You may be curious as to what goes into making a puzzle before it appears in the magazine and, ultimately, on the Knossos Games website. In this series of occasional posts, I hope to give some insight into the process.
Imagine is published five times a year, roughly following the U.S. academic calendar. At the beginning of each summer, my editor e-mails me the topics chosen for the year’s issues. The puzzles for my column are typically due six weeks before the start of an issue’s publication window, and I wait to post a puzzle (and its solution) to the website until after the solution is published in the following issue.
For example, I started working on the puzzle that will appear in the next issue of Imagine (v22.n4, the March/April 2015 issue) back in December 2014. I mulled over a few possible ideas related to the theme of the issue (writing) during the holidays, then worked on a couple of specific concepts in early January. By mid-January, one puzzle idea had emerged as my clear favorite, so I focused my efforts there.
Since the puzzle hasn’t been published yet 1, I can’t give too many details. However, I can say that it has something to do with writing, and was tricky to create. It required charting out a lot of possibilities, and writing up a detailed solution to be certain that the puzzle worked the way I intended it to. I submitted a draft on January 25th, then discussed the puzzle with my editor, and by the 31st had submitted a revision to both my editor and the layout designer that will be the final puzzle seen in the magazine.
Depending on how the rest of the issue is shaping up, the March/April issue could be out any time between mid-March and mid-April. But the puzzle won’t be posted to the website until the following issue is out (with the March/April puzzle’s solution), most likely in June. Check back then for a much more insightful description of how that puzzle came to be.
There is another way that we can look at this, though, and that’s to focus on what I’m accomplishing right now. I’m currently between deadlines. As I said before, the puzzle that will appear in Imagine v22.n4 (the March/April 2015 issue) was submitted a couple of weeks ago, and now I’m working on the puzzle that will appear in v22.n5 (the May/June 2015 issue), which is due in mid-March.
At the same time, I’ve been working on a couple of big website updates for puzzles that were published in the past few months. I just completed a major overhaul on the Space Pods puzzles, one of which appeared in Imagine v22.n1 (the September/October 2014 issue). Work continues on an even larger update for the Logic puzzles, one of which appeared in Imagine v22.n2 (the November/December 2014 issue).
Thus, every puzzle typically covers a multi-month time span from start to finish, and several of these overlap at any one point in time. Since this requires switching off between puzzles, I keep a lot of notes to remind myself of what my ideas are and where I am in the process of creating, editing, submitting, and posting each puzzle. The most difficult part tends to be correctly prioritizing what needs to be done when. Even after many years of creating puzzles, it is still not obvious beforehand how long it will take to complete each step of the process.