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What are your nominations for the best puzzles, here on Puzzling.SE, of 2014?

Suggested guidelines for nomination:

  • Nominate each individual puzzle in a separate answer, so they can be upvoted/downvoted separately.

  • Not more than 3 nominations per person.

  • Don't nominate your own puzzles.

  • Before you nominate a puzzle, check to see if someone else has already nominated it. If they have then add to that nomination as a comment (or edit it), instead of nominating the same puzzle again.

  • In your nomination, explain what it is that (in your opinion) makes the nominated puzzle such a good one.

Meta-meta issues:

  • Is this kind of thing allowed on SE?

  • What's the point?

    • To highlight and encourage good practice in a way which goes beyond upvotes.

    • To work towards building a 'hall of fame' of some of the best puzzles on the site (perhaps to reside on a future puzzling.SE blog) - think of it as our 'greatest hits album'. :)

    • To prompt members to put forward their own reflections on what makes a high-quality puzzle.

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    $\begingroup$ I don't think it's really worth it until we get a blog. $\endgroup$ – Kevin Jan 3 '15 at 21:06
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    $\begingroup$ @Kevin, why not? I don't see that there's anything to lose, and there's a lot to gain. Right now we're strong on negative feedback (e.g. "thank you for downvoting!") but very weak on positive feedback. $\endgroup$ – A E Jan 3 '15 at 21:21
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    $\begingroup$ It is interesting idea. But don't we already have the voting system to determine best questions-puzzles?:) Could you explain clearly was is new in this proposal? ( i have no doubts that results will be different, since voting depends on mood and other factors, but will they be better than we already have? ) $\endgroup$ – klm123 Jan 4 '15 at 9:35
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    $\begingroup$ Nothing wrong with giving it a try. Either it works, or it doesn't. If we get a blog, we can copy over. @klm123 The voting system doesn't have a "Best of 2014" and it is not comparative in between puzzles. However, I would suggest that everybody who upvotes a answer has to leave a comment, and that everybody is only allowed to upvote his personal "best 3" puzzles, to limit total votes. $\endgroup$ – BmyGuest Jan 4 '15 at 22:20
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    $\begingroup$ Personally, I think this is a good learning opportunity from a puzzle creation perspective. Just because a post is highly voted on Puzzling doesn't automatically guarantee that it's a better puzzle than one with less votes, and hopefully this can bring to light some of those underappreciated puzzles. $\endgroup$ – Sp3000 Jan 5 '15 at 7:43
  • $\begingroup$ The rollback is fair enough, but I think the voting requires some sort of limitation. If everybody upvotes all nominations (he/she likes), we basically get a mirror of the votes on the main-site. Editing in voting-rules afterwards might be a too tricky. $\endgroup$ – BmyGuest Jan 5 '15 at 16:38
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    $\begingroup$ @BmyGuest, I'm not sure we will get a mirror of the votes on the main site, because here on Meta there aren't any 'drive-by upvotes' from the HNQ super-collider. So hopefully here on meta we'll get a ranked list of what the Puzzling.SE 'regulars' think are the best puzzles on the site, whereas with normal upvotes the puzzles that are the easiest and the most open-ended often get the most votes (due mainly to HNQ I think). $\endgroup$ – A E Jan 5 '15 at 16:41
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    $\begingroup$ Fair point. But if every "regular" up-votes all good puzzles, it will still be an equal-weight situation. (f.e. have you upvoted both suggested puzzles?) Anyway, we'll see. $\endgroup$ – BmyGuest Jan 5 '15 at 16:59
  • $\begingroup$ @BmyGuest, that might happen. If we end up with a list of really good puzzles that are all more-or-less-equally valued then I wouldn't be unhappy with that outcome. It's still a way of recognising and encouraging quality (and hopefully a way of getting different viewpoints on what 'quality' looks like and what attributes it has). Think 'greatest hits album'. :) $\endgroup$ – A E Jan 5 '15 at 17:02
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Find the letters that complete these five patterns by Matt Malone

This is the ultimate misdirection puzzle. The puzzles all make you think that there's an algorithm that you must use to reduce each word to a letter. What I'm especially amazed by is how he managed to generate a palindrome containing "Hocks is either a word, name, ? or ?" Truly diabolical.

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Chaos and Order by MattClarke

Easily one of the best visual puzzles on the site. Here's why:

  • There's nothing extraneous in the puzzle, all you see is all you need.
  • The solution is simple enough to be accessible yet not completely obvious.
  • When you get the solution, it's easy to confirm that you indeed have the intended solution by doing a bit of research on the internet and checking against the title.

The puzzle also gets bonus points for being made into a physical, real life object.

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    $\begingroup$ The physical object itself is rather beautiful too. $\endgroup$ – A E Jan 5 '15 at 8:16
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Ernie and the Alchemist's Gift by Penguino

To be honest, it is hard to pick my favourite of the Ernie's puzzle, as they are all very good, but I've picked this puzzle because...

  • It presents a solid, simple and exact puzzle which is still not trivial and has a counter-intuitive surprising answer.

  • It has a nicely written story which is fun to read on its own, but defines the puzzle very well nevertheless.

  • It contains humour

    "...fools-gold, wrapped in gold, for a fool! I think he will appreciate the joke." (I did!)

  • It has an appealing eye-catcher image.

  • It is lovely themed as part of the Ernie puzzle-cycle, giving a very polished impression.


I also want to add, that my choice might be a bit time-biased. I've only been on PuzzlingSE since late November, and I have not yet had the time to look at all the puzzles from before that.

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N logicians wearing hats of N colors by Gilles

I think this is the best puzzle ever. Unfortunately it was not given as a puzzle on Puzzle.SE, but as part of the question about it's solution. Though, if you tried to solve this problem by your own from the very beginning you can easily see that it is a awsome puzzle:

  1. At the start the task looks totally impossible to complete. Indeed, how one can know color on his hat if he was given literally nor information about it, neither about anything that depends on this colour - only totally independently chosen colours of other people?

    1.2. But there is a more or less simple way to check that this first impression is wrong and the puzzle can have some solution: just try to solve it for N=2. (Which would be a quite nice puzzle by its own).

  2. The formulation is quite short and easy to understand.

    2.2. Furthermore, it is mathematical puzzle, and it is quite obvious that it's not a brainteaser, so a solver can be sure that he understood conditions correctly and fully. This is quite important to have a pleasure from the logical-puzzle-solving process. Otherwise he(her) will feel like he need's to find a hole in the formulation and get to the result using a trick, or at least it's possible and will waste time on unpleasant rechecking of the conditions - is there anything i missed or misunderstood.

    2.3. I consider this so important, that i would like to stress it again as separate point - this is a purely logical puzzle. And if you want to train your logic and don't be distracted by other tasks (like to strain all your attention and memory on finding patterns or loopholes in the formulation, which are required to solve the puzzle).

  3. The solution to this puzzle is extremely short and simple.

    3.2. Meanwhile it is hard to find. Even when I solved for N=2 and N=3, I had no ideas how to generalise it, and N=4 is already quite hard. So unlike in many puzzles you can't just solve N=2,3,4,5,6,7 see the pattern, guess the general answer and then look for a solution, which will fit. You have to move here step by step - from the formulation to the solution and to the answer.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'm curious: what solution did you find for N=3, that was hard to generalize? The only solution I know for N=3 has an obvious generalization (unlike N=2 which on its own looks pretty ad hoc). $\endgroup$ – Gilles Jan 7 '15 at 22:05
  • $\begingroup$ @Gilles, it was 6 years ago and hard to remember. I remember I just created a table, which consider all 27 cases and tried to assign for each case one person, that would be correct. Probably it was alternative assignment, not the one the mod operation gives. $\endgroup$ – klm123 Jan 8 '15 at 11:15
  • $\begingroup$ @BmyGuest, i fixed the link. $\endgroup$ – klm123 Jan 11 '15 at 17:15
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A well balanced puzzle: Logic puzzle(s) in visual disguise by BmyGuest

A fantastic puzzle. At first sight it makes people think "what on earth?", but all the pictures fit together in a logical manner, forming an incredible algorithm leading to the final solution. It must have taken a vast amount of time and effort to create. No amount of upvotes could be enough.

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  • $\begingroup$ The for Nominativs. -wtf? Auto-Type spelling got in the way. Should be: thanks for nominating. $\endgroup$ – BmyGuest Apr 15 '15 at 21:38
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The Baconian Tower by BmyGuest

  • The puzzle is aesthetically pleasing.

  • It references classical literature

  • It is clever without being too hard.

  • It would fit very comfortably in a good quality puzzle book.

NB: Technically I have left the site, but I just wanted to do this.

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for the nomination. (You've technically left PuzzlingSE ?) Unfortunately it has to be disqualified as it was posted in January 2015. Next year maybe. $\endgroup$ – BmyGuest Jan 14 '15 at 11:39
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    $\begingroup$ Oh well... I just wanted to see your name there! This thing is general has been a flop imo... not enough nominations $\endgroup$ – d'alar'cop Jan 14 '15 at 11:40
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    $\begingroup$ @BmyGuest meta.puzzling.stackexchange.com/a/2914/5373 is eligible :-) $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Apr 15 '15 at 19:20
  • $\begingroup$ Could post it on meta.puzzling.stackexchange.com/questions/2910/… $\endgroup$ – A E Apr 18 '15 at 10:51
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Two spies throwing stones into a river by klm123

It's a very challenging task that has a wild variety of solution methods, all of which are completely different from each other and give slightly different results that can be ranked against one another. The given answer of 2535 seems impossible when the best algorithm you can come up with only gives 42, 126, or 924 (as was the case when I first did this problem).

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