Friday, January 29, 2016

Five on Friday - National Puzzle Day!

1)  Today is National Puzzle Day!  What will you do to celebrate?  Here are some ideas...

You can also break out a jigsaw puzzle, play a puzzly game like one of these, or print out some free paper puzzles for the kids!

2)  SmartGames Designer Raf Peters released info about new puzzles coming out this year, including IQ-XOXO...I'm positively drooling!  Check out the website and click on the sidebar under "New 2016" to learn more about these awesome new puzzles!

3)  StandUpMaths has a new video out about the game of Nim.  It's a classic game that is easy to win, if you know the trick.  Matt has found a plastic "computer" version of the game from the 1960's, and he tells us all about the game and gives us the trick to win!  Check it out!

4)  The kids and I have been doing a Music Appreciation class this semester.  One of the sources we've been using is a website called Classics For Kids.  It's a great resource for information about music and composers.  They have a radio show on a ton of topics.  And they even produce an activity sheet for some of these topics, which sometimes includes a puzzle!  

And in case you were wondering, we are following a course for Music Appreciation set up by Easy Peasy All-In-One High School.  These are free courses.  The Music class has been pretty solid.  We've stumbled on a couple of bad links, but for the most part, it's given us a good introduction to classical music.

5)  We've spent the last week being snowed in!  It's so wonderful to have such delightful weather after 6 years of living in the south!  Seriously...we really missed cold weather.  And this blizzard dumped a good lot of snow on us.  We spent most of our time watching Harry Potter, knitting, playing computer games, and homeschooling.  The schools around here were out for the whole week, but since we homeschool, we just plowed on ahead! 

Have a wonderful National Puzzle Day!

(Note: The graphics for the National Puzzle Day picture at the top come from Pink Cat Studio and Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah Designs at Teachers Pay Teachers.)

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Monday, January 25, 2016

Valentine's Day Free Puzzle

Valentine Heart Fill In Freebie

Valentine's Day is just a couple weeks away!  Here is a free puzzle for mid-elementary level students.  It's a Fill In style puzzle in the shape of a heart.  Most of the words are related to Valentine's Day.  Some of the relations are a bit of a stretch.  Like 'thief,' which could be someone who has stolen your heart.  Or 'sell' like 'Sell me some roses, please?"  I can't even think of anything for 'step,' but it was necessary to link the other words.  Maybe...'Our romance is a STEP in the right direction'??!!  Hopefully your students will just enjoy the puzzle!

And in case you need it, click here for the answer key.

Happy Solving!

 The Puzzle Den - Valentine's Heart - Harder Version

Added 12/17/17 - I've updated this puzzle to remove the starting letters.  I thought some students might enjoy a bit of an extra challenge.  Just click on either puzzle above to download from google drive.

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Hexus Answer Key

Recently, I had two readers ask questions about solutions for the puzzle Hexus from Brainwright.  You can find my original post about Hexus here.  And my post with solutions for puzzles 43 and 44 here.

Ginny (my 12 year old daughter) helped me come up with the solutions for 43 and 44.  During this process, we decided that we should just figure out solutions to all the challenges and put them together for anyone who was interested.  Hexus doesn't come with solutions, and we couldn't find any in the land of the interwebs.

So I printed off some templates (which you can also download here) and Ginny got to work solving.  Yes, she actually did most of the work!  I think I might have solved maybe 4 of these challenges altogether.  So "Thanks Ginny!" for all the hard work!

And with that I present to you our Hexus Answer Key!

Hexus Answer Key

There are three pages for the 44 answers.  The last page has some extra grids for you to use.  You can create your own challenges or record additional answers.  Some of the challenges have more than one answer!  Ginny claims this is true anyhow.  I suspect she is right.

Hexus is a pretty awesome little puzzle.  You can't go wrong giving this as a gift.  And now you can print off (in color, of course) and include some answers!


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Monday, January 11, 2016

Answer to Self Descriptive Number Puzzler

Did you try out James Grime's (singingbanana on youtube) number puzzle from this video?

He has released the answer video which you can watch here...

It turns out a lot of people took the same approach I did, which was to simply try out possible solutions.  This method fairly quickly leads to a solution.  And I was pretty pleased with finding it!  But James Grime wondered if that one solution was the only possible solution.  Turns out that it is.  Watch the video to see the different ways that were used to solve this problem.  It's pretty interesting stuff!

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Friday, January 8, 2016

Five for Friday

I haven't been very good at keeping the blog up-to-date these past couple months, but that's because we moved (again).  Here's a pic of our new house...we're so poor, we had to rent a condemned place.  Just kidding!  That's our decorations from Halloween!  We have been in our new place since Oct 2015.  And we love it!  We are finally back in Virginia, which is my favorite state.

Sorry that it's been hit or miss around here.  I'll be trying harder to keep up with things...for my two or three regular readers!

First, let me share a couple of puzzle related items that you might find interesting.

Here's a wonderful little math puzzler for you to figure out.  Watch the video to hear the challenge.  Then get thinking!  No really!  You should try this.  You don't have to love math to be able to figure this one out.  It is surprisingly easy.  Although, it sounds like it will be really, really hard!

Don't scroll down the video page or you might accidentally see that answer in the comments!

If you want a small hint, try writing out the numbers like this 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9, then above those start trying different ideas.  Remember that your number must start with a 1 or greater, thus, you can't have zero 0's.  At first, I wrote my numbers backwards, like this, 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0, because I had a brain fart.  And that doesn't work at all.  Anyhow, watch the video and try a couple things.  I think you'll get this!

I saw this coloring book at B&N yesterday.  How lovely that they are combining puzzles and coloring!!  I almost bought a copy, but I restrained myself...I had other books that were a priority!

Onto personal news...just what have we been up to lately you ask?  You mean, besides packing, finding a new house, unpacking, arranging all the utilities, changing all the addresses, finding new homeschool groups, and dealing with cats who hate change?  Oh, and let us not forget, the Papa who was still in Korea throughout this moving process, and the reintegration that takes place once he's home again, after a year spent apart.  Shwew!

We've had a bunch of company!  Friends and family (some that we haven't seen in years!) have come to visit us.  We're in such an awesome location now in NoVA.

We've visited some historic sites, like Jamestown and Mt Vernon.  And we have been able to spend more time with our Va Beach buddies!  We also have been to the Smithsonian Air & Space already, Old Town Alexandria, and the Baltimore Aquarium!

And we've played a ton of games!  You can see Samurai, Settlers of Catan, Wombat Rescue, Ticket to Ride, Blockus, and Timeline in the collage above.  We also got a chance to learn Seven Wonders, but I didn't get a pic of that one.

Well, that about sums up the last 3 months. Hope your holidays were awesome!

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Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Hexus Level 43 & 44

I had a reader ask for help with solving a level for Hexus, a single player puzzle from Brainwright.  It took a several hours, but Ginny and I managed to figure it out!  So here is our explanation Steve, and thanks for the challenge!

I have to admit that I had not tried solving the last Hexus levels because they just looked way too hard.  Steve said he could not find anyone who had solved level 43, and Brainwright does not offer any solutions.  This is a little bitty puzzle after all, so maybe they were just trying to keep things compact?!

Anyhow, after fiddling randomly with the pieces, I decided to be more methodical.  I picked a piece that would fit in as few positions as possible for this level, and that ended up being the dark green piece.  (I think the yellow piece would be a good choice too.)

Ginny joined me at this point.  I loved how excited she was at the thought of conquering this challenge.  And she totally stuck with it for several hours (we did take a break in there to finish homeschool and eat lunch!)

I created a template sheet that we could use to record all the possible dark green starting positions.  Here is that sheet, if you'd like to use it too.

Hexus Solution Template

You can click on the picture and download the template from Google Drive.  Before you start, you'll have to color in the position of the "Challenge Block" which changes for each level.  Now you can use markers to match the colors of the pieces and begin recording whatever you like!  We used them to show possible start positions, but you could also use this to record your solutions to the different levels.

So Ginny and I had our dark green piece and we rotated and flipped that sucker until we were POSITIVE we had found all the places that it could fit.  Here's our grid filled in.

We found 14 possible start positions for that dark green piece.  Based on the shapes of the other pieces, you can easily eliminate several of these possibilities.  If you look at row 2 and column 1, you can see that this position creates a spot with only 2 holes.  All the pieces in Hexus are either 4 or 5 bits long.  So you can easily see that several of these dark green positions would never work.

Now, we began trying the positions that were left.  Some of those were fairly easily eliminated too.  One way to do this quickly is to note areas with straight sections.  For example, from row 1 and column 4 above, that start position creates a string of four in a row.  There are no pieces in Hexus with 4 straight bits in a row.  So there are no pieces that can fit along the right side of that green position.  Eliminated!

We thought we were doing pretty well...until we eliminated ALL the start positions for that dark green piece!  We knew that we must have missed a position.  That dark green piece has to fit somewhere!  But we couldn't see it.

It was time to look at it a different way.  Or, at least, focus on a different piece, so we turned our attention to the light blue piece, which seemed like it wouldn't have too many start positions either.  We managed to find 36!  Ugh!  We should have used the yellow piece instead!  We quickly eliminated a bunch of those blue positions, but there were a ton left.  Ginny was still game, so were started working them out.

After just a couple trial positions, we had an AHA moment!  We realized there was a position for the dark green piece that we had missed.  We cleared the board and started again with that position...I thought we had found another failure, but Ginny managed to fit in that last piece and HOLY COW! we got it!

So really it's all thanks to Ginny that this level is solved!

I'm sure you probably didn't need all this big, long explanation Steve, but I thought detailing our approach might help some other Hexus solvers too.

I have created a hint sheet which shows the start position for that dark green piece, if you want to see it.

I also created a solution sheet for this level (43) only.

Ginny and I are thinking that the world might need a solution sheet for all the levels.  We'll let you know if we ever get that done!

Jan 19, 2016 -
We've had another solution question from a reader named Aaron.  He was having some trouble with level 44.  Ginny and I used the same method to find our solution.  First, we created a template sheet and found all the places that the dark green piece could fit.  After preparing that, Ginny found the solution in about 5 minutes!  HOLY COW!  It was totally awesome!

So here is a hint sheet for level 44 with the dark green piece placement.

And here is the solution for level 44.

Happy Solving!

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