coverOn Friday I posted these puzzles…..

1) What are black when you buy them, red when you use them and grey when you throw them away?

2) On which day of the year do fewest people die?

3) In which book does the Index precede the Introduction?

If you have not tried to solve them, have a go now.  For everyone else the answers are after the break.

1) Coals

2) 29th February

3) A dictionary.

Did you solve them?  Any other answers?


    1. Okay, I’ll have a go. I dismissed February 29th because, in any given year, you shouldn’t be able to look at the number of deaths per day and see any difference, whether it was a leap year or not. However, looking at all the possible dates for ANY year gets you to the obvious solution.

      That wasn’t very pedantic, I admit, but the puzzle(s) were pretty straightforward.

  1. I would have thought that the day when they switch to daylight saving time has the fewest people die, as it has only 23 hours. I would say that there is no reason people do not die so easily on February 29… Ok, on average the 29th of February doesn’t happen that often, but when it does it’s just an average day.

    1. Seasonal mortality issues outweigh the roughly 4% reduction you would expect when the clocks go back. The minimum death rate occurs in the summer around the July period. By the time you get to the date when the clocks go back (in late October), the mortality rate seems to be 5-6% higher than the summer low from the stats I can find (in the UK at least). Mortality rates reach their maximum in the winter months, more than 10% higher than the summer (which includes February of course).

      I would concur with those that would say you can’t average the deaths for the 29th Feb over 4 years and that a year wither has a 29th Feb or it does not, so it’s a day like any other during leap years.

  2. I had these answers, but the leap day only works if you average over a longer time period, otherwise actuarial tables are needed, the correct answer isn’t necessarily the shortest day of the year, mortality statistics tell us more people die on christmas day than on any other, and that isn’t the longest day of the year.

    The dictionary answer only works if you drop the definite articles, index is before introduction, the index isn’t before the introduction

  3. huh – my answer for 1) was a pen. You can buy it ‘black’, when it writes, it often uses red ink and when the ink turns gray (goes dull), it’s disposed of

  4. I actually thought number one was a heating element for like ……. a water heater. It’s black, glows when hot and is gray after it’s initial use. So I was thinking. But in hind sight – it’s gray, red, gray. Too bad for me.

  5. Coal was simple, so was the dictionary, and there are match sticks with black heads in my part of the world, so that is good as well.
    Trouble is with Feb 29th. I agree with comments above that its an average day. Since we are using reasoning for our answers and not statistics, I would support the switch to daylight savings as a reasonable answer, better than Feb 29th.
    Another solution to this question maybe “winter solstice”. It is the shortest “day” of the year. Day in this context would mean “The time after sunrise and before sunset while it is light outside”.
    One could argue that it is summer in the southern hemisphere, hence days are longer there and so it evens out. But then, since most of the world’s population resides in the northern hemisphere, it may be a reasonable assumption that the number of deaths within these hours should be lesser.
    Research from Steve Jones makes this case far more solid than when it started out. 🙂

  6. Cheers, Richard 🙂 Yep, got all of these and they’re all delightful little puzzles. Thanks for another weekend brain workout and have a very happy New Year 😀

  7. Perhaps question 2 could read: “On which day of the year have the fewest people died in recent history?” Then clearly (I think) the answer would have to be Feb 29.

  8. It is not a question of which day of any given year the fewest people die, but which day of the year (on average). If you look at the dates of death given for any given population, the least common date will be Feb 29.
    As for 120-odd people dying in a plane crash on Feb 29, 1966, I am quite certain that you could find a similar group-death for every day of the year if you look over the course of, say, 100 years. In any case, given that about 163,000 people die every day worldwide, 120 is barely a blip.

    1. I agree, 123 people won’t make it the most deadly by a long shot, but I strongly suspect it puts it above last place

      For whatever reason, the most deaths occur december 25 and there is only one of those each year, and it is not the longest day of the year. I think the true answer is something equally unexpected

      I also agree that over a longer time frame, on average, feb 29 will have the fewest, I said that on Friday already

  9. 1. anything that is dark and burns qualifies (my guess was tobacco, which may in fact be dark brown).

    2. my guess was “their birthday.” the problem with feb 29 is that it requires you to assume that the number of deaths on 2/29 is zero for non-leap years. that’s wrong. you cannot say the number of deaths is zero on a day that didn’t happen. to accept that answer requires you also to accept feb 30, or dec 32, or any other fictional day.

    i loved roland’s daylight savings day, which is brilliant. granted, it is an abnormally stressful day because you lose an hour, which is likely to increase death rates.

    3. obvious but awkward, since technically the dictionary contains no entry for either “the Index” or “the Introduction.”

  10. I’m glad I didn’t spend much time trying to solve these because I never would have gotten any! The first one is the only one I agree with, although coals or charcoal doesn’t really turn red , it just goes white or white-grey, and who the hell still buys coal?!
    The second question was worded poorly as the same amt of ppl die on Feb29 as they do on any given day, but ya I guess if you add the total number it would be less cuz there’s fewer Feb29s.
    But dictionaries dont have intros and defining words is not an index either so this won is flat wrong!
    Maybe its sour grapes cuz I didn’t solve any, Happy New Year!!

    1. Mike, to quote:-
      “So Richard got it wrong” ya, the guy who writes books explaining the fallacies of the human mind has been corrected by a you-tube wannabe commentor lol”

  11. Question 2 should be correctly: “On which DATE of the year do fewest people die?”. Because when you ask for the DAY you have to guess thats a normal and average day ! It could be the 1. March !

    1. My opinion is: The February the 29th is an average day and no more and no less people dies on this day. So the question of the puzzle is wrong or the answer…
      To your question: Mathematically, February the 29th is sometimes not a day, because there is no day at three in four years. If you want to make a statistic you have to dividide the number of cases of death by the number of appearance of the day(s).

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