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Puzzle series 8: how to solve Tents

A Tents puzzle
A Tents puzzle
Simon Tatham Portable Puzzle Collection (screenshot)

Tents proves just how simple and yet fun logic puzzles can be. Rather than a boring grid of numbers, tents involves just two items: trees, and tents.

In a square grid filled only with trees, solving the puzzle is done by determining where all the tents go. For each tree, there is one tent in one of the cells directly next to it (not diagonal). The only rule is that tents cannot be adjacent to each other, even diagonally. Each “camper” wants his privacy!

The clues given are numbers along the edges of the puzzle. These numbers indicate the total number of tents in each row and column.

The fun part about tents is that starting out, there are a lot of actions to take. First, mark all rows and columns labeled zero with empty cells – no tents could be found there. Next, mark out any cells that are not directly next to a tree. Tents are never out in the open.

From there, look for the easier trees – ones where there are fewer spots for a tent to go. Trees in a corner have only two possible locations for a tent, and trees on the side of the grid have only three possible spots. Compare these easier trees to the numbered clues. Once a tent is placed, mentally note how many tents are left in that same row, or column. This can help solving other tents.

Low-numbered rows or columns can also help. For example, look for a row labeled two, and see if there are only two trees next to that row where tents could be placed. If so, the tents have to go there because that row must have two tents in it.

The hardest part is when all that is left are groups of trees clumped together. At this point, look at the tree with the fewest available tent spots (the one in the middle, usually). Now look for a tent location near that tree that would prevent that tree from having a tent next to it. Because each tree must have a tent, mark cells like that as empty. If a tent was there, the middle tree wouldn’t be able to have a tent. Remember, tents can’t be anywhere near each other. Marking out these final cells, and comparing again with the clues, may prove to be quite intense (pardon a cruel pun).

As with most of the puzzles covered in this series, Tents is available from the free Simon Tatham collection. Apple device owners will also find it in this excellent collection on the app store.