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Riddle Me This! (Or Not.)

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Some time ago, at the downtown board game cafe Mochanopoly, my friends and I tried out a game called MindTrap—a quizzing game where the answers often relied on lateral thinking of one kind or another. It was through this game that I was presented with the following absurdity:

“There are six ears of corn in a hollow stump. If a perfectly healthy squirrel carries only three ears out each day, how many days will it take to empty the stump?” 

Weirdly phrased, but: two days seems obvious enough. Let me just turn the card to the answer side to confirm—

“Six. Each day the squirrel will carry out the two ears on its head, plus one ear of corn.”

The mind reels, staggering into the trap—just as the game promised. A horrid lack of forthrightness! Poorly defined terms do not make for productive responses. Also, couldn’t a squirrel who lost an ear in an accident still be considered “perfectly healthy”? Ableism is a scourge!

But I have taken an unfathomable leap of logic. I have crossed the ravine; I have accepted that the question is worthwhile and that the answer, in its way, is sensible. 

I have attained true peace, and I now have some follow-up questions: 

  1. In the morning, Jonny bought a dozen roses as a Valentine’s Day gift for Megan. How many stems did he bring on his date with Megan that evening? 
    • 13: the twelve rose stems, plus his brain stem
  2. Becky is an elite athlete in the sport of sailing. When she’s out on the water of Conception Bay, how many radials does she control?
    • Three: her boat and the two radial bones in her forearms
  3. Ringo Starr played a standard drum kit during the Beatles’ show in Hamburg. How many drums were onstage that evening?
    • 13: the five drums in the kit and eight eardrums (two each for John, Paul, George and Ringo)
  4. In the universe of that oddly jaunty song, Maxwell brought his silver hammer down upon the heads of three undeserving victims. How many hammers did Maxwell carry when committing his crimes?
    • Three: the famous silver one, plus the two hammer bones in his ears.  
  5. Margot goes to the pet shop and buys four birdcages for her parrots. How many cages does Margot bring home?
    • Five: the four cages, plus Margot’s rib cage
  6. Noah lives alone in a haunted mansion. The mansion features a large formal entryway, as well as a tradesman’s entrance round the back. How many vestibules can be found at Noah’s address?
    • Four: the two entrances, plus the two central parts of the bony labyrinths in Noah’s ears. (No, the ghosts in Noah’s mansion don’t have ears.)
  7. Maddie is a photographer. She brings a standard lens, as well as a lens more suitable for close-ups, to the wedding reception venue. How many lenses has she got?
    • Four: mustn’t forget the lenses of her eyes.
  8. Adrienne makes sure to have a box of bland biscuits on hand for her grandmother’s visit. Each box contains 24 cookies. Upon Adrienne’s grandmother’s arrival, how many digestives are at Adrienne’s apartment?
    • 26: the two dozen cookies, plus the digestive systems of Adrienne and her grandmother.
  9. Michael is playing one-on-one basketball with a cartoon rabbit. A cartoon anvil gets dropped on Michael’s head. Michael, however, is a non-cartoon human. How many anvils are now on the basketball court?
    • Three: the cartoon anvil and the two anvil bones in Michael’s ears. (Like ghosts, the cartoons don’t have inner ear structures. They’re two-dimensional.)
  10. Caitlin equips her horse for a dressage competition. How many stirrups are in use as Caitlin and her horse prance about? 
    • Four: the ones on the horse and the two stirrup bones in Caitlin’s ears. 
  11. Every time Karen goes for a swim, she is carrying thousands upon thousands of units of a certain item. Nevertheless, she splashes and moves about with ease. What are the items?
    • The hairs on Karen’s head. 
  12. Laura walks into the Tweed shop on Water Street and buys one marijuana cigarette. How many joints does she have upon leaving the store?
    • One plus—well, my extremely cursory research indicates that the number of joints in the human body is a surprisingly difficult-to-answer question, for reasons of disputed definitions. Anyway, the answer to the question is certainly more than 1, possibly as many as 361.
  13. Roger receives a daily wage of $100 whenever he clocks out of a standard eight-hour shift at the widget factory. What are Roger’s total weekly wages?
    • $500 and the burden of mortality: for “as it is written, there is none righteous” (Romans 3:10) and “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Sorry, Roger!

Photo: “Okimono in the Form of a Rat on a Corn Cob.” Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

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