Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A new lateral thinking puzzle:

"Lateral thinking puzzles” challenge you to think “outside the box,” or at least, creatively. They tend to sound peculiar, and their peculiarities imply oblique solutions. Here's a simple one:

A woman is convicted of premeditated murder on the testimony of her sister, but the judge decides she cannot be punished. Why?

The answer is that they are Siamese twins, presumably sharing some internal organs so that they cannot easily be separated. But in the 540th podcast of Keith and the Girl, Keith Malley scoffed, “Alright. So she goes on to commit fifteen murders, and the judges keep saying, oh I'm so sorry, we just can't punish. Yeah, right.”

After hearing two examples of Malley's imaginative scoffing, I suggest a term for it: “lateral lateral thinking” applies lateral thinking to spoil a lateral thinking puzzle, exposing the artificiality of its constraints. Here's another of Malley's lateral lateral thoughts from the same Podcast:

A woman lives on the tenth floor of an apartment building. In the morning, she gets on the elevator and goes down to the lobby, and off to work. In the evening, if there are other people on the elevator, she goes back up to the tenth floor. If she's alone, she goes to the seventh floor and walks up three flights. Why?

The answer is that she's a midget. “Yeah,” says Keith, “but she can push the button with her umbrella.”

The next time you find yourselves amidst a bunch of lateral thinking puzzlers, you might try your hand at lateral lateral thinking. Or you might pose this new puzzle, that I suspect Keith Malley does not realize he invented: A Siamese twin who shares internal organs with her sister is convicted of fifteen premeditated murders. Her sister is innocent. How shall she be punished? (I'm warning you, I haven't thought of an answer yet.)
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