The New and Improved PuzzleNation!

Today, we celebrate the relaunch of the PuzzleNation website!

There you’ll find all of the details for our current apps, complete with graphics, full rundowns of features, and links for download, as well as news and promos for our upcoming products!

While we’re sad to say goodbye to the original site, the launchpad for so many new ideas and so much puzzle fun over the last few years, we’re also excited to take the next big step forward, to watch the PuzzleNation community continue to expand and prosper.

From Facebook and Twitter to Pinterest and Tumblrfrom PuzzleNation Blog to our home base at PuzzleNation.com, our potential and our community have grown together, and we are overjoyed to bring you a new and improved PuzzleNation experience, geared toward bringing the very best in puzzles and games right to your fingertips!

And, as always, we are endlessly grateful for the support, loyalty, and puzzle-loving enthusiasm of the PuzzleNation audience. From everyone here at PuzzleNation to all of our fellow puzzlers, solvers, and friends, thanks for taking this journey with us. We can’t wait to show you what we come up with next.

It’s Follow-Up Friday: Melancholy Mastermind 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’s update is all about the Great Urban Race.

I had the privilege of providing puzzly tech support for my sister as she ran several Great Urban Race events, and it was both a terrific challenge and a marvelously fun experience.

Each race was totally different, designed around the host city, and the questions could involve anything from trivia and cryptography to anagrams and pattern-matching, along with some serious chops when it comes to Googling in a hurry.

[A glimpse at a sample set of challenges from a previous event.]

So I was sad to find out that this year’s competition, which wrapped up with the championship round in Vancouver back in August, will be the last GUR event.

From their website: “After eight fun and action-packed years, Great Urban Race will no longer be touring the country.”

[A team crosses the finish line at a GUR event.]

I reached out to friend of the blog and GUR Senior Manager Jordan Diehl, who had this to share:

The decision to retire Great Urban Race was not an easy one, but ultimately the best move for our company.  We are excited to continue to produce unique and exciting events like Warrior Dash, American Beer Classic, and Firefly Music Festival and will be focusing our efforts on these ventures and others that we will be launching in the future.  

On behalf of GUR and Red Frog Events, we wholeheartedly appreciate the support of our participants over the past eight years and hope to see them at a future Red Frog event! 

While I’m disappointed that the puzzlerific Great Urban Race that we know and love is no more, I’m excited to see what else the creative minds at Red Frog Events come up with. I’ll be sure to update you if anything particularly puzzly arises in the future.

Until then, I wish all the best to the GUR crew, and heartfelt congratulations to all the masterminds who traveled the country accepting the Great Urban Race challenge.

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: Holiday Fluxx

The hallmark of any great card game is replayability. Unless you’re playing an epic-length game of War, you’re bound to be playing multiple rounds of a given card game. But how do you keep the gameplay from stagnating?

Simple. You change the rules every game. Or sometimes, every hand!

That’s where Fluxx comes in. Fluxx is one of the flagship brands of Looney Labs, a company dedicated to wildly interactive, adaptable gameplay that offers high replay value. In Fluxx, everything can change by employing a single card. The number of cards you draw, or the number you discard, or the number you’re allowed in your hand… even how to win the game can change with ease.

Not only does this require constant attention, but it keeps the game from ever getting boring. One round, everyone had to pass their entire hand to another player and use their opponent’s cards!

There are numerous variations on the Fluxx design offered by Looney Labs — including Star Fluxx, Pirate Fluxx, Monty Python Fluxx, and a board game version, among others — but in today’s review, we’re taking a look at the latest version: Holiday Fluxx!

The mechanics of the game are the same as any other version of Fluxx: collect Keeper cards and be the first to match a pair of Keeper cards to the current Goal card. Since Goal cards can easily be changed (along with all of the other changes inherent to the game), this is more difficult than it sounds.

While most of the action cards will be familiar to Fluxx players, the new holiday-themed Goals and Keepers (representing Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwaanza, and even a touch of Halloween and Thanksgiving) are bright and colorful, adding seasonal charm to the gameplay. There are also new rules cards (many involving “gifting” cards to others) in keeping with the holiday theme, as well as surprise cards that can be played at any time. Every game is festive chaos.

Holiday Fluxx is a solid card game for puzzlers, mixing pattern-matching and strategy elements to keep you on your toes, employing rule changes to your advantage. And the game’s tendency to shift suddenly will definitely challenge solvers more accustomed to slower, steadier card games.

[To check out reviews of other Looney Labs products, click here and 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!

But I have all the koalafications!

Good cluing is one of the cornerstones of quality crossword writing. Not only do the clues have to be interesting, clever, and challenging, but they need to be accurate as well. After all, there’s a big difference between playfully misleading and misleadingly wrong.

Thankfully, this is the Golden Age of cluing assistance, and there are numerous cluing archives and websites loaded up with crossword clues galore. Places like Crossword Nexus, Crossword Tracker, Wordplays, and XwordInfo are searchable, not only allowing constructors to look for new clues, but assisting solvers with troublesome clues.

It also makes researching crossword controversies a whole lot easier, like Hugh Stephenson’s koala-centric kerfuffle in The Guardian’s crossword blog.

You see, fellow puzzlers, a setter named Qaos used the following clue in a cryptic crossword:

Bear a left, then a right, then reverse (5)

This clue was intended to point toward the answer KOALA, both with the word “bear” and the directions “a left, then a right” — meaning A L, A OK — “then reverse” — KOALA. But some solvers took issue with Qaos referring to the koala as a bear, despite the common vernacular term “koala bear.”

Now, if we’re going by strict dictionary definition, those solvers are correct. The koala is a marsupial, not a bear. Of course, dictionaries were recently amended to say that “literally” no longer just means “literally” — it can mean “figuratively” as well. So I’m inclined to go beyond the dictionary definition and plumb the depths of crossword clue archives to see where the crossword community as a whole stands on the question of koala vs. koala bear.

The Crossword Solver lists the clue [Australian "bear"], but mostly avoids the controversy with a litany of clues like [Gum leaf eater], [Australian critter], and [Down Under climber].

If you go to Crossword Tracker, you mostly get clues that hedge their bet, like [Australian "bear"], [Marsupial sometimes called a bear], and [Australian bearlike beast], but there are a few hard-nosed clues like [It isn't really a bear].

Crossword Giant agrees on this front, while Wordplays wavers wildly, citing both [Cute "bear"] and [Cute bear] in its archives.

I’d hoped for a definitive answer when searching XwordInfo, which is dedicated to clues featured in the New York Times Crossword. The Shortz era comes down firmly on the side of “bear”, not bear, but the pre-Shortz era is less rigid, with clues like [Living Teddy bear], [Bear of Down Under], and [Kangaroo bear].

And while I feel that the koala vs. koala bear issue remains unresolved, Mr. Stephenson is firmly in the koala bear camp, jokingly citing the 1983 Paul McCartney / Michael Jackson collaboration “Ode to a Koala Bear” as evidence.

Of course, if we’re going to start citing songs as evidence, that means “pompatus” is a real word, and that opens a whole new can of worms.

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: Fond Farewell 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’s update is all about constructor Robin Stears.

You’ve probably seen her puzzles in various Penny Press magazines, not to mention her delightful Team StearsWords mailings and products. She’s a prolific and creative constructor, a longtime friend of the blog, and an all-around good egg whose body of work spans two decades of terrific puzzling.

So I admit, I was a little sad to see her latest blog post a few days ago.

In short, Robin is taking time away from crosswords to embark on a new adventure: returning to college to study mathematics, in the hopes of sharing her love of math with the world.

While I’m overjoyed to see her tackling new and exciting challenges, I must confess that as a fan of her crosswords, I’m a little sad. Robin’s crosswords always feature clever, topical themes and fun entries, and her support, humor, and friendship over the last two years has been wonderful. She has always been unflinchingly kind and generous when it comes to PuzzleNation, granting interviews and contributing her wisdom, drive, and expertise to several blog posts.

Robin, I wish you the very best in starting a new chapter in your life. For many, many reasons, thank 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!

A logic puzzle with an artistic twist!

Puzzles are truly a worldwide phenomenon. So many different cultures and groups have created fantastic, long-lasting puzzle styles that continue to resonate across decades and even centuries.

In the past I’ve endeavored to make PuzzleNation Blog a bit more PuzzleInternational by sharing overseas puzzle flavors from German and Spanish puzzle books that’ve been passed to me by fellow puzzlers.

And I’m so excited that another friend of the blog has shared an absolute treasure trove of international puzzle books with me, ensuring that our puzzly world tour will continue!

So today, instead of examining a single puzzle book and getting a glimpse into a particular culture’s brand of puzzles, I’ve picked a particular type of puzzle and we’ll be exploring magazines from several different countries dedicated to that puzzle!

Let’s take a global look at Logic Art!

Logic Art puzzles (also known as Pixel Puzzles, Pic-a-Pix, Illust-Logic, Griddlers, Hanjie, and Picture Puzzles) are a wonderfully artistic take on deduction-style logic puzzles.

Essentially, you’re given an empty grid with numbers along the top and left-hand side. These numbers indicate black squares to color in and white squares to leave alone. By deducing where to place the black squares and white squares, a pixelated picture will emerge!

(For more complete rules and solving tips, check out this helpful guide from our friends at Penny/Dell Puzzles.)

So, the difficulty of the solve and creativity of the solution image are only limited by the puzzle constructor’s imagination and your own puzzle savvy.

Some magazines, like these German puzzle books, stick to the simple black square/white square mechanic…

… while others, like this Cyrillic magazine with several colors and this Hungarian magazine with splashes of red, encourage greater use of color in your Logic Artwork.

These smaller, digest-sized Cyrillic magazines offer multiple grids per page with simpler solution images.

But look at the level of detail some of the larger grids offer!

I must admit, though, I’m partial to these Japanese puzzle books, if only for this particular solution image:

Logic Art is obviously a puzzle with global appeal. Although not as universal as Sudoku (or as intuitively easy to solve), it clearly strikes a chord with solvers across the world.

It’s always a treat to explore puzzles from another culture’s perspective. Thanks for taking this journey with me today.

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!