Puzzle: The Lonely Barber

One of the great things about Car Talk on NPR is the Weekly Puzzler. Sometimes they’re car puzzles, sometimes they’re math/logic puzzles, and sometimes they’re just straight-up riddles. I was intrigued by this week’s:

One Horse, NV has one barber in the whole town. For some reason, one of the laws in the town is that every man in town must be clean-shaven. Further, every man either must shave himself or be shaven by the barber, and the barber may only shave those that don’t shave themselves. So, the question is: who shaves the barber?

I think I have an answer, but I don’t know if I’m making it overly difficult for myself. In any case, we’ll find out the answer on tomorrow’s program.

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6 Responses to Puzzle: The Lonely Barber

  1. brianbunton says:

    I emailed a friend, and he came up with what is probably the right answer, which was different from mine. I wonder if any of you will come up with my answer.

  2. bmarts says:

    I’m fairly certain that I know the “right” answer. I may have heard this riddle or one very similar to it before.

    In any case, I’ll give a “wrong” answer that never the less satisfies the puzzle. Let me know if it is similar to your idea.

    The barber job can rotate on a daily basis. Each day, the barber shaves all the men in the town. Once he has shaved all the men in town, he resigns as barber, passing the job on to the last man he shaved. This man then immediately shaves the previous barber and continues shaving the men until he has finished shaving each man in town the next day, passing the job on to the last man he shaves.

  3. bmarts says:

    When do the car talk guys come on? Is it too early for a SPOILER??
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    This is a classic gender stereotype riddle. There are similar riddles with female doctors and Indians. For whatever reasons, an image of a man comes to mind with these words. Maybe Tina can tell us more about that. In any case, the shaving problems of this town are all handled nicely by it’s female barber.

    It may be entertaining to try to solve the riddle without a female barber as I attempted to do above (and I think Brian did as well). For example, a child barber may be another solution … if you trust a kid with a blade.

  4. brianbunton says:

    That’s right. My hint was going to be “Tina would probably get this in a second”. Here’s the official answer. Relatedly, there’s a logical paradox called The Barber Paradox that is this exact problem, but with a male barber.
    (My answer was that he went to another town to get shaved.)

  5. bmarts says:

    I thought going to another town wouldn’t satisfy the puzzle. “One Horse, NV has one barber… every man either must shave himself or be shaven by the barber.” The barber going to another town would neither shave himself nor be shaved by the barber.

  6. Nick says:

    The Barber is a WOMAN

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