Einstein’s election riddle

Back before we were all online, I used to spend quite a lot of time doing logic puzzles. These are problems in which you have a series of groups, a series of statements and have to figure out which elements make up each group. So when Alex Bellos posted an election themed puzzle a few days before the big day, I couldn’t resist.

There are five houses with the outside walls painted in five different ways. David, Ed, Nick, Nicola and Nigel each live in one of the houses. They each drink a certain type of coffee, have a preferred mode of transport and keep a certain pet. No owners have the same pet, the same preferred mode of transport or drink the same type of coffee.

Who owns the fish?

You will need to click through to see the actual statements about who lives where, what they drink and how they travel.

It took me a couple of hours (spread over most of a day) but I solved it, and then I checked the published solution. What struck me as interesting is that, while my approach worked, it was not the same approach as the one Alex used. You can see the approach taken by Alex, along with the solution, by clicking here. The approach I took is as follows:

I started with a grid like this one (except the grid I used was hand drawn with a ruler and pencil).


The first two statements tell us that Nicola lives in the tartan house and Ed has a guinea pig. This also tells us that the owner of the guinea pig doesn’t live in the tartan house.


Statement three tells us that David drinks mochaccino. Which means that the mochaccino drinker does not live in the tartan house and does not own a guinea pig.


And so on and so forth. And once the grid is filled you have your answer.

The article repeats the claim that only two per cent of the population are smart enough to solve it. I don’t think this is a question of being smart.

With any sort of logic problem you need to have some method of systematically capturing what is true and what is not true. Evidently more than one such method exists, but once you have a working methodology, these problems are solvable for anyone.

So if it is true that only two percent of the population are able to solve the puzzle, this does not tell us how smart people are but, instead, indicates that far too many people lack the skills to process information methodologically.

Also, what the hell is mochaccino?

One thought on “Einstein’s election riddle

  1. I used your method – though not as neatly but I must admit Alex’s is very concise! I agree it is more a question of organising information than intelligence – perhaps being able to do that effectively is a component of intelligence?!


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