The Zotmeister

solving the puzzle of life one entry at a time

Apr. 22nd, 2011

01:07 am - Puzzle 53: To Each Their Own

See Puzzle 18 for instructions. However, the history of the puzzle I have there is sadly incomplete. Today, I remedy this.

Naoki Inaba is quite possibly the single most underrecognized puzzlesmith alive today. For over a decade, es Puzzle Laboratory has continued to endure and expand, today featuring over 300 different puzzles, most of which are es own original creations. And by "different", I don't mean individual instances - there's over a thousand of those. I mean over 300 unique types of puzzles, making em the most prolific puzzle designer I've ever encountered, and probably the most prolific puzzle designer since Sam Loyd (and given the latter's reputation for plagiarism, maybe even greater than that!). If I may adapt an MST3K invention exchange, e's the Steve Allen of Japanese puzzle design: if you come up with a clever idea you think is new, better check the Naoki-O-Meter to see if e's already thought of that.

Es influence on my own puzzle development and appreciation cannot be understated. Along with Hirofumi Fujiwara - accomplished computer scientist and puzzlesmith in es own right, and the author of the best Sudoku construction tutorial I've ever seen - they are the brains behind Time Intermedia, the company that operated's precursor website Puzzle Japan, which (as I've noted before at the start of my memorial service) was my first true introduction to the depth and beauty of Japanese puzzle design. They are still at work together; their current website, Puzzle GeneRator JaPan (the odd capitalization stems from their URL because they're clever like that), features (among many other things) an extremely fast open-source Sudoku puzzle generator that can be programmed to limit itself to specific human-reasonable deduction techniques and can even handle jigsaw regions and irregular sizes, a series of various beginner-level puzzles of rare designs in PDF form, and the most intimidating book covers ever conceived. But I digress.

Over the years back when I had an office job (yes, I am STILL unemployed - it's tough out there), I would frequently spend downtime at Puzzle Laboratory, clicking some random link to a puzzle, trying to use my limited knowledge of the Japanese language and study of the sample puzzle to deduce the rules, and work through the three or four levels provided in es applets, which always scaled up in difficulty - and cleverness - at just the right pace, exploring the design steadily deeper as they went. It was - and still is! - a fantastic experience and challenge. After I was laid off, I hadn't visited the site for some time, but (especially after cancelling my account) I recently found myself perusing it again, when I discovered something that utterly shocked me:

Some of the puzzles had English instructions!

Sometimes I wondered if I was the only person in the country who knew the site existed. Actually, as I'm typing this right now, I'm still wondering that, although I know that once this is posted, that will change. As well it should. And should have, ages ago. Thankfully, however, as my prompt investigation uncovered, another country managed to build a bridge: Germany. Almost exactly two years ago, members of the German "Logic Masters Forum" took it unto themselves to start deducing/translating the instructions to the puzzles at Puzzle Laboratory, in what has become a grand thread titled Naoki-Projekt. Go thirteen pages in and you'll see the discussion turn multilingual, and sure enough, English translations started popping up as well. And then, as they say, a miracle occurred: Naoki emself heard of the project and joined in, and even asked if e could put the English translations developed so far directly on es site. The answer, of course, was yes. The greatest barrier between es puzzles and the world's enjoyment of them - the language barrier - officially began to break down.

Page 19 of that topic (the current last page as of this writing) revealed a fascinating bit of history. That "NIKOJI" I referenced as how I discovered this puzzle type? Well, NAOKI INABA THOUGHT OF THAT TOO! E'S EVERYWHERE! E'S EVERYWHERE! E'S EVERYW - [ahem] Sorry, what I mean to say is that the design as presented in Puzzle Communication Nikoli is not the original creation - nor by the original creator. The same puzzle design appeared on Puzzle Laboratory first, under the title of Gemini Block (so named because e used each letter exactly twice in each grid, not that the rules required this). As a matter of fact - and this isn't from the forum, but rather my own understanding of the Japanese language - given Nikoli's (and indeed Japan's) penchant for naming things with shortened phrases and that the katakana for 'gemini' actually begins with a 'j' character, I think the title 'NIKOJI' is actually short for "Nikoli's Gemini"... and I thought it was a pompous title before! That's a pretty blatant "borrowing" right there.

Well, I will certainly set the record straight, and it is with great pleasure and honor that I present the following tribute to the true history of To Each Their Own, and indeed to the man who - sometimes unwittingly! - gave me, and very much continues to give me, great inspiration in my humble art.

If you've solved my earlier puzzles of this type, you may find this one surprisingly challenging in comparison. I acquainted myself with Inaba-sensei's own examples of this design in advance of making this puzzle, and I tried to add elements of es style to my own in forging this tribute. I hope you enjoy it. - ZM

EDIT 2011-04-23 3:33 PM EDT: Added link to a Steve-O-Meter video on YouTube (for those poor bastards who didn't get the reference).

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Current Music: "Seasons in China: III. White Tiger", Dynasty Warriors 6 Empires
Current Mood: reverential
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May. 27th, 2006

12:10 am - Puzzle 32: To Each Their Own

See Puzzle 18 for instructions.

In case it weren't immediately obvious, the last puzzle was a joke gift, albeit a rather clever one if I do say so myself. You see, [ profile] glmathgrant also once said in a comment to one of his puzzles:

I wish somebody would make me a puzzle that spells out MG or something.

Yes, I do like being able to meet requests.

For those who don't know, the 'l' in 'glmathgrant' is for 'labyrinth', hence the other names in the grid below. This is a moderately easy puzzle, but there is maybe one little trick in there. Hey, the Funspot tourney is in less than a week - what do you want from me? Anyway, I hope you all enjoy it, not just the birthday buddy. - ZM

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Jan. 30th, 2006

05:20 pm - Puzzle 27: To Each Their Own

See Puzzle 18 for instructions. You'll actually need the fourth rule this time, and how - there are five unduplicated letters in there, but sure enough there is only one legal solution to the puzzle. My first To Each Their Own is the easiest puzzle I've posted here; I was requested to make a better one. I hope this one is found satisfactory. As usual, I accept comments here, and offer to verify solutions emailed to me. Don't expect much in terms of prizes at the moment, but who knows... - ZM

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Sep. 30th, 2005

04:36 pm - Puzzle 18: To Each Their Own

With the great popularity of Polyominous and my own Seeking Syren here, I figured it'd be worth presenting more variations on polyomino-divvying. I discovered this design in issue 100, the only one I own, of Puzzle Communication Nikoli; given that each letter in the grid needs its own polyomino, each character has its own congruence class, and Nikoli's title for the puzzle - NIKOJI - strikes me as rather pompous, I figure my title is a perfect fit. This design presents a first among my LiveJournal puzzles: no numbers! In many ways, this is a cipher Polyominous.

The grid on the left is an unsolved To Each Their Own puzzle; the grid on the right is the unique solution to that same puzzle, rendered in indigo. The cyan line segments are a solving aid I employ and are not part of the solution.

The object is to take the given grid and divide it into polyominoes such that each has exactly one given letter in it and that given any two such polyominoes arbitrarily, they otherwise match exactly - in size, shape, orientation, and the position of the letter within - if and only if the letters they contain match each other.

Still a simple puzzle, but the list is still here:

1) Except for the outside border, the puzzle grid shows only the corners of the cells of the grid. To solve the puzzle, draw in the needed borders between cells so as to divide the grid up into sections following the remaining rules.
2) Every section the grid is split up into must have one letter in it - no more, no less.
3) If two sections have identical letters in them, then the sections they are in must be identical to each other. They must have matching cell counts; their shapes must be identical to each other; they must be lined up identically (if one section has to be rotated, flipped over, or both to look like the other, they do NOT match); they even need to have those matching letters in matching spots within.
4) If two sections do NOT have identical letters in them, then they must NOT be otherwise identical. At least one of the following must be true in that case: one has more cells than the other; their shapes don't match; one would have to be rotated, flipped over, or both in order to get the two to look like each other; their letters are not in matching cells with respect to the borders of the sections.

It is just as important to not use the word 'different' in puzzle instructions as it is to not use the word 'same'. Ambiguity is NOT a good thing in puzzle instructions. But if you're thinking "same letter = same section, different letter = different section", what you're thinking is hopefully correct. Look up at the sample solution: the two A-regions match each other, and the two E-regions match each other, but if you take an A-region and an E-region, they do not match... since although they have the same size, shape, and orientation, the letter is in the left-hand cell of the E-regions and the right-hand cell of the A-regions. I hope that quells any lingering doubts as to what I'm asking for, but if not - or if you can't seem to figure out how to approach this - here's the standard walkthrough:

How to solve the sample puzzle )

I probably could have made a tougher one than the one below, but I felt like being cute with this first one. It's easy, but it's fun. Let me know what you think of this design in the comments; email me your solution if you finish, and maybe I'll reward you and maybe I won't.

On deck: two more designs I haven't presented here yet. - ZM

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