Sideblaggin'

A note on today’s comic: Judging from my inbox, a lot of people have a different perspective on the GRY puzzle than me. First of all, I believe it’s a fairly old riddle. But more importantly, I think that originally the “English Language” bit wasn’t even a part of this riddle. It was just a head-breaker because there was no answer. But then someone who thought they were oh-so-clever came up with the idea that somewhere in the puzzle it could be read as asking what the third word in the actual phrase “the English Language” was. That’s a pretty lame interpretation. There have been lots of rewritings of the puzzle to try to make it work a little better, but they’ve never removed the lameness. Some of them more friendly to that stupid interpretation than others. I’d been hearing the angry/hungry puzzle for years (and talked about the interesting fact that there was no answer) before I ever heard someone try the “language” thing. Snopes has a good article on this puzzle.

I always hated those ‘lateral thinking’ puzzles — the ones where they said “oh HO, I never told you that the doctor’s mother was a midget and this was all happening a space station! Don’t you feel dumb now?‘ Because once I figured out that language was really, really flexible and imprecise, it seemed that the key to communication was just figuring out what they probably meant. And figuring out what they could possibly mean if you use all the wrong definitions and stuff is interesting, but I don’t think it teaches all that much more than bad communication. These should be kept very separate from actual logic puzzles, which are really neat. There’s a thriving section for them on the forums, and a lot of people found my site looking for the answer to the Blue Eyes puzzle (which is great because it doesn’t use trick language anywhere — indeed, I’ve rewritten it over and over to make it as unambiguous and clear as I can — and yet the answer is incredibly elusive).

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