Posts Tagged ‘rectangular polyominoes’

A Polyformist’s Toolkit: Symmetry Variations

May 25th, 2012

It lately occurred to me that there are concepts that I use (and see used by others) in creating variations on polyform puzzles that I haven’t seen explained very thoroughly, and it might be helpful if I used this space for just that purpose.

Some polyomino puzzles using symmetry variations

The first of these is the use of different kinds of symmetry in defining the set of pieces used in a puzzle. (I touched on this in my post on rectangular-cell pentominoes.) Normally, all combinations of rotations, translations, and reflections of a polyomino in a grid are considered to be equivalent. Leaving aside translations for the moment, the possible rotations and reflections of a polyomino are equivalent to the group of symmetries of a square. We can find variations on polyominoes by restricting the allowed symmetries to subgroups of that group. For example, the one-sided polyominoes are the result of allowing only rotations, not reflections. Rhombic cell pentominoes (which Kadon sells) allow 180° rotations, plus diagonal reflections. My Agincourt puzzle allows only reflections over vertical axes, assuming that the arrows are pointing vertically. Notice that it doesn’t matter which direction the arrows point as long as they point in the same direction; this suggests that what we are interested in isn’t symmetry subgroups per se, but classes of subgroups where two subgroups that are related to each other by symmetries of the square are equivalent.

What are all of the possible variations with different allowed transformations? We can generate a representative subgroup of every class by using some combination of reflection over a particular axis parallel to the grid, a particular diagonal axis, and 90° and 180° rotations. Here’s a chart of the symmetry variations this produces.

  Polyomino Type Reflection Rotation # of Symmetries
Free Either 90° 8
Parallel (a.k.a. Rectangular) y axis 180° 4
Diagonal (a.k.a. Rhombic) x=y 180° 4
One-sided None 90° 4
Oriented Parallel y axis None 2
Oriented Diagonal x=y None 2
Polar One-sided None 180° 2
Fixed None None 1

I chose the above terminology for the types (after keeping “free”, “one-sided”, and “fixed” as established terms) in order to build in some helpful mnemonics. The types with four symmetries have short names. The types with two symmetries have longer names based on the names of the types whose symmetry groups their symmetries are subgroups of. The odd duck here is “polar one-sided”, which is a subgroup of all of the larger symmetry groups, but putting “one-sided” in its name makes the types with two symmetries nicely echo the names of those with four.

Here’s a chart of the number of polyominoes of each type for a given size:

Polyomino Type 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 OEIS #
Free 1 1 2 5 12 35 108 A000105
Parallel 1 2 3 9 21 68 208 A056780
Diagonal 1 1 3 7 20 62 204 A056783
One-sided 1 1 2 7 18 60 196 A000988
Oriented Parallel 1 2 4 12 35 116 392 A151525
Oriented Diagonal 1 1 4 10 34 110 388 A182645
Polar One-sided 1 2 4 13 35 120 392 A151522
Fixed 1 2 6 19 63 216 760 A001168

(The odd entries for the polar one-sided polyominoes track those for the oriented parallel polyominoes exactly for several terms, before eventually diverging. There are 4998 9-ominoes for both, and 67792 polar one-sided, and 67791 oriented parallel 11-ominoes. It seems unlikely that this is a coincidence. Does anyone know why this occurs?)

These types can be realized geometrically by replacing square cells in a planar tiling with cells with the appropriate symmetry. Another way they can be realized is by keeping the cells square and marking them with a figure with the appropriate symmetry. This is essentially what I did by cutting arrow shaped holes in the Agincourt pieces. The latter method allows the possibility of mixing different symmetry types in the same tiling. I don’t believe I’ve seen such a problem before, so let me be the first to fill what may be a much needed gap:

Problem #28: Tile a 6×6 square with the oriented parallel, oriented diagonal, and polar one-sided trominoes. No tromino should touch another of the same type.

With these symmetry subgroup based polyform variations in mind, any type of polyform on a square grid can be transformed into an entire family of polyforms. In particular, polysticks would reward exploration in this light, which does not seem to have occurred yet. A similar analysis to the one above can be made for symmetry based variations of polyiamonds and polyhexes. Bringing translation symmetry subgroups into the picture leads to things like checkered polyominoes. I may get to these in later posts; this one was getting long enough that I needed to wrap it up.

I should note that Peter Esser’s pages on polyforms cover these variations, and that his polyomino solver program can work with any of the 8 symmetry types (but not with mixed types.) (It is, sadly, a Windows binary, but I’ve been able to make it work under Wine on Linux.)

Rectangular Pentominoes

October 29th, 2010

When I had Agincourt made, I purchased a bulk order of 4″ × 4″ × 1″ white cardboard jewelry boxes. They look quite nice, and they fit both Agincourt and L-Topia, but I have enough of them that I’m on the lookout for ideas for polyform puzzles that fit nicely into a few square layers. And now I’ve found one:

I stumbled upon this by noticing that there are 21 pentominoes of this symmetry type, which could make three 5 × 7 layers. I wanted square layers; usefully, squashing the cells into rectangles with a 5 : 7 ratio of width to length simultaneously gave me the square layers and gave the cells the right type of symmetry.

It’s been observed that any of the subgroups of the symmetries of the square can be used as the basis for a type of polyomino puzzle. (See Peter Esser on pentomino variations, and particularly the page on parallel polarized pentominoes, which are equivalent to rectangular pentominoes.) For Agincourt, I physically realized one of these types by laser-cutting symmetrical, arrow-shaped holes in every square cell. Other types have been made by changing the shape of the cells themselves. Rhombic pentomino sets have been produced by Kadon as Rhombiominoes. Sets of rectangular polyominoes, shaped like Meiji chocolate bars, have been produced by Hanayama. (These may not be equivalent to the rectangular polyominoes above, if the top is distinct from the bottom, which isn’t clear from the pictures there.) I’m not aware of anyone who is producing complete sets of rectangular pentominoes, so there’s a gap I’m willing to step into.

If you take out the pentominoes with a diagonal line of symmetry in their non-squashed form, (the green ones above) the remaining 18 pentominoes come in 9 pairs, where each pair contains two different squashed versions of the same pentomino. With these pieces it is interesting to try to tile a pair of shapes with the same orientation such that one piece from each piece pair is in each shape. (Note that if the two shapes had different orientations, you could always make the second shape with corresponding pieces in the same position as the first, but squashed in the other direction.)

Since the set has area 90, the obvious thing to try is two 9×5 rectangles. The next most obvious thing to try is two 7×7 squares with corners removed. Neither of these seem to work, although I have no proof.

One thing that does work is a 7×7 square with a 4×4 square cut out of one corner. But this is again just the case where you can trivially get the solution to the second piece by squashing the pieces differently, because this shape has diagonal “mirror symmetry”.

Another problem is finding three congruent shapes, each of which has the following property: three of its pieces have their twin in one of the other two shapes, and three have their twin in the remaining shape:

I’m looking into having some sets of the rectangular polyominoes made, and if I can do so economically, I’ll sell them through the store. (Sadly, TechShop Portland, the facility where I made Agincourt, has gone away, so I will need to look at other options.)