# Puzzles in Pop Culture: Square One TV

Puzzles in Pop Culture is all about chronicling those moments in TV, film, literature, art, and elsewhere in which puzzles play a key role. In previous installments, we’ve tackled everything from The West Wing, The Simpsons, and M*A*S*H to MacGyver, Gilmore Girls, and various incarnations of Sherlock Holmes.

And in today’s edition, we’re jumping into the Wayback Machine and looking back at the math-fueled equivalent of Sesame Street: Square One TV!

[The intro to Square One TV, looking more than a little dated these days.]

This PBS show ran from 1987 to 1994 (although reruns took over in 1992), airing five days a week and featuring all sorts of math-themed programming. Armed with a small recurring group of actors, the writers and producers of Square One TV offered many clever (if slightly cheesy) ideas for presenting different mathematical concepts to its intended audience.

Whether they were explaining pie charts and percentages with a game show parody or employing math-related magic tricks with the aid of magician Harry Blackstone, Jr., the sketches were simple enough for younger viewers, but funny enough for older viewers.

In addition to musical parodies performed by the cast, several famous musicians contributed to the show as well. “Weird Al” Yankovic, Bobby McFerrin, The Fat Boys, and Kid ‘n’ Play were among the guests helped explain fractions, tessellations, and other topics.

[One of the many math-themed songs featured on the show.]

Two of the most famous recurring segments on Square One TV were Mathman and Mathcourt. (Sensing a theme here?)

Mathman was a Pac-Man ripoff who would eat his way around an arcade grid until he reached a number or a question mark (depending on this particular segment’s subject).

For instance, if he came to a question mark and it revealed “3 > 2”, he could eat the ratio, because it’s mathematically correct, and then move onward. But if he ate the ratio “3 < 2”, he would be pursued by Mr. Glitch, the tornado antagonist of the game. (The announcer would always introduce Mr. Glitch with an unflattering adjective like contemptible, inconsiderate, devious, reckless, insidious, inflated, ill-tempered, shallow, or surreptitious.)

Mathcourt, on the other hand, gave us a word problem in the form of a court case, leaving the less-than-impressed district attorney and judge to establish whether the accused (usually someone much savvier at math than them) was correct or incorrect. As a sucker for The People’s Court-style shenanigans, this recurring segment was a personal favorite of mine.

But from a puzzle-solving standpoint, MathNet was easily the puzzliest part of the program. Detectives George Frankly and Kate Tuesday would use math to solve baffling crimes. Whether it was a missing house, a parrot theft, or a Broadway performer’s kidnapping, George and Kate could rely on math to help them save the day.

These segments were told in five parts (one per day for a full week), using the Dragnet formula to tackle all sorts of mathematical concepts, from the Fibonacci sequence to calculating angles of reflection and refraction.

These were essentially word problems, logic problems, and other puzzles involving logic or deduction, but with a criminal twist. Think more Law & Order: LCD than Law & Order: SVU.

Granted, given all the robberies and kidnappings the MathNet team faced, these segments weren’t aiming as young or as silly as much of Square One TV‘s usual fare, but they are easily the most fondly remembered aspect of the show for fans and casual viewers alike.

Given the topic of Tuesday’s post — the value of recreational math — it seemed only fitting to use today’s post to discuss one of the best examples of math-made-fun in television history.

Square One TV may not have been nearly as successful or as long-lasting as its Muppet-friendly counterpart, but its legacy lives on in the hearts and memories of many puzzlers these days.

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# A logic puzzle with an artistic twist!

Puzzles are truly a worldwide phenomenon. So many different cultures and groups have created fantastic, long-lasting puzzle styles that continue to resonate across decades and even centuries.

In the past I’ve endeavored to make PuzzleNation Blog a bit more PuzzleInternational by sharing overseas puzzle flavors from German and Spanish puzzle books that’ve been passed to me by fellow puzzlers.

And I’m so excited that another friend of the blog has shared an absolute treasure trove of international puzzle books with me, ensuring that our puzzly world tour will continue!

So today, instead of examining a single puzzle book and getting a glimpse into a particular culture’s brand of puzzles, I’ve picked a particular type of puzzle and we’ll be exploring magazines from several different countries dedicated to that puzzle!

Let’s take a global look at Logic Art!

Logic Art puzzles (also known as Pixel Puzzles, Pic-a-Pix, Illust-Logic, Griddlers, Hanjie, and Picture Puzzles) are a wonderfully artistic take on deduction-style logic puzzles.

Essentially, you’re given an empty grid with numbers along the top and left-hand side. These numbers indicate black squares to color in and white squares to leave alone. By deducing where to place the black squares and white squares, a pixelated picture will emerge!

(For more complete rules and solving tips, check out this helpful guide from our friends at Penny/Dell Puzzles.)

So, the difficulty of the solve and creativity of the solution image are only limited by the puzzle constructor’s imagination and your own puzzle savvy.

Some magazines, like these German puzzle books, stick to the simple black square/white square mechanic…

… while others, like this Cyrillic magazine with several colors and this Hungarian magazine with splashes of red, encourage greater use of color in your Logic Artwork.

These smaller, digest-sized Cyrillic magazines offer multiple grids per page with simpler solution images.

But look at the level of detail some of the larger grids offer!

I must admit, though, I’m partial to these Japanese puzzle books, if only for this particular solution image:

Logic Art is obviously a puzzle with global appeal. Although not as universal as Sudoku (or as intuitively easy to solve), it clearly strikes a chord with solvers across the world.

It’s always a treat to explore puzzles from another culture’s perspective. Thanks for taking this journey with me today.

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out the growing library of PuzzleNation apps and games!