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Einstein's Riddle, the Answer, and What It All Means

Updated on July 22, 2012
Einstein at the age of three, looking very stylish already.
Einstein at the age of three, looking very stylish already. | Source

Einstein's Riddle, also known as the zebra riddle, is a very famous puzzle, and it is said that only 2% of the population could solve it. Rumored to have been written by Einstein as a boy, the mysterious true author of the riddle contains a line up of geniuses including Lewis Carroll. The burning question remains, are you able to figure it out?

The Riddle

In order to aid you in the puzzle, you can find a very helpful link here. This interactive game will allow you to more readily keep things in order and refer to the conditions given, a great resource!

There are 5 houses in 5 different colors in a row. In each house lives a person with a different nationality. The 5 owners drink a certain type of beverage, smoke a certain brand of cigar, and keep a certain pet. No owners have the same pet, smoke the same brand of cigar, or drink the same beverage. One person owns fish, who is it?

  1. The Brit lives in the red house.
  2. The Swede keeps dogs as pets.
  3. The Dane drinks tea.
  4. The green house is on the left of the white house.
  5. The green homeowner drinks coffee.
  6. The person who smokes Pall Mall rears birds.
  7. The owner of the yellow house smokes Dunhill.
  8. The man living in the center house drinks milk.
  9. The Norwegian lives in the first house.
  10. The man who smokes Blend lives next to the one who keeps cats.
  11. The man who keeps horses lives next to the man who smokes Dunhill.
  12. The owner who smokes Bluemaster drinks beer.
  13. The German smokes prince.
  14. The Norwegian lives next to the blue house.
  15. The man who smokes Blend has a neighbor who drinks water.

Stop Now! Solution Below.

Albert Einstein.
Albert Einstein. | Source
Source

The Solution

If you've given up, take this moment to summon courage and try again! I broke down too, and the hint I got made perfect sense when I completed the puzzle. The hint is this: it just takes time. Keep at it. If you haven't already, use the game linked above or draw brackets for each item in a way that makes sense to you. You can do it!

Let's just start saying Elliott Ploutz invented this riddle. Why not?
Let's just start saying Elliott Ploutz invented this riddle. Why not? | Source

The Solution

All numbers here relate to the numbered lines given above. Scroll down for the short answer.

  1. Let's start with what's immediately given to us, 8 and 9. The homeowner in the center house drinks milk, and the Norwegian lives in the first house.
  2. Because of 9 and 14, we know that the second house is blue, since the Norwegian lives next to the blue house and the only thing next to the first house is the second house.
  3. Because of 4, we know that the green house must be the third or fourth house from the left. Because of 5, it cannot be the third house. Therefore, because of 4 and 5, the green house is the fourth house from the left, and coffee is its beverage. The white house is the fifth house.*
  4. Because of 1, we know that the British man lives in the red house, which is in the center.
  5. The only remaining house color available is yellow, which is the Norwegian's house.
  6. Because of 7, the first house smokes Dunhill.
  7. Because of 11, the second house raises horses.
  8. This step involves some imagination. The key step lies in 10 and 15. The person who smokes Blends must be in the second house or the forth house to allow for the first house or the fifth house to drink water as their beverage. Let's assume for now that:**
  • If the person who smokes Blends owns the fourth house, then the fifth house drinks water because of 15. The only house that fits the bill for 12 is the second house, so the second house has beer as its beverage and the owner smokes Blue Master. That leaves tea for the Norwegian, but because of 3, we know that is not the case due to contradiction.
This leaves our alternative:
  • If the person who smokes Blends owns the second house, then the first house drinks water because of 15.
  1. Because of 12, we know that the house who smokes Blue Master must drink beer. Our assumption means the second house already smokes, so that leaves the fifth house drinking beer and smoking Blue Master.
  2. That leaves tea for the second house.
  3. Because of 3, we know the Dane drinks tea, so the Dane lives in the second house.
  4. The only house who fits the bill for 13 is now the fourth house.
  5. The fifth house is the Swede's.
  6. Because of 2, the fifth house keeps dogs.
  7. The only brand of smoke left belongs to the third house, Pall Mall.
  8. Because of 6, the middle house keeps birds.
  9. That leaves fish and cats. Because of 10, the first house keeps cats.
Thus, the German owns the fish!

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.

A mis-translation of Aristotle.

What It All Means

In order to solve this riddle, a person needs three things, persistence, critical thinking, and foresight. When we look at these qualities, we can see why it might be said that only 2% of the population could solve this riddle.

  • Persistence. The riddle doesn't require a high level of creativity. It's more about methodically looking at all the possibilities. It probably took quite a bit of time, and that's the way it's designed. A large portion of people don't exercise the patience necessary to see the solution through. Even you might've thought about quitting at some point.
  • Critical thinking. Reasoning is the name of the game. I consider critical thinking here to be making sure that there are no contradictions. This involves holding several factors in your working memory.
  • Foresight. There is a specific point where you must make an assumption and see how it plays out (noted by the **). This involves entertaining an idea without knowing it to be true in order to further explore the puzzle.

When viewed this way, the riddle can serve to teach a very important lesson about the qualities of an intelligent and successful person. Now, we must apply these skills conscientiously to all our serious endeavors rather than just to a pleasant puzzle done only for fun! That's the hard part.

Were you able to solve this puzzle?

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    • PhilosopherPrince profile image
      Author

      Elliott Ploutz 2 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      Einstein only thought that 2% of the population could solve it! It turned out to be a much greater percentage.

    • profile image

      Anon 2 years ago

      Is it true that only 2% of the population can solve it? That's rather disappointing.. It wasn't THAT difficult. I mean I'm just 14 and I solved it. If 98% of the population can't solve this then humanity is screwed..

    • profile image

      Lovelyriddles 2 years ago

      It’s the German.

      How did I solve it?

      The Options

      Well, we know from examining the clues and the question that:

      The possible nationalities are:

      Norwegian

      Brit

      Swede

      Dane

      German

      The possible colors are:

      Red

      Green

      White

      Yellow

      Blue

      The possible beverages are:

      Tea

      Coffee

      Milk

      Beer

      Water

      The possible cigars are:

      Pall Mall

      Dunhill

      Blends

      BlueMaster

      Prince

      The possible pets are:

      Dogs

      Birds

      Cats

      Horses

      Fish

      The Deduction

      Well, we know there are five houses. We’ll assume they’re all in a row, and are numbered from left to right. We know the Norwegian is in the first house:

      House #1 #2 #3 #4 #5

      Color ? ? ? ? ?

      Natl Norweg ? ? ? ?

      Bevg ? ? ? ? ?

      Smokes ? ? ? ? ?

      Pet ? ? ? ? ?

      Since the Brit lives in the red house, the Norwegian can’t. We also know the Norwegian lives next to the blue house, so his house isn’t blue. We also know that the green house is to the left of the white house; the Norwegian can’t live in the white house since there is no house to the left, and can’t live in the green house because his only neighbor, the one to the right, is known to live in the blue house. Therefore, the Norwegian lives in the yellow house.

      We also know the owner of the yellow house smokes Dunhill, and that the Norwegian has a neighbor with a blue house (the Norwegian only has one neighbor, to the right.)

      So here’s what our matrix looks like now:

      House #1 #2 #3 #4 #5

      Color Yellow Blue ? ? ?

      Natl Norweg ? ? ? ?

      Bevg ? ? ? ? ?

      Smokes Dunhill ? ? ? ?

      Pet ? ? ? ? ?

      The man who keeps horses lives next to he man who smokes Dunhill; so the horse owner lives in the blue house. The center house’s owner drinks milk, the green house’s owner drinks coffee, and the green house is to the left of the white house. Since we know the left two houses are the yellow and blue houses, the only position for the green and white are green as the fourth and white as the fifth, since the middle (third) drinks milk and the owner of the green house drinks coffee. The middle house has to be red, and therefore is the Brit’s. So now this is what we know:

      House #1 #2 #3 #4 #5

      Color Yellow Blue Red Green White

      Natl Norweg ? Brit ? ?

      Bevg ? ? Milk Coffee ?

      Smokes Dunhill ? ? ? ?

      Pet ? Horse ? ? ?

      The owner who smokes BlueMaster drinks beer; since we know what houses #3 and #4 drink [and neither are beer] and we know what house #1 smokes [and its not BlueMaster], the only possibilities are houses #2 and #5. Keep this information in mind. Since it is evident house #1 cannot drink beer (only house #2 or #5 can), the only possible beverages for house #1 are water and tea, but since the Dane drinks tea, house #1 drinks water. The man who smokes Blends lives next to someone who drinks water; the only house next to #1 (the water-drinking house) is #2. The man who smokes Blends lives next to the one who has cats; so the cat-house is #1 or #3.

      House #1 #2 #3 #4 #5

      Color Yellow Blue Red Green White

      Natl Norweg ? Brit ? ?

      Bevg Water B/T? Milk Coffee B/T?

      Smokes Dunhill Blends ? ? ?

      Pet Cat? Horse Cat? ? ?

      Since the Dane drinks tea, he must live in either house #2 or #5. The Swede and German could live in house #2, #4 or #5.

      House #1 #2 #3 #4 #5

      Color Yellow Blue Red Green White

      Natl Norweg D/S/G? Brit S/G? D/S/G?

      Bevg Water B/T? Milk Coffee B/T?

      Smokes Dunhill Blends ? ? ?

      Pet Cat? Horse Cat? ? ?

      We know the beer-drinker smokes BlueMaster. The only houses that could drink beer are #2 and #5, but since we know that #2 smokes Blends, #5 must be the house which drinks beer and smokes BlueMaster, and #2 has to be the house that drinks tea and the house of the Dane. We can eliminate the possibility of the Dane’s residence being house #5.

      House #1 #2 #3 #4 #5

      Color Yellow Blue Red Green White

      Natl Norweg Dane Brit S/G? S/G?

      Bevg Water Tea Milk Coffee Beer

      Smokes Dunhill Blends ? ? BlueM

      Pet Cat? Horse Cat? ? ?

      We know the German smokes Prince. Therefore, he could not live at house #5 and therefore has to live at house #4. The Swede must live at house #5; we also know house #5 raises dogs since we know the Swede raises dogs, and that house #4 smokes Prince since the German smokes Prince.

      House #1 #2 #3 #4 #5

      Color Yellow Blue Red Green White

      Natl Norweg Dane Brit German Swede

      Bevg Water Tea Milk Coffee Beer

      Smokes Dunhill Blends ? Prince BlueM

      Pet Cat? Horse Cat? ? Dogs

      The only possibility for house #3’s smokes is Pall Mall; all of the others are taken. We know that whoever smokes Pall Mall raises birds; so house #3 raises birds, and house #1 therefore has cats, since the only houses which could have had cats were #1 and #3, and #3 has been eliminated.

      House #1 #2 #3 #4 #5

      Color Yellow Blue Red Green White

      Natl Norweg Dane Brit German Swede

      Bevg Water Tea Milk Coffee Beer

      Smokes Dunhill Blends PallM Prince BlueM

      Pet Cat Horse Birds ? Dogs

      The only remaining pet is the fish, which must be owned by the German. We now know who owns the fish, and have solved the puzzle.

      The completed matrix of data is as follows:

      House #1 #2 #3 #4 #5

      Color Yellow Blue Red Green White

      Natl Norweg Dane Brit German Swede

      Bevg Water Tea Milk Coffee Beer

      Smokes Dunhill Blends PallM Prince BlueM

      Pet Cat Horse Birds Fish Dogs

      for better screen result

      visit http://www.goodriddles.org/einsteins-riddle/

    • PhilosopherPrince profile image
      Author

      Elliott Ploutz 4 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      Hi Eric,

      It ultimately depends on how you solve the riddle. In this case, you are lead to a point where you have two (seemingly) equal alternatives: the person who smokes Blends owns the second or the fourth house.

      Given that they are both likely based on what we reasoned thus far in the solution at line 8, we may assume one or the other. If we assume the Blends smoker lives in the fourth house, we see that this leads us to a contradiction and only leaves our alternative, he or she lives in the second house.

      Of course, solving this with a non-standard method may not need assumptions.

      Thanks.

    • profile image

      Ericsikes@hotmail.com 4 years ago

      The part about foresight is false. There's no need to assume anything and see how it plays out. All the needed information is there. When a statement says that something is, it is also saying what something is not and vice versa. No assumptions needed.

    • Written Up profile image

      Written Up 5 years ago from Oklahoma City, OK

      I love riddles and logic problems. I look forward to solving this one when I have a few spare minutes (I haven't looked at the solution yet).