On Friday I posted this puzzle…..

A condemned man is allowed to choose how he will die.  He is presented with the following six options:

1) Thrown into a deep river tied to a heavy stone.

2) Decapitated by an axe.

3) Eaten alive by a group of cannibals.

4) Thrown into a pit of lions that haven’t eaten for five months.

5) Hanged by the neck until he is dead.

6) Shot through the heart with a rifle.

Which one should he choose in order to maximise his chances of survival?

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

The answer is 4) Thrown into a pit of lions that haven’t eaten for five months.

If they haven’t eaten for five months, the lions will be dead.  Did you solve it?  Any other funny or clever answers?

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


  1. I was really hoping this wasn’t the answer but… wow. A puzzle as daft as last week’s was excellent.

  2. Yippee I got that answer too. Just wondering, how deep is the pit though? He may still have a long, drawn out death if the pit is too deep to escape from!

  3. 1. How is the river tied to the stone?
    2. What weapon does the axe use to decapitate the man?
    3. Not “eaten to death”? Must be still alive after being eaten.
    (and so on)

    1. 1. Gravity
      2. Itself
      3. Fair point. The question implies they start eating him while he’s alive, but doesn’t say if he’s alive at the end of the meal. Maybe they’re on a diet and only share a leg.

  4. I picked #4, at first though not due to the lions being to weak/dead, but as it’s possible to dodge them. Next was #6, possible to live through this I’m sure, then eaten alive by cannibals which could just be his pinky finger being eaten off, thrown into the river would be my next choice, escape a possibility. Being decapitated highly risky; thinking of the headless chicken here, then finally #5 which states he will die. The only one gauranteed death.

    1. Apologies for grammar and spelling. Anyway, going back to read Friday’s fun comments which usually have answers in them.

  5. If you are in front of a firing squad, only one rifle will have live ammunition. I think this is to give the firing squad the psychological benefit of self delusion “it wasn’t my shot that killed him”.

    It also means that if the person who gets the live round is a bad shot, you will live. Except for the dead lions thing, I think that is the best chance of survival

    Unless you get to say how long the rope is that is tied to that heavy stone. If that’s long enough – or if you are a witch – that’s a pretty good chance too.

    1. That’s actually not right. Tradition has it that in a firing squad there is one rifle which has a blank in it, whilst all the rest have live rounds. Same psychological reason as you suggest, but the odds of survival not as good…

  6. If you got a dopamine rush solving that, I wonder how Andrew Wiles felt after proving Fermat’s Last Theorem.

  7. Silly puzzle. I prefer the cannibals as an answer. If the cannibals eat you alive, then you have to remain alive. Not very nice suffering the amputations though.

    The lions could have been kept alive by drinking liquid sustenance.

    1. I was amused by the same idea. Images of lions lounging with strolling cart IV’s of sustenance slowly dripping.

  8. This time i found the solution,

    I do not agree if you have enough linons in the pit and enough water, the lions would have started eating each other, like in a lion eats lion world. I,e when starting with enough lions, there might still be some left even after 5 month..
    However i expect the smell of the pit would kill you anyway..

    1. But then they would have eaten. The puzzle didn’t say ‘lions that haven’t been fed for five months’.

  9. Took me a minute all in all I think, making sure that the dead lions were the best choice. Other thoughts I had:
    How do you tie a heavy stone to a river?
    The lion pit could be so deep that the man would be stuck and die in it.
    Criminals can be heartless people, so a shot through the heart might not do much.

    1. It saichance of survival not an ensured one
      (if anything is spelled wrong it’s because I can’t see the letters popping up

  10. Got it right! And for the right reason. Though it was touch and go with the cannibals for a few seconds: my skimpy knowledge of anthropology told me that — pace the Donner party — cannibalism is restricted to ritual consumption of the brains of admired persons. Postmortem. But then I went with the lions.

    Is there a prize?

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