An Act of Unintentional Puzzling?

Hey there, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers. I’ve got a question for you today:

Have you ever accidentally created a puzzle for yourself?

It could take any number of forms.

A vase you accidentally knocked over and the pieces simply won’t fit back together (until you realize one of the pieces slipped under the table).

An item left in a prominent place, meant to remind you to do something, fix something, move something, accomplish something, complete something.

A Post-it note with a quickly scratched phrase that made total sense when you scribbled it down, but now proves to be nigh-incomprehensible gibberish. (Everyone at one point or another has jotted down a phone number and later struggled to decode it. At least, everyone before the advent of smartphones.)

Gizmodo writer Brian Menegus was presented with a scenario similar to our last example when his modem stopped working. After it didn’t respond to reboots, being unplugged, or “strong language,” he ended up with a new modem after a service call.

All he needed to complete the process and rejoin the greater Internet community was to enter his log-in and password.

And therein lies the puzzle.

wifi password

The password didn’t work as written. The problem was… some of those characters are a little ambiguous.

The first character could be a lowercase G or a 9. The third-to-last could be an 8, an ampersand, or a capital B. Chestnut could be one word or two. There were a litany of different possible interpretations of what was written here.

Multiple interpretations are at the heart of some visual puzzles. Long-time readers may remember the parking lot puzzle, where the solver must unravel how the numbering of spaces in this parking lot works:

The trick is simple: the numbers are upside-down.

Similarly, the wifi password employs a similar level of misdirection, although in this case, it’s quite unintentional.

As you can see from the scribblings at the bottom of the image, Menegus made a list of the possible permutations and tried them all one-by-one, a classic brute force form of puzzle-solving.

So, which version was it?

Well, after trying every combination and getting nowhere — and then resetting the modem to its factory settings — it turned out to be the most obvious one: 95-chestnut-2805.

Sadly, many of these self-made puzzles end up having frustratingly simple solutions.

Still, they do keep life interesting.


Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!

A Password Brain Teaser With an Unexpected Snag

 

[Image courtesy of The Next Web.]

One of the curious aspects of being a modern Internet user is figuring out how to manage your passwords. Most sites, whether commercial or recreational, have log-in screens or other account info, and it’s up to you to remember passwords for these numerous accounts.

You could use the same password over and over for everything, but that’s not a terribly safe choice. You could keep a list where you write down your different passwords to each site in order to keep them all straight, which is also not safe. You could opt to use a password-management service to handle them for you, which is a bit unwieldy for most users.

And if you need to come up with a new password for each account, you might find yourself employing a puzzly technique like Mira Modi’s in order to conjure up a password.

[Image courtesy of In the Black.]

Recently, Gizmodo writer Rhett Jones posed a password-centric brain teaser to his readers, asking why the seemingly safe-looking string “ji32k7au4a83” might not be a good choice for a password.

Can you puzzle out why?

I’ll give you a few moments to ponder it.

All set? Okay, here we go.

As it turns out, “ji32k7au4a83” is the Chinese equivalent of one of the worst choices for a password. Using the Zhuyin Fuhao system for transliterating Mandarin to English, “ji32k7au4a83” becomes “my password,” a top contender for terrible password ideas like those compiled below:

[Image courtesy of Ars Technica.]

Yup, as it turns out, that random string of letters and numbers isn’t particularly random after all.

You’d be better off using a technique suggested by one of my fellow puzzlers. To generate her random passwords, she composes a sentence related to the website, then uses only the first letter of each word in that sentence as the base for the password.

Toss in a number or two, and voila, you’ve got something that appears to be gibberish, but is easily recalled and reassembled for your own use.

Pretty diabolical! Give it a shot and let us know how it works for you!


Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!

Give This Rubik-Solving Robot a Hand (Or at Least a Few Fingers)!

Wait a minute, didn’t you write about robots and Rubik’s Cubes just last week?

Yes, gentle reader, I certainly did.

But, as it turns out, that iconic little puzzly cube and all its twisty brethren are incredibly useful to AI and robot designers.

Not only do the acts of pattern recognition, visual assessment, and solving provide ample challenges to programmers — both in terms of speed and efficiency — but the physical manipulation of the cube itself is a frequent subject of testing.

In this particular case, a robot has been developed which can solve the cube one-handed. And, as eloquently stated in this Gizmodo article, that’s a feat in itself:

At one point in time, it was considered an accomplishment when a robot arm could pick up something as delicate as an egg without crushing it between a pair of pincers. But as researchers from the University of Tokyo’s Ishikawa Senoo Lab demonstrate — with the assistance of a high-speed camera monitoring the subtle movements — this agile three-fingered hand can manipulate and reposition Rubik’s fiendish puzzle cube with impressive dexterity.

Check it out:

This is a very different mechanical rig when compared to some of the other speed-solving rigs we’ve seen before. Instead of an elaborate array of motors and manipulators, it’s simply a few limber fingers.

This level of dexterity could prove to have all sorts of applications, from robotic surgery and meal preparation to improving bomb-defusing equipment and hazardous material disposal.

And all thanks to this twisty little puzzle. That’s pretty cool.


Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!

Game Boy: A Puzzly Step Forward for Mobile Gaming

It’s no secret that we’ve got skin in the puzzle app game. The Penny Dell Crosswords App is our flagship project, and it’s part of a thriving puzzle app market.

But if you think back, mobile puzzle gaming really started decades ago with Nintendo’s Game Boy handheld video game console. It was a precursor to the smartphone app system we have today, even if the Game Boy didn’t exactly fit in your pocket.

And at a time when classic video game systems are being revived and re-released — the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System, the Super Nintendo, and the Sega Genesis have all seen repackagings in the last year — could a Game Boy revival be far behind?

The crew at Gizmodo think so, and they made a list of 25 Game Boy games that belong on a revived system.

And as you might expect, there are several puzzle games suggested.

It makes sense, because many industry experts attribute some of the Game Boy’s success to the fact that every machine was packaged with a copy of Tetris, the addictive piece-moving game.

But that wasn’t the only puzzle game to make an impression on young gamers. Dr. Mario was all about pattern-matching in order to eradicate different colored viruses with stacks of similarly colored pills.

Either as a one-player challenge or in competition with another player, Dr. Mario taxed your ability to strategically use each pill provided, trying to eliminate as many viruses as possible.

And for a pure puzzle solving experience, there was Mario’s Picross.

This was a logic art puzzle where you had to use the lists of numbers along the top and side of the grid to deduce where to place black squares in order to reveal an image.

Although there was a timer attached to each puzzle, it wasn’t nearly as stressful a solving experience as Dr. Mario or Tetris, and it introduced an entirely new form of puzzle-solving to many young gamers.

Without the Game Boy and these puzzle games, it’s hard to imagine the success and growth of puzzle apps like the Penny Dell Crosswords App.


Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!

Birds have a monopoly on Monopoly!

monopoly

The folks at Monopoly are constantly trying new things in order to stay relevant in today’s ever-evolving game market.

When they celebrated Monopoly’s 80th anniversary in 2015, some of the games were sent out with real money instead of Monopoly money, which is a fantastic idea to promote the game.

In 2013, though, they tried something different, offering a more permanent change. They replaced the token of the iron with a token of a cat. Hazel the Cat. I was less enthused with this change.

But, hey, it’s just one token. No big loss. You’ve still got Scottie the dog, the thimble, the race car, the boot, the battleship, the wheelbarrow, and the top hat.

zr3dxm4wrz9r0cjlmmpk

[Image courtesy of Gizmodo.]

Well, that’s no longer the case.

Back in January, Hasbro launched an Internet poll to determine a new lineup of tokens for editions of the game going forward. You could vote to keep the current lineup, or you could select nominees from a list of dozens of possible replacements.

Those potential replacements included a goldfish, a trumpet, a telephone, a monster truck, a life preserver, a beach ball, a set of cufflinks, a bulky old cellphone, a bunny slipper, and several emoji faces.

Hasbro announced the results of their poll, and several of the original tokens didn’t make the cut.

bn-sn614_0317th_j_20170317191408

[Image courtesy of The Wall Street Journal.]

That’s right. Not only did Hazel the Cat stick around — ugh! — but the boot, the wheelbarrow, and the thimble are gone.

They’ve been replaced with a rubber duck, a penguin, and a Tyrannosaurus rex.

Now, let’s be fair. A T-rex token is awesome. I can get behind that. But a rubber duck and a penguin? Were all the voters really really into Batman Returns or something? (As they pointed out on Gizmodo, all of the winners are weird birds.)

Granted, I for one am grateful that none of the stupid emoji characters — like the crying-laughing face or the smooch face — made it into the game.

But to see the thimble go hurts. I conducted an informal poll among my fellow game fans and puzzlers, and the thimble and Scottie the dog were far and away the most popular.

Oh well. At least now there’s the option for a rule about a T-rex stomping someone’s house and causing property damage. That would be one heck of a Chance card.


Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!

It’s Follow-Up Friday: Bogus Brain Health edition!

Welcome to Follow-Up Friday!

By this time, you know the drill. Follow-Up Friday is a chance for us to revisit the subjects of previous posts and bring the PuzzleNation audience up to speed on all things puzzly.

And today, I’d like to return to the subject of brain health and puzzles.

The physicist Emerson Pugh once said that “if the human brain were so simple that we could understand it, we would be so simple that we couldn’t.”

We’re still working hard to unravel the mysteries of how we learn, how we store information, and how puzzle-solving affects the brain in the short term and in the long term. There have been many MANY studies published touting all sorts of results, both positive and negative. And there have been numerous products of a puzzly nature that claim everything from improved memory to staving off Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other debilitating conditions.

As a puzzle guy, I wholeheartedly believe that puzzle-solving has its benefits, and I’m always on the lookout for any new data on the subject to share with you, my fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers.

As far back as 2013, I was digging through every brain health article I could find, trying to find something substantial about the role of puzzles in brain health. I was hoping for a solid yea or nay, but the scientific community inevitably served up a resounding “maybe?”

Heck, as recently as this past September, I mentioned the conflicting data out there regarding brain health and puzzle-based programs like those on the Lumosity website.

And a recent article on Gizmodo may have put the final nail in the coffin when it comes to all of these lofty brain-health promises.

Citing a paper from Psychological Science in the Public Interest, the article discusses a recent attempt to comb through the numerous previous studies and test them under more rigorous scientific conditions.

The end result? From the Gizmodo article:

“Based on our extensive review of the literature cited by brain-training companies in support of their claims, coupled with our review of related brain-training literatures that are not currently associated with a company or product, there does not yet appear to be sufficient evidence to justify the claim that brain training is an effective tool for enhancing real-world cognition,” conclude the authors in the study.

Not surprisingly, brain-training can improve performance on the particular task or puzzle that’s being trained for. But there was very little evidence to show that these brain-games extend beyond that. These programs simply don’t improve everyday cognitive performance.

While I doubt this will be the last we’ve heard of puzzles as the be-all end-all cure for brain health, it’s good to know that dedicated minds are hard at work exposing the snake oil amidst the real science.


Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!