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Puzzle ID:#9010
Fun:*** (3.05)
Difficulty:** (1.73)
Submitted By:doggyxpus*****
Corrected By:twixy




Birbal was jester, counselor, and fool to the great Moghul emperor, Akbar. The villagers loved to talk of Birbal's wisdom and cleverness, and the emperor loved to try to outsmart him. One day Akbar (emperor) drew a line across the floor. "Birbal," he ordered, "you must make this line shorter, but you cannot erase any bit of it."
Everyone present thought the emperor had finally outsmarted Birbal. It was clearly an impossible task. Yet within moments the emperor and everyone else present had to agree that Birbal had made the line shorter without erasing any of it. How could this be?

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Dec 14, 2002

if you think in geometric terms, a line is never ending, so by adding a dot at either end he could make it a line segment. the only problem is that there would have to be an arrow at each end to symbolize a line, and he couldn't erase those. very good! i liked it ;)
Dec 22, 2002

I am banging my head against the monitor as I write!! Doh!
Dec 23, 2002

wow...didnt know it was possible to type and bang your head against the monitor at the same time
Jan 16, 2003

I remember this question from karate class when I was in first grade.
Jan 23, 2003

why karate?
Apr 20, 2003

Speedy, you are right. But this isn't a math teaser, now is it ;-)
Jul 21, 2003

I can't belive it was that simple! I thought he did something really hard to figure out! Maybe this should be a trick question.
Jan 22, 2004

Maybe. I couldn't think of just the right category, so I am sorry if you feel that it is in the wrong one.
Jul 04, 2006

The other "Birbal" teasers are much better. They at least start the same! And he didn't do what the Emperor asked. He said to make the line shorter. True, it was shorter than the other line, but it itself did not change length. The answer is wrong.
Jul 18, 2006

No! That is not true kistin14! Anyway I thought that this was EZ.
Dec 30, 2006

I personaly think this is a DISCRACE to the Birbal series i dont like this one
Jan 02, 2007

What? Just because there is a line longer than the first doesn't make the first line any shorter?
Jan 11, 2007

Actually teasermaster (and others who commented similarly), it does...

You see the word adjective 'shorter' is a relative term and the emperor never specified what the line should be shorter than. We assumed (myself included) he meant shorter than its original self - which is impossible without erasing some of it...

But it could just as well have meant shorter than something else -like the 2nd line Birbal drew!!

Jan 16, 2007

Peanut, Thanks for telleing me what teh answer was. I thoguht something else. (advanced wordplay) but i still hate this teaser netherless... (talk about mixed messages)
Jan 18, 2007

As already said, the answer is not really true. The original line is not in fact any shorter. Birbal simply made it LOOK shorter by drawing a longer line. However, that does not actually change the length of the first line.
Apr 17, 2007

I prefer the other Birbal teasers better but this was still ok.
May 24, 2007

there is another answer. you cross the line with another one to make it a T, then you write the letters SHOR on the left side, and ER on the right side. it is now SHORTER!!!
May 14, 2008

Yes, and I can jump higher then a house. (the house can't jump)
May 14, 2008

I didn't realize the line was being drawn--I thought the line was an actual thing, and he could've just bent it to make it shorter if you measure it.
May 14, 2008

I will admit I didn't get this one, never would have gotten it. Glad now I didn't really try. Good job, thanks for posting.
May 14, 2008

technically, the line was the same length, and it didn't get any shorter, so the emporer's task was impossible.
May 14, 2008

Why not just reflect it with a concave mirror?
May 14, 2008

May 14, 2008

If we're just going by making the line *appear* shorter, why couldn't he just have everyone walk away from it? The line would look shorter from a distance.
May 14, 2008

I thought he would just stand on one end of it to make it appear shorter . . .
May 14, 2008

I'm glad I didn't waste my time on this one -- I figured that the given answer would be something inane like that.
May 14, 2008

how about looking at it from closer to the ground. it would appear shorter
May 14, 2008

Fun teaser....nice
May 14, 2008

I agree with those who maintain that, technically, the line is not really shorter. Also using the logic of the author, one could say he covered up part of the line, thus making it shorter without erasing any of it.
May 14, 2008

I liked it. I got it. It was good. I don't understand all the fuss. I didn't know we had strict rules on this site...
May 14, 2008

I actually had to register to explain this to some people (even though it was explained at least once before).

Shorter is a relative term. He simply made it shorter relative to anything else. Everyone assumes that he had to make then line shorter than it's original self (i.e. shortened).
May 14, 2008

Cold he not simply make the existing line longer and thereby making the emperors orginal lie shorter.
May 14, 2008

I agree with Roumani... shorter, not shortened! Well said
May 14, 2008

This teaser sucked The answer is wrong, and some of it makes no sense (why would you say "the emperor had FINALLY outsmarted Birbal" when Birbal is a jester/fool and therefore should always be outsmarted). Who edits these things?
May 14, 2008

My solution was to move furniture over it and hide it (or move the walls closer) to make it shorter.
May 14, 2008

I agree with those that do not like the answer....
the emperor clearly said "you must make this line shorter" he did not say "you must make this line appear shorter"

So, by adding a longer line, he did not make the first line shorter. The length of the line is not relative to the length of any surrounding lines.

I'm 5'10", putting me next to a 6'5" guy does not make me shorter, as my height is not determined due to the height of whomever is next to me
May 14, 2008

I think this teaser has more to do with language than math. Inother words "Make the line shorter" is sort of a play on words. We would usually think of it as litterally shortining the line itself. But with the other slant on the meaning, suing the word "shorter" as a comparative adjective, the answer in quite logical. I liked this teaser.
Many riddles are based on different meanings of words, and creative thinking is to look at seemingly obvious things in a different way.
May 14, 2008

Sorry about all the typo's. I am watching American Idol at the same time and clicked on the "Add" button without proofreading!
May 14, 2008

Jayjay: putting you next to a taller guy would not change your hight, but you would be shorter than the other person...and in that sense you are shorter.(also: the shorter of the two). It's that difference between shorter and shortened that several people mentioned before.

Nice teaser! I really liked it...even if I couldn't get it.
May 14, 2008

May 15, 2008

I actually got this one pretty quickly, as putting a longer line next to the first line would make the first line shorter by comparison. Therefore he made the line shorter.
Very good teaser.
May 15, 2008

I agree with Avanma and Icann. I liked it! I got it!! It was gooood!!!
May 15, 2008

I'm sorry for the typos too. Watching "Jeopardy."
Nov 27, 2009

A predecessor of the "Birbal The Wise" teasers?
May 14, 2011

Birbal the wise?? love it
May 14, 2011

Son of a gun--I got it! Didn't believe I had but I had!
May 18, 2011

I GOT IT! Great puzzle.
May 14, 2014

I agree with all the others who say this is wrong no matter how you try to explain it away. The Emperor does not say make it shorter than something else, he just says make it shorter and making another line longer along side it only makes that line longer, but the original is still the same length. It may look shorter, but shorter it ain't.
May 14, 2014

Great teaser and GREAT comments.

I liked it - even the use of the "abstraction" variant of "shorter" (which got some HILARIOUS responses [mostly wrong]) - so I gave it MAX for fun.

Oh ... Babe, catmom, bestgirl, cutebug ... do not DARE to go read the last three comments on teaser #50305.

(you have been warned)

May 14, 2014

@Babe There are now two lines of different lengths on the floor. Of the two lines, which is shorter? Forget the original length, it's irrelevant and never changes. You can ask any person which line is 'shorter' and they will pick the original line. Therefore the line is shorter.
May 14, 2014

@Jayjay Actually you are shorter. Your actual height doesn't change. But if someone was told to look at you guys and 'point at the shorter person', they would point at you. You are shorter.
May 14, 2014

Simple one. Move on.
May 14, 2014

I agree, jaycr ............

EXCEPT ..... !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

don't ANYBODY leave this thread without taking this "lesson" with them.

Go back up to Jcann for May 14, 2008:

"Many riddles are based on different meanings of words, and creative thinking is to look at seemingly obvious things in a different way."

I learned that as:

"See what you don't see and don't see what you see".

Lesson given. Lesson learned.

Hopefully, for everybody here.

AND THAT, girls & boys, is one reason I "harp" so much on comment, dialogue, more comment, challenge, comment, dialogue, etc., etc.

It's dynamic. It's changing. And it's education.


May 14, 2014

very good one; of course it is correct!
May 14, 2014

Had he stepped on an end it would have been shorter by the width of his foot.
May 14, 2014

Lovely, ZZ ... absolutely lovely !!!

May 14, 2014

Doesn't really work for me - under the logic of the puzzle, one could argue that the line was already "shorter" than any other straight edge / line (they were actually segments not lines but..) line around adding another line doesn't change anything.
May 14, 2014

If you draw a 12 inch line and then a 16 inch line along side of it, the 12 inch line is still 12 inches. It may be shorter than the 16 inch, but it is not shorter than it's original 12 inches.
May 14, 2014

OK, folksies ....

How "short" is "short"?

Go to my #50210 (it's a rebus) and read. I mentioned to the Eds (when it was being considered) that, if approved, it would be among the few "shortest" rebuses EVER EVER EVER !!!!

Now ... you folks tell me ....

Does that "shortest" mean:

length ?

height ?


brevity ?

We await your studied and incisive decisions.

May 16, 2014

@Babe: And if it had explicitly said 'shorter than its original length,' you would have a point. But it didn't, so you don't.
May 15, 2017

I love all the comments from 2014. As I look at it now, nobody wins, but I sure got a big laugh reading them all including my own. Funny, funny!
May 15, 2017

@Babe Not sure what you're talking about. I clearly won.
May 15, 2017

Very easy to solve. Kipah-you only won in your theory. Babe is the biggest winner on this site. Don't argue or pick on her!!!!!
May 15, 2017

::shrug:: I liked it!
May 15, 2017

Oh my gosh! What a day brightener. Thank you cutebug!!
May 16, 2017

This teaser is amazing! Look at the debate it has caused! Well done!

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