Tahnan's Puzzles

Yes, I know.

Something happened to the CSS on this page. If I'm lucky, some day I'll figure out what. In the meantime, well, bare-bones html that looks like it predates Google is...pretty on-brand for me, so let's just go with it.

Anyway, hi! There used to be other content on this page, but...well, it got really out of date, and also, what content would anyone actually want to find that isn't my puzzles? (Assuming they even want to find my puzzles.) So: my puzzles!

I've Been Published!

A cryptic I cowrote with Katherine Bryant is one of the forty-five crosswords in National Puzzlers' League Cryptic Crosswords. Even if only 1/90th of the book is mine (and hey, that's more than 1%!), I have, in the end, been published as a puzzle author.

Amusingly enough, the book was officially released on the same day I defended my dissertation.

Puzzles for the National Puzzlers' League

Every year the National Puzzlers' League holds a convention, and many people bring puzzles to hand out, often cryptics. I like to bring something for non-cryptic solvers (also, I'm terrible at making cryptic grids). These have included:

  • Substitutions Welcome: written for RockOn! (2019) in Boulder. Two sets of two pages: the first page of each pair contains identical instructions and an identical example, but different warmup puzzles; the second page of each, taken together, constitute a puzzle. This was an experiment in writing something designed for cosolving; it may or may not have worked, but I think people liked it anyway. (It's also solveable solo.)
  • Bull's-Eye, Maybe?: written for This Con's In Wisconsin (2018) in Milwaukee. Two pages, but mostly for formatting reasons. I'm told it's good for cosolving. (Also finished in the hotel room on Wednesday, because planning ahead is for other people.)
  • Near Misses in Arms: written for BeaCon (2017) in Boston. A straightforward one-page handout.
  • Another Crossword Puzzle: written for SiLiCon (2016) in Salt Lake City. Consists of five crossword puzzles: a Labyrinth, a Marching Bands, a Double or Nothing, a Helter Skelter, and a Some Assembly Required. Sort of.
  • Teach Yourself Coast Salish: written for ReCouvery (2015) in Vancouver. Very last-minute, because I apparently never learn. Also much longer than most convention handouts: it's thirteen puzzles plus a metapuzzle. Answers (and a few author's notes) here.
  • I didn't take a handout in 2014, though I did contribute a puzzle (cowritten with aforementioned frequent collaborator Katherine) to the official Saturday night extravaganza.
  • Introduction to Austin (from Boston): written for ConTex (2013) in Austin. The nice thing about having taught pragmatics is that you can feel certain that, whatever other inspiration people draw from the convention location, no one else is going to write a puzzle about speech-acts philosopher J.L. Austin. No one, it turns out, except for the son of a philosophy professor, who wrote a cryptic for the official convention program whose title is the final answer to this puzzle, and whose final answer is given away in the first sentence of this puzzle. You can't win 'em all.
  • A Con Handout—More or Less: written for Orecon (2012) in Portland, Oregon. Very last-minute; I'm never doing that again.
  • Tahnan's Testsolving Tribulations: written for the Cryptic Crossword Competition in Providence (2011), where the constraints were to write a small cryptic with a payoff at the end, and whose title was alliterative. It's the only real grid I've written by myself; also, I think it won the competition (I had to leave the convention before prizes were announced).
  • Transsubsitutions: written for ConPac (2010) in Seattle. Answers in text format here.
  • Won't Somebody Think of the (Anagrammatic Possibilities of the Names of Their) Children?: written for the 2007 convention in Ann Arbor, MI. Small context: each year at the NPL there's a puzzle-writing competition on a theme determined by the organizer; for 2007, Uncanny (Butte, MT) declared the theme to be "anagrams of celebrity names".

Occasional Occasional Puzzles

(That is, puzzles I write on occasion, for occasions.)

I'm hardly Kevin Wald, but every once in a while I'll write a puzzle for a particular event. For instance:

  • 2013 "STDP" Practice: Mystery Hunt style puzzles with all of the hard work already done; all you need to do is extract the answers. (A text-only version of the tables from the file is also availble; you'll want the full file for solving purposes, but if you want to play around with the data, it's easier to copy it from here.)
  • Fortunetide: Fortunetide is the annual get-together and auction for Otherworld, which is this Thing that I do. One year I wrote a small sample puzzle to accompany the auctioning of my services as a puzzle writer. I'm not sure many people saw it, but here it is.
  • _malorm, _lagell, & _ingatent: a puzzle written for the gathering of Immoral, Illegal, & Fattening, my MIT Mystery Hunt team. No actual II&F knowledge required.
  • Sara's 32: a puzzle written for the 32nd birthday of my friend Sara

The 2003 Mystery Hunt Puzzles

I was one of the authors of the 2003 Mystery Hunt at MIT. By its nature, a lot of the puzzles ended up with a lot of contribution from a lot of people. The ones I feel I can point to and say "I wrote this" (or at least "part of this") are:


The IT Puzzles

The following puzzles were composed for an online discussion board under the shared identity "IT" (a sort of reverse tag, in which the first person to solve IT's puzzle became the new IT). In each case, the puzzle is designed to lead to a final answer expressible in thirteen characters or less (spaces included, of course). If you'd prefer, you can see all the puzzles in one long list, without links to hints or answers.

Each of the links below goes to a single puzzle, with a link for the answer and the first hint. (The hints, taking a cue from Infocom, are given on a series of pages, increasingly helpful.) All answers can be confirmed by changing the file name for the puzzle to the answer--all lowercase and, if more than one word, strung together. For instance, if the answer to a puzzle were index (or Index or, for some reason, in Dex), confirmation would be at http://www.mit.edu/~tahnan/puzzles/index.html. For some puzzles, you'll want to confirm that the word you found is the right one, and not a red herring.

The puzzles:

Please note: only the puzzles above this point currently have hints posted. You can always mail the author at tahnan@mit.edu for hints. Or you can give up and look at the answer.


The THP Puzzles

The following puzzles were designed for the same board; THP is short for "Treasure Hunt Puzzles," the image being that of a set of puzzles with a series of steps to lead one to a final answer.

THP #1: The Arts

Not a puzzle with a single unified answer, but three mini-puzzles. They can all be accessed on one page. Each has its own hints and answer (coming soon).

THP #2: (S)he Loves Me, (S)he Loves Me Not

This time, a puzzle with a single clear answer. It can be found on this page. Hints and answer coming soon.