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.

screen-0

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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Another Brain Teaser Submitted For Your Puzzly Pleasure!

[Image courtesy of SharpBrains.com.]

A few weeks ago, we shared two brain teasers submitted by one of our fellow PuzzleNationers! Well, that must have inspired some of the readership, because we received another brain teaser to solve and share this week!

This brain teaser, submitted by puzzle fan Brian, is called The Smith-Jones-Robinson Problem, and Brian says it has been slightly altered from the original for clarity’s sake.

So, without further ado, let’s get to the puzzle! (We’ll share the solution next week!)


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?

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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Solutions to Our June Brain Teasers!

Two weeks ago, we shared a pair of brain teasers sent in by a PuzzleNationer who discovered these particular deduction and math thinkers in a book of riddles and puzzles.

Today, we’re going to share not only the solutions, but how we got there! Please enjoy this brief solve and tutorial, courtesy of brain teasers from your fellow PuzzleNationers!


[Image courtesy of SharpBrains.com.]

Brain Teaser #1: There is a three-digit number. All three digits are different. The second digit is four times as big as the third digit, while the first digit is three less than the second digit. What is the number?

Solution: 582

This is a fairly simple one, but if you’re unfamiliar with brain teasers, or uncomfortable in general with number puzzles, it can be off-putting. No worries, though! We’ve got you covered.

We know the second digit is four times as big as the third. That leaves only two options for those digits: 4 and 1 or 8 and 2.

If the first digit is three less than the second digit, it can’t be 4 and 1, because that would be 4 minus 1, or 1 for the first digit, and the first and third digits can’t be the same.

That means it’s 8 and 2 for the second and third digits. So if the first digit is three less than the second, the first digit is 5, and the three-digit number is 582.


calendar pages

Brain Teaser #2: When asked about his birthday, a man said, “The day before yesterday, I was only 25, and next year I will turn 28.” This is true only one day in a year – what day was he born?

Solution: He was born on December 31st and spoke about it on January 1st.

The wording in this one is especially important, because at first glance, this sounds impossible.

“Next year, I will turn 28.”

But if you look at the key word in what the man says — “turn” — the puzzle starts to unravel.

If next year, he will turn 28, this means that, at some point this year, he will turn 27. Which means he is currently 26.

Let’s look at what we know:

  • Day before yesterday: 25
  • Currently: 26
  • This year (at some point): 27
  • Next year: 28

Since he’ll be both 26 and 27 this year, the day before yesterday had to be last year.

Which means that yesterday was his birthday.

But at some point this year, he turns 27. That means both yesterday and the day before yesterday had to be last year.

Which leaves us with this timetable:

  • December 30 (day before yesterday, last year): 25
  • December 31 (yesterday, last year, his birthday): 26
  • January 1 (today, this year): 26
  • December 31 (later this year): 27
  • December 31 (next year): 28

He was born on December 31st and spoke about it on January 1st.


Did you unravel one or both of these brain teasers? Let us know in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you.

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A Pair of Brain Teasers From Your Fellow PuzzleNationers!

[Image courtesy of SharpBrains.com.]

We love brain teasers here at PuzzleNation Blog. Whether they’re riddles, logic problems, math puzzles, or challenging bits of wordplay, we take on all comers here.

We’ve solved some doozies in the past, like the Brooklyn Nine-Nine seesaw brain teaser, the diabolical long division brain teaser, and the curious way to tell time brain teaser.

In April 2019, we did a whole week of brain teasers while your friendly neighborhood blogger was at a convention. Last year, we honored the life of mathematician and puzzle icon John Horton Conway by sharing two of his favorite brain teasers.

There’s a long, proud PuzzleNation Blog tradition of cracking whatever brain teasers come our way, whether we find them ourselves, stumble across them in pop culture, or receive them from our marvelous PuzzleNationers when asked for solving assistance.

A friend of the blog discovered two brain teasers in a book of riddles and puzzles during a bookshelf cleanout recently, and they sent them our way to share with you!

We’ll post them below, and share the solutions next week! Good luck, fellow puzzlers!


Brain Teaser #1: There is a three digit number. All three digits are different. The second digit is four times as big as the third digit, while the first digit is three less than the second digit. What is the number?

Brain Teaser #2: When asked about his birthday, a man said, “The day before yesterday, I was only 25, and next year I will turn 28.” This is true only one day in a year – what day was he born?

Have you unraveled either of these brain teasers? Let us know in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you.


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The Mind-blowing Variety of Puzzles

[A sampling of puzzles of many sorts: crosswords, puzzle boxes,
mechanical brain teasers, tile puzzles, riddles, and more!]

It really is incredible how many forms puzzles can take.

Think about it. Whether you’re talking Rubik’s Cubes, cryptograms, jigsaws, Sudoku, brain teasers, riddles, crosswords, escape rooms, tangrams, word seeks, sliding tiles, deduction problems, coded messages, or anagrams, they all fall under the umbrella of puzzles.

A puzzle can be as simple as pencil and paper or as complex as a multi-stage puzzle hunt or escape room, replete with codes, keys, hidden buttons, mechanical devices to assemble or utilize, and more. The folks at ThinkFun, for instance, have employed everything from ropes and magnets to lasers and mirrors in their puzzles.

That’s some extreme variety.

And the field of possibilities only widens when we add video game puzzles to the mix. We’ve previously talked about games like Tetris and Portal, where you must think in 2D and 3D respectively. We’ve seen games where you change the rules of the world to proceed or even interfere with the coding of the game itself to solve problems.

In the last few years, indie game designers and big studios alike have produced puzzle games that continue to push the boundaries of puzzly minds.

For instance, in Iris Fall you solve puzzles and maneuver around obstacles by playing with light and shadow. By moving light sources and interacting with the environment, both the light and the shadows it creates allow your character to play with perspective and illusion in order to accomplish tasks. It’s very cool!

In a similar vein, the game Superliminal challenges you to solve puzzles and move from room to room by shifting perspective. For instance, if you pick up a small item and then pull it close to you so that it looks bigger, it BECOMES bigger.

Check out this playthrough to see this mindbending puzzler in action:

The game Maquette works off of a similar concept, but requires you to think in both big and small terms. In Maquette, you have a city to explore, and in order to do so, you also need to manipulate a miniature version of the city that affects the world outside.

For instance, there’s a bridge with the center path missing. How can you reach the other side with only a key in your hands?

Easy. You take the key, place it over the same bridge gap in the miniature, and then walk back to the real bridge, where a giant version of that key is now spanning the gap.

And now there’s Viewfinder, a game where you use a Polaroid-style camera to take pictures that you can then place into a three-dimensional world and turn them into structures you can interact with and solve problems!

These sorts of puzzle games help reinforce one of the fundamental rules of puzzle-solving: always be willing to change your perspective and come at the puzzle from another angle. It works with wordplay, it works with brain teasers, and it works in three-dimensional perspective puzzles in video games.

What’s your favorite flavor of puzzles, fellow PuzzleNationers? Have you learned something from one kind of puzzle that you’ve been able to apply in another style of puzzling? Let us know in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you.


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