Puzzly Tombstones for October 1st!

[Image courtesy of How To With Kristin.]

It’s October 1st, and for many folks, it’s the official start of the spookiest of seasons, aka the lead-up to Halloween.

One of the things I really enjoy about the weeks before Halloween is seeing the decorations go up, and wondering just how elaborate they’re going to get. One house near me does a big fake spider web every year that’s made out of rope and dominates half of their yard!

But it’s the little fake tombstones that get me. It’s a simple thing, but I quite enjoy how people always put something interesting on them. Sometimes it’s funny inside jokes, or silly punny names like Bart Simpson would use to prank Moe the bartender on The Simpsons.

And it occurs to me that we as puzzlers could get in on this. Puzzly tombstone decorations! Why not?

Here are a few real-world examples to spark some ideas for you.

This gorgeous design adorns the gravestone of Michael and Elisabeth Ayrton. He was a painter and sculptor, and she was a writer.

It’s simple, but quite lovely.

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If you wanted, you could recreate this puzzly tribute that took passersby a century to finally unravel.

In a similar vein, this tombstone hides a simple message in thousands of different ways, if you know where to get started.

You could hide a coded message on them, like James Leeson did with his own tombstone in the Trinity Churchyard in Manhattan.

You could even offer a riddle or puzzly epitaph for people to solve, like this one found on the gravestone of Henry Rogers in Christchurch Priory in Dorset.

So what do you think, fellow PuzzleNationers? Will you be decorating with any puzzle-inspired tombstones? Or maybe you have something else that’s puzzle-inspired in store for Halloween.

Let us know in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you.


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Solution to the Peppermint Patty Brain Teaser!

[Image courtesy of SharpBrains.com.]

A week ago, we shared a brain teaser sent in by a PuzzleNationer named Bethany, who challenged us to solve the following stumper.

Today, we’re going to share not only the solution, but how we got there! Please enjoy this brief solve and tutorial, inspired by one of your fellow PuzzleNationers!


The Peppermint Patty Riddle

You’re facing your friend, Caryn, in a “candy-off,” which works as follows: There’s a pile of one hundred caramels and one peppermint patty. You and Caryn will go back and forth taking at least one and no more than five caramels from the candy pile in each turn. The person who removes the last caramel will also get the peppermint patty. And you love peppermint patties.

Suppose Caryn lets you decide who goes first. Who should you choose in order to make sure you win the peppermint patty?


When I posted this brain teaser, I said that “the question basically demands that you not only achieve victory, but figure out how to do so with your very first move.”

That was meant to be a hint. Because the best way to unravel this riddle is to start at the end.

Look at the last turn. If there are five or fewer caramels left on the board and it’s Caryn’s turn, she wins. For you to guarantee a win, she needs to see six caramels on her last turn. (Seven or more allows her to take just enough to leave YOU with six, which means she wins on her next turn.)

And that six is the magic number. Her previous turn, you need to leave her with 12 caramels. The turn before that, 18 caramels. The turn before that, 24. And so on and so on.

Why? Simple.

caramel

Let’s look at the 12 caramel turn. If she takes any number of caramels (anywhere from 1 to 5), she’ll leave you with between 11 and 7 caramels. You can use your turn to remove whatever number of caramels are necessary (anywhere from 5 to 1) to leave her with six.

The entire game can be broken into six-caramel increments.

And the closest multiple of 6 to 100 (your starting point) is 96 caramels.

Which means you can’t let Caryn go first. You need to remove 4 caramels on your first turn, and then use every subsequent turn to ensure Caryn faces a multiple of six, which eventually gives you the victory and the peppermint patty.

So the answer to the riddle is you should go first.

Diabolical!

Did you solve the brain teaser, fellow PuzzleNationer? Or do you have a brain teaser you’d like us to unravel with you? Let us know in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you.


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Another Brain Teaser Submitted by Readers For Your Puzzly Pleasure!

[Image courtesy of SharpBrains.com.]

When’s the last time you had your brain properly tied in knots by a riddle?

That’s a pretty common occurrence around here, honestly. In our puzzly explorations of the world, we stumble across all manner of brain teasers, riddles, logic puzzles, math problems, mind ticklers, deduction games, and wordplay-fueled bits of linguistic legerdemain.

Sometimes, we even receive them directly from our fellow PuzzleNationers!

And on those occasions, we happily share them with you, dear reader, so that you can also enjoy the challenge of unraveling whatever fiendish puzzly conundrum has been placed before us.

This time around, a solver named Bethany submitted this riddle she found online. It’s known as the Peppermint Patty Riddle.

Let’s see how we do.


The Peppermint Patty Riddle

You’re facing your friend, Caryn, in a “candy-off,” which works as follows: There’s a pile of one hundred caramels and one peppermint patty. You and Caryn will go back and forth taking at least one and no more than five caramels from the candy pile in each turn. The person who removes the last caramel will also get the peppermint patty. And you love peppermint patties.

Suppose Caryn lets you decide who goes first. Who should you choose in order to make sure you win the peppermint patty?


Now that’s interesting, because it doesn’t ask us specifically HOW to achieve victory. But the question basically demands that you not only achieve victory, but figure out how to do so with your very first move.

Tricky indeed.

Will you be accepting this puzzly challenge from a fellow PuzzleNationer? Let us know in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you!


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The Rapid Advancement of Wooden Puzzles!

The essential elements of puzzles are centuries old. The knot to be unraveled, the wordplay to be processed, the pieces to be reassembled, the message to be decoded, the inconsistency to be spotted.

And yet, puzzles continue to evolve, finding new ways to express and employ these ancient components into fresh, satisfying solving experiences.

We recently discussed the evolution of Rubik’s-style twisty puzzles thanks to 3-D printing and computer modeling, and the same is true for an even older puzzle style: wooden puzzles.

Wooden puzzles frequently adhere to one of several formats:

Many of these puzzles are still effective and satisfying challenges today. If you’ve ever tried to hold four pieces in place at once in order to assemble a wooden camel, or suss out the dozen or so steps to open a himitsu-bako (or Japanese puzzle box), you know what I’m talking about.

Of course, like their twisty counterparts, these puzzles have only grown more complex over time.

And a relatively recent addition to the arsenal of wooden puzzle designers and creators is at-home laser cutters allowing for efficient production of puzzles and pieces at an affordable rate.

cirkusupiecesall

Over the years, we’ve seen projects like Cirkusu and the Baffledazzle line of specialized jigsaw puzzles, as well as the hit Kickstarter project Codex Silenda (which even appeared in an episode of NCIS: New Orleans), thanks to crowdfunding campaigns and affordable laser cutters.

Check out some of the most recent wooden puzzles I’ve encountered, created through laser cutter design:

Martin Raynsford’s Antikythera Tablets

This collection of five puzzle tablets, each themed around different aspects of Greek mythology, create a beautiful and well-constructed narrative chain that feels brilliantly unique and immersive.

iDventure’s Cluebox Escape Rooms in a Box

These multi-stage puzzle boxes are completely self-contained. You need to explore every inch of its surface to find clues and tools to unlock each stage of the puzzle box and reveal further challenges!

The field has advanced so far in just last few years, so who knows where wooden puzzles will go in the future?

Have you seen any mind-blowing wooden brain teasers that you’d recommend, fellow puzzlers? Let us know in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you!


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Tie Yourself in Knots With Rope Puzzles!

rope puzzle rings

What comes to mind when you think of a mechanical brain teaser? Do you think of a puzzle box or linked metal shapes? Do you think of wooden pieces that need to be fitted together to form a particular shape, or the twists and turns of a Rubik’s Cube or sword puzzle?

I would wager that rope isn’t the first puzzle piece that you think of. Which is surprising, because rope is part of plenty of different brain teasers. And they date back further than you’d think.

the seal on king tut's tomb

Check out this tricky tangled knot. This mix of rope and clay guarded the tomb of King Tut for centuries. Experts in rope and knot-tying have identified many of the knots involved, and claim that there’s no way to remove the rope and open the doors without breaking the clay seal depicting Anubis, the jackal-headed god entrusted with the protection of the dead.

Although it’s rare to find rope puzzles like this guarding tombs these days, they still guard other treasures. Like this wine bottle for instance.

GP333A_Wine_Wooden_Puzzle_1x1px-01_1024x1024

This brain teaser serves as a fun (or annoying) way to add a little flavor to a traditional housewarming or holiday gift.

It’s just one example of a wide array of mechanical brain teasers known as disentanglement puzzles.

rope puzzles

These puzzles rely on careful manipulation to make seemingly impossible actions — like passing a rope with a wooden ball attached through a hole too small for the ball — quite simple with clever maneuvering.

And whereas other tangle puzzles that are all metal or all wood are great and offering different challenges, the addition of a rope or two can add a TON of variability and new options to a puzzle. Pieces slide along it, and the rope can be twisted, rolled, or threaded between pieces. This one element triples the possibilities.

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As you might expect, rope puzzling has also made the leap to mobile apps.

Games like Tangle Master stick to the disentanglement theme, demanding you untie a number of ropes in a certain number of moves. Later complications include locked ropes you can’t move until other ropes are eliminated, and even bombs that countdown to force certain moves.

Cut the Rope offered a different challenge, requiring solvers to deliver a candy to the waiting mouth of a hungry pet by cutting the rope. Along the way, you’d try to collect stars. The game was a mix of strategy and timing, and I can remember more than a few friends obsessed with this app a long while back.

Where could rope puzzles go from here? Anywhere, really, as long as puzzly minds are out there to try out new ideas.

There are videos online of creative geocaches/letterboxes involving string or rope. I’ve seen them employed in escape room puzzles — once to decode a message, another time to trace a connect-the-dots pattern on a board of nails, and elsewhere to connect two distant objects and hold them in place — and I’m sure that’s not the last I’ve seen of ropes there.

Do any of your favorite puzzles or puzzle apps involve ropes, fellow PuzzleNationers? Let us know in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you.


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Solution to the Smith-Jones-Robinson Problem!

[Image courtesy of SharpBrains.com.]

A week ago, we shared a brain teaser sent in by a PuzzleNationer named Brian, who challenged us to solve the following challenge.

Today, we’re going to share not only the solution, but how we got there! Please enjoy this brief solve and tutorial, inspired by one of your fellow PuzzleNationers!


The Smith-Jones-Robinson Problem

Every fact is important. The puzzle is as follows:

On a train, three men named Smith, Jones, and Robinson are the fireman, brakeman, and engineer, but not necessarily in that order. Also on the train are three businessmen who have the same names as the train crew. They will be referred to as Mr. Smith, Mr. Jones, and Mr. Robinson.

  • Mr. Robinson lives in Detroit.
  • The brakeman lives exactly halfway between Chicago and Detroit.
  • Mr. Jones earns exactly $20,000 per year, paid in thousand-dollar bills.
  • The brakeman’s nearest neighbor, one of the passengers, earns exactly three times as much as the brakeman, and is also paid in thousand-dollar bills.
  • Smith beats the fireman at billiards.
  • The passenger whose name is the same as the brakeman’s lives in Chicago.

From the information listed above, can you figure out the name of the engineer?


ticket to ride

We’re given one exact number, so let’s start there.

The brakeman’s nearest neighbor, one of the passengers, earns exactly three times as much as the brakeman. Mr. Jones earns exactly $20,000 per year, which cannot be divided evenly by three (in thousand dollar bills), so Mr. Jones is NOT the brakeman’s nearest neighbor.

The brakeman lives exactly halfway between Chicago and Detroit, and Mr. Robinson lives in Detroit, so Mr. Robinson cannot be the passenger who lives nearest to the brakeman. And as we just determined, Mr. Jones is also not the brakeman’s nearest neighbor. That leaves Mr. Smith as the brakeman’s nearest neighbor.

This tells us about the passengers, but how does it help us with the train crew?

Well, the passenger whose name is the same as the brakeman’s lives in Chicago. And neither Mr. Robinson nor Mr. Smith (who is nearest to the brakeman) can live in Chicago. That tells us Mr. Jones lives in Chicago.

This means that the brakeman’s name is Jones.

We can finally turn our attention to the train crew now.

Now that we know the brakeman’s name is Jones, that leaves only Smith and Robinson as possibilities. And we know that Smith beats the fireman at billiards. Smith can’t be the fireman or the brakeman, so Smith must be the engineer.

Did you identify the engineer and outwit the Smith-Jones-Robinson Problem? Let us know in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you!


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