A Most Boggling Mind Bender

Many years ago someone gave me the following puzzle. I thought that it seemed fairly easy, and worked out the answer, only to be told I was wrong. Took me the best part of a weekend to work it out in the end. How quickly can you do it?

The Puzzle:

There are 4 people who need to cross a river, using a row boat. The boat can hold at most 2 people, but can also be rowed by one person. There is one seat in the boat, so if two people are in the boat they must sit side by side, each using one oar. Each of the four people row at different speeds, so they must row at the speed of the slowest person. The people can row across in 1, 2, 5 and 10 minutes respectively. What is the shortest time that all 4 people can get across the river in?

For the bloody minded people who instantly say “Just get them to swim across”, assume that the river is chock full of ravenous piranha, and that swimming is a one way trip to being eaten alive. For the bloody minded people who try and fit more than two people in the boat: do that and it will sink, giving the piranha a feast. For anyone suggesting that they should look for a bridge, or build a bridge, or anything like that: there are no bridges, nothing to build bridges from, just row across already dammit…

2 Replies to “A Most Boggling Mind Bender”

  1. 19 min..first you get two people across that is 1&2 min.the slowest is 2 min so you count that 2 min.then you need to come back to get another one.so i would pick the fsatest to get back that is 1min.then grab 5 min then come nack for the 10 min.therefore((2+1+5+1+10=19) hope my analysis is right.

    1. I find it interesting that everyone I know that has tried this puzzle (including me) gets 19 minutes as their first answer. It really does seem to be the best way of solving the puzzle. However, it can be done quicker, it’s just not as obvious how.

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