Friday, August 3, 2012

Too tight or too loose?

[Note: actually posted Monday, but backdated for sequencing purposes]

Even though there's no issue of The Nation this week, Hot and Trazom do have some observations over at Word Salad: looking at the age-old question: are our puzzles too hard or too easy?  With a weekly gig, especially one filling the shoes of a man who set nearly 3,000 puzzles, it's important to get that right.  Fortunately, Hot and Trazom have constructed many puzzles, curated more, and solved still more than that, so they have a pretty good idea of the range of difficulty and how to create puzzles that are more or less difficult.

I have to answer a similar question when I go out on the ice: "too hard or too easy?"  Ref the game tightly or loose?  There may not be a right answer to that question, but there are plenty of wrong ones: especially if you let too much go early and the game gets out of hand, or if you call a marginal first penalty and leave the players guessing if you'll penalize them for just leaning on the other guy.  Go by the book, or let 'em play, but always be consistent.

If you solve enough puzzles, you get into a mind-meld with the constructors, and start recognizing their styles and tricks in cluing.  Meanwhile, the constructors are finding their own sweet spot (hence the recent foci of Hozom commentaries).   I've solved so many Hex puzzles (both regular and cryptic) that I naturally look for a secondary definition first.

Also, they've made some edits to the commenting system over at The Nation, so if you've had difficulties posting comments in the past, you might want to try again.

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