Two secret agents need to meet

Two secret agents need to meet for the very first time. They don’t know anything about each other—can’t even be sure that they live in the same hemisphere. They will recognize the other agent when the day comes, but that’s about all.

The spies haven’t previously agreed on anything, and they can’t communicate in any way, neither directly nor indirectly. The deadline for the meeting is one year. Within 12 months, the two agents need to meet without sharing so much as a tweet.

Where and when will they meet? And what would you do if you were one of the agents?

This puzzle is obviously “unsolvable” in a way that no two people will come to the same conclusion. Rather, it is an opportunity to observe creative problem-solving in real-time and to see how candidates talk through different approaches.

To maximize the chance of having a successful meeting, the agents need to think through what they themselves would do in such a situation, as well as imagine what the other agent might do. Since there’s no prior agreement and no knowledge of each other’s whereabouts, their best hope is to increase the probability of a chance meetup by choosing a place and time that most other agents would reasonably think of.

I don’t know much about spies, but I know that when I lived in Berlin, Germany, I only ever met up with friends who specifically came to visit me. On the other hand, when I lived in Manhattan, I only needed to wait, and sooner or later, all my friends from all corners of the world would eventually come by. So, “my” agent would choose New York for the meetup, and if it’s New York, it has to be Times Square, and if it’s Times Square, it’s probably New Year’s Eve. In my line of thought, the whole ball drop thing is just one massive secret agent meetup.