Sunday, May 19, 2013

Weekend Blogging -- Puzzles! Puzzles! Puzzles! (from our side of the pond)

Having just done Dudney, it's only fair that we give equal time to America's turn of the century puzzle master, Sam Loyd.

If the name is new to you, here's a quick introduction from Wikipedia:
Loyd is widely acknowledged as one of America's great puzzle-writers and popularizers, often mentioned as the greatest—Martin Gardner called him "America's greatest puzzler", and The Strand in 1898 dubbed him "the prince of puzzlers". As a chess problemist, his composing style is distinguished by wit and humour.

However, he is also known for lies and self-promotion, and criticized on these grounds—Martin Gardner's assessment continues "but also obviously a hustler", Canadian puzzler Mel Stover called Loyd "an old reprobate", and Matthew Costello calls him both "puzzledom's greatest celebrity...popularizer, genius," but also "huckster...and fast-talking snake oil salesman."[4] He collaborated with puzzler Henry Dudeney for a while, but Dudeny broke off the correspondence and accused Loyd of stealing his puzzles and publishing them under his own name. Dudeney despised Loyd so intensely he equated him with the Devil.[5]
[For an in depth look at both Dudney and Loyd, Gardner is the go-to guy.]

Loyd was a master of all sorts of mathematical diversions but he is best remembered for his geometric puzzles. Perhaps the best known of these were the "Trick Donkeys." The object is to cut this picture into the three pieces indicated and rearrange them so that the jockeys appear to be riding the donkeys. No tearing or folding allowed and the donkeys cannot overlap.

One of the interesting things about this puzzle is that there are relatively few ways of arranging the pieces but people trying to solve the puzzle will almost invariably keep retrying the same unsuccessful arrangements.

Another famous puzzle (and one I'd like to revisit if I have the time) is Back from the Klondike:

From Wikipedia:
Back from the Klondike is one of Sam Loyd's most famous puzzles, first printed in the New York Journal and Advertiser on April 24, 1898. In introducing the puzzle, Loyd describes it as having been constructed to specifically foil Leonhard Euler's rule for solving any maze puzzle by working backwards from the end point.[1]
The following are Sam Loyd's original instructions:
Start from the heart in the center. Go three steps in a straight line in any one of the eight directions, north, south, east, west, northeast, northwest, southeast, or southwest. When you have gone three steps in a straight line you will reach a square with a number on it, which indicates the second day's journey, as many steps as it tells, in a straight line in any one of the eight directions. From this new point, march on again according to the number indicated, and continue on in this manner until you come upon a square with a number which will carry you just one step beyond the border, thus solving the puzzle.
Over at the Mathematical Association of America site. Ed Pegg Jr. has put Loyd's magnum opus, Sam Loyd's Cyclopedia of 5000 Puzzles, Tricks, and Conundrums online.

Here are some sample pages including the yellow-menace puzzle, Get Off the Earth. Solutions are found in the links that follow each page.

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