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  • Writer's pictureJacob Cohen

The Puzzling XLNC of Jack Lance (1997–2023)

Zachary Polansky, who made puzzles under the name "Jack Lance," passed away on May 1. He was 25. Here's a link to his obituary.

I interacted with him on Discord. I solved some of his puzzles. I read some of his wordplay finds. And I was constantly blown away by how creative and unique and how-is-this-possible they were. He just felt like a wizard. I'm still in shock that he's dead, and I can only imagine what it's like for the people who knew him better.

Since it's an off-week for Puzzles for Progress, I wanted to honor Jack Lance's memory by spotlighting three amazing puzzles he made. But first, I'd like to share twelve of his jaw-dropping wordplay discoveries.

(Credit to noneuclidean for the Jack Lance/Zachary Polansky image used above.)

Twelve Wordplay Discoveries from Jack Lance

1. He found that "Fibonacci rabbits" is an anagram (ignoring punctuation) of this piece of code, which calculates the Fibonacci numbers:

for(int i=0; i++<s; )

2. He also found that

"Shift plus {three, apostrophe, nine, equals} makes"

anagrams to

"{hash, quote marks, open (i.e. left) parenthesis, plus}".

3. When someone said on Discord

"I don't really get how people come up with those sorts of long anagrams",

he had this response:

"Go now, play with chopping around all the letters of some root message"

4. Some numerical rearrangements:

(The final one is an addition by Zimodo, the first two are Jack Lance.)

Some one-liners:

5. "Shifting the first and last letters of A VILLAIN forward 4 letters in the alphabet gives EVIL LAIR."

6. "I don't get why teachers always tell students to put phones away. I thought they were supposed to like when their students brought apples?"

7. "Finances are a lot like tic-tac-toe: One either has excess, or owes."

8. "This is an exceedingly random observation, but Stephen Jackson and Lance Stephenson are two famous basketball players who both played jersey 1 on the Indiana Pacers. Their names share Stephen and son, and removing those gives Jack and Lance."

9. "Adding a "t" to the front of the words "rick" and "roll" both accurately describe a rick-roll."

10. This joke's a bit complex:

"asexuality + bisexuality = (a+bi)sexuality. No wonder some people claim they aren’t real!"

11. His profile picture is a pun:

12. This one is considered his crown jewel. It's slightly NSFW (so it's linked here), but it's a response to a challenge to make a pangram (sentence with all 26 letters) which defines a pangram, using as few letters as possible. Jack Lance did it in 26 — in the most clever subversive way. It took me a few minutes to get it — if you're stuck, this may clarify things, and here's an explanation if you use rot13 on it: Vg qrsvarf cna (nf va cnafrkhny) naq tenz (nf va gur havg).

Many more Jack Lance observations are available in the archive of his Twitter. I'll now move onto his puzzles.

Three Puzzles from Jack Lance

The first puzzle I'm spotlighting is a more straightforward one. It's a classic sudoku, but it's very elegant and smooth! It was one of the winners of a contest to make a sudoku with its particular clue layout.

The second puzzle is a Knapp-Daneben Crossword, where the letters used by the Down clues are exactly one letter off from the letters used by the Across clues. A couple of the words are slightly obscure, but it's a pretty cool concept executed well!

And the third puzzle is... "Star Battle"! Jack Lance helpfully provides the rules, in case you forgot or didn't know them.

(Yes, that's the whole puzzle. It has a unique solution. It's by Jack Lance.)

(Update: This Star Battle has posthumously been solved by Simon on the YouTube channel Cracking the Cryptic, if you'd like to see a video instead of solving yourself! Jack Lance's Arrow-Ace sudoku was also featured by Mark on Cracking the Cryptic.)

And, okay, fine, he has too many good puzzles! Here's a bonus logic puzzle he wrote. Somehow, it's actually possible to determine the prices and heights of all five houses.

"logic puzzle:

There are 5 houses of different prices and heights

1.) The house that's taller than the house that's more expensive than the house that's shorter than the house that's cheaper than the house that's blue is red.

(that's all the clues)"

A rot13ed hint again: pbafvqre gur

Ok, fine, a slightly less evil hint: pbafvqre gur snpg gung gur jbeq gur vf hfrq vafgrnq bs gur jbeq n

The Excellency of Jack Lance

I've just scratched the surface of Jack Lance. He's made so much content that I haven't consumed myself, from his many other puzzles and especially puzzle hunts to his online games and plenty more. But everything of his that I've engaged with so far has blown me away, so I'm excited to check out the rest of it when I have the time.

Jack Lance noticed that if you say X followed by the consonants in his last name, you get "excellency." I think it's a fitting description.

But that letter X now feels so grim. We now inhabit an ex-Lance world. It's awful.

See y'all in a week with more puzzles by me.

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Dec 18, 2023

A friend introduced me to Octograms this week, and I was immediately sucked in. I went to Jack Lance's GitHub site to learn who created such cool puzzles, and when I saw the reference to himself in the past tense, I feared the worst. I've only known about Jack Lance for 2 days now, but I'm on the verge of tears tapping this into my phone.

Thank you for this tribute. I'm so sad Jack Lance is gone, but I'm thrilled that I've only just discovered the puzzles he gifted us with. I look forward to solving as many as I can.


May 05, 2023

Thank you for putting these together to honour the brilliant puzzler that Jack was. An absolutely devastating loss to the world of puzzles. RIP Jack Lance 🌷

May 07, 2023
Replying to

I've known Jack since he was born, although I knew him as Zachary Polansky. I didn't know about Jack Lance until his funeral service. I happened to find this site while looking for some of the things he has created (even though I knew I wouldn't understand it). Thank you so much for the tribute, I know his family will appreciate it.


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