PuzzleNation Product Review: Adorable Pandaring

Crowdfunding has significantly changed the world of puzzles and games by offering a new avenue for creators and fans to directly interact and determine whether a game or a puzzle suite becomes a viable product. Many puzzle constructors and game companies are using crowdfunding to both assess the public’s interest in a given game or puzzle AND to raise funds for an initial printing.

And in today’s product review, I’ll be giving the full PuzzleNation treatment to a card game born on Kickstarter and realized through crowdfunding. Let’s talk about Adorable Pandaring, created by Chris Cieslik and Asmadi Games!

In Adorable Pandaring, your goal is to gain bamboo by collecting as many adorable pandas as possible. The trouble is, everyone else is collecting pandas too, and the definition of adorable can change depending on the cards on the table! It’s panda law.

Each panda card has a value and an action. The value lets you know if the panda is adorable or not, depending on the panda law at the time. Sometimes high-numbered pandas are adorable, sometimes low-numbered ones are. Sometimes even-numbered pandas are adorable, sometimes odd-numbered ones are.

The action allows you to affect either an opponent or the game itself. You might gain bamboo, change the panda law, trade cards with an opponent, reveal hidden pandas… there are lots of options, some with exciting consequences.

This is a wonderful mix of poker-style strategy — which card information you share with your opponents and which you conceal — and Fluxx-style rule-shifting chaos. At any time, the panda law can change and your adorable pandas lose their value, or everyone’s hidden cards are revealed and bamboo is awarded.

[A random sampling of the super-cute pandas AND
several ways you can affect the game by playing them.]

And the art is delightful. The pandas are hilarious and, yes, adorable, whether they’re disappointed by dropped ice cream cones or looking sharp in secret agent tuxedo-wear.

Great fun for three to five players, Adorable Pandaring promises adorable pandas and delivers a lot more, making a terrific gateway card game for younger players and a delightful quick-play game for all ages.

(You can pick up a copy from the Asmadi Games store here.)

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Crossing swords with crosswordese!

In the past, I’ve written about crosswordese, nemesis and irritant to many crossword solvers and constructors. For the uninitiated, crosswordese is shorthand for any and all obscure or curious words that you only encounter in crossword grids. From EPEE and OONA to Greek letters (ETA, RHO) and French rivers (AARE), these killer crossings are the bane of any solver’s existence.

And wouldn’t you know it, I encountered some crosswordese in a most unexpected place.

I was reading Patricia Marx’s book Let’s Be Less Stupid: An Attempt to Maintain My Mental Faculties, a humorous look at the common fear that our mental acuity declines as we get older. In the book, Marx references numerous ways she’s noted her brain working less efficiently than it used to, and she hilariously chronicles her attempts to combat this and keep her wits sharp.

As part of her ongoing efforts, she even created a crossword grid utilizing only tough crossword entries.

Her puzzle featured some truly great, funny clues, like “The side of the ship you want to be on if you don’t want your hair to get messed up” for ALEE and “No matter how bad your memory is, this is something to remember” for ALAMO.

While I wouldn’t count every entry in her grid as crosswordese, there were plenty of major offenders on her list. (You can check out the full puzzle in her book!)

And this gave me an idea. I would try my hand at creating my own 9×9 grid, composed entirely of crosswordese, utilizing some of the words from her list and some from lists submitted by fellow puzzlers.

[Forgive my nonstandard grid. I tried to go for the same homemade charm as Marx’s grid. Feel free to print out this post and try it out!]


1. Toward shelter, to salty types
3. Arrow poison OR how a child might describe their belly button in writing
5. Flightless bird OR Zeus’s mother
6. Hireling or slave
8. “Kentucky Jones” actor OR response akin to “Duh”
9. Compass dir. OR inhabitant’s suffix
12. Wide-shoe width OR sound of an excited squeal
15. No longer working, for short OR soak flax or hemp
16. Like a feeble old woman OR anagram of a UFO pilot
17. Actress Balin OR Pig ____ poke


1. Mean alternate spelling for an eagle’s nest
2. Old-timey exclamation
3. Unnecessarily obscure French river or part of the Rhone-Alpes region
4. Supplement OR misspelling of a popular cat from a FOX Saturday morning cartoon
7. Maui goose
10. An abbreviated adjective covering school K through 12 OR how you might greet a Chicago railway
11. My least favorite example of crosswordese OR good and mad
12. Ornamental needlecase
13. Movie feline OR “Frozen” character
14. Shooting marble OR abbreviation for this missing phrase: “truth, justice, and ____”

Did you conquer this crosswordese-riddled grid? And what’s your least favorite example of crosswordese? Let me know! I’d love to hear from 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!

One of the top crossword apps in the world!

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Have you checked out the Penny Dell Crosswords App yet? Not only can you download outstanding puzzles at a great price, but you receive a free puzzle every single day!

It’s Follow-Up Friday: Sharknado puzzle 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, we’re returning to the subject of holidays.

I like to talk about puzzly holidays, but this week has marked more of a cinematic holiday.

Yes, for the third summer in a row, a Sharknado movie has rampaged across our screens, bringing ridiculous action and inexplicable acts of shark-fighting heroism to millions of viewers.

And I thought to myself, what better way is there to mark the occasion than to create a Sharknado-themed deduction puzzle?

So that’s exactly what I did! Enjoy!

Sharknados are terrorizing cities across America! Every day, one of our heroes (April, Claudia, Fin, Gilbert, or Nova) has bravely ventured into a sharknado-afflicted city, armed with a weapon (baseball bat, chainsaw, grenade, laser, or rifle.)

No two heroes were in the same city on the same day, and no hero used any weapon more than once. No weapon was used more than once in the same day, nor was any weapon used more than once in the same city. Can you complete the schedule chart below?

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 takes two to puzzle…

I’m always on the lookout for new and different puzzle styles to discuss here, because there’s a seemingly endless supply of puzzly inventiveness in the world, and I endeavor to share as much of it as possible with my fellow PuzzleNationers.

A few days ago, I was reminded of a brain teaser variation that’s a little different from our usual fare, and I thought I’d put it in the spotlight.

Today, we’re talking about guided lateral thinking puzzles!

Let me start you off with a standard lateral thinking puzzle (which is a fancy way of saying “brain teaser”). This one is an all-time favorite of mine:

A man is found murdered on the floor with 53 bicycles scattered around the room. How did he die?

Now, this may sound like a particularly violent end at a local bike shop, but the lateral thinkers and brain teaser proficient types out there have probably already sussed out the true answer.

The man cheated at cards and was killed for it. Bicycle is a famous brand of playing cards, and with 52 cards in your standard deck, 53 implies cheating.

That’s a pretty simple one.

The difference between regular brain teasers like that one and guided lateral thinking puzzles is that a guided lateral thinking puzzle requires two people: one to ask questions in the hopes of solving it, and the other to know the solution and answer the other player’s questions with only yes or no responses.

The scenarios are often more involved than your usual brain teaser, but you’re only given a brief story to start with. These are not rigid brain teasers like the seesaw one we tackled earlier this year. These puzzles depend on your ability to narrow down the possibilities with strategically worded questions.

Here’s an example of a guided lateral thinking puzzle:

Ann, Ben, and Chris are siblings who were conceived on the same day. This year, Ann will be attending third grade while Ben and Chris attend kindergarten. Why?

While you could try to come up with a solution with just this information, guided lateral thinking puzzles encourage you to talk through your suspicions as you ask questions and uncover the truth.

So, what would you ask? What’s your starting theory? (My first instinct was to go straight to imagining how Leap Day was involved, before quickly realizing that was a ridiculous supposition.)

But maybe you have a better theory. Were they conceived by different people? Was it the same day, but different years?

Posing these questions to your partner in puzzly crime could help you find the answer.

The folks at I09 posted a link to six guided lateral thinking puzzles (including the Ann/Ben/Chris one I mentioned above). Give it a listen and try cracking these puzzles alongside the podcasters!

And let me know how you did! Did you solve any of them right away? Did any of them thoroughly stump you? And would you like to see more puzzles like this on PuzzleNation Blog in the future?

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!

The art (and science) of optical illusions

Visual trickery plays an important role in puzzles. It can be the clever rebus that challenges you to find the words each image represents, or a visual brain teaser that forces you to think outside the box.

But nowhere in the realm of puzzles is visual trickery more obvious or more disconcerting than in optical illusions. Some are simple, like the famous old woman/young woman image above (or this hilarious video version). But others are not only more complex, they’re absolutely mind-bending.

And if we’re talking mind-bending optical illusions, at some point, you have to mention the work of Akiyoshi Kitaoka.

[Akiyoshi Kitaoka’s “A Bulge,” featuring nothing but squares.]

Dr. Kitaoka is a professor of psychology at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan, and he has extensively studied biology and psychology. He has quickly emerged as a modern master of optical illusions, utilizing not only shapes and color gradients to trick the eye, but also to simulate motion in a static image!

Two of the techniques frequently cited in his work with illusions are perceptual transparency and visual completion. Both rely heavily on how our brain and eye process the incredible amount of information we perceive every second of every day.

This is probably the most famous example of a visual completion illusion:

Basically, our brain employs mental shortcuts in order to simplify the information. For instance, visual completion (also known as filling-in) occurs when information unavailable to the eye is assumed to be there and mentally added by the brain.

Perceptual transparency, on the other hand, involves how we can perceive one surface behind another.

Check out this amazing photo from a published paper on perceptual transparency, entitled Zen Mountains:

[The mountains in the background look transparent,
even appearing to overlap each other in impossible ways.]

Dr. Kitaoka’s illusions utilize visual shortcuts and processes such like these, but his most famous creations involve a perceptual technique known as the Fraser-Wilcox Illusion, which involves using lighter and darker gradients of black and white in order to trick the eye into perceiving motion. Essentially, moving from dark to light gradually creates the illusion of motion.

Kitaoka’s work, however, maximizes this effect by employing contrasting color schemes in order to challenge the eye further.

Feast your eyes upon “Rotating Snakes,” Kitaoka’s most diabolical optical illusion:

[For the full effect, click the image and
scroll down for a full-screen version!]

By employing color as well, the rotation illusion is even more striking. In all honesty, I can’t look at it too long or my stomach starts to feel a little off-kilter!

Similarly, Kitaoka tricks the eye into perceiving waves rolling diagonally over this quilt-like sheet in “Primrose’s Field:”

As we understand more about the eye and how it perceives the visual stimuli it receives, as well as more about the brain and how it processes information, I suspect we’ll be able to craft even more convincing, mind-blowing, and unnerving examples of visual sleight of hand.

And undoubtedly, Akiyoshi Kitaoka will be leading the way.

Many thanks to Dr. Kitaoka for granting permission for me to feature three of his illusions in this post. You can check out more of his amazing work on his website, as well as some of his books on Amazon 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!