Update: Gerrymandering

Spoiler alert: a solution to one of the gerrymandering puzzles is shown at the end of this blog post. Go back to the puzzles if you haven’t finished solving them!

Even though a new gerrymandering puzzle hasn’t been published in the magazine since 2008 (that was the last time an issue was politically themed), that was right around the time the website had its last major update. Thus, there wasn’t a lot of work involved in updating the gerrymandering puzzles to the latest version of the website.

One choice that may disappoint puzzle solvers out there: I took down a few gerrymandering puzzles that I had posted to the website that were never published in the magazine. I’m trying to reorganize the puzzles I have (not just the gerrymandering puzzles) in order to plan for the future of Knossos Games, and in this case that meant removing a few puzzles. I’m lobbying for a politically-themed issue of Imagine to appear soon, so that the magazine can publish another gerrymandering puzzle (or two).

As for specific changes to the puzzles and instructions in this update, there were only two major ones. First, a colleague of mine suggested that I replace “sub-district” with “precinct”, since that’s what we (in the United States) call the territories that collectively make up political districts. As soon as he suggested it, it seemed so incredibly obvious. This rewording appears in the main instructions page (and corresponding PDF for printed instructions), instruction reminders for each puzzle, and the detailed solutions.

Second, I also updated how the solution is shown. The solution to each of these puzzles needs to communicate two pieces of information: how the grid of precincts is physically divided into districts, and how this dividing up of the vote count results in more no voting districts than yes voting districts. Before, I showed these two pieces of information separately by displaying a full sized grid with the districts outlined and, off to the side, a separate list of the no and yes voting districts. I always thought this was a little clumsy, since you need to scan back and forth between these two pieces of information to make sense of the solution. I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of this before, but coloring the districts and linking their (also colored) vote totals brings these two pieces of information into one graphic. I think it’s much more clear now, even before getting to the detailed solution, how each solution works.

original solution graphic
new solution graphic