Puzzle Solving Guide
This is the archive of the 2008 Puzzle Competition. Please visit the current competition site for information about the latest Puzzle Competition.
About the puzzles
The puzzles in this competition consist of three distinct parts:
Some of the puzzles are essentially pure logic problems, requiring nothing more than detecting and unravelling the patterns present in the puzzle itself - like a sudoku. Some require a little bit of cultural or language knowledge, but can still be solved by most people with nothing more than a pencil and paper - like a crossword puzzle. And finally, some of them need broad or deep cultural knowledge that most people will need to look up in reference material before they can reach the solution - like a trivia quiz. Some puzzles combine two or even all three of these modes.
Solving the puzzles
The puzzles are not your standard crossword puzzle or word jumble that most people are familiar with. In particular, these puzzles give you no instructions as to what you need to do to solve them. So how do you go about solving them?
For examples of how the puzzles work and how to solve them, check the puzzles and worked solutions from the 2007 Competition.
The puzzles have been designed so that when you are on the right track, it should suddenly become clear that you are doing the right thing. Patterns will become apparent and things will fall into place. For a while. Many of the puzzles have further stages that may require more thought to progress further. Apply the same sort of searching as before.
While you are making progress, you can pretty much ignore the puzzle title and story text. If you get intractably stuck, however, it might be worth looking over the title and story text, to see if an odd word choice sparks a new line of thought.
When you've reduced the puzzle to the answer, it should be reasonably obvious that you've done the right thing, because it will make everything coalesce into just a word or short phrase. The answers often don't have anything to do with the intermediate puzzle steps, since that would make guessing them too easy. For example, if the puzzle uses Shakespeare quotes, the answer almost certainly won't be "to be or not to be".
It doesn't matter if you submit an answer with or without spaces, or what capitalisation you use. Prior to checking your answer, we will strip any spaces and non-letter characters from your answer, and convert it to lower case. So if the answer to a puzzle is "fortytwo", submitting "Forty Two" will also get you the points.
This puzzle is impossible! Help?
Most of the puzzles require an intuitive leap at some point in their solving process. There are a bunch of things that we've found helpful in solving puzzles:
Having said that, some of the puzzles are quite difficult and they all require different approaches. We don't expect any teams to solve all of them without any hints. So if one puzzle is giving you grief, try another one. And try them again when the hints are released.