FUN TO ANSWER QUESTIONS


(Hey, it's not like I can easily measure how often a question is asked...)

What inspired you to create Puzzles for Progress?

In the beginning, all there was was the Sunday New York Times crossword: a themed puzzle that my family always did together. Sure, there may have been other puzzles, technically speaking, but to us, this was all there was. The rest of the magazine could’ve been Lorem Ipsum for all we cared.

Next came the KenKen: a mathematical puzzle where the numbers in each cage add, multiply, subtract, or divide to the number listed. The KenKen got my attention by being on the same page as the crossword. 

After that was the Spelling Bee puzzle. While not on the same page as the crossword and KenKen, it seemed approachable enough–just make words, at least five letters long, from the letters in the hive. And after the Spelling Bee, I started doing the Times’ daily mini crosswords, Capsules, Spirals, and practically every other puzzle there. 

At some point, The New York Times did a competition where a kid would construct a mini that would be published as the daily puzzle. I didn't participate. After all, I couldn't make a crossword. But when the mini aired, I became curious. Could I make a mini? 

It turned out that I could! Of course, my first crossword wasn’t very good, but my second was a bit better, and my third was a bit better than that. Soon, I branched out into other puzzle types–KenKens, Spelling Bees, Capsules, Spirals–even some original types that I invented, like Overwrite and Enclosures. I poured a lot of time into making puzzles. They called to me.

As I continued to create, I kept wondering what to do with all these homemade puzzles. My mother suggested making a weekly puzzle page, modeled after The New York Times magazine’s. Each page would contain a few puzzles, and people could print it out and solve them.

 

Additionally, I created a fundraising page on United To Beat Malaria, in order to use my platform to make some further difference in the world.

I launched Puzzles for Progress in July of 2020, publishing three puzzles a week until 2022, when I switched to three puzzles every two weeks. It's changed so much in that time, but it remains a true passion project, and I cannot count the hours I’ve poured into it. I’m speaking literally: because apart from all the time explicitly working, my puzzler brain is always active in the background, looking for an interesting piece of linguistic trivia or piece of logic that I can incorporate into a puzzle.

Can I share the puzzles?

You have my encouragement! I want to make it as easy as possible for as many people as possible to enjoy my content. So you can share the puzzles with whoever you want, however you want, as long as you attribute the puzzles to Puzzles for Progress (puzzlesforprogress.net).

 

In addition to creating the puzzles, did you also create the puzzle genres - that is, the rule sets?

Depends on the puzzle. A few are originals, Mirrored Gallery being perhaps the most notable. But most of the rest were invented by someone else. Many of the word puzzles I found originally in the New York Times magazine, whereas many of the pencil puzzles originated at Nikoli or were invented by the prolific Naoki Inaba.

I used to have a list here of every puzzle type and where it comes from, but I don't want it to become out of date. :)

Can I watch videos of someone solving your puzzles?

Yes! I think it's actually one of the best ways to get a feel for how to solve them. I will recommend watching the videos at a higher speed if you're the sort of person that likes that—since they are mostly live solves. Anyway, here's the playlist of my puzzles! I've been featured on a channel with over 70,000 subscribers, Scott Stro-solves...but the videos of my puzzles are from when it had less than 1,000, before it suddenly exploded in popularity from Wordle shorts. I can't decide if this is a humblebrag or not. 

What if I've found a mistake in one of the puzzles?

It could be yours, but send it to me! If it's actually a mistake. you get the Super Special Platinum Ultimate Puzzle Tester award, which I literally just made up.

Never mind, there was no mistake after all!

No one could have predicted this outcome.

Am I correct in inferring from the snarkiness in your FAQ that very few people have correctly identified mistakes?

Unfortunately, you would be incorrect. My snarkiness is wholly unjustified, because there are lots of times when people have correctly identified mistakes. There have been many winners of the Super Special Platinum Ultimate Puzzle Tester Award. Please don't be dissuaded from sending in an error. 

Speaking of testing, can I be a tester for Puzzles for Progress?

Probably! I'm always looking to make my puzzles better. It used to be easier, back when I actually made puzzles weeks in advance and stuff. If you hang out in the testing channels of the Cracking the Cryptic Discord server or the Crosscord, your chances are quite high you will be able to test a Puzzles for Progress puzzle. But you can also just contact me directly (puzzlesforprogress@waiter.com, Conflux#3493), and I would be happy to send you drafts of all or certain puzzles.

Speaking of helping with Puzzles for Progress, can I write a guest puzzle?

I'm happy to link to guest puzzles that are sufficiently relevant to the Puzzles for Progress audience, but for now, all main-line Puzzles for Progress puzzles will be created by me. 

Speaking of puzzles by other people, I know you make puzzles, but can you link some good puzzles?

Wow, brutal. Gladly! I'll just paste the recommendations I wrote in Issue #75, because I still stand by all of them (though the "latest puzzles" are no longer that) and it means I don't have to do any additional thinking:

For logic puzzle fans

- The publicly accessible Cracking the Cryptic Discord server is, in my view, the best place for fans of sudoku and logic puzzles, almost transcending the great CTC YouTube channel itself. It's a large server, and the quantity and quality of puzzles posted in the Discord archive or in the testing channels (where many a PfP puzzle has been tested) is insane.

 

- That Discord is also home to the Genuinely Approachable Sudoku (GAS) and Genuinely Approachable Pencil Puzzle (GAPP) series, which offer one easier sudoku and one easier logic puzzle made by some of the world's best constructors. On the Discord, you can earn party hat, dinosaur, sloth, crab, and bird emoji for solving. If you want to do the puzzles without the commitment of joining the server, here's a link to the latest GAS puzzle pdf, the latest GAPP puzzle pdf and a full spreadsheet linking to all puzzles from both.

 

- It hasn't updated since 2015, but MellowMelon's site may be my favorite for logic puzzles. I'm a particular fan of his puzzle packs, which do an incredible job fully introducing you to a puzzle type and all the logic that can be possible with it. My favorite pack is probably Fillomino-fillia 2.

 

For word puzzle fans

- It's not as massive as the CTC Discord, but the Crosscord is a similar place for crossword fans. Many of its members have published puzzles in The New York Times and other prestigious venues.

 

- I always enjoy Adam Aaronson's crosswords, which are all-around very good! Here's a direct link to his latest puzzle. The fill is always fresh and interesting, and yet the solves remain smooth–it's very rare for me to have one or two squares at the end I just can't do. Highly recommend!

 

- The 7xwords project, an effort to make a 7x7 crossword with every legal black square layout, has just now been completed! Given their size, the puzzles are definitely low-commitment to try, so why not pick your favorite layout and do so!

 

- For anyone looking to get into cryptic crosswords: Square Pursuit, by Steve Mossberg, is home to a great series of approachable cryptics, which I find myself recommending over and over; all puzzles come with a "helpers" version listing the cryptic device used for each clue. Here's a link to the latest one. There are US-style crosswords as well.

Is the name styled PUZZLES for PROGRESS or Puzzles for Progress?

I originally used the first one everywhere. I later realized that it looks kind of pretentious in blocks of text, so I mostly use the second one these days, and you should too.

Any affiliation with the other Puzzles for Progress, created by Francis Heaney?

Nope. I really have no ground to rest on in terms of name-stealing, because the other Puzzles for Progress predates mine. What I have done, though, is acquired and done many of the other Puzzles for Progress's puzzles. Out of guilt, of course, but I can definitely vouch for them—I found them to be fun challenges for a great cause!

If I'm interested in creating my own stunning website, should I use Wix?

No, I'm just using Wix because switching is too much of a hassle. It's somewhat slow, has an annoying interface on my end, and also gives me the approximate city of anyone who uses the weird chat feature or happens to be on the site at the same time I am (which feels a bit invasive to me, though I obviously won't do anything with this information). There's a happy medium, though—Barnes and Noble doesn't even tell me the email of people who buy my book, so I don't know who to thank and who to annoy.

What if I can't solve the puzzles?

If it's a word puzzle, look some stuff up on the internet. Or why not do some searching online to find strategies for the puzzle type (most of their names are googleable). You can also look at the answers, which all the puzzles come with! If you do ever send me a partially completed (or un-started) puzzle and ask me for a hint, I will give one. I wish I was in the same room with you, able to give live feedback. 

Aren't some of those things cheating?

Sure.

Wait, what?

It's not a competition. This isn't homework. I really want you to have fun with my puzzles, and not be dispirited. I know there are a lot of things that are hard that I forget about when you aren't in a puzzle bubble like me. Anything that lets you appreciate the puzzles better, you should do. 

But I'm a dirty materialist! How do I know if I've done a good job on the puzzles?

Some puzzles are more difficult than others. Without any basis at all, if you solve:

1 out of the 3 puzzles on a page, that's good.

2 out of 3 is excellent.

3 out of 3 is fantabulously incredible! Your prize is looking at this picture of a smiling gold star saying "Great job!" I found on the Internet. No cheating! Only fantabulously incredible people can look at the picture.

Do you have friends in real life?

How dare you! I have many, which I attribute to my winning wit and personal charm.

You're writing these questions. Why are you taking the opportunity to insult yourself?

That's a great point!

Jacob, I've always admired your immense winning wit and personal charm. What can I do to gain it myself?​

That's so kind of you to say! Well, if you must know, there's true path to winning wit and personal charm lies in solving every Puzzles for Progress puzzle ever, as well as donating what you can in order to fight malaria! Mwahaha, you have no excuse now.

When was this FAQ last updated?

July 2022. Tell me if it's the future and anything's out of date!

What if I have a different question?

Ask me! The official email is puzzlesforprogress@waiter.com. Fortunately, Puzzles for Progress is small enough that I have time to read and respond to every email. (So far.) You can also contact me on Discord, where I'm Conflux#3493.