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The king had a mutant rat problem in his kingdom, so he ordered 3 young men to go down under the depth of the ground to find the cause. The 3 young men jumped down the hole, and followed the tunnel. After hours of walking, they met an intersection. There were 4 paths at this intersection. The king had told them before they left that there would be at least 1 safe path.

One by one the soldiers went down a tunnel. The first one went... The other two heard a scream! Certain death met them there. The second went down the second path. Scream! Then the last knew for certain exactly which path was safe. He soon found the source of the problem, and reported it to the king.

How did the young soldier know which path to take?

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  • $\begingroup$ I made this riddle myself, so feel free to tell me if you liked/enjoyed it! $\endgroup$ – warspyking Oct 3 '14 at 21:22
  • $\begingroup$ It's not very hard, but it does require a bit of diagonal thought, so it's appropriate for quick riddles certainly. $\endgroup$ – Joe Oct 3 '14 at 21:47
  • $\begingroup$ "The king had told them before they left that there would be at least 1 safe path." Maybe this should clarify that it means 1 safe path to their ultimate destination $\endgroup$ – Ben Aaronson Oct 3 '14 at 23:12
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There were 4 paths at the intersection: A, the one they came from, B and C, the two tested, and D, the remaining path. D is safe.

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    $\begingroup$ Exactly! Great job! Did you enjoy the riddle? $\endgroup$ – warspyking Oct 3 '14 at 23:21
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The path they first came from is the safe one.

edit The third path may or may not be safe. They are tasked with finding the cause of the problem in his kingdom. They path they come from is safe because they crossed it entirely - fufilling the "ate least one safe path" premisse. Plus they must meet the problem, the origin of the mutant rats. So the safe path being the third choice does not help them.

For the third we cannot be sure. The final young man may or may not have gone through that third path and found it to be safe or not. All we know for sure is that he came back and reported that - at least - path 1 and 2 have the problem.

I think some more careful wording is in order, but good job on conceptualization of a problem :)

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  • $\begingroup$ This makes the most sense of all the answers to me. Joe's answer assumes the first path is to be counted among the 4, this answer goes further to assume it will also be counted among the "safe paths". +1 $\endgroup$ – DiscOH Oct 3 '14 at 23:17
  • $\begingroup$ Before looking at the answers, I came up with @Joe's, discounted it, then decided on this. +1 from me as well. $\endgroup$ – Joel Rondeau Oct 3 '14 at 23:43
  • $\begingroup$ I think the more important realisation here is that the king couldn't know a path would be safe without knowing the problem, meaning he's plotting to build an army of mutant rats to facilitate his reign of terror! How dastardly... $\endgroup$ – Joe Oct 4 '14 at 9:45
  • $\begingroup$ This was a good guess, but by 1 safe path, it meant from the beginning to the end of the tunnels. Obviously the men didn't want to die so they took the safe path, which couldn't be backwards, as it started backwards. $\endgroup$ – warspyking Oct 4 '14 at 10:55
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I propose a second answer by picking apart your words:

One by one the soldiers went down a tunnel. The first one went... The other two heard a scream! Certain death met them there. The second went down the second path. Scream.

"The other two" could be referring to the other two tunnels, not the other two soldiers, and "heard" can mean that the tunnel both acted as the source of, and heard, the screams.

With two tunnels producing a scream, those are both unsafe. Let's assume they dropped down to the four paths from above, so there are two paths remaining. "Scream" means only one scream. Now there's only one path that hasn't made (and heard) a scream. That's the safe path!

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  • $\begingroup$ That was a good guess, however the other two heard a scream, I think it's more likely for the solders to hear a scream, not the tunnels. $\endgroup$ – warspyking Oct 5 '14 at 12:12

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