OK, here is today’s new puzzle…..

A camper walks one mile south from their tent. They then walk one mile west and has a little dance with a bear. Then they walk one mile north, and find themselves back at their camp.

What colour was the bear?

Yesterday I posted this puzzle…..

Here are four suspects, and one of them has committed a crime.  They make the following statements, but only one of them is telling the truth.  Who committed the crime?

Jon: James did it.
James: Bob did it.
Sid: I didn’t do it.
Bob: James is lying.

If you haven’t tried to solve it, have a go now. For everyone else, the answer is below, along with another puzzle….

If Sid is innocent, then his statement is true and so the other three suspects are lying. But that means that Bob is also telling the truth, a contradiction. So Sid can’t be innocent and so he must be murderer.

As ever, follow the blog for your daily puzzle. See you tomorrow!

1. xantilor says:

‘A’ camper? THEY? They HAS a little dance?
My inner editor is hopping up and down.

1. Yes, the problem with number is common these days. It happens when people are trying to signal their virtue in being politically correct. When you re-read the mess, you find that it is only one camper, and he danced with the bear. The mistake with ‘has’ rather than ‘have’ is because the author is aware of making a forced grammatical error – he wanted to say ‘He has a little dance’, but had to substitute the pronoun – producing the nonsense you remark upon.

Don’t worry you’re not the only one – language can’t be forced into Orwellian knots by virtue signallers forever, it’s too dynamic and alive for that sort of rigid attempt at control to work.

2. Fustbariclation – The singular “they” has been used in exactly this context for literally centuries, since at least the 1300s. It has evolved as a natural part of the language since Middle English. It’s PART of the “dynamic and alive” language you praise, and has been used by Chaucer, Shakespeare, Austen, and many, MANY others. The mistake is in using “has” instead of “have;” the singular and plural “they” use the same verb forms, just as the singular and plural “you” do.

The generic “he,” in contrast, dates back to the 1700s or so, and was in fact put in place by grammar prescriptivists as the very type of “rigid attempt at control” that you are ostensibly against.

You can be against the use of the singular “they” if you wish, but don’t pretend your issue is with grammar prescriptivism when you are the one trying to enforce arbitrary and artificial rules.

3. xantilor says:

As a writer, I favour precise use of language to convey information better. In this instance, why are we not told whether the person dancing with the bear is male or female? Is the avoidance of ‘he’ or ‘she’ because of current woke attitudes about gender?

Maybe I’m reading too much into this puzzle…

4. Possibly (and who cares if it is?), or possibly because the camper’s gender has no effect on the riddle and would thus be an extraneous detail. And, as a writer who prefers precise language, what do you use if you are talking about someone whose gender is unknown? Like, let’s take this riddle. Say you’re writing a character who finds the footprints of a single person and a bear, and evidence of a campsite, and they’re talking out loud trying to reconstruct what happened with no other clue as to the camper’s identity. Would you write:

“A camper walks one mile south from his tent.”
That’s not precise, because it could potentially mean your character DOES know the gender of the camper when they do not.

“A camper walks one mile south from his or her tent.”
Maybe if you’re writing an academic paper, but it sounds overly formal for any sort of natural-sounding dialogue.

“A camper walks one mile south from the tent.”
Sure, maybe that works for this individual sentence, but it loses a small bit of information (that the camper was staying in the tent, something that can easily be assumed from the given evidence.) And, more importantly, how would you continue with the story? (The camper then walks one mile west. . . Then the camper walks one mile north, etc.) That’s awfully repetitive. And how would you deal with reflexive pronouns (“. . . find themselves back at their camp”), just avoid them entirely? That can change the tone, lead to more verbose or stilted sentences, or again lose information.

“A camper walks one mile south from their tent.”
We know it’s the singular “they” because it’s stated that there is only a single camper, so there’s no ambiguity. There’s nothing that implies your character knows something they don’t actually know. It’s about as concise as the sentence can be without losing information. It flows naturally, or at least as naturally as a third-person present-tense narration can flow. It lets you use reflexive pronouns without tying your sentences in knots to avoid them.

And again, keep in mind that writers of the English language have been writing in this manner for over 600 years, having been used in exactly this way by Chaucer, Byron, Defoe, Austen, Shakespeare, Dickens, Thackeray, Wilde, Carroll, and honestly most others you can think of.

5. xantilor says:

Nah. None of that. I’d just decide who I was writing about. Novelists do this all the time.

6. Wow, so your characters NEVER have to deal with someone with an unknown identity? They ALWAYS know the gender of the murderer, the driver of the car tailing them, the unknown caller, the person who dropped the matchbook, the anonymous note-writer, the mysterious benefactor? They never speak about a proverbial person (e.g., “To each their own”)? Even if that’s true for your works, you must admit that not ever having your characters deal with a person whose identity is unknown to them would really limit what’s available to other writers. It would almost entirely eliminate the mystery genre, for example.

7. Anonymous says:

White – Polar Bear at North Pole.

2. David Dredge says:

Great puzzle!

David

3. Anonymous says:

The same colour as the ground.

1. Actually, there is no ground there, it’s only at the other end that there’s a continent.

4. Puzzling says:

Nice puzzle! Interestingly there is a circle somewhere else on earth that you can walk these directions and end up where you started.

1. Holly says:

Infinite circles…

2. Anonymous says:

Yes but no bears there

3. Holly says:

Infinite circles because you can start closer to the south pole such that when you travel east you do two (or three, or four, or…) complete circles of it before travelling north back to your camp.

5. Holly says:

Is “little dance” shorthand for “terrifying encounter that they madly ran from” because that might explain how they were able to travel north to get back to their camp?

Also, I don’t know if I can fully answer this without knowing what gender the bear is.

6. 10 years of isolation and fear says:

I don’t know how he reached his camp without moving a mile east. But im sure the bear is a Brown Bear. You know in old times there were guys walking around with tamed bears. So they probably danced too hard and danced off a mile East, before heading North.

7. Anita Dunne says:

White – it was a polar bear,

1. Alejandro says:

Well done Anita, aunque se supone que debemos dar pistas, no la solución 🙂

2. Anita Dunne says:

Ups, lo siento!

8. AndreaS says:

Somebody just blatantly ignored the liar’s paradox. Go figure.

9. It was a dark colour with a creamy top because he danced with a pint of Guinness in his hand.
Oh, wait, bear? I thought it said beer.

10. Anonymous says:

White, because this only works at the north pole

11. Wait! Jon could be the murderer too. Because then:

Jon: James did it. [LIE]
James: Bob did it. [LIE]
Sid: I didn’t do it. [TRUTH]
Bob: James is lying. [LIE]

1. Anita Dunne says:

That’s how I worked it out! But perhaps we are overlooking something??

2. Ah crap I just noticed my mistake! Embarrassing. Bob would NOT be lying in this case. I blame quarantine brain.

3. Harriet Wilkins says:

But then isn’t Bob telling the truth? James IS lying because bob didn’t do it if Jon did it.

12. Here’s a _completely unrelated_ puzzle:

You’re _not_ at the North Pole. You walk one mile south, one mile west, and one mile north and find yourself at your starting point. Where are you?

13. Susan Jorgenson says:

The bear is brown. Susan J

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