Brain Teaser: A Race at Snail’s Pace

Five friends each named a snail, painted its shell a snazzy racing color and entered it in a grueling race over the grand distance of 13 inches! They needed plenty of patience to get the results; all you need to do is apply a little logic…

Information you need to know:
Using the clues below, identify the name and color given to their snail by each of the five friends, and the position in which each snail finished the race (first to fifth inclusive). If you’ve a pen and paper handy then using the ‘grid’ method might help you to solve the puzzle. Alternatively, answering each question in turn should help you to work out the solution. Be careful with your spelling as well.

The five friends are named Anthony, Molly, Olga, Paul and Tom.
The five snails are named Archie, Escargot, Gandalf, Gary and Sidney.
The colors used on their shells are blue, green, red, white and yellow.

1. Enthusiastic shouts of “Escar-GO!” sadly didn’t propel Escargot to victory, but it did finish ahead of Olga’s snail, which in turn beat the one painted white.
2. Molly’s snail, Gandalf, was not daubed with white paint.
3. Molly, Paul and Tom are responsible for the snails decked out in red, white and blue (but not necessarily in that order).
4. Paul’s snail beat at least three other contenders while Gary was beaten to the finish line by at least three rivals.
5. Archie was painted blue by its owner. Sidney slithered over the line in last place.
6. Snail racing’s environmentally friendly credentials were confirmed when the green snail defeated the yellow one.
7. The runner-up in this epic, exhilarating and almost endless race did not belong to Anthony and was not painted red.

And now the questions begin:

This is a timed quiz. You will be given 60 seconds to answer all questions. Are you ready?


The yellow snail belongs to which contestant?

Correct! Wrong!

Clue 3 notes that Molly, Paul and Tom own the red, white and blue snails, which tells us that the yellow and green snails must belong to Olga and Anthony (although not who owns which color). From question 4 we know that Anthony's snail is called Escargot and clue 1 tells us that Escargot finished ahead of Olga's snail. Clue 6 states that the green snail defeated the yellow one, which means the yellow snail must be Olga's. Snail racing is usually held on a round table covered by a nice damp cloth to emulate the preferred conditions of the entrants, who are typically members of the species Helix aspera - otherwise known as the common garden snail. Entering any species of giant snail would definitely be considered cheating!

Who does Escargot belong to?

Correct! Wrong!

Escargot can't belong to Olga (clue 1) or Molly (clue 2) or be painted white (clue 1). We have already identified that Tom owns the white snail (question 1) and Paul's snail is called Archie (question 3). Therefore Escargot must belong to Anthony. 'Escargot' is French for 'snail' and the term is also used to refer to a dish of cooked snails often served as a starter in French restaurants. Let's hope this fate is not awaiting our brave competitor...

Who does the snail that finished in third place belong to?

Correct! Wrong!

From clue 1 we know that Escargot must have finished in either second or third place (it didn't win and finished ahead of at least two other snails) and from question 4 that Escargot belongs to Anthony. Clue 7 states that Anthony's snail was not the runner-up, so therefore it must have been his snail that finished third. At the 'World Snail Racing Championship' entrants compete over a course of 13 inches. There are no restrictions placed on how each snail negotiates its way from the small starting circle in the center of the table to the wider finishing circle - as long as they slither there under their own power...

Which friend painted their snail white?

Correct! Wrong!

Clue 3 indicates that the white snail must belong to Molly, Paul or Tom. Clue 2 rules out Molly. Clue 1 reveals that the white snail couldn't have placed higher than fourth while clue 4 makes it clear that Paul's snail couldn't have finished lower than second. Therefore the white snail must belong to Tom. The 'World Snail Racing Championship' is held annually in the village of Congham in Norfolk, England. The event often attracts around 200 gastropod entrants and their human trainers. The role of the trainer is however restricted to pointing their snail in the right direction!

Second place went to the snail painted which color?

Correct! Wrong!

Clues 1 and 7 indicate that neither the white nor red snail finished in second place. Anthony's snail that finished third (question 8) must, by elimination (clue 3 and question 7), have been painted green. As the yellow snail finished behind the green one (clue 6), the second placed snail must have been the one with the snazzy blue paint job. Due to the impracticality of accommodating a large number of snails on the course at once, the 'World Snail Racing Championship' consists of numerous heats with the winning snails progressing to the grand final. It truly is a test of nerve and patience!

What is the name of Paul's snail?

Correct! Wrong!

From clue 3 we know that Paul was one of the three friends who had chosen red, white or blue paint for their snail's shell. He must have been the one that chose blue, as it has already been identified that Tom's is white and Molly's is red in questions 1 and 2 respectively. Clue 5 states that the blue snail is called Archie. At the 1995 'World Snail Racing Championship' a snail named Archie broke the 'world record' with an amazing time of 2 minutes. Archie had achieved an average speed of over 0.006 miles per hour, fully justifying the race starter's phrase - "Ready, Steady, Slow!"

What color did Molly choose for her snail's shell?

Correct! Wrong!

Clue 3 states that Molly's snail has been painted red, white or blue. As we already know that the white snail is Tom's, Molly's has to be either red or blue. From clue 2 we know that Molly's snail is called Gandalf and from clue 5 that the blue snail is called Archie. So, Molly's snail has to be the red one. A key factor in running a successful snail race is the identification of the competitors since, frankly, most snails look very much alike (although they probably think the same thing about humans). Common methods include attaching number tags to the shell or painting the snail's number directly onto the shell. Since there are only five competitors in our race, simply painting each snail's shell a different color seems like a reasonable solution.

What was the name of the snail that won the race?

Correct! Wrong!

We know that first place could not have gone to the snail painted white (clue 1), yellow (clue 6), blue (question 9), or green (as this was Anthony's Escargot that finished third as determined by clue 3 and questions 7 and 8). Therefore the winner was painted red, belonged to Molly (question 2), and was named Gandalf (clue 2). Wizard Gandalf the Grey (later Gandalf the White) was a prominent character in J.R.R Tolkien's novels 'The Hobbit' and 'Lord of the Rings'. He should not be confused with Gandalf the Red, the plucky (if not magical) winner of this little snail racing competition. The full results were: 1st - Gandalf - red - Molly 2nd - Archie - blue - Paul 3rd - Escargot - green - Anthony 4th - Gary - yellow - Olga 5th - Sidney - white - Tom

Sidney's shell has been painted which color?

Correct! Wrong!

To work out what color Sidney has been painted, it is first necessary to work out who owns him (or her I suppose). Sidney cannot belong to Molly (clue 2), Paul (question 3) or Anthony (question 4). Since Sidney finished in last place (clue 5) he cannot belong to Olga (clue 1) and therefore must be Tom's white snail (question 1). The 2010 'World Snail Racing Championship' was won by a snail named Sidney. In 2008 the title went, somewhat incongruously, to the snail namesake of Finnish Formula One driver, Heikki Kovalainen.

What was the name of the snail that finished in fourth place?

Correct! Wrong!

Clue 4 states that Gary was beaten by at least three other snails, so must have finished either fourth or fifth (last). Clue 5 includes the information that last place went to Sidney, so Gary must have been the snail that finished in fourth place. Gary the Snail is a character in the American animated TV series 'SpongeBob SquarePants'. Somewhat atypically for snails, Gary is known to meow like a cat.

Brain Teaser: A Race at Snail's Pace
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