First, I am speaking at a Skeptics on the Fringe event tonight at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.  Details here.  If you are around, please come along and say hi.

Second, here was the Friday puzzle….in the 10,000 metres final at the Olympics, John passed the runner in second place on the penultimate lap. Then John himself was passed by two runners on the finishing straight. What medal did John win?

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

No medals for John – he finished fourth!  Did you solve it?

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. WRONG! We are asked what medal the runner got, not what in what position he finished. That means one or both overtaking runners had been previously lapped (very probable, given the stated length of the race) and thus unaffecting the result. This means John obtained either a Silver or a Bronze medal. There is not enough information to determine which.

    The ‘trick’ in the question is meant to be, what position is john after overtaking the second-placed person. To be honest, this is kindergarten-level and anyone who got this bit wrong should hang their heads in shame!

    1. You are over thinking it, I can make other assumptions which would give the puzzle endless answers…

      Got it right bey the way 🙂

    2. It is difficult to emphatically state that Richard’s answer is right, given that if you twist the question and interpret it differently, you can come up with alternative answers. But, since Richard’s answer is entirely plausible, it most definitely is not “WRONG!”

  2. I skipped this one because it was far too open to interpretation, e.g., whose penultimate lap, whose finishing straight, shall we assume constant speeds, could “passing” include someone who already finished the race and rested beyond the finish line?

  3. I had him in 4th to start with but the question suggested he actually won something . If he lapped the person in second then slowed down 2 slow runners could pass him ( these runners still needing to run more laps ) and he could still get gold . Equally he could get silver or bronze.

    1. He could get gold. The question is way to ambiguous. The front runner could (for some weird reason only Richard could think of) turn around and pass John, making him first. The second runner passing John could be a streaker protesting against exploiting the puzzlers at this forum 😉
      And then we don’t even mention the drugs control afterwards, disqualifying the people potentially ending before John 😉

    2. i now agree with david. john our runner could get gold.
      john could have been in 1st place when he lapped the runner in 2nd place. that first overtaking simply cements his position as fastest.
      but then he is overtaken by two others? but they are a lap behind!
      john is the undisputed gold winner!!
      why the do we dispute this?

  4. I haven’t even been looking at these for awhile because they had gotten so bad. If this is the quality of the ones I’ve been missing, I haven’t been missing much. These used to be SO much better. I guess there are only so many good puzzles.

  5. Most straight forward answer. However all medals are possible. Silver and bronze can be managed by “lapping” scenario’s. If these 2 runners passed him, after he had already lapped them once, he will get silver. If only one of these 2 was lapped he’d get bronze.

    Gold can be managed by “lapped them both before” and a bit of ambiguity or by another scenario.
    Ambiguity: “John passed the runner in second place” can mean:
    – the runner was in second place, and John passed him
    – John was in second place, and he passed a runner. (this is unlikely, but possible)

    Another scenario is that John LAPPED the runner that was in second place. If he had also lapped the other 2 before, he would also get gold.

    So: Gold, silver, bronze or no medal are ALL possible, but no medal is very much most likely.

  6. Seriously, how can everyone be so picky about the Friday puzzles? I appreciate there is a certain level of ambiguity in some of the puzzles, but I have no doubt that everyone knows what Richard means in the posing of his questions.

    “What medal did John win?” The answer is “No medals for John – he finished fourth!” That seems perfectly acceptable to me.

    1. Yes we know what Richard meant. But that was such a childishly simple puzzle some of us thought there must be more to it (and there could have been).

    2. David,

      After reading your responses, I’m left with the impression that you’re a little too emotional over a simple puzzle.

      Follow this advice: Take a deep breath. Hold it. Now normally I would tell you to exhale and relax, but it may be better for you to continue holding. Do that until you pass out. You need a nap Mr. Cranky Pants.

    1. As soon us you show us your weekly puzzle site that is better than this, you have a right to criticise. Until then, zip it Whiny McWhineface.

  7. Not knowing which lap any of the runners were on makes it impossible to say what position he came in. You might see a theme developing here. It’s not about getting the right answer it’s about loony tunes getting more site traffic. If the answer was straight forward he’d not generate half as much traffic. Create a controvosy, double your money. Simples!

  8. Well I was very disappointed with this question. I arrived at the conclusion that he would be 4th on the face of it and that there must be a twist because (a) the obvious answer is too obvious and (b) the question states that he got a medal. So I considered what effect lapping might have on the answer but din’t find any satisfying conclusions.

    I find the answer given “ha ha I was lying, he didn’t get a medal at all” no more satisfying than “ha ha I was lying the only one runner really passed him, the other just un-lapped himself”

    Oh well, hopefully a better one next week. Keep ’em coming Richard.

  9. My initial answer turned out to be the correct one, but after reading comments about how good the puzzle was I decided there must be a trick. My answer ended up being bronze! I thought the trick was using the past-tense of pass. So when the puzzle says “John passed the runner in second place”; the meaning was the runner in current second place because the passing was in the past, meaning John was in the lead. When he was passed twice in the finishing straight, he ended up with bronze. Grammatically bollocks but I was reaching. Does this make any sense?

  10. At first I got the “correct” answer as given by Richard, but then I thought about it a bit more and (using lapping combinations) got to either gold or bronze as possible answers.

  11. Clearly John is from Texas, so he had a handgun and shot the three runners in front of him to take the gold, silver AND bronze.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s