No puzzle today?

Melon’s Puzzles will be going on break for a week. Puzzle 201 will be posted on Monday, March 1, and posting should continue normally from there. If you have no interest in reading my ramblings on maintaining this blog, you can stop here.

The obvious suspicion for me taking this break is that I ran out of time to make 201 through 207 and need a breather. I don’t think that’s going to be true… I don’t know yet because this post will go up a week after I wrote it, just after I completed 200. And it’s not because I’m running out of ideas. I think the past few weeks of puzzles have overall been my very best, and my well still isn’t anywhere near running dry.

That said, this blog is an enormous time commitment, albeit one I enjoy very much, and I think it’s high time to give myself a brief respite. For over three months, I’ve kept up with posting to this blog and my coursework at a college that is notoriously demanding, and I see no sign of suddenly being unable to continue that. There have been only a few times where I have procrastinated on some things I needed to do in favor of getting something done for the blog (see puzzle 135, the triple back, for an example), but nothing so far that staying up late and then getting a good night of sleep later can’t fix. It has significantly cut into the time I used to spend on other hobbies, like gaming or programming, but interests change, and I’ve found I enjoy puzzle construction a lot more than anything else I have ever done with one exception. That would be math, but that kind of goes in the coursework category (not that I don’t do a lot on my own still).

On that note, that I haven’t had as much time for programming is another reason for the hiatus. I use a self-made Python program to make the puzzles and generate the images for them. In the past couple of months I’ve accumulated a huge to-do list for changes to make that program better. One major reason I’ve not been able to get around to so much of it is that I spend a lot of that time making puzzles to put up on the blog. Hopefully I’ll be able to get some of that done in this breather week. Don’t expect me to come out swinging with a hexagonal grid for 201 though; different grid shapes is one feature that will hopefully be added one day, but it won’t be in the near future.

As strange as it sounds, I don’t want this blog to be noteworthy because of the daily posting. Hopefully that’s a nice and attractive feature, but it’s not what I’m going for. Most of all, I want this blog to have a lot of wonderful puzzles with tricks and subtleties like you’ve never seen before, containing cute patterns in the easy puzzles and enjoyable “Aha!” moments on the tougher ones. The daily schedule happens because I am apparently able to achieve this purpose at a rate of about 7 puzzles per week. I suppose this is something to be at least a little proud of, but that’s not my goal, as I’ve said. Even posting one puzzle per day probably puts me far behind Casty, whose name shows up frequently in the author field of everything nikoli that I have seen. More than anything else, I don’t want to be a prolific author of drivel, one who is out of ideas and is just posting for the sake of keeping up the routine that I have adhered to for so long. I never intend to use my schedule as an excuse to post a bad puzzle.

What does this mean? It means that in the event I ever feel that the daily schedule is causing the quality of the puzzles to drop, I promise I will scale back. Probably to just Monday/Wednesday/Friday, or no schedule at all if I really have to start scrounging around for ideas. But like I said above, don’t expect such a change to happen any time soon, if ever. For as long as I am able to while holding myself to the standards of the previous paragraph, I will post a puzzle every day.

There is one major disadvantage to the schedule I keep, and that is testing. Whatever reputation I’ve accumulated in the past few months, some part of it is certainly as someone that doesn’t always get his puzzles right. All of these mistakes do cause me a lot of grief and every time I let one slip I do always try harder to avoid it in the future. Unfortunately, my solving of other people’s puzzles is also one that is rife with mistakes, so I am finding it a very hard habit to kick. 149, where I made my most damning mistake, must have been test-solved by me a dozen times before it was published, and I still fouled it up. I have hopefully alleviated this problem by getting a test-solver to run through the puzzles before they are posted. This person would be Alan Curry, who was already catching 95% of my mistakes within hours of them being posted. The past week of puzzles, including 200, was the first set that I sent to him for review. Hopefully with his help the goofs on this blog will be a thing of the past, so a big thanks to him.

And thanks also to my readers. It is always wonderful to know that someone is enjoying this work. I hope you will continue to be satisfied with what’s to come.

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One Response to “No puzzle today?”

  1. Tom.C Says:

    I know exactly what you mean – http://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/tcollyer/entry/i_might_be/

    Your daily schedule has been nothing short of phenomenal, especially bearing in mind maths coursework. Simply completing that 100 akari felt like a huge accomplishment from a solvers point of view – it’s as noteworthy a puzzle as any other that I’ve ever done.

    Since coming back from my brief break, I have come up with a set of sudoku variants which are the best (well excepting my “world record” puzzle) I’ve ever written. Perhaps this could be explained by my puzzle writing going up a notch when I aim to prove a point beyond merely the fact I can write a puzzle, but nevertheless a rest to avoid burnout isn’t a bad thing.

    I have no doubt of your ability to keep churning out top-notch puzzles in the future.

    Tom.C

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