Last week I set these two puzzles…..

1) What word is almost always pronounced incorrectly by radio presenters?

2) One for the meteorologists out there – if it is raining at midnight, what are the chances of the sun shining in 72 hours time?

If you have not tried to solve it, have a go now.  For everyone else the answer is after the break.

1) The word is…..’incorrectly’

2) It will be midnight then so no sunshine!

Did you solve them?  Or come up with other answers? I have a funny feeling that these are going to cause a bit of a debate!

I have produced an ebook containing 101 of the previous Friday Puzzles! It is called PUZZLED and is available for theKindle (UK here and USA here) and on the iBookstore (UK here in the USAhere). You can try 101 of the puzzles for free here.


  1. I hope it never rains at midnight ever then. I don’t fancy the human race’s chances if the sun stops shining.

    1. Bit harsh, Michael.

      The obvious point of the puzzle if making the mental leap that 3×24 = 72, therefore it will be midnight again.

      If anyone asks the question “Is the sun shining today?” you’ve got to be a special sort of twat to reply “Well of course it is! The solar system is buggered if ever it didn’t, ho ho.”

  2. It may be raining at midnight but that doesn’t mean that it’s midnight right now. It could be noon right now, raining at midnight, and noon in 72 hours time.

  3. This is supposed to be a bit of fun, but every Monday the comments are full of grasping, pedantic arseholes…

    Please just get over it and yourselves.

    1. Couldn’t agree more.

      It’s good to try finding alternate solutions, but to come here just to bicker on the wording of a puzzle is small-minded…

    2. It is a bit of fun. I also learn sometimes from the comments on the answer. All of the comments above yours seem to be good humoured anyway.

    3. I couldn’t disagree more!

      The whole point of the puzzles is to think carefully about the exact meaning and not take anything for granted. Some of us enjoy picking them apart and finding alternate answers, more than the original puzzles. The comments would be very boring otherwise.

  4. Puzzle number 1only works when the question is asked verbally. In written form it needs to be: “What word is almost always pronounced ‘incorrectly’ by radio presenters?”

    1. I agree, Chris, although I think perhaps you meant ‘orally’. The question /was/ asked verbally.

      One good pedant deserves another 😉

    1. They pronounce “momentarily” “momentarily” and “incorrectly” “incorrectly”. They almost always pronounce “harass” wrongly.

  5. I can just picture all the people who answered ‘well, the sun is shining on the other side of the planet!’ going out wearing a t shirt in the middle of a rainstorm, shierving and wet, defiantly claiming not to be cold as the sun is shining elsewhere.

    If you looked out your window at midnight to see a completely dark sky, would you say the sun is shining?

    1. Since you insist on picking on the nit pickers, let’s get even nittier and pickier (are those even words?)

      The act of the sun shining does not require our observation. It does not need to be shining on this side or any side of the Earth. It simply shines, period. Whether we can observe it is an entirely separate issue.

      It’s like the old question, “Before explorers discovered Mt. Everest, what was the tallest mountain on Earth?”

      The answer is, “Mt. Everest.”

      It was always the tallest and does not require our observation to be what it is.

      How is that for nit picking?

    2. To be even nitpickier: Everest is not the tallest, it is the highest. Mauna Kea is the tallest. I agree about the comment though.

  6. ….dont got it. But i like this kind of puzzles.
    Nr 1, i didnt try, because im not thinking in the english language.
    Nr 2, i did understand:…what are the chances of the sun shining WITHIN 72 hours time…. I thought about a meteorologist rule that says on how much percent the weather stays like it is, the next 24 hours. And then i want to count up the “risk” to 72 hours. I meant its something about 60% for 24 hours.

  7. I got number 1 straight away, being familiar with the similar “Which word is almost always spelled wrong?”

    Number 2 I had an inkling of the correct answer, but still did 72/24 to double check.

    I suppose for the pedants, number 2 could be rephrased “…what are the chances of the sun shining on the ground at your location…”, but then you’d still get people claiming they lived in the far north where a solar day (sunrise to sunset) extends over a significantly longer period of time…

  8. I’d love to know, a while back you were asking about a good movie to show to students. Have you shown them one, and which one did you chooses and why?

  9. Is it some kind of unwritten rule that Richard’s questions ALWAYS have have have some kind of annoying ambiguity? It seems like the real purpose of the puzzles is just to stir up as many comments as possible! He’s a puzzle troll!

    1. I have thought this for a while now. I think that’s why he always asks of anyone has gotten a different answer. Almost like he wants different answers.

  10. It’s really stupid to accuse everyone who says the sun is always shining of pedantry. From past examples of the Friday Puzzle, it’s every bit as likely that Richard could have posted “The answer to 2 is 100% – the sun is always shining, no matter what the weather is like anywhere on earth”.

    A good puzzle should have one, non-debatable answer. Trying to find that is not “pedantry”.

    Calling someone a “pedant” on the internet really shows you up. What it usually means in that context is “person who thought of something that I didn’t”.

    1. Pedant (noun)
      1.a person who makes an excessive or inappropriate display of learning.
      2.a person who overemphasizes rules or minor details.
      3.a person who adheres rigidly to book knowledge without regard to common sense.

      Number 3 often seems to me to be appropriate. Most people reading Richards questions can spot possible alternative answers, but have the common sense to see which answer Richard is looking for.

    2. Puzzles are not tests of common sense. If we’re playing definitions, a puzzle is “A game, toy, or problem designed to test ingenuity or knowledge.”

      Remember this one?

      Common sense would have it that the four people were playing cards. But common sense did not provide the answer.

      Again, the accusations of pedantry seem to be accusations of “thinking too much”. About a *puzzle*. Pretty bizarre when you think about the fact that many of these puzzles are about *not* accepting the first answer that comes into your mind from intuition.

    3. What we have here is a puzzle where the most objectively correct answer to the puzzle as it is set out, making no assumptions, is wrong. Surely anyone can see that that is not a very well-formed puzzle?

    4. I agree with Richard.

      The point of a puzzle is to find the “trick” involved. Common sense often leads you nowhere. There should be an “aha” moment, where you realize the trick and everything becomes simple.

      I also agree, that 72/24 = 3 days = midnight, is the most common answer, but 100% due to the sun always shining is also completely valid and not unreasonable.

  11. The real and only true answer to the second puzzle is that in 72 hours it will STILL be midnight. No matter what answer you give, if you failed to realize that then you did not get the correct answer, and if you have an answer that includes the fact you realize it is still midnight then your answer is correct.

    1. Yeah that works for me. The best answer I can give is “it will still be midnight; however, that’s irrelevant as the sun is always shining”.

    2. Wayne, your mistake is your assumption that the phrase “if it is raining at midnight” means “if it is raining AND midnight”. How about this one: if it is raining tomorrow what day is it today? The “real and only true answer is “tomorrow””.

      You may have spotted that 72 hours is 3 days but you can only be sure of the answer Richard gives us if you know for a fact there’s no connection between rain at midnight and sunshine 72 hours from now. A real and true answer could not avoid a comment on that.

  12. To be clear: I absolutely don’t have any problem with the answer being “0%, it’ll be midnight”. Indeed that is the most obvious answer and the one that popped into my head to start with. Of course, the fact that it was obvious made me suspicious having been burned by that on past puzzles. But it doesn’t matter, I understand the answer and it’s fine – bit obvious maybe but that’s no problem.

    What I do object to is people who put in a bit of thought about other possible answers being referred to by myriad negatively-charged variations on “pedant”, culminating in the charming “pedantic arseholes”.

    Making a negative comment about anyone daring to *think things through* is really, really pathetic.

    1. Richards puzzles often have 2 or more answers, depending how you read the question, or how pedantic you wish to be. At this point, it requires judgement (and some common sense) to find the answer that Richard is looking for. In this case the clue was “….in 72 hours time?” which leads to the fact that it will be midnight, and likely to be dark at that location (exempting high latitudes mid-summer).

      Many people use the clues in the question, to find the answer Richard was looking for. Pedants, on the other hand, generally choose the answer which is most absolutely scientifically correct. They often take delight that it is not the official answer, because they can then take time arguing the toss.

      I’m fine with all of that. Live and let live.

      I do, however, object to pedants belittling other people who took the time to find the “official answer,” as occasionally happens on this forum, or posting comments telling Richard that the question is stupid, as has happened here today.

    2. So can we agree that either of the two groups of people belittling or insulting the other for “doing it wrong” is out of order?

  13. The word almost always pronouce incorrectly is “incorrectly”.

    The rain one is a little more complicated. The sun USUALLY doesn’t shine at midnight, but there’s a % of the globe where it does. Fortunately it typically snows in those places and not rains.

    I’m going with an almost 0% chance.

    ….or almost 100% chance if you consider the fact that the sun has been shining for millions of years and isn’t likely to burn out in 72 hours.

  14. I think #1 was incorrectly presented since it should have should have included punctuation, as follows:

    “1) What word is almost always pronounced ‘incorrectly’ by radio presenters?”

    By the way, I thought the answer was going to be ‘often’, as it could be taken to mean ‘almost always’. And if ‘often’ had been the intended answer, the question wouldn’t have required any punctuation.

  15. My first thought was “zero, as it will be midnight”. But then I thought about extreme North or South latitudes, where the sun can be up 24/7 certain times of the year. I don’t know what the odds of cloud cover are, but I had to revise my answer to ‘something greater than 0, depending on your location’. I wasn’t thinking about the ‘other side of the planet’ argument, just that the observer could be somewhere that the sun could be up.

  16. 1. it’s still not clear why “incorrectly” is “almost always” pronounced incorrectly, as the problem did not specify its pronunciation. even if it were pronounced in different ways, each of those ways would be some form of pronouncing “incorrectly.”

    2. the 3 variables are absolute/local sunshine, local geography, and local weather. thus, the 3 perfectly valid answers are 100% (the sun is shining in an absolute sense, or the observer is at polar latitudes during local summer but it is raining elsewhere), 0% (no sun is visible at equatorial or temperate latitudes), and unknown (at polar latitudes during local summer, but it could be raining locally).

  17. The second question is unambiguous – “what are the chances of the sun shining?” 100%

    It does not ask will there be “sunshine” – which ofcourse would still be 100%, but atleat allow room for interpretation.

    The whole point of these puzzles is pedantry – wouldn’t be much of a puzzle otherwise!

  18. Children, children, children. Yes the questions might be a little vague sometimes, and yes there’ll always be debate over who’s right and who’s wrong. But surely the most important question given that this started at 7.07 this morning, is why the bloody hell aren’t you all working!!!!

  19. Speaking vaguely intentionally then revealing what you meant all along isn’t clever, I think. If it’s pronounced “incorrectly”, there should have been quotation marks. Without them, the word acts functionally in the sentence– not as an example. Also, IN! “In 72 hours” means just that. If we were talking about the time right after the 72 hours, it should be worded that way. “In 72 hours” means any of the hours between now and 72 hours from now. These aren’t riddles; they’re intentional obfuscations. You don’t figure them out; you get handed puns. Not really my bag.

  20. I propose the following theorem:

    The level of criticism for a riddle is inversely proportional to a poster’s success at solving said riddle.

  21. In the spirit of pedantry I would also like to point out that if was midnight you might be able to see the moon and hence sunshine.

  22. Awesome fun puzzles! I was way off.

    Not as much on the first one; the thought that it may be “incorrectly” itself briefly crossed my mind, but I ruled it out as being too obvious. Perhaps because of the second question, I thought it might be some word related to weather.

    On the second, I only got as far as to reason that rain at one time would be irrelevant to sun 72 hours later, at least, for the purposes of the question. I was thinking meteorology — rain, sun, weather — and forgot that the sun rises during the day and sets at night.

  23. Yup, I got incorrectly 0%, and have enjoyed reading all the pit-nicking that also occured to me as I plodded pedantically throught the permutations.
    All I can suggest for extra twist is that q2 doesn’t say anything about staying in the same place for 72 hours so the observer could easily move to 100% by easyjet

  24. for the pedants with a large writing pad and some spare time: why not list all the words that are not pronounced “incorrectly” by radio newsreaders.

    extra bonus plus points for non-english words

  25. I think Richard Comments has expended more effort in disagreeing with those with whom he disagrees than they have in their comments and Richard Wiseman has in setting and answering the questions combined.

    1. I wouldn’t have said anything at all if people hadn’t started on the “pedant”, “twat” and “arsehole” tack.

  26. With all this controversy over the given solutions, am I tht only person who noticed that Richard Wiseman is demanding we answer again by using the title “Answer the Friday Puzzle” instead of “Answer to the Friday Puzzle”?

  27. the sun is shining, doesn’t matter what time it is, just from where you look at it, or am i wrong? does it turn off at night? i don’t think so.

    i thought the midnight was the easy “wrong” answer and that “it shines always” would be the tricky one you were looking for ^^

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