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Connecting Sides is an atomic solve path element found in puzzle hunts, in which two sets of clues or information are connected via individual lines through some sort of puzzle-y connection.
Puzzles involving this element also tend to involve a spread of numbers or letters between the two data sets, positioned so that lines connecting the sides end up passing through them. This system is the most common way for a puzzle using Connecting Sides to extract an answer.
Puzzle Application[edit | edit source]
As far as solve path elements go, Connecting Sides is very capable of pulling a puzzle's weight all on its own. Some may go as far as calling it a puzzle type of its own, but the amount of variation and lack of strict construction rules for making a puzzle using it makes it more fitting as a solve path element.
Connecting Sides puzzles usually present two rows or columns of clues or pieces of information, with the intention that solvers connect pairs consisting of one from each row/column. The method by which these pairs are made varies from puzzle to puzzle, and can be wordplay-based, trivia-based, or some other method entirely.
Another important aspect of this element is a purpose for the lines being drawn. In most cases, they will pass through characters scattered throughout the space between the sides. It's fairly common for both the characters passed through to indicate some sort of extraction (indexing if it's numbers, simply spelling something out if it's letters), or the ones not passed through to indicate some sort of extraction (usually just reading the uncrossed ones in reading order).
As this element relies heavily on accurate line-drawing, most puzzles using Connecting Sides will include dots next to each connectable entry, showing exactly where to connect lines at either end and ensuring that any lines that are meant to pass through certain characters do in fact pass through them.
Some of the more common ways to adjust the presentation of this element include:
- Using more than two rows/columns, making solvers connect pieces of the puzzle in trios rather than pairs.
- Abandoning the concept of rows/columns and using polygons and other enclosed shapes.
- Allowing for multiple connections to/from the same point.
Strategy[edit | edit source]
Identification[edit | edit source]
Connecting Sides requires a very particular visual setup that tries to make it clear that drawing lines is a necessary part. As a result, identifying puzzles that use it usually a trivial task. In the cases of non-conventional use or a lack of normal signposting (such as if a puzzle leaves out the connecting dots), the best first step is to attempt to interpret whatever clues are present. If through this process you discover a trait that allows you to pair things up easily, then do that. If not, it's likely that that puzzle is not making use of Connecting Sides.
Solving[edit | edit source]
Assuming a puzzle is clearly making use of Connecting Sides, the first steps are remarkably similar. Begin by solving or interpreting what is on each side, whether it's identifying pictures, solving crossword clues, etc. Depending on the way that the author paired up items, the process may go quite smoothly (particularly if basic trivia or wordplay are used), or may require deeper digging (if semantic connections are used or more difficult or obscure trivia is used). Either way, lines must be drawn to proceed.
Once lines have been drawn, look at what those lines cross. If they cross numbers, try finding a way to use them as indexes, perhaps into a concept shared by each part of the pairs whose lines cross them. If they cross letters, there are a few options. First, look at the letters that aren't crossed at all. If these spell any messages in reading order, then you've either discovered the answer or an intermediate instruction. If they don't spell anything, look at the letters that are crossed. There are a few ways to order these, so try them all:
- Reading order within the puzzle, regardless of line order.
- In order of the lines' connections on the left/top
- In order of the lines' connections on the right/bottom
Being aware of reordering conventions may help determine which of these is correct, as an alphabetized row/column probably isn't the correct final ordering.
Notable Examples[edit | edit source]
- Headshots (MITMH 2015) (web) - The sides in this puzzle are all pictures, with one being pictures of Click to revealfamous mustachioed people (cut off before the moustache) and the other being Click to revealpicture representations of moustache style names.
- Puzzling is My Middle Name (MITMH 2017) (web) - This puzzle involves a lot of names. The left side is all first names, while the right is all last names, specifically of people who Click to revealfamously use a middle initial (such as Vivica A. Fox). Connecting the correct first/last names always results in the line passing through three letters, giving a trigram for each full name. Notably, this puzzle doesn't use any of the ordering mechanisms above, instead reordering based on the aforementioned middle initials.
- Stress Test (MITMH 2020) (web) - This puzzle uses crossword clues (albeit very short ones) on either side of the connecting field. On each side is Click to reveala clue for a word that is spelled the exact same as a word on the other side, but with the stress on a different syllable (such as OVERHEAD meaning 'above' and OVERHEAD meaning 'costs') . Connecting these correctly draws lines through numbers, which would indicate an index. However, instead of indexing into the entire word, solvers can index once for each side, always indexing into the stressed part of the word. As a result, they end up with two separate clue phrases that need to be solved to get their final answer.