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How Can Solving Sudoku and Wordle Enhance Your Critical Thinking Skills?


Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Rangsk, a Wordle and Sudoku YouTuber. Join us as we chat about critical thinking, problem-solving, and why puzzles are a great way to practice and improve your thinking.

You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our conversation with Rangsk.

Who is Rangsk?

I’m a big word puzzle fan. Sudoku, Wordle, Connections, I love ’em all! I think they’re a great way to warm up your brain and stay sharp. That’s why I was so excited to sit down with this week’s guest, Rangsk. His YouTube and TikTok videos have helped me become a better puzzle solver, and I wanted to bring him on the pod to talk through his unique approach.

Rangsk first got into puzzle solving via a recommended video on YouTube for Cracking the Cryptic. He fell down the rabbit hole and became obsessed with the logic game that happens behind the numbers. He created his own sudokus and started posting walkthrough videos of how he made them and how to solve them.

Rangsk’s channel has grown exponentially since then. The thing that sticks out to me about his content is the tone: he’s positive, gentle, and clear. He really helps you become a better critical thinker, and have some fun along the way.

Word games are logic puzzles

“I approach word games as if they were logic puzzles,” Rangsk says. “You’re given information and you want to come up with the best possible guess to utilize that information and get as much information as you can.”

Some feedback Rangsk often gets about his solves is that he’s “overthinking it.” For him, that misses the point of doing these sorts of puzzles in the first place. Yes, you can brute force a sudoku or get a lucky guess on a Wordle. But what do you learn from that?

As Rangsk puts it, “it’s a single player game, there are no stakes to it. The only person you’re cheating is yourself.”

Practice your critical thinking skills

Instead, Rangsk recommends using puzzles as a low-stakes opportunity to practice thinking through things logically. It’s an opportunity to build up your critical thinking skills for when there’s more on the line than beating your high score.

At the end of the day, it’s all about learning. Whether you solve a puzzle or get stuck halfway through, Rangsk encourages you take a close look at your thought process and learn from it. Why did you solve it? Why did you get stuck? It’s the chance to learn about yourself and how you think through things that makes these puzzles worthwhile.

Listen to the full episode for more from Rangsk on when it’s OK to hit the hint button, and some other word puzzles you might like if you’re already hooked on Wordle. And don’t forget to subscribe to hear more from the Salesforce Admins Podcast.

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Full show transcript

Mike Gerholdt:
Wordle, Strands, Connections, not just random words, but word games. And I am addicted to them. So, this week on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, I had to get arguably the best word and logic solver I can find from TikTok and YouTube on the podcast. He goes by Rangsk on TikTok, and I’ll put a link below.

But David and I are talking about critical thinking and problem-solving using word games. Also, just how that applies to life. This is a phenomenal conversation. Don’t be scared about the time because this is such a fun discussion. Also, how looking for answers and the journey of problem solving really applies to just everything that we do, not only as Salesforce admins, but in our learning journeys and as we navigate life.

So, this is fun. Let’s get David on the podcast. So, David, welcome to the podcast.

Well, thank you.

Mike Gerholdt:
I’m glad to have you on. I feel this is one of those times where I’m way more the super fanboy because I have seen a ton of your TikTok videos and your New York Times solves. But without tipping too much, how did you get into word gaming and solving word games online?

Well, it’s a long story, but I can give the short version. Basically, YouTube likes to give random recommendations, and one day it recommended me a Sudoku video by Cracking the Cryptic. And I was familiar with Sudoku because it was a huge craze in the early 2000s. Do you remember that?

Mike Gerholdt:
Oh, yeah. Absolutely.

Everyone was doing Sudoku.

Mike Gerholdt:
On the planes, there were books. Every airport had a Sudoku book.

Yeah. And so, I got into that craze back then, but then I burned out of it. And now, I realize it’s because of the way I was solving it. It’s because of the way everyone was solving it, it burned out quickly. But I was like, “You know what? Sudoku, I’m familiar with that.” I clicked the video and I just immediately got hooked because this was not the Sudoku that I used to do.

And I just really got hooked on watching Cracking the Cryptic on YouTube and the various different kinds of logic puzzles that they solve. And then, I actually started creating my own Sudoku puzzles. I crafted them myself. And I would do things like… I would submit them to Cracking the Cryptic. They actually have solved a few of my puzzles in the past.

Mike Gerholdt:

Featured in front of tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people, which is great. And what I wanted to do is I wanted to document how I intended those puzzles to be solved and walk through the logic of them. Because I’ve always been… I had sort of an instructor mindset. I’ve always liked teaching. I’ve never been a teacher, but I’ve always liked teaching anyway.

And so, I decided to make my own videos where I walked through how to solve my own puzzles and I just uploaded them to my YouTube channel, which had nothing otherwise. And one day, Cracking the Cryptic featured one of my puzzles, and I commented saying, “Hey, I’ve got a walkthrough solve of this on my channel if anyone’s interested.” And I instantly gained 200, 300 subscribers.

Mike Gerholdt:
Oh, wow.

And at that point, I was like, “Well, I better start making content.” So, I decided, “Hey, maybe I’ll start solving Sudoku’s on there, not just my own, and see if I can grow that audience.” And I was really enjoying the feedback I was getting from that. Flash forward to Wordle becoming popular, I was very much entrenched at that point within the logic puzzle community.

And Wordle, of course, really became popular within that community. And so, I decided, “Well, I’m already making Sudoku content. Why don’t I make YouTube shorts where I solve Wordle?” And so, that’s really where I get started on that. And then, I went from… it had taken me two years to reach a thousand subscribers where I could finally monetize on YouTube. And then, within two months, my Wordle shorts had brought me to 10,000 subscribers.

Mike Gerholdt:

And so, that was like, wow, Wordle’s my thing, I guess. And so, I decided just to… in addition to my Sudoku content, I started making word game content as well.

Mike Gerholdt:
Yeah, I definitely was on the sideline for the Wordle wave. I remember it kind of crashing through. And I feel like for me, it was, “Oh, everybody’s playing it, so I’m not going to play it.” I also was afraid that I would never get a word. “Oh, man.” Because my Facebook feed was filled with all of the little Wordle squares that everybody would post. I’m like, “Oh, I know so-and-so.”

I know some book editors and I know some people that are in the education space, and they were struggling with Wordle. And I was like, “I have no shot. Maybe I just shouldn’t play this.” But now that I’ve played it, I confess, today is my 40th day playing Wordle.

Okay. I hope you’re enjoying it.

Mike Gerholdt:
I am. I also have come now to the realization that I will never get it in one word. So, I have purposely looked ahead to see what words haven’t been used as solutions, and then picked my beginning word now pending, the solution hasn’t happened. My beginning word now is spoil because it has two vowels in it and it hasn’t been used as a solution.

Got you. Yeah. So, for me, getting word in one, of course, it would be exciting, but I would also feel a bit cheated because I didn’t get to play that day.

Mike Gerholdt:

And to me, Wordle… I’m very much a logic puzzle guy. I approach even word games as if they were logic puzzles. And I think that’s why I like Wordle so much is because you can treat it like a logic puzzle, where you’re given information and then you want to come up with the best possible guess to utilize that information and get as much information as you can more.

And you think about patterns in the words, not just, “Here’s all the words I know,” but “Okay, E likes to be at the end. R likes to be second. These letters like to be near each other. These letters don’t like to be near each other.” And so, you can kind of think about the patterns that you notice within words. And of course, every once in a while, you get tripped up by a weird word that comes from French or something and doesn’t follow any of the rules.

But even then, you get there by logically eliminating, it’s not a regular word. So, I now have to investigate, is it one of those weird esoteric ones that came from French, for example, or came from a different language? So, yeah, I like to approach it as a logic problem, and I think that’s why people enjoy watching me solve it. I constantly get feedback, “I’m better at the game after watching you play it.”

That warms my heart. That’s exactly what I want. I’m not out here trying to impress people. I’m not trying to be a magician. I’m trying to be an instructor, and I’m trying to get people to understand that these games can be approached from a logical perspective. You can learn to get better at it without just going and memorizing a bunch of words.

Mike Gerholdt:
Right. Perfect segue to exactly why I’m having you on the podcast, because I ran across one of your TikTok videos on Connections, and I’d never played Connections. And the tone and the manner, now that you say instructor, I joked with a colleague that I called you the Bob Ross of Connections. But your tone was very calming.

“And let’s work through this, and here’s all the words. We have to come up with four groups of four. Let me walk you through the way I’m going to think through this,” which your logic or your critical thinking. And it wasn’t just, “Well, these four have to go together. Why don’t those go together?” And it’s like, “No, but let’s think about every possible meaning of this one word.”

Or I love when you, especially on some of the Connections, “What is the, not weirdest, but what is the farthest outlying word? And let’s pick that and see how it can connect to other things.”

Yeah, I’m glad you recognized both my logical approach, but also the demeanor that I try to give to my content. I’ve been called Bob Ross by more than just yourself, also Mr. Rogers. Just having that calming presence is really important to me because people have so much going on in their lives. They have stress coming from everywhere, and then they try to escape that with the free time that they have.

They’re scrolling TikTok or they’re scrolling YouTube or whatever it is. And when you do that, you’re just getting people yelling at you. You’re getting people trying to make you afraid, trying to make you angry. And I want to counter that. I want to be a place where I come up on your feed and you feel like, “Okay, this is a setting where I can understand what’s going on. I’m not being yelled at.”

“Things are calm, things are straightforward and I’m learning, but I don’t feel like I’m being talked at.” I don’t know the best way to put that.

Mike Gerholdt:
Or chastise. I mean really, because I think that’s one thing, how this kind of carries over to software is critical thinking, but also when you’re building applications or you’re building programs, it’s change that you’re going to introduce to somebody. And I’ve always told people, when you roll out something, nobody wants to show up to work and feel stupid.

And the easiest way to feel stupid is by showing them something they don’t understand. And you can walk into some of these games and be like, “I don’t understand. It doesn’t make sense.” And then, it makes you feel stupid when actually if you just sit and look at it.

To me, I use a few of these games in the morning when I have a cup of coffee to kind of warm my brain up, kind of get me thinking through the day and sitting there thinking, “Okay,” so this word for example, and maybe Connections is coat. Okay. So, coat and I started, “Well, how would David describe this?” Well, coat could be a jacket. Coat could be a heavy coat.

Coat could also, you coat something with paint. I try to use some of the stuff that you teach to like, how would I talk through this and not just take it as the first thing that comes to mind?

Right. And I get a lot of feedback, which I honestly don’t appreciate very much because it’s counter to what I’m trying to put across, which means I’m not communicating that effectively enough. But a lot of feedback is like “You’re overthinking it. If you’d just gone with your instinct, it would’ve been correct.” And they’re ignoring all the times, probably the majority of the times, where had I gone with my instinct, it would’ve been wrong.

Because these puzzles are designed to trick you. They are logic puzzles. And it’s not much of a puzzle if it’s just find four things that go together and that will be right. And so, the game is all about… I just made a comment today where someone was like, “Overthinking the easy ones is detrimental, but overthinking the hard ones is actually useful.”

And my response to that was, “Well, overthinking has a negative connotation to it, by definition. All I’m doing is thinking. And there’s nothing wrong with thinking when you’re solving a puzzle.” So, yeah, the game is trying to get you to think. And you can either let it get you to think and follow along with the human creator of this puzzle and what they were trying to achieve in getting you to think about, or you can bash your head against it and try to get lucky, which to me isn’t fun.

And sometimes I have to resort to that and I feel bad about it. But most of the time, I try to logically approach the problem and also try to see what did the creator of this puzzle intend me to think about? And that’s going to be fun and that’s going to give longevity to the gameplay.

Mike Gerholdt:
Overthinking also comes from a position of I know the answer and you don’t. At one point, they didn’t know the answer. So, how can I overthink something if I don’t know the answer? In hindsight, yes, I can look back at a solution, “Oh, I way overthought that. But I only know that because I went down that path and then I came back.”

Much like thinking through different situations or different, we talked about software debugging before I pressed record. Can you overthink software debugging? Well, yeah, I suppose. But you only know that once you go down that entire path and then come back.

And I will say there’s kind of a corollary to that where you said in hindsight, and I think that’s another aspect of my content that you don’t see a lot, and I think it’s a really important aspect, which is after I’ve solved it, go and do a post-mortem basically, to use the industry term. Go and look back and say, “What is it that I did right? What is it that I did wrong?”

“How could I have thought about this differently to have succeeded when I failed? Or why did I succeed at this? What did I do that I liked that I should try to do more of?” And I think that’s a really important aspect of after you’ve solved a puzzle, or if you’re working on debugging software, if you’re working on any problem that you’re trying to solve, don’t just say, “Oh, I solved it. Let me throw that out.”

You say, “I solved it. Let me now internalize what worked and didn’t work so that when I have a problem again in the future, I can utilize that and gain wisdom and gain experience.”

Mike Gerholdt:
I’ll be honest, one of the coolest things, I’ll get off Connections. One of the coolest things that you added to your Wordle solutions is you go into a website that somebody create a bot and you kind of, “Okay, so here’s the word I put in and we got orange, yellow, and green here. What is the bot say is the next one? What did I guess? Here’s what I guessed. Here’s this, that. Here’s what I guessed. Okay.”

And oftentimes you’re either… it helps you do that post-mortem because with Connections, you have a little bit different, you can see your categories, but with Wordle, you’re like, “Was this the next best thing for me to guess to try and get to the solution?” And I love that you kind of walk through that with that bot and the bot’s like, “Oh, yeah, so you basically had two choices after this word and you went to this one, which no harm, no foul, it was the other word.” I need that bot for everything.

Yeah. And what’s nice about Wordle is a bot like that can exist because it’s pretty easy to write a perfect solver. I wouldn’t say it’s easy, but it’s viable to write a perfect solver for Wordle. And there’s not a perfect solver for every problem you’re going to encounter, but you can at least go back and analyze that.

And I think an aspect that I thought about while you were describing what I do with that Wordle bot that I’d like to touch on is the question is, did I get lucky? Because a lot of times in problem-solving, there is a luck factor. Did I look at the right thing first or did I look at the right thing after struggling for three days on this problem? And the Wordle bot will answer that question for you.

It’ll say, “Oh, yeah, you totally got lucky. There were 60 possible words and you picked out the right one.” So, what I learned from that is maybe it was a lucky decision, but maybe it wasn’t the optimal decision, even though the optimal decision would’ve had a worse outcome in this situation. And recognize because… I guess to put it this way, if you can’t separate what was lucky from what was good, then you’re going to depend on getting lucky more and more.

You’re going to internalize what you did that made you get lucky rather than internalizing what you did that actually set yourself up for success.

Mike Gerholdt:
Well, I think that’s… some of that has to do with why people gamble. They just feel they’re lucky as opposed to working through the, I go back to the… I love the movie Apollo 13. Let’s work the problem and go through it. Kind of transitioning that because I obviously could talk Wordle. You also do that really good on the mini crossword, where if by chance you happen to get all the downs, all the downs also solve all the acrosses for the most part.

And so, you’ll go back through and be like, “Oh, well, let’s look and see actually what these questions were that the answer just autofilled back in.” I think there has to be something that it does to your brain because it also trains it. You’re like, “Oh, now, I’m not just reading this word, I’m also reading the clue that the creator of the puzzle had in addition to what the word is, and it just happened to be filled in for me.”

Yeah. If we want to even just touch back on Connections for a little bit.

Mike Gerholdt:
Yeah, please.

Every day I get comments from people saying, “Oh, the first thing I do is shuffle because they put in these red herrings and I don’t want to be tricked by them.” And I feel like this is just intentionally throwing out information about the puzzle because we’ve been told that they think very, very hard actually. They put a lot of thought into the arrangement of the words that are presented to you, which means they’ve added information to the system.

And by hitting shuffle immediately, without even attempting to interpret that information, you’ve thrown out part of the puzzle. And to me, I feel like I can go, “Okay, well, they decided to put these tiles next to each other. What does that mean? Are they trying to trick me? Are they trying to hint me towards the solution? What is the information that they are trying to give me by this placement?”

And I would lose all that if I hit shuffle. And so, I feel like it’s kind of a short-sighted strategy because you can’t learn to overcome the tricks that they’re trying to put into the puzzle if you just wipe them clean first thing without even appreciating them.

Mike Gerholdt:
Right. Absolutely. Actually, you’re the one that taught me that. I was partway through at Connections the other day and I think that two words were iron and steel, and I was like, “Those started right next to each other. I bet those don’t have anything to do with each other. I’m not going to fall for it.”

Yeah, sure enough, they didn’t. Exactly. And had you hit shuffle, you wouldn’t have known that.

Mike Gerholdt:
No idea.

And you might’ve said, “Well, iron and steel, those are both metals. Maybe that’s a thing.” I think they’re getting wise to me. I think the other day they actually put three of them all on top of each other that were in the same category.

Mike Gerholdt:
Oh, no.

In general, they are adding information when they, instead of presenting the tiles in a random order, just having a piece of software randomize it and presenting it, they are laying it out and they’re discussing how they want to lay it out. And I think that’s part of the puzzle. You’re removing some of the interest in the puzzle by hitting shuffle. And it’s the same with mini crossword.

Yeah, you can solve it with just the acrosses or just the downs, but you’re losing something by not at least going back and looking what was the whole puzzle. Because these kinds of clues are going to come up over and over again and this is a perfect opportunity, while it’s fresh in your mind and while you’re in the context, to use it as a learning experience for future puzzles.

Mike Gerholdt:
I completely agree. So, I think one of the things that fascinates me and I love using, I’ll call them word games and maybe they’re logic games. You need to tell me the difference. But using these to keep my mind sharp is I feel like it helps me be a better thinker just in general, just at my job, just working through decisions in life. You’ve been solving games a lot longer than me. How have you seen that kind of help you in your professional career?

It’s really interesting that you asked that because an aspect of my day job is actually studying transference is what the psychology term is, which is if you are to play a game and get good at it or do a logic puzzle and get good at that puzzle, does that have transference? Does that transfer to other aspects of your life? Are you just getting better at that game? Or is there sort of a rippling effect to the rest of your life?

Okay. If I play GeoGuessr where I’m trying to locate where I am in the world, does that make me a better driver on my commute? Or if I am playing logic puzzles a lot, does that make me better at debugging software? Whatever it is that you’re trying to actually accomplish in your life, are these things just games and you get good at that one game, or are these things that are going to transfer to other areas of your life?

And that’s actually a pretty hot topic of study within psychology, cognitive science, neuroscience. And there’s a lot of studies going on right now related to that with mixed results. Some of these things that they claim, “Hey, if you play this game every day, you’re going to get smarter. You’re going to get better in these other areas of your life.” And it may not be true.

For me personally, I find it beneficial to just keep using my brain. Think of the brain as a muscle and just keep using it. Make sure those connections are strong. And by practicing it in low-stakes scenarios, when you get hit with a high-stakes scenario, you have this sort of instinct to fall back on for how you’re going to handle that. Yeah. Does that-

Mike Gerholdt:
No, I’m still processing all of that transference information you gave because I was just thinking about how that applies to other things like prepping for tests. Did you just get good at taking the test, or did you genuinely learn the information? We can also talk about tests, but nobody wants to do that anyway.

I’ll talk about it.

Mike Gerholdt:
Are you just good at taking the test too? That’s the third thing to bring up.

Yeah, exactly. And this is a big topic in education, has been for a long time, which is how much do we lean on standardized tests and how much do we teach to the test? And is the standardized test important because we just need metrics on how students are generally doing, or is the standardized test also something that can direct curriculum? That’s a question that every teacher has.

And I don’t think there’s a perfect answer to that, and I’m also not much of an expert on that at all. But in my opinion, I think that anything you learn is good. I’ve always hated the question, when am I going to use this? The answer is, you use your brain every day. And the more you can teach your brain how to learn and all these cool things, that expands your horizons.

It expands your use of your brain. Yeah, sure, you might not use algebra if you’re not an accountant or a scientist or a mathematician. Yeah, you might not use algebra, but one day you’re going to have the question and you’re going to have the curiosity that’s going to relate to math in some way. And you either have the tools to think about it properly or you don’t, and that’s something that you could have internalized, but you decided you weren’t going to use it, and so you didn’t.

But there’s the expression, when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. I have always thought that the more tools you have in your toolbox, the more versatile you can be in problem-solving and just living your life properly. Properly is not the right word. I didn’t mean to say it that way, but living your life to its fullest extent, being able to accomplish the goals that you want to accomplish, being successful.

It’s all about setting yourself up for success. And you don’t know what problems are going to arise. And so, the more tools you give yourself, the less everything starts looking like a nail, and the more you can be exacting and fall back on previous experience.

Mike Gerholdt:
Yeah, I often think of… it’s funny you bring up that algebra example. I was also that kid that was really horrible at math, so I never played Sudoku. But the concept sometimes of how you solve the algebra problem, I think to me, was also more important than what the answer was.

And that to me is almost like the first time you pull the cover off a toy and realize there’s a whole bunch of gears inside that make the bear move and kind of understanding, “Oh, there’s more to this that I need to understand as opposed to just what the outcome is.” We had this discussion the other day, outputs versus outcomes.

And if your outputs is solved puzzles, are you smarter than if your outcome is no, but I learned the process and I learned how to work through difficult situations. The outcome is very different than the outputs.

I love the way you put that and that’s something… I solve The New York Times hard Sudoku every day on my YouTube channel. And my goal is not to say, “Look, I solved the puzzle.” My goal is to help the viewers be able to solve the puzzle, but not just that. To understand that it’s the act of solving it that’s the fun part, not having that completed grid with all the correct numbers in it.

And it seems obvious when I say it that way, but I get so many people commenting saying, “Well, if I just go through and fill out all the candidates first, which by the way is super boring, then I can solve it in four minutes, and you took 12 minutes.” I feel like I failed that person because now they’re going to get bored of Sudoku very quickly.

Because who wants the first thing they do when they first receive that piece of paper or the digitally, the Sudoku puzzle, is go cell by cell and do accounting work? The puzzle can tell you a story if you let it tell you the story. And there are ways that you can approach the problem solving such that you are following along. It’s like you’re reading a book.

You’re following along the story. And in a sense, it’s almost like a “choose your own adventure book” where you can choose where you want to go next. What do I want to discover about this puzzle? And just put a smile on your face every day because you found this really cool piece of logic and you go, “Ooh, that’s really neat. It just told me about this cool structure.”

And people who are like, “Oh, well, I solve it in two minutes and I can just plunk them down, and I don’t understand why you’re doing all of this.” And a year later, they’ve moved on. They’re not doing Sudoku anymore, and they think it’s boring. And I’m still doing it and I’m still learning from it every day.

Mike Gerholdt:
Right. Because the outcome for you is a lot different. The euphemism is the journey versus the destination.

Yes. I’m a big fan of Brandon Sanderson and that’s a big thing in Stormlight Archive, which is there’s… not to get too spoilery, I won’t spoil Stormlight Archive for people. But there is a group of people who basically have a mantra and part of that is journey before destination. We all have the same destination. And when it comes to puzzles, the destination is the solved puzzle, but it’s about how you got there.

The journey is the important thing. And you can start talking about things, do the ends justify the means? It’s much of a corollary to that when you start talking about how you live your life. And I feel like if you start approaching even a logic puzzle that you’re doing for fun, if you approach that in a way where you’re trying to take shortcuts, that’s training yourself to take shortcuts in all areas of your life.

And I feel like that’s… you’re cheating yourself. That’s another thing. People are like, “Is it cheating if I do this? Is it cheating if I do that?” And it’s like, it’s a single-player game. There’s no stakes to it. The only person you’re cheating is yourself. Are you enjoying the way that you’re solving this? And that’s the important thing. Okay, if I’m doing a crossword or if I’m doing Connections and there’s a word I don’t know, is it cheating if I look it up?

Well, that’s up to you. Do you want this to be a trivia game where you need to be going into the puzzle with a certain set of knowledge, and you want to learn as you go, and you learn from your failures because you didn’t know what that word meant? And now you’ve looked it up and now you’re going to remember it? That’s one way to approach it.

And a perfectly other valid way to approach it is, “Oh, this puzzle has shown me this word that I don’t know. This is a perfect opportunity to look it up and have some success because I looked it up.” And I think both approaches are valid.

Mike Gerholdt:
Yeah. There’s so much to unpack there, but the first thing I wanted to say was the best and worst times of doing any of the logic puzzles or The New York Times stuff is when it’s solved is the best because I was like, “Yes, I did it.” And the worst is, “Ugh, it’s over.” Especially a few times with Wordle or with Connections or even the mini crossword, “Oh, I finally got it.”

And to that other point, there have been times when I was like, “Okay, I clearly…” I don’t know some… I think one of the questions was something and it was super pop culture. I was like, “I just need to Google this. That’s my mulligan. I’m going to take it, I’m going to Google it and that’s going to give me the answer.” Because I’m past the point of enjoyment for this game and I need a little boost to get me back and going for that, and it’s my game, so I can do that.

Yeah. And it’s all about knowing yourself and knowing what you’re going to be happy with later and what you might be sad about later. And I think you kind of hit the nail on the head. Are you still enjoying the puzzle? Because that’s the important thing. We don’t do these because it’s our job. We’re doing puzzles because it’s fun and enriching.

And so, it’s all about sustainability. What’s going to sustain your interest in this hobby? And are you going to be a flash in the pan where you deep dive into crosswords or Sudoku or whatever word game for a month and then you’re done with it and you move on? That’s one personality style. Another personality style is crosswords are something that I do every morning for 50 years.

There are people like that too. There are a lot of people like that. And there’s a big difference. Someone who’s going to do that every morning for 50 years, they’re enjoying it every day and they’ve found ways to sustain that enjoyment. Whereas there-

Mike Gerholdt:
Go ahead.

Sorry, go ahead.

Mike Gerholdt:
No, I’m 100% with you. I was going to ask because we didn’t touch on it and maybe it’s for a reason because it’s in beta, but Strands. I think you said it in one of your puzzles, I was like, “I just need you. Can you just tell me if any of the four letters I put together are close to one of the words you want as opposed to just nothing?” And I think that for me, we get some of that.

Well, you can tell me more of the game logic. But with Wordle and with Connections, at least with Wordle, I get a yellow. I get a colored square. Regardless of what I put in, I’m getting a color back. And with Connections, oftentimes I’m like, “Please just say one away.” But you get kind of that.

But even if it’s not one away, it’s still information.

Mike Gerholdt:
It is, yes. Except with Strands.

Yeah, Strands is missing that. And the reason Strands is missing that is because I really feel like they built the hint system because they knew this was an issue. But the hint system is terrible because people don’t want to use it. Some people do use it, but I don’t like using it. I think that, first of all, making it a choice. Wordle, you don’t have the choice to see whether a tile was yellow or green.

It’s just going to tell you. It’s part of the game. A hint system feels like it’s external to the game as like a, “I’m not good enough, so I’m going to press the hint button.” And I don’t think that was their intent, but I think that’s what’s happened because they realized that most of these games have some kind of lockstep functionality where you make as you progress through the puzzle and you gain information as you go.

Whereas with Strands, you can be sitting there for 15 minutes and know as much as you did on minute one, even though you have found 100 words because you didn’t find any of the words that they’re intending and you’re not understanding what the theme is trying to hit you towards. And it’s just frustrating. And so, they probably saw that in the playtest and went, “Well, if you get three words, we’ll give you a word.”

But that doesn’t feel good because, first of all, they gave the choice. I kind of wonder what would the game be like? Is it just you get three words and it just reveals one without pressing hint? And it was just part of the game. I feel like more people would accept that rather than opting into admitting that you’re not good enough at the game.

But also the hint system is just simultaneously not powerful enough and too powerful. And I could rant about this. I feel like it’s a bit off-topic.

Mike Gerholdt:
No, this is 100% on topic.

All right. Well, I’ll rant about it then. Early on, it’s too powerful because it gives you… for those not familiar with Strands, it’s like a word search game, but they don’t tell you what words you’re looking for.

Mike Gerholdt:

Instead, they all follow a theme. Maybe the theme is names of football teams or the theme is pieces of time, so seconds, minutes, hours. And some of them are a bit more esoteric. They might be words that are slaying for money, but are also food was one of them. And so, it really varies in difficulty. And they give you a little kind of crossword style clue hint at the start of what the theme might be.

But it’s usually not. Usually, it’s either, “Oh, I know exactly what the theme is from this clue,” or, “I have no idea what the theme is from this clue.” There’s not much in between. But anyway, what the hint does is if you get three words that they didn’t intend, if you find three words, you can press the hint button and it highlights all of the letters involved in one of the words.

And then, it becomes an unscramble basically. And then, you find that word. And I think the ideal situation when using the hint is then, okay, now that I know what one of the words is, I’ve now gained information about what the theme might be and I can try to think of other words that match. And if that’s not enough, I’ll find three more and I’ll press hint again and I’ll get another word.

But it’s too powerful because people don’t want to just be shown one of the words. That’s literally taking away from the enjoyment of the game because the game is only finding the words. And so, you’re literally pressing a button saying, “I want one last word to find please.” But then, at the end, sometimes you’re down to one word left, it tells you how many words you need to find, and you’re down to one word left.

And I’ve literally spent 10, 15 minutes trying to unscramble that word because I can’t figure it out. When it was Broadway shows, and I couldn’t unscramble Carousel for the life of me because I hadn’t heard of that Broadway show, and it’s a weird word. Carousel. And so, the hint wouldn’t have helped me. If I’d pressed hint, it would’ve highlighted all the letters.

So, the hint is simultaneously too powerful early on and not powerful enough at the end. And then, also on top of that, isn’t giving you what you want from a hint. So, I feel like it’s a failure in game design there. And what they should have done is built-in ratcheting game mechanics that aren’t opt-in.

Mike Gerholdt:
What are ratcheting game mechanics? Please tell me.

So, if you think about a ratchet wrench. When you go one way, it doesn’t lose progress on tightening, and then you go the other way and it tightens more. That’s what a ratchet is. And so, you can make progress without losing progress. So, as you put input into the system and as you find things towards the game mechanics, you have now ratcheted yourself, you’ve given yourself more information.

It’s a ratchet-style gameplay. So, like Wordle, you input a guess and you get those yellows and greens and grays, and now you have more information about what the answer might be. And you never lose that information. That information never becomes obsolete. You can always use it. So, in the same way, that’s why some of my suggestions for Strands were, “Hey, you know what?”

“If I get partial word, maybe it should tell me, ‘Hey, you got a partial word. You’re on the right track.'” It’s ratcheted that information into the system. It’s like getting a green or a yellow in Wordle. Or if they want to keep the hint system, maybe one option for the hint system would be show me the starting letter of one of the words. Not the whole word, just give me somewhere to start.

Mike Gerholdt:
Where do I start? Yeah.

Yeah. This letter I know is the start of a word now and I can focus my search on that. And so, I wouldn’t feel as bad pressing that. But what if that were just part of the game mechanics? It’s like rewarding you for finding words. They aren’t the right words, but you’re still finding valid words that exist. So, why not have those, just add information to the system as you guess in certain creative ways.

So, it feels like a failure of game design that there isn’t that sort of ratchet other than the opt-in very heavy-handed hint system that they have right now.

Mike Gerholdt:
Right. I am so glad you brought up that Broadway Strands because I was about… I’m like, “I think I’m done. I think I’m done with Strands now.” It took me so long to get… the first thing I found with Strands is you either get started and it starts to make sense, or you’re sitting there and you’re looking at these two words and the clue and you’re like, “I have no idea what these three things have to do with each other. I don’t know what another word to look for.”

But that Broadway with Carousel, I was stuck on Carousel. I got everything else. Those are the only letters left. I never hit the hint button. And I thought, “What happens if you hit the hint button when you’re done?” Because at that point, I’ll be honest, the game Joy, it was no joy in Mudville right now. I just wanted to be done. Just please tell me what the answer is. I think I went through… I watched your TikTok.

I went through all the same words you did. I’m like, “I don’t know what word this is. Just tell me.” And when I hit hint, it just put the little things around. I was like, “I know it’s those letters.”

Yeah, exactly.

Mike Gerholdt:
I know it’s those letters. Get me out of here. Where is the escape room button? That’s the only time I wanted the hint button to just be like, “Nope, we’re just going to solve this because we feel bad for you.”

And people use my videos as hints. They’ll be like, “Well, I’m done with this puzzle. I haven’t solved it, but I’m not getting joy out of it. Let’s see what Rangsk did.” Rangsk being my handle. “Let’s see what he did and maybe that’ll give me a hint.” And that’s actually the entire premise of me doing The New York Times hard Sudoku every day in that instructive way is I know that there’s always going to be someone who’s stuck on that specific Sudoku puzzle because it’s so widespread.

It’s published by The New York Times. They’re going to search on YouTube or Google. They’re going to search “New York Times Sudoku today walkthrough or hint.”

Mike Gerholdt:
Solve or something.

Yeah, solve. And they’re going to find my video and that’ll track them to my channel. And not only will they find my video, but this video is going to blow their mind if they don’t know modern Sudoku-solving techniques. And they’re going to be like, “Wow, I need to watch more of these because this is way more fun than how I’ve been solving Sudoku, and I don’t get stuck as much.”

“And if I do get stuck, I watch him until he does something I didn’t know, and then I can continue.” So, almost using me as a hint button. And I feel like with Strands, there’s no strategy. Strands feels like a trivia game to me almost. I’ve been trying so hard to make it a logic game, which you probably have noticed if you watched my Strand solves, where I’m like, “Okay, corner strategy, edge strategy.”

And it kind of works, but it’s not perfect and there’s not a whole lot of logic involved. I will say there are word search games that do feel a lot more like a logic puzzle. One of them that I play is called Cell Tower. And this is probably the coolest word search game I’ve played. Normally, I’m not a big fan of word search-style games. I’m not very good at them.

But to briefly explain this game, it’s a grid of letters just as you’d expect a word search to be. And the way that these letters form words is a little bit unique, and that’s not that important to describe, except basically you’re drawing shapes in the grid. So, you’re connecting the letters together in kind of a different way that you’d normally expect.

You’re not drawing a line through the letters to make words in order. You’re just sort of highlighting them, and they have to be connected in some way. And it’s red left to right, top to bottom. And so, it’s sort of limiting you on… you can’t make a word bottom right to top left. You can’t just draw a line that way, or you can’t zigzag around. Instead, there’s a specific logical order to how the letters are going to appear in a word.

In addition to that, every letter is part of a word, similar to Strands in that way. So, every letter will be involved in a word, and there is only one solution. So, you can’t just go, “Okay, I found this word. Let’s lock that in. Okay, now I found this word.” You’re going to find a bunch of words, but you need to look at how that affects the rest of the grid around it and make sure you’re not preventing the ability for the letters around it to also be part of words.

And that’s where the logic comes in, where you go, “Okay, I think this word might be part of it. Can I add an -ed ending, an -ing ending, an S at the end? Is there a prefix I can add to it to expand that word? But also, how does that affect the letters around it? Am I going to be able to make a word out of these other letters if this was one of the words I use?”

And so, you end up with this really logical approach to how you solve it. And you’re thinking about how letters go together, how they go next to each other, and how words are formed in general. And you’re looking at corners like, “Okay, this letter is going to have to be related to the letters around it in some way because it’s in a corner because it’s been isolated in some way.”

And so, it’s not that you’re trying to just find words that match a theme and the computer tells you, “Oh, yep, you found one of them,” or, “Nope, that wasn’t what I was looking for, sorry,” with no extra information. Instead, you’re trying to solve this logically and the computer is not giving you any help at all there. It’s just the grid, the full information of the grid being used.

So, in a way, it’s a lot like Sudoku, but also like Connections where you can’t just pick any four words that happen to relate because that might disrupt the ability for the other words to relate to each other. So, that’s what really makes a logic puzzle a logic puzzle is you have to take the puzzle as a whole and you have to take steps that are logical. It’s not just a trivia game.

Mike Gerholdt:
That’s so apropos to everything that we talked about. You have to look at the puzzle as a whole. Last question, because I happened to think of this when we were talking about Strands. As somebody that’s online solving problems, word games and stuff, how hard, how many times do you just want to hit that hint button? Does that ever come up?

Maybe you have the patience of a saint, but have you ever gotten to that point where I know you’re creating this for the good of other people and you have to walk through that, but you’re like, “Maybe I just hit the hint button because I’m at 35 minutes on this video?”

Yeah, for sure. And there’s different forms that that takes in my mind. There’s the built-in hint buttons to the game, but then there’s also like, “Do I just Google this word?” I did do that once. There was a Connections, and I knew I was about to lose. I was like, “Okay, I’ve got no mistakes left. And there are three words on the board that I have no idea what they mean.

Literally never heard these words in my life. So, how am I supposed to… is it good content for me to just make a guess and lose? Or do I go on Google, look up what the words mean, and continue the puzzle?” And in that case, I decided to do that. And I got mostly feedback saying, “Yeah, I Googled it too. It was fine to Google it, looking it up. What’s wrong with that?”

But then, I got a lot of negative feedback too about “How’s it feel to cheat? You’re such a cheater, blah, blah, blah.” Just so much negativity. And so, I have to weigh the decision on how much negativity do I want in my comment section here, because they aren’t just insulting me when they’re calling me a cheater. They’re calling everyone else who Googled a cheater.

So, people are seeing themselves in that comment when they’re reading through the comment section. And that’s something I need to figure… it’s not something I’ve solved. I don’t have an answer. But what I try to do is understand myself and go, “Okay, am I 35 minutes into this puzzle legitimately, or am I just done with it?” There’s a game I play called Squaredle. There’s actually two games I play.

Mike Gerholdt:
It sounds like all the puzzles put together.

Yeah. There’s two games I play called Squaredle. One of them has an extra E and one doesn’t. The one with the extra E… so one of them removes the E in square and one of them keeps the E in square when they add the -dle ending. They’re completely different games. One of them that I play with the E, it’s another word search game.

It’s a grid of four by four or sometimes five by five letters. And you need to find every possible word other than esoteric ones. They have some list of words that… you know how there’s words that aren’t really words, if you know what I mean? The esoteric ones, the archaic ones, out of use, highly specialized words. You don’t have to find those.

They count as bonus words if you do find them. But there’s a list of words that it’s looking for you to get. And sometimes this list is 60 to 100 words. And this game can take me an hour and a half.

Mike Gerholdt:

I sit there and I record the whole solve. It’s a special occasion usually. I’ll do it once every week or every two weeks and then put it on my YouTube where I solve the hardest Squaredle of the week. Because just like The New York Times puzzles, it gets harder through the week. And so, I’m like, “I’m going to solve the hardest one today.”

And it’s a lesson in patience because you have to find every word, and it can take an hour and a half. And that’s the kind of game where it’s like, “Okay, I’m 30 minutes in, but I’m still solving the puzzle. And that’s okay.” There’s also Sudokus that can take an hour, an hour and a half just because they’re that hard. But it feels like you’re making progress.

If you feel like you’re making progress, that’s just you’re still in the journey. You’re still solving it, and that’s fine. It doesn’t matter how long it’s been, as long as you still feel like you’re in the puzzle and you’re making progress and you’re enjoying it. But then, there’s puzzles where… the puzzle usually takes two minutes, and you’re 30 minutes into it, and you feel like you haven’t made progress in the last 25 minutes or ever.

And you just have to make the decision of like, “Is this worth my time anymore?” And I’ve definitely had puzzles where I hit the stop button on the recording and I delete the video, and I just go, “I’m not solving that one today.” Or ones where I go, “Well, it’s time to get a hint.” Literally, I just say, “I have failed this puzzle, but I want to see the end of it, so I’m going to look stuff up.”

You have to make that decision in your head. And I think you brought up a really important point, which is… I think you brought this point up at least, it became this point in my head, which is you need to decide for yourself when that is and that it’s okay. You gave it your best, time to seek help. And I think that’s something that’s really important in life is that it’s okay to seek help when you need it.

I think people appreciate when you’ve put in some effort yourself first, but at the same time, they don’t want… let me put it this way. I’ve been lead of several different teams as a programmer for my day job. And as a lead programmer, I would rather a junior programmer come to me with a problem that I can solve in a minute than spend six hours banging their head against it.

But at the same time, if it would’ve only taken them 10 minutes, I’d prefer them to learn that on their own. So, it’s important to learn at what point have I stopped being productive? Have I stopped enjoying this? Am I not in the right mindset and I either need to take a break, do something else, or I need to seek help, or both?

Mike Gerholdt:
Yeah. No, I think you’re right. The hint button and being called a cheater, you’re only cheating yourself. It’s what do you need to move on with? And your example is perfect. Is there something that can be gained by that person asking you? But I also think, what level of thinking did they put into solving this before they came to me?

And I always look at it as I’m very appreciative of, they came to me because they hit that wall, but they also realized quickly that they hit that wall.


Mike Gerholdt:
And now they need to move on so that that learning journey continues as opposed to being frustrated in themselves.

Yeah. And that’s a skill unto itself. And that really separates the people you enjoy working with from the people you don’t enjoy working with, people who are team players and people who aren’t. That really separates them because it’s a matter of, “I don’t want to be doing your job for you. I’ve got my own job to do, but also I don’t want you sitting there suffering as if you were alone.”

And there’s that balance. And recognizing in yourself when you’ve hit that state is really important. And I think that… going back to the conversation about transference. That’s something that can transfer. If you’re playing games, and you can learn in a low-stakes scenario, how do I… be in yourself, be in your body, be in your mind, and be like, “I now recognize what I’m like when I’m in this hopeless scenario where I’ve given up without giving up, where I’m frustrated, where I’m tired, where I’m hungry.”

It’s something even like children need to learn. Am I sad or am I just hungry? Or do I need to take a nap? That’s something children need to learn, but it’s not something we stop learning as a child. It’s something we need to always know ourselves, know how our mind works, know what our limitations are, and know what our limitations aren’t.

Is this something I can just continue on, or is this something that I need to use my coping mechanisms that I’ve learned throughout my life to deal with this situation? Part of the problem has now become my own mind. And that’s something you can learn by putting yourself constantly in these difficult situations, like difficult logic puzzles or trivia puzzles, where you’re not very familiar with that trivia or whatever it is for you that puts you out of your comfort zone in a safe, low-stakes environment.

So, you can learn how you yourself react to that and what that’s going to take. And part of my job, implementing things, software. I need to recognize… have you ever had that… I’m sure everyone’s had that late night where you’ve been banging your head against this fog or a thing you’re trying to implement is just not working. You go home dejected. You get some sleep. You come in in the morning and you fix it in two minutes.

And had you just recognized that you were in that situation where you were not going to be productive anymore, and you’d just gone home and you’d gotten rest and you’d accepted that that’s what’s happening. And you actually had your relaxing night and you took the time that you needed for yourself, and you got the good amount of sleep, and then you came in the morning ready to go, and you just solved the problem.

Those two scenarios look the same from a work perspective, but look very different from a personal hygiene, mental hygiene perspective.

Mike Gerholdt:
I couldn’t agree more. I couldn’t agree more. I think it’s also a great way to end this discussion, David. Thanks for coming on the podcast. You gave me so much to think about and here I was just excited to talk about word games. But really a lot of it is how you look at everything in life and how you tackle situations.

And really part of, I think, the word game or the game itself is also helping you understand yourself. So, this is a great discussion. I appreciate it. Thanks so much.

Well, thanks for having me on. And if people want to watch my content, I’m just going to plug my stuff real quick.

Mike Gerholdt:

So, I am Rangsk on all platforms. R-A-N-G-S-K. I’m sure there’ll be something in the description where you can find that. I’m on YouTube and also on TikTok. And I recently had to split my TikTok into multiple accounts. But if you find that Rangsk_YT account, that’s the main one, and you’ll be able to find the others through my videos.

And so, if you enjoy Sudoku, logic puzzles, word games, that sort of thing in an instructive calm environment, then my channel is for you.

Mike Gerholdt:
So, as I write, this was a shot in the dark, I’ll be honest with you. I reached out to David after being completely addicted to his TikTok videos on Connections and Wordle, and just thought, “This is really what critical thinking looks like to me.” And the conversation, I probably could have gone for another hour easily. I had a hundred more questions in my head, but I hope you enjoy it.

I do want you to do one thing. If you enjoyed this episode, go ahead and give David a follow. I promise you it’s super rewarding to watch his critical thinking and the way that he solves problems and word problems and word games online. I honestly do think it will make you a better Salesforce admin and a better business analyst in general.

So, go ahead and give a click on the links below. Also, if you’re not already following the Salesforce Admins Podcast, please do so. We’re available on all the platforms. Click follow. Then new episodes like this one, we’ll download automatically every Thursday morning. And then, of course, if you’re still listening now, hey, I got a private Slack community.

And if you want to join it, there’s at least a dozen other listeners in there that avidly listen to the podcast. We’re having some fun conversations. I put some quizzes in there. Send me an email, M-G-E-R-H-O-L-D-T That’s And let me know you want to be part of the Slack community and I’ll add you, and then you can ask questions of other listeners.

I’m trying to get some guests in there. So, with that, thanks for listening and of course, we’ll see you in the cloud.

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