Peek inside the mind of a puzzle maker
Hidato inventor Gyora Benedek reveals the origins of the popular game.
If you've ever played the number puzzle game Hidato, the last thing you're probably thinking of is fish. But if it weren't for fish, computer scientist and puzzle enthusiast Gyora Benedek might have never created the game.
"I was scuba diving in the Red Sea and I noticed something moving around me. I realized it was a school of fish, but they were moving so fast that I couldn’t see them during the movement, only when they turned. I saw a dark spot and then they disappeared, and so then there were other dots and they appeared there. It was so fascinating that I almost forgot to surface and I almost finished the air in my tank," Benedek told From The Grapevine from his home in Israel.
From there, most people would just shrug and move on. But Benedek, whose mind is always thinking in terms of logic and puzzles, thought it would make for a good mind-bender. Using a computer program he created to track the moves of the knight on a chess board, the sight of fish darting in and out of space turned into the popular game Hidato, which is now published in more than 60 newspapers worldwide. Benedek has also collected hundreds of puzzles in a series of books and designed some to be played online.
This is a beginner-level Hidato beehive puzzle, created exclusively for From The Grapevine, that you can print and solve. Make the path between the circled numbers, making sure consecutive numbers touch each other. The solution is here. (Photo: Courtesy of Gyora Benedek)
The rules of Hidato are straightforward: You essentially have to make a path from one number in the puzzle to the other. So, for example, if you have to fill in the blanks between a "1" and an "8," you need to make sure you place "2" through "7" in an order where each number touches the one before it, either vertically, horizontally or diagonally. The bigger the puzzle, of course, the tougher this is to accomplish, because the number of paths you can take multiply. But, according to Benedek, each puzzle has only one solution.
"I just thought, OK, you have this path and now I’m going to hide some of it," he said about how he developed Hidato. "What happens then? Can you solve it? Are there many solutions? Can I make sure that there’s only one solution? Can I use simple logic to find out what the solution is or the next move should be? Very soon I decided that there should be only one solution, and the solution is to be logical."
This is an intermediate-level Hidato beehive puzzle, created exclusively for From The Grapevine, that you can print and solve. Make the path between the circled numbers, making sure consecutive numbers touch each other. The solution is here. (Photo: Courtesy of Gyora Benedek)
This isn't the first time Benedek (right) has brought a successful game to life; anyone who's played the frustrating but fun Tiger Electronics handheld game Lights Out has Benedek to thank, as well. Benedek and some colleagues from an Israeli tech company invented the game in 1995. The handheld version went on to sell millions of units.
Now, though, Hidato is his passion. Benedek has created two versions of the puzzle, which he says was inspired by Sudoku: the original version is in a rectangular grid, and a newer version is shaped like a honeycomb. The honeycomb version gives the player more ways to connect two numbers together. He creates all the puzzles that are published using software code he wrote. Including the newspaper column, the books, the website and puzzles he creates for himself, Benedek estimates that he generates more than 2,000 unique puzzles per year. And this is in his spare time, when he's not working at Cisco's Israel office as a data security engineer or doing things like thinking of new types of puzzles or watching fish swim while deep sea diving.
This is an advanced-level Hidato beehive puzzle, created exclusively for From The Grapevine, that you can print and solve. Make the path between the circled numbers, making sure consecutive numbers touch each other. The solution is here. (Photo: Courtesy of Gyora Benedek)
Still, it would be fun to sometimes get some recognition for his inventions, he says, as he recalls a funny exchange during a visit to a toy store in the U.S. "The Lights Out [game], when it turns on, it makes a particular sound, and I overheard it. I went let’s see who’s playing with it, and there was a couple, they were just trying to figure out how it works or what it is all about, and I explained it to them. Then the friend I was with told them, 'You know, this is the guy who invented this game.' They just didn’t believe it. I had no way to prove it."
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