I enjoy puzzles–especially math and pattern puzzles. I have a collection of various Rubik’s Cubes that I learned to solve without referencing any guides. I’ve worked through several books of Sudoku puzzles along with other math and pattern puzzle books.
I also enjoy learning about Nikola Tesla. I’ve watched many documentaries and I’ve read a lot about him. When I saw “The Nikola Tesla Puzzle Collection,” I thought for sure it would be a lot of fun. It is labeled as “an electrifying series of challenges, enigmas and puzzles.” Perhaps the omission of the Oxford comma should have tipped me off that I would be disappointed.
The Nikola Tesla Puzzle Collection fails to provide enjoyment. There are a few reasons for this that I wanted to share to potentially save others from the frustrations I experienced.
Tales of Tesla
There are riddles scattered through the book, each of them posing as an anecdote about Tesla. They are clearly not authentic tales about Tesla–instead they are just poor attempts at tying the book to Tesla. There indeed are a few nuggets about Tesla in the book, especially near the beginning, but none even remotely noteworthy.
In fact, this book really has nothing to do with Tesla. Putting Tesla’s name and picture on the cover was a cheap (yet effective) ploy to sell more copies. Do not be fooled–this is not a Tesla-themed puzzle book.
If the riddles were good, I might excuse the blatant Tesla rip-off. But they’re not–most of the riddles are terrible and I reached the point of not even attempting them by the halfway point. The “Imposter” riddle was the one that made me conclude that the riddles were not worth my time.
Agent Hardy had been sent on a mission to rescue the particle physicist Doctor Jefferson who claimed to have perfected Tesla’s “Deathray.”
When she arrived at his lab, she was alarmed to find not one but two identical Doctor Jeffersons.
“He’s an imposter!” the two lab-coated men shouted simultaneously.
The quick thinking agent covered both men with her gun and found two syringes in a drawer.
“I’m taking you both back with me,” she said, “but I want a sample of your blood for analysis, right now.”
The “Jefferson” on her left took a syringe and nervously rolled up his sleeve. The one to her right shook his head and backed away.
Agent Hardy’s gun barked, wounding the left-hand Jefferson in the leg before he even applied the syringe.
“Let’s go,” she said to the other.
Can you explain her actions?
I thought about this for a while and knew the answer clearly had to do with the syringe. After failing to find the precise answer to the riddle, I referenced the solution in the back of the book.
Hardy had done her homework and discovered that Doctor Jefferson had a pathological fear of needles.
Um, okay. She just happened to “do her homework” before going to pick him up. She is an agent, so I guess I could buy that. But if a particle physicist had a pathological fear of needles, then why did he happen to have 2 synringes in a drawer? And how would she just happen to find them while covering both men with her gun? Ugh. Whatever.
This isn’t even the worst riddle.
With the tales of Tesla being unauthentic and the riddles being weak, that left only the puzzles as the remaining hope for this book. But there are so many errors in the puzzles that all possible fun was stolen from them too.
There are 68 puzzles in the book. And 7 of them have errors that make them either impossible to solve or to have multiple possible solutions. That’s right, 7 of 68 puzzles were wrong. At a 10% error rate, I could not trust any of the puzzles to be correct. In fact, after the first error, I doubted every single puzzle. When I was stuck, I never knew if it was because I was truly stuck and had not figured it out yet, or if the puzzle had an error making it impossible to solve. This negated all the fun that puzzles offer.
Here are the puzzles I found to be in error:
- Page 27 - Complete the Grid II
- The space shown that you are supposed to fill in is not the space the solution shows filled in
- The space that the puzzle shows needs to be filled should remain blank
- The space the solution shows filled in is blank on the puzzle, which breaks the pattern that would otherwise be identified
- Page 75 - Power Supply III
- The Power Supply puzzes use Roman numerals to show how many power supplies should be in each row and column
- It has a 0 in some rows and columns–this is nit-picky, but perhaps they should have choosen a number system that included a zero
- There’s also a number “1” in one of the columns–sigh
- But the puzzle is impossible–the solution shows 2 power supplies in a column that is supposed to have 3, so the solution itself does not adhere to the rules of the puzzle
- Page 99 - Value System VII
- You are supposed to work out the values of different items and figure out the missing sum value for a row of those items
- Another row exists with the same items in it, revealing the answer without any work
- But even with this, the solution shows the wrong answer. The answer is 19, but the solution says 26 is the sum. However, it’s clear that 19 is the true answer since the individual values add up to 19.
- Page 113 - Value System VIII
- The combination of items already exists on this puzzle too, revealing the answer
- The answer is 26, which was the supposed answer for the previous Value System puzzle
- Page 120 - Technical Support
- This puzzle has a missing clue
- It leaves an ambiguous situation where there could be multiple answers
- There are typos and other printing errors on the puzzle–it is so sloppy that it’s clear there was no final proof-reading of the puzzle
- Page 146 - Power Supply VII
- This puzzle has two possible solutions that are both valid
- Page 78 - Bagels
- This was a more of a math riddle than a puzzle
- The riddle works up to a question of “Does the bagel seller make a profit at all?”
- The solution reveals two numbers for how much profit is made. “The bagel seller makes a daily profit of $0.78, just enough to buy his next consignment and pocketing a meagre six cents.”
- The statement about the meagre six cents is misleading–profit is profit; it does not matter how much the next day’s consignment will cost.
Why Finish the Book
With so many frustrations, I was tempted to just pitch the book halfway through. I decided to finish it for 2 reasons. First, I became intrigued by the error rate of the puzzles–I wanted to count up the puzzles and errors. Second, I decided the errors were so bad, it would be cathartic to write a review of the book and perhaps help even just one person avoid the irritation the book provides.