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12 Detective Riddles Only the Smartest People Can Solve

Do you think you’re observant enough to solve these tough riddles?

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Empty cell mystery

Andy is put in a cell with a dirt floor and only one window. The window is too high for him to reach. The only thing in the cell is a shovel. He won’t be able to get any food or water and only has two days to escape or he’ll die. Andy can’t dig a tunnel because it will take him much longer than two days to do it. How will Andy escape from the cell?

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Answer

Andy has to use the shovel to create a pile of dirt under the window so he can climb up onto it and escape from the cell. Think you’re just as smart or smarter than Andy? Up your brain power with these 40 brain games.

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Poisonous drinks

Marissa and Juliana went out for drinks together. They ordered the same drink. Juliana was really thirsty and finished five in the time it took Marissa to finish one. The drinks were poisoned, but only Marissa died. How?

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Answer

The poison was in the ice. Since Marissa’s ice had time to melt, she was poisoned but Juliana wasn’t. Too easy? Try these 15 word puzzles that will definitely leave you stumped!

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Suicide or not?

A dead female body lies at the bottom of a multistory building. It looks as though she committed suicide by jumping from one of the floors.

When the detective arrives, he goes to the first floor of the building, opens the closed window, and flips a coin towards the floor. He goes to the second floor and does the exact same thing. He continues to do this until he gets to the top floor of the building.

When he comes back down, he states that it was a murder and not a suicide. How does he know that?

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Answer

She couldn’t have jumped from any of the floors because when the detective went to each floor, all of the windows were closed. If you can figure out this puzzle, you could qualify to be a British spy.

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Love at a funeral

A girl is at the funeral of her mother. She meets a nice guy that she didn’t know who also was at the funeral and they hit it off. She was busy at the funeral and didn’t have time to ask him for his number before he left. She tried really hard to track him down, but no one knew who he was or how to contact him. A few days later her sister dies and the police suspect it to be a murder. Who killed her sister?

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Answer

She killed her sister. She was hoping that if someone else in her family died, the man she met at her mother’s funeral would show up again. An MIT professor called this “the hardest puzzle ever.” Can you solve it?

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Stolen ring

Nicole went to the police to report that someone had stolen her vintage ring. When the police got to her house they notice that the window was broken, there was a total mess inside, and there were dirty footprints on the carpet. But, there were no other signs of a break-in.

The next day, the police arrested Nicole for fraud. Why?

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Answer

As soon as the police got to the “crime scene,” they knew that Nicole has most likely staged the break-in. The glass from the broken window was all outside of the house, meaning that it had been broken from the inside. Prove to your friends that you’re a genius by solving this insanely hard math puzzle.

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Thief at sea

A Japanese ship was leaving the port and on its way to open sea. The captain went to go oil some parts of the ship and took his ring off so it wouldn’t get damaged. He left it on the table next to his bunk. When he returned, it was missing. He had suspected three crew members could be guilty and asked them what they had been doing for the ten minutes that he had been gone.

The cook said, “I was in the kitchen preparing tonight’s dinner.”

The engineer said, “I was working in the engine room making sure everything was running smoothly.”

The seaman said, “I was on the mast correcting the flag because someone had attached it upside down by mistake.”

The captain immediately knew who it was. How?

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Answer

It was clearly the seaman. It was a Japanese ship and a Japanese flag is white with a single red dot in the middle. It can’t be hung upside down. Do you have what it takes to figure out which flag comes next in this puzzle

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Murder at school

On the first day of school, someone murdered a history teacher. There were four people at the school that the police suspected had done it: the landscaper, a math teacher, a basketball coach, and the principal. These were their alibis:

The landscaper said he was outside mowing the lawn.

The math teacher said he was giving a mid-year test.

The basketball coach said he was running practice drills with his players.

The principal said she was in her office.

After giving their alibies, the police arrested the killer immediately. Who killed the history teacher and how did the police know?

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Answer

The math teacher killed the history teacher. He claimed that he was giving a mid-year test, but it was the first day of school. This “simple” math puzzle for children has left the internet stumped. Can you solve it?

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Poisonous pills

A serial killer kidnapped five different people and sat them down each with two pills in their hand and a glass of water. He told them each to take one pill but warned them that one was poisonous and the other was harmless. Whichever pill the victim didn’t take, the serial killer would take. Every victim somehow chose the poisonous pill and died. How did the serial killer get them all to take the poisonous pill?

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Answer

Neither of the pills was poisonous. The poison was in the water that all the victims used to swallow their pill. Test your skills to see if you can figure out this tricky coffee pouring puzzle.

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Honeymoon mystery

A couple went to Hawaii for their honeymoon. Unfortunately, the husband returned home alone because his wife had died in a horrible boating accident. The police contacted the travel agent he booked the trip with and arrested him for murdering his wife. How did they know he did it?

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Answer

The travel agent revealed that he had only booked a one-way ticket for his wife. You might be a genius if you can solve the mystery word in this logic puzzle.

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Science case

A chemist was murdered in his own lab. The only evidence was a piece of paper that had the names of chemical substances written on it. The substances were nickel, carbon, oxygen, lanthanum, and sulfur. The chemist only had three people come by his lab on the day of the murder: fellow scientist Claire, his nephew Nicolas, his wife, and his friend Marc. The police arrested the murderer right away. How did they know who it was?

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Answer

There was a very obvious clue on the piece of paper. If you combine the abbreviations of the chemical substances on the paper, you’ll get a name: Ni-C-O-La-S. If you got that one, you might be ready for these challenging riddles.

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Recorded last words

A man was found on the floor dead with a cassette recorder in one hand and a gun in the other. When the police arrive at the scene they pressed play on the recorder. It was the man’s voice. He said, “I have nothing else to live for. I can’t go on,” followed by the sound of a gunshot. After listening, the police knew that this was a murder, not a suicide. How?

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Answer

If the dead man had killed himself, he wouldn’t have been able to press the reverse button on the cassette recorder. See if you can outsmart the raccoons that figured out this ancient Greek puzzle.

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Guilty in court

A woman was in court for killing her husband. She said she wasn’t guilty and that she dearly missed him. In the closing statement, the woman’s lawyer stands up and says, “Her husband was just missing. Everyone look at the doors. He’s going to walk through them in about 30 seconds.”

The entire jury stares at the doors waiting for waiting for this woman’s husband to walk through the doors. The lawyer and the woman stare at the jury.

The lawyer concludes by saying, “See! If you were so sure she killed her husband, you wouldn’t be watching that door!”

The jury immediately gave a guilty verdict. Why?

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Answer

The woman was watching the jury and not the doors because she knew that her husband wouldn’t walk through them because she had killed him. If she has really missed him like she said, she would have been watching the doors. Thought these were easy? Try to solve these tough riddles that very few people can figure out.

[Sources: Bright Side, Story Pick]

Morgan Cutolo
Morgan is the Assistant Digital Managing Editor at Reader’s Digest. She graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 2016 where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. When she’s not writing for rd.com or keeping the 650+ pieces of content our team produces every month organized, she likes watching HGTV, going on Target runs, and searching through Instagram to find new corgi accounts to follow.