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There's unrest in the royal kitchen. The king has lost his mind.

The head chef tells his cooks his one wish: to stop the king from bullying him once and for all.

They conclude that the only way to end the head chef's suffering is to poison the food tonight.

But there's a problem.

The king is smart. He can sense the unrest, and so insists on two servings of identical food. He will pick one, and the head chef must eat the other at the same time.

They only have enough poison for one dish, and have no antidote.

The head chef assures his cooks that he has a surefire plan that will guarantee his wish comes true.

What is the head chef's plan?

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closed as too broad by Engineer Toast, JMP, Beastly Gerbil, Rand al'Thor, Alconja Dec 11 '17 at 22:11

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ How much poison is required to kill the chef? $\endgroup$ – Napoleon of Puzzling Dec 10 '17 at 13:24
  • $\begingroup$ @NapoleonofPuzzling They only have enough poison for one dish $\endgroup$ – rybo111 Dec 10 '17 at 13:38
  • $\begingroup$ No I meant whether all the poison is required to kill the chef and he can survive if given less than that. $\endgroup$ – Napoleon of Puzzling Dec 10 '17 at 13:53
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    $\begingroup$ He hired Jaime Lannister so they no longer need the poison? $\endgroup$ – TheLethalCipher Dec 11 '17 at 11:11
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    $\begingroup$ Most people, if they dislike their boss this much, just quit their job. $\endgroup$ – CactusCake Dec 11 '17 at 21:58

12 Answers 12

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The answer is:

It doesn't matter which dish he poisons. Either the chef dies or the king dies; in both cases the chef's wish will have come true.

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    $\begingroup$ I might go even further than that. If this is along the right lines, the chef simply takes the poison in their own food without even presenting the food to the king. That’s a surefire plan, after all. $\endgroup$ – Obie 2.0 Dec 11 '17 at 7:38
  • $\begingroup$ Agreed, "the only way to end the head chef's suffering" doesn't specifically suggest they need to kill the king. $\endgroup$ – InfernalRapture Dec 11 '17 at 23:02
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The Chef should:

Poison neither. When the food is eaten the head chef should collapse and choke, faking his own death. The kitchen staff should then spirit away the "body" with all haste. Having survived the assassination attempt and dispatched the disloyal chef, the king can now return to eating normally, leaving the chef free to poison the kings next meal.

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  • $\begingroup$ +1 for a different answer, but the only way to end the head chef's suffering is to poison the food $\endgroup$ – rybo111 Dec 10 '17 at 22:20
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    $\begingroup$ The chef is poisoning the food, just not the food the king is expecting to be poisoned $\endgroup$ – jcuk Dec 10 '17 at 23:57
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    $\begingroup$ 100% agree with @jcuk - this is a lateral-thinking puzzle, and this solution is, well, as lateral as you may ever want. $\endgroup$ – vaxquis Dec 11 '17 at 0:48
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    $\begingroup$ Except, if the king continues to have 2 dish delivery for the next meal. The king would continue the practice as his next chief could also be up to no good. Then your back where you started because you only have 1 unit of poison and 2 servings of food. $\endgroup$ – cybernard Dec 11 '17 at 16:34
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    $\begingroup$ @rybo111 ah, but in all the commotion of spiriting away the chef's body, while the king is flipping out and proclaiming justification for his paranoia, another servant slips in and slips the poison into the king's (half-eaten) dish while he's distracted! Since the king thinks the poisoned food has safely been determined and taken away, he will sit down and resume his meal, and consume the poison! Even better, slip it into his drink. After all the ranting, the king will undoubtedly be thirsty even if he's lost his appetite -- a swig or two of poisoned wine will put him out of everyone's misery! $\endgroup$ – Doktor J Dec 11 '17 at 18:35
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I'm reminded of this story which I think provides an interesting solution.

The chef can:

prepare a dish which must be sliced in half in order to produce two identical serves. The chef applies the poison to one side of the knife, so that when the king chooses his half, the chef slices it with the poison touching that side only.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is something similar to what i posted yesterday about both the king and chef getting equal servings of the same dish and i got criticised pretty heavily for it... I dont get this site sometimes. $\endgroup$ – Master Yoda Dec 12 '17 at 9:36
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He will put the poison in the salt.

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    $\begingroup$ A good guess, but it has to be a surefire plan that will guarantee his wish comes true - you can't guarantee the king would use salt. $\endgroup$ – rybo111 Dec 10 '17 at 22:43
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    $\begingroup$ The chef could apply poison to the cutlery, and hand the poisoned pair to the king, after he has chosen his dinner. Dunno if this "surefire" though. $\endgroup$ – Tom K. Dec 11 '17 at 8:19
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Instead of poisoning the king’s dish, the chef will poison his drink.

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The chef could...

...coat the king's eating utensils in the poison. That way it doesn't matter what plate of food the king chooses!

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Use the king's madness against him!

Use deception to ensure the king takes the poisoned dish. Poison one dish, then, if the king takes the wrong dish, have a servant ready to "stealthily" slip in and "poison" the king's dish. The chef would then exclaim, "Sire! That wretched servant just poisoned your food!"

Of course the king would have the servant dragged forward, empty poison bottle in hand, and the king would force the servant to eat the "poisoned" food. The servant would naturally be hesitant and terrified, and perhaps have to be force-fed the food (or perhaps make a defiant shout of "at least in death I shall be free from the tyrant!" before gobbling it down), after which they'd put on a spectacular show of choking and collapsing.

Lastly, the chef would offer his "unpoisoned" plate to the king (which we know is actually the poisoned one), the king would eat it, and shortly thereafter the halls would echo with joyous shouts of "THE KING IS DEAD! LONG LIVE THE KING!"

If the chef poisons only one item of the dish, he could perhaps even wait until they start eating to begin the act. He would of course dig into an un-poisoned part of the dish (thus demonstrating that it's "safe"), prior to the poisoning act and offering the remainder of his plate (including the poisoned portion) to the king. If he wants to be really clever, he could poison a part of one portion, and carefully begin eating the other part of the portion, so the king would feel assured that at least that item is safe.

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    $\begingroup$ I think you meant to say: "THE KING IS DEAD! SHORT LIVE THE KING!". $\endgroup$ – ibrahim mahrir Dec 12 '17 at 0:39
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    $\begingroup$ Heh, usually that line was used to announce the death of the king, and a proclamation of long life for the successor (who hopefully won't go mad!) ;) $\endgroup$ – Doktor J Dec 12 '17 at 6:27
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Put the poison...

... on the lip/spout of the wine decanter. Naturally the king will be served his wine first, and when the first goblet of wine is poured for the king it will be poisoned. As the second and subsequent goblets are poured, the poison will have already been rinsed off the decanter from the first pouring so it will be safe for everyone else and the king will be none the wiser because everyone was served the same wine. The chef can even offer a toast to the king and take the first sip, assuring the king that the wine they are all drinking is safe!

EDIT:

just make sure the poison is viscous enough that it doesn't dribble into the decanter and become too diluted (or risk poisoning the chef or others)! A chef will of course have access to plenty of thickening agents for this task; a water-soluble one would be appropriate here.

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He won't poison either dish. This way the king will know that the chefs still have the poison, and will be forced to stop bullying the head chef for fear that any one of them might someday poison him when he lets his guard down.

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    $\begingroup$ The king doesn't know that the chef has the poison... $\endgroup$ – Assafi Cohen-Arazi Dec 11 '17 at 4:41
  • $\begingroup$ The chief could announce he has the poison to the King, but a smart King would just say "Off with his head" and the poison would go unused. $\endgroup$ – cybernard Dec 11 '17 at 16:42
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My answer is:

Serve soup chilled with poisoned ice. The chef could gulp down his soup quickly and the King would be poisoned if he eats the soup more slowly as the ice melts.

I'm not 100% on this answer because:

The King is not guaranteed to finish the soup slowly, although he may be discouraged from eating it quickly if the soup is cold enough. Also, the question indicates there is only enough poison for one meal so there may not be enough poison for this plan.

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Multi factor poisons exist. You can't die from any single component, but combine them and then you die.

You can safely consume the food, because its only 1 factor. The silverware, and the wine suggested by others would be excellent targets for the 2nd and/or 3rd factor.

Obviously having 3 factors introduces some chance of failure, but you can use them more liberally as no single ingredient will cause death.


I would suggest something far more devious. This requires knowledge of the kings habits, but his personal chief would know these. First add as much salt as you can without destroying the taste of the food. Even add small amount of salt to the wine if you can. Server as many foods as possible to make him thirst all the time.

Fact: The human body can only handle about 5 gallons of fluid. At least 2 of those are your own blood.

Have a drinking contest with the King and his buddies. Get the King drinking and keep him drinking. The more drunk he is the more you can get him to drink. He will drown himself to death internally, and the salt will help force the body to retain the water,wine, or etc.

Have a potato in your pocket to absorb the salt out of your wine. Additional, try to spill more without being totally obvious about it.

After everyone is drunk into a stupor(or passed out on the floor), and then you can just give the posion to him in his wine.

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The chef will not

Poison either of the identical plates - he doesn't like those odds
Poison someone else: He would probably be blamed and killed

But what he could do is...

poison food that's not for today, without telling the king what's poisoned, (could be something in the pantry, or even some growth), and tell the king that over dinner.

The king, who's a bit mad, we're told, will rather treat the chef nicely from now on than risk eating poisoned food by mistake sometime in the future, thus achieving the chef's goal of not being bullied, neither fired or killed, given that only with him as head chef and eating dinner with him every day can the king be sure he's not poisoned.

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