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The Problem with 100 Prisoners

In our last blog post, we told you about Glen Whitney and his Museum of Mathematics.  In the months leading up to its grand opening, the museum is helping sponsor Math Encounters, a presentation and discussion series that promotes learning and the beauty of mathematics.  In one of these presentations, the mathematician Peter Winkler presented audience members with a few puzzles.  Evelyn Lamb, from the Scientific American, attended the presentation and offers up an interesting puzzle and a clear explanation of the solution.  Her article is here, but if you want to figure it out on your own, the puzzle itself is presented below.

“A prison has 100 prisoners, and the sadistic warden has decided that tonight, all the prisoners will be set free or die. In order to toy with them, the warden decides that they will determine their own fate. In a separate room, he will write down each prisoner’s name and put it in a box at random. One by one, the prisoners will enter the room and open 50 boxes each. If every prisoner opens the box with his own name, the prisoners all live. If any prisoner fails to find his name, all the prisoners will die. The prisoners can decide on a strategy beforehand, but they cannot confer once the first prisoner has begun opening boxes. What should the prisoners’ strategy be to maximize their chance of seeing another dawn?”

Well, what do you think KenKen-ers?  Comment or send us a message with your solution!

Happy KenKening! visit www.kenken.com for Today’s puzzles!

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A Math Museum and its Champion

How many math museums would you guess there are in the entire United States of America?  100?  200?  Well, there are exactly 0.  But have no fear, one is opening later this year!  It’s the Museum of Mathematics, and it’s located in Manhattan.  Glen Whitney, who was first a math professor, then a hedge-fund manager, and now the executive director of the Museum of Mathematics is the driving force behind the museum, which will open in December of this year.

Mr. Whitney has set himself a mission to increase awareness of mathematics, especially how beautiful and exciting they can really be, and also to demystify the subject for people who maybe aren’t the biggest fans of math.  It’s not always easy to change cultural attitudes about something like math, which many people have disliked since their school days, but the Museum of Mathematics seems poised to move us toward a better appreciation for math.  Most importantly, it will teach children about the wonder that math can provide, and hopefully give them a lifelong passion for the subject.

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Is KenKen the Ultimate Code?

This article discusses how mathematicians have found a way to encrypt images in Sudoku puzzles.  The huge variety of possible number combinations in solutions to different Sudoku puzzles means that, once a picture is matched up, pixel for pixel, with a Sudoku grid and then scrambled, it becomes very difficult to decode the puzzle and see the image unless you know what functions were used to scramble the picture in the first place.  Basically, they match each pixel up with a number, then randomize the grid.  Then, when they want to see the original picture, they just have to solve the Sudoku puzzle.

But (and I know you’re all thinking it) what about KenKen?  Well, KenKenâ is often said to be Sudoku with real math, so maybe a KenKen puzzle would make an even better encryption matrix than a Sudoku.  Since there are so many possibilities for each KenKen grid based on the layout of the cages and the operations used, maybe KenKen would be an even better type of code.  What do you think?

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How Hard is that Puzzle, Really?

Happy Friday, all KenKen fans!

Recently, Maria Ercsey-Ravasz and Zoltan Toroczai have figured out a way to quantify and describe the difficulty level of Sudoku puzzles.  They call it a “Richter Scale” of puzzle hardness that ranges from 1 (the easiest puzzles) to 4 (the most insanely difficult puzzle imaginable), and you can read a little bit more about it here.  They developed an algorithm that solves a Sudoku puzzle, then categorizes the puzzle’s difficulty based on the time it takes the algorithm to come up with an answer.

Even though Toroczai and Ercsey-Ravasz are working with Sudoku, the same principles and even a similar algorithm could be applied to KenKen puzzles.  The question is, would the computer think KenKenâ was more difficult, on average, than Sudoku?  The operations in KenKen allow for more variation, but they also might shrink the pool of possible solutions that the algorithm would have to test for each puzzle.  So what do you think: would this algorithm have more trouble with KenKen than it has with Sudoku?

We know you’re not a computer algorithm, but that doesn’t mean you can’t head over to KenKen.com and solve puzzles as fast as you can.

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KenKen Secrets — Revealed!

Some of you KenKen-ers out there have probably mastered the easy and medium level puzzles, but are still having some trouble with the more difficult ones.  Sure, you can solve them sometimes, but you want to be a better, faster, stronger KenKen solver.

Have no fear KenKen acolytes, David Levy is here to save the day!  If you want to dramatically improve your puzzling skills, visit our website for some of David’s tips on how to elevate your KenKen game to the next level.  After learning how to think about KenKen puzzles in new ways and how to pinpoint the possible numbers that belong in each square and each cage, head on over to KenKen.com to try out your newfound skills on some of our hardest puzzles.  Happy KenKen-ing!

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The Chess Master behind the Kenerator

David Levy was awarded the title of International Chess Master in 1969, when he was only twenty-four years old.  After years as a professional chess player and writer, he turned his focus to artificial intelligence, especially as it related to chess-playing computers.  In 1968, Mr. Levy famously bet that no computer program would be able to beat him in chess within ten years, a bet that he won.  In 1978, Levy extended the bet, offering $1,000 dollars to the makers of the first program to beat him.  In 1989 Levy finally lost this bet to a program called Deep Thought, a forerunner of the famous Deep Blue that beat World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov in 1997.  Also in 1997, David Levy won the first of his two Loebner Prizes for designing a program that simulates human conversation (through messages on a keyboard) extraordinarily well.

Which brings us to the world-famous Kenerator, the program that creates the countless KenKenÒ puzzles that you know and love.  Working with Tetsuya Miyamoto, David used all of his artificial intelligence knowledge and expertise to craft a program that would be able to churn out KenKen puzzles at a pace fast enough to keep all you KenKen-ers satisfied.  We think he succeeded wonderfully, and if you feel like testing out some the Kenerator’s creations, head on over to KenKen.com to give it a try!

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Two Kens are Better than One

Here at KenKen® we’ve been thinking about the different sets of Kens and the projects we’d like to see them work on together.  Here are a few that we’ve come up with:

Ken Burns comes out with a new documentary that follows Ken Jennings‘ remarkable ‘Jeopardy!’ run.  He calls it – “Jeopardy!: The Game Show that Changed a Nation”

Ken Dryden and Ken Griffey Jr. team up to promote their new sport.  It’s a home run derby in a narrow hallway, and the pitcher is wearing goalie pads.

Ken Watanabe and Kenneth from 30 Rock star in a new film – “Inception 2: The Hillbilly Chronicles”

Ken Jeong stars in a new biopic of Ken Kesey.  The film is basically 15 minutes about research for “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and 80 minutes of Ken Jeong on LSD at parties, the majority of it spent naked.

Think you have a better pair of Kens in mind?  Send it to us.

But for the two best Kens in the world, go to KenKen.com, and see what all the fuss is about.

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National Brain Game Challenge

For all those KenKen puzzlers who know that games and puzzles are great for maintaining brain health, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of American (AFA) is holding their 2nd annual National Brain Game Challenge.  The contest, which begins on September 30th, offers a $2,500 grand prize for the puzzler who is the first to correctly solve an online game of skill created specially by the great crossword-builder Merl Reagle.

Entrants in the contest will be supporting the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America and helping spread the message that puzzles like KenKen are essential tools in the fight against Alzheimer’s and other degenerative brain conditions.  Speaking of essential tools, if you like puzzles or know that mental exercise is essential for brain health, you should check out KenKen.com, where you can find new KenKen puzzles every day.  Whether you choose to participate in the National Brain Game Challenge or not, remember that mental exercise and puzzles are great ways to maintain your memory, problem solving skills, and brain health, so keep on KenKen-ing!

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Introducing LuLu the ‘KenKen Guru’

As you know, the KenKen® Classroom Program (KKCR) distributes free KenKen puzzle sets to teachers every week.  What you might not know is that they’re being delivered by the one and only LuLu.

LuLu the ‘KenKen Guru’ brings KenKen puzzles to classrooms all over the world every week to help students improve their math and problem solving skills.  To learn more about LuLu, check out our latest press release: Introducing LuLu the ‘KenKen Guru’.

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Mental Exercise is the Key to Brain Health

If you want to keep your brain healthy, your memory sharp, and your problem solving skills keen, you need to do some mental exercise.  Now, here at KenKen® Puzzle LLC, we know that mental exercise is essential and that puzzles are a great way to get that work-out (Why else do you think want you to do KenKen?).  We already know the value of puzzling, but some people are just finding out.

This article outlines a few techniques for improving your memory and keeping your brain healthy and alert and, no surprise, KenKen is one of the first ones mentioned.  So take our advice and do some KenKen puzzles – your brain will thank you for it.

Oh, and by the way, new KenKen puzzles can be found for free every day at KenKen.com.