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  • Writer's pictureJacob Cohen

#120: Capsules, The Digits from 1 to 9, Crossword

Three years, three months. 120 issues of Puzzles for Progress. 362 puzzles in all — not counting the 45 computer-generated Building Blocks I made once, the 43 custom "Puzzles fordle Progress" wordles, and various bonus puzzles scattered throughout — of 109 types, from crosswords to Capsules to Spirals to Star Battles to linguistics puzzles to metas to April Fools jokes and much more. One Best of Puzzles for Progress book, three editions of Picking A Name For Our Puzzle Contest Was Harder Than The Actual Puzzles Are, sixteen puzzles in The New York Times Magazine. $3,869 raised for United To Beat Malaria, enough to buy hundreds of malaria nets, save lives, and become the site's #9 individual fundraiser.

I'm very busy these days. I don't time-track, but I estimate each issue of Puzzles for Progress consumes at least six hours to make from start to finish — often more like twelve or eighteen. So a couple months ago, I decided on a plan for keeping Puzzles for Progress biweekly: I'd make the lowest-effort puzzles that were still publishable.

But then my brain got in the way. It kept saying things like "wouldn't it be cool if you made a Spiral with proper 180-degree symmetry?" or "there's gotta be a perfect Chocolate Banana (Pie) out there somewhere!" or "that random Simple Loop you made (printable PDF / online with — it's perfectly fine, but what's the point?" (Actually, I just re-solved it and it's sort of fun, maybe I shouldn't've written it off. Consider it a bonus puzzle.)

And so these last few issues of Puzzles for Progress have been some of my absolute favorites ever. It feels like every puzzle has had something special about it. However, this has caused them not to be low-effort, taking time away from my other life priorities.

Fast-forward to two days ago. (Yes, only two days ago...otherwise I'd have given y'all more notice.) Scrolling through, puzzle page after puzzle page, I just felt so proud: somehow, it's become a website with more puzzles than anyone would solve unless they're really bored and/or a top speedsolver. Furthermore, I realized this issue would be #120 — the long hundred, twelfty, 5! — a solid round number. It just feels like a good place to take a break?

(Also, even within the realm of my internet presence, I have a few items I'd rather prioritize over making more puzzles: I made this video about nice numbers whose sound quality is terrible because I rushed it at the end, but people keep watching it and saying things like "It's too bad you had so little time to make this video. I think a well-edited video on this could be very successful." So I want to make a cleaned-up version. But I also have a few other ideas, which are currently just twinkles in my eye, but I want the freedom to explore them. Subscribe to my blog and/or my YouTube channel if you want to be sure not to miss the latest!)

So, going forward, Puzzles for Progress will not have a schedule. This means there probably won't be many, if any, posts for the rest of the year at least.

I'm sure that, sooner or later, there will be more puzzles to come after that — but I'm not sure when. I just know that I still want to make a second PfP book one of these days, and that I can't really turn the puzzler part of my brain off. And I'll be sure to tell all subscribers about the puzzles I create in the future, whatever form they take. But for now, que será, será.

Finally, I'd like to thank all of you for helping make Puzzles for Progress feel so successful, even loved, for the last three years and change. I know it's a cliche, but I never would've imagined when I started during quarantine that I'd still be here or get this far. So to anyone who has ever solved any of my puzzles, attempted one, donated, subscribed, reached out, or supported PfP in any way, I extend my deepest gratitude. I really couldn't have done it without you.

Now, let's dive into the last regularly scheduled edition of Puzzles for Progress.

We'll begin the finale with Puzzles fordle Progress, my stupidly-named custom wordle which I keep making seven letters: solve

First, we've got a fan-favorite puzzle type that I haven't made in awhile: Capsules, also known as Suguru. It's designed not to be too difficult, with a solve that flows smoothly; it also shows off some of the classic Capsules logic. Enjoy!

The scene is all too common. You read the rules of a puzzle, a sudoku perhaps, and it mentions “the digits from 1 to 9.” You surmise this refers to the positive integers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9, but can you really be sure? In this unique puzzle entitled The Digits from One to Nine, your objective is to fill in the digits from 1 to 9 in each sequence based on the other sequence terms. If that sounds fun, here it is!

And lastly, it's an 11x11 crossword. It has a theme, and a hidden message — my parting words from creating Puzzles for Progress weekly and then biweekly for over three years — for you and I:

Sorry this issue is eleven hours late. All the puzzles were ready, but I wanted the blurb to sound like awake-Jacob instead of tired-Jacob. Frankly, I bet there's still a typo somewhere, but at some point one has to let go.

I'd like to thank today's puzzles' testers: thetearex15, TwoHoleStraw, chrisj50, The Book Wyrm, GarlicBredFries, Amelia Chen, bolgat (some of whose crossword clue suggestions I stole, because my original clues were kind of bad), heywhatsupitsbob (one of whose crossword suggestions I stole, because I had no idea how to clue 7-Down), and Quiara Vasquez (none of whose crossword suggestions I stole, because she liked the puzzle as is).

I'd also like to thank everyone else who tested my puzzles over the years, but there are far too many to list. Though many of them reside on the public, excellent Cracking the Cryptic Discord (grid-logic puzzles) and Crosscord (word puzzles). What I will actually do is credit some of the tools in my workflow — if you're looking to get into puzzlemaking, these may help you out! For making online interfaces: for many logic puzzles, Penpa Plus for the rest, f-puzzles and the CTC web app for sudoku, David "rangsk" Clamage's extension for converting between the two (and helping create sudoku, especially with the handy True Candidates feature), Crosshare for sharing crosswords and Ingrid for making them, Jeff Davidson's .jpz file creator for word puzzles, for converting those into online interfaces (and excellent collab solving generally). To help find words and clues for word puzzles, I make heavy use of Python, OneLook, and Crossword Clues; my toolbox also includes Alex Boisvert's Spiral and Snake Charmer (Overpath) construction tools, Adam Aaronson's Wordlisted, Crossword Helper, Nutrimatic, Qat — and, even in today's modern age, I shouldn't forget Ecosia, Google and Wikipedia; so many of the fun facts or angles in my clues were learned by me while writing the clue. TinyURL (which I like) and Wix (which I dislike) also fill roles for me. And, of course, my beloved Google Drawings, even though it still doesn't understand that people might want to connect lines to other lines, and even though its edge-drawing function is not optimized for my use case. I also want to thank my puzzle-creating drugs of choice: folklore by Taylor Swift (as well as evermore, Midnights, and sometimes other albums by TS, The Wall by Pink Floyd, Without Fear by Dermot Kennedy, occasionally some Olivia Rodrigo, lately Phoebe Bridgers — also my beloved 3Blue1Brown soundtrack) for the creative parts, and my playlist of Smith & Thell and the impossibly-smooth Music Maestro Mashups featuring Taylor Swift for the less creative parts. I don't quite know why this music works best for me — maybe part self-fulfilling prophecy — but it does. Anyway, the point is: I am so grateful for all the internet puzzle infrastructure that enables my puzzle creation. Well, also whiteboards. I like those.

I think that's it from me for now. If you want more puzzles or information, see my recommendations on the About page!



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