As I understand it, one criticism of puzzles in games is that they rely on player skill, not character skill. For people used to modern rule sets, that's a valid concern as the nature of role playing assumed is of the school of thought that says "my character is solving the puzzle and my character is smarter/dumber than I am." Older games tend to see challenging the player's ability to solve the puzzle as just another accepted aspect of the game, with no allowance made for character ability.
The other criticism I have seen is that either the GM creates a puzzle that is reduced to rolling various skill checks to solve, in which case the effort seems wasted, or the puzzle is either too easy or too hard for the players themselves to solve, producing either boredom or frustration.
For social games,I tend to buy into the dilemma of the second paragraph and that eliminates my desire to create puzzles in that case.
Solo games are a different animal though.
For one, I know what kinds of puzzles I like, and know at what difficulty I have a reasonable chance of solving them. I also don't mind if my personal ability is challenged. Still, I do want to make some allowance that my characters have abilities that I do not.
Here's what I' thinking - just a brainstorm, and fully untested:
I know I like sudoku. I also know that even when I'm in a groove, it can take me several minutes to solve even the easiest of them. So, I'll use sudoku as my out of game representation of the puzzle.
To account for in-game player advantages/disadvantages:
- If a PC has an intelligence of 13 or higher, then if I roll under that number, I can add 1 minute (or some other amount of time) to the time I have to solve the puzzle.
- If the PC has an INT of less than 9, and I roll under, I don't take a penalty, but if I roll over, then I take a 1 minute (or some other amount of time) penalty.
- For those with average scores 9-12 - over yields a penalty and under yields a bonus.
I suppose an alternative would be to account for the difference between the rolled score and the INT score at 10 seconds per point.
Or perhaps just use the INT below 9 as a minus and INT above 12 as a bonus, but that method means that there's never a chance for luck(good or bad), a random spark of genius, or having a brain fart.
Hopefully, in the next session I'll have a chance to put one of these methods to the test.