Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Starter's Guide to Japanese Pic-A-Pix Puzzles

I have very often written about my favourite Japanese puzzles, Pic-A-Pix –puzzles, like Conceptispuzzles has named them. Other names for these puzzles are also used. However I have never adviced how to solve them. A new techniques article was published in Conceptispuzzles website last week. The problem with these puzzles is that the solving methods can vary very much and people can use their own logic in solving. I decided to show my technique with the same puzzle which is used in the article. I also want to point out that solving can always be done by logic. No quessing is needed and usually ends up in a mess!

The bigger puzzle above and almost the same as this smaller one can be played online on Conceptispuzzles website

The empty grid consists of rows and columns. Both have numbers which show how many black squares have to be painted on the respective row/column. The row 5 has clues 3 4 which means that on that row you will have to paint 3 consecutive squares and 4 consecutive squares but these two blocks are separate.

Well, that should be easy. The problem here is that the painted squares have to fit both the row clues and the column clues. A valid puzzle has only one solution matching those clues and that is why it is important to think which ones have to be painted and which remain empty.

The result of the painted squares is a picture. Sometimes you can even tell that something is going wrong when it looks like a person’s eye seems to be shifted near his ear. Sometimes you can’t conclude what the picture will be until you have solved it all.

Usually I check first the edges. This puzzle definitely has better places to start, but these instances are generally very rare. If none of the edges can be used, I try to find the best row or column as near the edge as possible. Keeping close to the edge is safer and easier for the starting solvers. I still use it as much as I can in big puzzles. It makes me able to check the row/column clues more often.

In the future I use the word clue when I am referring to the given number on the top or on the right. The painted squares and painted blocks are the visual representations of these clues in the puzzle.

In this puzzle three of the edges are impossible to start with. There is no way to tell where 1; 2; or 1,1 should be put in the grid. The bottom edge has clue 7 and I could use that, but the clue 10 two rows up is even better. It fills the whole row.

Now I will check what that means regarding the columns. Column a has only clue 1 and I have painted one. I’ll mark all the others done.

Column b has clue 2 at the bottom. I can’t place it starting from the bottom. If I would, I had a block of 3! That means the bottom square to be empty. Any other conclusions I cannot make at this point.

Column c has clue 3 at the bottom and I can’t conclude anything (actually I could but that is more advanced).

Column d has clue 10 and so does h. I can fill them all. In between the columns all have clues 3 and I will leave them like in column c.

Column i has again clue 3 and is left alone.

Column j is interesting. I can make the same conclusion as in b. The block 2 does not reach the bottom. I can also make the conclusion that it can reach only one square upwards. I can delete all the other squares. This is the advantage of rows/columns with only one clue. When you find it, you can exclude squares.

Now that I have checked all the columns, I will go back to rows and start from the bottom. Row 10 has only left 7 squares so I can paint them all and row 9 has left the nine squares and can also be painted.

Now I could go on with the rows, but now the edge is ready. I will go back to the columns and I can see that all the bottom clues are painted. I’ll mark the squares above them because there has to be empty before the other blocks can continue.

I could have done this before but this is the point where I finally have to do it. I mark all the clues I have used and checked.

Back to row 6. Since the right side is nearer the edge I’ll start there. To the right I need a block of 4 and the second square is black. At this point I can’t be sure of the first one, but the third and fourth have to be black.

Ahaa! I can’t paint the fifth because it would be attached to the next one and I would have a block of 5. So the first square was also black and I can mark the fifth square empty.

Now the row has left 3 squares which have to be black. Row 5 is exactly the same as row 6 was.

Row 4 has two one’s and they are there. I can mark all the others empty.

But wait, I have more blocks finished in the columns and now I can check if they match the clues.

Everything is OK, I can mark the 2’s as finished and at the same time I notice that columns b and f are ready.

Now rows 3 and 2 can be painted. There is only one way to get the 3-blocks fit. Row 1 is already finished!

Now the last thing is to check that the column clues agree on the blocks. Everything is fine and the picture is finished.

Sometimes in small puzzles you have a hard time trying to figure out what the picture is supposed to be. In these cases you should look at the picture from very far (or resize it on your computer).

This was easy to see from the big picture but the tiny one is definitely clearer.

Next time I will try to explain solving coloured PAPs. Meanwhile you can try to solve the small PAP on my sidebar :)
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Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Piitu has been furminated! Furminator is a patented tool which has a special edge that removes loose undercoat hair (where shedding begins) and leaves the pet with a shiny, healthier top coat (according to commercials). Katri had read about it in the Corgi forums and decided to buy it on eBay. Once again it was much cheaper than brought here in a pet shop.

I was afraid that Piitu would say no to a treatment like that but she liked it. I think we could have got more hair out but the two of us got our arms tired first. Here Piitu is checking the pile of hair combed out.

And here is a picture how slim she looks like now. Still a lot of hair left.

The experts say that if all the loose hair is combed off we don't have hair all over the place but I think we have to have the treatment again soon.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008


This is the first birthday of my blog. It is unbelievable that a year has passed so quickly. The year has been wonderful! I have learned so much about using the internet and how to find content which is useful. I have met online so many wonderful people all over the world and through them about different cultures and also history. I have learned that the people behind those avatars and icons are real and that connecting through the net is nothing to be afraid of but brings many delightful moments to your life.

Now I am in front of great challenge. I will try to use a blog in teaching in a much larger scale and I will also try to convince more people to get connected by other means than e-mails only. All the experiences I have got are something that is not taught in the universities or schools but I will try to make my effort to change that.

Since I have such a big list of friends I would like to thank for help and support, I will only mention the one who got me into this and has been helping me all the way both technically and mentally.

Thank you Gil :) One year ago I still thought that this is not going to work!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Beauty Queen

As I have written before, Piitu has been attending dog shows. In match shows she has not been very successful before. In match shows the dogs go to the ring as pairs and the pairs are random; they are basically generated by the order the dogs are registered to the show. The two dogs can be totally different breed and even size. The other one gets a red ribbon and is the better one of that pair and the other one gets a blue ribbon. After the dogs have been divided in two, both groups are competing in their own group.

Piitu has got the blue ribbon in all match shows. While I was still in Israel, Piitu got the 4th place in the blue group! She got a bag full of dog food as a prize.
She also attended a real dog show in Raisio Turun elonäyttely. Now she finally got graded as excellent and was 4th in the Junior class.

Since my daughter is very keen on taking Piitu to these shows, we left again yesterday, this time for Helsinki. I think I have been sitting in cars a lot lately taking Piitu everywhere… On the way Piitu once again showed her spirit. She has a harness attached to the safety belt holder, but she decided to travel on the back. The picture is not very good because I was sitting on the front seat, the worst possible place to see her.

Piitu has finally started to understand what dog shows are about. Nowadays she can even stand still for a moment without sitting down and she is also walking in a more dignified manner. When we started, she wanted to run or to go to a totally different direction or she started to jump against Katri. The result was excellent also this time and 4th place in junior bitches.

After the show Piitu met another Corgi Pembroke which looked just like Piitu. At one point we were looking at the other dog and thought that Piitu had once again found a way to escape from the cage. There are small differences in colouring, but from many angles they are so alike!

Here is the "official" picture we took at home

After the show Piitu was very tired and slept and here is a picture which again shows how much cat-like Piitu is. I have never seen a Corgi who sleeps like this. One day she looked like the fox in Firefox logo when sleeping :)

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Free Sudoku Puzzles to Your Mobile Phone

As if Sudoku wasn't addictive enough now it can be played right on a mobile phone for free. Until now I have had puzzles and pens in my bag to feed my addiction. Now I can leave them at home and use my mobile. Amazing experience!Even though I am not very keen on writing text messages I found out that I can play sudoku with just one hand. Check the details on the website and download your own puzzles

read more | digg story

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Finnish vs. Hebrew

Sometimes when you read something and you have no idea what the book or article is talking about because it is either needlessly obscure or overly technical language, in English you use the expression that the text is like Greek to you (at least it is used in British – English). in Israel I learned that the Hebrew version of a similar language is Chinese.

The most amusing thing is that when we Finns don’t understand anything, we use the expression “That was totally Hebrew to me”. I even found the two meanings of the Finnish word Heprea in Wiktionary. There the other meaning is given by the word gibberish.

Our relationship with Hebrew caused some amusement in Israel also. I think that mainly these expressions refer to languages which use exceptional letters. If Finnish is used in this sense in some language, I would really like to know :)

The other funny thing happened when we were landing in Tel Aviv. There were many young people in the plane and when we were on the ground they started singing Shalom Aleichem, which literally means "Peace be upon you".

The song and the verse were familiar to us from the radio and it is a good example of misheard lyrics. Here is the song sung by a little girl and it includes only the necessary part. I found lots of songs in YouTube, but this was the best to demonstrate my point.

What we Finns hear is a Finnish sentence: “Ne vei mun sanomalehden.” The translation to the sentence is “They took my newspaper away” or “They stole my newspaper”. The Finnish version is not exactly written Finnish but it is totally exact when we use spoken Finnish.

I just wonder if this describes the difference between Israeli’s and Finns. They bring the peace to us and we are complaining that they took our newspaper!

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