September 21, 2009

Puzzling Serendipity

In my first entry on Frand's Mind Bender, I mentioned that the concept was created by Jay Scott, but this was actually information that I later came across after much searching. Originally, I only knew that it was created by a character on LambdaMOO named Frand, who had not been active on the MOO for many years.

After I finished creating my physical version of this virtual puzzle, I thought it would be nice to figure out who this Frand is, since he would probably get a kick out of what I had done. I asked around on the MOO and got the suggestion to search on another MOO that many old LamdaMOOers used to frequent.

I asked around there, and had no luck. Another MOOer suggested that I contact one of the founders of LambdaMOO, Pavel Curtis. I searched around the web for him, and it turns out that he has a puzzle blog named Pavel's Puzzles. He has actually designed quite a number of puzzles that are available for sale on his website and is an IPP member.

One that particularly caught my eye was Octamaze. He describes it as a multi-stage puzzle where each stage leads you to the next until you finally arrive at a satisfying conclusion. This sounded like a lot of fun, so I ended up ordering one from him at a very reasonable price of $15.

When it arrived, it came with a piece of paper that said "The answer to this puzzle is a four-letter word. Can you find it?" In addition to this information, on his website he says that the puzzle was made to be exchanged at Gathering for Gardner 8 (G4G8), so the puzzle has a strong "8" theme to it.

I had a great time solving it, though I did need to make use of the hint page on Pavel's site. The hints are provided as a sequence of pages that gradually guide you towards the solution. The first step (you can probably guess what it is), was quite time consuming but straightforward. I had the right idea for the second step, but overlooked a key detail (I needed a hint here). The final step is fairly straightforward once you figure out the previous stage, but it is quite satisfying.

Overall, I would say this is a great example of ingenuity in the puzzle community and a solid buy. Pavel has produced a number of other multi-stage puzzles that look like fun, though I haven't tried them. Let me know if you have!

As you can guess, I did end up tracking down the real name of the designer of Frand's Mind Bender, Jay Scott, but it wasn't through Pavel. Another MOOer recalled that Frand used to publish a series of short satirical pieces called the Daily Whale and it turns out he had a website with the same name that we found on Google. Isn't technology grand?

Tomorrow, I'll write about another trip down to the puzzle shop and where I pick up a few more Hanayamas.

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