“Who Killed Mrs. Smith?” Riddle: Try to Solve the Viral Riddle

When Mrs. Smith is murdered, every suspect has a plausible alibi—or so it seems. Can you solve the viral "Who killed Mrs. Smith?" riddle?

A good riddle is like a good true-crime podcast: You know there’s a mystery to be solved. But unlike unsolved mysteries, there is an answer, and it’s right within your grasp. The challenge is tuning in to the clues and locating the twist, which will inevitably be hidden in plain sight. That goes a long way toward explaining why even these easy riddles can seem hard, and why these short riddles, with their promise of limited clues, are nevertheless so gosh darn vexing. But for now, we’re delving into a long riddle that’s both vexing and viral: the “Who killed Mrs. Smith?” riddle.

It possesses all those delicious bells and whistles that help popularize a good riddle. So let’s see how you fare, and if you can solve the “Who killed Mrs. Smith?” riddle.

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The “Who killed Mrs. Smith?” riddle

The riddle goes like this: Mrs. Smith was killed in her home on a Sunday evening. There were five people in the house at the time of the murder. The police asked each person what they were doing at the time of Mrs. Smith’s murder. During questioning, not surprisingly, each of the five offers up a seemingly plausible alibi:

“I was in the kitchen, making dinner,” said the chef.

“I was down in the wine cellar, retrieving a bottle for supper,” claimed the butler.

“I was in the dining room, setting the table for the evening meal,” said the maid.

“I was outside in the yard, pruning trees with a pair of shears,” claimed the gardener.

“And I was out in the garden, doing a bit of stargazing, a beloved pastime,” said her husband, Mr. Smith.

On careful scrutiny, one of these alibis simply does not jibe. Can you guess which one it is, and solve the “Who killed Mrs. Smith?” riddle?

The hints

Fans of old-timey whodunnit fiction and Agatha Christie books might be inclined to assume the butler did it. Or maybe you’re considering the gardener’s access to a dangerously sharp implement. Perhaps, you’re wondering about the use of the phrase “evening meal” by the maid—was it poison?

If these observations crossed your mind, then you’re on the right track. Consider the evening and the alibis that make sense within the context of it.

The answer

Indeed, as veteran true-crime watchers know is often the case, the killer was, in fact, the victim’s spouse: Mr. Smith.

The easy-to-miss twist

Like all good detective riddles, the “Who killed Mrs. Smith?” riddle hinges on a detail that’s as easy to miss as it is critical to the case. Mrs. Smith was killed on Sunday evening, as the wording makes abundantly clear. “Evening” commonly refers to twilight—the period just after the sun drops beneath the horizon, but before the darkness of night has settled in.

Except for Mr. Smith, each of the suspects offered an alibi that made sense in the evening. The chef, butler and maid were all engaged in preparations for the evening meal. The gardener was lopping off branches in the garden at a time when there would be enough natural light for the task at hand. But Mr. Smith, by contrast, claimed to have been stargazing at the time of Mrs. Smith’s murder. Proper stargazing is not an evening activity because any lingering twilight will obscure the observation of the stars.

Now, if Mr. Smith had been stargazing for the first time ever that day, then his alibi might have been plausible as, say, a rookie stargazer mistake. But Mr. Smith also made clear that stargazing was a “beloved pastime” of his, thereby implying he was no rookie. In other words, Mr. Smith’s alibi simply does not add up.

If you’re looking for riddles that do add up, check out these math riddles. Or try solving the “A man steals $100 from a shop” riddle. Spoiler alert: This crime pays, but not what you might think.


Lauren Cahn
Lauren Cahn is a New York–based writer whose work has appeared regularly on Reader's Digest and in a variety of other publications since 2008. She covers life and style, popular culture, law, religion, health, fitness, yoga, entertaining and entertainment. Lauren is also an author of crime fiction, and her first full-length manuscript, "The Trust Game," was short-listed for the 2017 CLUE Award for emerging talent in the genre of suspense fiction.