The Zebra Puzzle

The Zebra Puzzle is a logic puzzle said to be invented by Albert Einstein (but who knows), and Wikipedia says that only 2% of the world population is able to solve it (also who knows, but it really made me want to solve it). Here’s how it goes:

The puzzle consists of five different-colored houses in a row, each lived in by a resident of a different nationality. Each resident owns a different pet, prefers a different drink, and smokes a different brand of cigarettes than the others.

You’re given 15 other facts:

  1. There are five houses.
  2. The Englishman lives in the red house.
  3. The Spaniard owns the dog.
  4. Coffee is drunk in the green house.
  5. The Ukrainian drinks tea.
  6. The green house is immediately to the right of the ivory house (to your right as you stand facing the row of five houses).
  7. The Old Gold smoker owns snails.
  8. Kools are smoked in the yellow house.
  9. Milk is drunk in the middle house.
  10. The Norwegian lives in the first house.
  11. The man who smokes Chesterfields lives in the house next to the man with the fox.
  12. Kools are smoked in a house next to the house where the horse is kept.
  13. The Lucky Strike smoker drinks orange juice.
  14. The Japanese smokes Parliaments.
  15. The Norwegian lives next to the blue house.

To solve the puzzle, tell me:

1) Which man likes to drink water

2) Which man owns a zebra

And for those who got it, how did you do it?


[expand title=”Tim’s Solution (click to reveal)”]

Okay here’s how I did it.

I started by making a spreadsheet:

Then I looked at the 15 facts to find anything I could fill into the grid with certainty.

There were facts 9 and 10, which stated flat out that milk is drunk in House 3 and the Norwegian lives in House 1. Fact 15 puts the blue house as House 2.

Those were like the numbers they give you to start a Sudoku puzzle. Using that info plus fact 6 (the green house is immediately to the right of the ivory house) I knew that the ivory-green houses had to either be Houses 3-4 or 4-5, leaving only red and yellow as possible colors for House 1. Fact 2 told me that the red house was where the Englishman lived, so that left only yellow for House 1. That then led me to fact 8 (Kools are smoked in the yellow house) and fact 12 (Kools are smoked next to the house with the horse), allowing me to fill in six items for sure:

From there, I started creating “color blocks.” When a fact would tell me that two items on the grid were linked together, I’d put them in somewhere they could fit and make them the same color. I could then treat each color group like a single puzzle piece.

Once all the puzzle pieces were created, it was just a matter of shifting them around horizontally until they all fit.

That left two empty white squares, revealing the answers:

1) The Norwegian drinks water

2) The Japanese guy has a pet zebra



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