Can you solve "Einstein’s Riddle"? - Dan Van der Vieren | Summary and Q&A

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November 30, 2015
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TED-Ed
Can you solve "Einstein’s Riddle"? - Dan Van der Vieren

Summary

In this video, a complex riddle devised by Albert Einstein is presented. The riddle involves identifying the thief who stole the world's rarest fish from the city aquarium. The police have traced the thief's scent to a street with five identical houses, and it's up to the viewer, the city's best detective, to solve the case. The video provides clues and a logical path to the solution, drawing parallels between solving the riddle and playing Sudoku.

Q: What are the initial clues provided by the police?

The police inform the detective that each house's owner has a different nationality, drinks a different beverage, and smokes a different type of cigar. Additionally, each house has its interior walls painted a different color, and each house contains a different animal, one of which is the stolen fish.

Q: How does the detective begin solving the riddle?

The detective starts by filling in the information from clues eight and nine. By doing this, they realize that the Norwegian is at the end of the street, indicating that there is only one house next to him. This house must be the one with the blue walls mentioned in clue fourteen.

Q: How does the detective determine the location of the green-walled house?

Clue five states that the owner of the green-walled house drinks coffee. The detective deduces that the green-walled house cannot be the center house (as its owner drinks milk), the second house (as its walls are blue), or the first and fifth houses (as the green-walled house must be directly to the left of the white-walled house according to clue four). Therefore, the only possible location for the green-walled house with the coffee drinker is the fourth spot, making the white-walled house the fifth.

Q: How does the detective assign the Brit's house and wall color?

Clue one provides information about a nationality and a color. Since the column missing both these values is the center one, the detective determines that the Brit's home must be the red-walled house.

Q: How does the detective figure out what the Norwegian drinks?

Following the clues, the detective eliminates the other drink options for the Norwegian. Clue three establishes that the Dane drinks tea, and clue twelve indicates that the person who drinks root beer also smokes Bluemaster. With milk and coffee already assigned, the only remaining option for the Norwegian is water.

Q: How does the detective determine the location and cigar brand of the person who smokes Dunhill?

Clue seven states that the Dunhill smoker lives in the house with the yellow walls. As there is only one unassigned wall color left, the detective concludes that the first house (with yellow walls) must be the home of the Dunhill smoker.

Q: How does the detective identify the owner of the horse and the location of the Blends smoker?

Clue eleven reveals that the owner of the horse lives next door to someone, indicating that they must be in the second house. By process of elimination, the Blends smoker must also be in the second house since it's the only position left without an assigned cigar and drink.

Q: What nationality and cigar brand remain unassigned at this point?

The fourth house is the only one missing a nationality and cigar brand. Referring to clue thirteen, the detective deduces that the Prince-smoking German lives there.

Q: Which nationalities and cigar brands are assigned to the Brit and the Swede?

Through elimination, it is concluded that the Brit smokes Pall Mall, and the Swede lives in the fifth house. Clue six identifies the Brit as the owner of a bird, and clue two establishes that the Swede has a dog.

Q: How does the detective place the cat owner and the clue about the Blend-smoking Dane?

Clue ten indicates that the cat owner lives next to the Blend-smoking Dane, placing the Dane in the first house.

Q: How does the detective identify the thief?

With only one spot left on the grid, the detective determines that the German living in the green-walled house must be the thief.

Takeaways

Solving puzzles like this one often involves false starts and dead ends. The key is to use the process of elimination and engage in trial and error to narrow down the correct pieces. By solving more logic puzzles, intuition grows for recognizing when there's enough information to make deductions. While there's no concrete evidence that Albert Einstein wrote this particular puzzle, the logic employed here is similar to that used in solving equations with multiple variables, including those describing the nature of the universe.