Regular expression crossword puzzles!

I'm on record as being a big supporter of learning regular expressions (AKA "regexp") -- handy ways to search through text with very complex criteria. It's notoriously opaque to beginners, but it's such a massively effective automation tool and drudgery reliever! Regex Crosswords help you hone your regexp skills with fiendishly clever regular expressions that ascend a smooth complexity gradient from beginner to expert. (via Kottke) Read the rest

The problem with 'The Monty Hall Problem' was Monty Hall

The Monty Hall Problem is a probability puzzle, but the actual problem with the Monty Hall problem was just Monty Hall. Probability doesn't really matter if the game show host has free will and a willingness to mess with you.

This is the classic 'three doors' problem, where there is a prize behind one door and nothing behind the other two. After you, the contestant, picks Door 1, the Host then opens Door 2 and shows you it is empty. The host then offers you a chance to switch your choice to Door 3? Do you take it?

If probability were the only thing at play, yes. However, as Monty Hall noted: if the host is not bound by any rules, they can mess with you and are not predictable.

Monty was the problem, hence the name of the problem.

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Svalbard: a "puzzle story" created by Lavie Tidhar and Jake Olefsky

Jake Olefsky writes, "I am a puzzle author interested in story telling. I recently worked with award winning author Lavie Tidhar to create an interactive sci-fi puzzle story called 'Svalbard' that we just published on a new website that will hopefully have more puzzle stories in the future. The idea is that you read a chapter and then solve a puzzle to unlock the next chapter. The story branches in a non-linear fashion, so you can take different paths to the conclusion. In Svalbard you travel along with Mai as she explores a utopian post-apocalyptic world and discovers ancient time vaults, forgotten robot enclaves and slumbering super computers. There are over 30 puzzle to solve and secrets to discover in this 20 chapter short-story." Read the rest

Watch a robot solve a Rubik's cube in less than half a second

We previously posted about a robot that solved a Rubik's Cube in .637 seconds. Read the rest

Can you solve the two-fuse puzzle?

Here's a good riddle from Brian Brushwood of Scam Nation.  He found it in Book of Riddles by Fabrice Mazza and Sylvain Lhullier

Imagine that you're making a magic potion. You're a wizard with a long beard. But -- the potion only works if you wait exactly 45 minutes before you stir it. If you stir it before or after the potion's totally ruined. You don't have a smartphone. You don't have a watch. You don't have any kind of time measuring device. What you have is two fuses of irregular consistency. The one thing you know for a fact is that it takes an hour for each of these fuses to burn from one end to the other. How do you use these to measure exactly 45 minutes?

Image: Scam Nation/YouTube

I'm still trying to figure this one out, so I'm not looking at the comments yet! Read the rest

Two 'Rubik’s Race' players compete at mind-boggling speed

Rubik's cube for two as a race. That's Rubik's Race. Read the rest

Wooden fractal curve puzzles

Martin Raynsford makes beautiful and intricate wooden puzzles with space-filling fractal curves and is kickstartering a set of four.

The pattern is a single line that crosses all of the two dimensional space without ever repeating. The puzzles follow these simple rules to break the line into multiple pieces that are almost identical but are actually unique. The pieces are so similar in style that once they are placed into the puzzle it is hard to see where the pieces are. The puzzles can be tricky to solve even if you have the solution on hand.

The puzzles are made from a high quality 3mm, 6 Ply, BR Grade, Birch Laser Plywood sheet. It shows the natural look of the wood and will have natural colour variations. Each puzzle is 200x200mm in size, the pieces are 3mm thick and the whole puzzle inside the tray is 6mm thick.

For immediate gratification, you can also hit up his Etsy Store; the Cryptex box (Note that it's for PLANS only, you'll need to cut and make it yourself) looks like a great gift for the smartest egg in your family. Read the rest

Two lateral thinking puzzles

Here are three two lateral thinking puzzles that were new to me. They're from the book, Lateral Thinking Puzzles (1991), by Paul Sloane.

Death in the Field

A man is lying dead in the field. Next to him is an unopened package. There is no other creature in the field. How did he die?

Death in Rome

Mr. Jones is reading his daily newspaper. He read an article with the following headline: “Woman dies in holiday accident.“ It goes on to say, “Mrs. Rigby-Brown, while on holiday with her husband in Rome, fell to her death from the balcony of her seventh-floor room.“

Mr. Jones turns to his wife and says “That was not an accident. It was murder.“ He had never met either of the Rigby-Browns, so how could he know it was murder?

Image by S.Borisov/Shutterstock Read the rest

The broken bracelet puzzle

One of my favorite puzzle books as a kid was Perplexing Puzzles and Tantalizing Teasers, by Martin Gardner. It had fun "real life" type problems (how can you drive an 11-foot-9 truck under a bridge with 11-foot-8 clearance?) and it introduced me to palindromes ("Straw? No, too stupid a fad. I put soot on warts.")

Here's another "real life" puzzle: a person brings four pieces of a broken bracelet to a jeweler and asks him to repair it. The jeweler says he charges $1 for each link he cuts apart and welds together again. "Since I have to cut and weld four links, the job will cost you four dollars." But the customer correctly tells the jeweler he can make the bracelet by cutting and welding only three links. How? Read the rest

How to get better at solving puzzles

I've been reading a 1978 book called The Art of Problem Solving, by Russell L. Ackoff. (Used copies sell for $7 including shipping on Amazon). At the beginning of the book, Ackoff tells about the time his school-age daughter came home with a familiar puzzle. On a piece of paper, there are nine dots arranged in three rows of three, like this:

The challenge is to put a pen on the paper and, without lifting the pen, draw four straight lines that go through all nine dots. You probably remember this puzzle, because it's been around for a long time. Ackoff remembered it, too, but he'd forgotten the solution. But he came up with another way to solve it. He folded the paper so two rows of dots touched each other and used a felt pen to draw through both rows with one stroke. Then he unfolded the paper and drew two more lines to cover the rest of the dots.

When Ackoff's daughter went to school the next day, she started to show the teacher the solution her father came up with. As soon as she began folding the paper, the teacher stopped her and said she was not allowed to fold the paper, even though the instructions didn't say she couldn't.

"This is how creativity is suppressed, although usually not so overtly," writes Ackoff. "The teacher made it clear to her class that the objective of the assignment was not to find a solution to the problem, but to find the solution she knew and could pretend to have discovered on her own. Read the rest

Meet one of the creators of the New York Times crossword puzzle

Magician David Kwong moonlights (er, daylights?) as a crossword puzzle creator for the New York Times. In the parlance of the craft, he is a "cruciverbalist," one who is adept at making, or solving, crossword puzzles. (Wired) Read the rest

This is what 'going viral' looks like

Sometimes I blog about something and it goes nowhere, much like this girl's domino:

Sometimes I blog about something and it continues to weave its way to the many corners of the internet, much like this:

But, sometimes I blog about something and it starts a chain reaction that looks more like this (I looked for a domino video that featured fireworks and confetti but came up short):


In other words, it goes viral. Now, on November 11, I blogged about Tim Klein's "puzzle montages" and I believe it's the most-viral post I've written in my over-seven-year professional blogging career. While I don't have the exact numbers, I have been watching it quickly spread across the planet and I feel certain that it is. Today, I thought it would be fun to pull back the curtain a little to show you what "going viral" looks like from "backstage."

[TL;DR version (and, warning, this post IS entirely TOO LONG): The post I wrote about Tim Klein's puzzle montages went nuts! Media outlets from around the globe picked up the story (digital, print, TV), some linked back to Boing Boing, some didn't. Tim got TONS of fan mail, all of his art sold, and now he's being offered gallery shows. Well... he and I talked and we plan to take it to the next level together (note: we didn't know each other before all of this). We first want to build a community of people who love puzzle mashups. Want to learn more? Read the rest

This artist uses jigsaw puzzles, with the same die cut pattern, to make these terrific mashups

Oh boy, I think I have a new hobby. I've just learned that you can combine puzzles, that have the same die cut, to make really awesome pieces of art. It had never occurred to me that manufacturers of mass-produced puzzles cut different puzzles of theirs in the same way, making the pieces interchangeable. It makes complete sense, of course, but my mind is still blown!

I learned about the art of "puzzle montage" from one of the readers of my inbox zine, Marcia Wiley (she's the gal in Seattle who's fixing up that cool old Checker Cab). She was visiting the Bay Area and we met up for the first time this past Friday. That's when she told me about her friend Tim Klein, who makes incredible puzzle montages. I'm excited to share his work with you.

In an email exchange, Tim told me that he learned about puzzle montages from the man who first made them, art professor Mel Andringa of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, "As far as I know, he and I are the only artists ever to pursue it seriously. And I think he's moved on to other things nowadays, so I may be the sole surviving practitioner."

And this is what Tim shared with me about his process:

...By selecting pieces from two or more compatible puzzles, I assemble a single "puzzle mashup" with surreal imagery that the publisher never imagined.

Sometimes the results are merely chuckle-making, such as my combination of King Tut's burial mask with the front of a truck, which I call "King of the Road".

Read the rest

Self-solving Rubik's Cube

It looks like any other Rubik's cube, but for the little mechanical squeaks it makes as he scrambles it. He puts it down on the table and watches it in silence for a while. Then it moves.

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A 1000-piece color-changing jigsaw puzzle

You thought those single color jigsaw puzzles were difficult? Try putting together one where the pieces change colors! That's just what the latest offering from artist Clemens Habicht does:

1000 CHANGING COLOURS is a colour gamut jigsaw puzzle of 1000 pieces in which each individual tile has two distinct colour states from intersecting gradients of colour. Printed in Poland using a lenticular lens, the colours change depending on the angle of view, resulting in a radiant iridescence that shimmers in beautiful colour combinations.

Pre-order it now for $100 plus shipping.

(The Awesomer, Mike Shouts) Read the rest

Watch how to solve this Hanayama level 6 puzzle called NUTCASE

NUTCASE is a deceptively simple cast metal puzzle by legendary puzzlemaker Hanayama. If you're not planning to try it yourself, here's how to solve it. Read the rest

Ugears: beautiful, steampunkular geared wooden puzzle-toys

Ugears makes gorgeous wooden puzzle toys made from laser-cut plywood that snap-fits to create beautiful, retro machines and sculptures with meshing, working geared mechanisms. Read the rest

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