The Commuter Challenge

2 October 2011

The October 2011 Challenge

by CC @ 17:52

The challenge for this month is to construct a sequential word-association puzzle.

Take a look at the online puzzle From A to craZy if you haven’t seen it before. At each step, the game gives you a word (or short phrase), and requires you to supply the appropriate next word (or phrase). The object of the puzzle is to work out the proper association for each entry before you can proceed to the next one. The challenges start out extremely easy at first, allowing you to get a sense for the sort of thinking required as it gets progressively harder. The association linking each pair is unique, but they all follow the overarching sequence.

Your challenge is to create your own puzzle that is made up of a sequence of association puzzles. The puzzles don’t need to be of the word association type; they might involve sentences, numbers, or maybe even illustrations. Anything goes, as long as there is a definite answer at each step. Likewise, the puzzles don’t need to be tied to a strict sequence (like the alphabet), as long as there is some obvious theme to guide the player along.

Your puzzle can be of any length, but should have at least eight distinct steps, starting out easy and getting progressively more difficult.

The Results

Ryan Finholm

What Comes Next?

Brian Raiter

Month To Month



  1. I went to the puzzle and at level 4, hit the google. I feel dirty now, especially since I used what I found to solve the puzzle. I actually wrote a message to the author explaining how I cheated. This puzzle reminds me of Says You on NPR and somewhat the netflix radio ad campaign.

    by Graham — 22 October 2011 @ 05:01

  2. You should atone for your weakness by submitting one of your own, then. Clearly.

    by Brian — 25 October 2011 @ 03:45

  3. I worked my way through Ryan’s puzzle over a period of about 30 minutes, until I came to the final entry, which left me stumped. After banging my head on it off and on for about 24 hours, I happened onto the correct answer, but without understanding why. A few hours later, I finally figured out the theme, whereupon I was much relieved. Up until that moment I had been quite confused by the lack of apparent connection between the stages, and in my desperation was beginning to wonder if Ryan had lost his mind and produced something completely opaque. Well played, Mr. Finholm.

    by Brian — 1 November 2011 @ 21:32

  4. I actually created “Orrery” on October 1st, just to see how hard it would be to create something that met the requirements of the challenge. I thought it would be too hard to have the difficulty ramp up on slowly on such a short puzzle, so I didn’t expect to use it. But I found myself coming back to it occasionally during the month, and little by little I managed to tweak it into what I felt was a pretty good sequence.

    My initial plan had been to make a number-based sequence, but to my surprise I had a hard time coming up with good ideas for it that didn’t feel too difficult. Maybe if my audience had been other math-geeks, it would have been different. Instead, I wound up creating “Month To Month”. I had a decent version by mid-month, and managed to get in a small amount of play-testing with friends. Based on the results of that I rejiggered a few steps, and got what you see here.

    by Brian — 2 November 2011 @ 00:37

  5. I didn’t know there was another Says You listener around here. One of my favorite shows; I’ve even been to a couple tapings and you can hear me yelling out an answer at a couple points.

    by Eric — 5 November 2011 @ 15:51

  6. I was not wild about this challenge, probably mostly because I thought that “From A to craZy” puzzle was annoying rather than interesting. So I wanted to do something a little different with my entry, and make something that was hopefully not obvious until the last puzzle brought the whole group of them together. I was gratified to hear that Brian’s experience of it was exactly what I’d intended.

    Also, in contrast to “From A to craZy”, I thought both of Brian’s submissions were fun and engaging. I had to look up everything on the internets, but it was a good learning experience. I was flummoxed for a while on the last puzzle in Month to Month, and then again for the second to last puzzle for Orrery, but that made it all the better when I finally figured them out.

    by RyanF — 17 December 2011 @ 13:56

  7. Alas Brian, to paraphrase, I drive and so I am not as intelligent. (Repo Man) I did a nice reply back from the A to craZy puzzle maker. He commented that he made that puzzle too hard.

    by Graham — 17 March 2012 @ 20:57

  8. from: Igor Naverniouk

    Hi Graham.
    Thank you for the kind words. No worries about the cheating. I made that game way too hard.
    Here is another game I made:
    You can play this one together with your friends.

    On Sat, Oct 22, 2011 at 4:53 AM, wrote:


    I got to level four (accition) and instead of thinking more, I just put
    that “word” into a Google search bar and it gave me in the first few
    links a puzzlers blog and then a link to a list of words. Â I feel
    admonished by your comment at the end, but then perhaps the million
    monkeys with typewriters – now with the ability to swarm their thoughts
    on the internet and their irrepressible need for praise – made for quick
    work on what might otherwise have challenged me for a much longer time.

    On to the cheat confession:

    Puzzler blog:
    This thread gives some things away, but not all of them. Â has a complete solution to your puzzle.
    Although I put in SEE and not SEA and that still worked, so obviously BEE
    to ? was anything that “sounded” like “C”. Â Reading your CV it
    appears that you are doing natural language parsing. Â Very cool.

    Is that similar to the soundex code written in MUMPS in the Composite
    Health Care System? Â It also does a search for matches which sound like
    your input when searching for patient names.

    I found the link to your puzzle site here:
    where two of my college friends have been having a monthly creativity
    challenge for quite some time now. Â Your puzzle A to craZy is the
    inspiration for their attempting to come up with similar puzzles of
    their own.

    Thanks and hope my message finds you well and engaged on another
    passionate coding project.

    Graham Watt

    by Graham — 17 March 2012 @ 21:11