I once received a puzzle that can be described as follows: There are $12$ black pentagonal and $20$ white hexagonal pieces. The goal is to form a soccer ball from these (aka. truncated icosahedron). Similar to a (flat) jigsaw puzzle, each edge of each piece is equipped with either a "tongue" or a "groove" for interlocking (and there is only one type of these, that is, every tongue fits into every groove of every other piece). The assignment of tongues and grooves follows a highly symmetric pattern: Each piece has at least two tongues and at least two grooves; apart from that all possible shapes occur in equal number, that is:
- For each of the four ways (up to rotation!) to pick two or three tongue positions for a pentagon, there are three puzzle pieces with that pattern
- For each of the ten ways to pick two or three or four tongue positions for a hexagon, there are two puzzle pieces with that pattern.
It seems highly incidental that the required number of pieces is a multiple of the possible configurations - then again this is just the law of small numbers at work.
Anyway, I have spent hours on solving the puzzle manually, but never succeeded. The tricky thing is that it is very easy to just go ahead put together all but one or two pieces, but those last pieces just never fit. On the other hand, once I sat down and wrote a program to solve the puzzle by backtracking it began spatting out gazillions of solutions faster than the screen could scroll ... which is of course embarrassing for me as a puzzler.
My question is: Given the highly symmetric setup of the collection of puzzle pieces, there should be some "symmetric" solution to the puzzle. Can anyone find such a symmetric solution?
Of course, the term "symmetric" has to be taken a bit loosely here (and that makes this question somewhat opinion-based), after all the threefold repetition of pentagonal pieces and twofold repetition of hexagonal pieces excludes anything that is actually invariant under a symmetry movement of the soccer ball ($\gcd(2,3)=1$). So anything that can be found by contemplating instead of computer power and/or that can be described by a nice pattern instead of a piece-by-piece enumeration would be acceptable.