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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.


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!


GMPuzzles in a Humble Bundle

While waiting for our next week of web puzzles (planned for August 11th), we did want to tell you about an exciting project running right now. Alongside my co-author Mike Selinker and Lone Shark Games, Grandmaster Puzzles is part of a Humble Book Bundle. Benefitting Maker Ed and Khan Academy, you can donate to charity while getting a large number of puzzle books including Puzzlecraft by Mike and me, Intro to GMPuzzles by Serkan Yürekli, and Logic Puzzles 101 by Grant Fikes. Check it out!

Humble Book Bundle with GMPuzzles books

This Week (and Year) on GMPuzzles

This week we’re going to feature our “Best of 2017” with the top puzzles as selected by you through the FAVE button. From Monday through Saturday we’ll be highlighting roughly three puzzles per category (region division, number placement, loop, …). We’ll also be releasing details on new subscription options for our fans, replacing the patronage model we’ve used in the past.

While this is a time for a lot of annual retrospectives, this past month also marked the 5 year anniversary of GMPuzzles. My initial business plan went out on 12/12/12 at 12:12:12 and our first post here was at the end of 2012 before New Year’s Eve. For those that have been solving from the start, and for those who joined later, thanks for supporting our puzzlemakers and our community by being a patron of the site, purchasing our books, or referring friends and family to our puzzles.

I’m incredibly proud that we’ve published about 2500 puzzles in these five years, including some phenomenal classics and cool variations, and have had 0 broken puzzles (with anything other than exactly 1 solution) despite being a hand-crafted puzzle company. I stopped keeping track of how often solvers have doubted us, but I think we are at least 100-0 when someone posts that one of our puzzles has a mistake. (We have had a couple typos in our blog posts and I’ll take the blame on the rare times when the answer entry was wrong but our puzzles have never been.)

Thinking back over five years, I judge that we have been very successful in highlighting great logic puzzle design and encouraging new designers to get into puzzle construction. However, we still have more to do to build a larger audience of solvers that appreciates hand-crafted logic puzzles. Some of our efforts this year will be to have more introductory titles/weeks. In our first year, we often had focus on single classic puzzle types in posted weeks and we will get back to that a little more during this year as well as trying to have more “easy” puzzles more regularly. A longer-term project is to reorganize our website. While we have a large backlog of puzzles in each style, it is hard for a person just discovering our blog to know where/how to start. We’re thinking through some user experience improvements for new solvers reaching the site and welcome any ideas you have.

In 2018, we are also going to work on scaling our publishing. I spent a lot of 2017 turning semi-automated processes into fully automated processes, including how we generate our puzzle art and our web posts. We just finished submission guidelines for all of our puzzles and contributors will receive these soon. I’m also very happy to announce that Serkan Yürekli will be joining me as an editor for our books and other puzzles which will add to our throughput.

We have several new books in mind for 2018, including the launch of a recurring sudoku publication with a mix of Classics and Variations which will be a great title for fans of sudoku, and several more e-books highlighting genres that haven’t been in books yet like Pentominous, Nanro, and Statue Park.

On a different note, we’re going to launch a “Puzzlemasters’ Workshop” title to highlight entirely new puzzles and variations. We get a lot of unusual variations submitted here, and they are hard to post on the web as one-offs. The goal of this title is to give authors enough space to develop an idea across several puzzles. The first edition, expected around midyear, will have a new style from each of our puzzlemasters and a few guests, with 6-10 puzzles in each new style. If this works, we’ll continue this series and open it up for other submissions as a way to continue to cultivate new puzzle design even while our web puzzles start to have a greater focus on “classics”.

Thanks for solving with GMPuzzles, and here’s to a great 2018,

Changes with our use of Patreon

TL;DR – We’re leaving Patreon, but will set up subscription options soon on the site for those who still want to get all of our content, including bonus puzzles and e-books.


New Puzzle Books

We’ve just released a new print book and a new e-book from our Grandmaster Puzzles authors.

Logic Puzzles 101: Previously released as an ebook, this collection of 101 puzzles including Masyu, Slitherlink, Yajilin, Nurikabe, and Fillomino from Grant Fikes is now available in paperback form. Find it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other fine retailers.

Slitherlink and Variations: New to our e-store is this fourth part to Serkan Yürekli’s Classics and Variations series featuring 13 new classic Slitherlink (including 1 giant puzzle) and 40 new puzzles spread across 10 variations that will truly test your loop drawing skills.

Upcoming Puzzle Events and Other News

The recent Patrons Week of puzzles can be found in this PDF.

This coming weekend is the US Round for the WPF Puzzle Grand Prix. There are 35 puzzles by Thomas Snyder split across three different rounds. The A and B rounds include the ten “The Art of Puzzles” styles while the C round has some less common styles like Numberlink and Letter Pairs. Given the range of difficulties, there should be something fun for everyone. We’ll post some of the highlights from the competition next week after the competition closes.

This coming Saturday is also the US Sudoku Qualifier.

We’re working to get another e-book and another print book released this soon. Come back next weekend for more details.

Update 2: New e-books: Logic Puzzles 101 and Snake & Variations

In the last week of 2016 we added two new titles to our e-book store.

Logic Puzzles 101

Logic Puzzles 101, from Grant Fikes, contains 101 hand-crafted puzzles to teach the art of logic for Masyu, Slitherlink, Yajilin, Nurikabe, and Fillomino puzzles. While we won’t have any new puzzles on the site this week, you can explore this 5-puzzle teaser with the easiest puzzles from each section.

Snake & Variations from Serkan Yürekli continues the successful series of classic puzzles and variations that started with Tapa and Kakuro titles. If you haven’t gotten enough of snakes after our recent Snake Pit week, please explore this new title with dozens of interesting Snake puzzles.