Monday, 4 January 2016

Everything In Its Right Place

So one particular reason I have for keeping this blog going, rather than packing up shop and jumping fully aboard the GM Puzzles train, is that it allows me to maintain an independent voice.  Also, I'm pretty sure I've used that particular Radiohead song title as a post before, but really it's too good not to use for a post about the classification of placement puzzles.

It's always a pleasure to look back through the year's "Best Of" puzzles, however I thought it rather odd that a Scrabble puzzle was classified as a "Number Placement" puzzle.  The justification given was:
Creating a complete puzzle taxonomy is challenging. Here at GMPuzzles we limit ourselves to just five logic puzzle categories, but that means our “number” placement term may seem a misnomer when you see logic puzzles with letters or words like our first winner here. At GMPuzzles, whenever a transformation of letters into numbers or other symbols could leave a fundamentally identical puzzle, we consider “Number Placement” to be the proper categorization.
I think I'd like to challenge the thinking here.  Basically I think all scrabble puzzles are fundamentally object placing puzzles, where the objects being placed are words. Whilst the letters that make up the words are obviously important to placing the words, words have other properties, such as their length, which go beyond any property of their constituent letters which allow them to be placed.

Moreover, a number placement puzzle to me has its numbers constrained by the grid itself in some way - for example a latin square, or a marked inequality, or some outside clue.  I can't really see how the letters in a Scrabble puzzle are constrained by the grid. They are only constrained by the words that they are contained in. Of course some of the scrabble variants on GM puzzles do have additional grid decorations but I'd argue they are still primarily object placement in much the same way that I'd argue a Battleships Sudoku is still primarily number placement, even if a large part of the puzzle is indeed object placement.

I have a couple of corollaries to this line of thinking, which are hopefully food for thought:

1) A trivial spelling mistake in a Scrabble puzzle ought not to be judged incorrect where it is clear that the misspelled word uniquely represents the word which was to have been placed.

2) Once you have decrypted the clues, any crossword becomes an object placement puzzle.  Put this in contrast to Kakuro, which is alternatively known as "Cross Sums", which by virtue of its grid-inherent constraints on the numbers to be placed put it firmly in the category of number placement.

1 comment:

  1. There are two arrangements for a 2x2 Latin Square. But, did you know there are 6,147,9419,904,000 Latin Squares of order 7x7. Read more about it on my blog:


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