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Ian’s Labyrinth (Part 4)

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This Post contains SPOILERS of puzzles that appear the book The Maze of Games by Mike Selinker, specifically ones in Chapter 2: Joining the Clubs. The post also references puzzles from The Puzzle Files of Larry Logic by Dan Katz, without spoilers.

Ian and I got in some Maze of Game solving while I was in Glenwood Springs for Thanksgiving weekend. Neither of us had made much progress in the book since our last get-together. I’ve been working on some new Puzzlewright Press titles, trying to finish the first edition of Cryptic All-Stars, and spending a lot of time on the Sporcle quiz site collecting badges. Ian is playing a lot of games with his friends: iPad apps and the Ascension card game. But the post-meal period of Thanksgiving provided some time for us to rejoin the Quaice siblings in their escape from the clutches of the Gatekeeper.

Ian is still a few puzzles behind me and we decided to have him continue solving from his stopping point while I observed and offered assistance when needed. His solving experience of the logic puzzle A Most Vexing Vexillology was not especially remarkable — he completed it in silence without any help — so I’ll share our experience solving logic puzzles from Dan Katz’s new book The Puzzle Files of Larry Logic. I brought a copy of this book to see how Ian would fare with grid-style logic problems. I’m not sure if he had prior experience with the puzzle type but he caught on quickly and we went through the first case to identify the Phantom posing as a substitute teacher in the Enigmaville school district. We completed the first grid together and then Ian asked to work on grid 3 alone while I worked on grid 2. We muttered our logical deductions aloud as we solved, somehow failing to distract one another. The cacophony of “Ms. Hayes first name can’t be…” “The science teacher is either…” “So since he doesn’t teach at Garfield…” “Daria, Delia, or Dolores…” “Neither Spanish nor literature…” Finally caused my sister to come in from the kitchen and cry, “Keep it down! I don’t care what subject Ms. Roosevelt teaches!” Ian pushed his luck by replying, “Roosevelt isn’t a teacher, it’s the name of a school.”
In the metapuzzle, the Phantom is revealed to be one of seven substitute teachers featured in the previous puzzles. Before we started this puzzle Ian asked, “Who would you guess is the Phantom?”
“I don’t know,” I said
“Make a guess just for fun, just to see if you got it right when we finish.”
So we both made a preliminary guess and Ian’s guess turned out to be the right answer. After we determined the identity of the Phantom I confirmed the solution by reading the answer paragraph from the back of the book.
“You know who could have solved that puzzle?” Ian asked.
“Who?”
“A dog with a speech impediment.”
“Huh?!”
“You know, like Scooby-Doo.”
“Oh, uh, okay.” I said, wondering if the mystery-solving dog with a speech impediment was a larger trope than I realized. I also found it interesting that Ian wanted to make a “just-for-fun” guess of the puzzle’s answer before starting. It might lead to some solving bias but is probably harmless. Do any of you engage in that practice?

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* * *

Back to Maze of Games. Ian’s next puzzle was A Reading of the Minds, which he remembered me solving the last time we were together. He also remembered the puzzle’s final answer, but went through the puzzle anyway to see if he could remember all of the tarot card patterns work. One pattern contains the cards with index numbers that are perfect squares. Ian recognized that the pattern was mathematical but struggled to articulate it. He finally expressed it as the progressive addition of odd integers, which is acceptable. I would imagine that he will be covering that equivalency in school soon, unless it gets dumped by Common Core.

* * *

Finally, we tackled the grid puzzle All Hands on Deck. Ian used OneLook to help him with crossword-style clues but since we were running short of time I volunteered to help by giving alternate clues when he got stuck and coaxing him to the answer. A sample help session would go:
“Six down. Hill denizen. Three letters. What’s a denizen?”
“It’s another word for ‘resident’.”
“Okay. Hmm.”
“So you’re looking for a three-letter resident of a hill.”
“MAN?”
“Keep trying.”
“BUG?”
“Hmm. what kind of bug lives in a hill?”
“ANT? Oh an anthill. yay.”

In some cases I had be a bit more forthcoming laying the groundwork for crossword vocabulary. Ian couldn’t figure out the clue {Infinite, mathematically (3)} and was ready to erase some correct crossing entries based on the dubious NT? letter pattern. I couldn’t think of a way to simplify the clue so I simply put it forth that NTH was a thing. PRIMER {Child’s book} was another term that didn’t offer any useful simplification; I doubted he would have known any alternate definitions of the word. The puzzle’s theme answers form “quartets,” which Ian understood with minor clarification. He identified the seasons and compass directions pretty easily, and a Google search gave him the Horseman of the Apocalypse. One quartet gave him trouble.
“What is ‘phleggum’?”
“It’s pronounced ‘phlegm’.”
“It’s in one of the quartets. What is it?”
“Try Googling ‘phlegm set of four’.” Ian Googles.
“It says that ‘phlegm’ goes with ‘mucus’ and ‘snot’.”
“Okay, skip that one for now.”
Ian eventually found the keyword and then I explained the Four Humours. Ian recorded his progress in his notebook and then, with blood, bile and phlegm on our minds, we retired to the dining room for dessert.

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6 thoughts on “Ian’s Labyrinth (Part 4)

  1. Glad you made it through Case 1, and I hope you enjoyed it! I love the idea that Ian wanted to guess the case answer in advance; one of the things I hoped would make this book more interesting than the average logic puzzle is the presence of final answers to each case, and guessing is a great way to make that “punchline” matter even more.

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