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“You know these little devils?

Only a few inches tall and slender. Billions of them- everywhere. Homes, offices, restaurants, airports even airplanes.” Said Grandpa sipping on his masala chai.

“They just lie there until called for duty! And guess what? Their job hardly lasts for a few seconds and that is it! They don’t hang around. They are done for good.”

“But I must say they do a good job. Work in harsh environments. Very hot or cold. They unite diverse groups and bring harmony. The result of their work can be very pleasing”.

Grandpa went back to his tea and newspaper.

I started thinking. Couldn’t be hard, could it?

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    $\begingroup$ why was this closed as off-topic? we don't know the answer yet $\endgroup$ – JonM Aug 17 '20 at 16:24
  • $\begingroup$ I voted to reopen because I think many if not all of the speculative answers are invalidated by parts of the question $\endgroup$ – Jay Aug 18 '20 at 2:11
  • $\begingroup$ @JonM This wasn't closed for being purely 'off topic' (it is a puzzle after all), more that it invites speculative answers which cannot be demonstrably proved wrong. In fact it attracted 10 answers (a very large number for PSE) in a short space of time, many of which could feasibly be argued to match all of the given hints correctly. With this many possibilities the puzzle really needs something added to it to help narrow down the answer further before it is reopened, otherwise this problem persists. $\endgroup$ – Stiv Aug 18 '20 at 12:09
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    $\begingroup$ It is interesting to note that MANY puzzles on this site get more than 5 answers. Riley's puzzle "My Prefix is food, suffix not good" got 8 completely different answers yet, rightfully, continued. I think we need consistent rule application. @Stiv $\endgroup$ – DrD Aug 18 '20 at 12:27
  • $\begingroup$ @DEEM Consistency is important, agreed, and I always aim to make my VTC decisions fairly and consistently because of that. Re your specific example, that question only actually attracted 3 answers in its first day after posting (2 more within the week, the other 3 much later). But 10 in a day, many of them very plausible, is an alarm bell! Much of this is due to luck - if the first poster had given the correct answer this probably wouldn't have happened, but a string of wrong guesses (3 of which I have personally upvoted, thinking them close fits) has brought this about... $\endgroup$ – Stiv Aug 18 '20 at 13:02

10 Answers 10

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Sounds like

sugar and sweetener packets.

They're

used in hot and cold drinks; they unite molecules by dissolving; and the rest of the description fits, too.

Plus,

the description of tea-drinking is probably meant as a hint.

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    $\begingroup$ Most sugar packets are rectangular and not tall. Although some are. Not sure what you mean by unite molecules. There is another solution. $\endgroup$ – DrD Aug 16 '20 at 17:03
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    $\begingroup$ @DEEM "Most sugar packets are rectangular and not tall" - has not been my experience. Probably regional $\endgroup$ – Andrew Savinykh Aug 16 '20 at 23:11
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    $\begingroup$ Also, their job is to hold sugar. They do so for a long time, from the factory until they're torn open. $\endgroup$ – Olivier Grégoire Aug 17 '20 at 12:21
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Since it is not

sugar sticks

Then perhaps it is

plastic muddlers, the things for stirring your sugar into your tea, etc.

They don’t hang around. They are done for good.

No-one wants a used muddler, although these days single-use plastic is going out of fashion.

Work in harsh environments. Very hot or cold.

You can stir stuff into hot drinks or iced drinks

They unite diverse groups and bring harmony.

They can blend liquid coffee and solid sugar, or hot water and instant coffee grounds, black coffee and white milk, etc.

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    $\begingroup$ do people have these in their homes? I'd just use a spoon. $\endgroup$ – rtaft Aug 17 '20 at 13:40
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Is it

a string?

Or more specifically

a teabag string

Only a few inches tall and slender.

Strings are quite slender and comparatively tall to their width.

Billions of them- everywhere. Homes, offices, restaurants, airports even airplanes

Strings are pretty ubiquitous

“They just lie there until called for duty! And guess what? Their job hardly lasts for a few seconds and that is it! They don’t hang around. They are done for good.”

Strings are pretty inanimate unless they are used. Teabag strings in particular don't do anything until you need to take the teabag out. And you likely wouldn't use them again.

“But I must say they do a good job. Work in harsh environments. Very hot or cold. They unite diverse groups and bring harmony. The result of their work can be very pleasing”.

They are used in hot tea, cold tea, used to tie people/things together(?!) and used in harmonious stringed instruments. Stringed instruments are pleasing to hear!

Also

Grandpa is drinking masala chai: Often made with teabags that have strings attached.

Language used like: Hang around

Absolutely a reach but the first letter of the first two paragraphs are yo as in yo-yo. And the second two are TB as in the string test used for TB diagnosis.

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    $\begingroup$ Most convincing answer yet $\endgroup$ – Jay Aug 17 '20 at 13:29
  • $\begingroup$ I can get three or four cups out of one teabag... $\endgroup$ – Ken Y-N Aug 18 '20 at 0:53
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Sounds like a

match (the things you use to light candles)

They're

tall and slender. It's hard to use a match more than once (hence they are done). Matches are everywhere (skeptical about planes though...). Also, the result is very pleasing sometimes (candles are pleasing).

'unite diverse groups'

The Olympics torch unites diverse groups under a common athletic competition.

'work in harsh environments'

People use matches when starting campfires, even if it's below freezing outside or sweltering hot outside.

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    $\begingroup$ Try lighting a match in an airplane and see how pleased everyone around you is... $\endgroup$ – Darrel Hoffman Aug 17 '20 at 13:31
  • $\begingroup$ Yep, although I would expect that the flight crew has a pack of matches... $\endgroup$ – PerpetualCreativity Aug 17 '20 at 19:33
1
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Is the answer

Toilet Paper Roll

Only a few inches tall and slender.

Each roll is hardly 6 inch tall. Slender is somewhat subjective.

Billions of them - everywhere. Homes, offices, restaurants, airports even airplanes

You find them everywhere (even airplanes).

They just lie there until called for duty!

They keep hanging until someone uses them

Their job hardly lasts for a few seconds and that is it! They don’t hang around. They are done for good

Self explanatory

But I must say they do a good job. Work in harsh environments. Very hot or very cold

Desert or poles, it works equally well everywhere

They unite diverse groups and bring harmony

Erm... same roll may be used by everyone irrespective of race or color.

The result of their work can be very pleasing

Self explanatory

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Could be

Cinnamon Sticks

Only a few inches tall and slender. Billions of them- everywhere. Homes, offices, restaurants, airports even airplanes.” Said Grandpa sipping on his masala chai.

Cinnamon Sticks are short and slender, Used as an added flavor to chai and other drinks.

“They just lie there until called for duty! And guess what? Their job hardly lasts for a few seconds and that is it! They don’t hang around. They are done for good.”

They are usually thrown out when the drink is finished. However, I'm not sure as to how long their flavor actually lasts.

“But I must say they do a good job. Work in harsh environments. Very hot or cold. They unite diverse groups and bring harmony. The result of their work can be very pleasing”.

Could be used in hot or cold drinks, and are used in many different cultures, I'm assuming for desirable and pleasing purposes.

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Sounds like a

paper napkin

They don’t hang around. They are done for good.

You don't tend to reuse them.

They unite diverse groups and bring harmony.

Cleans up a mess.

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  • $\begingroup$ Hello @DHa. Welcome. Please note the answer needs to be "Tall and Slender" $\endgroup$ – DrD Aug 18 '20 at 13:45
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Could they be

moist towelettes ?

Only a few inches tall and slender.

when they arrive rolled in their packets, they are fairly tall and slender

Billions of them- everywhere. Homes, offices, restaurants, airports even airplanes.

they're pretty common in public places

They just lie there until called for duty!

I mean what else are they gonna do ?

And guess what? Their job hardly lasts for a few seconds and that is it! They don’t hang around. They are done for good.

It doesn't take long to wash your hands

But I must say they do a good job. Work in harsh environments. Very hot or cold. They unite diverse groups and bring harmony. The result of their work can be very pleasing

They can either come cool or hot, and it can be really pleasant in very hot/cold days to cool/warm your hands

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Another possible answer

Cotton swabs (cotton buds)

Only a few inches tall and slender. Billions of them- everywhere. Homes, offices, restaurants, airports even airplanes.

These all fit the description for cotton buds. Often used for applying make-up or cleaning the ear canal so will appear everywhere.

They just lie there until called for duty! And guess what? Their job hardly lasts for a few seconds and that is it! They don’t hang around. They are done for good.

They are disposable and using them only lasts for a few seconds.

But I must say they do a good job. Work in harsh environments. Very hot or cold.

They are multi-purpose and are often used in first aid because of their versatility.

They unite diverse groups and bring harmony.

This might be a reference to environmental concerns about marine pollution (they unite diverse groups against their use).

The result of their work can be very pleasing.

Cotton buds are often used in arts and crafts and in make-up application, as stated before.

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My guess is

Glow sticks

Only a few inches tall and slender. Billions of them- everywhere. Homes, offices, restaurants, airports even airplanes.

Glow sticks frequently appear in survival kits, which (depending on location) may be as widespread as to appear in restaurants. Billions is probably an overestimate though.

They just lie there until called for duty! And guess what? Their job hardly lasts for a few seconds and that is it! They don’t hang around. They are done for good.

Until activated, nothing much interesting happens. Although they do last longer than "a few seconds", they don't last an extremely long time. They also can't be "reset", and so are done for good.

But I must say they do a good job. Work in harsh environments. Very hot or cold.

Regarding harsh environments and good job, see above point about survival kits. I'm not sure about temperature ranges (very hot or cold is rather subjective).

They unite diverse groups and bring harmony.

Not sure but they do often appear at parties and such, and I'm fairly sure diverse groups would unify in a survival situation.

The result of their work can be very pleasing.

Who doesn't like looking at the pretty colours?

Edit: Could also be

Batteries

Although

These can last significantly longer than a few seconds, and some can be recharged. Also somewhat shorter than "a few inches".

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