"Here is a fascinating game of wits for a party of any size."
December 16, 2015 9:54 PM   Subscribe

Minute Mysteries (1932) by H. A. Ripley is a recent addition to Project Gutenberg: "In these accounts every fact, every clue necessary to the solution is given ... Each problem has only one possible solution. Written in less than two hundred and sixty words, these little stories can be read in a minute. Here is your chance to work on an absolute equality with the Professor; to match your wits with his and the criminal's. You know as much as the Professor does. Now you have an opportunity of proving just how good a detective you are and what poor detectives your friends are."

Harold Austin "Rip" Ripley also wrote a lengthy series of "Photocrime" brain teasers for Look magazine, illustrated with photos sometimes of famous actors (such as those listed here) or sometimes taken by Stanley Kubrick. The feature eventually inspired a 1949 TV show (IMDb; still photo of the show in production) that gave rise to 1989's Hannibal Cobb segment on The Comedy Channel.

More about the author: Previously: Jed's List of Situation Puzzles; A man goes into a restaurant, orders albatross, eats one bite, ...; comment on Donald J. Sobol's Two-Minute Mysteries; and The 10 Most Ridiculously Difficult Encyclopedia Brown Mysteries.
posted by Wobbuffet (30 comments total) 104 users marked this as a favorite
 
Say, a body might need a puzzle or two for an end of the year party and these two minute mysteries look like they might fit the bill. Where would a person click to narrow it down, so to say? If one was, or is it "were," so inclined?
posted by notyou at 10:20 PM on December 16, 2015


I've not seen these, but I loved this genre as a kid. I remember books from the library in the UK (but I'm not sure what country the books were from, they were in English.) with puzzle stories like these but which were written more like a regular story and they were a few pages long (definitely not less than 260 words!). Definitely not by H.A. Ripley though I'm sure his are very good.
I can't remember the titles of the books or their series and don't know what to call the genre, so I didn't know what to google when I tried to search for them online.
posted by Bwithh at 10:27 PM on December 16, 2015


I remember liking these; had no idea they were old enough to slip into public domain. I did prefer the much later, more involved Dennis Wheatley series of mysteries with feelies. There was also the Inspector Black series which used a lot of photographs and was about spotting a telling clue in one of the pictures.
posted by juv3nal at 10:32 PM on December 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


These are interesting, but they're grown up Encyclopedia Brown mysteries. You hunt for the one incongruity and that proves the perpetrators crime. While these are fun, they bother me more now because so many sound like innocent faults in memory that would quickly have the cops at the station beating a confession out of you.

So yeah, still fun, but now tainted, unfortunately.
posted by Hactar at 10:35 PM on December 16, 2015 [10 favorites]


My brother and I found a paperback of Minute Mysteries at our grandparents' house, and read them so often the book fell apart. Then we had to make up our own puzzler stories about Professor Fordney, which were even more contrived.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 10:44 PM on December 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Now you have an opportunity of proving just how good a detective you are and what poor detectives your friends are.

What if I don't hate my friends?
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:11 PM on December 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


Charming, though some of the solutions have aged better than others. The solution to mystery #12:

The student readily recognized the absurdity of the Professor’s story which he had given to his class to test their quick detection of a glaring inconsistency. If it must be explained, an orchestra under personal leadership does not play during the showing of a ‘talkie.’ Right?

...Right.
posted by ZaphodB at 11:13 PM on December 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


If these short solve-'ems are your cup of tea, Isaac Asimov wrote several collections in the genre, his Black Widower's Club and Union club series.
posted by Svejk at 12:25 AM on December 17, 2015 [7 favorites]


Had Johnson would his watch immediately before 2am Friday, the time of his alleged kidnaping, it would not have been running Sunday afternoon when he recovered consciousness and said he heard it ticking.

No standard-make watch will run sixty hours without winding.
History: getting back at us.
posted by Thella at 1:14 AM on December 17, 2015 [5 favorites]


Are they my-newt (tiny) mysteries, or mihn-uht mysterise (ones that may be solved speedily)?
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:18 AM on December 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


If you don't know the correct pronunciation then you are clearly the murderer.
posted by Phssthpok at 1:30 AM on December 17, 2015 [32 favorites]


Nice try, Phssthpok, but since it's obvious that Joe in Australia did not read the author's preface in which he says, Written in less than two hundred and sixty words, these little stories can be read in a minute, and the real murderer, being wily enough to escape detection thus far, would certainly not have overlooked such an obvious clue, and furthermore, since you so rapidly put yourself forward to misdirect attention and deflect suspicion from one in our midst well known for both his facility and propensity for exterminating humans, I handily deduce that the murderer is none other than you yourself!
posted by taz at 4:25 AM on December 17, 2015 [17 favorites]


Hactar, any reason you can't just suspend your disbelief enjoy them as puzzles?
posted by DrLickies at 5:50 AM on December 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


Charming, though some of the solutions have aged better than others.

I was thinking the same thing, but from the opposite direction; story two has the alcohol coming from the cop's radiator, and I was like, "well, obviously, there's the discrepancy, there's no alcohol in radiators." But then I got worried that maybe back in 1932, they did have alcohol in radiators? I mean, it sounds dangerous as fuck here in 2015, but this is the same generation that used to stuff boys into phone booths with raccoon coats and goldfish in their mouths until one of them became a ghost powerful enough to hold a seance with
posted by Greg Nog at 6:03 AM on December 17, 2015 [15 favorites]


Are they my-newt (tiny) mysteries, or mihn-uht mysterise (ones that may be solved speedily)?

They're Manute Mysteries, which is to say mysteries investigated by the late NBA superstar Manute Bol, whose powers of ratiocination were even more impressive than his 7'6" stature.
posted by Strange Interlude at 6:23 AM on December 17, 2015 [9 favorites]


I want something like this for long car rides or small cocktail parties, but yeah, the historical idiosyncrasies make them frustratingly unsolvable. Why didn't his wife just call his cell phone? J'accuse!

Neat post, though. This is new to me.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 6:26 AM on December 17, 2015


Are they my-newt (tiny) mysteries, or mihn-uht mysterise (ones that may be solved speedily)?

Strange Interlude: They're Manute Mysteries...

And if you enjoyed those, then definitely don't miss the Malamute Mysteries, which were sixty-second cross-overs with Scooby Doo!
posted by wenestvedt at 6:41 AM on December 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


No one enjoyed the Marmite Mysteries. Fewer than 12 copies were actively spread across the UK.
posted by komara at 7:06 AM on December 17, 2015 [7 favorites]


"‘What’ll I do, Professor,’ implored Vi Cargo, as Fordney examined the ground beneath her bedroom window."

I don't think there's much mystery there.
posted by sneebler at 7:21 AM on December 17, 2015


I imagine that fisticuffs broke out in many a parlor after some boor cast aspersions regarding the detective skills of their chums.
posted by dr_dank at 7:28 AM on December 17, 2015 [8 favorites]


The one that always bothered me was when the really tall guy was obviously the one who committed the hit-and-run because he "slid comfortably" behind the wheel of the car, even though he'd claimed his really short wife had driven the car last, because if she had, he wouldn't have been able to get in the car.

It bothers me because after I drive my husband's car I always put the seat back to where he had it, and now it means I could be framing him for murder.
posted by Lucinda at 8:28 AM on December 17, 2015 [13 favorites]


Ooh, loved these as a kid, but read them enough back then that I still remember the answers. Fun times.
posted by Blackanvil at 8:56 AM on December 17, 2015


I loved the Encycopedia Brown stories as a kid. Mostly because you could read one in the back of the bus in 5 minutes and write that book report you forgot to do last night.
posted by JoeZydeco at 9:47 AM on December 17, 2015


Greg Nog: ", "well, obviously, there's the discrepancy, there's no alcohol in radiators." But then I got worried that maybe back in 1932, they did have alcohol in radiators? "

Yes, regular alcohol was used as an antifreeze in cars before the invention of ethylene gylcol. But you changed it out for water in the summer (and Miami I suppose) because of alcohol's lower boiling point.
posted by Mitheral at 10:16 AM on December 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


Pro Tip: Southerners called it the Battle of Manassas.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:20 AM on December 17, 2015


ZaphodB: The student readily recognized the absurdity of the Professor’s story which he had given to his class to test their quick detection of a glaring inconsistency. If it must be explained, an orchestra under personal leadership does not play during the showing of a ‘talkie.’ Right?

...Right.


See, I would have understood that, if I'd thought about it - they had live music during silent movies, but obviously wouldn't during a movie with sound ('talkie'). But I read that puzzle over and again, and I can't work out how you could tell from the description that it was a 'talkie' not a silent 'movie'.
posted by Pink Frost at 11:25 AM on December 17, 2015


I think it's because of the film that was showing in the story: "Grand Hotel has proven influential in the years since its original release. The line "I want to be alone", famously delivered by Greta Garbo, placed number 30 in AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes. "
posted by taz at 12:16 PM on December 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


Ah, of course taz. I didn't bother looking up the film title, just assumed it was made-up for the story.
posted by Pink Frost at 3:15 PM on December 17, 2015


Minute Mysteries relies on cultural references from obsolete technology-- skeuomorphic clues.

In a re-enactment of the generation gap between the machine age and the digital age:

"I loved this book when I was your age!" exclaims the adult and begins to read Amelia Bedelia to the child. The gauche maid interprets instructions literally; hilarity ensues. After a Blank Stare Moment, the child asks, "why is that funny?" Mrs. Rogers told Amelia to "dress the chicken" and Amelia put a tiny suit of clothes on the chicken. The child sympathizes with Amelia, not the bourgeois Mrs Rogers.
posted by ohshenandoah at 6:23 PM on December 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


What if I don't hate my friends?

You'll never make Chief Detective Inspector with that attitude, mister!
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 9:01 PM on December 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


« Older What ever happened to the charity of yesterday?   |   Snow and Seals Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments