Progressive Difficulty

Progressive Difficulty is a puzzle element in which several puzzles are presented in linear sequence as part of a larger puzzle, with each successive puzzle being more difficult than the last. This difficulty can either come via additional constraints or complications, larger size, or just raw difficulty.

Puzzle Application[edit | edit source]

Difficulty in puzzles tends to be graded based on a puzzle's overall difficulty. However, when puzzles contain multiple subpuzzles or stages to them, there may be multiple 'difficulty levels' throughout. Most commonly, these fluctuations will be progressive, with earlier subpuzzles or stages being easier, and later ones being harder.

Progressive difficulty within a particular puzzle does require multiple 'levels' for solvers to work through, and they must be intended to be more difficult in some way. A puzzle that includes multiple different logic puzzle genres, for example, would likely not involve progressive difficulty unless, say, the size of the grids increased with each one. Other methods of increasing difficulty across a series of puzzles include:

  • Adding more constraints on the solution
  • Introducing new symbols or elements to a black-box style deduction puzzle
  • Adding outside pressure to the solving process, like a timer.

Since difficulty is subjective, progressive difficulty must be an intentional decision made by the author, rather than a result of some solvers finding a particular genre of puzzle more difficult than the ones that came before it.

Progressive difficulty is also a common overall sight in puzzle hunts, with puzzles in general getting progressively harder the further into the hunt one travels.

Strategy[edit | edit source]

To do TO DO

Examples[edit | edit source]

  • Whack-A-Mole (MITMH 2020) (web) - This puzzle functioned fairly similarly across all three levels: moles would pop up across a grid, and solvers had to whack the correct ones. However, the 'correct ones' were determined by Click to revealtreating the moles as elements on the periodic table. After each 'stage', a new mechanic is added. In Stage 2, some elements can be 'subtracted', and in the third stage, focus shifted to using the symbols to spell words. The last stage combines both the letter mechanic and the subtraction mechanic.