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Tile puzzles

The tile puzzles are tiny, elegant jigsaw-esque puzzles, that completely defy their innocent appearance. Each puzzle consists of a small number (typically less than 12) monomino and domino tiles each illustrating a short section of network-like pathway, terminating in up to 6 edge connectors. The challenge is to arrange the tiles so that the wires all join up leaving no loose ends. The final solution can be any shape but, importantly, all the tiles must be part of the network.

New October 2022: The latest iteration of the tile-puzzle genre is now available in a print-and-play format. Read more about its long evolution below or teleport straight to the end result: Space-station MMXXII.

Tile puzzle history (added October 2022)

The tile-puzzles have a long history.

First conceived in 1981 a single, but relatively large, 12-piece puzzle made its public debut in the Lubenham village newsletter as a print-and-play puzzle. This mass publication probably amounted to about 100 households.

In late 1997 the (now) classic four tile-puzzles were designed and launched right here at clickmazes, as interactive puzzles in applet form. They were accessible right up until 2016 when the last few browsers finally pulled the plug on applet support.

The original applet can still be downloaded and run locally using the appletviewer utility that continued to ship with the JRE for some years after. My copy of appletviewer is build 1.8.0_91-b14 for MAC OS.

Solutions: blue / purple / green / orange

In 2002 we branched out and decided to construct several sets of physical tile-puzzles using printed paper stuck onto MDF. The original four puzzles from 1997, plus a small yellow puzzle. I'm not sure why the small yellow puzzle never made the cut for the applet collection.

Twenty years later these puzzles are still in regular use and have traveled extensively, to many national and international puzzle-gatherings.

In 2020 the tile-puzzle applet briefly came back to life when the old applet was successfully transpiled to HTML5 using cheerpj, to accompany the relaunch of clickmazes.

To celebrate the event two new puzzles were put online called the duplex-dilemma, shown here on the left. They differ only by the mirror-image of a single tile. Both solutions unique and yet quite different.

Over the years I've corresponded with several people who have written tile-puzzle solvers. The first would have been Graham Rogers circa 1990, then Timothy Bahls (2004) and Matthieu Haller (2006). Plus one or two others that I have since lost all record of.

Timothy Bahls' solver was written as an applet with a visual UI, which made it my tool of choice. Over the years I refined and rewrote large chunks of it to satisfy my occasional craving to explore more tile-puzzles.

In 2019 I set myself the challenge of finding a pack of core tiles that could offer a good selection of varied puzzles. The goal was to maximise the number of uniquely solve-able challenges while minimising the total number of tiles in the pack.

Three years later my, on and off, efforts eventually resulted in a pack of 15 tiles that offered at least 30 distinct puzzles. The solution on the right is one of many solutions for all 15 tiles (definitely not unique!).

Explore it here.


concept and puzzle designs - © Andrea Gilbert 1981-2022