Linguistically-Themed Pseudo-Nihonese Puzzles
From Speculative Grammarian CLI.2-CLVII.η, April 2006-July 2009
Reviewed by Ἔλλειψις Ἀστερίσκος and Ἔλλειψις Ἀπόστροφος
We remember when sudoku first came onto the scene—the math and science nerds lapped it up like they’d been waiting their whole lives for it. A few brave cultural anthropologists tried to stay relevant during The Sudoku Crisis of 2004/2005 by commenting on the puzzle’s recent Japanese origins—but nobody was listening. The rest of us social scientists tried to keep up, but generally we couldn’t. Oh, a few computational phonologists reduced the whole thing to a set of simultaneous constraints and set their automatic resolvers loose on it—but no one was that impressed.
Then came Lingdoku. The first one (Jones, 2006, SpecGram CLI.2) was admittedly little more than a joke—so easy for anyone with a B+ or better in Phonetics that it was hardly worth noticing. But it was clever, and amusing, and—it just so happens—not at all easy for those who had not gotten a B+ or better in Phonetics. Y’know, like mathematicians, physicists, chemists, and all those other sudoku-loving, hard-science–doing, linguist-annoying dorks. Not easy at all.
Lingdoku II (Jones, 2006, SpecGram CLI.3) was a genuine challenge for linguistically inclined sudokuists, and cemented Lingdoku as something a linguist could proudly post on an office or cubby door to confound the unwary non-linguist who happened to wander into the department uninvited. And like modern-day hipsters (before anyone had even heard of hipsters—so meta!) those linguists could dismiss anyone uncool and uncouth enough to ask about it by telling the unfortunate interlocutors that they’d probably never heard of it, and wouldn’t understand the irony anyway.
Samurai Lingdoku (Jones, 2006, SpecGram CLI.4) and Monster Lingdoku (Jones, 2007, SpecGram CLIII.1) followed, in an apparent attempt to be too “cool” for anyone to actually complete—though a few stalwart souls apparently did so. No matter, as their near-impossibility rendered them far more effective weapons for those linguists whose non-linguist colleagues had successfully scaled Mount Lingdoku II.
As the months and years progressed, more puzzles (and puzzle types) with the implicit (or often explicit) goal of introducing “a thin veneer of linguistics which confuses outsiders while making linguists feel superior” appeared in the pages of SpecGram.
Masyu Ortograpiu I (Jones, 2007, SpecGram CLII.1) and II (Jones, 2008, SpecGram CLIII.3)—a variant of the Masyu form, based on the typology of writing systems.
HitoriGuistiku I (Jones, 2007, SpecGram CLII.2) and II (Jones, 2007, SpecGram CLIII.2)—a variant of the Hitori form, using place and manner of articulation of IPA symbols, or syllable-initial phonemes of the Cherokee syllabary as constraints.
FonoNurikabe (Jones, 2007, SpecGram CLII.3)—a simple extension of the Nurikabe form, using clues based on phone classes.
HomonimoKakuro (Jones, 2007, SpecGram CLII.4)—a little twist to the usually arithmetical Kakuro, based on the spelling of homonyms.
HanjieLinguru I (Jones, 2008, SpecGram CLIV.2), II (Jones, 2008, SpecGram CLIV.4), and III (Jones, 2008, SpecGram CLV.2)—a simple extension of the Hanjie form, using clues based on the frequency of phone classes or letters of various alphabets.
FonoFutoshiki I (ber Sarkur, 2009, SpecGram CLVI.1), II (ber Sarkur, 2009, SpecGram CLVI.3), and III (ber Sarkur, 2009, SpecGram CLVII.η)—a variation of normal Futoshiki puzzles, but rather than being based on which numbers are larger than which, FonoFutoshiki is based on which vowels are more raised or which fricatives are more back than which.
HashiWordakero (Mamihlapinatapai, 2009, SpecGram CLVII.η)—a variant Hashiwokakero, using clues based on the number of letters occurring in the instructions.
The late Noughties were a great time for linguist-puzzlers! The only thing better for helping linguist-puzzlers to get ahead that has appeared in SpecGram was the E’s-y Cryptogram (Einigkeit, 2009, SpecGram CLVII.η)!
The answers to last month’s EtymGeo™—Weird Little U.S. Towns, Part V puzzle are: Home, Ohio; Okay, Oklahoma; Boring, Oregon; Panic, Pennsylvania; Purgatory, Rhode Island; Coward, South Carolina; Epiphany, South Dakota; and Difficult, Tennessee.