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Guessing and Puzzle Solving

One of the perennial debates is around what count as valid strategies when it comes to puzzle solving, and what a 'good' puzzle should expect of the solver.

Generally most solvers would expect that a puzzle can be solved without having to guess, ie, that there is a logical method that can be used to solve the puzzle - either based on deducing patterns or logical rules with number/logic puzzles, or by having the relevant knowledge needed - for instance knowing vocabulary when it comes to word puzzles.

Particularly with logic puzzles, many feel that guessing is very undesirable, and that it doesn't really count as a puzzle solving strategy at all. Certainly with Sudoku, if one has to resort to guessing, then this would leave most people frustrated.

However, there are some puzzles where a short amount of lookahead logic might be acceptable, and indeed is often used or even expected. In puzzles such as nurikabe or slitherlink, one must often consider a few moves ahead, and this intelligent 'if this, then that' logic should be distinguished from pure guessing where one just starts writing in options and hoping for the best.

Most mainstream solvers would not expect to have to just guess in the majority of instances, and therefore most puzzles in newspapers are created by the use of logical rules so that guessing is not required to solve them.
Date written: 05 Jun 2013

Category: puzzles | Keywords: puzzles | guessing

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