# PuzzleNation Product Review: IcoSoKu

[Note: I received a free copy of this game in exchange for a fair, unbiased review. Due diligence, full disclosure, and all that.]

Most puzzles — whether we’re talking about puzzle boxes, jigsaw puzzles, physical brain teasers, or mechanical puzzles — operate under a simple premise: the puzzle arrives in one configuration, and it’s up to you to solve it and put it into a different configuration.

With puzzle boxes, you’re opening them. With jigsaws, you’re assembling the pieces. With physical brain teasers and mechanical puzzles, you’re separating them, freeing a given piece, or accomplishing a particular task. But in each case, they’ve arrived that way. You have been pitted against the designer.

Project Genius‘s IcoSoKu is something different. IcoSoKu challenges you to create your own puzzle, and then solve it.

The setup is elegant in its simplicity. It’s a puzzle ball consisting of a twenty-sided icosahedron base, twelve numbered pegs, and twenty triangular tiles with different combinations of pips at the corners.

To start, remove all of the tiles and all of the pegs from the icosahedron. Place the numbered pegs wherever you wish on the puzzle ball.

Then, you must figure out how to arrange the triangular tiles on the puzzle ball.

This is tougher than it seems. Each triangular tile has a different combination of pips in its corners. Some corners have none, while others have one, two, or three pips. And each corner neighbors a different numbered peg. Each numbered peg is surrounded by five corners, and the pips on each corner, when added together, should total the number on the peg.

And with numbers ranging from 1 to 12, you have to be both clever and careful in your tile placement. That peg labeled “1” can only have a single pip neighboring it, meaning that the other four tiles surrounding that peg should have empty corners.

[Three different looks at the same solved puzzle ball.]

IcoSoKu combines the deduction of placement puzzles like Minesweeper or Blackout! with the mathematical puzzling of a magic square or a Sudoku puzzle. And by making the puzzle three-dimensional, it places a healthy demand on your puzzly faculties. You’re constantly tipping and turning the puzzle ball, because you can never see the whole puzzle at once, making it much harder to manage your tiles and maintain a good sense of just how many of those valuable little pips you’ve already used.

And as soon as you’ve placed the final tile and searched the puzzle ball all over, confirming a successful solution… all you want to do is strip away all of the tiles and pegs to test your wits again.

Assigning pegs randomly creates a completely different solving experience from bundling all the large numbers together on one side and all the small numbers together on the other side of the ball. Although you will begin to spot certain patterns and techniques that will come in handy as you solve each successive permutation of the puzzle, you’ll still find IcoSoKu to be an engaging and satisfying challenge.

Plus there are other ways you can enjoy the puzzle after cracking it yourself. I challenged a fellow puzzler to a timed IcoSoKu solve-off! First, I arranged the pegs and timed how long it took her to solve the puzzle ball I’d devised. Then, she arranged the pegs and timed how long it took me to unravel the puzzle ball she’d created. It added a fun touch of competition and uncertainty to the solving experience, one that my patient solo-solving didn’t capture.

But whether you’re tackling IcoSoKu yourself or with a puzzly rival, you’ll find plenty to enjoy here. It’s a DIY puzzle, masterfully put together and waiting for you to execute.

IcoSoKu is available from Project Genius and other participating retailers, appropriate for solvers 9 and up!

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# The Art & Design of a Geometric Puzzle

It’s rare to get a glimpse inside the puzzly creative process.

Sure, plenty of crossword constructors are happy to share how particular puzzles of theirs came to be, but many constructors and designers, whether we’re talking mechanical puzzles, pen-and-paper puzzles, or electronic puzzles, keep their techniques and tricks secret. They’re like magicians that way.

So when a puzzler takes you behind the curtain, it’s a rare and special treat. The website Gamasutra recently hosted such an event when app designer and puzzler Paul Hlebowitsh explained in detail how he designs the puzzles for his app RYB.

In Paul’s words, “RYB is very similar to ‘Minesweeper’ or ‘Hexcells,’ but instead of using numbers or symbols, it uses colors. The colored dots inside of a shape tell you how the neighboring shapes are colored.”

I love the devilish simplicity behind the solving. It’s so universal that it transcends the language barrier. Simply show another person the first step, and they’ll pick it up immediately.

Paul goes on to explain how one particular puzzle evolved as he sought the perfect mix of puzzly challenge and unique solvability.

He took this:

and eventually ended up with this:

It’s a fascinating read, one I can’t do justice to with a brief summary, so I suggest everyone check out the full post to watch an impressive constructor at work. Being walked step-by-step through a build by the designer is a delight.

I also have to praise the puzzles themselves. The mix of geometric shapes and colors creates a truly striking image. I think I’m gonna get a print made of this one and put it on my wall:

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# It’s Follow-Up Friday: More UK Puzzles 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’m returning to the subject of big international puzzle events!

A few weeks ago, the UK Puzzle Association hosted the 2016 UK Sudoku Championship. And this weekend, they’ve got another major puzzle event in store for puzzlers worldwide: The 2016 UK Puzzle Championship!

The event spans June 24 through June 27, and chairman Alan O’Donnell of the UK Puzzle Association sent out the Instruction Booklet for this year’s event a few days ago, continuing a string of major puzzle events in Europe and across the world.

Although the UK Puzzle Championship is only open to competitors from the UK — with the top two earning a place on the UK team for the 2016 World Puzzle Championship — international players are welcome to test their puzzly mettle as guest solvers.

But even if most PuzzleNationers aren’t eligible to compete, you can still enjoy the challenge of some topnotch puzzles. Let’s take a look at some of the diabolical puzzles they’ve cooked up for this year’s event!

This Banknotes puzzle sets the tone for much of the Instruction Booklet to come, offering a number-placement puzzle with clues outside the grid. In this case, you have different valued 3×1 “banknotes” to place in the grid, and their total values add up to the numbers outside a given row or column.

So this is a bit like the game Battleship, except with different valued ships instead of different sized ones.

Here we have a more traditional Fill-In puzzle, but with an nontraditional grid shape. This one is all about efficient word placement.

Instead of placing words into this grid, the Cloud puzzle asks you to fill in which squares are covered by “clouds,” based on the total number of cloud-covered cells given on the outside of the grid. This is essentially a small Logic Art puzzle.

This Hidoku turns the usual Sudoku-solving on its ear by requiring you to place the numbers 1 through 25 into the following grid so that they form an unbroken chain. Consecutive numbers must touch, either horizontally, vertically, or diagonally.

For fans of Penny Dell Puzzles, this is like Sudoku and Word Maze had a diabolical little baby.

[I left the solution in with this one to help illustrate the solving style.]

Hashi is an intriguing deduction puzzle that follows the same cluing mentality as Blackout! or Minesweeper. Each circle contains a number indicating how many “bridges” connect that “island” to the other islands either vertical or horizontal to that island.

You’re essentially building your own Word Trails puzzle with Hashi, except you’re using numbers instead of the letters in a famous saying.

This is probably my favorite of the puzzles I’ve encountered in this Instruction Booklet, and I’m definitely looking forward to solving it this weekend.

These puzzles are just a sampling of the numerous puzzles you’ll tackle if you accept the UK Puzzle Championship challenge.

Not only are Kakuro and Sum-Doku (or Killer Sudoku) included, but also other twists on classic solving styles like Fill-Ins, Deduction puzzles, and Logic Problems.

You can check out the full Instruction Booklet here, and remember, you’ll have two and a half hours to solve as many of the 29 puzzles in the packet as possible, so good luck on June 24!

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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!