How do puzzle developers develop puzzles?

Once you know what type of puzzle you’d like to create, the process is fairly simple. For this example, we’ll create a simple coded message:

  1. Start at the end. Your solution is the starting point. Our solution is EVERYONE LOVES PUZZLES.

     

  2. Remove Pieces of the Solution. In this example, I’ll remove all vowels. That leaves us with _V_RY_N_     L_V_S     P_ZZL_S.

     

  3. Provide Clues. We need to give our viewers a way of determining the proverbial ‘missing pieces of the puzzle’ (the missing information). Your clues can be as simple or as difficult as you’d like to make them.

    Here are just a few ways we could present the hints to our example puzzle:

    • State that the missing letters are all vowels.
    • Provide the missing vowels in a mixed up string, EEEEE OO U
    • Encode the answer, e.g. 5E2O1U. (This means there are 5 of the letter E, 2 of the letter O, AND 1U)

       

  4. This last step is optional, as it doesn’t necessarily impact the puzzle. Most puzzles have a title. In this case, that could be something like “Secret Message”. Often, however, puzzlers will make the title part of the puzzle… another clue. This isn’t a beginnner step, but it does make for a more interesting puzzle – for both the one solving the puzzle and the puzzle developer.

     

The process is the same for word searches, crosswords, sudoku and any other puzzle you can dream up. The key is always working backwards. Don’t forget to test your puzzle once you’re done. You may have to adjust your clues to ensure you have only one possible solution (You certainly may develop a puzzle with multiple solutions, but when you do so, make sure you let your viewers know this!).

Solving puzzles is more challenging when there is only one solution, and so is the developing!