NPF: THE PUZZLE

Posted in No Politics Friday on November 1st, 2013 by Ed

Can it still be No Politics Friday if I give you two links about gerrymandering? It can if they're both links to puzzles. Slate just put up a map/puzzle game challenging readers to put six states' "ridiculously gerrymandered congressional districts" back together against a timer. The average for all users is 10:30. My best was 9:32. I bet someone with very little desire to do work on a Friday afternoon can beat that.

Slate's game reminded me of an old favorite that I still use in Intro classes: The Redistricting Game. Players are given different tasks – i.e., create districts in which the incumbent candidates will all have at least 55% support while maintaining equal population – that will pass the state legislature, governor's mansion, and courts. It's actually pretty difficult at first (on the "advanced" settings) but dammit if you can't get it done in a half hour or less. As I tell the kids, "If it takes you 30 minutes, it probably takes your legislators an hour because they're not as bright. But an hour isn't much time."

Hey, no one is going to force you to think about gerrymandering, redistricting, or state legislatures on a Friday. However, you're two clicks closer to filling the dreaded 3:00-4:00 hour on Friday afternoon. And if all else fails, there's always minesweeper.