I had the pleasure of seeing Don Knuth present the "Nikoli Puzzle Favors" that is in this book. Nikoli is a leading publisher of japanese-style logic puzzles, which tend to have no words, such as sudoku, slitherlink, or number link. In Slitherlink, you must find a closed loop in a grid, so that for any numbers in the grid, the loop touches the number that many times.
Knuth implemented a solving method, and then investigated having more than one loop. He calls this variation Skimperlink.
One paper in here on leaper tours (like a knight tour in chess) affected my college work. I was working on a thesis for leaper tours, when Knuth published his paper, going far beyond anything I'd planned. I had to change my thesis.
Word cubes, magic squares, chess variants, and many types of puzzle fill out 49 chapters. One huge chapter on the 1977 computer game Adventure (pages 235-394) is perhaps excessive.
He writes about one of his first forays into algorithms, as an 8th grader, trying to make the most words out of "Ziegler's Giant Bar" in a 1951 TV contest. He told his parents he had a stomach ache and worked on the problem, gradually figuring out better ways to solve it. He won the contest with 4766 words.
This is a very fun book.
on June 7, 2011
The book is fun to read. Each chapter is an independent piece to analyze. Knuth added many personal notes to the papers, some of which he wrote a long time ago (the papers span more than 50 years). Knuth enjoys combinatorics and we can see that throughout this book. Notice the size of that book: over 700 pages.
The chapter on vanity plates contains many interesting details. Knuth took the time to look beyond the USA to cover the subject. I was pleased to read the peculiar rules for the province of Quebec in Canada: drivers can have any vanity plate they like (at no extra charge) for the front of their car(s). In California, the state where Don Knuth lives, the calling sequence on a vanity plate must be unique (and there is an extra cost). Think about the differences in liberty. Oddly, Knuth never made a choice on a vanity plate for his own car.
There is a very long chapter on the Adventure game. The chapter is long since it presents Knuth's version of the program using literate programming. If you have never encountered that style of program presentation, it will be a refreshing discovery.
on May 30, 2011
My paperback copy arrived sans pages 230 through 262, but pages 263 through 294 were repeated, no doubt to make the total page count more correct, but leaving the Adventure game program sort of at the point I had progressed to when I last played it. However, Amazon has promised to send me a presumably more accurate book in exchange for me sending my (unique?) copy back to them.
Update: June 3, 2011
Last evening Amazon sent me an email informing me of their receipt of the defective book that I returned. This morning I received a replacement copy. Unfortunately, the replacement has the same problems the first copy had. Considering the postal delivery time, I do not think Amazon could have received my returned book and shipped it right back to me, so my first copy was not unique after all. The post office and UPS may be the real winners here.
Update: June 6, 2011
My third copy arrived this morning, and it seems to be missing the imperfections of the first two, therefore my rating has been adjusted from one star to five stars. (I have not read the book yet, but anything by Knuth rates high with me, in spite of my having several of his checks...when he used to write them.)
I complement Amazon for their efficient processing except they seem to have paid little attention, if any, to what the problem was.