The Island of Women

Big news: My middle brother Josh got married today!!! This post is dedicated to him and his new wife Mandy.

Josh’s big news got me thinking about an old riddle I heard first in law school, and I figured that now would be an appropriate time to share it. I don’t know the origin of this riddle, and I’m certain that my recollection is not precisely identical to the original form, but it’s still very challenging and, I think, a lot of fun.

Good luck!

There exists a tiny island in the South Pacific where all of the women have a special gift. Each woman, including the ruling queen, has the power to look at any man and know instantly whether he is an adulterer. Any man, that is, except for her own husband. And, of course, everyone on the island is far too polite to tell a woman that her husband is cheating.

One day, the queen called an assembly of the whole island and looked upon all of her subjects. “I see much unfaithfulness among the men of this island. Therefore, I decree that each night, any woman who is certain of her husband’s adultery shall put him to death. In the morning, all will see that judgment.”

For sixteen days and fifteen nights, all was quiet. The women walked the island each day and looked upon all of the men, but every man lived through each night. On the sixteenth night, however, a number of men were executed, and on the seventeenth day the faithful men of the island awoke with their wives to see the judgment.

How many men of the island were adulterers? How did their wives find out?

It’s tricky, but I assure you that there is a logic-based solution and that you have all of the information you need to figure it out. I’ll answer any clarifying questions that are posted in the comments to this post.

The solution is HERE.


Josh and Mandy, I’m so very happy for you. Congratulations on your marriage — may it bring you much happiness and little-to-no adultery and murder.


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