Puzzleworks, 6: The Confounding Calendar
Corey Hardt and beekie18 have organised The Confounding Calendar, a digital advent calendar that delivers a small puzzle every day until the 25th.
Most of the puzzles, so far, are Puzzlescript creations. I’ve tried all of them, solved some, abandoned others. My favourites are…
Nutshell: Selection of mainly shortform Puzzlescript puzzles: some easy, some hard, some ragequittable. Worth a gander.
December Plans (Michael Kamm) was the very first entry, a Sudoku/Picross affair based on a calendar. It was hard work but compelling as no guesswork was required. I showed off a solution on a recent stream which forced Matt W to sign up to Twitch just to send me a comment that I’d made a silly mistake.
Pentaglyph (Menderbug) was the fifth entry in the calendar. I wouldn’t want to spoil anything because half the fun is deciphering the rules. You’ll likely have more than one “wait, what?” moment when something seems impossible. The problem in the fifth chamber is particularly fiendish but solvable and there’s also one last sting in the tail.
A clever puzzle. But I have one caveat for you: you may be frustrated trying to figure out whether you are supposed to save glyphs from a previous chamber for the next, or whether you’re supposed to start with nothing.
Today’s entry is Addition Puzzle (Beekie). I’m going to say even less about this puzzle than Pentaglyph. It won’t take long to solve but it’s likely you’ll raise your fist at the developer when you crack it.
This entire project is just for fun with no monies changing hands so I don’t really want to barge in here with harsh criticism. But I found myself pondering what makes its shortform serial nature tick.
First, a mix of puzzle difficulties is important. It’s no good having several puzzles that will take days to figure out because what you don’t want is a pile of unfinished puzzles still waiting for you on Christmas Day. I found December Plans to be a proper workout but, in contrast, Don’t Step Away From the TV (Toph Wells) was not. Those easy wins were welcome.
The shortform framing – each day you get a single puzzle rather than a sequence – seems perfect. But more feral mechanics (YMMV) are a bad fit for the shortform format. Shifting Sands is a tiny sliding tile puzzle with wraparound borders which I could not get my head into. I felt like I needed some tutorial levels to build up sufficient mental muscle but there was just this one puzzle and that was it. I was more likely to solve through Monte Carlo methods. Instead, I just threw in the towel.
Last point. And this one is a really picky point, so bear with me while I grapple with First World Problems. I was less keen on 8+3 (Knexator) because it had no well-defined end state. Putting aside that it was particularly hard (a sliding tile puzzle with two interacting mechanisms), you had to scramble the puzzle yourself and then fix it. Now, there’s no reason why you can’t have an evergreen self-driven puzzle like this. Plenty of physical puzzles involve you setting up the problem state yourself, from the Rubik’s Cube to sorting out the colours from the whites for the laundry. But something you can toy with forever and not compare success against your fellow puzzle solving peers felt out of step with a series of one shot puzzles.
Anyway, do check out the Calendar and feel free to leave some comments about how you found it.
Previous Puzzlework: Tres Undos
Next Puzzlework: Understand
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