Solve path elements

Solve path elements are a type of content element that deal primarily with the steps taken to solve a puzzle between first inspection and extraction. They are the things that a solver must do to the puzzle content or challenges within the puzzle that must be overcome in order to reach the end.

Core Characteristics[edit | edit source]

Solve path elements are difficult to pinpoint, description-wise. The best way to characterize them is by looking at when in a puzzle they're encountered. A typical solve path element will appear somewhere between reading the title and flavortext of a puzzle and extracting information (but not during either of these actions).

These elements are also not limited to actions to be taken as part of a traditional 'solve path'. They also include obstacles and challenges encountered as a puzzle is solved, meaning that while identification is an element due to being a task involved in a solve path, red herrings are also a solve path element, as they're something encountered during certain solves.

Differentiation from presentation/extraction elements[edit | edit source]

Going by location as a primary indicator, things like hints being in the flavortext, a puzzle containing a downloadable spreadsheet, or a puzzle being interactive are not solve path elements, and instead are found under presentation elements. Similarly, anything being used to extract a piece of information, whether it's the answer itself, a clue phrase, or a further instruction will be considered an extraction element.

The divide between extraction elements and solve path elements gets blurred sometimes, and as a result some extraction elements may be used as part of the solve path, such as if an Odd-One-Out puzzle uses an entirely separate extraction mechanism, leaving the odd-one-out system as the bulk of the puzzle. While rare, it is possible for solve path elements to be used as extraction elements as well, such as if a series of transformations result in single letters that can be chained into a final answer.

History of Use[edit | edit source]

To do TO DO

Subtypes[edit | edit source]

There are only two major types of solve path element, and they're differentiated by the amount of work that would go into explaining how they work. Alternatively, it's concrete definitions and use (Atomic) vs. fluid definitions and use (Holistic).

Atomic solve path elements[edit | edit source]

Atomic solve path elements have clear applications. Identification is easy to describe: a solver is given something and they must identify what it is. Reordering requires reordering, transformation is when something is transformed. At base level, atomic solve path elements are what they are, with room for sub-elements and some extra elaboration on the premise.

As a whole, to be 'atomic', an element must be easily understandable from its name, have a clear method of approach, and shouldn't be too difficult for new solvers to grasp for the first time.

  • Identification - The basic process of seeing, hearing, or reading something and figuring out what it is or where it's from.
  • Pairs and Groups - Elements involving multiple distinct clues, strings, or general 'parts' of a puzzle that can be grouped together.
    • Before and After - Words and phrases that can be overlapped at the end of one and the start of another, like Head Cold/Cold Turkey, to create a new, longer, and more nonsensical phrase (like Head Cold Turkey)
    • Chains - Somewhat related to Reordering, this involves chaining together a series of answers based on some criteria, like one lending an aspect of itself to the next in the chain. This sometimes forms a complete loop.
    • Connecting Sides - When given two columns/rows of items, this involves connecting one from each side with lines, often passing through letters or numbers in the middle.
    • Partitioned Clues - Clues that have been broken into chunks, requiring solvers to rebuild the clues so that they make sense.
  • Transformation - Methods of changing strings into new strings by adding, deleting, twisting, and rearranging their letters.
    • Substring Replacement - Removing identified substrings from a given string and replacing them with something else (usually something directly related)
    • Word Compounds - Using two or more individual words to form a new, bigger word, usually with the help of some additional changes.
  • Reordering - Changing the order of a set of information from one that is useless to one that is useful.
  • Substrings (Hidden) - Hidden words or phrases within longer strings, often leading into use of Substring Replacement.
  • Substrings (Identical) - Strings that share a specific series of chracters, whether or not they form anything useful on their own.

Holistic solve path elements[edit | edit source]

Holistic solve path elements require more description than atomic ones, and tend to be more fluid in how they're applied. Recursion can appear in a puzzle in many different ways, depending on what makes the most sense for that particular instance, but the most simple explanation is that solvers will need to do something that they've already done in the puzzle again on a result that they got from doing it the first time.

For an element to be 'holistic', they should have multiple uses and presentations, with the exact application of it within a puzzle being widely variable.

  • Build-Your-Own-Puzzle - Writing puzzles given a set of constraints, unknowingly creating a valid puzzle via the normal solving process, and puzzles that revolve around the theme of writing puzzles.
  • Error Correction - When puzzles contain incorrect information that must be corrected in order to make the puzzle solvable, or make up the bulk of the solving process itself.
  • Intentional Ambiguity - When clues or other solvable puzzle elements are technically able to be solved, but are just vague enough to force solvers to figure out a special connection that removes the ambiguity.
  • Missing Information - Sometimes, puzzles are missing key pieces of information. This information may be part of the difficulty, or it may be part of the extraction process.
  • Recursion - Performing a particular action in a puzzle, and then performing that same action again on the result.
  • Retrograde Solving - Working backwards from the given state of a puzzle to identify what it looked like 'at the beginning'.
  • Red Herring - Intentional (or unintentional) false paths that solvers may go down that obfuscate the correct solve path.
  • The Waterfall Effect - When multi-part puzzles require the parts be solved in a specific order, so that the results of one can be used to solve the next, and so on.