If you have a group of people who are stuck together with a lot of time on their hands, a yes/no riddle might be just the thing for you! The riddles are especially fun around a campfire or fireplace late at night. When I was a middle school teacher, I used to have a classroom rule that if it thunderstormed during class on a Friday, we would scrap the lesson plan for that class and instead do riddles. Every Friday my kids would scan the sky anxiously looking for thunderclouds. On the Fridays that it actually stormed, they were so excited they could hardly sit still!
The basic idea is that there is one person who knows the answer to the riddle. That person tells the story and then answers only questions that can be answered with a "yes" or a "no" about the situation until the group has figured out the solution. (Sometimes the riddle-teller can answer "not relevant" if he thinks the question is likely to throw people off the track) Some riddles require more questioning than others in order to be able to solve them.
SPOILER ALERT: I provide the solutions to each of these riddles; so if you ever want to be on the guessing end of any of them, don’t look at the answers on the bottom.
Also, if you enjoyed these riddles, be sure to check out 5 more yes/ no riddles!
Update: I have since learned that these can also be called "lateral thinking puzzles." Check out this book full of them!
1. Jack and Judy were lying on the floor dead. There was a puddle of water and broken glass on the floor. How did they die?
2. Two men walk into a restaurant. The waiter brings them both beverages. The beverages are the same. One man drinks his glass down right away, and nothing bad happens to him. The other man takes his time and drinks slowly. He dies. Why?
3. A man walks into a restaurant and orders a glass of water. The waiter pulls a gun out and points it at the man. The man thanks the waiter and walks out of the restaurant.
4. There is a room with a table, 53 bicycles, and four men. One of the four men is dead. How did he die?
5. Mr. Smith lives on the 30th floor of his apartment building. Every day he takes the elevator down from his apartment to the lobby. After work, he takes the elevator from the lobby to the 15th floor and walks up the stairs the rest of the way. On rainy days he takes the elevator all the way from the lobby to the 30th floor. Why?
6. Tom and Mary are thirsty for some peach juice. Mary says that she wants two glasses of juice, and Tom wants just one. When the waiter comes, Tom orders five glasses of peach juice. Tom takes the three glasses off of the waiter’s tray and tells him to take the others back; he doesn’t want them. Why did he order five glasses?
7. A car stops in front of a hotel. A man turns to his wife and shouts “I’m ruined!” Why?
8. There are 27 people in a cabin on a mountain. The windows and doors are all locked, but everyone inside is dead. What happened?
9. Mr. Box drove up to the house where Mr. Door lived carrying a box in his hand. He was smiling as he rang the doorbell. When Mr. Door opened the door, Mr. Box’s smile melted away. Mr. Box took out a gun and shot Mr. Door. Why? (This one takes a long time to solve, and it is a little gruesome- might not be appropriate for children)
10. A man jumps off of a skyscraper. As he is falling, he hears the telephone ring and he dies. Why? (this is another long one)
11. An avid birdwatcher sees an unexpected bird. Soon he’s dead. What happened?
12. A man walks into a restaurant, orders albatross, takes one bite of the meal, runs out into the street and is hit by a bus. Why? (another long one that is also a bit gruesome- use discretion when playing with children)
13. A woman goes into a cave, sings a loud song, picks up an object and dies. (only attempt this riddle after the group has successfully completed several other riddles)
1. Jack and Judy were goldfish. They died because their bowl broke.
2. There was poison in ice cubes. The first man drank it down before the ice had a chance to melt.
3. The man had the hiccoughs, and waiter scared them out of him.
4. The 53 bicycles were bicycle playing cards. There were 53 instead of 52 because one of the men was cheating at the card game (had an ace up his sleeve). He was shot for cheating.
5. Mr. Smith is a midget. He can’t usually reach the button to the 30th floor. On rainy days he has his umbrella with him.
6. Tom has a speech impediment. He can’t pronounce the letter “r.” He orders five glasses because it does not require him to say the letter “r.”
7. The man and his wife were playing monopoly, and the man’s piece landed on a property with a hotel on it.
8. The cabin is an airplane cabin that crashed on a mountain.
9. Mr. Box and Mr. Door had been in the navy together years ago. They had both been on a ship that had shipwrecked in the Pacific. A group of men had survived on a liferaft but didn’t have any food. Mr. Door was a navy doctor. He suggested that he would amputate each of their left arms for food. There was, however, no other doctor available to amputate Mr. Door’s arm. To make it fair, Mr. Door promised that when they were back home again, he would have his arm amputated also. Mr. Door had sent Mr. Box an arm in the mail. Mr. Box assumed it was Mr. Door’s arm, but when Mr. Box visited Mr. Door and saw that he still had both of his arms, he became very angry that Mr. Door had not followed through on his side of the bargain and shot him.
10. The man has survived a nuclear holocaust. He has wandered the earth for months looking for another survivor, but cannot find anyone and so comes to believe that he is the only survivor. Out of loneliness, he decides to commit suicide by jumping out of a tall building. When he is falling and hears the phone ring, he realizes that he must have been wrong- there IS another survivor. He has a heart attack and dies.
11. The birdwatcher was flying in a plane. The bird got stuck in the plane’s engine and made the plane crash.
12. The man had been on a cruise with his wife. They had shipwrecked on a deserted island, and the man’s wife had died. The people on the island were starving. One day the people brought some food to the man, saying that it was an albatross they had shot. When the man went to the restaurant and tasted the albatross, he realized that what he had eaten before must not have been albatross at all. He realized that he had likely eaten his wife. The thought made him so upset that he dashed out into the road without looking for traffic.
13. This riddle does not actually have a solution. Instead the riddle-teller alternates answering “yes” and “no” to each of the questions. This usually leads to the development of a very strange story and a lot of frustrated guessers. Sooner or later, though, one of the guessers will catch on to the fact there is a pattern to your answers. Sometimes the riddle-teller can tell when one of the guessers has caught on before that person gives it away to everyone else. It is fun to see how long the story can go on and how fantastic the story can become. It is usually very funny!