Can you solve this fiendish ''Ask Marilyn'' question?

OK, so I was giving my cube its pentennial cleanup today, and in the stratum containing various relics of the Y2K preparation, I came across an old issue of “Parade” magazine (some time in 1999, but I don’t have the issue on me). I did not have any of the following issues, so I don’t know whether or not this question was legit or just a hoax. Here it is as it was printed:

Marilyn’s response: “I don’t know!” She then elicited responses from readers, but I didn’t keep any of those.


Maybe 1986 is the hotel room he died in…

The Wisest Man
The King is about to die. He sends messengers throughout the land looking for the three smartest people. Finally, three are found. He gives them a task to see which one is the wisest. He tells them, “I will seat you in a triangle so that each of you faces the other two. Then I will blindfold you and paint either a yellow or a blue dot on each of your foreheads. When I remove the blindfolds you must each raise your hand if you see any yellow dots. As soon as you have worked out what colour your own dot is, lower your hand and tell me.” So he seats them, blindfolds them, and then paints a yellow dot on all three foreheads. When the blindfolds are removed, all three hands go up. After a long pause, one hand comes down and the man says, “Your Highness, I have a yellow dot.” How did he know?

Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner.

IT is sometimes done as “the hospital room.”

These WERE middle schoolers, after all.

There has to be at least two yellow dots. But if there were only two someone see a blue dot and say his was yellow. Since nobody says this they all must be yellow.

I’ve never seen this riddle before but it was easy. The dead giveaway is that when it says 1985 it says “the year 1985.” When it says 1986 it just says 1986.

Why does there have to be at least two yellow dots?

Nevermind. I see now that all three men raised their hands.

One of the men opens his eyes and sees the other guys with two yellow dots and each one raising his hand. He also raises his own hand.

He knows that if his own dot hadn’t been yellow both of the others would immidiatly lower their hand because that would give them the knowledge that they had a dot. Since no one lowers their hand, that can’t be the case.

TTime dilation? The “fifty years later” and “1986” reference frames may be different.

The puzzle never says which 1985 or 1986 we’re using, i.e. which calendar system or starting point.

A different version might go: A man is born in 1955 - 50 years later he dies and it’s 1956. How?

That makes no sense whatsoever.

Yes, it does. If there are 3 people raising their hands their had to at least two yellow dots. If a person sees a blue and a yellow dot he knows he has to have have the second yellow dot.

No, you must each raise your hand if you see any yellow dots…not two yellow dots. If it was two yellow dots, it’d be a stupid riddle.

So as I said, that “explanation” by GreyWanderer makes no sense…

Ok, there two yellow dots on person X and person Y. Person Z has a blue dot. They open their eyes.

X raises him hand because he sees Y’s yellow dot. He also sees Z’s blue dot.
Y raises him hand because he sees X’s yellow dot. He also sees Z’s blue dot.
Z raises him hand becasue he sees both X and Y have yellow dots.

Now both X and Y know they have to have yellow dots because they can see one blue dot and three are required for all three to raise their hands (see below). Z doesn’t know what colo his dot is.

If there were no yellow dots nobody will raise their hand.

IF there one yellow dot only two will raise their hands. Let’s say X has the yellow dot.

X will see two blue dots won’t raise hand.
Y will see one yellow and one blue and will raise his hand.
Z will see one yellow and one blue and will raise his hand.
So if all three raise their hands there has to be at least two yellow dots. And if there is only two yellow dots two people will know they have a yellow dot. If there is confusion it requires three yellow dots if the players are smart.

He dies in the year 2005- at 7:56 PM (1956 military time) maybe?

A man sees that all three have their hands raised. According to what you said, in bold, this situation could happen to anyone in the room. They could have a blue OR yellow dot without changing the scenario of all three having their hands raised. Three hands could go up if there were two yellow dots and one blue dot in the room or all three yellow dots. That makes his chances of knowing 50/50. That is not knowing. That is guessing.

If one of them had anything reflective on him he could be completely sure of himself. As in, he could see his own forehead. Or, the king could of placed them in a hall of mirrors. Without creating something stupid like this it really seems impossible to determine if you have a blue or yellow dot on your forehead in a room of all raised hands without guessing. Am I just not getting it?

You’re missing the important point.

The only person who has a 50/50 chance in a 2-yellow scenario is the one with the blue dot.

If anyone sees a blue dot, they know that for everyone to have raised their hand, they have to have a yellow dot. Because if they had a blue dot, it’d be a 2-blue scenario, where the one with the yellow dot didn’t raise their hand.

So, the two people with yellow dots see a blue dot. They see that everyone raised their hands, they therefor know that they can’t have a blue dot.

Well, if he was born in a hospital room numbered 1955, that would suggest a 19-story hospital building in 1906, which would be unusual.

You mean two dots are required for all three to raise their hands.




This is where it breaks down.

X sees that Y and Z both have yellow dots. But he doesn’t know what color he has. Looking at the others doesn’t help him because Y could be raising his hand because he sees Z’s dot is yellow, even though X’s is blue. Same with Z.

Y sees that X and Z both have yellow dots, but he doesn’t know his own. Same situation as X with regards to figuring out his own.

Z sees that Y and X both have yellow dots, but he doesn’t know his own. Same situation as X and Y to his own.