Update on GMPuzzles

I’m sharing here a message I sent to subscribers by email this weekend, which contains a lot of the emerging vision I have for 2020 and beyond. We’ll be back soon (but with no fixed date in 2020 for this return yet), but I’m excited for what is coming.

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TL;DR: I’m writing to share an update with what should be good news as we will be back sometime in 2020, but with some immediate changes including the end to all subscriptions in their current form.

Dear subscribers,

As mentioned a few months ago, my full-time work in science and my goals for bigger things for GMPuzzles made it unsustainable to continue to do regular web puzzle posting, e-book publication, as well as routine subscriber reward fulfillment. It was not an easy decision to “pause” the site, but the words of encouragement from you — our loyal fans — have helped over November in clarifying our best approach to 2020 and beyond.

A couple common themes that you shared with me were that:

  • Many of you subscribed in part to just give back to a site that you loved (that you’d donate if you could and that I shouldn’t bother to send a refund*).
    • *I am still going to send you a refund for any 2020+ prepayments by end of year, as that is what any business should do in this situation.
  • The solving videos really helped you better understand the puzzles, author motivations, and tips to solve them. They were one of your favorite rewards.

Across these themes and others was a pretty clear signal that we have the right content (elegant hand-crafted puzzles from our group of authors) but the wrong approach at the moment for this content, particularly the wrong early monetization. The Patreon/subscriber reward type model was a first experiment but one that it is time to end. It makes it harder to do our job each week. A lot of the interactions because of the small scale have not been automated, like adding/subtracting names from the email list. Rewards that need me to reach out 2 or 3 times for a book choice (and I still am bothered when 15% have an unclaimed reward even after many messages). So when subscriptions after a couple years do not bring in too much revenue (and I don’t need the revenue at the moment to keep the site running for many years), I should return to focusing on the core strengths. One of my biggest regrets in going to the subscription model is that it greatly reduced the commenting on the GMPuzzles blog. We never had a technical solution to let you comment early when receiving the puzzles early, so the discussion from those who would print a puzzle out after 9 AM to do that day died away. I think it is important to have “events” to build a community like first releases to everyone at the same time, as well as other time-scale releases (products/books) that aren’t meant to be absorbed in the same way.

Building the puzzle community is the most important thing we should be doing right now. Our solving videos on Youtube are another important channel we’ve not tried to make the main channel. That is where I want to start an active web channel for me and other puzzlemasters who solve our GMPuzzles posts (and possibly outside puzzles like Puzzle Grand Prix puzzles) to discuss the beauty of puzzles as a means to *grow* a community, including a competitive puzzle community. Putting all the videos *behind* the paywall is a mistake I need to undo. I am going to unhide the whole channel very soon. I’ve already shared the full backlog of videos with you a couple weeks ago. I’m sharing it with the world, and going forward it is not a “reward” to learn how to solve a puzzle. It is a route into our community for people of any skill level.

So in 2020 (but not in January), we’re going to return to a predictable web posting schedule. We will add solutions in PDF form to each puzzle after a few days so that we can cut down on the only comments we still routinely get on the site that need moderation — people doubting we have a valid or unique puzzle solution (and we’ve never made an error *yet*). And we’ll probably completely remove the puzzle submission tracker but not the rating/fave system as it takes us extra work to define submissions, add arrows to our otherwise automatically generated art, and triple check we don’t have typos there (where again we have many checks on the puzzles but not the submissions). Keeping the good pieces and making them easier to get to you, with a focus on growing the audience, is the core theme for 2020. And I have a very good candidate (you may be able to guess who) for our Managing Editor position who will come on in January to ensure we have this predictability in all things GMPuzzles when we “unpause”.

As a business, we will still try to generate some revenue, by publishing and selling e-books. Once we get a routine schedule for these books to be published, including regular series we are launching like Grandmaster Puzzles Quarterly, we may turn on subscriptions again to let you receive some of our books at a discount. But we will have a far better technical solution for how to get you that content so that it can actually scale.

For seven years since launching the site, I’ve considered myself the main patron of GMPuzzles. I have put both time and money into seeing the puzzles I like to solve come about more. I’ve appreciated having other patrons take off some of this burden (financially), but the burden in time was actually larger than expected in doing so. So I’m improving the patronage goal by simplifying too. We will add a tip jar to the site. And we will let you choose whether you want to donate to GMPuzzles, to a puzzle author, or to both at some ratio. GMPuzzles is stronger than just me, and you should have a way as we grow the community of puzzle authors alongside the community of puzzle solvers to encourage their art.

While this is a long message, I want to close the mail with a simple message of thanks. For as much as you’ve thanked me for our puzzles, I am as appreciative of the thoughtful comments, patience, and dedication you’ve shown me and the site over the years. I would not find the energy to continue to try to make GMPuzzles a larger thing if not for all of you!

Cheers,
Thomas

Yajilin ebook and another update

Dear solvers,

We just added a Yajilin ebook from Murat Can Tonta and Prasanna Seshadri to our web store. This is a really great collection of 50 loop puzzles that we shared with subscribers this Spring but had not posted to the store yet. For those looking for more GMPuzzles challenges during our web hiatus, check out this book and our other collections in the store.

Besides posting this book, I have not been doing any puzzle solving or editing over the last month due to a lot of science work (another of the many projects my team plays a role in was just announced publicly). So it might be too optimistic to think that web-posting will restart in early 2020. But I am moving forward with the planning of responsibilities for a first hire for the company, and have some interesting new project ideas coming together that could form new outlets for our puzzles.

A new plan for me and GMPuzzles

Dear fans and subscribers: I’m just back from a fun trip to the World Puzzle Championship in Kirchheim, Germany. It was a successful trip in many respects (the US team was victorious for the first time since 2013, the last year before I took a three-year break off the team, and I was the 7th place individual). And it was good to see many friends in puzzles including regular subscribers and contributors to GMPuzzles.

This WPC followed an incredibly busy three month stretch for me in science (and I’m already right back into it as I write this morning). And without much time on weekends, I have been doing just enough to keep the web-side of this site going but have fallen pretty far behind on book editing and other tasks. This recent stretch has forced me to rethink how I should be spending my time in life, including what are the most critical pieces to make Grandmaster Puzzles into a successful company. So I have a five point update for you. While #1 may be tough to accept, I hope the promise of #2-5 keep you all as fans and subscribers as we move forward on a new plan for our publishing.

1. For at least the next 3 months, and possibly longer, we will not have any more free web weeks of puzzles on the site and we will be pausing subscription rewards in their current forms.

2. We will continue to release new books of puzzles; I will take advantage of some of the extra time from not having to do web posting to catch up on old titles like The Art of Sudoku 2 that are still unfinished, and also launch a new Grandmaster Puzzles Quarterly series that will be released every 3 months.

3. The most important and new change is tied to me rethinking how I focus my time and money with GMPuzzles. I am going to seriously invest my money in GMPuzzles over the next couple years, with an immediate plan within 3 months to hire a Managing Editor and then eventually part-time or full-time help in graphic design, web design, and software engineering to advance the work we can do.

4. This new team — particularly me and the Managing Editor — will define an updated business plan for GMPuzzles. This will likely include making the website much easier for new customers to find and get into our puzzles (an early concept, far from a finished design, to introduce an unfamiliar person to Tapa is here — we will do much better, but even this demo is 1000% better than the experience of landing on gmpuzzles.com/blog today). This business plan will almost certainly also include a digital plan to distribute our puzzles for a new generation of puzzle solvers via an enhanced web or app experience. Our audience is small but all of you are passionate, loyal, and dedicated fans of our puzzles. We need at least 10x if not 100x this audience to be a successful business, and we will try to crack more into the mainstream while not losing any of the quality and originality of our puzzle design that has grabbed your interest.

5. A big milemarker for us will be the 2021 World Puzzle Championship. I have co-organized a bid to host this tournament in Toronto and, if accepted, we will dedicate part of our Grandmaster Puzzles work both before and around the championship to bringing more attention to logic puzzles and competitive puzzling.

Consecutive Pairs Sudoku by Thomas Snyder

Consecutive Pairs Sudoku by Thomas Snyder

PDF

Theme: World Sudoku Championship (WSC)

Author/Opus: This is the 355th puzzle from Thomas Snyder, aka Dr. Sudoku.

Rules: Standard Sudoku rules. Additionally, if a grey circle is given between two adjacent cells, then the two numbers in those cells must be consecutive. (Note: not all grey circles are given; adjacent cells without a circle may contain either consecutive numbers or nonconsecutive numbers.)

Answer String: Enter the 5th row from left to right, followed by a comma, followed by the 8th row from left to right.

Time Standards (highlight to view): Grandmaster = 3:00, Master = 5:00, Expert = 10:00

Note: Follow this link for other variations of Sudoku and this link for classic Sudoku. If you are new to this puzzle type, here are our easiest Sudoku to get started on.

Schedule for Next Week

Our last week featuring a variety mix of puzzles can be found in this PDF.

This next week features a set of Sudoku variations — as well as some “Sudoku hybrids” with other puzzles using the terminology from this “What is a Sudoku?” report in progress. Several of the puzzles are connected to the upcoming World Sudoku and Puzzle Championships (WSC and WPC) happening in Germany next week. We will taking a couple of weeks off around this event, and will have news on our return in October.

Our master+ subscribers will be receiving a bonus Sudoku by Tom Collyer and an Arrow Sudoku by Murat Can Tonta, as well as access to the puzzle solutions. If you want to become a subscriber and get access to bonus puzzles, solutions, e-books, and other rewards, check out this page.

Schedule for Next Week

Our last week featuring a variety mix of puzzles can be found in this PDF.

This next week features a set of Masyu puzzles and variations, several more difficult/interesting than you might expect for such small grids and for this puzzle style.

Our master+ subscribers will be receiving a bonus Masyu by Grant Fikes and another by Ashish Kumar, as well as access to the puzzle solutions. If you want to become a subscriber and get access to bonus puzzles, solutions, e-books, and other rewards, check out this page.

Schedule for Next Week

Our last week featuring Tapa puzzles can be found in this PDF.

Our next week is a variety mix with several interesting puzzles from our puzzlemasters as well as four guest contributors.

Our master+ subscribers will be receiving a bonus Kakuro by Serkan Yürekli and a Star Battle by Murat Can Tonta, as well as access to the puzzle solutions and a video walkthrough of the Friday puzzle. If you want to become a subscriber and get access to bonus puzzles, solutions, e-books, and other rewards, check out this page.