Chinese Puzzle Torture, comparing notes

By Shamus
on Aug 27, 2006
Filed under:
Nerd Culture

As a follow up to yesterday’s post about the nameless Chinese puzzle that Steven was working on, I’ve put together a few screencaps from the ones that gave me trouble. I think everyone else has beaten all of these by now, and I’m curious if anyone else has alternate solutions to any of these. Number 6, 13, and 18 in particular felt like they may have had more than one arrangement that would lead to the solution, but I wasn’t up to the job of finding out.

I hasitate to post these here, lest someone be tempted to peek at the solutions. If I could have peeked last night, I would have, and would have been robbed of the pleasure of beating number six on my own.

Spoilers follow.

6 – This one was the hardest of the bunch. (So far.) I was stuck on this for a long time.

12 – The solution often revolves around doing something unintuitive, as in this one where you must divert a beam that’s already going in the right direction.

13 – So many pieces. Is this really the only arrangement that leads to the solution?

14 – In the comments below Michael Davis points out a very different solution to this one.




18 – Another counter intutive puzzle: You don’t have enough pieces to do this via the short route, and must instead take the long route.

19 – I still don’t get why the prisim would redirect blue light and not red, but I assume this is something that makes sense if you know more about prisims.

20 – I can believe that this is the only solution. The angles needed to make the prisim work were fairly restricitve.

16 is one you could flip vertically and still beat it, although I wouldn’t really call that an “alternate” solution. I’m curious if anyone got something totally different from what I have. In many cases they SEEM like they can only have one solution, but of course in many cases they seem impossible at first glance, so I’m not letting appearances fool me. The only way to know for sure is to put my solutions up here and compare notes.

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1818 comments. (18 is the only non-zero number that equals twice the sum of its decimal digits.)

From the Archives:

  1. Michael Davis says:

    My solutions to 6, 12, 13, and 15 are identical to yours. My solutions to 16 and 17 have a couple of minor differences, but nothing really significant.

    My solution to 14 is completely different from yours, though. In particular, I didn’t use the white beam at all (and had to place a piece in front of it so it didn’t hit any of the targets).

  2. Michael Davis says:

    Check the screenshot you posted for #18; it doesn’t appear to be a complete solution, as it isn’t hittng the topmost target.

    My solution for #19 is identical to yours. However, my solution for #20 has a few significant differences. My prism’s in a different place, and I reflected the beams differently. For example, my blue beam goes to the right of the green target instead of the left, and my red beam goes straight into the prism. I also had to reflect the white beam coming out of the prism twice.

    Honestly, I think I like your solution to #20 better; it looks a lot more elegant than mine, somehow.

  3. Shamus says:

    Very odd with #19. I think it just let me proceed even though I didn’t have it right.

  4. HC says:

    It doesn’t require you to solve a puzzle to proceed – when you go back to that puzzle, it will start you afresh. I have no material alternate solutions – just alternates to ones like 17 or 14.

    Prisms work because the speed of light in a substance varies with the wavelength. For everyday stuff, the higher the wavelength, the slower it goes. If, as Michael says, you can feed light into the prism in any old order, than there’s something odd about the prisms.

  5. Robin says:

    I had a significantly different solution for 20: Same principle, but I placed the prism down in the lower right, just a bit past the start of the red beam (four squares from each of the two edges) and collected the three colors at that point. I don’t know how to capture a screenshot from Flash in Explorer so I can’t show you (clues welcome). I also noticed that you missed a star in #18, but you can capture it if you swing the long outer detour around the right half of the square instead of the left. The rest of mine were identical to yours save for some minor variations in 14 (sideways shifts of the small vertical doglegs) that did not affect the overlying solution.

  6. Robin says:

    Hmm. In going back over my past solutions (and playing around with a few), I noticed that the message on the right has changed a few times, including some English messages. I saw it read “Congratulations” at one point, and right now it says “I fu le you!!! Please email to“. I wonder if I did something in particular to merit that one!

  7. HC says:

    I think it’s due to the fact that puzzle 25 doesn’t require all the pieces, as that message appears when you solve 25. Of course, 26 in the new set doesn’t require all the pieces either.

  8. Pixy Misa says:

    I went through this ages ago, and I remember getting stuck on 18. It does let you skip over a puzzle if you’ve solved the last N (I forget what the value of N is), but I got annoyed that I couldn’t solve that one and stopped playing.

  9. mp122984 says:

    This puzzle set’s been very interesting, and your screen for #18 helped me solve it. Thanks.

  10. Michael Davis says:

    Yeah, 30 was evil. I was surprised that what I finally did to solve it even works. I ended up with an unused piece, too.

    32 is even worse. I just now finished it after being stuck on it for close to an entire day. It requires just about every weird trick I’ve seen.

    I don’t think I like these as much as the original set. Far too many of them rely on the magical property of the beam splitter where a color change on one of the split beams is reflected with the opposite color change in the other beam. When combined with some of the other weird things these puzzles require you to do, it becomes almost impossible to predict the behavior of the system as a whole.

    At least 33 doesn’t use the splitter at all.

  11. Shamus says:

    Yes, I started on the second set but I found the beam splitter to be inelegant. It is, as you said, magical and not related to any sort of real device. It splits the beam… and then the beam goes a few feet… and then changes color for no observable reason. What the heck?

  12. Robin says:

    Agreed on all points — my pleasure dropped off when the beam splitter came in. I think I can figure out how it works, but I’m still stuck on no. 27. I went on past it but would still like a clue (or a solution). I feel like I’ve tried every possible variation.

  13. HC says:

    The color changer and the beam splitter interact as if there’s another color changer mirrored on the other side of the beam splitter. Put the mirrors in the obvious places and use one to reflect directly back. One color changer on the bottom, one on the side.

    No, I have no idea why that works either.

  14. Pixy Misa says:

    Optical phase conjugators! Negative indexes of refraction! Dogs and cats living together!

  15. Robin says:

    Well, that works. Thanks. It makes no sense, but at least now I know I wasn’t missing something obvious and logical. (And I thought I’d tried that combination, too.)

  16. Justin says:

    I know this is a bit delayed, but I just found this blog…
    Prisms are predictable. Red light goes straight through, blue is bent 90 degrees, and green is bent 45 degrees. The angle of the large flat side of the prism determines which way the light is bent (although I just do this by experimentation).

  17. Nathaniel says:

    Another guy who just found the blog… This is clearly a copy of Chromatron ( 50 levels free, 150 more levels available for a reasonable price. Also, the instructions aren’t in crazy moon language! Bonus!

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