The following riddle appeared on the April 25, 1868 edition of Once a Week. It was claimed by the anonymous composer of the riddle that it is insoluble:
When from the ark’s capacious round,
The world went forth in pairs,
Whose ready ears first heard the sound
Of boots. upon the stairs?
The riddle was somehow attributed to Archbishop Richard Whately. Apparently, Whately offered £5 to anyone who can solve the riddle.
A lady who saw the riddle sent it to her sister who was in Germany, who in turn gave it to a German professor. After some time, the professor came up with an involute answer and then sent it to Whately. The bemused Archbishop wrote back and told him that he was not the author of the riddle.
Here is the professor’s answer:
To him who cons the matter o’er,
A little thought reveals, —
He heard it first who went before
A pair of soles and eels.
While I commend the clever puns, I feel that the answer was unsatisfactory. Nonetheless, no better answer had bee presented so this may as well be the correct answer or at least, a potential answer. Perhaps, it would be bootless to ponder upon this too much.
Note: To those who didn’t get the pun, “bootless” has an archaic usage which means “a useless undertaking”.