Games and Puzzles, Spring 2016
Course Content

Check back often for homework assignments and key topics covered each day.
This schedule is approximate and subject to change!

Monday, February 1
In class:
• Introductions
• Let's do some puzzles!
Wednesday, February 3
Before class:
• Solve as many battleship puzzles as possible. Write down in complete sentences at least four strategies you used when you were finding solutions. Bring in this paper and your solutions. We will have a discussion about where people get stuck and what is making one puzzle harder than another.
• Go to a local bookseller and find a copy of the textbook. (It's a 5 dollar magazine.) Or order one online; click on the "Add to Cart" button under the magazine image.
• Read through the syllabus and the rest of the course webpage. Take a stroll through the
• Email me at chanusa@qc.cuny.edu with the following four things.: (1) Your name, (2) Your class (Math 555) (3) the email address where you are best contacted, (4) whether you are a graduate student or an undergraduate, and if you are an undergraduate, your expected graduation year.
In class:
• Homework Discussion
• More Puzzles!
Monday, February 8
Before class:
• Write up answers to these questions. What strategies are you using? (Give them names. Give a simplified example of what the strategy says. Only including the relevant parts of the puzzle board.) What makes one puzzle harder than another? Try to find a way to explain it in words. Who does knowing that there is one unique solution help you?
• Highlight areas where you get "stuck". If you are able to get past being stuck, how were you able to do so? Take a picture with phone/camera. What happened at that moment in time? Why are you able to make a mark? What logical reasoning are you using? What was the "AHA" moment?
Wednesday, February 10
Before class:
• Purchase the book "Puzzle Craft" online.
• Create two or more Battleships puzzles with some intrigue, at least one of which is a Junior Battleships puzzle. As you do so, answer the following questions.
• What is hard about creating a puzzle?
• How do you know your puzzle has a unique solution?
• How does creating puzzles influence how you solve them?
Wednesday, February 17
Before class:
• Check the Battleships puzzles you and your classmates created for February 10. You will notice that a number of these puzzles actually have multiple solutions!!!!! Take this as a learning opportunity—make sure that when you create future puzzles, you put your puzzle away for at least a day and look at it with a fresh set of eyes, solving it as if you don't know what the answer is going to be.
• Complete Homework 1:
• Create one or more Battleships puzzles that push the boundaries imposed by the normal structure of a Battleships puzzle.
• Write up a page of discussion about the making of your puzzle.
1. What conscious decisions went into its construction? What boundaries did you push? Which decisions make the puzzle easier or harder to create? Easier or harder to solve?
2. How does puzzle uniqueness play a role in its construction?
3. How does the tension between "uniqueness of solution" and "puzzle difficulty" come into play?
4. What direction were you using in its construction? Forward? Backward?
In class:
• Homework Discussion
• Introduction of Nurikabe.
Monday, February 22
Before class:
• Solve as many Nurikabe puzzles as you can.
• Access the Course Discussion Board (named 555sp16) on Google Groups, and post to the discussion board with one or more strategies that you used to solve the puzzles. Take a picture before and after you make a mark, and give a description of the thought process in your mind that you went through to make the mark. Try to post a strategy that has not yet been posted, or provide a fresh take on the strategy that someone else suggested. Feel free to propose a fun yet relevant name for your strategy.
• Think about how your puzzle solving capabilities have changed since the beginning of the semester. How does having learned how to solve Battleships puzzles impact your ability to solve Nurikabe puzzles?
In class:
• Homework Discussion
Wednesday, February 24
Before class:
• Record yourself completing the given Nurikabe puzzle OUT LOUD. (Use a voice recording app.)
1. When you finish, write a paragraph about what you remember to be the most important steps in solving the puzzle.
2. Go back and listen to your recording, making notes about what the actual most important steps were when solving the puzzle.
3. Write a paragraph about the difference between what you remember and what actually happened. What did you learn?
• Bring in your paragraphs to discuss in class.
In class:
• Homework Discussion
• Group work: Nurikabe creation
Monday, February 29
Before class:
• Create three Nurikabe puzzles
• One 6x6 puzzle
• One 10x10 puzzle
• One puzzle that is your choice with at least 100 cells.
• Make yourself notes along the way
• What decisions did you need to make?
• What strategies did you use to ensure uniqueness?
• How does it compare to creating a Battleships puzzle?
• What made the puzzle easy/hard to create/solve?
In class:
• Homework Discussion
• Solving each other's puzzles.
• Which small puzzle is your favorite? Is the most creative? Is the best? What criterion of "best" are you applying?
Wednesday, March 2
Before class:
• Solve some more of the Nurikabe puzzles your classmates created for February 29.
• Post your puzzle and its solution on the course discussion board. Then comment on the post of two classmates as follows. Of the two classmates, one must be the person following your puzzle in the packet handed out in class.
• Write a few paragraphs providing some praise and some constructive criticism of each classmate's puzzle.
• What made the puzzle interesting? What type of strategy was needed to solve the puzzle? Did the puzzle have multiple solutions? If so, how can the puzzle creator modify the puzzle to make sure that there is one unique solution? Give suggestions about how to improve the puzzle.
In class:
• Debriefing of puzzle critiquing
• New type of puzzle: Skyscrapers!
Monday, March 7
Before class:
• Solve some more of the Nurikabe puzzles your classmates created for February 29.
• Complete Homework 2:
• Decide on a unique theme or approach that would be lead to an intriguing/appealing/compelling style of Nurikabe puzzle.
• Create one or more Nurikabe puzzles that follow this special theme/approach. On a sheet of paper, write your name, draw your puzzle (without its solution), and include a sentence about the theme/approach you were going for.
• Separately, include one-to-two page discussion about the making of your puzzle. Give the reasoning about why you decided upon your theme/approach. How did your choice of theme impact the difficulty of creating the puzzle? What would you do differently if you were going to create another puzzle of the same type? Also address the thought exercise from class.
In class:
• Puzzle presentations
• Discussion of Skyscrapers strategies.
Wednesday, March 9
Before class:
• Work on other side of sheet of Skyscrapers puzzles
In class:
• Discussion of Skyscrapers strategies.
• Questions to investigate: What is the minimum number of clues to give a unique solution? What is the maximum number of necessary clues? Can you make puzzles with multiple solutions and a full set of clues?
Monday, March 14
Before class:
• Think about 3×3 and 4×4 puzzle variations.
• Answer the questions we investigated March 9.
In class:
• Discussing and writing down explicit strategies
• Working through a solution
Wednesday, March 16
Before class:
• Work to understand the complete solution handed out in class
• Read Skyscrapers strategies on Conceptis Puzzles
• Work through the second sheet of Skyscrapers puzzles
In class:
• Free discussion about Skyscrapers Puzzles
• Proof that no 4×4 Skyscrapers puzzle can be made with two clues
Monday, March 21
Before class:
• Complete Homework 3:
• Create two, three, or four 4×4 skyscrapers puzzles that differ in exactly one position such that each instance has a unique solution.
• Write a 3/4-to-1 page essay answering the questions: What are the decisions you had to make along the way to make the puzzle work? Why did you choose the positions you chose for the clues? How did you choose the amount of clues you chose? What are the difficult aspects of designing a 4×4 skyscrapers puzzle?
In class:
• Puzzle presentations
• 20 Questions: Masyu!
No class Wednesday, March 23 (Friday Schedule)
Monday, March 28
Before class:
• Solve as many of the Masyu problems I handed out as possible.
• If you get stuck on a puzzle, take a picture of your situation and post it to the course discussion board. Comment on puzzles that are posted by your classmates to help them get to the next step.
In class:
• Discussion of Masyu strategies.
• Compare and contrast Masyu to Battleships, Nurikabe, and Skyscrapers.
Wednesday, March 30
Before class:
• ???
In class:
• ???
Monday, April 4
Before class:
• Create at least two Masyu puzzles of size at least 8×8. In the first puzzle, include a large number of white circles. In the second puzzle, include a large number of black squares. Write down your thoughts about the differences between the two different types of explorations.
In class:
• Discussion about the creation of Masyu puzzles.
Wednesday, April 6
Before class:
• Do some thinking about Homework 4.
In class:
• Break into groups of 3 or 4 and create a hybrid game!
Monday, April 11
Before class:
• Complete Homework 4:
• Create one or more Masyu puzzles that push the boundaries imposed by the normal structure of a Masyu puzzle.
• Write up a 1-to-2 page essay of discussion about the making of your puzzle.
1. What conscious decisions went into its construction? What boundaries did you push? Which decisions make the puzzle easier or harder to create? Easier or harder to solve?
2. Why did you choose the positions you chose for the clues? How did you choose the amount of clues you chose?
3. How does it compare to the creation of the other puzzles we have studied this semester?
In class:
• Meet in Kiely 061.
• Divide into groups of n people. In your group, choose n pencil puzzle types from Make sure that it is a pencil puzzle in that it is not dynamic (it does not change over time). And make sure it is not a puzzle type that you have already played.
• Work with your groupmates to understand the rules of each of the games you have chosen.
• Agree upon particular puzzle examples that you and your groupmates will try to solve over the next two days. Choose at least one easy and one medium puzzle of each of the types.
Wednesday, April 13
Before class:
• Solve at least one easy and one medium puzzle of each of the types you and your groupmates chose.
In class:
• Discuss with your groupmates the puzzles you have solved.
Field Trip!!! Sunday, April 17
• Meet with your group at the prearranged time (11:45 or 12:15) at:
ENIGMA Room Escape
134-26 Northern Blvd
Flushing, NY 11354
Monday, April 18
Before class:
• Prepare for a 5 minute in-class presentation about the mechanics of one puzzle type
In class:
• Presentations
Wednesday, April 20
Before class:
In class:
Spring Break! No classes Friday April 22 through Sunday May 1.