave rise to two well-known abbreviations, what are they?

A maritime poser: Homo-Sapien ÷ Rent = ?

What do these words have in common, and what does each mean in that common context? - string, ostentation, smack, pitying, crash, unkindness, murmuration, drove, pod, murder, knot, colony, grist, brood, shrewdness, school, siege.

What 15-letter word contains the letter 'E' five times and no other vowels?

To circus people, what is a 'First of May Joey'?

What is deoxyribonucleic acid?

What is the only US state which borders with just one other US state?

JCB is the name of the famous earth-moving machines; what does JCB stand for?

What word ends with an S in its plural masculine form, but changes to singular feminine when another S is added to the end? There are now two examples of this known to me. (Ack D Robinson and M Trollope) answer

Many flags of European countries have three stripes, vertical or horizontal - how many of the following do you know? 

(vertical stripes left to right - technically first colour is the one at the 'hoist', i.e., nearest the flagpole) 
black/yellow/red - 
blue/white/red - 
green/white/red - 
green/white/orange - 

(horizontal stripes top to bottom) 
red/white/green - 
black/red/yellow - 
white/green/red - 
red/yellow/red - 
yellow/green/red - 
blue/black/white - 
red/white/blue -

What is the capacity of a 'barrel' as commonly referenced for crude oil production? Also, what does OPEC stand for, and what are the eleven member countries (as at October 2004)?

Whose dogs? -

  • Albie
  • Argos
  • Bagel
  • Bimbo
  • Blondi
  • Boatswain
  • Checkers, Vicky and King Timahoe
  • Gnasher
  • Gromit
  • Kasbec
  • Krypto
  • Mafia
  • Muttley
  • Nana
  • Nipper
  • Peritas
  • Precious Pup
  • Rambler
  • Snert
  • Snoopy
  • Snowy
  • Susan, Emma, Linnet, Holly and Willow
  • Turk

What cities are most commonly known by these nicknames? (There is more than one answer for some):-

  • City of Dreaming Spires
  • City of Magnificent Distances
  • City of the Angels
  • City of Churches
  • City of Love
  • City of Peace and Justice
  • City of the Tribes/the Eternal City
  • City of the Violated Treaty/Stab City
  • City of the Violet Crown
  • Crescent City
  • Empire City
  • The Fair City
  • Forbidden City
  • Granite City
  • The Harbour City/Emerald City
  • Monumental City/Charm City
  • Mormon City
  • Orchid City
  • Quaker City
  • Soul City
  • The Stampede City
  • Windy City
  • Motor City
  • Music City
  • The Steel City
  • The White City of the North

Where would you find stags and kites (along with a couple of other creatures that would surely give the game away)?

What was 'Sphairistike'? (The word is Greek, loosely meaning 'ball-game', and an earlier version was known by the French as 'Jeu de Paume').

What icon of 20th century design was the Chapman Root Glass Company of Indiana responsible for introducing in 1915?

Who were the famous riders of these horses? - Bucephalos, Black Bess, Arion, Copenhagen, Marengo, Babieca, Dapple (an ass), Incitatus, Pegasus (three possible answers), Trigger, White Surrey, Midnight.

What twelve animals feature in Chinese astrology?

These seemingly unpronouncable sounds actually appear in common English words; what are the three words? - sthm, tchphr, tchst. (There is also a less common additional word featuring the 'sthm' letter set - ack JP.)

These very old iconic symbols were responsible for what modern system? - the moon, the sun, the planet Saturn, and the Anglo-Saxon gods: Thor, Tiw, Woden, and his wife Frig.

Cryptic anagram puzzles (the clues are in the questions):

  • dirty room
  • here come dots
  • lost cash in, me
  • alas, no more z's
  • I'm a dot in place
  • eleven plus two

A father took his son to hospital for emergency treatment after an accident. The doctor greeted them, but on seeing the boy, exclaimed, "I can't operate on him - he's my son!" How can this be? (The son was not adopted, nor a step-son.)

The 'Frying Pan' was a 1931 prototype and early production nickname for what item of electro-magnetic equipment?

Hartnell and Troughton did it on TV. Who did it in a movie film in the same decade?

What do these British people have in common? J S Lowry, David Bowie, French and Saunders, Nigella Lawson, Vanessa Redgrave, Albert Finney, Jon Snow, John le Carre, Aldous Huxley, Roald Dahl, Evelyn Waugh and George Melly.

Lincoln's stunning 1955 Futura convertible concept car appeared in motor shows to wide acclaim until 1959, when it achieved greater notoriety, featuring the 1959 film 'It Started With A Kiss' starring Glenn Ford and Debbie Reynolds. The car later became even more famous for what reason?

What is remarkable about this phrase? - Anger? 'Tis safe never. Bar it. Use Love.

Name a common word with five consecutive vowels.

What morbid coincidence occured at 12 Curzon Place, Mayfair, London?

Catholic bishops are allowed seven of them, priests five, and ordinary people one; what are they?

Why do we say 'Bless you' to someone who has sneezed?

Whose secret ingredient is code-named 7X?

Why did so many sailors have a crucifix tattooed on their backs in the 1700's?

What unique feature do the words PRECEPTOR and DILLYDALLY have in common?

What's the longest word in the English language with only one vowel (which appears once only in the word)?

What do the words ALMOST and BIOPSY have in common?

What's the only word in the English language having four consecutive double letters? (See also the Hoover Dam Word Puzzle)

Draw a capital T over a capital C so that the down-stroke of the T ends in the centre of the C. What historial event does this represent?

What five odd figures when added together make fourteen?

The time displayed usually on watches and clocks in adverts is what?, and why?

What are the only four commonly used words in the English language ending in 'dous'? (There is a fourth not-so-common word, and a fifth very uncommon word, which also has one of each vowel in the correct order.)

What is the only word in the English language that ends in 'mt'?

What are the longest one-syllable words in the English language? (You're looking for a ten-letter word, and/or several nine-letter words. To turn this into a virtually impossible question, find a nine-letter word that doesn't begin with 'S' - we are aware of only two such examples)

Think of a words that sound exactly the same and have opposite meanings. (They are spelt differently but phonetically - they sound - the same.) We know of four such words pairs, each which has two different spellings, same sound, and opposite meanings.

Now think of a words pairings which are spelt the same and have two opposite meanings. There are several examples of such word pairs, plus another two pairs or hyphenated double-word constructions, again with same spellings and opposite meanings. A word having two opposite meanings and same spelling is called a contranym or antagonym.

And extending the theme, what words in the English language occur in two forms, exactly the same spelling, with opposite meanings? (We know eight of these words.)

What trades or occupations are associated with these surnames? (easy ones first) Turner, Joiner, Glazier, Draper, Wakeman, Cartwright, Bowyer, Fletcher, Wainwright, Tanner, Scrivener, Sexton, Cooper, Horner, Chandler, Mercer, Hayward, Franklin, Fuller/Tucker/Walker (all same), Hine, Bicker.

The sequence 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 incorporates another sequence: 1, 1, 1, 2, 2, 1, 1, 1, 1, 2. Why?

What connects Wedgwood pottery and The Origin Of Species?

What do these three-letter groups have in common? ABZ, BGO, HAJ, MEL, ORD, SPK.

How did the TVR sports car firm get its name?

What is 'trichlorophenylmethyliodisalicyl' more commonly known as?

Name the Wacky Races cars and drivers.

What order is denoted by the following prefixes? First, Middle, Morning, Forenoon, Afternoon, First Dog, Last Dog.

Complete the sequence: (three more needed): S, H, S, M, C, D, P, R, O, ...

In 1860 Frederick Walton named his new product after the latin words for its two main constituents, flax and oil. What was it?

Why was Dr Who's 'Tardis' so called?

Shepherd and Turpin invented something that derived its name from theirs, and the name of the factory where it was first produced in 1941. What was it?

BUNCH was an acronym at one time representing the big names in the computer industry competing with the dominant market leader IBM, can you name them?

What was the origin of the 3M company name?

Who was Lady Creighton-Ward?

Reinhard Goerdeler, Piet Klyjnveld, James Marwick, and William Barclay Peat founded businesses which merged to become what famous four-letter acronymic global corporation?

What did Mikoyan and Gurevich design?

What's the difference between a rhombus and a rhomboid?

The first Englishman to be killed in a plane crash had another claim to fame, what was it?

What's noteworthy about the words 'reverberated' and 'stewardesses' in relation to typing? And in the same vein, Lollipop?

Name a fifteen letter word containing fifteeen different letters.

Complete the sequence (five more required): deca, hecto, kilo,...

What do these pairings have in common and what is the odd pair in the sequence? - AA, AI, IO, OU, OX, BO, KI.

What is it? - the people who make it don't want it, the people who buy it don't use it and the people who use it don't know.

What do these items have in common? - Vivien Leigh's 1939 Oscar for her performance in Gone With The Wind; Marylin Monroe's dress that she wore when she sang Happy Birthday to President John Kennedy at Madison Square Gardens in 1962; Leonardo da Vinci's 16th century Codex Hammer notebook.

What is assessed by the international grading system known as the Four C's, and what does each of the C's represent?

What's special about these sets of letters: SA - DK - XLNC - NV - NME - FND - XPDNC?

To ensure a fair division between two people (for dividing chocolate bars between children for instance) you might use the 'one cuts, the other chooses' method. How do you ensure a fair division between three people? (Thanks David Grech)

Who were 'Too Much' and Norville Rogers?

There are lots of countries and continents that begin with the letter 'A'. Two of them differ from the rest; which two and why? (Thanks Rupert Stubbs)

Who has appeared more often than any other woman on the cover of Time magazine?

What do these pairs have in common? Lenny Henry and Michael Jackson - Peter Gabriel and Stevie Wonder - John Motson and Virginia Wade - Stanley Kubrick and Danny La Rue - Charles Dance and Chris Tarrant.

What oversized onomatopoeically named mechanism was put on display for people to use at the British Wembley Exhibition is 1924, in order to reassure the public as to its safety and reliability?

A pair of red shoes were sold at auction in 1988 for £90,000. What made them special?

What is unusual and probably unique about British postage stamps?

A man is walking home with his dog at a steady 4mph. With 6 miles to go the dog is let off the leash and runs all the way home at 6 mph. The dog immediately turns and runs back to the man at the same speed, and upon meeting him it turns and runs home again. It continues to run back and forth at the same speed until the man reaches home. What distance has the dog run since being let off the leash?

What word (in the English language) has six vowels, and every one is 'A'?

Each of these famous people is related (not by marriage) to one other person in the list. How many relationships can you identify? Warren Beatty, Christopher Lee, Lauren Bacall, Angelina Jolie, Isabella Rossellini, Loretta Lynn, Debbie Reynolds, Ian Fleming, Shirley Maclaine, Crystal Gayle, Stanley Baldwin, Peter Sarstedt, Jon Voigt, Francis Ford Coppola, Ginger Rogers, Nicolas Cage, Ingrid Bergman, Rudyard Kipling, Richard Briers, Tippi Hedren, Rita Hayworth, Shimon Peres, Carrie Fisher, Eden Kane, Melanie Griffith, Terry Thomas.

What year when written in Roman numerals uniquely contains one of each symbol in descending order?

Irrespective of sheet size, what is the most number of times a square piece of normal stock paper can be folded in half? (And not by repeatedly folding and unfolding it which would be cheating...). And as a supplementary question, what's the most number of folds in half achieved for a piece of normal stock paper irrespective of length and shape? (achieved in 2004)

What did each of these brand names originally represent? Athena, Nike, Vesta, Mercury, Vulcan, Flora, Mars.

With no pre-selection, and excluding February 29th, what's the smallest number of people in a group required to ensure a better than even chance of at least two of them having the same birthday? That's birthDAY, not birthDATE.

How many different batting orders are possible in a team of eleven cricketers?

Do bullets fired straight up into the air take longer to go up or to come down, or the same time, and why?

What famous confrontational sporting ritual traditionally began (until changed in 2005) with the words, "Ka Mate Ka Mate.."? (mate is pronounced 'mattay')

How many of the novels can you name in which these characters appear? (they get harder...) Quasimodo, d'Artagnan, Scarlet O'Hara, Phileas Fogg, Jim Hawkins, Yossarian, Lemuel Gulliver, Randall McMurphy, Philip Pirrip, Jude Fawley, Captain Ahab, Eliza Doolittle, Blanche Dubois, Edmund Dantes, Holly Golightly, Percy Blakeney, Nick Carraway, Leopold Bloom, David Balfour, Charles Ryder, Holden Caulfield, Richard Hannay, Elizabeth Bennet, Tom Joad, Maggie Pollitt, Becky Sharp, Dorothea Brooke, Josephine March, Rupert Birkin, Maggie Tulliver, Jimmy Porter, Arthur Seaton.

Put these British aristocratic titles in the correct order of seniority - Marquess, Earl, Viscount, Prince, Duchess, Lord, Baron, King, Marchioness, Duke, Prince, Queen, Lady, Earl, Princess, Baroness, Viscountess, Countess.

What do these names have in common?..... Winnebago, Tobacco, Chinook, Laguna, Mobile, Mono, Yazoo.

A gameshow contestant reaches the final challenge: Two security guards are each holding identical closed brief cases. In one there is $1m of banknotes; in the other a few of last week's newspapers. The guards know what is in each case. The contestant is told that one guard will lie and the other will tell the truth - but not which guard is which. He is then told that he can ask one guard just one question, and then he must choose one case or the other. What question should he ask? (There are two possible questions we know of (thanks to John Fisher for suggesting the second one.)

A man took the bus every weekend to go fishing either to the lake or the river. Initially he tried to guess which would offer the best conditions, but frequently guessed wrong. So he decided that as the buses to each place ran every ten minutes, and from the same bus-stop, he'd simply leave it to fate, and jump on the first bus that came along. After several weeks he was puzzled that he hardly ever got to go to the lake - in fact it was only about one week in ten - despite the fact that he got to the bus-stop at all different times, and that all the buses to both places ran on time (this is only a story...). So why was this?

How many times would a football rotate if rolled around the middle circumference of another football of the same size? (Please note that the answer to this question was corrected 17 Oct 2012.)

Numerically, what's the difference between a hind and a hart?

Why do buses come in twos and threes?

Why do we clink glasses when we say 'cheers' (or 'skol' or 'good health' etc)?

It is said to be bad grammar to finish a sentence with a preposition (ie., a word that expresses the relation of one noun or pronoun to another, 'of', 'with', 'to', 'over' etc). Can you think of a sentence which makes sense and finishes with seven consecutive prepositions? (ack. The Bean)

A new street is built with one hundred new houses, numbered 1 to 100. How many number 9s are required to number all the houses? (upside-down 6s are not allowed) (ack. Neal Stothard)

Can you be mathematically certain that at least two people in the UK have exactly the same number of hairs on their head, and why so, or not?

There are several fascinating similarities between the assassinations of American Presidents Abraham Lincoln and John F Kennedy - which ones can you name?

What politician, noted for his wit, when told that his trouser fly was open said, "Dead birds don't fall out of their nests..." ?

There are four (that we know) ten-letter English words that can be made from the top row of letters on a normal QWERTY keyboard, what are they? (a clue for one of them is in the question)

Why are buttons on women's and men's clothing such as jackets and shirts on different sides (and for the same reason, why do bras fasten at the back?)

A part of a wheel is a SPOKE, another word for people is FOLK, so how do you spell the word for the white of an egg?

What do these words have in common: pint, skeleton, limited, restaurant and oblige?

A man knew that he was bankrupt the moment he stopped his car outside a railway station. How?

A stamp collector paid $100,000 for a stamp and then deliberately destroyed it. Why?

Two chess masters played fifteen consecutive games of chess. No games were drawn, every game was finished, yet both players won and lost the same number of games as each other. How could this happen?

There are five 'f's in the next sentance, and they're two mistakes in this one. - "It's often easy for folk to miss the finer points of life." - How many mistakes are there in the first sentence?

Can a man marry his widow's half-sister?

A bucket and spade together cost £25.50. The spade costs £20 more than the bucket. What is the price of each?

A brick weighs 1kg plus half a brick. How much does it weigh?

George Bernard Shaw's 'FISH' (George Bernard Shaw devised this alternative spelling for the word 'fish'): GHOTI. Explain how this spells 'fish'.

Why is the sum £88.88 special? (And for those with knowledge of Scotttish and Channel Islands currency, £190.38?) This question is based on UK currency as at May 2005 (no doubt there will be changes in the future).

Complete the sequence: O, T, T, F, F, S, S, ...

Five Ands: construct a sentence which makes sense (and state the scenario) which includes the word 'and' five consecutive times.

Eleven Hads: punctuate this sentence so that it makes sense: John where David had had had had had had had had had had had the better effect.

What do these words have in common? CALMNESS - INOPERABLE - DEFER - BURST - LAUGHING - STUPID.

Which one of these letters is the odd one out and why? (two possible different answers): A B C M N O T U V.

AEIOU word puzzle: There are several words in the English language which have one of each of the vowels (aeiou) in the right alphabetical order. How many do you know?

puzzle answers are here

Try the expressions derivations quiz.

See also the Quizballs quizzes with free questions and answers - quicker questions for trivia and pub quizzes, and learning and amusement of course.

puzzles and tricks

hoover dam word puzzle

A sign at the Hoover Dam complex contains a word combination (three words joined together) which includes five consecutive double letters - what is the word?

The clue is in the question.

(Thanks M Verbo/C Preposi for the information enabling the creation of this puzzle.)


triangles puzzle

Equipment: Six pencils/pens (or six matchsticks or cocktail sticks) of equal length.

Arrange the pencils/sticks as in the picture below.

triangles puzzle

Now make four equilateral triangles (same length sides) using the pencils/sticks.

Each triangle must be the same size, and every side of each triangle must be the same length as the sticks provided.

No breaking sticks/pencils allowed.


shovel puzzle


Equipment: Four matchsticks (or four cocktail sticks or four pens/pencils) and a coin.

Make the shape of a shovel, containing a coin.

Now make the same shovel, no longer containing the coin, by moving only two sticks.

This is not a trick question, although there is a lateral-thinking aspect to the solution.


(Thanks H)

the '1234567890=100' puzzle

This puzzle (thanks L Henderson) is the sort which appears in emails from time to time. Most people would regard this as a trick question, or a lateral thinking question, so expect groans from your victims if you present it as a straightforward mathematical puzzle.

Using the least number of mathematical symbols make this formula correct:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 = 100

There are some very clever 'trick' or lateral-thinking answers which will make you say "Doh!..", and then several equally very clever non-trick mathematical answers, submitted by readers, to whom I am very grateful.


six puzzle

This is a lateral thinking puzzle.

The solution to the following questions is the same. What is it?

1. How do you deduct 3 from 9 by adding something close to 5?

2. How do you deduct 4 from 10 by adding something close to 51?


paris in the spring

Quickly, what do the words in the triangle say?

paris in the spring

Most people will say "Paris in the Spring".

People tend to make this error even without seeing the introductory heading.

This tendency demonstrates how we read: not by looking at each word separately, but by seeing and recognizing several words at a time, especially if the phrase is an understandable concept.

This unconscious quick processing by the brain is normally helpful because it saves time, but on occasions it can fool us.

The puzzle shows how vulnerable we are to false assumptions, and particularly that sometimes we lazily rely on our brain's ability to process information extremely quickly, when really we should be over-riding this unconscious processing by consciously focusing on the detail.

The exercise will work with phrases other than Paris in the Spring, provided you keep to the same pattern.

how many 'f's?

This puzzle has been fooling people for decades. You can use it to demonstrate how our mind sometimes plays tricks on what we believe. The puzzle can also be used to support themes of concentration, accuracy, assumptions, and creative or lateral thinking (which can be employed to devise an alternative method of arriving at the right answer; for example using the 'find' feature in your computer program).

The layout is probably important in the way that it works. Show the box below to people and ask them to read the words and count the number of times the letter f (or F) appears. Most people get it wrong. Try it yourself, and then check your answer carefully. It's not a trick question - the trick is the way that the mind works in identifying letters.

How many 'f's?


It is easy to miss the finer 
points in life. Folk are 
frequently guilty of falling 
into this trap.

The letter f appears eight times in the box. People commonly count seven, by failing to see the last but one f.

Did you?

And if you found that one too easy, try this one.

Again, how times does the letter f (or F) appear in the following item?

Finished files are the 
result of years of scientific 
study combined with the 
experience of years. 

Did you find all six?

(Thanks to my Dad, who kept the first one on a card which he was given on a training course in the 1960s. The second is perhaps more widely known, and featured in Frank Johnson's Notebook column in the Daily Telegraph, 8 March 2003. If you know who devised either of these clever little posers please tell me.)

Answer - yes, some people simply cannot see them all no matter how hard they look.

all the 1's puzzle

The puzzle is simply, what surprising result does the calculation 111,111,111 x 111,111,111 produce?

This puzzle is made all the more intriguing by the difficulty in finding a readily available tool that can handle the calculation. Even MSExcel is unable to calculate or show such big numbers. (Apparently Excel can be given this very big number calculation capability via an add-in, for example XNUMBERS 4.7 available from, although I've not checked this and cannot be held responsible for any problems arising from trying it - ack J Smallwood).

And R Lennox kindly informs me that, "...those of us who are not microsoft-challanged can easily calculate 111,111,111 x 111,111,111. Most linux (unix) command-lines will reveal that typing 'echo 111111111*111111111 | bc' gives (the answer).."

Answer. (Thanks D Harpell for the puzzle)

quick maths puzzle

This can be done with a pencil and paper by people who can do long-division (engineers, people over forty years of age, etc); otherwise it's advisable to suggest that people use a calculator to be sure of completing the exercise reliably and within three hours (ordinarily it just takes a minute or two). The puzzle can be given to any number of delegates at the same time to do individually, so it's ideal for diversions and mental warm-ups in training and meetings. Instructions:

Write down any three-digit number (genuinely three digits, ie, not beginning with 0), then write it down again, so as to give a 6-digit number, for example 123123.

Divide the six-digit number by 7. (It adds to the effect if the facilitator says: "Don't worry about the remainder; there won't be one.")

Next, divide the answer by 11. (Again the facilitator can say: "Don't worry about the remainder; there won't be one.")

Next, divide that answer by 13 (Again: "Don't worry about the remainder; there won't be one.")

Recognise the number?

(Here's why it works: the six-digit number is 1,001-times greater than the three-digit number, which seems logical when you realise that 1,000-times the three-digit number would add three zeros, and another 'one-times' replaces the three zeros with same first three digits. When you divide by 7, then 11, then 13, this equates to dividing by 1,001 (7 x 11 x 13 = 1,001). The trick is achieved simply by reversing reversing the calculation: 123 x 1,001 = 123123. Then 123123 ÷ 1,001 = 123.) (Thanks Terry Moran)

mobius strip (mobius band) trick - (technically möbius, pronounced 'merbius')

This is an amazing trick, ideal for parties, social gatherings, light relief or ice-breakers at meetings, and bar-bets. It is two puzzles in one, that will amaze and astound, and will win you money and drinks, favours, fame and admiration, if you aspire to such things. And this free easy puzzle is fantastic for kids parties too. In fact this is probably the best free trick in the history of the world.

Cut a strip of paper so that its length is at least ten times that of its width - something around ten inches by one inch wide is fine.

Puzzle 1: The strip clearly has two sides, yes? If you were asked to write number 1's all along one side of the strip, and number 2's all along the other side of the strip this would be possible, yes? So could I prevent you from doing this simply by joining the ends of the strip to create a ring or band shape?

Puzzle 2: the strip, (or now a band) is made of paper and if you cut or tear it in half you will have two separate halves, yes? And these two separate halves will actually be separate, so that they can be placed in two separate pockets, yes? So, again, simply by joining the ends of the strip to form a band, can I cut or tear this paper in half, with a continuous cut from a pair of scissors, or a continuous tear, so that you will not be able (unless by force of course) to separate the two halves? More incredibly, can I do this so that you don't actually have two halves at all? So that you actually still have one joined together strip?

You bet. And here's how.

age maths trick (calculator required)

Pick any number between 1 and 100,000 (maybe the last four or five digits of your phone number).

Multiply it by 2.

Add 5.

Multiply the answer by 50.

If you have already had your birthday this year add 1763, if not add 1762*.

Subtract the four digit year that you were born.

You should see now your original number followed by your age.

*1763 and 1762 work for the year 2013. Add 1 for each year after this, for example in 2014 use 1764 and 1763.

spelling tricks

1. Ask someone or a group: Spell the word 'silk'. (They should spell out the letters: S, I, L, K.)

Then ask them: What do cows drink?

2. Ask someone or a group: Spell the word 'coast' (They should spell out the letters: C, O, A, S, T.)

Then ask them: What do you put into a toaster?


phone number maths trick

This works for landline numbers which (without the area code) are 7 digits long.

  1. Using a calculator, key in the first three digits of your phone number (not the area code)
  2. Multiply by 80
  3. Add 1
  4. Multiply by 250
  5. Add the last 4 digits of your phone number
  6. Add the last 4 digits of your phone number again
  7. Subtract 250
  8. Divide the answer by 2

Recognize the answer?... (Your phone number)

co-ordination puzzle

While sitting down (or standing if you have good balance), lift your right foot off the floor and make clockwise circles with it. At the same time, repeatedly draw the number 6 in the air with your right hand. Your foot will change direction and without an awful lot of practice, there's nothing you can do to prevent it.

This effect seems to be because drawing the number 6 is effectively a counter-clockwise movement which the brain can't reconcile easily with a clockwise one (a bit like patting your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time). If you draw the six from the middle and end with the up-stroke instead, it doesn't conflict with the clockwise foot motion, because the 6 is now a clockwise motion too. What's strange is how we've evolved to enable same direction movements with different limbs, and to resist opposite ones - There doesn't seem to be a survival benefit from this, unless it's a bi-product of an overall more co-ordinated (and therefore more efficient, quicker, athletic) movement capability, which would of course have been a survival aid.

Big Boys Toys - fill in the blanks

association puzzle

Do these sums in your head. There is no need to write the answers down or remember them.

What is: 15+6?








Now, think of a tool and a colour. Your answer is. (Thanks M Ordway)

utilities puzzle

Draw three houses in a horizontal row. Draw three utilities suppliers beneath them: Gas, Water, Electicity. You should now have six points or boxes on your sheet of paper or flip chart. The challenge is to connect each house to each utility supplier without any of the nine connection lines crossing. Answer.

mental maths trick 1

Think of a number between 1 and 10. Multiply it by 9. If you have two digits add them together. Subtract 5. Convert your number into a letter, on the basis that A = 1, B = 2, etc. Think of a country that begins with that letter. Think of an animal that begins with the second letter of that country. Your answer is. (Thanks R Corovic)

mental maths trick 2

Do this sum in your head: Start with 1,000. Add 60. Add 2,000. Add 30. Add 1,000. Add 10. Your answer is.

egg trick

How to balance an egg on its end with no visible means of support:

You need just a few grains of salt. Make a tiny pile of salt on a flat surface and balance the egg on the pile. Then carefully blow away the excess salt, leaving just the few grains actually supporting the egg. (Obviously this needs preparing in advance - if pressed to repeat the trick, place the egg down hard enough to break the shell, which will also enable it to balance).

ready-sliced banana trick

You can prepare a banana so that when someone removes the skin the banana inside is already sliced:

You need just a clean pin. To make each slice, insert the pin through the banana skin, but not so deep as to enter the skin on the other side. Move the pin sideways in a see-saw motion, using the entry point of the skin as a pivot. Replace the banana in the fruit bowl.

A more sophisticated method is as follows: Use a needle and thread rather than a pin. The aim is to thread a loop around the banana under the skin for each slice required. Consider the banana skin to be composed of several angled facets. Insert the needle at one facet join where you wish to slice it, and bring it out at the next, so that the thread runs under the skin. Re-insert the needle in the same hole and go along to the next join and so on. Eventually bring the needle out of the original hole. There is now a loop of thread all around the banana under the skin. Hold both ends and pull gently. The banana is sliced through using the cheese-wire principle. Repeat the process for each slice. (Thanks Michael Green)

cartoon quiz

How many clues do you need to guess this eponymous cartoon series:

  • Cher appeared as an animated guest star.
  • It was first shown on 13 Sept 1969 in the USA.
  • The central character's voice was provided by the late Don Messick.
  • The central character's name was inspired by the refrain of Sinatra's song 'Strangers in the Night'.
  • Don Messick also provided the voice for Muttley of Wacky Races.
  • A screen kiss between the Daphne and Velma was cut from the show.
  • The 13 ghost characters that appeared in the series inspired the film 'Ghostbusters'.

If you haven't guessed yet here's the answer and a few more details.

pool puzzler

Six friends visited their local club to play at a pool tournament. The competition entry fee was £10 per person. Prize money was £250 for the winner, £100 for the runner-up, and £50 for third-place. There were no other prizes. None of the friends won a single game. There were no disqualifications, and yet the friends came away collectively £150 in profit from having played. How? Answer. (Adapted from a puzzle from Alex Sallustio, thanks)


Three of these statements are untrue, so whodunnit?

Mr Red: "Mr Blue did it."

Mr Blue: "Mr Red did it."

Mr Green: "Mr Blue's telling the truth."

Mr Yellow: "Mr Green's not lying."


three-digit maths trick

Write down any three-digit number, with different first and last digits. Reverse it. Subtract the smaller number from the larger one. Write down the answer. Reverse it (including the zero at the beginning if less than a hundred). Add together both numbers. Your final answer is.

nail puzzle

nail puzzle

This fantastic lateral thinking puzzle makes a great quick warm-up. It will also win you a fortune in pubs and bars the world over. It is essential you practice this before using it in front of an audience.

The challenge is simply to balance 14 nails on one single nail which is fixed upright in a block of wood. The nails must all be the same size - any length provided they have flat heads.

The suggested scenario is that due to a last-minute hitch where you are exhibiting your products (nails), you (your team) have just (say three to fifteen) minutes to devise a way of displaying all 14 nails using only the single fixed nail as a support. None of the other 14 nails can touch anything other than the other loose nails and the fixed nail.

Teams of three are good for this game as it's high-involvement, trail and error, and hands-on; more than five per team will cause people to be left out. Issue each team with fourteen nails and a block of wood with the fifteenth nail hammered into position. Different types and lengths of nails may change the number of nails required, but there must always be an odd number including the fixed nail. (Thanks to John Rivers for this great puzzle). Answer.

complete the formula

Use only one of these symbols (+ - × ÷) to complete the formula: 10 10 10 = 9.50 (Thanks Alex Guild) Answer.

fairground chequers maths puzzle

This is an old fairground game, but can you calculate the mathematical chances of winning with a single go? To win, you must toss a 1 inch diameter coin onto a chequered board comprising 2 inch diameter squares; the coin must come to rest entirely inside a square, not overlapping any other square. (Thanks DC) Answer.

the necker cube

necker cube trick

Everyone's seen this shape before, but there's more to it than first seems. The Necker Cube provides a fascinating demonstration of how the brain works on a sub-conscious level whether we want it to or not. Stare at it for a few seconds and it will flip into its alternative perspective. Wait and it will flip back again. It's unlikely you'll be able consciously to change the perspective that your brain chooses to see, although blinking might trigger the brain to 'refresh' the image.

balloon and knitting needle trick

How do you stick a knitting needle through both sides of an inflated balloon without the balloon bursting? Answer.

microsoft excel trick

This works on MSExcel 97 (if you can still get hold of a copy). Start program. Press F5. Enter reference X97:L97. Press Enter or Okay. Press Tab once. Hold down Shift and Control and at the same time click on the Chart Wizard icon (looks like a coloured 3D graph). Move mouse to walk on the moon. F12 to exit.

weird maths

Three men eat at a restaurant. The bill comes to £25. They each pay £10. When the waiter brings the £5 change they take back £1 each and leave a £2 tip. So each man has paid £9, which totals £27. The waiter has the £2 tip, which makes £29, so where's the other £1 gone? Answer.

farmer's puzzle

A farmer has a dog, a sack of grain and a live chicken, all of which he must take across a river. The boat will only carry him and one of the things at a time or it will sink. Without the farmer, the dog would kill the chicken, and the chicken would eat the grain. How does he get all three across safely to continue his journey? Answer.

coin and bottle trick

Take an empty beer bottle and a small coin which is wider than the mouth of the bottle but no wider than the rim (a British penny is ideal). How do you move the coin without moving the bottle, touching or blowing the coin, or using another object to contact the coin and move it? Answer.

string-cutting trick

puzzle string

You need some string or cord that's normally impossible to break with bare hands. Cut a 2-3ft length. Wrap one end clockwise three or four times around the base of your left thumb to secure it. The loose end should hang from the back of your thumb, not over the front.

Drape a large loop across your left palm so that the loose end hangs over the back of your hand between your left hand thumb and forefinger. Bring the loose end underneath palm and feed it up through the bottom of the 'U' of the loop, from the back to the front.

puzzle string

Pull and tighten string, so that the crossing point is in the centre of your palm, keeping left hand firm in a karate-chop position. Wrap the loose end firmly around your right hand. Pull sharply down with right hand, keeping left hand firm. The string will be cut at crossing point. (Left-handers obviously reverse positions.)

puzzle string

Depending on your strength and confidence you'll be able to cut extremely strong nylon cords this way. 

The point of the trick is to demonstrate how innovation and positive approach can achieve the seemingly impossible.

amazing fact

There is more computing power in a happy birthday sound card than the whole world in 1952. (Source - Innovations magazine 1995)

impossible paper trick

puzzle paper

(Do not show the audience this preparation) Start with a paper rectangle, any size, 9" x 6" is fine. Make two right-angle cuts to the exact centre on one long side, at 3" and 6". Make one right-angle cut to the exact centre on the other long side at 4.5". Lay the sheet flat, fold over the central flap making a neat hinge and fold it back. 

puzzle paper

Lift the sheet by the two short sides, with the flap away from you, and twist one of the L-shaped ends 180 degrees (half a full turn).

Lay the sheet flat again, and fold the flap down both ways to create a hinge. The flap should now be erect, with half of the cut-away on each side - which looks like an impossible construction. This is what you show your audience. Ask them to explain it.

word colour trick

Read out (at normal pace) the colour of each word, not the word itself, without making a mistake.

Red Yellow Blue Green Yellow Red Green Blue Green Red Blue Yellow Yellow Green Red Blue Yellow Blue Red GreenYellow Green Red Blue Red Green Blue Green Green Yellow

If you want to beat the trick, squint your eyes to blur the words (Thanks Dave Skinner)

anagrams and anagram finder

"All the life's wisdom can be found in anagrams. Anagrams never lie." (Anu Garg - real name, not an anagram apparently).

Particularly good fun if you use work-colleagues' names - and amazing how often really fitting anagrams crop up. An amusing diversion during meeting breaks if you're using online projection equipment.

Anagram finder - online and free - great fun for meetings and training sessions.

mind-set trick

Try this for yourself. (If you do it with a group use a flip chart.) Draw a circle. Divide it into two equal parts, (answer is obviously one line dissecting across the centre). Next draw an equilateral triangle (three sides same length) and divide into three equal parts. Think about it before you read on.

Answer is tricky for some - three lines from centre outwards to corners. Next draw a square and divide it into four equal parts (easy - two lines dissecting up and across to make four quarters). Now draw another square. Divide it into five equal parts. (The point is to demonstrate how the mind can get 'stuck' in a certain thought pattern.) Got it yet? Answer.

four-digit maths trick

Ask the other person to write down a 4 digit number. On a separate piece of paper write a 5 digit number which you secretly arrive at by putting the number 2 in front of the other person's 4 digit number and then deducting 2 from the five digit figure. (For example if they write 5346, you would write 25344. If they write 9071, you write 29069.) Do not show the other person the number you have written on your piece of paper, instead fold it to conceal the number and give the folded piece of paper to them to keep. Ask them to write another 4 digit number beneath their first number. You then write a 4 digit number beneath the second four digit number so that the total of the second row and your new third row is 9999 (eg., if they write 4903 you write 5096; if they write 1234 you write 8765. NB If their first digit is 9 don't write any number in the thousands column, or it may give a clue as to your method - see example below). Do not explain your choice of numbers to them. Next ask them to write another 4 digit number beneath the three other numbers. You now write another 4 digit number beneath it using the same rule; ie., the total of the fourth row and your new fifth row must be 9999 (eg., if they write 8491, you write 1509). You should now have five 4 digit numbers, one above the other. Ask the other person to add all five rows and write the total beneath them. Ask them to look at the number written on the folded piece of paper that you gave them earlier. It will be the same as the total they've just calculated.

A completed set of numbers could look like this:

 8327Ask the other person to write down a four digit number in view of observers - a flip chart is ideal. On a separate slip of paper, you then deduct 2 from their number and put the number 2 in front = 28325. Write this number on the slip, fold it and give it to the other person without them or anyone else seeing the number.
 9526Ask the other person to write another four digit number beneath the first one.
473You write a number in the third column so it makes a total of 9999 when added to the second row. (note that in this case the second row first digit is nine therefore no figure needs be written beneath it - a zero here might give them a clue as to your method).
7539Ask them to write another four digit number.
2460You write a number in the fifth column so it makes a total of 9999 when added to the fourth row.
28325Now ask them to total all five columns - then ask them to look at the slip of paper. 28325 - same number.

You can extend the trick to seven rows (deduct 3 and put a number 3 in front of the first number), or nine rows (deduct 4 and put a number 4 in front of the first number), and so on.

incredible planning tool - can it be true?

This is the specification for the most incredible, sophisticated planning and communications tool yet invented: It's portable - so light don't even notice it your pocket or brief case. Its life is more than one-hundred times greater than the current best re-chargeable power-packs. It is extremely durable - if dropped from 50 feet onto concrete it'll be good as new within a minute or two at the longest. It's so intuitive that anyone can use it immediately without training. You can use it on a plane - even during take off. It uses a remarkable data input method as fast as an experienced qwerty keyboard operator, and yet requires no keyboard skills. It handles graphics as easily as text and can even handle 3-D modelling and complicated calculations. It is compatible with any paper output, even a bus-ticket or a table napkin, and is universally adaptable to any reader format. It is completely wireless, already available all over the world, thanks to a distribution network greater than Microsoft's, and comes in hundreds of model variants to suit all styles and egos - you can even get gold-plated ones. It costs a fraction of a penny per day over its lifetime, and if you lose it, its inherent unbreakable security will leave no trace of confidential files or personal history. Replacements are no problem because you can afford to keep a couple spare with you all the time. If you have not guessed what it is yet, here's the answer.

team building games

For original and enjoyable team building games, go to the team building games section. Includes team building ideas and games formats for treasure hunts, mime acts, juggling, yoyos, newspaper towers and bridges, problem solving and more.


See also:

quizballs quizzes with free questions and answers - quicker quiz questions for trivia and pub quizzes

free complex difficult puzzles

free expressions derivations quiz

tips on using puzzles and games in business and training activities are on the team building games section - free quizzes website operated by businessballs

The use of this material is free for self-development, developing others, research, and organizational improvement. Please reference authorship and copyright of material used, including link(s) to and the material webpage; see authorship/referencing above. This material may not be sold, published, or reproduced online. Disclaimer: Reliance on this material and any related provision is at your sole risk. Alan Chapman assumes no responsibility for any errors or damages arising. Seek qualified advice for any action entailing potential liabilities. Where appropriate retain this notice on copies. See about us for detailed terms.

© Businessballs 2017


hoover dam word puzzle


I am grateful to M Verbo/C Preposi for the information enabling the creation of this puzzle. 

If anyone can send a photograph of this word on a sign at the Hoover Dam - please email it to me. 

triangles puzzle

triangles puzzle answer

Answer - see picture.

You obvously need to hold the pencils in place, but the puzzle does not forbid this.

Very rarely will anyone consider building four triangles in 3D (three-dimensional) as a pyramid.

People's brains tend to stay fixed on a flat two-dimensional puzzle.

shovel puzzle

Answer: slide the middle stick a half-stick-length right (or left), then move the top now unconnected stick to the opposite downward corner to make the new shovel. The puzzle is difficult because most people naturally imagine moving sticks to entirely different positions, and rarely consider shifting a stick only half of its length.

shovel puzzle shovel puzzle shovel puzzle

the '1234567890=100' puzzle

(Using the least number of mathematical symbols make this formula correct: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 = 100)

Best answer: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 ≠ 100

A slashed 'equals' sign is the mathematical symbol for 'does not equal'. If the above code does not display correctly it can alternatively be shown as: =/=

Alternatively, very cleverly, and only one additional pen-stroke (thanks M Khan, Aug 2014):

1234567890 = 100x (the x symbol represents a quantity yet to be determined)

Thanks C St John for this 'non-trick' answer:

1x(2+3)x4x5+(6x7x8x9x0) = 100

Given strict application of mathematical rules for the order of calculations - see BODMAS - the above solution can be reduced as follows, because the rules dictate the multiplication be calculated before the addition:

1x(2+3)x4x5+6x7x8x9x0 = 100

And here is an entirely different and equally brilliant suggestion (thanks Becky Nelson):

1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8x9+0 = 100

Becky explains the BODMAS effect: because of order of precedence the multiplication of 8 x 9 occurs first resulting in 72; the other numbers add up to 28, which when added to 72 makes 100.

And extending the first idea:

1x(2+3)x4x5+6789x0 = 100

This is a lateral-thinking solution if the question is taken to imply that each digit stands alone, but it's another option, depending on how strictly the question is interpreted.

Here's another clever suggestion (thanks D Robinson):

1x2x3x4+5+6-7+8x9+0 = 100

Again the solution must be employed with the BODMAS sequence for performaing the different calculations, which in this case means multiplication first, then addition, then subtraction.

And a further brilliantly simple and elegant suggestion (thanks D Jackson). This one has only five symbols (apart from the = of course) and just uses addition and subtraction:


Here below is a fresh approach, and a wonderful example of lateral thinking (thanks V Chaves). The validity of the solution depends a broad interpretation of the word 'formula' in the question. It certainly uses very few symbols and the mathematics are difficult to dispute:


By similar logic the following also works: 12345678901x0=0

Here are a couple of solutions (thanks R Von Der Emden) based on a very clever lateral thinking approach:

1 2-3+4-5-6+7-8+9 0 = 100 (translates to mean 100 = 100)

1 23-45-67+89 0 = 100 (also translates to mean 100 = 100)

(In both cases on the left side of the equation the figures 1 and 0 remain outside of the formula which separates them. The formulae from 2 to 9 become the second 0 in the number 100.)

If you can suggest a different 'non-trick' mathematical answer, or any other lateral solution, especially using fewer symbols please send it.

I am grateful to all above for these clever contributions.

six puzzle - The solution to the following questions is the same. What is it?

1. How do you deduct 3 from 9 by adding something close to 5?

2. How do you deduct 4 from 10 by adding something close to 51?


(IX is the Roman numeral for 9, and X is the Roman numeral for 10.)

how many fs - answers

There are eight Fs in first puzzle, and six Fs in second puzzle.

The F in 'of' can be difficult to see until you know the answer, and in the first puzzle especially in the 'of falling' words, because the eye is drawn to the F in 'falling' and can miss the F in the preceding 'of'. Amazingly the first puzzle can still fool people when all the Fs are coloured red.

How many ' f's?


It is easy to miss the finer 
points in life. Folk are 
frequently guilty of falling 
into this trap.


Finished files are the 
result of years of scientific 
study combined with the 
experience of years. 


all the 1's puzzle answer

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

mobius strip tricks answers

Twist the strip through 180 degrees, ie., half a whole turn, before joining the ends. For the purposes of the tricks you can join the strip with glue (in which case use a glue that sets quickly), sticky tape (a tape you can tear if you do not have scissors), or two staples (aligned lengthways, not sideways across the strip, each close to an edge, leaving a gap between them). You have now made a Möbius Strip, or Möbius Band, which amazingly now has only one side. Try it. It is not possible to colour or number or mark two different sides along the whole of the length of 'each side'. There is now only one side. Feed the band between your finger and thumb through a whole revolution and you will see that what were once two separate sides now pass underneath and touching your thumb.

Now for the cleverest part of the trick: Cut or tear the band in half along its length. You will need to tear or cut it carefully while feeding it through your fingers; you cannot cut it with one motion. You will be left not with two separate halves; not even two joined halves; you will be left with one big band.

Finally you can cut the new big band in half again - you will be left with two bands linked together.

The Mobius Strip or Band has in fact been around for hundreds of years. According to scientific reports and writings this is the story: the Mobius strip was named after astronomer and mathematician August Ferdinand Möbius (1790-1868), who was a professor at the University of Leipzig. It seems he devised his strip in September 1858, and published his discovery in 1865. Interestingly, it seems that coincidentally and separately a German mathematician called Johann Benedict Listing (1808-1882) is said also to have made the same discovery in July 1858, which he published in 1861 while working on theories of another great mathematician, Leonhard Euler, who devised the Euler puzzles and Euler's Rule featured elsewhere on this site.

spelling tricks

Did you say 'milk' and toast? The answers are 'water' and 'bread'.

association puzzle

Did you think of a red hammer? Apparently the vast majority of people do. The reason why this works would seem to be that the mental calculations are a distraction to clear the mind, enabling the most likely answers for each category to emerge upon prompting (red being the most commonly 'spontaneously thought of' colour, and hammer being the most commonly 'spontaneously thought of' tool). Thanks Kaz. If you know any more about this is please let me know.

utilities puzzle

This classic puzzle which has been around for hundreds of years, although it was obviously not known as the Utilities Puzzle until relatively recently. Strictly speaking it is impossible to solve the puzzle using two dimensions on flat piece of paper; there will always be a minimum of two crossed connections.

There are however two great lateral thinking solutions:

1. Take the final line (that would otherwise cross another) through the utilities and/or houses themselves, which unless specifically outlawed in the instructions would not constitute a cheat.

2. The puzzle can be solved without taking any lines through buildings, if the utilities and houses are on the outer surface of a ring torus (three-dimensional doughnut) shape. You can create the torus effect simply by making a hole in the paper centrally between all six connection points and folding flaps around the edges of the hole and the edges of the sheet, so as to take certain lines through the hole and around the back of the sheet to make the connections. More explanation and ring torus solution here.

mental maths trick 1

Elephant (No? Emu?.......).

mental maths trick 2

5,000? Wrong. Try it again. The correct answer is 4,100. The mind knows that the final 10 will have a 'rounding-up' effect, and expects it to impact the 1,000's instead of the 100's. The mind fails to calculate the final figure properly because it's locked into an expectation.

cartoon quiz

Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! Featuring Scooby-Doo, Shaggy, Fred, Velma and Daphne. Scooby-Doo rhymes with Sinatra's Doobie-doo refrain in Strangers in the Night.

pool puzzler

They were the musicians in the band.


Mr Blue did it.

three-digit maths trick

Your answer is 1089. Works every time.

nail puzzle

Lay one nail on the table, and on it at 90 degrees (ie., perpendicular) lay all the other nails except one, alternately each side with points furthermost. There must be an equal number of nails on each side, and they must fill the length of the nail on which they lay, so adjust the quantity of nails to ensure this happens. (Now you see why you need to practice this.)


Lay the last nail on top of the first nail pointing the opposite direction (the last nail is shown in red on the diagram).


Gently lift the assembled nails by holding the ends of the top and bottom nails. As the perpendicular nails sag down to an angle of around 45 degrees, amazingly the whole assembly locks itself together. You can now balance the assembly on the supporting nail in the block. (The balance point is extremely forgiving, due to the counter-balancing effect of the nails hanging down lower than the point of support.) The diagram shows a side view.


Here's one I made earlier.

nail puzzle

Okay, it's only got 12 nails but you get the idea...

complete the formula

10 T0 10 = 9.50 (9.50 in this context is an expression of time - 0950hrs - not a decimal number; the brain of course instantly fixes on the number as a pure decimal number and looks for an impossible solution.)

fairground chequers maths puzzle

The calculation is very simple - the centre of the coin can be no closer to the edge of a square than half an inch. The 'win-zone' is therefore a 1 x 1 inch square defined by a half inch border inside each 2 inch square. The total area of each chequered square is 2 x 2 = 4 square inches; the win-zone in each is 1 x 1 = 1 square inch; so the chances of winning are exactly 1 in 4, or 25%, or 3 to 1 against.

balloon and knitting needle

You need to prepare the trick in advance. Inflate the balloon and knot the end. Stick an inch-long strip of Sellotape (or better still matt-finish Scotch cleartape) to each side of the balloon at the proposed needle entry and exit points. You can now pierce the balloon with a (sharp) knitting needle and then again on the other side, without it bursting. Practice first, if only to develop your confidence.

weird maths

the answer is that the figures will not add to £30 because they are not from the same equation. Equation 1: What's been paid is £25 for the meal - which is in the till, and £2 for the tip - in the waiter's pocket, leaving the men with £1 each, ie £3, which all adds up to £30. Equation 2: The men have each paid £9 for the meal and the tip together, ie £27, and they each have a £1 in their pocket, ie £3, which all adds up to £30.

farmer's puzzle:

he takes the chicken and comes back; then he takes the grain and comes back with the chicken; then he takes the dog and comes back; then he takes the chicken.

coin and bottle trick

Drip some liquid onto the coin so that a seal is made between the coin edge and the mouth of the bottle. Clasp your hands around the bottle and wait a few seconds. The air inside the bottle expands from the heat of your hands. As the pressure builds, air escapes bubble by bubble, by repeatedly dislodging the coin.

mind set trick

If you try this with a group ask for people not to shout out answer; it will spoil it for those who get really stuck. Strangely many people will struggle for ages because they get stuck in the same mind set used for the previous square and triangle solutions (whereas the answer is obviously four horizontal or vertical lines to make five equal sections).

incredible planning tool

a pencil


The use of this material is free for self-development, developing others, research, and organizational improvement. Please reference authorship and copyright of material used, including link(s) to and the material webpage; see authorship/referencing above. This material may not be sold, published, or reproduced online. Disclaimer: Reliance on this material and any related provision is at your sole risk. Alan Chapman assumes no responsibility for any errors or damages arising. Seek qualified advice for any action entailing potential liabilities. Where appropriate retain this notice on copies. See about us for detailed terms.

© Businessballs 2017