An Old Chain of Riddles and Its Apparent Uses


During third grade, my English teacher challenged us to answer some riddles. Here’s the first question:

How do you put an elephant inside a refrigerator? There are three steps.

I realized that this was part of a series of old riddles which are connected to each other. To not spoil my classmates’ fun, I refrained from revealing the answer. After a while, nobody got the correct answer. So, the teacher gave the answer:

  1. Open the fridge’s door.
  2. Put the elephant inside.
  3. Close the fridge’s door.

As expected, a followup question was given:

How do you put a giraffe inside a refrigerator? There are four steps.

It took my classmates some time but eventually, someone figured it out:

  1. Open the fridge’s door.
  2. Take the elephant out.
  3. Put the giraffe inside.
  4. Close the fridge’s door.

The teacher then told a couple of story jokes to divert the attention of my classmates. After that, he asked the third question:

The king of the jungle ordered all animals to attend a meeting. However, for some reason, one animal was not able to come. Which was it?

It should now be obvious to you that the answer is the giraffe since it’s inside the fridge. However, because of my teacher’s misdirection, my classmates forgot that the riddles are related to each other. After telling the answer, the teacher gave the next question:

A man has to cross a crocodile-infested river. How can he cross safely?

By now, my classmates had already deduced what’s going on and hence, several of them quickly answered: “He can cross the river with no problem because the crocodiles went to the meeting!”

The teacher suddenly changed the subject of discussion and began to talk about his trip to Belgium and how long he had to be on the plane. Then he asked this question:

During a flight, the pilot said that the plane is overloaded which may cause the plane to crash. What would you throw out to lessen the burden of the plane?

My classmates were taken off guard by the question so they couldn’t come up with an answer. When the teacher revealed the answer (throw out the refrigerator), they roared with laughter. While I personally didn’t find it funny, I also cracked a smile due to the lively mood of everyone.

Afterward, the teacher told us to give our own riddles. After more than a dozen lame riddles, it was finally my turn. At first, I wanted to pose a difficult riddle, but I thought about the chain riddles earlier and said to myself, “Why not continue it?”. This was my question:

I heard that despite crossing the crocodile-infested river safely, the man died anyway. Why is that?

I expected someone would immediately guess the correct answer. So, I was surprised that no one got it, even the teacher. Finally, I revealed the answer after a few minutes: The man was hit by the fridge.

I based this on the almost identical riddles I read. The only difference is that the one I read has this first question:

There are a hundred bricks on the plane and one falls off the plane. How many bricks are left?

Answer: 99

And you can figure out the rest.

Later, I found an anecdote saying that Accenture, formerly Andersen Consulting, used these questions in their job interviews as the riddles test various essential skills.

The first question (putting an elephant inside a fridge) tests whether the applicant overcomplicates things that can be done using a simpler method.

The second question (putting a giraffe inside a fridge) tests the applicant’s skill of recognizing the consequences of his previous actions.

The third question (about the king of the jungle calling a meeting) tests the applicant’s memory.

But even if you didn’t answer the three questions correctly, you can still redeem yourself as the point of the fourth question (the river crossing problem) is to test whether the applicant learns from his mistakes.

According to Accenture, 90 percent of the applicants were not able to answer all the questions correctly.

Posted by

My name Edmark M. Law. I work as a freelance writer, mainly writing about science and mathematics. I am an ardent hobbyist. I like to read, solve puzzles, play chess, make origami and play basketball. In addition, I dabble in magic, particularly card magic and other sleight-of-hand type magic. I live in Hong Kong. You can find me on Twitter` and Facebook. My email is

16 thoughts on “An Old Chain of Riddles and Its Apparent Uses

  1. Chain riddles are straight forward as long as you have been exposed to the concept before and you are ready for them. But someone who has never need subjected to riddles or is a “linear learner” Will not be in the headspace required. Personally, after a 20 plus managerial training career; I find the trickery of riddles in an interview situation is not best practice. Later, for expanding knowledge within training sessions they are a useful tool.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reminds me of a test I had in a post graduate algebra course. The answer to the tenth question seemed unsolvable until you realized that, to prove the assertion, you needed to use the nine proofs that you solved before it. I got the answer while lying in bed in the dark the night before the test was due. When we turned the test in, I told a classmate how it was solved and she just about cried…

    Liked by 1 person

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