When the word puzzle is mentioned, most people think of the common two-dimensional jigsaw puzzle or perhaps the famous Rubik's Cube. In fact, puzzles take many different forms and whether we realize it or not, we solve them everyday. Retrieving a house key from a sewer grate or figuring out how to most quickly drive home through rush-hour traffic are in reality puzzles. Most of us however, would more likely regard such actions as problem solving. What distinguishes a puzzle from practical problem solving is the frivolous nature of puzzle solving.
A good puzzle serves no purpose in itself: it exists solely for our pleasure (and/or frustration!).
It is our fundamental belief that a good puzzle is inherently frustrating, and that a sense of pleasure and accomplishment is achieved through overcoming the obstacles necessary to solve it.
We have found that there are a couple of reasons why a person will have difficulty solving a puzzle:
- It is complicated (ie, has many steps), and it is difficult for you to keep all the steps straight in your mind. These are usually the more logical puzzles. In addition, sometimes the right moves are very similar to the wrong moves, further adding to the confusion.
- The puzzle is generally quite simple, but requires lateral thinking, rather than a systematic approach to solve it. Logical thinkers do not usually do as well with this type of puzzle.
We have further found that the challenge and enjoyment of puzzles comes in three stages:
- Solving it the first time: It is a rare person indeed that does not harbour some doubt as to either the solvability of the puzzle (can it in fact be solved) or his ability to meet the challenge.
- Solving it again: Solving it once does not imply that you have mastered it. At this stage, although you now have no doubt that the puzzle is solvable and that you can do it, the question is can you do it again and again. Some puzzles are mastered the moment the attentive puzzler solves it the first time, but with others, mastery may take much patience.
- Sharing the puzzle: Ok. You've mastered the puzzle and it no longer presents a challenge to you. Now is the time to share it. Loan it to a friend, or simply leave it lying around to attract the attention of family members at home or colleagues at work.