It’s Follow-Up Friday: Single Letter Answers edition!

Welcome to Follow-Up Friday!

By this time, you know the drill. Follow-Up Friday is a chance for us to revisit the subjects of previous posts and bring the PuzzleNation audience up to speed on all things puzzly.

And today, I’ll be posting the answers to the single letter puzzles from Tuesday’s blog post all about the power of single letters in puzzles!

The first puzzle was a brain teaser.

There’s a word in the English language in which the first 2 letters signify a male, the first 3 signify a female, the first 4 signify a great man, and the whole word signifies a great woman. What is that word?

The word is HEROINE. The first two letters are HE, the first three are HER, and the first four are HERO.


The second puzzle involved the first letters of words forming a pattern, and I asked you to both deduce the pattern and provide the next entry in the series.

O, T, T, F, F, S, S, E, ?

The next entry in the series is N, for Nine. These are the first letters of numbers — One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight.

J, F, M, A, M, J, J, A, S, O, N, ?

The next entry in the series is D, for December. These are the first letters of the months of the year.

S, M, H, D, W, M, ?

The next entry in the series is Y, for Year. These are the first letters for increasing lengths of time — Second, Minute, Hour, Day, Week, Month.

M, V, E, M, J, S, U, ?

The next entry in the series is N, for Neptune. These are the first letters of the planets in the solar system, from closest to the sun to furthest from it.

D, K, P, C, O, F, G, ?

The next entry in the series is S, for Species. These are the first letters of the classification system for all life on Earth — Domain, Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus.


The third and final puzzle involved the first letters of words, but with numbers added, and I asked you to deduce what the letters represent.

3 F in a Y: 3 feet in a yard

366 D in a LY: 366 days in a leap year

12 S in the Z: 12 signs in the Zodiac

4 Q in a D: 4 quarters in a dollar

13 C in a S: 13 cards in a suit


How did you do? Did you solve them all, or did these crafty single letter puzzles stump you?

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out the growing library of PuzzleNation apps and games!

Sudoku Around the World!

Sudoku is the most popular pen-and-paper puzzle since the crossword. No other puzzles come close. Whether it’s in your local paper, our iPad app, or one of the magazines offered by our friends at Penny/Dell Puzzles, chances are you’ve solved a Sudoku puzzle at one time or another.

And the solving experience is an integral part of its success. When you look at a Sudoku grid, you instinctively know what sort of puzzle you’re dealing with and what the goal is. You don’t need the instructions or any elaborate explanations. You can simply dive right in.

That sort of simplicity and accessibility gives Sudoku major appeal, and has contributed to its success as an iconic puzzle worldwide.

Look at this stack of puzzle books from around the world, loaned to me by a friend of the blog!

There are Sudoku books in Russian, French, Japanese, and other languages! And yet, you could pick up any one of these magazines and start solving immediately.

Here are two Samurai Sudoku from a Russian puzzle magazine. Again, these are identical to the overlapping grids you find in the States.

I did, however, encounter a few intriguing variations I was unfamiliar with as I perused these magazines published by 777.

Instead of providing sums in smaller boxes within the grid like Sum-Doku puzzles, or along the edges like Kakuro, these puzzles offer totals that correspond to the three diagonal boxes in a line a given arrow points to.

In this Sudoku variant, there are no repeats of the numbers 1 through 8 in a given row or column, but there are also no repeats within each group of connected circles.

Again, although I couldn’t read the instructions for these new puzzles, I was easily able to figure out the mechanics of each and start solving within a few minutes. Very few puzzles have that sort of universal accessibility.

While I’m very familiar with Kakuro (or Cross Sums) puzzles, I’ve never encountered cut-style grids like these. I just love the simple elegance of these diamond-shaped grids. Very eye-catching.

Believe it or not, this is just a sampling of the hundreds and hundreds of Sudoku magazines and puzzle books released over the last decade.

Although the puzzle as we know it has been around since the ’70s under other names (To the Nines and Number Place, among them), it was only relatively recently that it exploded in popularity, becoming a true cultural touchstone and undeniable puzzle phenomenon.

[For another blog post exploring puzzle books from around the world, click here!]

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out the growing library of PuzzleNation apps and games!

One Letter Makes All the Difference

I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about the power of words, and rightly so. Words are the foundation of civilization. They’re how we communicate, how we express ourselves, how we interpret and process and quantify the world around us.

And playing with them is a cornerstone of entertainment. Jokes and puns depend on wordplay, as do riddles, brain teasers, and so many puzzles. Whether they’re being crossed, anagrammed, or shared with friends on an online Scrabble board, words are puzzle power.

That’s true even of letters. A single letter can not only speak volumes, it can be the key to unlocking an entire puzzle.

For instance, let’s talk crosswords. Knowing one across entry is a plural often allows you to place an S, giving you an anchor for the down entry that crosses it.

Cryptograms often offer a single letter as a hook to get you started. In addition, anytime you see a lone letter in a quote, you know it’s an I or an A.

Numerous anagram puzzles involve adding a single letter to a word, anagramming the result, and getting something new and unexpected.

That sort of letter addition reminds me of a brain teaser:

There’s a word in the English language in which the first 2 letters signify a male, the first 3 signify a female, the first 4 signify a great man, and the whole word signifies a great woman. What is that word?

In all of these examples, single letters are part of a greater puzzle. But what about puzzles composed entirely of single letters?

Easy. I can think of two.

In the first, single letters are the first letters of words forming some sort of pattern. Can you deduce the pattern AND provide the next entry in the series?

  • O, T, T, F, F, S, S, E, ?
  • J, F, M, A, M, J, J, A, S, O, N, ?
  • S, M, H, D, W, M, ?
  • M, V, E, M, J, S, U, ?
  • D, K, P, C, O, F, G, ?

In the second, the single letters are still the first letters of words, but we’ve added numbers and it’s up to you to deduce what the letters represent.

  • 3 F in a Y
  • 366 D in a LY
  • 12 S in the Z
  • 4 Q in a D
  • 13 C in a S

All of this, sprung from a single letter. Pretty impressive, isn’t it? No wonder we can accomplish so much with words, given building blocks like these.

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out the growing library of PuzzleNation apps and games!

It’s Follow-Up Friday: Mother’s Day Answers edition!

Welcome to Follow-Up Friday!

By this time, you know the drill. Follow-Up Friday is a chance for us to revisit the subjects of previous posts and bring the PuzzleNation audience up to speed on all things puzzly.

And today, I’ll be posting the answers to our Mother’s Day Unscramblers puzzle!

On Sunday, in honor of the many puzzle-loving moms in the audience, I created a twofold challenge. First, you had to unscramble the names of 12 famous sitcom mothers, and then you had to match them with their respective TV shows.

So, without further ado and hullabaloo, here are the answers!

1. Marion Cunningham — H. Happy Days
2. Samantha Stephens — D. Bewitched
3. Morticia Addams — B. The Addams Family
4. Jill Taylor — L. Home Improvement
5. Peggy Bundy — G. Married… With Children
6. Sophia Petrillo — K. The Golden Girls
7. Claire Dunphy — J. Modern Family
8. Florida Evans — E. Good Times
9. Maggie Seaver — F. Growing Pains
10. Thelma Harper — A. Mama’s Family
11. Harriette Winslow — I. Family Matters
12. Jane Jetson — C. The Jetsons

How did you do? Are you a Mother’s Day puzzle master, or did you sitcom this one out?

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out the growing library of PuzzleNation apps and games!

PuzzleNation Product Review: Fidelitas

In today’s product review, we delve into a medieval world where courting influence wins the day and the best players can move people like chess pieces. Welcome to Fidelitas, a card game created by Green Couch Games and distributed by the good folks at Game Salute.

In Fidelitas, each player tries to manipulate characters into position around the city in order to accomplish specific tasks and gain valuable allies.

There are two sets of cards in Fidelitas: Missio cards and Virtus cards. Virtus cards allow you to manipulate the cards and maneuver characters into place, while Missio cards detail the tasks you must complete in order to earn points.

Virtus cards can affect how many cards you play that turn, where you can play them, and sometimes, where other players can play their cards. (Regular players of Fluxx or one of its many variations will be familiar with this sort of short-term rule-shifting gameplay.)

Different Missio cards have different point values, reflecting how difficult that card’s given task is. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins, having proven him or herself the master manipulator at the table.

Seven cards make up the City, the setting of the game. There are nine guild alignments (which work almost like the suits in a standard deck of cards), and several of the locations are tied to specific guilds. With many location-specific Missio cards, a strong knowledge of the City is crucial to advantageous gameplay.

Fidelitas is reminiscent of another card game I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, Guillotine. But in Guillotine, you’re only manipulating the order of characters in a single line, whereas in Fidelitas, you’re dealing with numerous locations and plots in motion. It ratchets up the difficulty level somewhat, but the core mechanic remains simple and accessible, both key components to a great group card game.

It took me a few games to get the strategy of the game under my belt, since between trying to achieve my own Missio tasks and trying to hinder other players in their gambits, it was hard to be sure if the card I was playing would end up helping me or my opponents and their mysterious Missios.

If you’re hunting for a game with some historic flavor, look no further. This one will test your diplomatic skills as you try to sway people to your side, as well as your poker skills by seeing how well you can read your opponents and devise a plan to thwart their Missio cards from being completed.

Fidelitas incorporates a lot of quality gameplay elements in a small package, not only making it a great quick-play game, but one with more replay value than you’d expect.

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out the growing library of PuzzleNation apps and games!

Hidden in a crossword!

[A grid from BeekeeperLabs.com.]

Everyone loves a little something extra, and that goes double for puzzle fans.

Whether it’s a hidden quote or a secret theme lurking in plain sight, a bonus answer revealed after a tough solve or a final twist that wows you with a constructor’s cleverness and skill, these little surprises are gifts every solver can appreciate.

In Sunday’s New York Times Crossword, what appears at first blush to be a simple themed puzzle — with poet WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS paired with his poem THE LOCUST TREE IN FLOWER — turns out to be much more, as the entire poem is concealed within the grid!

[Image sourced from Amy Reynaldo’s Diary of a Crossword Fiend.]

While this is a particularly ambitious example, this is not an uncommon challenge for a constructor to tackle.

Sometimes, the bonus is announced upfront, as it was in Merl Reagle’s puzzle for the 100th anniversary of the crossword a few years ago. His puzzle was converted into a solvable Google Doodle, and Merl added a crafty word search element by hiding the word FUN multiple times in the grid.

Why “fun,” you ask? Because that was the set word in Arthur Wynne’s original “word-cross” puzzle over one hundred years ago!

[Click here if you haven’t tackled Merl’s marvelous puzzle.]

Our friends at Penny/Dell Puzzles have a recurring crossword variant, Revelation, which conceals a quotation in a standard crossword grid, using the same letters-in-circles technique as Jacob Stulberg did in his poem puzzle.

And, of course, I would be remiss in my duties if I didn’t mention the secret message reading out in both a New York Times crossword and a puzzle featured on The Simpsons, wherein Homer conceals an apology to Lisa inside a crossword with the help of Will Shortz.

[Check out the full puzzle by clicking here.]

So, crossword fans, be vigilant! You never know what hidden treats are lurking inside seemingly innocuous puzzles.

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out the growing library of PuzzleNation apps and games!