Best of 2013: Other, and End of Year 1 Thoughts

While all of the last posts had easily defined categories, we did have a few puzzles this past year that went well outside of the box. We wanted to give them some recognition as our Best of 2013 comes to a close.

First, our reward for “Best Puzzle Response” has to go to Craig Kasper for one of his Sunday Surprises. After Grant Fikes posted a Doctor Who-themed “Seek and Spell Sudoku”, Craig put together a quite appropriate and humorous retort from the Daleks. It was certainly one of our more memorable jokes of the year.

“Best Repeat” has to go to Grant’s LITS + Double Back puzzle from July. While it scored ok in each category, that it actually worked as two kinds of puzzle made it something we didn’t mind posting twice. We’ll try to double back on Double Back puzzles later this year.

Finally, “Best Surprise” was clearly won by Dr. Sudoku’s April 1st Word Search puzzle. If you haven’t tried it yet, you really should without any spoilers so we won’t say anything more except our readers thought it was awesome.

2013 was an incredible year for us. Many years ago Wei-Hwa Huang and I came up with a dream to build a daily puzzle site. While we never had the time to get it off the ground then, Grandmaster Puzzles is now a clear destination site for logic puzzle fans around the world. We currently have five regular authors and one more on the way starting tomorrow. In 2014 we hope to have a few more guest authors appear here and there. There will also be a few format changes to make the site more accessible to newcomers, which you’ll notice in the coming weeks. One of the larger ones is that we will have a return to having some focused weeks where a particular puzzle type will be highlighted.

One big change in 2014 is that we will plan to put out regular PDF “Puzzle Packs” for sale every month. Our long awaited “The Art of Puzzles” will actually be released first as five separate puzzle packs currently planned to start at the end of this month, with a Tapa and Nurikabe collection, and then two more in February, and the last two in March. The complete set will then be published as a print-on-demand book for solvers who’d prefer a hard copy. After that we have a few different sudoku and other puzzle packs in the works — some from individual authors and others from a mix of contributors. I don’t know if I can meet my New Year’s Resolution of getting one out each month in 2014, but with more help on the site now we should be able to get close.

I’ll close this post with some solving stats from the first year. We posted 322 puzzles and actually had several solvers complete them all (or come very close). At 99+% completion when we last checked were lukabear, achan1058, muhorka, kiwijam, Projectyl, sknight, sworls, JooMY, and FoxFireX, while migross76, uvo, Alien, and sfcorgi were quite close. These are clearly our top fans for the year! Once we have a nice prize to raffle off we will give something out to at least one of these frequent solvers. We had 30 solvers register solutions to at least 200 puzzles and in total had over 15,000 correct answers this year. (Many visitors just download the puzzles and don’t track their answers on the webpage, but to make our leaderboard you’ll need to submit.)

Our most solved puzzle is surprisingly our very first prescription, Dr. Sudoku Prescribes #1, which had the benefit of lots of direct links in January and has slowly been gaining finishers throughout the year. With so many puzzles now, a lot of solvers have certainly put some of these on their “backlog”. In terms of web traffic, we outgrew our first server set-up by the midyear, but have been stable and on-line consistently since then after a change of hosts/servers. I hope we continue steady growth in 2014 without needing to again rebuild things.

Most important to me, we had 0 broken puzzles for the whole year; every single one had just one solution. Some of the credit for this goes to our authors who are diligent about their submissions, but some thanks must also go to our many test-solvers for double- and triple-checking. There are a few computer-generated puzzle makers that write things like “our automatic process guarantees no broken puzzles” as if this is some unique benefit of their process. Proper development, editing, and testing can be done with more elegant hand-crafted puzzles too. While we might eventually make an error once in a blue moon, our solvers should consider our puzzles quite reliable.

As always, we appreciate your input on what you’d like to see here, and we thank you for your readership over the year.

  • Scott Handelman says:

    Thank you for a great year of puzzles. My students know that every lunch is “GM Puzzles” time and some even ask me to print off the daily puzzle so that they can try it too.

    I’m one of those “You can’t win if you don’t play” solvers: I’ve probably solved all but one or two puzzles this year, but have gotten increasingly lax about submitting my answers. I’d probably be more apt to if there actually WAS a leaderboard, or some way to keep track of the puzzles we have submitted. I’d also love to sort by difficulty based on projected “Expert” times…I was working on a Python solution to get that information for myself, but haven’t finished it yet. As it is, the site is more blog than puzzle database by design. I have no idea how much work it would be to move towards the other end of the spectrum, or if that’s even something you’d ever want to do.

    I anxiously await the puzzle packs that are coming. One thing I’ve often wondered is if, through the introduction of GM Puzzles, we’ve gotten *fewer* puzzles in 2013 than we would have. Earlier, I might have gotten a puzzle from Grant, Palmer and you all on the same day, but now we’re relegated to pretty much one a day. Hopefully, the onslaught of puzzle packs will make up for this a bit.

    • MellowMelon says:

      The introduction of GMPuzzles did basically nothing to hamper how often I made/published puzzles in 2013, on my own blog or otherwise. That was my own fault.

    • Avatar photo drsudoku says:

      I’d definitely like to have more interactivity present with our solve functionality. This could include scoreboards, or letting solvers report their own times to help them track results across puzzles and such. While these are my dreams, they aren’t my specialty to implement so we can only slowly make them happen. If we get a reasonable amount of support for the web site, I can probably contract even more development work to get some of these things in place.

  • Aaron Chan says:

    Speaking of puzzle completion rates, is there a way to check which puzzles I have missed? I don’t believe I missed any, but I could be wrong in that regard.

    • Avatar photo drsudoku says:

      I don’t believe you’ve missed any either (you have 2 more solved than even I do — I obviously missed some when I did the posting).

      Perhaps what we should try to develop is a calendar view of the puzzles, with a red/green color on any date for puzzles solved or unsolved. With some integration of our tabs we could allow highlighting of certain puzzle types in that way too.

      Again, this would be a task for a web developer but I’ll definitely add it to my list of things to try to make happen this year.

      • FoxFireX says:

        That would be awesome. I saw that I’m in the 99+ category and it just nags at me whether I did miss one. I think I caught them all, but just can’t tell.

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