Solving Puzzles

And problems in general

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This was one of the first gifts I got for my girlfriend. The kids enjoyed it up until the second skill level, which the first piece hint was no longer given. In any case, I thought it would be fun to do a stop motion style progression of me solving one. I might do a video of one later, as well. Feel free to flick through without reading the narration, but do read the end bit for a little inspiration.

So, there’s colored pegs that fit within these colored loops. The pieces have shapes familiar to many of us…

Dee-dee doo-dee-do 😄

BOOM!! 😆

Alright, seriously now.

The game is set up by placing the colored pegs in designated spaces on the alpha-numerical grid. A playing piece sharing the same space as a peg must be of the same color. That’s the only rule.

However, you see that the availability of shareable links is limited in each piece, therefore creating limits on the ways each one can be played.

Now, it needs to be understood that the process of solving the puzzle is really working your way through branching ‘if…then’ conditions. “If this piece is placed here, then that piece can/cannot go there.”

It seems silly to orient a piece in a way that you can ‘see in your head’ does not work. However, it really is necessary. You’ll see why as we go along.

For each shareable link, rotate along each of four orientations. For asymmetrical pieces, you should also turn it over and repeat.

You might be wondering at this point, “there are other places to start, what’s the big deal with the green pegs?” Well, statistically speaking, these pegs have the closest proximity to not one but two playing field boundaries; making them the most limiting pegs to place pieces on. Therefore, we optimize our problem solving strategy by starting at the place with the fewest possible branches of subsequent plays.

I like the blue piece here as it gives the best ‘packing efficiency’ and leaves the linear yellow piece available for satisfying the yellow pegs.

This is a sensible continuation. My intuition is that this will not end well, but I still want the image in my mind in case I come back to this point after seeing another arrangement that might complement it.

But now, I’ve created additional limitations on the yellow peg at 4C. I have a plan, though.

This asymmetrical thing takes some time to wrap your head around.

Yes.

Yes. Yes!

No! No! Aww. Dead end.

Like I said, you have to investigate placements that you can visualize as not working. Your mind is not as accurate as you’d like to believe, and the sooner you accept this, the quicker you will learn to pursue unlikely but viable solutions.

Okay, this doesn’t seem to be working. I cannot satisfy the yellow pegs with the left columns filled as they are.

So, I have to ask myself, “did I take the wrong branch here?”

“Or here?”

The green pegs are still the most limiting, so perhaps I can improve the packing efficiency of the green pieces.

Any time you can fit a square piece into a corner, it’s usually a good start,

I know, I’m all the way back to an empty playing field. I made a lot of progress with the first arrangement of green pieces and now I’ve scrapped that approach and have to start over with nothing.

Maybe…

But, if I do this, I see no way of placing the other yellow piece.

Oh! Now this looks promising. Excellent packing and both yellow pieces are available.

This is also an ideal start as the open space 2A lends itself to several other useful placements, such as can be done with these three.

So, back to these yellow pieces. Like I keep saying, you have to consider all options, even if you’re just sure they won’t work.


As you investigate these somewhat nonsensical options, be on the lookout for familiar shapes in the empty parts of the grid.

Oh! This is good, but what if…?

…we place this yellow piece here? This makes for a fine spot for the red L and the blue 5 link piece. It also leaves both the blue and yellow linear pieces available to fill in row A.

And the other red one just fits so nicely like this!

Mmmm, a little ‘cock Ramen’ to fuel the brain. I’m not a hipster, I swear!

While I’m dishing up my lunch, the kids are shouting, “I know how to do the rest!”

Ah! Yes, indeed! At long last😃

Ta-da! There you have it!

So, the point of this, aside from flexing the fat in your skull (I’m told the brain is comprised mostly of lipids) is this:

in solving any problem, you must be willing to backtrack and have faith in the process even when it doesn’t produce the desired result. You may have put a lot of effort into something that didn’t turn out and have to go back to square one, starting all over with nothing. However, if you don’t keep working at it, maintaining faith in your process, you will never get to the solution you are after. 

And don’t forget to take breaks to nourish and rejuvenate yourself along the way, even if it’s just Ramen and hot sauce!

Author: Goose Andeluse

Compulsive maker and fowl carpenter.

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