This question is part of the best-puzzle award series.

What are your nominations for the best puzzles, here on Puzzling.SE, of the second quarter (Apr/ May / Jun) 2016?

Suggested guidelines for nomination:

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

  • No 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.

Also remember: This, as all other posts of the best-puzzle awards series, is an open ended list. If you discover any high quality puzzle which you think deserves to be listed under the 'best-of-site', nominate it in the best-puzzle post of the according time period.

Some lists to help jog your memory (your nomination doesn't have to be from these lists):

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Listing by most votes or views tends to measure which posts reached HNQ instead of their quality. Maybe some of these algorithms could also be linked? For example this one shows the questions with the best votes-to-views ratios. $\endgroup$ – f'' Jul 9 '16 at 7:41
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @f'' Just edit them in. I don't claim ownership of that post, just realised nobody had started it yet and copied the last quarter one. $\endgroup$ – BmyGuest Jul 9 '16 at 7:45
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Edited in a couple of algorithmic lists... $\endgroup$ – Alconja Jul 10 '16 at 5:57
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @BmyGuest Thanks for remembering to post this! ;) $\endgroup$ – A E Jul 11 '16 at 21:23
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Alconja I guess mine is a "hidden gem" then, since it is not found by those searches. $\endgroup$ – Jonathan Allan Jul 16 '16 at 14:27
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @JonathanAllan - yeah, unfortunately no algorithm is perfect, which is why we still need human beings to nominate things, such as here. $\endgroup$ – Alconja Jul 16 '16 at 22:00

You have prepared. You are determined. You approach the door

by Alconja

I was quite surprised that this question wasn't the first one posted here.

Such a well-done puzzle, both in the visual presentation and the design of the puzzles themselves.

Hints contained within the puzzle are not too obvious but give just enough information to interpret the rest of the puzzle.

This question jumped to the 4th-most-popular puzzle on the site within a matter of weeks!

  • $\begingroup$ This also quickly became one of my favorite puzzles ever posted on this site. That only compounded once I read the solution. $\endgroup$ – user20 Jul 11 '16 at 18:48
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I had that on my list, but wanted to nominate one of Alconja's less super-popular puzzles, as they all deserve attention. $\endgroup$ – BmyGuest Jul 11 '16 at 20:39

The Rube Wordberg Machine

by Alconja

This puzzle combines a very pleasing visual way of being presented with a good puzzle requiring observation as well as deduction skills and a shot of creativity to find an answer. Everything is well-packed in a litte fun-story.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Thanks for the nomination. :) Also, an unofficial vote for best answer, to Dan Russell for providing an awesome animated explanation of the solution. $\endgroup$ – Alconja Jul 11 '16 at 3:06
  • $\begingroup$ @Alconja you re welcome. Too many great puzzles of yours in that quarter :-) $\endgroup$ – BmyGuest Jul 11 '16 at 5:23
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ The fact that I visit PuzzlingSE almost everyday, and this beautiful puzzle never came to my eyes, together with the fact that it has been viewed only 500 times (while other - much worse - puzzles totalize 4-5.000 views) make me think there's something wrong in the way SE focuses attention on the (supposed) most interesting posts... $\endgroup$ – Hunter Jul 11 '16 at 9:01
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Hunter That's exactly why we have these threads! :) $\endgroup$ – A E Jul 11 '16 at 21:24

The Unfinished Puzzle Section

by Jonathan Allan

Ever so appropriately for Puzzling SE, this meta-puzzle is built on puzzles that could be found in a newspaper's puzzle section. What could be puzzlier?

  • This is the kind of puzzle that gets us to work together in solving pieces and trying to fit them together. The community wiki answer has 27 editions; the many personal answers constituted a constructive ongoing conversation full of cross references; and chat rooms were abuzz.

  • The crossword portion, like all successful crosswords, is actually a collection of puzzles that provides a series of satisfying incremental successes.

  • Ambiguous portions of the crossword puzzle cleverly tie into the Sudoku puzzle in more than one way.

  • Having unnumbered crossword hints provides an initial puzzle layer that is challenging but not confusing, while toying with yet-to-be-discovered aspects of the Sudoku portion.

  • The crossword clues themselves significantly added to my appreciation of the “British” variety. They include much fun wordplay and sly references to the larger puzzle.

  • The Sudoku portion foils automated solvers but not local talent.

  • The Sudoku turns out the to be the capstone of the whole puzzle as well as one of its fundaments. To fully solve the Sudoku portion requires completion of all other portions in combination with its own earlier steps.

  • The Sudoku includes clue-y and fun wordplay, plus a hilarious surprise red herring in MATHDUNCE.

  • The faux-mathematical meta-clues are deceptively confusing in a fun way that combines crossword-like clues with a variety of technical-like notation.

  • The meta-clues precipitate diagrams that are enjoyable to make and look at.

While not solving a single piece, I had fun diagramming this puzzle as others collaborated successfully. This puzzle leapfrogs over so much ground that I felt compelled to insert a complete (almost complete, inevitably) recap into the eventual solution.

This puzzle required a load of effort to create — well earning it the efforts of so many solvers.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Thank you so much for your kind words humn! It was, indeed, a boat load of effort, as I'm sure many other nominations were. $\endgroup$ – Jonathan Allan Jul 16 '16 at 11:24
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ This was a really well-designed puzzle with a clever and satisfying metapuzzle. I think its viewership/votership suffered from: 1. @JonathanAllan's deceptive instructions to "Simply complete the Sudoku and crossword" (needed a winky emoji there or something), and 2. The fact that the Sudoku was (accidentally) correctly solved almost right away. If you like wordplay and metapuzzles, be sure to check it out! $\endgroup$ – Dan Russell Jul 18 '16 at 14:48

A puzzling image maze!

by f''

A series of connected, not too hard, individual puzzles which fit one into the other like a Russian doll and give lots of satisfaction when solved piece by piece. Also a great example of a comunity-puzzle encouraging cooperation.

But even if you're a late-comer (like me) and find the puzzle-solution already exists, it's a worthwhile thing to try on your own.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The amount of effort that @f'' put into this puzzle was clear. It could have easily been posted as $16$ separate puzzles in a series! It was a joyous day - I put off sleep and went down this rabbit hole instead (I did get a little slow towards the end :p). $\endgroup$ – Jonathan Allan Jul 16 '16 at 22:43

Chess Fortnight is finally over!

by Deusovi

Never $\require{begingroup}\begingroup \sf \def\A {\color {#027}}\def\a #1{\A {\small #1}} \def\B { \color {#055}} \def\b #1{ \B { \normalsize #1}} \def\C { \color {#074}} \def\c #1{ \C { \large #1}} \def\D { \color {#094}} \def\d #1{ \D { \Large #1}} \def\E { \color {#1a0}} \def\e #1{ \E { \LARGE #1}} \def\F{ \color{#3b0}} \def\f#1{ \F{ \huge#1}} \b m\c m\e m \a m\d m \f m \e e\c {tapuzzl} \f e \d {tapuzzl} \e e \c {tapuzzl} \d e \b {tapuzzl} \c e \b{tapuzzl} \d e \endgroup$ like this before!

This is the great Mayan pyramid of puzzles, terraced on the outside and layered on the inside, with different stories told along different staircases. I like to return again and again like a tourist, always finding more to explore and more ideas to help with other puzzles.

  • The first level is a foundation of of cryptic clues, each an appetizing puzzle in itself, that help build momentum by offering every venturer many opportunities to find personally solvable clues.

  • The first set of terraces constitute an all-day garden tour of a separate verdant biotopes, each inhabited by first-level cryptic clues with a common theme, such as numbers or playing cards, that is a meta-clue to be uncovered.

  • Suggestive “Misc.” sentences characterize the first terrace themes and lead, like hieroglyphic stairs, to the next level of terraces.

  • At this level, each previous theme relates to an individual type of, not just commonly-themed, word puzzle. This pyramid hasn't really begun to taper yet.

  • Then one more “Misc.” staircase ever-so-chessily gathers the last set of solutions to a metameta-puzzling apex, and what a view!

The summary answer itself is a symposium on various puzzle types, beginning with a seminar that schematizes the the construction of the original cryptic clues. This answer could be parted as individual posts that address the kinds of analytical questions that once helped balance Puzzling SE.

The puzzle itself helps to counterbalance the numerous drag-race challenge posts here and must have been generations in the making, just waiting for the right fortnightly challenge topic!

  • $\begingroup$ Credit to @ffao as well, who found a way to reward Deusovi's effort in creating the puzzle by manually awarding his summary answer a +100 rep bounty. Happy to see that kind of thing happening. $\endgroup$ – Dan Russell Jul 18 '16 at 14:52
  • $\begingroup$ This was simply one of the best puzzles I've ever gone through, serious efforts were put in to create and solve it. $\endgroup$ – ABcDexter Jul 18 '16 at 17:39

An array of possibilities on board

by KeyboardWielder

Great example of a simple visual puzzle. Has a very clean and pleasing presentation, with just enough visual noise to distract from the satisfying, unambiguous, and (in hindsight) obvious solution.


The box with the curious inscriptions

by KeyboardWielder

The various components of this puzzle mesh well and are easy to grasp. Like the shape shown here, it comfortably fits in your hand and casts invitingly straightforward silhouettes.

Of note:

  • Plenty of solid clues, plus bonus chuckles from realizing that/how I had missed some of them.

  • Enjoyable weave of wordplay and mathematics, topped off by resourceful interplay between the mathematical and publishing meanings of volume and section.

  • Nice use of monospace, mainly to help support/reject guesses, as with a crossword puzzle, but also to help obfuscate the way that 6 words line up with 5 matches.

  • That 6-on-5 discrepancy provides an additional puzzle layer that is challenging but not confusing.

  • The main hint cleverly adds a dimension to the puzzle. (amusingly, the added puzzle dimension has one fewer geometric dimension.)

  • The entire puzzle is probably within the knowledge range of of most puzzlers.

  • This is the kind of puzzle that can be mulled over while away from the keyboard.

Analyzing this puzzle when writing up the solution was a treat in itself. I felt lucky that it wasn't solved more quickly and often, before the main hint was provided.


Late entry (after being mistakenly saved for next quarter) for recognition here until we have a curated list.

Linked word squares

by GentlePurpleRain

Category: Timeless Classic


This crystalline puzzle could have felt at home for thousands of years on clay, for a century and a half in newspapers, or for decades in Games magazine.

Outstanding qualities include (among others, and some are true of word squares in general):

  • Superbly crafted (an overarching quality reflected throughout this list)
  • More words × letters (108) than a 10 ×10 word square
  • More clue interplay (59 letter overlaps) than an 11 ×11 word square
  • Admirably long (for word squares) words
  • Clean, solid clues
  • Familiar words
  • 3-dimensional clue interplay from square overlaps (an innovation?!)
  • Straightforward rules
  • Crisp presentation
  • Unchained to technology
  • Combines spatial and verbal puzzling
  • Can be worked on during stolen moments
  • Can be worked on solo or among chatter
  • Imitations would be endlessly welcome
    (even if they were merely 5 × 5 × 2 or 4 × 4 × 3 with less-well-chosen words)
  • $\begingroup$ If you haven't seen this puzzle yet, don't look at its solution! Enjoy solving it as if it were in a newspaper that will reveal the solution another day. $\endgroup$ – humn Nov 4 '16 at 19:17

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