Hat Trick on

Published in Brain Teasers

The Situation:
There is an island with 10 inhabitants. One day a monster comes and says that he intends to eat every one of them but will give them a chance to survive in the following way:

In the morning, the monster will line up all the people - single file so that the last person sees the remaining 9, the next person sees the remaining 8, and so on until the first person that obviously sees no one in front of himself. The monster will then place black or white hats on their heads randomly (they can be all white, all black or any combination thereof).

The monster will offer each person starting with the last one (who sees everyone else's hats) to guess the color of his/her own hat. The answer can only be one word: "white" or "black". The monster will eat him on the spot if he guessed wrong, and will leave him alive if he guessed right. All the remaining people will hear both the guess and the outcome of the guess. The monster will then go on to the next to last person (who only sees 8 people), and so on until the end.

The monster gives them the whole night to think.

The Task:
Devise the optimal strategy that these poor natives could use to maximize their survival rate.

1) All the 10 people can easily understand your strategy, and will execute it with perfect precision.
2) If the monster suspects that any of the people are giving away information to any of the remaining team members by intonation of words when answering, or any other signs, or by touch, he will eat everyone.
3) The only allowed response is a short, unemotional "white" or "black".
4) Having said that, I will add that you can put any value you like into each of these words. For example, "white" can mean "my mother did my laundry" and "black" can mean the guy in front of me is wearing a black hat.


The first guy to guess (guy #10) will be the only one to assume the following value for the words "white" and "black": The answer "black" will mean that there are an odd number of black hats that he sees. The answer "white" will mean that there are an odd number of white hats that he sees. This way one by one all the other 9 people will know the color of their hats.

Let us say that guy #10 (first to speak, and sees the hats of the remaining 9) says "white". That should mean to everybody else that he sees an odd number of white hats. At this time guy #9 will either be wearing a white or a black hat. If he is wearing a white hat he will only see an even number of white hats, and since guy #10 said that there is and odd number of white hats, guy #9 will know that he is wearing white and will say it. But if guy #9 is wearing a black hat, he will see an odd number of white hats (just like #10 did), and thus will know that he is wearing a black hat and will say it. No matter what #9 answers, guy #8 (who heard guy #10 and guy #9) can now easily incorporate the color of hat on guy #9 into the original answer of guy #10. This will allow #8 to know if he should see an odd or even number of white hats in front of him to determine his own hat color. The same thing repeats with #7-1. And they all get it right ... except, of course, #10, who only has a 50-50 chance of survival.


Today's brain teaser courtesy of



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