A friend shared a link to an unusual puzzle (click for a full-page PDF):
Each row has a regular expression indicating the letters to fill the row. Each cell is at the intersection of three rows, so there are a number of constraints to satisfy at each point.
Overlapping constraints are a good basis for logic puzzles. Sudoku, Ken-Ken, Nonograms, and plenty of other puzzle forms follow the same recipe: determine the contents of a cell, based on multiple simultaneous constraints.
But the regexes here add an extra dimension. Each of the regexes here has a different form, resulting in different levels of information. Two rows have .*, or no information at all. Another has [CR]*, so we know the entire row is C’s and R’s. Each row has a different regex, so the interaction is varied across the grid.
I wrote to the author, Dan Gulotta, about how he constructed it, and he told me,
I constructed the letter grid by building it up a few letters at a time. I started out with a blank grid and all of the regular expressions set to ‘.*’. At each step, I would find a place where I wanted to add a few letters to the grid and then see if I could replace some regular expressions with more constrained ones in order to force those letters to be there. In this way, I was able to ensure that the solution was unique.
A few times during my solving of the puzzle, I used the classic piece of puzzle meta-information as part of the deduction: there is a unique solution. A friend of mine said he solved it without using that fact, but I don’t see a reason to avoid it.
By the way, I didn’t realize this when I solved it, but there’s another level to the puzzle, which is to identify the phrase in it. It was part of the 2013 MIT Mystery Hunt.