Ever So Logical

Sudoku has become such a mainstay puzzle, a common find in newspapers and magazines, that it’s easy to forget that it wasn’t always this way. While Sudoku got its start as Number Place in the pages of Dell Magazines back in the late 1970s, it wasn’t until mid-2006 that the logic puzzle became an all-consuming worldwide fad, blowing up in a way no puzzle had since the crossword in the 1920s.

The fad has subsided a bit, but Sudoku is still with us, exercising the minds of millions of solvers. But for lovers of logic puzzles, Sudoku’s greatest impact is in how it inspired dozens if not hundreds of related puzzles, all with their own devious rules. If you love Sudoku but have wondered now and again what else there might be for you out there, read on.

A great place to start is at the blog of Grandmaster Puzzles, where Thomas Snyder and his crew of constructors post a new logic puzzle six days a week. It’s a great place to start, that is, if you can overcome the intimidation factor, which is significant. Take a look at that menu of puzzle types on the left! What are all those? Statue Park? Cross the Streams? Kakuro, Kurotto, Kuromasu?

Deep breaths. We’re going to give you a few good places to start, and then if you like what you see, you can branch out from there.

Star Battle: As simple to grasp as a logic puzzle gets, which is why you’ll sometimes see this type in other venues, notably in the New York Times under the (bizarre) name of “Two Not Touch.” All you need to do is place some number of stars (usually two) in every row, every column, and each bordered region so that stars are never right next to each other, even diagonally. Here are Grandmaster Puzzles’s easiest Star Battle puzzles, an excellent place to get started.

Fillomino: A step up in trickiness, but still a good type for newbies. You’ll need to divide up a Fillomino grid into irregularly shaped regions according to the following few rules: First, the area of each region must be equal to the numbers within it — so, for example, a region of three cells has to contain three 3s. (You’ll never have a region with different digits within it.) Second, no two regions of the same size may share an edge. Third… there is no third. That’s it, those are the two rules. See?

One thing newcomers to this puzzle type need to watch out for: Not every region in a completed puzzle will encompass one of the numbers given to you at the start. You might have a “hidden” region that is only logically revealed as you figure out the regions around it. Once you’re prepared for that possibility, though, this puzzle is reasonably straightforward. Here are the easiest Grandmaster Filliominos.

LITS: Looks a lot like Star Battle, right? Sure. But this time around you’re not placing stars. Instead, you will shade in exactly four spaces in each region, so that when you’re done, all of the shaded cells make a connected path through the grid. (That is, you can reach any shaded cell from any other shaded cell.)

There are only four shapes you can make with shaded cells: L, I, T, and S. (Hey, I think I figured out where this puzzle’s name comes from!) In the completed grid, no two shapes of the same type can share an edge. Also, no four shaded cells can form a 2×2 square. Those extra rules will definitely give you pause as you go about filling a grid. Try some easy LITS puzzles here.

Masyu: We’ll conclude with a slightly trickier puzzle to grasp — but only slightly. In Masyu, you’ll draw a loop that goes through some number of cells in the grid (not necessarily every cell). The white circles and the black circles obey different rules:

Black Circles: The path must turn here, and then the path must not turn in either adjacent cell.

White Circles: The path must go straight through these circles without turning. Also the path must turn in the cell just before and/or just after a white circle.

Not a ton of rules, but they can be a little confusing for the newbie. Still, this is a satisfying type. Try some easy examples here.


Nobody is going to enjoy every logic puzzle type. I personally will wave away all attempts to get me to solve the math-oriented Kakuro — even though I enjoy both TomTom (an improvement on KenKen) and Japanese Sums, both of which are also math-based. Why? Who knows? We are what we are. So go explore the puzzle types above and then dive into Grandmaster’s full list of logic types. Your next favorite puzzle is in there somewhere.

It’s Puzzletember!

The Curious Correspondence Club creates all manner of unusual, immersive puzzle experiences — a bit like if escape rooms could fit in your mailbox. These folks love puzzles, and as such, for the past few years they have decided that the month we are now in should be called Puzzletember. And what better way to celebrate Puzzletember than by turning the spotlight on a different online puzzle company for each day of the month? They’ve gotten thirty different puzzlemakers (full disclosure: your friendly PuzzleNation correspondent is one of them) to create an Instagram-friendly puzzle. Already we have seen offerings from Puzzling Pursuits, Gruzzle, the German company EscapeWelt, and Edaqa’s Room.

If you solve the daily puzzle and submit your answer, you might win a prize. But even if you don’t win, you’ll discover thirty different new places to add to your puzzle checklist, and that’s pretty good all by itself. Follow along with Puzzletember here!

News from Crosswordland!

Hello there, PuzzleNationers! We’re happy to be back in blogging mode! Let’s kick things off with a look at what’s going on in the world of crosswords.

First up, it’s the return of Lollapuzzoola! After two pandemic-afflicted years where the freewheeling crossword tournament was forced online, Lollapuzzoola was back in its New York City home for a live event. (And also online — a virtual tournament was held in parallel.) Solvers were treated not only to crosswords by top-tier constructors like Will Nediger and Francis Heaney, but also a ton of extras, including a multi-crossword meta suite, and an entirely separate mini-puzzle hunt by prolific constructor Foggy Brume.

Whereas the venerable American Crossword Puzzle Tournament spreads out its proceedings over three days, Lollapuzzoola is a more concentrated blast of puzzling — solvers arrived at the Riverside Church by 11:00 a.m. for pre-show icebreakers; the first three tournament puzzles launched at noon; the second three tournament puzzles were handed out in mid-afternoon; and the three finalists were onstage competing for the crown just before dinnertime. Those three finalists — Gavin Byrnes, Matthew Gritzmacher, and Max Kurzman — went up against a puzzle by Brooke Husic that we heard from several corners was the hardest final puzzle they have ever seen. In the end, Matthew Gritzmacher reached the finish line first and was crowned champion. Congrats as well to Ada Nicolle, who won in the intermediate “Local” division, and to Tyler Hinman, who cleaned up in the online tournament.

If you missed the tournament but don’t want to miss the puzzles, including that killer finale and all the extra meta suites, they are available for $20.00 — just click here!

Once upon a time, the annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament was the only game in town. These days, no sooner does one tournament end than the next one is on the horizon. Goodbye, Lollapuzzoola — hello, Finger Lakes! The 10th annual Finger Lakes Crossword Competition will take place entirely online on Saturday, September 24. Pay what you want to join the fun (be generous: all proceeds benefit an assortment of adult literacy charities), choose your difficulty level (Easier, Trickier, Toughest), and then be sure to show up early on the big day for a kick-off event featuring constructors Adam Perl and Anna Shechtman, New York Times “Wordplay” columnist Deb Amlen, crossword blogger Michael Sharp (better known as Rex Parker), and NYT crossword editor Will Shortz!

Finally, as part of its recent “Game On” celebration, YouTube hosted an unusual live crossword tournament: Top-rated solver Stella Zawistowski versus… well, the entire rest of the world, or at least the thousands of people watching the livestream at that exact moment. First the livestream crowd was presented with a crossword, the clues to which they could answer simply by typing an answer into chat. When the puzzle was completed, Stella took her shot, solo. Who came out on top in this best-of-three competition? Find out here!

Treasure awaits

Three years ago, a very rich (and maybe slightly eccentric) person named Forrest Fenn hid a treasure chest containing millions of dollars worth of treasure. Yes, somewhere out there in the world is an actual treasure chest holding gold and diamonds, just waiting for someone to dig it up. (Assuming it’s buried — who knows?)

How does one find this treasure? By deciphering the nine clues in Fenn’s poem, “The Thrill of the Chase.”

As I have gone alone in there
And with my treasures bold,
I can keep my secret where,
And hint of riches new and old.

Begin it where warm waters halt
And take it in the canyon down,
Not far, but too far to walk.
Put in below the home of Brown.

From there it’s no place for the meek,
The end is drawing ever nigh;
There’ll be no paddle up your creek,
Just heavy loads and water high.

If you’ve been wise and found the blaze,
Look quickly down, your quest to cease
But tarry scant with marvel gaze,
Just take the chest and go in peace.

So why is it that I must go
And leave my trove for all to seek?
The answers I already know
I’ve done it tired, and now I’m weak

So hear me all and listen good,
Your effort will be worth the cold.
If you are brave and in the wood
I give you title to the gold.

…Yeah. My guess is, this treasure is going remain hidden for a while yet. But if you need some quick cash and you’re particularly good at obscure clues, I think I just found you your new hobby.