With This Hat, You're Hired!

Jul 23, 2007

*The Puzzler is continuing his vacation! Fresh off the all-u-can-eat chili fest in Las Vegas (with just a touch of heartburn!) he's headed to Maine for lobsta, lobsta, lobsta! But to satisfy your puzzler craving, we've got a classic Car Talk puzzler just for you:

RAY: There are three very qualified applicants for a job. The president of the company has interviewed all of them extensively but he can't decide who to select.

He has them sitting in front of him when he announces, "I'm going to administer one final test. Whoever comes up with the answer first is going to get the job. The test is fair, and no one will be at a disadvantage.

"Here's the test: I have in front of me four hats. They're identical except that three of them are black, and one is white. I'm going to place one of these hats on each of your heads. There will be one hat left over. That hat will be removed from the room, as will all the mirrors. Before we put the hats on, you will be blindfolded. Then my assistants will help me to remove the blindfolds simultaneously, and you'll be seated so that you can see the other two participants. The first person to identify the color of his hat wins the job.'

So they do it.

As they're getting ready to remove the blindfolds, one guy raises his hand and says, "I know what color my hat is."

TOM: Before they took the blindfolds off?

RAY: Before!

How did he know?

TOM: I know how he knows.

RAY: Go ahead, man.

TOM: 'No one will be at a disadvantage.'

RAY: Exactly.

TOM: And if any of the hats was white, then somebody would be at a disadvantage, the guy with the white hat.

RAY: Exactly because he would look at two black hats.

TOM: And they wouldn't. The other two guys would be seeing a white and a black and they would immediately know.

RAY: Exactly.

TOM: And so, if no one is going to be at a disadvantage, all the hats have to be black.

RAY: You got it.

TOM: Exactly. They should have known the answer when he was explaining it.

RAY: Well, the truth is none of those knuckleheads got the job because that's exactly right.

TOM: Yeah. They were all dopes.

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