Ringword puzzles

By dkl9, written 2024-088, revised 2024-088 (0 revisions)


Ringword puzzles are a type of lexical puzzle, loosely inspired by crosswords, which I invented in late 2023. Every day, I intend to publish a new one on my website. This document serves to explain the format.

Once you understand the format, you can jump straight to today's puzzle or yesterday's.

The solution to a ringword puzzle is a word ring: a sequence of letters, usually 10 to 25 of them. As an example, let's walk thru part of the first puzzle.

1: 3-sphere description: ____ fibration

4: As in beer or as in freedom

6: Small-scale flash memory

9: Male Italian propelling a boat without W

13: Y'all, to the Zulu or Xhosa

15: Chip and cheese

You start with a blank sequence of letters, which must be long enough. The numbers at the start of each clue will be positions in the word ring, so you will need slightly more (say, five more) letters than the number for the final clue.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
1     4   6     9       13  15

Each clue is like that of a crossword: it points cryptically to a word or short phrase as an answer. When you think you know the answer for a clue, write it in starting at the position given. 13 here is obscure, so I'll reveal it: "nina".

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ n i n a _ _ _ _
1     4   6     9       13  15

The words will (and should) overlap, and must agree on the overlap. If you guessed "snack" for 15 — which may seem silly; I'm just making it up — you would see "sn" conflict with the "na" already in place. That means at least one of "nina" and "snack" are wrong.

15 is actually "nacho", which fits with "nina".

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ n i n a c h o _
1     4   6     9       13  15

You might guess "ball" for 1 (again, arbitrary and silly):

b a l l _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ n i n a c h o _
1     4   6     9       13  15

These are called "word rings" for a precise reason. They are topologically rings: the end joins to the start. So "nacho" should overlap with the answer to 1, but "nacho" and "ball" conflict (wherever you place the overlap). That means at least one of "nacho" and "ball" are wrong.

You might guess (say) "olle" for 1:

o l l e _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ n i n a c h o _
1     4   6     9       13  15

That does agree with "nacho" on a one-letter overlap. That is, "nacho" overlaps "na" with "nina", and "o" with "olle", leaving "ch" for "nacho" alone. However, words share all letters but exactly one with neighbours. So at least one of "nacho" and "olle" are wrong.

Clue 1 actually points to "hopf":

h o p f _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ n i n a c h o _
1     4   6     9       13  15

"Hopf" shares "ho" with "nacho", so "nacho" has only "c" to itself, as it should.

You can use what you've already solved as a hint for the other words just beyond it. "Hopf" should have exactly one letter to itself: the "p" between "ho" and "f". So clue 4's word starts with "f". Likewise, "nina" has "i" to itself, sharing "na" with "nacho" and "n" as the end of clue 9's word.

As with crosswords, sometimes the clues are very specialised or obscure. It helps to collaborate with others who know different fields from you. Looking things up also helps, but you may see it (I do) as breaking the spirit of the game.

Once you have a full solution, check that it follows all the bolded rules. It'll probably be obvious when you finish correctly. You can check your solution, or see what you missed, by looking at "yesterday's solution" the next day.