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A Puzzling History

 

To celebrate the launch of our Puzzle Academy, we’re delving into the puzzling world to see what we can learn about the history of one of our favourite pastimes – puzzling!

 


Whimsical Wordplay

 

You may have noticed that we love a bit of wordplay here at Treasure Trails. In fact, for International Joke Day last year, our Pun Master, Tris, released 76 cheesy Treasure Trails puns to give us a good giggle.

Puns – both humorous and non-humorous – can be found in centuries literature; Lewis Carrol was a fan, as was James Joyce. The title of ‘King of Puns’ has to go to William Shakespeare, who used over 3,000 puns in his plays! Sorry, Pun Master Tris, that trumps your 76…

 

William Shakespeare Wearing a Crown | A Puzzling History
William Shakespeare: King of Puns!

 

It’s not really surprising that Lewis Carrol loved wordplay, considering the creative and colourful way he used language within his books. But, he also invented the popular word puzzle Doublets (sometimes called a Word Ladder) which you may have stumbled upon in an issue of Puzzler or the puzzle page in a newspaper.

 

Doublets | A Puzzling History
An example of Doublets.

 

Powerful Palindromes

 

It’s not just puns that have kept us entertained throughout history, though. Our ancestors loved a good palindrome – a word, phrase or sequence that’s spelt the same backwards as forwards.

One famous, ancient example can be found in the Sator Square – a five-line Latin palindrome. It has been found in various historic locations across the world including here in the UK, etched into the wall of a Roman house in Cirencester. However, the oldest version of the word square was discovered in the ruins of Pompeii, meaning it existed before 79AD!

 

Scrabble Sator Square | A Puzzling Autumn
A Scrabbling Sator Square.

 

There are debates over what the phrase in the Sator Square stands for, but it is assumed to say: “The farmer Arepo holds and works the wheel (plough)”, with Arepo being a given name.

Many have attributed magical properties to the Sator Square – and palindromes in general – as they believed the repeated words would confuse demons. This is why palindromes and word squares can be spotted st several religious sites across the globe.

 

Palindrome on a Church Font | A Puzzling History
A Greek palindrome of the font at St Martin’s Church in Ludgate. Credit to Andrewrabbott [CC BY-SA 4.0].

 

Riddle Me This

 

Another type of wordplay we love here at Treasure Trails is a riddle, probably even more than we love anagrams (and, if you’re a keen Trailer, you’ll know we LOVE those!).

One of the oldest, most famous riddles in history is The Riddle of the Sphinx, from Greek mythology. The story goes that a sphinx was sent to guard the entrance to Thebes, a city in Greece. The sphinx would ask all travellers a riddle and allow passage into the city for those who could answer, not that any could (you don’t want to know what happened to those who couldn’t).

 

The Riddle of the Sphinx | A Puzzling History
The Riddle of the Sphinx – can you guess the answer?

 

Eventually, Oedipus  – a tragic hero in Greek mythology – was able to best the sphinx with his answer: Man. He said that man crawls on all fours as a baby, walks on two feet as an adult and uses a third foot – a walking cane – to keep his balance when elderly.

However, this isn’t actually the oldest riddle. The first recorded riddle was discovered in the Rhind Mathematical Papyrus, named after Alexander Henry Rhind who purchased the papyrus in 1858 after it was said to be found during an illegal excavation. The papyrus, an example of mathematics in ancient Egypt, dates all the way back to circa 1550BC!

In amongst the numerous mathematical problems recorded in the five-metre long document, sits the oldest recorded riddle that has been discovered. It goes a little something like this:

There are seven houses;
In each house there are seven cats;
Each cat catches seven mice;
Each mouse would have eaten seven ears of corn;
If sown, each ear of corn would have produced seven hekat of grain.
How many things are mentioned altogether?

Sound familiar? That’s because it sounds a lot like the English nursery rhyme “As I Was Going to St Ives”, made popular in the 18th-century.

Of course, as well as being a riddle, it forms a mathematical problem on the textbook-like papyrus, with the answer of 19,607! Although, with the St Ives version, the most popular belief is the answer is one – because YOU are going to St Ives.

 

The Rhind Mathematical Papyrus | A Puzzling History
A section of the Rhind Mathematical Papyrus, currently looked after by The British Museum.

 


Strength in Numbers

 

School maths lessons may have seemed like a bit of a drag but looking back, a lot of the problems and equations solved have their roots in ancient mathematical puzzles. If we revisit the Rhind Papyrus, we see everything from geometry to algebra, arithmetic to tables of data, all seen as puzzles for ancient scholars to learn.

 

Let’s Get Logical

 

Not all mathematical problems are as simple as numbers on a page. For instance, take the Towers of Hanoi – a popular problem invented by French mathematician Edouard Lucas in 1883.

The puzzle involved three vertical pegs and a number of rings of varying sizes, stacked on the first peg with the largest ring on the bottom and the smallest on the top. The rings have to be moved, one at a time, from the first peg to the last peg and stacked in the same order. But, here’s the catch, a smaller ring can NEVER be placed below a larger ring.

The puzzle has proved popular, both in physical form and even as an online game! Can you crack it?

 

Tower of Hanoi | A Puzzling History
The Towers of Hanoi puzzle game. Credit to Ævar Arnfjörð Bjarmason [CC BY-SA 3.0].

 

Taking Shape

 

You might know Archimedes thanks to his “Eureka!” moment in the bath when he discovered that water displacement can measure density. But he’s also one of the greatest mathematicians of all times (and engineers and inventors and astronomers… he was busy!). An ancient mathematical problem, attributed to Archimedes, is a dissection puzzle known as the Stomachion (or Ostomachion).

The puzzle contains 14 shapes inside a square, with the goal of taking the square apart and trying to fit the pieces back into place. Although some puzzlers also enjoyed rearranging the pieces to form pictures of birds and other animals.

 

Stomachion | A Puzzling History
Archimedes’ Stomachion. Try printing it off, cutting it out and trying to solve it!

 

The Stomachion was almost lost forever when a manuscript containing it, copied from Archimedes original work in the 10th century, was scraped off and reused as a prayer book in the 13th century! Luckily, centuries later, the text underneath the prayers – known as The Archimedes Palimpsest – was recovered, thanks to modern technology.

Since its discovery, many mathematicians have wondered just how many solutions there are to the Stomachion. Well, one clever-clogs called Bill Cutler gave it a go and discovered 536 distinct solutions!

 


Not as Old as you Look!

 

One surprising thing is how modern so many popular puzzles actually are. Pick up a puzzle book, and you’ll see crosswords and wordsearches and codewords and so on. But, did you know that the crossword – as we know it – was only invented in 1913?

 

A Timeline of Modern Puzzles | A Puzzling History
A timeline of modern puzzles that aren’t as old as you might think!

 

Another popular puzzle that crops up in a typical puzzle book – a favourite of Treasure Trails’ Resident Wordsmith, Rachel – is the logic puzzle, which involves deduction and, often, a grid. The goal is to determine a set of correct answers using only the limited information given to you.

You’d think this style of puzzle could go all the way back to the Rhind Papyrus or Archimedes, right? In fact, it only began to emerge in the 19th-century thanks to popular author – you guessed it – Lewis Carrol. In fact, he even wrote books about logic problems in amongst his other writing, photographic and religious pursuits!

Although these brainteasers may not seem that old, just by delving into the history of puzzles and problems, you can see how modern puzzles have been influenced by the past.

 


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
Introducing the Treasure Trails Puzzle Academy

 

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: , , , ,

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: , , , , ,