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A Puzzling World


To celebrate the launch of our Puzzle Academy, we’re delving into the puzzling world to see what we can learn about how our favourite pastime is experienced across the globe.


Armchair Travelling


Map of the World | A Puzzling World
There’s a big ol’ world of puzzling goodies out there!


Here at Treasure Trails, we have a few specialities – exploring the nooks and crannies around the UK and puzzling to our heart’s content.

But while many cool, popular puzzles were invented and developed here, a lot of our favourites come from over the water. In fact, our puzzling hobbies would be rather boring without the help of our international friends and their mindboggling brainteasers!


Super Sudoku


Sudoku | A Puzzling World
A simple sudoku to get your brain in gear.


When we think of international superstar puzzles, Sudoku is one of the first that springs to mind. How could it not be? It has truly been a rising star in the puzzling world since it was first introduced in the UK in 2004.

In fact, if you read through a newspaper or visit the magazine section of a newsagent, it’s almost impossible to avoid seeing a Sudoku puzzle or a variation of it; Killer Sudoku and Hyper Sudoku prove popular.


Hyper Sudoku and Killer Sudoku | A Puzzling World
Examples of Hyper Sudoku (left) and Killer Sudoku (right); they’re about as easy as they look! Credit to Oceanh [CC BY 2.5].


Now, you might think that Sudoku is a Japanese creation. It’s true that the name is, and it gained its phenomenal popularity from Japan; it was introduced by Nikoli – a Japanese publisher specialising in games and logic puzzles – as Sūji wa dokushin ni kagiru which translates to “the digits must be single” or “the digits are limited to one occurrence”. However, the original puzzle is much older and comes from Switzerland!

Okay, the first version of Sudoku is definitely different from what we see now. It stemmed from an 18th-century game called Latin Squares, created by a Swiss mathematician, and went on to be adapted and published in France in 1892.

The first French version required maths skills to solve rather than logic. It was refined again in 1895 to a closer version of the Sudoku we know and love – this version was popular and featured weekly in newspapers until WWI.


French Sudoku | A Puzzling World
A magic square from an edition of La France newspaper, published 6th July 1895. This is possibly one of the earliest known Sudokus!


The modern Sudoku that is seen today was actually designed anonymously but is often contributed to puzzle-enthusiast Howard Gerns from Indiana, USA. It was published in 1979 under the name Number Place – a whole five years before Nikoli introduced it to Japan.

Talk about globetrotting! The idea of the Sudoku has truly spanned decades and continents to reach us.


Japanese Puzzling Gems


Even if it led the way, Sudoku isn’t the only puzzle to be popularised in Japan – particularly by Nikoli – that has then gone on to gain international renown.

For the most part, the puzzles that prove popular in Japan don’t include words. The Japanese language doesn’t really work for things like crosswords, so brainteasers involving numbers and shapes are seen often.


Summing it Up


Kakuro is a super popular number logic puzzle in Japan – second only to Sudoku – which takes some maths skills to solve! It’s almost like the mathematical version of a crossword; the English name is Cross Sums, as coined by a Canadian puzzler Jacob E. Funk in 1966.

You’re given a grid of white and blacked-out squares, with a number given at the start of each string of white squares. The goal is to fill each blank square with a number from 1-9, with the total of the numbers adding up to the first number given. It may not sound too complicated, but once you add all of the other entries into the mix, it can get a bit tricky!


Kakuro | A Puzzling World
A simple Kakuro and it’s solution. Credit to Octahedron80 – Own work [CC BY-SA 3.0]


Like the Sudoku, there are lots of variations and difficulty levels for the Kakuro. Although the easiest puzzles are solvable using brainpower alone, the more difficult versions require tried-and-tested tactics and techniques. Some keen Kakuro-solvers have even been known to use tracing paper to try various combinations before entering the real answers into the grid; now, that’s dedication!


Paint by Numbers?


Now, this Japanese puzzle goes by lots of different names: Nonogram, Hanjie, Picross, Paint by Numbers, Griddlers and many more! We’re going to call it by its original term – Nonogram – which was named after Non Ishida, one of two people who invented this puzzle.

With a Nonogram, you’re presented with a blank grid of many squares. At the edge of the grid are a series of numbers – each number represents how many of the squares in that row or column must be filled in one stretch. So, 1 2 3 means that one square must be filled, then a break, followed by two filled squares, another break, and finally three filled squares.

You’ve really got to tap into your logic skills to figure out which of these squares need to be filled in. The end goal of the Nonogram is to create a picture within the grid – it’s very clever! More often than not, Nonograms are intended to be black and white, but there are variations that involve colour to create an even more in-depth picture.


Treasure Trails Nonogram | A Puzzling World
A Treasure Trails Nonogram and it’s solution!


The idea of the Nonogram was first sparked after Non Ishida won a competition in Tokyo in 1987; her entry was the creation of grid pictures on skyscrapers using just the lights inside the building. Curiously, another clever-clogs – professional puzzler Tetsuya Nishio – created the same puzzle at the exact same time, completely independently!

You may not think that Nonograms have much of a following in the UK, but they’ve actually been appearing in newspapers here since 1990! To get a full book of them, you often need to dig around in W H Smiths or specialist newsagents (often marketed as Hanjie). Still, there are lots of different apps and websites out there if you want to give it a go yourself.


A Few More Favourites


We’d be here for days if we were to go through every single puzzle popularised by Nikoli in Japan! So, here are a few more of our favourites in case you want to dig deeper into this corner of the puzzling world.

  • Nurikabe; a number-and-grid logic puzzle that bears a striking resemblance to minesweeper – total throwback!
  • Shikaku; another number-and-grid logic puzzle, with the goal of drawing squares and rectangles in the grid. Each shape must contain one number and include as many grid cells as stated in the number. Tatamibari is a similar puzzle, but features three symbols ( – | + ) in place of numbers – each symbol has a different set of rules
  • Masyu; a grid logic puzzle (no numbers this time) which contains a number of white (empty) circles and black (filled) circles. The goal is to draw a continuous line that passes through each circle but depending on whether the circle is black or blank will determine how that line passes through.


Nurikabe, Shikaku and Masyu | A Puzzling World
Left to Right: Examples of the Nurikabe, Shikaku and Masyu puzzles with their solutions. Credit to By Levochik – Own work, [CC BY-SA 3.0] for the Shikaku. Credit to Adam R. Wood (Zotmeister) [CC BY-SA 3.0] for the Maysu.


On the Page


There’s a crazy amount of internationally-sourced paper (or mobile app) based puzzles out there – like Sudoku – and there are few more worth mentioning too.


Slithering into the Snakepit


Hidato is a number-and-grid logic puzzle, invented by Israeli mathematician Dr Gyora M. Benedek. For this puzzle, you’re presented with a grid – it can be any shape, as long as it is one grid. You need to enter a string of consecutive numbers, starting with 1, and each number must be positioned adjacently, either horizontally, vertically or diagonally.


An Example of Hidato | A Puzzling World
A fairly simple Hidato and it’s solution. Can you see the resemblance to Snake?


Some publishers choose to name this puzzle Number Snake or Snakepit thanks to its resemblance to the video game Snake – we’re loving these little drops of nostalgia!


Str8t Up


Str8ts is a cool Canadian creation, invented by mastermind puzzle-builder Jeff Widderich back in 2007. Similar to Sudoku and Kakuro, Str8ts – which gets its name from poker straight – involves tapping into your logic skills to place numbers into the right boxes in a grid.


An Example of Str8ts | A Puzzling World
A very tricky version of Str8ts – could you have cracked it? Credit to AndrewCStuart – Own work [CC BY-SA 3.0]


You’re presented with a 9×9 grid, with black squares to form compartments, and the remaining white cells must be filled with consecutive numbers (hence poker straight) in any order: 1234, 3412, 4231 etc. could all work.

The puzzle even featured in the Canadian Dragon’s Den back in 2010, where Widderich secured $150,000 for a 10% share to develop and popularise the puzzle. Now, you can find wooden board and pieces versions, dedicated Str8ts puzzle books and online apps!


Off the Page


With so many paper-based puzzles and brainteasers out there, sometimes it’s easy to forget that there are 3D games out there – whether aimed at single participation or several players – that rely on logical and strategical puzzling skills to solve.


A Chinese Tradition


Mahjong has been played in China since the late 1800s (although, it’s rumoured to have existed 2,500 years ago!) and has rapidly grown in popularity across the world over the last few decades. Usually designed for four players, Mahjong requires skill and strategy to beat your opponents and win the game.


Mahjong in Play | A Puzzling World
A game of Mahjong in play.


The rules and styles of play vary across regions and countries, but for the most part, you play with 144 tiles, featuring designs of Chinese characters and symbols. Each player receives 13 tiles and must draw and discard tiles until they’re left with a ‘legal hand’ that wins the game – similar to lots of card games out there. Sounds simple? Well, you’re presented with lots of rules and tactics for playing the game, which is where the strategy comes in!

Although there is something very special about playing Mahjong in person with others, you can even play it by yourself nowadays using simplified, digital versions of the game.


Twisting Tantrix


Do you remember playing Tantrix? Created in 1988 by Mike McManaway from New Zealand, Tantrix became a fun (and a little frustrating) tile game for kids and adults alike!


Tantrix in Play | A Puzzling World
A game of Tantrix in play. Can you feel the nostalgia? Credit to K.Pardík – Own work [CC BY-SA 3.0].


If you never played, or need your mind refreshing, there are 56 tiles to play with, and each tile is unique, featuring three different coloured lines and a number.

If you’re playing with others, each player picks a colour and takes it in turns to place their tiles down, following a set of rules and restrictions. There’s one goal in mind – to create the longest line or loop in your colour.


A Colourful Conundrum


Of course, we can’t forget the king of 3D puzzles – the Rubik’s Cube! The colourful cube is phenomenally popular and is officially the world’s top-selling puzzle game with over £350 million sales by January 2009.


Two Rubik's Cubes | A Puzzling World
A 3×3 and a 5×5 Rubik’s Cube, just waiting to be solved!


Originally invented by Hungarian sculptor and professor of architecture, Ernő Rubik, the puzzle cube has dazzled (and stumped) generations since 1977. There are over three billion possible combinations, but only one solution. It takes some serious skill, tactical thinking and brainpower to crack.

There are even competitions and championships, where speedcubers battle it out to beat the world record – currently 3.47 seconds! Over the years, more complex records have been set, featuring larger cubes and curious circumstances. Recently, an 11-year-old from Canada beat a record by solving 30 cubes in one hour, using only one hand and while hula-hooping! That takes some serious skills and dedication – most of us can only manage the one cube in an hour (if we’re lucky).

Decades later, the cube craze is still in full swing. If you’ve got a Rubik’s cube hidden somewhere, why not dust it off and give it a go? You could even grab your hula-hoop while you’re at it…


Join the Puzzle Academy


Are you a puzzling fanatic in need of a good challenge? Then join in with our Treasure Trails Puzzle Academy!


Treasure Trails Puzzle Academy Logo | A Puzzling Autumn


Simply, sign up below, and you will receive an email every three days with a different, quick puzzle for you to solve, with a total of 14 puzzles. Be sure to submit your answer to each puzzle. We’ll update your position on the Puzzle Academy leaderboard.

IMPORTANT – you need to be signed up before 23rd October 2020 to ensure you receive all puzzles in time to make the top of the leaderboard, and that you are only using one (consistent) Puzzle Master Name per email address.

Every Academy member who successfully solves all 14 puzzles before the tables close will win a free Trail. Don’t worry if you don’t quite get full marks; if you answer every puzzle (right or wrong) you’ll have a chance to win a Cryptex and £50 with one final brain-teasing question!

Take your time with the puzzles but be sure to have completed them all before 4th December 2020!


The Cryptex Prize | A Puzzling Autumn
The grand prize!


Join the Puzzle Academy:

Sorry! Enrolment to the Puzzle Academy is now closed! But don’t worry – if you’ve missed out, we’ll be releasing all the puzzles once the competition is over in December for you to do #justforfun so keep an eye on our social media pages.


Get Social


If you’re still hungry for more puzzles, check out our Facebook page and join in with our weekly Tuesday Teasers! You can find us on Twitter and Instagram too. Better still, post your photos of you looking puzzled out on a Trail! Tag us and add the hashtag #APuzzlingAutumn!


23rd October 2020

Posted In: Puzzles

Tags: , , , , ,

The Box Hill Trail Mail Challenge


Get your thinking caps on – we’ve got a Trail Mail Challenge with a twist for you! 🔍

This time, we’ve got three different pictures, with a crafty Clue to solve set on each one. Each sign can be found on the route of our Box Hill Trail.

Are you ready? Here are your sneaky Trail Mail questions:


1. Easy Peasy…

Carefully study the picture below:

Box Hill Easy Peasy Clue | March Trail Mail Challenge


Our easy level Clue is:

Count how many leaves there are on the three main stems in the middle of the pic. Times this by the number of bees there are. Your total is your answer.


2. Mind Twister…

You don’t really  need the picture for this one, but take a peek anyway:

Box Hill Mind Twister Clue | March Trail Mail Challenge


Our medium level Clue is:

From left to right, Flower = 79, Bug = 30, Mouse = 73

What does ‘mushrooms’ equal?


3. Brain Buster…

Carefully study the picture below:

Box Hill Brain Buster Clue | March Trail Mail Challenge


Our difficult level Clue is:

Times M by H – write down your answer.

Times C by W – write down your answer.

Now, add these together! (Hint: you don’t need any words here)


Now Submit Your Trail Mail Answers!

Submit your answers to all three of these Clues (or as many as you could solve!) to be in with the chance to WIN your next Treasure Trails adventure!


🔦 Our Spotlight Location: Box Hill


With Spring finally here, we’ve been inspired to get out into the countryside and soak up the atmosphere, albeit from the comfort of our sofas!

What better way to celebrate than a Trail Mail challenge set along the route of our Box Hill Trail? Allow us to tell you more…

Box Hill is a stunning summit in the North Downs in Surrey. Despite how it sounds, the hill itself, of course, is not in the shape of a box – in fact, it gets its name from its ancient box woodland.

The history of Box Hill goes all the way back to the Bronze Age, with two barrows discovered near the Salomons Memorial (a very popular viewpoint). The National Trust has owned portions of the area for over 100 years now! The first section was given to them in 1914, and they’ve been acquiring, and managing, new parts of the estate ever since.

We think that Box Hill is a fantastic place to visit, and we can’t wait to explore it once again when the lockdown is lifted and the site reopens. Of course, we’ll be bringing along our Box Hill Trail and slipping on our Secret Agent disguises to really reveal the hidden gems!


Our Amazing (and often weird) Fact:

No one really knows where Box Hill’s trees originate from. 🌳 🤔

Sources from the late 18th century suggested that they were first planted by Thomas Howard, who was the 1st Duke of Arundel during the reign of Charles I.

Yet older, medieval documents suggest local residents planted them, and that they’ve been around since 13th century! Who knows if we’ll ever find out for certain…


Just One More Thing…

Got some time on your hands? Check out this fab video made for the National Trust’s Centenary at Box Hill. It’s a long one, but worth it for the stunning sights, old images and fascinating historical facts.

We can’t wait to explore Box Hill again – what stunning views! 😍

26th March 2020

Posted In: Puzzles, Quizzes

Tags: , ,

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