zotmeister: Sean Neylon in a Phoenix Wright stance and suit, barking out "SHUT YOUR CAKEHOLE!" (cakehole)
zotmeister ([personal profile] zotmeister) wrote 2012-05-03 07:13 pm (UTC)

"Good to see all of these again!"

Yeah, I was thinking the same thing.

"Perhaps you remember me commenting on your blog two years ago about this puzzle and how we were unable to logically do the 7th one (team guessed the answer and moved on afterwards). My revenge was two years late, but I made mincemeat of it this time. Though I suppose compared to the me of two years ago my solving is on a different level now."

Glad to hear that - that's what it's all about. The Hunt, ironically, is a horrible environment for truly studying and appreciating puzzles - it's all about getting the answer at any cost by any means. That was a large part of why I wanted to take these otherwise-perfectly-fine puzzles out of that context. (The other puzzle I made for the Hunt can stay there.)

"One thing about this type in general: I know you've mentioned in some of your earlier posts how you like making types that have a single exception in the grid. In this type it's that Syren can touch nodes. I have to confess I'm not a big fan of that kind of rule. Before finding that damn S, solving these puzzles usually has me doing irritating case analysis of whether some particular grid space touching a node might possibly be that S or not."

I'm happy someone brought that up. I was wondering if anybody felt that way. Maybe my exploits as Sudoku Variant Boy have spoiled me, but I find I really like puzzles that have some sort of twist to keep me on my toes. Take Battleship Sudoku, for example. Amazing book, amazing author [I'm his number 3 fan for eight more months], amazing puzzles. But for any particular one I'm doing, after the ships are placed and numbered, I always find myself thinking, "and the rest is just Sudoku" - it doesn't feel like it's as much "puzzle solving" anymore as it is "mopping up".

But what I've found I can do is really use that apparent drawback in an almost narrative manner to become a strength. When I'm constructing a puzzle that has some exception to be kept in mind while solving, well, then I need to keep that exception in mind when constructing! It gives me a singular focus - the "plot of the episode", so to speak - and I wield it as a weapon to prevent the puzzle from becoming formulaic. I use it to taunt and tease, drawing the solver in, keeping the tension building and the solver wondering, until I can't hold it back anymore and the big reveal pours forth, the pencil doing its best Jessica Fletcher as it proves who the rulebreaker is. And what I've found is that if I've done that right, then what remains in the puzzle (which hopefully isn't much) feels like a relaxing, satisfying denouement rather than a janitorial duty.

Or at least, that's how it feels to me when I testsolve my puzzles.

For Seeking Syren in particular, there's a very explicit set of rules I use pre- and post-reveal during construction. There's one pre-construction rule I've found myself taking greater and greater advantage of lately, and I'm guessing by your description that it's something you've yet to discover. Remember that the node count is something I technically don't have to provide, as it could be easily calculated (add up all the given numbers, plus two for the 'Z' and 'S', and subtract that from the grid area)... but I provide it immediately anyhow. I do that because it's useful immediately. If you don't see how, meditate on it. And if you DO see how, good for you, and DON'T SPOIL IT FOR OTHERS!

"The most enjoyable of these puzzles were 63 and 67, which both went backwards and did not require any of this thinking."

LIKE THAT! Sure, I said the former was backwards, and it's an easy enough inference for the latter... but it's still an inference! It's perhaps not quite as bad as what mathgrant did back a bit, but you still get the you've-been-naughty icon for this reply.

"Though I do confess 62 was as nice as promised."

Thanks. I'm surprised I was able to pull that off, frankly. As you may recall, [personal profile] ralphmerridew noted a number of times that I was neglecting the final rule of the puzzle; I wanted to make up for it all in one fell swoop :) Curiously, e hasn't responded about this yet.

"Incidentally, for me the difficulty order of 61-66 seemed almost reversed. Probably because the later instances are heavier on the Nurikabe steps, which I am very well-versed in."

I can see how that can happen. It takes all kinds, I suppose :) - ZM

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