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!

It’s not news that ‘all the good domain names are gone.’ Actually, this isn’t entirely true. As I struggle to find a domain name for my new comic strip, I’ve come across several names that would be great for a site housing a comic strip, but not necessarily for the name of my comic strip itself. Thus, I’ve had to focus on determining exactly what is my goal with regard to the site? Is it to house only my comic strip or other items as well? If I choose a domain name that matches the name of my comic strip, then that’s a definite plus for marketing purposes. But If I choose to expand the site to encompass other comic strips, then the name becomes inappropriate, even limiting.

Let’s assume I decide to name the domain name after my comic strip, but that name is already taken. Do I change the name of the comic strip to match an available domain name. Most definitely not! Choosing a title is similar to choosing a character name… the writer must do what works for the piece, not what’s convenient or even prudent for marketing purposes.

The truth be told, I’m not quite ready to publish my comic strips online, not because of my drawing skills, but because I’m still not sure I’ve chosen the right title. Perhaps that’s not the best thing to admit given the fact that I’ve published an article on how to choose a title.

My problem is tied to the fact that I’m still fleshing out my characters, and my target audience. Do I want to limit my target audience to my original intended group, or go broader? The answer will then dictate, in part, the title I ultimately use. My original target audience is anyone who is Jewish or has had some exposure to Jewish life. The name Kibbitzers would be understood by most, and it’s not a hard word to read or pronounce. Other names under consideration are so mired with various yiddish spellings, that the words may not be obvious, even to those familiar with Yiddish.

So, I’ll continue creating, knowing the answer will come to me in time as I flesh out more of my characters’ back story, and develop their relationships to one another. And until the answer pops into my head (which will likely be when I’m not even remotely thinking about my comic strip), I’ll stick with The Kibbitzers and call it my ‘working title’.