Let's try a few puzzles today. No fair cheating by looking at the end of the column for the answers and don't ask me how many right ones I had. It is a state secret. To begin with, here are six questions that I'm told involve lateral thinking, whatever that may be.

1. There is a man who lives on the top floor of a very tall building. Every day he gets the elevator down to the ground floor to leave the building to go to work. Upon returning from work, though, he can only travel halfway up the lift and has to walk the rest of the way unless it's raining. Why?

2. A man and his son are in a car accident. The father dies on the scene, but the child is rushed to the hospital. When he arrives the surgeon says, "I can't operate on this boy, he is my son!" How can this be?

3. A man is wearing black. Black shoes, socks, trousers, shirt, coat, gloves and hood. He is walking down a black street with all the street lamps off. A black car is coming toward him with its lights off but somehow manages to stop in time. How did the driver see the man?

4. Why is it better to have round manhole covers than square ones?

5. A man went to a party and drank some of the punch. He then left early. Everyone else at the party who drank the punch subsequently died of poisoning. Why did the man not die?

6. A man walks into a bar and asks the barman for a glass of water. The barman pulls out a gun and points it at the man. The man says, "Thank you," and walks out. What was that all about?

Now, read this sentence:


Alright, count the F's in that sentence. Count them only once; don't go back a second time.

First of all, the answers to the lateral thinking exercise:

1. The man is so short that he can reach only halfway up the elevator buttons. But when it's raining he carries his umbrella and can press the higher buttons with it.

2. The surgeon was his mother.

3. It was daytime. 

4. A square manhole cover can be turned and dropped down the diagonal of the manhole. A round manhole cover cannot be dropped down the manhole and that's why all manholes should be round. (A leading software company uses this question while interviewing prospective employees.)

5. The poison in the punch was in the ice cubes. When the man drank the punch the ice was fully frozen. Gradually it melted, poisoning the punch.

6. The man had hiccups. The barman recognized this from his speech and drew the gun to give him a shock. It worked, cured the hiccups and so the man no longer needed the water.

There are six F's in the sentence. A person of average intelligence finds three; if you got four or five, you're allowed to boast about it. Many people forget the three ofs. The human brain tends to see them as v's and not f's. If you caught all six, you're a genius.

A friend advised me not long ago that I looked out-of-shape and that I had best get involved in an exercise program so I could tone up and, perhaps, live longer.

But after thinking about such strenuous endeavors, sure to reduce my couch and cocktail time, I suddenly realized that I already am over-exerting myself every day and don't really need more exertion.

I regularly beat around the bush, jump to conclusions and climb the walls. Swallowing my pride, I often bend over backwards to pass the buck. Throwing my weight around comes into play occasionally, while I'm tooting my own horn and climbing the ladder of success.

Dragging my heels, I'll even make mountains out of molehills, bend over backwards, hit the nail on the head or push my luck jumping on the bandwagon. Not to mention running around in circles before wading through paperwork as I'm balancing the books, which often makes me eat crow.

And if that's not enough perspiration to suit you, I can cut out all the talk, add fuel to the fire while opening a can of worms. Then, putting my foot in my mouth, I will start the ball rolling and go over the edge, soon to be picking up the pieces.

Sometimes, I wonder how I even get through a single day.