We all know the (apparently verified1) anecdote recounting George Dantzig arriving late to a lecture (by Jerzy Neyman), and later solving two open problems written on the board, mistaking them for homework. My question is:
Q. Are there other examples of a similar misunderstanding that led to the solution of an unsolved problem?
Perhaps even in an exam, where an exam question's novel solution led to a new perspective on the topic? This possibility inspired by Interesting things you learned while grading?.
1 Mentioned in Dantzig's obituaries.