The $10K MacBook issue or why I hate lateral thinking puzzles

Greetings you...people.

Today I came across the story of how Apple spent $10,000 to fix a photographer's MacBook Pro, which in reality didn't need fixing. It appears to have been operator error, code "I-D-10-T" if you will. Or maybe it was the fault of the "geniuses" there. Due to the customer's settings, the screen brightness had been turned so low the laptop monitor was basically off. The solution took several techs over several visits, over a period of about two weeks. I believe the user neglected to mention some key details to the people trying to help him out. You can read about the stupidity here if you want.

This all reminded me of wanting to somehow increase my lateral thinking skills, years if not decades ago. I honestly don't think it's possible. These are puzzles where key details are omitted in the hopes of people "thinking outside the box". Frack that, I say, frack that. These puzzles are stupid. There's a famous one about a man who lives on the 12th floor of a building who, upon returning home, will ride the elevator up if there's someone else in the elevator or if it's raining, otherwise he'll go to the 10th floor and walk the rest of the way up. This is a dumb, DUMB example.

I'm going to give you some real life examples of my own, including all the details I had at the time, and I want you to see what you can come up with. Please post solutions in

And do you have any examples of your own?

PUZZLE 1: I was with three other men at a house with a shipping container on the lawn, roughly 30 feet away from the residence. Inside were three very heavy, fire-resistant lateral file cabinets that weighed at least 750 lbs. or around 340 kilos each. We needed to move them into the house but the cabinets were way too heaving to carry. With some effort, they could be tilted off to one side lengthwise, albeit slightly. The cabinets were so tall they were just 1 foot short of the roof of the container. They had to be moved over 30 feet of grass to the concrete driveway.

We had no heavy lifting equipment, not even a hand truck or dolly. Inside the garage were several giant hand-built crates which were leftovers from a failed convention. These crates were 3X6 feet and built with plywood lids. They were filled with all sorts of crap that wouldn't help us, like outdated Dell PCs, 4-foot power strips and hundreds of ethernet patch cables. Other items in the garage were typical: hammers, wood and old metal saws, extension cords and other random stuff like unused SCUBA tanks. We also had over 20 custom-built crappy 10X10 foot partitions made out of galvanized steel pipe and cheap plastic tarps.

I came up with a solution almost immediately.


PUZZLE 2: This is related to the first one. There was a generator on the back of a flatbed truck. It was fairly large, meant for permanent install, hence no wheels. The total dimensions were maybe 3X5 feet and weighed in excess of 200 lbs. It arrived on a plastic pallet with some holes on the side. These holes were way too small (maybe 2-inch diameter), and the generator too heavy, for us to grab the holes with our bare hands. Again, the solution was my own, and this is related to the first puzzle.


PUZZLE 3: This is an easy one. I'm willing to bet all of you at some point have had to do this. I've helped over 30 people move. The most recent example was from two weeks ago. I and two other guys were going to move a giant, heavy piece of Ikea crap from a bedroom, through a living room, and to a set of stairs. Everyone started grabbing a part when I abruptly told them to stop. I left for the adjacent room and returned 5 seconds later. Why?


PUZZLE 4: It's okay if you don't get this one, I sure didn't. I was helping an electrician wire up and install a washer and dryer. These were brand new units that could be stacked on top of each other. When we were pushing them back into a restricted space, a giant spark flew past the electrician's head. Obviously, we had to plug them in prior to moving them back. We checked the breaker box, which was directly below and adjacent to us in the basement, and every time we pushed the units back the breaker would trip. He replaced the special outlet to no avail.

-This was in a very old house, possibly 90 years old-

We decided to try and come up with a solution overnight. The next day the electrician went one floor above where the washer/dryer was to fix the problem. Do you know why?

Reminder: please post your solutions in spoilers, and again, if you have any head-scratchers of your own, please post! If there are any questions, I'll try and answer with the data I had prior to coming up with the solution.

I kind of want to hear the full setup behind that elevator puzzle now.

Anyway, here are my punts:





Can't really think of any other puzzles at the moment, except of course the old classic about the electric train: If it leaves London travelling North West at 30km/h, and there is a wind travelling North East at 60km/h, what direction does the smoke travel?

I kind of want to hear the full setup behind that elevator puzzle now.



PUZZLE 1 Solution

PUZZLE 2 Solution

PUZZLE 3 Solution

PUZZLE 4 Solution:


I kind of want to hear the full setup behind that elevator puzzle now.

The man in the elevator is a dwarf. He could only reach the buttons for floor 10, just short of his floor, 12. He would normally benefit if there was someone else in there so they could push the button for him, or he would touch it with his umbrella.

The reason I think this "puzzle", purportedly a famous example of lateral thinking, is bullshit is that different versions of this story stated that the man was proud, which I guess is supposed to explain something? If he were proud, then why would he ask for someone else's help in the first place? He can't carry a cane or some sort of poking implement to reach just a few inches higher? Like a freaking pencil for example. As a puzzle it requires you to completely ignore logic and simple human ingenuity. I've encountered just one dwarf and a few people in wheelchairs in my life and I can tell you that "helping" them is normally met with a "No, thanks, I got this."

Oh I meant I wanted to hear the puzzle setup, not the solution :P
But I probably wouldn't have got it, for the reasons you gave. Reminds me of that other one that's an utter joke:

What creature has 4 legs in the morning, 2 legs during the day, and 3 in the evening?


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