2% or 98%? 03 Aug 2005

75 comments Latest by anon

Which are you? Who owns the fish?

75 comments so far (Jump to latest)

J 03 Aug 05

You know, I wonder if Einstein wasn’t mis-quoted on this puzzle? It’s a difficult puzzle to be sure, and I resorted to using a paper tracking system to solve it. I couldn’t do it in my head - now that would be a feat. I wonder if that’s what he originally meant? That if you could do it in your head without taking notes, you were in that rare 2%?

Anyone have any info on this?

August 03 Aug 05

I’m reasonably certain I got it right… But it’s a pretty straightforward linguistic puzzle. Gotta pay attention to the words. No tricks, it’s all out in the open. (Here I am crossing my fingers that I got it right.)

coudal 03 Aug 05

“We were tempted to include the phrase “show your work” with the rules for entry but then we figured that any dork who would Google a puzzle like this in order to win would have to live with self-loathing and guilt for the rest of his life and that would far outweigh the value of the prize package. Yes, we are in fact talking to you Nick M.”

Marten Veldthuis 03 Aug 05

So what group am I part of when I’d program a prolog script to figure this out?

Dan Boland 03 Aug 05

I got it. =)

Mark 03 Aug 05

I think I got it too. I agree with August, carefully reading everything leads to the answer (maybe)

Jim Menard 03 Aug 05

I’m pretty sure I solved it. I used to solve puzzles like this fairly regulary when I was younger. They appeared in a monthly paperback puzzle magazine.

Sage 03 Aug 05

I solved it. :-) Didn’t seem too hard, as long as you keep in mind what each person doesn’t have.

Brady Joslin 03 Aug 05

Mind mapping helped a ton with this, especially in deductively showing relationships.

Hans 03 Aug 05

Deutsch lieben fisch und bier. Nicht kaffee.

Peter Akkies 03 Aug 05

I solved it after about 15 minutes. I worked logically and kept a record of what was not possible. Just make sure you have pen and paper ready to draw everything out and it’s not too hard.

Levi 03 Aug 05

Got it. But it definately takes a pen and paper to keep track of things.

Matthew Oliphant 03 Aug 05

I got it. Took about 15 minutes-ish. Had to use tables and graphical displays of data. Well, who knows if I got it right, but I made all 15 statements true.

James Kew 03 Aug 05

I assume “the green house is on the left of the white house” means that the green house is the left neighbour of the white house? If you take it as a looser “somewhere to the left of” constraint, there are multiple consistent solutions.

Jeff Koke 03 Aug 05

I believe the first interpretation is correct, otherwise you can’t get the colors of the houses in order, which is the first step.

Took me about 15-20 minutes to solve and required making a logic matrix

Brooke Raymond 03 Aug 05

I agree that it really wasn’t that hard. just a few minutes of tables with paper and pen and viola!

Brian 03 Aug 05

I think I got it. At least, like Matthew, I managed to make all 15 statements true. I need a nap now.

Matt Lyon 03 Aug 05

Got it. Took about 15 minutes and a logic grid. I used to do lots of these sorts of puzzles as a kid, but typically with fewer factors (four, instead of six).

…I’d say that I find it hard to believe that 98% of the world’s population couldn’t perform those simple logistical transformations, but then, I’ve seen the sort of drivel that passes for culture these days, so I guess I shouldn’t be.

Ben Wa 03 Aug 05

What evidence is there that only 2% of the population can solve this problem?

I know that at least 80% of my Artificial Intelligence classmates can solve problems of this type and complexity!

Mobil'Homme 03 Aug 05

Either Einstein is dumber than I thought, or I’m smarter than I thought.

Tyler 03 Aug 05

related, game I’ve been turned onto, along the same lines.

yeah, it’s flash, but it’s really fun.


Rules aren’t on there, but for example, if you see 5 2 1, What it means is that there is a group of 5, followed by at least 1 space (there can be more spaces. a 1 1 could have 1 on the first square and 1 on the last), a group of 2, at least one space, and then 1.

hope somebody else enjoys this. and I got the fish too.

Morten 03 Aug 05

Of 22 comments so far, 15 supposedly got it, and none of the 7 other mention that they didn’t get it. Does that mean that there are 720 who didn’t and not a single one of them had the nuts to admit it? :-)

Tim 03 Aug 05

Not to flatter Jason, but something tells me that the readers of S/N are smarter than your average bear and our professional training has a lot to do with how we solve the problem. Try peddling this to your family and friends and gauge their reaction! And, yes, I got the fish…

Scott Orchard 03 Aug 05

I’m pretty sure I got the right answer, it took a little longer than 15 minutes since I’m at work. I must say a pen and paper were quite helpful.

Beerzie Boy 03 Aug 05

Color me 98%. I must be an idiot.

sj 03 Aug 05

Solved it using duct tape, a pair of womens trousers (size 5), and ‘Paul Anka’s Greatest Hits.’

Sent it around the office as a lithmus test - 3 got it right, 7 didn’t. 5 told me to get a life. I think they’re the smart ones….

Still waiting to see Coudal’s ‘trail’ - that looked pretty clever. Did it happen without me knowing it?

JonB 03 Aug 05

I got it too. I worked it out with a simple matrix on paper. Took nearly 20 minutes, but I’m 100% certain it’s right cos all the clues fit the matrix I ended up with.

Good excercise. I should do this more often.

sloan 03 Aug 05

I think puzzles are fun and work your mind (I gave them to my students)… but I think its an interesting study when it becomes a competition and people use it as a way of determining intelligence (similar to IQ). The Ego shows its face!

SH 03 Aug 05

Got it, in 8 minutes time. (tip: make a grid. I prefer to use excel.)

Jeff 04 Aug 05

I got it as well - used a spreadsheet and a piece of paper, took me about a half hour I think.

I do have to say, either we are all a smart bunch here, or the 2% figure is certainly wrong.

Who’s gonna come out and say it? I feel like it’s a game Clue - it was Col. Mustard in the Library with the rope.

Marc Hedlund 04 Aug 05

I got it using Stickies. Take that.

Fun game. For a minute I was diverted by the pronouns — I thought there might be a clue in the “man” versus “owner” versus “person” language. But no.

Jens Meiert 04 Aug 05

“The German smokes Princes.” Cool. No time yet to solve it.

Chriztian Steinmeier 04 Aug 05

Here’s to NOT using the “right tool for the job” for once - I used Adobe After Effects 5.5 to solve it :-)

Took about 30 mins (while working).

Trinity 04 Aug 05

hi i solved the puzzle in 20 minues something.

i used paint to visualize everything, like a jig-saw puzzle

the man who smoke blends haves 2 relations and was key to the solution of the puzzle :)

thanks for the link

benw 04 Aug 05

when this puzzle was written, i wonder how much of the entire world population was illiterate? im no genius, but i can imagine the inability to read would make it a tad difficult.

Trinity 04 Aug 05

so i googled my solution,

the * owns the fish —> and you know what

there was only one hit that claims there are more solutions

without spoling anything a question, who else came up with the order “green, blue, white, yellow, red” ?

i did :)

Barhet 04 Aug 05

I am happy to say that i solved it on my own, without looking up any answers. The real ones or alternative.

To my great surprise my father came up with a totally different solution. It is based on the loose definition of “Green House to left of White House”. He claims that they don�t necessarily have to be next to each other but simply “to left”.

As i was trying to tell him he was wrong I couldn�t find any “mistake” other than that the green and the white weren�t side by side.

..thoughts anyone?

Echelon 04 Aug 05

How about this idea, there is no fish. No where in the riddle does it say that someone owns a fish. The 5th person could have any other pet than the ones already listed.
so no one has the fish is my answer….

Justin 04 Aug 05

“The five owners drink a different drink, smoke a different brand of cigar and keep a different pet, one of which is a Walleye Pike.”

Trinity 04 Aug 05


Yes one owner owns a Walleye Pike !

Did anybody came up with a different solution?

fore ex. the order �green, blue, white, yellow, red� ?

Jeff 04 Aug 05


Pretty sure that order is not correct -

I came up with (from the left) yellow, blue, red, green, white

Andre 04 Aug 05

I agree with Jeff. There is only one order (even if you don’t start off by assuming that green is immediately left of white), and it is yellow, blue, red, green white. Sorry Trinity…

Emily 04 Aug 05

I came up with the same order as Andre. Fun exercise.

I used Post-It notes….

Jaime Macias 04 Aug 05

I came up with the same order as Andre. I used excel, took about 15 minutes with 5 of those consisting of doubt but in the end it all was true, and now we wait.

Pierce 04 Aug 05

I think people are educated differently now to how they were in Einstein’s time. Also the level of education is higher. Also, a lot more logic is used in everday life in the modern age. Programmers, accountants etc need much more logical application than tradespeople. Also most people reading this have some programming experience, a particularly suitable mindset for solving logical problems. All in all, I think the odds were stacked in our favour.

This 2% would have dated from 50 or 60 years ago. Society and skills have changed (in the first world at least) fundamentally since then. Don’t pat yourselves on the back too hard people.

bob 04 Aug 05

hi i figured out the following solution wich i found out is not right

i guess i miss understood something

what’s wrong ??


|green |blue |white |red |yellow |

|norwegian |german |sweed |brit |dane |

|coffee |water |milk |beer |tea |

|pall mal |princess |blends |bluemasters| dun hills |

|bird |cats |dog |horses | fish |

Trinity 04 Aug 05

@bob that’s the solution i also have

i already double checked all hints and don’t have a clue why it’s not right

perhaps 0,0002% is really a Einstein ?


Justin P 04 Aug 05

I got it, but I think that whole “2% of the world” thing is bs to get suckers like us more excited to try the damn thing.

People who don’t have the green house directly to the left of the white house, I think you’re reading too much into this thing. It’s hard to get anywhere with the hints if you read into each one as if they have a deeper meaning, er maybe I’m the one who is wrong here ;)

Trinity 04 Aug 05

@ Justin

You’re right, because it haves the 2% of the world quote and Einstein word you get discussions about the green and the white house …

Dan Boland 04 Aug 05

Since we’re giving away solutions now, this is what I came up with (houses going from left to right):

House #1 - Norwegian, Yellow, Water, Dunhills, Cats
House #2 - Dane, Blue, Tea, Blends, Horses
House #3 - Brit, Red, Milk, Pall Malls, Birds
House #4 - German, Green, Coffee, Princes, THE FISH
House #5 - Swede, White, Beer, Bluemasters, Dogs

Justin P 04 Aug 05

Trinity, I don’t understand what you’re trying to tell me.

Dan, the German with the fish? Really? That ain’t what I got and I *know* I am right. I have the graph paper and worn out pencil to prove it, buster.

*goes back to do puzzle again*

Jeff 04 Aug 05

As long as we are now giving out the answers, yes, it’s the German with the fish.

If you didn’t get that, go over to Justin’s desk and work on it together.

Brian 04 Aug 05

I concur with Dan. Bob, your solution works out if you assume the green house is not right next to the white house. But the wording of the puzzle says to me they are right next to each other. “The green house is *on* the left of the white house” not *to* the left.

Karim 04 Aug 05

For those of you having trouble solving the puzzle, here are some additional hints:

16. The Brit has gingivitis.
17. The owner who smokes Bluemasters also smokes pot.
18. The man who has a sensitive nose lives downwind from the man who has horses.
19. The cat owner is sleeping with the dog owner.
20. The Norwegian who may or may not have cats lives next to someone who lives next to someone who drinks pina coladas and gets caught in the rain.
21. Housing prices in this neighborhood have increased by 417% in the last fiscal year.

Ed 04 Aug 05

I think I got it, as well. Only difference: it took me nearly four hours to figure it out…and that’s with a spreadsheet.

Justin P 04 Aug 05

Sh!t, it *is*German. Dan, you sneaky devil. The spreadsheet technique rules.

Jeff 04 Aug 05

I think those of us that solved it fairly quickly must have all played these sorts of logic games when we were younger, where they provided you with clues just like this, but also provided you with a premade graph to mark off things that match.

Justin how long did it take you to figure it out once you went back to it?

Justin P. 04 Aug 05

Once I found my mistake that led me to think the Norwegian owned the fish, it was just a matter of checking stuff off in my grid. The clue that misled me was:

> The man who smokes Blends lives next to the one who keeps cats.

For some reason, I took this as “The Norwegian doesn’t have cats”. Which pretty much would mean that he *does* have the fish. Nevermind the fact the some of the checks and balances don’t match up, which I didn’t bother noting because I was so excited I found out who had the fish.

I stumbled upon the multi-grid method after failing to solve this several times yesterday. I finally just sat down and wrote a big ol grid with all the possible scenarios. Without this, I don’t know how you’d keep track of all the facts.

Karim 04 Aug 05

>> The man who smokes Blends lives next to the one who keeps cats.

> For some reason, I took this as �The Norwegian doesn�t have cats�.


Riddle me this, Batman…

22. The Norwegian who smokes blends also smokes fish. Usually herring.


24. The man who has the fish is often visited by the man who has the cat’s cat.

Justin 04 Aug 05

Ha! (tosses pen, crumples paper)

Cloudal 05 Aug 05

Note II: Of course, you never know, we might have been smart enough to shuffle the variables a bit so that the answer you find from Googling previous posts of the puzzle might be wrong in a way that allows us to know of your laziness and treachery. Not that we’d ever make such knowledge public or anything.

Darrel 05 Aug 05

That was fun. Took me about 15 minutes too.

Gotta agree that it’s a challenge, but really just one of patience rather than mental skill. Seems that 98%/2% is a bit of a myth.

Clue #4 is what clinched it for me. If you go through each clue and map it out, then go back to #4, that’s when everything starts coming to gether.

Darrel 05 Aug 05

‘doh! Now I’m one of the 98%.

I had solved it to the correct answer, but then typed it wrong when I emailed it. me = idiot.

Boris 05 Aug 05

Whoaaaaaaaa, so many smart people here. Let’s save the world guys you sure got the brains for it.

Got nothing else to do?

Eric 06 Aug 05

@Justin P

I stumbled upon the multi-grid method after failing to solve this several times yesterday. I finally just sat down and wrote a big ol grid with all the possible scenarios. Without this, I don�t know how you�d keep track of all the facts.

I would really like to see your big ol grid with all the possible scenarios, given that there are almost 25 billion of htem (24,883,200,000 to be exact). Is there enough pencil lead in metropolitan Chicago to even draw the lines of that grid?

Eric 06 Aug 05

I think an interesting follow-on discussion is exactly how you solved it. We all might learn by seeing what approaches beyond our own were possible. Towards that end, I will discuss how I solved the problem.

First I created a “grid” of five columns where each column represented one house. Each house had five rows for all the properties other than the location. Location was implied by the order of the columns. So there was a row for nationality, a row for color, and so on.

Then I started to fill in what I could from the clues. The first phase allowed me to fill in things directly, and I took those clues in the following order: 10, 14, 8, 4&5 together, 1, 7.

The second phase is the most difficult and requires one two keep track of multiple possibilities, but then infering outside those possibilities. See what clues 3 and 12 allow, and then bring in clue 15. Once you see that, you can fill it a lot of slots.

And in the third phase it gets pretty simple again. I took the rest of the clues in the following order: 13, 6, 2, 9.

Eric 06 Aug 05

Oops, one correction for an omission. Take clue 11 in the first phase after clue 7.

Justin P. 08 Aug 05

You tell me that it’s impossible to make a grid of this and then you proceed to describe how to make a grid. Wtf dude?

Forgive me for I misspoke when I described my grid. I did not make a grid of all the possible scenarios, I just made a grid of all the logical scenarios given the clues and constraints in the original hints and puzzle description. I’m pretty sure that’s possible, because I did just that.

Jay 10 Aug 05

To make the grid…
Houses Numbers across Top, different categories down left side: House Color, Smoke, Pet, etc.

In each box, put all possibilities, i.e. for house #1/Color put Green, Yellow, White, etc.

As you go through the clues, cross out each line which cannot be true. This is the simplest method of solving this type of puzzle.

Larry O'Brien 10 Aug 05

Here’s my C# solution using a constraint-programming library.

Doh! 03 Nov 05

I dont think it is the problem that is hard on it’s own - it is the fact that there are two solutions. One with the houses starting left to right, and the other with the houses starting right to left. The german still gets the fish - but there is more than one way to get there.

anon 23 Nov 05

I am sorry to say this but you are all wrong. Nowhere in the problem, except in the question, is the word fish found. Thus the fifth pet might just as well be elephants as fish. After a lot of work you can safely conclude that the German has the fifth pet, but you have to ASSUME that the fifth pet is fish in order to conclude the German has fish. But you have no basis for making this assumption. This is why Einstein said that 98% of people cannot solve this puzzle because almost everyone assumed that, after logically working it out, because the german was the last house left without a pet they must own the fish. But they infact could own anything. The correct answer to the Einstein Quiz is: You have no idea if anyone keeps fish or not.