Recently, I was asked to solve this word riddle:
"I am a word of five letters!
People eat me!
If you remove my 1 letter, I will be a a form of energy.
If you remove my first 2 letters, I will be needed for living.
If you remove my first 3 letters, I will be a preposition.
If you remove my first 4 letters, I will be a drink for you.
Answer if you are a mastermind!"
I enjoy solving such riddles, because it helps to engage my brain into lateral thinking. Lateral thinking is important if we want to solve problems differently or to inspire ourselves to new ideas.
When I was first asked to solve this riddle, all it took me was about 4-5 minutes to find the solution (but I am sure there are others who take shorter time than me!). So the question was, how did I solve it?
One of the lateral thinking method which I frequently use is the "thinking the opposite". Rather than look at things sequentially or in running order, I look at it from the opposite direction.
Here are my steps I used to solve this riddle:
Step 1: I rearranged the sentences into such (below)and numbered them:
1) If you remove my first 4 letters, I will be a drink for you.
2) If you remove my first 3 letters, I will be a preposition.
3) If you remove my first 2 letters, I will be needed for living.
4) If you remove my 1 letter, I will be a a form of energy.
Step 2: I looked at Sentence 1 of the "newly" arranged sentences and I listed down all possible letters that sounded like a drink. The letter "T" rings the bell because it sounded like "Tea". So first sentence is solved!
1) If you remove my first 4 letters, I will be a drink for you => "T"
Step 3: I then looked at Sentence 2. With the letter "T' already in place, I listed down all vowels that can connect with "T" to make a preposition.
The letter "A" struck my head!
2) If you remove my first 3 letters, I will be a preposition => "AT"
Step 4: At the next sentence, I played with a few words that were needed for living. Words like "oxygen", "drink" & "food" came to my mind. I used "association" method to see if any of the words linked with "AT"... it seemed that "food" could be a choice and in order to have food, we need to eat!
3) If you remove my first 2 letters, I will be needed for living => "EAT".
Step 5: With "Eat" was a big clue itself, I tried figuring out the last sentence - what 1 letter that could be added to "EAT" to form an energy? Words from my Primary 3 School Science textbook started to fly and i vividly remembered "HEAT" in one of the science lab experiments.
Closing Step: With the word "HEAT" already formed, naturally, if we could add a letter that could mean something edible, it had to be a "W". So, yes. I got it! The answer to the word riddle is "WHEAT"!
Author, The Stage Fright Antidote!
Founder/ Lead Consultant, The Speaking Factory Pte Ltd
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