A logical puzzle is a problem that can be solved through deductive reasoning. This page gives a summary of the types of logical puzzles one might come across and the problem-solving techniques used to solve them.
Main Article: Propositional Logic
See Also: Predicate Logic
One of the simplest types of logical puzzles is a syllogism. In this type of puzzle, you are given a set of statements, and you are required to determine some truth from those statements. These types of puzzles can often be solved by applying principles from propositional logic and predicate logic. The following syllogism is from Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known under his pen name, Lewis Carroll.
I have a dish of potatoes. The following statements are true:
- No potatoes of mine, that are new, have been boiled.
- All my potatoes in this dish are fit to eat.
- No unboiled potatoes of mine are fit to eat.
Are there any new potatoes in this dish?
The first and third statements can be connected by a transitive argument. All of the new potatoes are unboiled, and unboiled potatoes aren't fit to eat, so no new potatoes are fit to eat.
The second statement can be expressed as the equivalent contrapositive. All of the potatoes in the dish are fit to eat; if there is a potato that is not fit to eat, it isn't in the dish.
Then, once again, a transitive argument is applied. New potatoes aren't fit to eat, and inedible potatoes aren't in the dish. Thus, there are no new potatoes in the dish.
Given below are three statements followed by three conclusions. Take the three statements to be true even if they vary from commonly known facts. Read the statements and decide which conclusions follow logically from the statements.
1. All actors are musicians.
2. No musician is a singer.
3. Some singers are dancers.
1. Some actors are singers.
2. Some dancers are actors.
3. No actor is a singer.
a) Only conclusion 1 follows.
b) Only conclusion 2 follows.
c) Only conclusion 3 follows.
d) At least 2 of the conclusions follows.
Main Article: Elimination Grids
Some logical puzzles require you to determine the correct pairings for sets of objects. These puzzles can often be solved with the process of elimination, and an elimination grid is an effective tool to apply this process.
Elimination grids are aligned such that each row represents an object within a set, and each column represents an object to be paired with an object from that set. Check marks and X marks are used to show which objects pair, and which objects do not pair.
Mr. and Mrs. Tan have four children--three boys and a girl--
who each like one of the colors--blue, green, red, yellow--
and one of the letters--P, Q, R, S.
- The oldest child likes the letter Q.
- The youngest child likes green.
- Alfred likes the letter S.
- Brenda has an older brother who likes R.
- The one who likes blue isn't the oldest.
- The one who likes red likes the letter P.
- Charles likes yellow.
Based on the above facts, Darius is the
Main Article: Truth-Tellers and Liars
A variation on elimination puzzles is a truth-teller and liar puzzle, also known as a knights and knaves puzzle. In this type of puzzle, you are given a set of people and their respective statements, and you are also told that some of the people always tell the truth and some always lie. The goal of the puzzle is to deduce the truth from the given statements.
20 century mathematician Raymond Smullyan popularized these types of puzzles.
You are in a room with three chests. You know at least one has treasure, and if a chest has no treasure, it contains deadly poison.
Each chest has a message on it, but all the messages are lying.
- Left chest: "The middle chest has treasure."
- Middle chest: "All these chests have treasure."
- Right chest: "Only one of these chests has treasure."
Which chests have treasure?
Main Article: Cryptograms
A cryptogram is a puzzle in which numerical digits in a number sentence are replaced with characters, and the goal of the puzzle is to determine the values of these characters.
Arithmetic puzzles contain a series of numbers, operations, and blanks in order, and the object of the puzzle is to fill in the blanks to obtain a desired result.
Main Article: River Crossing Puzzles
In a river crossing puzzle, the goal is to find a way to move a group of people or objects across a river (or some other kind of obstacle), and to do it in the fewest amount of steps or least amount of time.
A famous river crossing problem is Richard Hovasse's bridge and torch problem, written below.
Four people come to a river in the night. There is a narrow bridge, but it can only hold two people at a time. They have one torch and, because it's night, the torch has to be used when crossing the bridge. Person A can cross the bridge in one minute, B in two minutes, C in five minutes, and D in eight minutes. When two people cross the bridge together, they must move at the slower person's pace. The question is, can they all get across the bridge in 15 minutes or less?
Assume that a solution minimizes the total number of crosses. This gives a total of five crosses--three pair crosses and two solo crosses. Also, assume we always choose the fastest for the solo cross.
First, we show that if the two slowest persons (C and D) cross separately, they accumulate a total crossing time of 15. This is done by taking persons A, C, D: D+A+C+A = 8+1+5+1=15. (Here we use A because we know that using A to cross both C and D separately is the most efficient.) But, the time has elapsed and persons A and B are still on the starting side of the bridge and must cross. So it is not possible for the two slowest (C and D) to cross separately.
Second, we show that in order for C and D to cross together that they need to cross on the second pair cross: i.e. not C or D, so A and B, must cross together first. Remember our assumption at the beginning states that we should minimize crosses, so we have five crosses--3 pair crossings and 2 single crossings. Assume that C and D cross first. But then C or D must cross back to bring the torch to the other side, so whoever solo-crossed must cross again. Hence, they will cross separately. Also, it is impossible for them to cross together last, since this implies that one of them must have crossed previously, otherwise there would be three persons total on the start side. So, since there are only three choices for the pair crossings and C and D cannot cross first or last, they must cross together on the second, or middle, pair crossing.
Putting all this together, A and B must cross first, since we know C and D cannot and we are minimizing crossings. Then, A must cross next, since we assume we should choose the fastest to make the solo cross. Then we are at the second, or middle, pair crossing, so C and D must go. Then we choose to send the fastest back, which is B. A and B are now on the start side and must cross for the last pair crossing. This gives us, B+A+D+B+B = 2+1+8+2+2 = 15.
It is possible for all four people to cross in 15 minutes.
Main Article: Tour Puzzles
See Also: Eulerian Path
In a tour puzzle, the goal is to determine the correct path for an object to traverse a graph. These kinds of puzzles can take several forms: chess tours, maze traversals, eulerian paths, and others.
Find the path that leads from the star in the center back to the star in the center. Paths can only go in the direction of an arrow.
Image Credit: Eric Fisk
The solution path is outlined in red below.
Determine a path through the below graph such that each edge is traversed exactly once.
There are several possible solutions. One possible solution is shown below, with the edges marked in the order they are traversed.
A chess tour is an interesting type of puzzle in its own right, and is explained in detail further down the page.
Main Article: Nonograms
A nonogram is a grid-based puzzle in which a series of numerical clues are given beside a rectangular grid. When the puzzle is completed, a picture is formed in the grid.
The puzzle begins with a series of numbers on the left and above the grid. Each of these numbers represents a consecutive run of shaded spaces in the corresponding row or column. Each consecutive run is separated from other runs by at least one empty space. The puzzle is complete when all of the numbers have been satisfied. The primary technique to solve these puzzles is the process of elimination. If the puzzle is designed correctly, there should be no guesswork required.
Complete the nonogram:
One of the many logical puzzles is the Battleship puzzle (sometimes called Bimaru, Yubotu, Solitaire Battleships or Battleship Solitaire). The puzzle is based on the Battleship game.
Solitaire Battleships was invented by Jaime Poniachik in Argentina and was first featured in the magazine Humor & Juegos.
This is an example of a solved Battleship puzzle. The puzzle consists of a 10 × 10 small squares, which contain the following:
- 1 battleship 4 squares long
- 2 cruisers 3 squares long each
- 3 destroyers 2 squares long each
- 4 submarines 1 square long each.
They can be put horizontally or vertically, but never diagonally. The boats are placed so that no boats touch each other, not even vertically. The numbers beside the row/column indicate the numbers of squares occupied in the row/column, respectively. ⬤ indicates a submarine and ⬛ indicates the body of a ship, while the half circles indicate the beginning/end of a ship.
The goal of the game is to fill in the grid with water or ships.
Main Article: Sudoku
A sudoku is a puzzle on a grid in which each row, column, and smaller square portion contains each of the digits 1 through 9, each no more than once. Each puzzle begins with some of the spaces on the grid filled in. The goal is to fill in the remaining spaces on the puzzle. The puzzle is solved primarily through the process of elimination. No guesswork should be required to solve, and there should be only one solution for any given puzzle.
Solve the sudoku puzzle:
Puzzle generated by Open Sky Sudoku Generator
Each row should contain the each of the digits 1 through 9 exactly once. The same is true for columns and the smaller squares.
Main Article: Chess Puzzles
Chess puzzles take the rules of chess and challenge you to perform certain actions or deduce board states.
One kind of chess puzzle is a chess tour, related to the tour puzzles mentioned in the section above. This kind of puzzle challenges you to develop a tour of a chess piece around the board, applying the rules of how that piece moves.
Dan and Sam play a game on a board. Dan places a White Knight on a corner and Sam places a Black Knight on the nearest corner. Each one moves his Knight in his turn to squares that have not been already visited by any of the Knights at any moment of the match.
For example, Dan moves, then Sam, and Dan wants to go to Black Knight's initial square, but he can't, because this square has been occupied earlier.
When someone can't move, he loses. If Dan begins, who will win, assuming both players play optimally?
This is the seventeenth problem of the set Winning Strategies.
Due to its well-defined ruleset, the game of chess affords many different types of puzzles. The problem below shows that you can even deduce whose turn it is from a certain boardstate (or perhaps you cannot).
Main Article: K-Level Thinking
See Also: Induction - Introduction
K-level thinking is the name of a kind of assumption in certain logic puzzles. In these types of puzzles, there are a number of actors in a situation, and each of them is perfectly logical in their decision-making. Furthermore, each of these actors is aware that all other actors in the situation are perfectly logical in their decision-making.
Calvin, Zandra, and Eli are students in Mr. Silverman's math class. Mr. Silverman hands each of them a sealed envelope with a number written inside.
He tells them that they each have a positive integer and the sum of the three numbers is 14. They each open their envelope and inspect their own number without seeing the other numbers.
Calvin says,"I know that Zandra and Eli each have a different number."
Zandra replies, "I already knew that all three of our numbers were different."
After a brief pause Eli finally says, "Ah, now I know what number everyone has!"
What number did each student get?
Format your answer by writing Calvin's number first, then Zandra's number, and finally Eli's number. For example, if Calvin has 8, Zandra has 12, and Eli has 8, the answer would be 8128.
Two logicians must find two distinct integers and such that they are both between 2 and 100 inclusive, and divides . The first logician knows the sum and the second logician knows the difference .
Then the following discussion takes place:
Logician 1: I don't know them.
Logician 2: I already knew that.
Logician 1: I already know that you are supposed to know that.
Logician 2: I think that... I know... that you were about to say that!
Logician 1: I still can't figure out what the two numbers are.
Logician 2: Oops! My bad... my previous conclusion was unwarranted. I didn't know that yet!
What are the two numbers?
Enter your answer as a decimal number .
For example, if and , write
Note: In this problem, the participants are not in a contest on who finds numbers first. If one of them has sufficient information to determine the numbers, he may keep this quiet. Therefore nothing may be inferred from silence. The only information to be used are the explicit declarations in the dialogue.
Of course, the puzzles outlined above aren't the only types of puzzles one might encounter. Below are a few more logical puzzles that are unrelated to the types outlined above.
You are asked to guess an integer between and inclusive.
Each time you make a guess, you are told either
(a) you are too high,
(b) you are too low, or
(c) you got it!
You are allowed to guess too high twice and too low twice, but if you have a guess that is too high or a guess that is too low, you are out.
What is the maximum for which you are guaranteed to accomplish this?
Clarification: For example, if you were allowed to guess too high once and too low once, you could guarantee to guess the right answer if , but not for . So, in this case, the answer would be .
You play a game with a pile of gold coins.
You and a friend take turns removing 1, 3, or 6 coins from the pile.
The winner is the one who takes the last coin.
For the person that goes first, how many winning strategies are there for
Clarification: For , for how many values of can the first player develop a winning strategy?