table-tennis-tableLooks like it is going to be close on the Battle of the Clever Stuff (below), so do remember to vote.  Anyway, here is another classic puzzle …..

Two boys are playing table tennis.  Their only ball falls off the table and down into a narrow metal pipe in the floor.  The pipe is one foot deep and only just wider than the ball.  Their hands won’t fit into the pipe, and the only tools available are their  tennis paddles and shoe-laces.  How can they get the ball out of the pipe?

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 can imagine at least 2 practical solutions (both hygienic! you guys!) but I’m not sure if any of them are “the answer”.

    With this puzzle we seem to have gone from very prescriptive maths puzzles with one true answer, to some 80’s text-based RPG…

    “You are in a room facing North, you have a paddle and a shoelace. All the doors are locked. There is a pipe in the floor…”

  2. I’ve got an answer, pretty sure it’ll work, in that I’m fairly certain the physics stacks up. Took about 10 seconds, mainly because there really aren’t that many permutations of what you can do with that equipment.

  3. Lost my patience and Googled that one… but I can rightfully say THAT solution I would have never gotten by myself… Not my line of thinking at ALL! lol (and I’m not sure I’d still want to play with it afterwards!)

  4. I have an idea which I think would work, but I’m not totally sure whether it would or not. And reading the comments has given me another idea, probably the same unhygienic one everyone else is talking about!

  5. I like the concept that these guys have their shoelaces… but no other article of clothing. Nude table tennis I can understand, but what are they doing with their shoelaces?

  6. I had a solution instantly after reading “narrow metal pipe”. It doesn’t involve using any of the tools. It’s not “unhygienic”, either, and I don’t even want to think what you people would be putting down the pipe! I’d expect a pipe in a floor to be a drain, and my solution *cleanly* works in that case.

  7. Got the “unsanitary” method – but it will take time. Specifically, it should take about (383/((.75 +/- .25) * (combined weight of boys))) = hours to complete.

    Not so sure about the shoe laces, but I think I can rescue the ball with a paddle. Maybe.

  8. 1st- they deserve to lose the ball because the hole should have been covered.
    2nd-I think I know the solution you will propose but I also think it wont work in reality because of a basic flaw in the puzzle design.

    i.e. the shop vac solution wont work because as with a straw you don’t ‘suck’ the ball out. you lower the air pressure and air beneath the ball pushes it out. But what air? as the ball is at the bottom and there is no air input source because the ball would then be able to fall further.

  9. I think that I have a solution, but without spending time physically testing it, I can’t actually say that it is guaranteed to work.
    And even I’m not that obsessive that I would build a mock-up of the situation!
    Where are the Mythbusters when you need them?

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  11. okay, the guys in the table tennis video are so excited at the end that it makes my head hurt. Cute though, that they are so thrilled. I got the same yucky solution everyone else did, and that’s the only one I can come up with.

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