Think Outside The Box

It’s puzzle time!

A farmer wants to cross a river and take with him a wolf, a goat, and a cabbage. There is a boat that can fit himself plus one more, either the wolf, the goat, or the cabbage. If the wolf and the goat are alone on one shore, the wolf will eat the goat. If the goat and the cabbage are alone on the shore, the goat will eat the cabbage. How can the farmer bring the wolf, the goat, and the cabbage across the river?

Why would a farmer want a wolf?

Hmmm, let’s try a puzzle with lollies.

There are three opaque boxes containing lollies. One box contains only chocolate lollies, one contains only pink lollies, and the third box contains a mixture of both lollies. The three boxes are labelled Chocolate, Pink and Mixture, but none of the boxes are labelled correctly.

You can take one candy out of each box (without looking directly into the box) and see what you get. What is the minimum number of boxes you have to open (and take one candy out) to assign correct labels to all boxes?

One!

Hmmm, let’s decipher a binary message.

0000000000000001111111110001111111111100111111111110011000100011001100010001100111110111110011110001111000111111111000001010101000000110101100000011111110000000000000000

It’s a skull!

You’ve seen the movie!

All the puzzles are out of Fermat’s Room, an intricately conceived, ingenious and devious thriller.

The opening credits of Fermat’s Room are suggestively superimposed on a gloved hand arranging the doll’s house furniture of a comfortable room: chairs, a table, book-lined shelves, a blackboard. The image suggests a manipulative puppeteer at work. It is in a full size version of this room that most of the action will take place.

A math genius who calls himself ‘Fermat’ sends out a math riddle to various mathematicians and scientists around and adds a message that only those who manage to crack the puzzle would get to share a grand dinner at a gathering with other true geniuses. At this dinner, Fermat would interest all these bright people with ‘one of the greatest enigmas ever’ that he has planned for them to solve. Only four people manage to crack Fermat’s code and end up at the place of the meeting following the cryptic clues laid out for them. The real names of these people are never revealed; they are given pseudonyms by Fermat; all these pseudonyms being names of former mathematicians.

Once at the venue they discover that the very room they are in IS in fact the enigma… it is a meticulously designed ‘shrinking room’ that is slowly closing in on them. The only way to escape being crushed by the walls and preventing the room from becoming their tomb is by solving some puzzles sent to them on a sole PDA that has been given to them.

The PDA is connected to the system that controls the shrinking. Solving each puzzle correctly in the stipulated time would prevent the house from shrinking and only then would they be able to save themselves.

Once the walls start to move, there’s barely a moment to catch your breath as sharp editing, clever camera angles and good use of sound, as furniture in the room begins to splinter, squeeze the tension of every moment. Even scenes outside the room feature puzzles and tricks of their own. Recalling the sort of cleverly plotted drawing room devices used by Agatha Christie mysteries, you race to unravel the whys and wherefores before the final reel. The addition of the extra puzzles which the mathematicians are trying to work out – tricky, but easy enough for the most part to give viewers a fighting chance of trying to solve them – is nothing short of genius, since they too grab the attention and offer a workout for the audience’s little grey cells. One or two leaps of faith are required, but with the action moving this swiftly, you’ll be more interested in holding on tight for the ride than in picking holes.

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