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Posts Tagged ‘puzzles

“The nice thing about doing a crossword puzzle is, you know there is a solution”*…

 

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Crossword Puzzle with Lady in Black Coat, Paulina Olowska, 2014

 

When I began to research the history of crosswords for my recent book on the subject, I was sort of shocked to discover that they weren’t invented until 1913. The puzzle seemed so deeply ingrained in our lives that I figured it must have been around for centuries—I envisioned the empress Livia in the famous garden room in her villa, serenely filling in her cruciverborum each morning­­. But in reality, the crossword is a recent invention, born out of desperation. Editor Arthur Wynne at the New York World needed something to fill space in the Christmas edition of his paper’s FUN supplement, so he took advantage of new technology that could print blank grids cheaply and created a diamond-shaped set of boxes, with clues to fill in the blanks, smack in the center of FUN. Nearly overnight, the “Word-Cross Puzzle” went from a space-filling ploy to the most popular feature of the page.

Still, the crossword didn’t arise from nowhere. Ever since we’ve had language, we’ve played games with words. Crosswords are the Punnett square of two long-standing strands of word puzzles: word squares, which demand visual logic to understand the puzzle but aren’t necessarily using deliberate deception; and riddles, which use wordplay to misdirect the solver but don’t necessarily have any kind of graphic component to work through…

Adrienne Raphel (@AdrienneRaphel) offers “A Brief History of Word Games.”

[TotH to MK]

* Stephen Sondheim

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As we fill in the blanks, we might send epigrammatic birthday greetings to Alfred Edward (A.E.) Housman; he was born on this date in 1859.  A classicist and poet, he is probably best remembered for his lyrical poetry, perhaps most notably for his  cycle A Shropshire Lad.

Alfred_Edward_Housman.jpeg source

It is also the birthday (1874) of another poet, the combative Robert Frost.

 

Written by LW

March 26, 2020 at 7:02 am

“The generation of random numbers is too important to be left to chance”*…

 

Roman 12mm dice

Random numbers are central to more than we may realize.  They have applications in gambling, statistical sampling, computer simulation and Monte Carlo modeling, cryptography (as applied in both communications and transactions), completely randomized design, even sooth-saying– in any area where producing an unpredictable result is desirable.  So how they’re produced– the certainty that they are, in fact, random– matters enormously.

It’s no surprise, then, that random number generation has a long and fascinating history.  Happily, Carl Tashian is here to explain.

“As an instrument for selecting at random, I have found nothing superior to dice,” wrote statistician Francis Galton in an 1890 issue of Nature. “When they are shaken and tossed in a basket, they hurtle so variously against one another and against the ribs of the basket-work that they tumble wildly about, and their positions at the outset afford no perceptible clue to what they will be even after a single good shake and toss.”…

From I Ching sticks and dice to the cryptographically-secure PRNG, “A Brief History of Random Numbers.”

[TotH to the eminently-numerate Reuben Steiger]

Robert Coveyou

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As we roll the bones, we might spare a thought for Samuel “Sam” Loyd; he died on this date in 1911. A chess player, chess composer, puzzle author, and recreational mathematician.  A member of the Chess Hall of Fame (for both his play and for his exercises, or “problems”), he gained posthumous fame when his son published a collection of his mathematical and logic puzzles, Cyclopedia of 5000 Puzzles after his father’s death.  As readers can see here and here, his puzzles still delight.

Loyd’s most famous puzzle was the 14-15 Puzzle, which he produced in 1878. His original authorship is debated; but in any case, his version created a craze that swept America to such an extent that employers put up notices prohibiting playing the puzzle during office hours.

 source

 

Written by LW

April 10, 2017 at 1:01 am

“If it’s zero degrees outside today and it’s supposed to be twice as cold tomorrow, how cold is it going to be?”*…

 

One of the most famous literary riddles in literature is also the most frustrating … because it came without an answer! In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the Mad Hatter poses this puzzle to Alice:

“Why is a raven like a writing desk?”

Eight other head-scratchers (with answers to all) at “9 of History’s Best Riddles.”

* Steven Wright

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As we puzzle, we might spare a thought for Terry Southern; he died on this date in 1995.  Best remembered as a novelist and screenwriter–  Dr. StrangeloveThe Loved OneThe Cincinnati KidEasy Rider, Candy, and The Magic Christian, among others; Southern’s work on Easy Rider helped create the independent film movement of the 1970s.  But perhaps as importantly, Tom Wolfe credits Southern with inventing New Journalism with the publication of “Twirling at Ole Miss” in Esquire in 1962.

Southern, photographed by Stanley Kubrick

source

Written by LW

October 29, 2016 at 1:01 am

By any other name…

 

Film is one of the three universal languages, the other two: mathematics and music.
– Frank Capra

Can you figure out these movie titles?

These and other mathematical mysteries at Spiked Math‘s Movie Math Quiz. (For answers to the examples above, click on the clues… but do browse further.)

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As we wonder if this is what “transitive” means, we might send burnished birthday greetings to Maxwell Perkins; he was born on this date in 1884.  Probably the most famous literary editor of all time, Perkins discovered, assisted, promoted, and/or otherwise mentored many of the most important American writers of the first half of the Twentieth Century including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Ring Lardner, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Erskine Caldwell, Edmund Wilson, James Jones, Vance Bourjaily, and (especially) Thomas Wolfe.

 source

 

 

Written by LW

September 20, 2013 at 1:01 am

Now where did I leave that key?…

The legend in the map above has been removed.  Try guessing what it signifies using only clues contained within the map—the relationships between color-coded regions, say.

(One clue to get you started: The map doesn’t analyze “gross national” anything.)

The answer is here.

Thanks to The Morning News.

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As we we recall that context is everything, we might we might spare a thought for Jean Cocteau; he died on this date in 1963.  An avatar of the avant-garde, Cocteau was a prolific poet, novelist, dramatist, designer, playwright, artist and filmmaker… and a passionate friend (and often more) to the likes of Kenneth Anger, Pablo Picasso, Jean Hugo, Jean Marais, Henri Bernstein, Yul Brynner, Marlene Dietrich, Coco Chanel, Erik Satie, María Félix, and Édith Piaf.  He is probably best remembered for his novel Les Enfants Terribles, and his films Blood of a PoetLes Parents TerriblesBeauty and the Beast, and Orpheus.

 source

Written by LW

October 11, 2012 at 8:07 am

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