Summer vacation – for the nerds among us, this phrase often brings to mind long hours at the computer, engaged in our favorite video game. For others, perhaps simple relaxation is more enticing.
However you plan to enjoy it, summer is a great a time as any to challenge one’s brain with puzzles. If having your nose in a book seems dull compared to the sunshine, take it outside! Grab some lemonade, a puzzle book, and a pencil, and keep that brain in shape with some mental exercises.
Barnes & Noble carries a great variety of puzzle books. The Nikoli brand is highly recommended; they seem to have puzzle creation, particularly in terms of variety, down to a science. Many websites offer free daily puzzles; BrainBashers offers nearly every kind and difficulty.
Here is a list of several puzzles that will hopefully be new to most readers, and possibly a welcome change from the more standard selections like Crossword and Sudoku.
Kakuro is essentially a math-based Sudoku. But don’t freak out yet! That’s not nearly as difficult (or nerdy) as it sounds. Think of it more like a crossword puzzle where each letter is a number, and each word or clue is simply the total of all the numbers it contains. For those who enjoy math, are terrible at crosswords, or both, Kakuro may prove to be easier and more enjoyable than a crossword.
BrainBashers offers a daily Kakuro puzzle.
A network engineer who has had to rewire a bunch of computer cables will already be familiar with this next puzzle. While it may seem headache-inducing to some, it is actually quite easy and enjoyable to solve. Most of the moves to be made are quite trivial. For example, if there is only one side of a node cell that isn’t blocked off, the cable leading out of that cell needs to point in that direction.
Even if you randomly rotate all cells until each one is connected on most of its sides, the puzzle will be mostly solved. The tricky part is those last few moves to actually determine how the network is connected at the fundamental junction points.
Network is available both on BrainBashers and as part of the Simon Tatham Portable Puzzle Collection.
This puzzle is noteworthy simply because solutions are often also pictures. Upon solving the puzzle, the reward is not only psychological, but visual – and it can also be a second puzzle to guess what the solution depicts.
Solving a Picross puzzle is done by working from the extremes – rows completely filled, or completely vacant, of blocks – to the inner details. There are many free Picross puzzles available at Addicting Games.
Finally, if there are any domino players out there, this puzzle is for you. The task here is to sort a grid of numbers into domino-shaped pairs. The problem is, it also has to be a valid set of dominos when you get done. In other words, no two dominos can be alike. If you already have a domino pairing up a 2 and 4, for instance, you can’t have another. Remember, order doesn’t matter. A 2-4 pair is always a 2-4 pair regardless of which direction it faces, and the same is true for all other possible pairs.
Like the network puzzle mentioned earlier, and many other great puzzles, Dominosa is available for free (open source, even) from Simon Tatham’s wonderful collection of puzzles.