Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Puzzle Day

My work team is still in the depths of Puzzle Boat 8, having finished 65 puzzles in the past 19 days. While impressive, we still have 86 puzzles to go! I'm constantly impressed by the intricacy of these puzzle challenges from P & A Magazine. Each puzzle is approachable yet devious, with multiple "aha!" moments. Some of the puzzles require creative leaps, but everything remains internally consistent and solvable in retrospect.

To give you an example of the kind of puzzle-solving a Puzzle Boat takes, here's a puzzle from a previous year and how we solved it.

Phase I: There are rarely any instructions in a Puzzle Boat puzzle. You get a title, a cryptic clue in italics, and some kind of game board or clue list. The clues are usually approachable enough that you can start solving them without knowing where it's all going to end up.

As you fill in clues, some patterns might start to emerge. Maybe every answer starts with the same prefix, or uses certain letters of the alphabet. Here, we noticed that there was an extra word in each clue that didn't fit. For example, "Dawson's Creek" is a long-running show but has nothing to do with boating.

Phase II: Eventually you reach the point where all the clues have been solved but a final answer is not apparent. This is when the next creative leap is required. Based on the italicized clue in this puzzle, we looked at the "Best in Show" winners in the Westminster Dog Show for the years listed at the bottom of the page.

We noticed that each dog's (crazy) name used 3 words from our clue answers and that the extra words made a brand new clue. For example, the 2018 dog's name used BELLE, CREEK, and LOVE, and the extra words were PUSSYCAT'S BOATING PARTNER. The answer to this, of course, is OWL.

We solved each new riddle and ended up with 15 new answers, matching the dated boxes on the bottom of the original puzzle page. At this point, something seemed wrong. Some of the answers we came up with weren't long enough to match the numbers in the boxes. For example, the 2017 box answer was "RUMP", so the "11" there couldn't be used as a length or an index (the 11th letter).

We sat here stumped for several days until someone had another inspiration, based on the italicized clue about hidden cats. (We had previously looked at cat shows to no avail).

Final Step: In the midst of puzzle delirium, a teammate realized that our 15 new answers were fragments from the names of cats from CATS:

These names were long enough that we could now use the boxed numbers as indexes and extract certain letters to make one final riddle: "BOREANAZ ON BONES". The final answer (which we type into the website to confirm) was the name of the character that David Boreanaz plays on that show. As one last bit of cleverness, the answer is always related somehow to the puzzle's title.

I spend equal amounts of time each year feeling brilliant about solving the puzzles and in awe of the puzzle-maker's skill at creating hundreds of these every year!

tagged as games, day-to-day | permalink | 1 comment


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