It’s the Friday puzzle!


Last day of the Twitter Psychic Experiment!  Thanks to everyone who has joined in, and I am looking forward to the final trial today.  In the meantime, here is the Friday puzzle….

Albert gets a job in a clock factory.  On his first day he is asked to construct a clock.  He puts together the following clock…..


However, Albert has inadvertently created a clock that is different to almost every other clock of this type in the world.  Can you spot why his clock is so special?

The answer to this puzzle, and 100 others,  can be found in a new kindle ebook called PUZZLED, and is available in the UK here and USA here.


129 comments on “It’s the Friday puzzle!

  1. Katrina says:

    I think I’ve solved it. <1 minute.

  2. Bluebottle says:

    Got it straight away. Strange thing with clocks and me being left handed – seem to be able to read them straight away even if they are odd. Once was asked the time as a trick question as it was a left-handed clock and didn’t even notice it was different.

  3. Nick says:

    Seen it before — good one!

  4. Will says:

    Got it in about 10 seconds. Had previously wondered why this was the case on other clocks.

  5. busygirl says:

    I think i’ve solved it too, it sort of jumped out at me. I’d say < 1 minute, more like 20 seconds. I'm not positive if it's right though.

  6. Angellynnn Cuzick says:

    very simple, took me 30 seconds!

  7. rebecca says:

    I thin i got it, 20 seconds.

  8. Fred says:

    Got it right away because I learned this detail about clocks from Gene Weingarten at the Washington Post.

  9. MattB says:

    Nice! Solved it very quickly, but even so was a definite “ah ha!” moment.

  10. Tracye Williams says:

    i think i have it .. and i noticed it almost immediately !

  11. S Van Sickle says:

    Yep, got it. About 15 sec.

  12. unseenmind says:

    yep, got it in a few seconds (about 30) hope I’m right 🙂

  13. Well, I see something wrong, though I’m not 100% sure it’s what other people are seeing, based on their comments. I think I noticed it so quickly (within a couple seconds) because of a bunch of supposedly tricky math questions I’ve seen, which all require you to know the same detail.

  14. Kensington says:

    I think I’ve got it, and it took me a couple of minutes, but I doubt it could be as simple as i suspect.

  15. igeek1 says:

    I learned this interesting bit of trivia years ago. It’s a great example of how our brain behave in reaction to patterns. You ask someone to look at a normal clock (not like this one), then tell them to look away and ask them what…well…you’ll see when the answer is posted. They describe a clock like the one above because they don’t bother to look at the details – they just think “clock” and invent the rest in their heads. I’ve heard two plausible explanations for this weird anomaly, both of which I believe are on wikipedia.

  16. Richard says:

    Think I got it. Less than a minute

  17. Travis says:

    I see two different possibilities in under a minute.

  18. Tristan says:

    got it, one second

  19. Janice Jacobson says:

    Other than that this clock does not have a moose on it (which the clock I am comparing it with has), I don’t see anything odd about it. Call me stupid if you will.

  20. Faye says:

    I saw something almost immediately, but I’m not sure it’s something wrong … it just looks weird to me!

  21. Linnorah says:

    Had an answer after a few seconds. There’s a related phenomenon in face recognition (if the solution I’m thinking of is the right one).

  22. Matt says:

    This is interesting.
    There’s one “obvious” thing, but it requires some relatively obscure knowledge about the history of clocks (as Mr Wiseman put it) “of this type”.
    I’ll be interested to find out what the other one is that people are seeing.

  23. ptoniolo says:

    I think I got it. In a couple of seconds, I already knew the issue.

  24. b says:

    I think I got it but I’m not sure if I’m right. Got it in a couple of secs if so.

  25. DocPaul says:

    got it within seconds – totally sure!

  26. Wilf says:

    I remember this from one of Richard’s books.

  27. busygirl says:

    After seeing all the comments referring to history, i hope the answer does not refer to that. That’s no longer the common practice since the 19th century.

  28. Well, almost, but not all…

  29. kerri says:

    Got it right away, only because I’d read about clocks of this type before. I’d say this is much more a “trivia question” than a puzzle, though. I thought puzzles required some kind of ingenuity to solve. 🙂

  30. Carlos says:

    I think I know the answer, but am I correct in thinking that this is not so much a puzzle that you can solve, but a test of obscure general knowledge/trivia?

  31. Janice says:

    I don’t understand why the numbers are sideways and upside down, and therefore harder to read, but other than that, I don’t see why the clock wouldn’t work properly.

  32. Cathy says:

    I think I got it… 5 secs.

  33. Sally says:

    I think that I got it. Took a few minutes.

  34. Kasandra says:

    Think I got it in ten secs

  35. Suzi says:

    less than 1 second

  36. Michael Gray says:

    Couldn’t answer it.
    I did not discover this “fact” about clocks until I looked it up on the inter-toobs, so I cheated!

  37. Angela says:

    I happen to have that type of clock face and found it out that way 😛

  38. otowi says:

    I got it, took just a few seconds.

  39. Cassie says:

    The bottom half of the clock’s #’s are upside down. The bottom of the numbers should all face toward the center.

  40. Andrew says:

    got it in the end, but had to resort to google …

  41. Rex says:

    People, don’t post the answers please.

  42. @PURPLEXED in London says:

    hi there – took 1 second. Notice 2 different things – but second one may be result of main difference. Cheers.

  43. Anonymous says:

    10 seconds

  44. m says:

    j0eg0d is correct

  45. m says:

    Sorry REX did not read your comment until it was too late.

  46. j0eg0d says:

    Hmm – I just looked to my clock with the “IV” and noticed the numerals were also upside down 😛 – My newest and 3rd conclusion would probably be the correct answer, so it took me longer to solve this.

  47. I think i’ve got it, actually i’ve got 2 ideas about what it might be.

  48. guest says:

    < 10 seconds

  49. Lafayette says:

    Straight away, but it’s an inconsistency that has always pleased me. Can’t RV today, but not sulking at my low score.

  50. will says:

    Didn’t you mention this in your book quirkology?

    and yes i knew it straight away, i grew up with a big clock and always noticed the ‘difference’.

  51. Gareth says:

    I got it (I think) quite quickly – less than about 15 seconds. It was one of those things that dragged up an obscure memory of something I’d read a number of years ago.

  52. Sven Rudloff says:

    Sorry, I don’t get it. And I wear a watch with exactly that face at this very moment. So it must be something else…

  53. Hilary says:

    I noticed it immediately, but thought it was so obvious that there must be something else I wasn’t seeing. Like Bluebottle, I wonder whether being left-handed influences the perception of this. Although I saw the difference, it didn’t strike me as particularly odd and my first inclination was to look at the time and wonder why it was different from all the other clocks and watches shown in illustrations. Look at clocks/watches in shop windows and they virtually all show the time as 13.50 (providing they are not running in real time, of course).

  54. Scott says:

    I thought I found 2 reasons within a minute, but had to research a bit to check one of my thoughts were correct and it was.

  55. cam says:

    I think I have it but its a very simple answer I

  56. Christian. says:

    Which part of ‘please do not post your answer’ did you have difficulty with?

    • Christian. says:

      Oops, that was in reply to someone who posted their answer, but their post has been removed now.

  57. Joerg says:

    I think I immediately saw what the idea was, as I have noticed this before on clocks.

  58. Anonymous says:

    I couldn’t see the answer for looking but now I know the answer (courtesy of my husband) it is a very simple answer and I think I was looking for something more complicated!

  59. Janine says:

    I couldn’t see the answer for looking but now I know the answer (courtesy of my husband) it is a very simple answer and I think I was looking for something more complicated!

  60. Joke says:

    Almost immediately. (Then took some time to see if there was nothing else that I’d missed).

  61. Anonymous says:

    About 0.1 second, that is if my answer is correct!

  62. Fab says:

    Maybe you should start by stating that you should not post the answer instead of asking it after the question “Can you spot why his clock is so special?”

    Again, I knew the anwser as soon as I saw the clock.

  63. Mickey D says:

    Got it within 10 sec..

  64. Matt says:

    Noticed instantly because I was told of this oddity many years ago, and ever since my brain has automatically evaluated every clock with Roman numerals that I see. In what must be many hundreds of clocks I’ve only ever seen one clock that has this inconsistency. Must have been an apprentice clock maker or maybe it was very old?

    Here’s more clock trivia/psychology/illusion stuff. Next time you see watches/clocks in an expensive shop window, check the time on the watches. It’s almost always 21:50. Do a google search for “watches” and you’ll see what I mean. It’s because it looks symmetrical and supposedly because it looks like a smile.

  65. Matt says:

    That should have read 22:10.

  66. Kevan says:

    More trivia than puzzle, and yes, I’d heard it before. Coming up with a reason why it makes more sense to build clocks the other way is a good one, though.

  67. Hester says:

    Not a clue…could be anything to me.

  68. Angie says:

    Less than a minute, but then I cheated a little by looking at my watch, which has roman numerals. That made me curious, so I Googled. How interesting! 🙂

  69. Amethyst says:

    I had a look at my clock so I know now, is that cheating?

    Roman numerals are Greek to me

  70. Jason says:

    got it… took about 2 minutes

  71. Garrett says:

    This one took me close to a half hour. If I have the correct answer now, the reason it took so long is because I found several pictures that match the clock above exactly so I initially ruled that out as an answer.

  72. George says:

    I think I have solved it….

  73. Dedalus says:

    You can’t spot it with a look a the clock presented, without looking (or knowing from memory) at samples of all other clocks of this tiipe.

  74. parrais says:

    Pretty much immediately. I’ve discussed this ‘oddity’ before.

  75. Berit says:

    Think I got it 🙂 ab. 30 sec.

  76. Meese says:

    If i’m correct within 30 sec

  77. Buffy says:

    Think I know the answer took a few seconds or so before it clicked. Less than 1 minute.

  78. Rossana says:

    Got it in about 10 seconds.

  79. Siajam says:

    got it straight away – but then I remember seeing it in one of your books! (must admit I didn’t get it the first time when I saw it in the book though)

  80. magickwords says:

    Instantly. But I have a similar clock in my kitchen…

  81. Jeff Wagg says:

    Randi wrote about this years ago, and it still wins bar bets.

  82. Chris French says:

    Cheeky! Took me about a nanosecond 😉

  83. jimlynn says:

    Solved it almost immediately, but I was aware of this particular aspect of clockfaces already.

  84. duayt says:

    one minute. i googled “clock roman” images

  85. craig says:

    within a minute or so, but not 100% as big ben has the same face doesnt it?

  86. sstumpff says:

    Got it. Took me about 5 minutes (and wikipedia)

  87. gravy says:

    Classic old skool question. Knew the answer straight away and a great one to throw in at parties.

  88. Milton says:

    Got it. But had to check.

    Here’s an interesting observation:in almost every watch advert, the time is 1.50pm or 10.10pm!

  89. Daniel says:

    got it in about 2 seconds

  90. Abi says:

    Got it immediately, but believe this is not as ubiqitous as it once was.

  91. docpaul says:

    there are two clocks with Roman numerals that are the same as this one, one is the clock in the south transept of Norwich Cathedral, the other is commonly called Big Ben, at the Palace of Westminster in London.

  92. Harrison says:

    Benjamin Button?

  93. Matt says:

    There’s actually two things different about it. I imagine the second one was an oversight on your part (or the part of the image maker).

  94. Stephen M says:

    It took me About 20 seconds to figure it out.

  95. Alexandra Erin says:

    Fail puzzle is fail.

    “However, Albert has inadvertently created a clock that is different to almost every other clock of this type in the world.”

    The style of Roman numerals used on a clock face is dependent on the form of counting utilized for its chiming of the hours. The face presented in this puzzle is not different from “almost every other clock” of the type that uses Roman counting.

    Effectively, we’re being shown a picture of a Beagle and asked what’s odd with it, and expected to come up with the answer “It doesn’t look like other chihuahuas.”

  96. Daniel Pisano says:

    I knew about this before, so I immediately knew what the question would be before I read the text.

    However, those who know (or have discovered) it and those who do not know (yet) about this traditional curiosity may be intrigued alike by trying to spot appearances of breaks of this tradition (whether due to ignorance or out of intention is unknown) in the corresponding scenes in the following two movies:

    – “Back to the Future”
    The alarm clock on the dashboard of the DeLorean giving the signal to start racing the car down the road towards the courthouse square vs. the infamous clocktower clock which is (to be) struck by lightning, and

    – “Once Upon a Time in the West”
    The pocket watch and train station clock at the beginning of the movie vs. the incompletely-painted clock at ground level at the side of a building in a brief street view shot shortly before the scene where a gunman is shot down who was hiding behind the face of yet another incomplete clock.

    Fun, eh?

  97. Ben Coultry says:

    Ok, I just looked at TONS of images of Roman numeral clocks including the one at Westminster abbey and some are different in one way, but by no means is it a majority that are different from this one unless its a matter of this picture being incomplete in one respect. But seriously, compare this one side by side with the abbey clock… somebody tell me, does that clock have the same “error?”

    • Alex Pryce says:

      This is not the common type of clock. The “other” kind are more common. Have a look at the watches next time you walk past a jewelers

  98. Fred says:

    ~ 60 seconds

  99. KentishFerret says:

    I think I’ve got it based on the other comments here. If it is the solution I think it is, I knew about this but assumed this wasn’t the answer. I was expecting more of a puzzle.

  100. grthink says:

    I think I know… If I’m right, took me about a minute.

  101. Arnold Jamtart says:

    Yep, saw it straight away, like several of the others. It’s something that always bugged me about clocks as a child — it doesn’t follow the appropriate algorithm!

  102. Sonja says:

    I’m either too stuoid or too impatient (this took me 10 secs)

  103. Debbie says:

    Believe I solved it in <1 minute.

  104. barb says:

    i think i have it.. lol just hit me..

  105. Janine says:

    I still can’t for the life of me understand why even when specifically asked…

    “As ever, please do not post your answer, but feel free to say if you think you have solved it and how long it took.”

    …why people put down what they think is the answer or so much detailed information about what they think, that it gives away the answer!! How hard is it to understand?

  106. Stephen Williamson says:

    I thought I had it right away, googled to be sure, and almost second guessed myself because of Big Ben.

  107. Jeremy Miles says:

    I got it straight away, but that’s ‘cos I read an article about it in the British Journal of Psychology, (I’d guess) in 1994 – I particularly remember the article because I used it as an open exam question.

  108. Esjaydee says:

    Saw it immediately.

  109. Joshua Hostetter says:

    Got it. 30 seconds.

  110. sunnyblueskies says:

    it took me a while but i think i got it.

  111. Alex Pryce says:

    Got it instantly. But then it was mentioned at Chris French’s SitP talk. I love this little bit of trivia. I’ve only ever seen 2 clocks that conform to Albert’s clock above.

  112. fabio says:

    noticed it after googling “roman watch” and comparing.
    got disapointed with the answer.

  113. inna says:

    Got it, one moment.

  114. marcosimoni says:

    It took me few minutes, and when i got it i checked in google!

  115. lflcorreia says:

    Google images of “roman watch”:

    and compare. I see two problems with this clock.

    Curiosity: If you want to see the current time including seconds in roman numerals in a peculiar disposition see this page using javascript:

    This one lets you set any time you want but doesn’t have roman numerals:

  116. Astrotsarina says:

    Pretty sure I got it…about 15 sec.

  117. Rob says:

    Yep, got it in a couple of seconds. A French king at the bottom of the anomaly, no?

  118. Graey says:

    I see two things possibly wrong, both of them occurring to me immediately. The one I believe Richard is looking for is something I noticed as a wee lad. I came up with my own reasoning as to why it is like it is. I’ll find out Monday whether or not I’ve been wrong for three decades.

  119. Lily Pad says:

    I think this was a really easy puzzle. I solved it immediately.

  120. […] It’s the Friday puzzle! Last day of the Twitter Psychic Experiment!  Thanks to everyone who has joined in, and I am looking forward to the […] […]

  121. Saw it instantly. It’s a little factoid about them I’ll never fourget.

  122. Michael Gray says:

    In my opinion, referring to this as a “puzzle”, is a puzzle in itself.
    The solution relies solely on special historical knowledge.
    No amount of strict logic is useful if you are not aware of the genealogy of this specific oddity.

    This is NOT a puzzle.
    It is a knowledge/learning quiz.

  123. robert says:

    it took 3 days, if i am right with the answer. I am so glad it didn’t take four!

  124. Kerry says:

    wonderful inspiring collection.stunning created designs here!Many thanks for sharing.

  125. Angi Long says:

    I used Google Images to compare to other clocks with Roman numerals. Clocks, not watches, since this was given as a clock, not a watch. I had 2 possible guesses, but neither turned out to be true of the majority of other (RN’d) clocks but not of this one.

    I suspect that the answer may have been true at one time, but no longer is. If that’s the case, then this puzzle should either be omitted from or changed in the book. Specify the year in the puzzle, for example, making it a question about historical trivia.

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