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The 15 Puzzle: How it Drove the World Crazy by Jerry Slocum and Dic Sonneveld

Summary: The 15 Puzzle: How it Drove the World Crazy
by Jerry Slocum and Dic Sonneveld
The Slocum Puzzle Foundation, 2006.
Hardcover, 144 pages, $30.00. ISBN 1890980153
Some years ago, I wrote an article about the 15 puzzle that began, "In the 1870's the impish
puzzlemaker Sam Loyd caused quite a stir in the United States, Britain, and Europe with his
now-famous 15-puzzle" [1]. I've always been pleased with myself for managing to slip the word
"impish" into a published mathematics article. As it turns out, this devilish descriptor was the
most accurate part of that sentence, as Slocum and Sonneveld document in their new book The 15
Puzzle: How it Drove the World Crazy. The 15 puzzle did once cause an intense craze that spread
like wildfire across America and overseas, and it is indeed famous to this day. However, the initial
fad did not occur until 1880, and Sam Loyd had nothing to do with it until eleven years later,
when he started to claim in print that he had invented the puzzle. Through meticulous research
using primary sources, Slocum and Sonneveld not only expose Sam Loyd's fraudulent claims, but
also argue convincingly that the actual inventor was Noyes Chapman, the postmaster of Canastota,
New York.
The 15 puzzle is a sliding block puzzle consisting of 15 numbered square blocks placed inside a
frame large enough to accommodate 16 blocks in a 4 by 4 grid (see Figure ***). The empty space
allows the solver to slide any of the adjacent blocks into the space. Given a starting configuration,
the puzzle is to reach some specified target configuration via a sequence of such moves. The


Source: Archer, Aaron - Algorithms and Optimization Group, AT&T Labs-Research


Collections: Computer Technologies and Information Sciences