fish bowlI enjoyed your various submissions to the caption competition.  After much deliberation, the winner was….

“Soon after this photo, the world’s last professional javelin catcher retired”

Congratulations TheGH.

So, to the Friday puzzle.  Tis another classic…..

“Yesterday I went fishing (actually, I didn’t.  I hate fishing.  But just play along with it for the sake of the puzzle).  I caught a fish which had a length of 30 inches plus half its own length.  How long was the fish?

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.


  1. I don’t recall seeing this one before (though I’ve seen similar); I thought it would take a while to worry out, but it took just a couple of seconds.

    Was the one that got away 30 inches plus *this many times* its own length? 😉

  2. 2 to 3 seconds.
    My Math degree has finally come in useful!!
    (It is a simple algebraic equation, so primary school algebra** would suffice)

    From “Al Jabr”:- Arabic for being poked with the pointy bit of a compass by the sadist who sat next to you in grade 7 math class.

  3. Similar to the first 2 responders: about 5 secs. It’s algebra! I’d be interested to see how many modern-day GCSE maths students get this right.

  4. Took me about a minute. I first had to convince myself that it was possible (Or, more to the point, convince myself that it wasn’t IMpossible). Once I did that I picked up a pen, and had it solved in the time between removing the lid of the pen and touching it to the paper.

  5. There’s a rather easy answer I came up with in a few secs — I must be wrong though, it can’t be that simple, it’s math! 😛

  6. My algebra was rusty so it took some hefty whiteboarding and the conjuring up of old memories of my math teacher admonishing me to “show your working out.” I arrived at an answer in an embarrassing amount of minutes, all the while laboring under the sneaking suspicion I had overlooked the real trick answer. I reserve the right to be suspicious of all puzzles given on Fridays.

  7. I think the instinctive answer is 45 inches but as soon as you scribble down the equation the answer is obvious. About 5 seconds.

  8. My algebra was rusty so it took some hefty whiteboarding and the conjuring up of old memories of my math teacher admonishing me to “show your working out.” I arrived at an answer in an embarrassing amount of minutes, all the while laboring under the sneaking suspicion I had overlooked the real trick answer. I reserve the right to be suspicious of all puzzles given on Fridays.

  9. I was somewhat lost (figuring 45 was certainly not the answer) so I scrolled down to the comments for a hint…took me a few minutes to understand how the hell algebra would be involved, but once I figured that out I got to the answer pretty quickly. Probably about 5-10 minutes overall.

  10. A couple of seconds – although I’d love to know how many of these other people have ‘solved’ it in that time and gone horribly wrong 😉

  11. 10 – 15 seconds ish. cant say I noticed I was supposed to time how long it took me until i noticed averyone was posting their times in the comments- then i reread the question! oops. must try harder to pay attention!

  12. Broke out the algebra + second-guessing myself + foggy brain from trying to write a paper due tomorrow that I’m not sure I’m doing correctly = A couple minutes?

  13. Too simple – under 5 seconds. It is not 45 – too ‘obvious’, but incorrect.

    (Obviously I won’t say what the answer really is)

  14. Math GCSE- student. Too easy, Richard! But a good one. Have seen it on tests, and have seen many failed. During my teacher’s chuckles, of course.

  15. As I was on twitter the puzzle drifted into my mind and the answer drop on me like pigeon poo. Been about an hour since I first looked at the puzzle, ho hum

  16. Why are people saying that it involves basic algebra and using equations, it absolutely does not and its purely a logic question. You need to read the phrasing of the question. About 10 seconds to unravel the clues in the question and answer was obvious. Leave the algebra and equations off I’d suggest and read the question, its not 45 inches but … 🙂

    1. It absolutely involves basic algebra. Even if you’re working it out using “just logic”, you are actually working out the algebra without realising it.

  17. Easy, but I could have sworn I saw that puzzle on this blog just a week ago or so. Must’ve been some other blog…

  18. A couple of minutes thinking there can´t be just one answer to that. Then I did the algebra and voila. Amazing. Hadn´t seen that one before. I´m going to win pint bets in pubs with that one. Thanx

  19. I had two answers:
    *one that seemed to be so obvious that it took me around 4 seconds…
    * One that I’ve found after putting down an equation (with X and 1/2X!!) on paper… and which was completely different from the first one!!!!!
    so looking forward for getting the solution on monday!!

  20. I don’t know if I’m right or not, hate maths.
    answer instinctively 15 seconds, a minute or so doodling wrong answers & trying to logic it out..seems too simple.

  21. Took a moment or two to convince myself that it wasn’t some trick, lateral thinking type thing, but once I was happy it was just algebra, I got it.

  22. I got it pretty quickly, like others have said, it’s simple algebra. However, I imagine that a lot of people who think they’ve got it may have got it wrong (I only say that because I’ve seen similar puzzles done before, and people tend to be astounded when they find out the correct answer!)

  23. I’d rather be fishing than doing Algebra. I detest algebra. You’re a meany Mr. Wiseman. (Husband is working it out at the kitchen counter. Then I’ll have to endure the explaination. Thanks again.)

  24. I thought this would be a ral tricky one, but while I was writing down the equation, I realized what the solution was, before I finished writing it. So, about 3 seconds. Then it took me another minute or so to check it and convince myself it was really that easy…. 🙂

  25. No maths involved really, took about 3 seconds after reading. In a mathematical world, there’s no answer. In a logical world, the answer is obvious. In a physical world—which is what I guess I used to base my answer on—the answer is in the old addage…

  26. As with Chris it took as long as it took to read the question. Obviousness is in the eye of the beholder – I know the algebraic way would have taken 5 secs – but the answer is in the semantics. But on the other hand I have read “Where does Mathematics Come From” by Lakoff and Nunez

  27. Ks Rose’s response made me smirk. Took me about 3 seconds, to which my old algebra teacher would’ve been disappointed.

  28. Took me about 10 seconds with some algebra, then a few minutes later I realised how logically obvious the answer should have been.

  29. Using the “I only just woke up and am a little groggy until the caffeine kicks in” excuse it took me a couple of minutes to realise it wasn’t a trick question, at which point it was “obvious” (although I had to double check by actually doing the algebra).

  30. I normally give people tasks like these, so I’m embarrassed to say it took me about five minutes to come up with an answer (I did go down with the rubbish and picked up the mail while thinking).

  31. Seemed obvious in 1 sec, then wondered if there was some sort of trick. Reading the comments, it seems not. Too easy.

  32. In my country this puzzle is traditionally about a brick and its weight.
    ‘The brick weighs 1kg and a half of a brick. How heavy is the brick?’

    We used to solve this when in primary school. Now I hear it’s being asked at math courses in high schools.

  33. I actually had to learn some algebra again, because as I started to try to solve this, I didn’t have a clue. Now I’m quite confident that I got it right! And learned something that I either have forgotten or never properly learned – great!

  34. There is ambiguity in the question but order of operations applies in language as much as it does in maths. The subject carries on to the following sentence unless specified otherwise. The obvious mathematical answer has to be the correct one.
    Ambiguous questions are a poor use of language if there is expected to be a ‘correct’ answer that the interrogator can feel smug about (unless used in sarcasm to amuse ourselves at the expense of those who annoy us).
    Being new to the blog, this seems to be one of those situations where I am unsure if creative thinking or critical thinking is to yield Mr Wiseman’s hidden answer.

  35. Solved in the time it took me to write the equation down – if I hadn’t had a pen & paper to hand I’d have been a couple of seconds slower! Despite being a maths fan I’m hopeless at arithmetic, but once it’s in equation form I’m on home turf!! BTW, like the bit about you hating fishing!!

  36. 5 minutes to think about it + 1 minute to realise I was wasting yet more time putting off real work = 2 seconds to google the answer. What’s that funny squelchy noise? Oh yes, must be my brain atrophying! 🙂

  37. It should be a simple math equasion. but i couldn’t bother writing it up and seeking it out…. I rather tried a few answers and added half of it to 30 untill i got the right one. including the hesitation for seeking the equasion i came to the right answer in about 60 seconds.

  38. My algebraic skills left me with a negative number, so I resorted to my old hi-school juggling skills. About two minutes.

  39. Surely I can’t be the only one, but perhaps I am. What does the winning entry in the caption contest mean? Is there some cultural reference embedded in javelin catching and goldfish that us Yanks just don’t get?

    1. This is referring to the last entry on this blog, which featured a photo of a Mr. Gage who got an iron rod through his head and lived to tell the tale.

  40. It took me about 7 seconds I think, then I tried to do it on paper using algebra and it took me about a minute… my algebra is rather rusty 😦

  41. It took me about 15 seconds working through the algebra. Once solved, I realized that I should have been able to derive the answer in about two seconds.

  42. hmm i actually stopped myself from going to the algebra for a min because i didn’t think you’d make it so simple.

    i have the answer from algebra of course, but could there be infinite solutions?

  43. Like a few people, I worked the algebra solution, which when you look at it, tells you you didn’t really need the algebra at all…you have everything you need in the question ;O)

  44. A couple of seconds. But seeing how this is the first time I have visited this site and knowing that there is usually more to a puzzle than something this trivial, about another 5 minutes of staring at the surrounding paragraph looking for UFOs.

  45. I actually had to explicitly think out the algebraic equation in my head and solve for the unknown variable. 30-60 sec.

  46. just a hint for some of you math majors. . . you are hearing hoofbeats and thinking zebras–>you need absolutely no math to figure this out this riddle.

  47. jc Says:
    just a hint for some of you math majors. . . you are hearing hoofbeats and thinking zebras–>you need absolutely no math to figure this out this riddle.

    I should love to hear your thoughts on the solution.
    The only way that I can conclude that one requires zero math, is if it is a ‘trick’ question.
    We’ll see…

  48. okay. So I very rarely get these right, but since this is (hopefully) straightforward it took me enough time to get out my algebra, dust it off, find a pad of paper and actually write it down. Lets say a couple of minutes.

  49. It took me about three seconds plus two thirds of the total time to get an answer. I started to solve the equation then i realised the answer was obvious.

  50. I got the answer in about a minute. But then I thought that surely Mr Wiseman wouldn’t be asking us straight-forward Maths problems. So I came up with a range of alternative answers:

    1) “this big” (gesturing about 90 cm as anglers always exaggerate the size of their catch).
    2) 7 letters (+ 1 space)
    3) as the question asks how big the fish WAS, the answer must be ‘depending on its age, it would have been anything between a few millimetres and 60 inches’.

  51. as someone said the obvious answer would be 45 due in fact half of 30 is 15 plus equals 45 but that is where we might be wrong as the obvious isn’t always the most correct of answers

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