Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Click in the Mud.

I keep trying to write about Andrea Gilbert's Plank Puzzles, and I keep getting stuck. Particularly, I keep getting stuck trying to solve the fifteen puzzles of the SwampBeast. I believe I've been at this for about two years. Most of that time is spent with the memory of these puzzles blocked out. Then something happens, and I find them again and, oh, look at that, where did the last three hours go?

These and the other interactive puzzles at Clickmazes appeal to me because they encourage a more active approach to solving. Instead of having to try to figure out a path of logic in one's head or on paper, a solver can just try what he thinks might work and see what happens. He might be right, in which case, hooray. More likely, he'll encounter an unexpected result, either because of a rule he forgot or an opportunity he missed. Sometimes it's advantageous, sometimes it's not; but the chance to surprise one's self is always exciting.

There are other helpful functions. Occasionally, I find I've gotten myself into an advantageous position through no planning on my part. Being able to undo and see how I managed it is very helpful. In fact, because the applet saves the state of progress in the maze entirely, I've been able to save my progress, return months later, and replay my actions to see how I got there. Also, the fact that the program restricts impossible moves has kept me from finding false solutions in more than a few places.

All of this helps make progress on the puzzles. I may have spent months of my life working on fifteen puzzles, but when I started, I had none complete, and now I've solved all but two. Which is why I keep coming back. They're hard, but I know they'll be solvable. With just a few more hours . . .

(Andrea Gilbert's plank puzzles are available for purchase as River Crossing.)


thank you

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