In the About page on my weblog, it says that I am a puzzle designer. For various reasons this is not a great description but it works. In any case, when I tell people that I’m a puzzle designer, they invariably get very excited and start asking me about all sorts of stuff, like ‘What kind of puzzles?’ and ‘That must be really fun!’ and so on. This is fine although I’m always a little awkward because I can’t tell them exactly what I’m doing – for one thing, it’d take too long.
What I find amusing, and occasionally irritating, is that people assume that because I’m a puzzle designer, I must be amazing at solving puzzles. This has lead to me getting all number of encrypted emails from friends and strangers under the assumption that I like nothing better than running ROT decoders and letter frequency analysers in my evenings. Now, to be fair, sometimes I do find it interesting depending on the person and the puzzles, but generally with traditional puzzles I’m just not in the mood. I’m not into cryptic crosswords either – it’s not what I do, and I believe that puzzle designing and puzzle solving are two very different things (although of course you do need an understanding of one to be any good at the other).
A few months ago, I came across a puzzle called Petals around the Rose. I won’t explain it here – read the previous link for a great article about it – but it’s a very simple brainteaser that takes some people about ten seconds to work out, and other people months of years. Bill Gates himself only figured it out after some hours, and it’s said that the more intelligent you are, the longer it takes. I wouldn’t entirely agree with that assessment because I think it has more to do with your temperament and backround than raw intelligence, but I do understand the reasoning.
Anyway, due to my aversion to traditional puzzles, I stayed away from Petals around the Rose. I knew that it could take me ages to work it out and I didn’t want to subject myself to that kind of mental torture. Unfortunately today someone mentioned it, saying it’d taken her an hour to solve, and I duly was obliged to have a go myself. I used this simulator and it’s a good choice if you’re interested as well.
In the end, it only took me about one or two minutes to figure it out which I was of course very pleased with. I’m not going to reveal the answer here, but trust me – it’s not a cheat, and it is something you can figure out very quickly. Then again, it could well take much longer, so approach the puzzle at your own risk…
In other news, I finally received my iPod Shuffle today (initial impressions: small and cool) and I intend to write something about my iBook breaking down last week and how that, combined with reading Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-up Bird Chronicle put me in a peculiar state of mind.