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In the fall of 2004, I was playing around with a deceptively simple little tray puzzle designed by Stewart Coffin and called Four Sleazy Pieces. The eponymous pieces are polyominoes with between five and seven squares each, and the tray is a perfect square whose size is not an integral number of units; it's about 5.8 units on a side. I won't spoil Coffin's fine puzzle here, but suffice to say that, at the time, I hadn't solved it very recently so I'd temporarily forgotten just how "sleazy" the solution is.

While failing to solve it, I stumbled across an interesting property of such a puzzle, and I was excited to note that what I'd found was probably a good psychological "blind spot". These blind spots usually take the form of an assumption most people make that's so "obvious" that it's never questioned, even though it isn't in fact true. Armed with such a blind spot, you can often create a puzzle to exploit it, a puzzle whose solution violates that implicit assumption. That kind of a puzzle has a very pleasant "ah-ha" feeling to it; once you've solved it, you can't figure out how it could possibly have taken you so long.

My resulting puzzle, Sleazier, has that property, and I'm inordinately pleased with it: I think that it's probably the best puzzle I've yet designed. I presented it in the 2005 IPP Exchange, in Helsinki, and it's gotten great feedback in the years since then.

Like Coffin's puzzle, Sleazier has four polyomino pieces ranging from five to seven squares each, and a square tray of a suspiciously odd size; your goal is simply to fit all four pieces flat in the tray. I won't say why, here, but when you compare the "trick" of my puzzle to that of Coffin's, mine definitely deserves its name.

Update: Sleazier is now also available in this economical CD jewel-case edition! (Note: your tray and piece colors are likely to differ from what's shown in this photo. We use a wide variety of colors and every puzzle is made from a different pleasing assortment.)


This thing drives me crazy. I solved it once, and still have to think hard to try solving it again. Well done!

This puzzle is surprisingly difficult considering there are only four pieces. All the pieces are different if flipped over, making things harder. There are 16 possible face up-face down orientations of the 4 pieces, yet only 2 of them can result in a solution.

I can't say I had a significant "aha" reaction when the solution fell into place, but I can say the solution is also very hard to remember!

Oooooh! Long after I had the gist of it, I finally made the pieces work. Even having the right orientation of all four pieces didn't mean I'd gotten them right relative to the frame, it's such a finicky fit!


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