Another Favorite Childhood Memory: Brain Teasers

When I was growing up one of my favorite things to do was to work on brain teasers.

My favorite type of puzzle was a logic puzzle, the kind where you have to do things like find the matching first and last names of five guys, what house they live in, what their favorite food is, and what their job is. Such puzzles could easily occupy me for a few hours.

Many of you may have seen the puzzle below where you have to guess which line is the longest. I learned the answer to that 50 years ago, and when I see it now I think, “who does not know the answer to such a question?”:

Which line is longer?



OK, so that was a trick question. Here is the usual one:

Like I said, I’m guessing most people have seen this image often enough to know which line is the longer one.

What triggered my memory of brain teasers was an image I saw today that reminded me of one of my favorite brain teasers of all time. I’m not sure why this puzzle has stuck with me for 50 years.

In this puzzle, each letter represents a different number, but each time a letter is used, it represents the same number. So for example, the letter E in the puzzle below is the same number everywhere it appears.


I’ve provided a solution to this problem, in incremental steps, starting here. But if you like these sort of problems, I’m sure you can solve it without resorting to any of the hints.

It was while solving such problems that I gained respect for the people who created such problems; to me, they were the creative geniuses. As far as I was concerned, Martin Gardner was the smartest person in the world while I was growing up. Today, Will Shortz is the puzzle master I most admire.

And you wonder why I didn’t go to my junior or senior proms…

By the way, based on reader reaction to this post, I may make brain teasers a regular part of my blog.

*image from

19 thoughts on “Another Favorite Childhood Memory: Brain Teasers

  1. I love puzzles – preferably logic puzzles – the different forms of sudoku – but I’ve got into anaggrams and cryptic crosswords (although I often don’t understand the clue even when I have the answer). It’s all a ploy to keep both sides of the brain active, but mostly it’s because I can. Since I retired and have more time, I’ve found I can (eventually) tackle all those puzzles I used to pass over because I thought I couldn’t do them.


    1. I also like sudoku. I never knew what a cryptic crossword was until about a month ago when my wife gave me a book of puzzles and I saw this thing that looked like a crossword, but I had no idea what was going on. Like you, even after I looked at the answers, I still was not quite sure what was going on. Maybe I’ll give them another shot. I would think doing any of these challenges is a great way to spend some time when retired.


    1. My crossword skills are pretty week, but I’d love to get to the point where I have at least a 50-50 chance of completing the New York Times crossword. I also like Sudokus, but I have come across some that were unbelievably challenging.


  2. I’m more of a words person… this reminded me how much I used to like solving Encyclopedia Brown “mysteries” … I thought I was so smart I could always solve them 🙂


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