ImageDue to a serendipitous alignment of schedules and events I got to spend some time in the world of my brother Bob this week. Technically I got to spend some time in a place where my world and my brother Bob’s world intersect. Bob Franzosa is a professor of mathematics at the University of Maine in Orono. His specialty is in topology. This past week he was in Boston attending the largest annual mathematics meeting in the world held at the Hynes Convention  center. As I am currently “between  assignments” I had the time available to join him there. On Wednesday I attended the talk he gave on his lifetime passion “The Baseball Simulator” which was born as a dice game he created in the 1960’s and grew into an interesting tool to evaluate baseball using minimal statistics. Yesterday I sat in with him on a session dedicated to puzzles. While the relevance of the orthoganality of Magic Sudoku puzzles was a bit lost on me, the discussions on the construction and solving of puzzles was right up my alley….and the excitement over the potential proof of the 17-clue minimum for sudoku was great. Sometimes the dice of the universe give you a critical miss but it is ok because you find that the next roll yields something even better.

25 cryptic things

by request, here is my 25 cryptic things about me reposted from facebook with a couple clues cleaned up…enjoy

1) First off grass and mowing every Saturday is my favorite hobby (5)
2) Paul Franzosa initially holds writing and the middle of the insurance agency from London represents a great rock band I like. (4,5)
3) What would a human do, Linus, holding an instrument I play? (8)
4) If Mr. Skelton owned Paul Bunyan’s pet, it would be my favorite team. (3,3)
5) A third of a dollar with a follower is my latest favorite card game (8)
6) An infant with Mr. Chaney V gives my favorite show (7, 4)
7) Something magical is holding the place where I work (10)
8) Confused, harried, describes my spouse’s locks (3,4)
9) My political philosophy is a wound coil amiss (9)
10) A tree license lingering around my bachelors degree (10,11)
11) My belief is coasting crazily (8)
12) A near blunder around my favorite film (5,6)
13) Second best without the color of most of my clothes (5)
14) What you see on the Mac screen – a rodent goes back with my main musical instrument (6)
15) Danger man, yes it has a place I’ve been many times (7)
16) Darling, tonight has a hold on my home town (9)
17) Mosaic visas, a confused author I love (5,6)
18) Something I like to listen to is a twisted evil crazy math result with an electronic component (4,6)
19) I love to read confusing scenic cite info (7,7)
20) Junior, a cooking vessel is another place I’ve visited (5)
21) Aw, I mill around to find my older son (7)
22) Dean, relax around my younger son (9)
23) Left two parts of every painting going back to something I like to do (6)
24) Awful hope in electronic gadget I use (6)
25) My favorite crossword type contains the result of sliced onions, physical therapy, and most of the hockey surface (7)


I have two of my friends to thank for some recent hours solving some serious puzzles.

Fisrt I want to thank DougO for sharing with me that the Atlantic Monthly has published all of their cryptic crosswords for free online. I started with the most recent one and am working my way back wards in time. These are great for riding the bus and subway as the single sheet is quite compact. I am particularly happy in that as of today I have completely solved (without cheating) two out of the first six I tried.

Secondly, against my better judgment, I am following Aaron’s lead and dipping my toe into I am in way over my head with most of these but I’ve got the first two with some very simple spreadsheet filling. In doing these, I also created a rather fun (for me) interactive Sieve of Eratosthenes spreadsheet. Unfortunately MOD(600851475143, n) is beyond the capability of my spreadsheet. It looks like I need to shake off some cobwebs and do some coding for number 3.

do u su do ku?

200px-Nonominosudoku.pngAs an avid puzzler I have been one of the many caught up in the Sudoku craze. I can’t say that I have mastered them as I still get stuck on some of the more difficult ones. I do enjoy the pure logical deduction needed to complete the puzzle.  I also enjoy finding new and different challenges that fall into the Sudoku realm. To that end I am excited to find the many variations of Sudoku that have been appearing. Of course I find some via my subscription to Games Magazine but some of the first interesting variants I’ve seen were published in the Boston Phoenix as “Psycho Sudoku”. More recently I came across this page that has a number of cool variants and links to more similar interesting puzzles. In addition it seems that the World Puzzling Federation (Championship going on right now!) sponsored a World Sudoku Championship last March in Italy. Here is the instruction booklet (PDF) showing the types of puzzles contestants had to solve there. It’ll be a greeat day when this event gets covered by ESPN!

technorati tags: sudoku, puzzles

puzzle fun

I’ve been into puzzles from many different sources lately…Perplexcity, Puzzle Pirates, Games Magazine, …one of these days I’l have to get one of my MIT friends to drag me to the Mystery Hunt…my latest obsession is the daily puzzles at Tanga. You have to register to seem the puzzles but they are worth it, IMHO. They have been mostly just the right kind of puzzle for me but I have to admit to getting some spolier help on a couple of them from the netizens over at



This looks like an absolutely fascinating exhibit on three dimensional puzzles. Slashdot sent me there originally…it looks like in true /. fashion there are a number of people arguing about the number of moves above…of course they are discussing the wrong puzzle type as they didn’t read the article correctly! …having said that one person posted a great idea: write to the Museum of Science in Boston requesting they get this exhibit!

a maze ing

I’m an avid subscriber to Games Magazine and I just discovered that the maze on the cover of the August 06 issue was deisgned by Robert Abbott, the author of one of my favorite puzzle books Mad Mazes…I don’t remember how I got this book, it was before my obsession with games and puzzles of the last decade, but it has been a source of great entertainment for me (and now my kids) for quite some time…it is full of beautifully illustrated Logic Mazes, as Mr. Abbott names them, only a few of which I have solved but all fun nonetheless…as it turns out after some interwebbing I found that he has done a lot of puzzle and game design…I am going to have to try a Bureaucratic Maze with the Youth Group this fall!

perplex city

a while back i purchased a bunch of perplex city cards on ebay…i finally started solving some of the easy ones with my kids this afternoon (a great rainy day activity)…perplex city is this really cool  alternate reality game where one buys cards in the real world (or the UK in this case) with puzzles on them and gets points by entering correct solutions on the main website for the game…the meta game story is about  a missing cube and a real-world $200,000 prize for locating the missing cube (in the real world i assume)..while i know i’ll never be able to compete with the netizens who will spend countless hours solving cards, i would like to plow through some of these…i really should have a puzzle party with some of my more hard-core gaming friends…some of the cards are close to “impossible“….

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