Solving the Microsoft Mahjong Classic Puzzle–January 9th


This particular puzzle was a bit of a b*tch. Despite being flagged easy, it takes quite a bit of time, largely due to the placement of a few tiles that requires a strategy that is a bit out of the norm. Here is my guide to solving the puzzle using the tranquility tile set. (If you are using another tile set, you can still use this post, but will have to go by position alone.

First, here is how it looks as you start.

Starting-Point

To explain the solution, I need to do 2 things:

  1. Identify the tiles in shorthand
  2. Grid off the board

Identifying the Tiles

In Mahjong, there are a group of tiles that can only match an identical tile; these are 3 suits (wheels (or dots), bamboo (or sticks) and numbers (or cracks)). the four winds (north, south, each and west) and a set of three dragons (red, green and white).

There are also two suits in which you can match any of the tiles: Seasons (spring, summer, winter, fall) and flowers (plum, orchid, bamboo and mum).

Wheels

The wheels are easy to identify. They have a dot or wheel. You count the number of wheels to determine the number of the tile. I label these with a lower case w after the number: 1w – 9w.

Bamboo

Bamboo is also easy, as you count the number of bamboo fronds. The exception is the 1 of bamboo, which looks like a bird. I label these with a lower b after the number: 1b – 9b.

Numbers

Numbers are a bit different unless you read Chinese. Here is how to identify them. 1, 2 and 3 of numbers have 1, 2 and 3 vertical lines across the middle of the top of the tile. The 4 looks like an arabic W. 5 is the most complex symbol. It has an up and down stroke followed by what appears to be a lower case h with a cross at the top and underline. 6 is a stick figure without the body segment. 7 appears a bit like a t, 8 like a broken upside down v and 9 is like a cursive r. I label numbers with a lower case n: 1n – 9n. Some of the numbers are shown below.

numbers

Winds

Winds are easy to identify, as they have the initial of the wind direction in black in the upper left corner of the tile: N, S, E, W.

Dragons

There are three dragons: red, green and white. The red dragon is a stick with a circle colored red. The green dragon appears like a green bush or a green flame. And the white dragon is a blue square. I have a red and blue dragon shown below, with the numbers all ready on the graphic:

dragons

Seasons

Seasons are found on green tiles. You can match any season with any other season.

seasons

Flowers

 

Gridding off the board

On this board, there are 5 rows from top to bottom, starting from the 2 of wheels (or dots) in the middle top. and ending with row5 which has a south wind on the far left side. I am going to label these rows 1 through 5.

Rows

There are 13 rows, which I label A through M. Leaving the rows in place, here are the columns.

Rows-&-Columns-&-Half

Notice that some of the tiles, like the 2 of bamboo (2b) on row 4 (partially hidden by the West wind (Wwind). These are half columns, which I label by adding an X. In particular, this is column Ax. Here is a shot showing the rows and the half columns

Rows-&-Halfs

And here is rows, columns and half columns.

Rows-&-Columns-&-Half

Designating Position

To designate a position, I also need to indicate the level of the tile. On this board, the 4 tiles on row 4 (starting with a flower and ennding with the West wind are at level 4. The North wind located at 5-M is at level 2 (there is one tile underneath it.

My location designator consists of row, column and level, with hyphens in between. The North wind at the lower left, for example, is 5-M-2. I will add the tile name (or type in flowers or seasons) in front of the location. Here is a map of a few positions, so you can understand the system.

Locations

Solution

As pointed out on the Mahjong FaceBook page, you have to focus on the bottom row. This is normal when you are solving a Mahjong puzzle, as you should focus on three areas.

  1. long lines
  2. Tall stacks
  3. tiles that cover more than one tile

Not focusing on these areas is bad. This particular puzzle is a bit insidious as there are some tiles that only have one pair and are located under other tiles that have only one pair. This makes it hard to clear off the board. Here are the areas to look out for:

North on top of north
North-on-North

2 6 of bamboo (only pair of them in game) on top of row 5
2-6-of-bamboo

Two white dragons on row 5 at level 2
2-white-dragons

Two red dragons on the bottom level of row 5:
2-red-dragons

The general strategy here (as mentioned on the Facebook page) is to start row 5, level 3 from the left side, then level 2 from the right side and level 1 from the left side. This is not 100% true, as you will see.

The first step is to start clearing row 5, level 3, from the left. There is a 5n here at 5-B-3. You can see another 5n under one of the flowers. The designation for clearing this tile, fitting the scheme is 5n 2-J-2 5-B-3. To get to this tile, you have to clear flowers, which are designated flowers 2-Ix-3 3-G-4.

First-2-moves

You then continue on the left side of row 3 for 2 more moves. Here are the first four moves. Counter intuitive moves are marked with a starStar.

Move Tile Location 1 Location 2
1 flowers 2-Ix-3 4-G-3
2 5n 2-J-2 5-B-3
3 Star 1n 2-C-2 5-C-3
4 Wd 1-J-1 5-D-3

The 3rd move, above, is counter intuitive. You would think you should clear off 5-B-3 with 3-K-2, but I found this move makes the puzzle unsolvable. At the end of the three moves, you have a board that looks like this:
board-after-4-moves

It should be clear enough how to use the moves table now. Here are the moves to clear off the rest of the top of row 5. Note that we will start from the left side now (purple), as we will with row 2 (blue). Also note this table has some rows that say ALL, followed by a number of pairs. This means clear everything of that type off the board.

Move Tile Location 1 Location 2
5 Nwind 4-H-4 5-M-2
6 Wwind ALL (3 pairs)  
9 Rd 4-F-3 4-I-4
10 4n 2-Hx-4 4-E-2
11 Swind ALL (2 pairs)  
13 EWind 3-I-4 5-k-3
14 9n 1-I-2 4-Bx-2
15 8n 3-B-3 4-Bx-1
16 4b 1-I-1 4-Ax-2
17 2w 2-Gx-3 4-G-3
18 3w ALL (2 pairs)  
20 7w 3-Ax-1 4-L-1
21 5b 1-H-1 3-I-3
22 Mug Nwind 2-G-2 5-I-3
23 4w 3-Ex-1 5-H-3
24 6w 2-F-1 2-K-1
25 5w 2-J-1 4-J-3
26 3b 4-I-3 5-G-3
27 1n 3-K-2 5-F-3
28 Wd 3-J-2 5-E-3

Move 22 (beer icon) is also critical, as there is a north on a north in position 2G (at level 2 and 1). Exchanging either of these north winds for the north wind at 4-G-2 At this point in time, the top of row 5 should be cleared, as shown below:
After-28-moves

The next step is to clear off both row 4 and 5. Because of the 6 of bamboo (6b), you have to start row 5, level 2 from the right. Here are the steps to clear row 5, level 2 (purple) and much of row 4, level 2 (blue). 

Move Tile Location 1 Location 2
29 1b ALL (2 pairs)  
31 9w 3-G-3 4-G-3
32 Nwind 1-G-1 4-G-2
33 7b 5-K-1 5-L-2
34 Ewind 3-Kx-1 4-Ax-1
35 6n 2-A-2 3-G-2
36 2b 2-Hx-2 3-Jx-1
37 8b 3-Bx-1 3-I-2
38 Swind 3-H-2 4-H-2
39 1w 2-I-2 5-J-2
40 Seasons ALL (2 pairs)  
42 3n 4-J-2 5-H-2
43 9b 4-K-2 5-G-2
44 4n 3-G-2 5-F-2
45 Gd 2-H-2 5-E-2
46 6b 5-B-2 5-D-2
47 1w 3-Ix-1 5-C-2

Here is the board after these moves:
Near-Solving

You should now be able to solve this without my help, but here are the moves.

Move Tile Location 1 Location 2
48 flower 2-H-1 5-B-1
49 2w 1-G-1 4-K-1
50 Gd 4-J-1 5-C-1
51 2n ALL (2 pairs)  
53 8w 4-H-1 5-E-1
54 3n 5-F-1 5-K-1
55 Rd 5-G-1 5-J-1
56 7n 5-H-1 5-I-1
57 3b 3-Hx-1 4-G-1
58 2b 2-A-1 3-Gx-1

Hope this helps.

Peace and Grace,
Greg

Twitter: @gbworld

Advertisements