Archive for the ‘Best Of …’ Category:

Best of 2021: Object Placement

Here are our best Object Placement puzzles of 2021 selected from the 53 web posts in this category based on FAVE votes, web comments, and tester comments. All of these puzzles are gathered in this PDF file.

While we posted a lot of object placement puzzles this year, two styles in particular got a lot of positive attention from our solvers. Star Battle was one of those two styles and this Star Battle (Builder) from Thomas Snyder early in the year earned a best of 2021 distinction.

Star Battle by Grant Fikes

The other popular style this year was Statue Park where we had several puzzles (not just these next three) very close in votes. A fully antisymmetric “Checkerboards” Statue Park from Murat Can Tonta was one of our best puzzles.

Statue Park by Murat Can Tonta

The other two Statue Park puzzles that earned a top billing were posted on consecutive days and had somewhat complementary themes. First was an all black theme of “Dice Pips” by Jonas Gleim, a great visual and logical treat of a Statue Park.

Statue Park by Jonas Gleim

The partner Statue Park puzzle posted the next day was the all white “Clean” theme from Serkan Yürekli which has a very different kind of solve without any sure object placements given at the start.

Statue Park by Serkan Yürekli

The overall best Object Placement puzzle went to another Star Battle, which is a genre that got more attention from JinHoo Ahn and Murat Can Tonta in our Star Battle 2 book released this year. JinHoo’s “Square Dance” Star Battle is another instant classic from this author, and also earned a distinction as one of the Top 3 puzzles of the whole year.

Star Battle by JinHoo Ahn

Best of 2021: Region Division

Here are our best Region Division puzzles of 2021 selected from the 52 web posts in this category based on FAVE votes, web comments, and tester comments. All of these puzzles are gathered in this PDF file.

One of our early weeks in 2021 focused on Araf puzzles and this “Oh Nine” Araf by Jeffrey Bardon showed that 2021 was going to be a good year for Region Division puzzles. Like some of our other best puzzles this year, this puzzle uses just the standard rules of a “classic” style, but it stretches those rules a bit in the visual presentation to lead to a very interesting looking puzzle as well as a very interesting solve.

Araf by Jeffrey Bardon

While there is some debate about if Kuromasu (which uses rules similar to Cave and Four Winds) is a Region Division puzzle or a Shading puzzle, there is no debate that Swaroop Guggilam’s Kuromasu was one of the best 2021 puzzles based off the vote of our solvers. The X pattern in this grid leads to a nice interaction of clues.

Kuromasu by Swaroop Guggilam

The “checkered” variation of Fillomino led to another favorite puzzle in 2021, this one from Serkan Yürekli where the clues are under “Siege”.

Fillomino by Serkan Yürekli

This year had a close race between two Pentominous puzzles for the top Region Division spot. One of these puzzles, a Pentominous (Cipher) by Takeya Saikachi, was another gem from this constructor with a “Box in Box” theme.

Pentominous (Cipher) by Takeya Saikachi

Our best Region Division puzzle of the year goes to this unusual Pentominous by Elyot Grant that again obeys all the regular rules of the style but takes advantage of an unusual grid shape to make a “No Givens” puzzle that has a lot of different thinking to get to the one answer.

Pentominous by Elyot Grant

Best of 2021: Loop/Path

Here are our best Loop/Path puzzles of 2021 selected from the 58 web posts in this category based on FAVE votes, web comments, and tester comments. All of these puzzles are gathered in this PDF file.

Loop puzzles are another of our most full genres, with a lot of different variety in styles and clue types that are deep enough to be official styles. Combining different kinds of clues in different ways can lead to interesting Loop puzzles and this idea plays out in a few of our Best of 2021 puzzles.

First up is an “unofficial” Best of Loops puzzle from Thomas Snyder — this was a competition puzzle but got a lot of favorite votes as a Castle Wall (not even counting its separate votes as a Yajilin or a Yajilin (Castle Wall) with the same clues). As a “Triple Threat” with three ways to be solved, it has an interesting visual link across the grids, but that there is still some distinct logical depth for each of the three grids is what made it a quick favorite of our solvers.

Castle Wall by Thomas Snyder

One of our more fun books of the year was the Loop Variety Collection by Ashish Kumar and Murat Can Tonta that explored five different, less common, loop styles. This Maxi Loop from Murat Can Tonta, which gets many more examples in that book, was a best Loop puzzle for 2021.

Maxi Loop by Murat Can Tonta

2021 was a milestone year for one of our constructors, Prasanna Seshadri, who marked his 30th birthday and ~ten years of writing puzzles. Prasanna went a bit extreme in combining nine different loop styles from past years into a big Birthday Surprise, and it got the third most favorite votes in this category to make it another Best of puzzle.

Birthday Surprise Puzzle by Prasanna Seshadri

A playful combination of the classic style Slitherlink with the object placement style Star Battle earned a best Loop puzzle distinction for this Slitherlink (Star Battle) by Serkan Yürekli.

Slitherlink (Star Battle) by Serkan Yürekli

The overall best loop puzzle of 2021 comes from Bryce Herdt, and is another playful exploration of loop themes but in combination with a shading puzzle style. This “Clockwise” Nanro Loop got a really favorable reception, and I’m sure many of the solvers were looking for even more of this original idea in the future.

Nanro by Bryce Herdt

Best of 2021: Shading

Here are our best Shading puzzles of 2021 selected from the 60 web posts in this category based on FAVE votes, web comments, and tester comments. All of these puzzles are gathered in this PDF file.

Shading puzzles are one of our more full genres, with several different styles that use clues in very different ways to specify a shading task. Our Best Of Shading puzzles for this year are similarly diverse in their representation across genres and what made them “favorite” solves. First in this group is a recent Nanro (Signpost) from Grant Fikes that was visually themed around tetrominoes and had a fairly narrow but interesting solving path.

Nanro by Grant Fikes

A far more difficult puzzle, a Sunday Stumper from Palmer Mebane, also got high marks. This Hungarian Tapa combines shading and number placement logic in a clever hybrid.

Hungarian Tapa by Palmer Mebane

We had several new authors begin to contribute at higher rates in 2021, and Takeya Saikachi’s creations were consistently great. This Kurotto (Hex) puzzle themed around the five rings of the Tokyo Olympics was another of the best Shading puzzles.

Kurotto (Hex) by Takeya Saikachi

A different sports tribute, this 23-themed Tapa for “MJ” by Serkan Yürekli, got the second most votes in this category for the year and is another in a long line of stellar Tapa puzzles from this creator of the style.

Tapa by Serkan Yürekli

The best Shading puzzle of 2021, and one of the Top 3 puzzles of 2021, goes to a guest contribution from Chris Green. This Cross the Streams puzzle has a very curious visual theme with all the paired clues, and it might not seem possible like it just has one solution. Understanding what the theme implies and how some of the clues work together will open up this clever challenge.

Cross The Streams by Chris Green

Best of 2021: Number Placement

Here are our best Number Placement puzzles of 2021 selected from the 58 web posts in this category based on FAVE votes, web comments, and tester comments. All of these puzzles are gathered in this PDF file.

Some of the best puzzles start with a simple premise, and Grant Fikes’ TomTom (Twins) that duplicates clue values — but doesn’t share those values except for the cage signs — was an enjoyable puzzle concept from last year and one of our Best of 2021 puzzles.

TomTom by Grant Fikes

Another idea of duplication, this time within clue entries, led to this challenging Kakuro (Duplicate) by Thomas Snyder, “Nothing Unusual to See Here”.

Kakuro (Duplicate) by Thomas Snyder

2021 brought a new contributing puzzlemaster to the site in JinHoo Ahn, who constructed several of the best puzzles of the year. In this category, two of his Skyscrapers puzzles got a lot of attention. First was this easier (but unusual) Skyscrapers called “Triplets”.

Skyscrapers by JinHoo Ahn

Getting even more votes and tying for our best number placement puzzle of 2021 was this Skyscrapers (Cipher) puzzle also by JinHoo Ahn with a compass direction theme in the letter clues and an interesting logical path to follow as well.

Skyscrapers (Cipher) by JinHoo Ahn

Sharing the top billing for Best Number Placement puzzle of 2021 is this Japanese Sums by Prasanna Seshadri. While not yet a regular style for the site, we are seriously considering adding in this genre to the site after seeing a few creative Japanese Sums puzzles during this year including this “Stopped on the Way Back” theme with increasing number series clues.

Japanese Sums by Prasanna Seshadri

Best of 2021: Sudoku

We’ll start our Best of 2021 posts with some stats for the year.

2021 was a “full” year for us with over 320 web puzzles on the site, as well as twelve book releases including our first volumes of Grandmaster Puzzles Quarterly and the Masterpiece Sudoku Mix series. All told we released over 40 hours of web content and over 80 hours of book content (based off median solve times). In past years, when I’ve been changing jobs and/or moving cities, we would have to pause the site for a bit. Now with Serkan Yürekli as managing editor we have gotten to a regular publication schedule even when my science work has been chaotic (and this past year of COVID research and trying to balance time in SF and Seattle was chaotic). So kudos to Serkan and the other parts of the GMPuzzles team for keeping us on track. I’ll have more thoughts on our progress through the year in our OKR posts in the next week.

In reviewing our favorite puzzles of the year, we will start with Sudoku which was featured in 55 webposts this year. As in years past, we selected the top Sudoku by reviewing FAVE votes, web comments, and tested comments. All of these puzzles are gathered in this PDF file.

We introduced “Sunday Stumpers” as a new concept this year and our first Best of winner was a challenging Killer Sudoku by Prasanna Seshadri, “Y Go Extra?”

Killer Sudoku by Prasanna Seshadri

A few classic Sudoku stood out during the year. While primarily needing basic steps, the narrow solving path and challenging deductions of this “Two Snakes” Sudoku by Ashish Kumar got many favorite votes.

Sudoku by Ashish Kumar

Another variation, Killer Su-Do-Ku by Michael Rios, got even more votes of approval despite its very difficult challenge.

Killer Su-do-ku by Michael Rios

Our two favorite sudoku of the year both came from Thomas Snyder / Dr. Sudoku, including this “Gridlocked” Sudoku that has a really interesting collision of logical steps to tease apart the answer.

Sudoku by Thomas Snyder

The top sudoku of 2021, as well as one of the Top 3 overall puzzles for 2021, was this “Christmas Tree”-themed Thermo-Sudoku that was part of our last official week of 2021. The visual and logical theme elements worked together in this creative construction that got a lot of FAVE votes in a very short time.

Thermo-Sudoku by Thomas Snyder

Best of 2020: Sudoku

Here are our best Sudoku puzzles of 2020, in chronological order, selected from the 32 web posts in this category based on FAVE votes, web comments, and tester comments. All of these puzzles are gathered in this PDF file.

With 1 day left before our official reopen, Dr. Sudoku shared this minimal clue “countdown” Consecutive Pairs Sudoku puzzle that got a good number of FAVE votes.

Consecutive Pairs Sudoku by Thomas Snyder

A few months later, guest contributor Bryce Herdt’s Thermo-Sudoku ran “hot” with our solvers, with a nice visual theme and fun solving path to the answer.

Thermo-Sudoku by Bryce Herdt

While on the easier side, this “Big X” Consecutive Pairs Sudoku from Thomas Snyder was another favorite sudoku puzzle from the year.

Consecutive Pairs Sudoku by Thomas Snyder

A few classic sudoku got strong reviews through the year, but none more so than this excellent Sudoku by Swaroop Guggilam which was clearly one of our Best 2020 Sudoku.

Sudoku by Swaroop Guggilam

Our final best of 2020 Sudoku comes from Ashish Kumar who made an XV Sudoku with a theme referring to the letters, and a pretty minimal path taking advantage of the “XV rules” throughout.

XV Sudoku by Ashish Kumar