It’s Follow-Up Friday: Jumbo Jigsaw 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’d like to return to the subject of world records!

Follow-Up Friday has become something of a repository of puzzly world records.

In previous installments, Follow-Up Friday posts have covered Largest Architectural Video Game Display (when a 29-story game of Tetris was played in Philadelphia), Most Game Show Episodes Hosted by the Same Presenter (for Alex Trebek’s run on Jeopardy!), and the solving of the World’s Largest Rubik’s Cube-style Puzzle.

Heck, just last week, I posted about the World’s Largest Vertical Maze.

And this week, I’ve got another cool one for you: the world’s largest jigsaw puzzle.

It is called “Wildlife,” and it’s produced by Educa. It retails for $400. It’s composed of 33,600 pieces. It measures 5 feet by nearly 19 feet. It is so large that it comes in ten separate bags, inside a wooden box on wheels for ease of movement. It is a monster.

The young woman pictured solved it in 450 hours (over the course of two and a half months). There is a world speed record for solving it, but it took 100 people over 19 hours to do it.

Pretty amazing, especially since she owns a cat, a creature rarely conducive to the solving of jigsaw puzzles.

So, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers, what’s the biggest jigsaw puzzle you’ve ever tackled? Let me know! I’d love to hear about it!

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Where do you puzzle and play?

When furnishing your home, there’s a lot to consider: budget, dimensions, layout, colors, fabrics, styles. But did you know that there’s furniture out there specifically for the discerning puzzler or board game fan?

Oh yes, I’m talking about primo set-ups to maximize your gaming and puzzling fun.

It’s not hard to find stylish tables with checkerboards or backgammon designs built into the table, and they start at pretty affordable prices.

But there’s a growing market for high-end gaming tables that not only look great, but utilize drawers for holding game components, sunken play areas to keep dice from escaping mid-roll, and detachable covers so you can use the table like any other surface when you’re not playing.

Check out some of these gorgeous pieces:

The popularity of gaming-specific tables is partially due to the success of Wil Wheaton’s webseries TableTop, which is centered around a table designed specifically for gaming:

But there are tables out there personalized for particular games. For instance, this table is optimized for Axis & Allies, a military land acquisition game set in World War II:

And feast your eyes on this absolutely stunning Risk table I stumbled across online:

Of course, an ingenious player can turn any table into a terrific gaming space. One Dungeons & Dragons dungeon master linked his laptop up to a projector, and displays maps on a regular kitchen table for his players to use. It’s brilliant!

Now, I wanted to see some puzzle-specific tables here as well, and there are plenty for jigsaw enthusiasts. Heck, you should do yourself a favor and Google Image Search the phrase “puzzle furniture,” because it’s a super-entertaining way to pass a few minutes.

But when it comes to crossword solving, nothing seems to beat a comfy armchair or the breakfast table with a touch of puzzly flare…

Unless you’re this guy, that is.

Now THAT is puzzle-solving with style.

I cannot in good conscience, however, wrap up a post about puzzle and gaming furniture without giving a nod to our friends over at Hammacher Schlemmer, who turned a classic table game into a home entertainment experience with the World’s Largest Scrabble Game.

That’s furniture AND a game in one! (And all for the low, low price of $12,000.)

Do you have a favorite place at home for puzzling or playing games? Let me know! Or send us a picture and share your puzzle nook with the world!

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!

Check(mate) this: a chess contest!

When people are looking for a serious mental challenge, chess has been a go-to activity for centuries. Strategic and tactical, you need to keep a lot of information in your head at once in order to be a great player. I’ve found that chess appeals to many puzzle fans, since it’s a constantly shifting puzzle to be solved, one controlled by both you and your opponent.

In the past, I’ve written about some of the puzzlier possibilities when it comes to chess, from Knight’s tours and other chess-based puzzles to games that employ chess rules, like ThinkFun’s Solitaire Chess.

But now, the folks at Marbles: The Brain Store have a new challenge for chess fans: re-imagining the classic pieces for a new generation.

Make Your Move is a visual design competition, asking for board game fans, puzzlers, chess enthusiasts, and any other interested parties to submit a new design for each of the traditional pieces used in chess: pawn, rook, knight, bishop, king, and queen.

Now, the deadline for submission is March 13th, so you don’t have much time to brainstorm and pitch your concept. But check out the rewards!

If your design is chosen, you receive:

  • a check for $2000
  • your game product produced at Marbles’ expense
  • your game sold at all of Marbles’ retail locations and web store
  • your name on the box

Good luck to any of the puzzlers or PuzzleNationers who accept the Marbles Make Your Move challenge! Let me know if you’re entering, because I’d love to see your designs!

(Hmmm, maybe I should gather the PuzzleNation Crew and submit our own! I wonder how Fred looks in a crown…)

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: A-maze-ing 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’d like to return to the subject of building-sized puzzles!

In the past I’ve mentioned some truly monster-sized puzzles, from the apartment building crossword in Ukraine to multi-story games of Tetris played on the sides of office buildings.

Well, another world record has been set for super-sized puzzles, this time in Dubai!

The largest vertical maze in the world (certified by the folks at Guinness!) can be found on the side of a 55-story building aptly known as Maze Tower.

Although LED lights make the maze quite an eye-catching spectacle at night, the maze is also visible in the daytime, since it was physically built along the side of the building.

All it needs is a digital minotaur prowling the corridors to chase off prospective solvers.

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!

Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect Cash Money

Monopoly is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year, no small accomplishment in the world of board games. Available in 43 languages and sold in 111 countries worldwide, the most ubiquitous board game in history is launching a few special promotions to commemorate their eight-decade anniversary.

In the US, they’ve released a special anniversary edition of the game, featuring game tokens representing different decades.

In France, however, the prize is a little bit sweeter.

You see, 80 special sets of the game will be distributed to stores, each with a special bonus: real money mixed in with the Monopoly money.

From an article in The Guardian:

Only one set will land the major jackpot, in which every game note is replaced by real money — for a total windfall of 20,580 euros ($23,268).

In addition, 10 sets will contain five real 20-euro notes, two 50-euro notes and one 100-euro note.

A lesser prize can be scooped in 69 sets, which will have five 10-euro notes and five 20-euro notes.

Evenly distributed among the many variations of the game currently available — junior and electronic editions included — the anniversary sets are out there right now, waiting to be claimed.

This follows in the fine tradition of other specialty Monopoly sets over the years, like the all-chocolate entirely edible version of Monopoly Neiman Marcus sold in the ’70s, or the $100,000 version produced for FAO Schwarz that included emeralds and sapphires embedded into the game board and real U.S. currency.

[Check out this solid gold edition of Monopoly!]

And you can’t help but wonder if other board games will follow suit for their big anniversaries. Imagine Mouse Trap with a real mouse, or Fireball Island with a real gemstone in the center. Heck, an anniversary edition of Hungry Hungry Hippos that includes a real hippo would certainly make for some great press!

As long as nobody tries to release copies of Pandemic with an actual virus, we should be good.

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!

Puzzles at Sea with Jonathan Coulton!

Fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers, I’ve got something special in store for you today. Friend of the blog and Penny Press puzzle editor Jason Keeley is guest-blogging for me today, sharing his experience tackling an impressive puzzle hunt aboard a cruise ship earlier this month.

So, without further ado, take it away, Jason!


[Jonathan Coulton, your host for the next eight days…]

I just got back from JoCo Cruise Crazy 5, an 8-day excursion to the Caribbean on a massive ship. In brief, Jonathan Coulton is a musician famous on the internet for his songs about robots, zombies, and disaffected mad scientists. Five years ago, JoCo (as his fans sometimes refer to him) decided to invite a bunch of his fans onto a cruise ship, take them to some tropical destinations, and entertain them along the way.

He also brought a number of other performers with him, from stand-up comedians to TV personalities to other musicians. Guests such as singer Aimee Mann, Grant Imahara of Mythbusters, and Wil Wheaton of Star Trek: The Next Generation have all been a part of previous JoCo Cruises.

[A few of the guests from this year’s JoCo Cruise: Wil Wheaton,
author Patrick Rothfuss, and author John Scalzi]

Curtis Chen isn’t here just for a vacation or to listen to his favorite musician perform, though. Oh no, he, and his group of talented puzzle writers, are here to bend your brain.

Curtis, believing that many of his fellow passengers probably shared his love of puzzles, volunteered his time to put together a “Puzzle Hunt”: a series of puzzles, often unified by an overarching theme. Once on the ship, he released a couple of puzzles each day, all of which eventually feed into a final “meta” puzzle.

There were no prizes, except for a large button and bragging rights, but the Puzzle Hunt has been quite successful over the past five years. It hasn’t been uncommon to see a handful of people clustered around a nearby table after each day’s puzzles have been released, helping each other out.

[A group gathered around a table, except they’re tackling a few games
from our friends at Looney Labs instead of the Puzzle Hunt…]

This year’s Puzzle Hunt was titled “Number Five is Alive,” and the puzzles were themed around helping a self-aware computer come to terms with its new-found sentience. It begins quite innocently, with a page of knock-knock jokes, except some of the words were replaced with pictures.

Then it ramps up to an acrostic and a Star Trek-themed Sudoku. Then, they put out a modified clock with flashing LED lights. As they flash and spin, I realize that they are spelling out words in semaphore. Luckily, Curtis supplied solvers with a handy cheat sheet for that particular alphabet.

But halfway through the decoding process, something hits me: I should have been turning the clock at certain times so that the 12 was in different positions. Otherwise, most of the message is gibberish!

That sort of thing represents the two-step nature of many of the Puzzle Hunt puzzles. It’s often not enough to be see that “debase sing sin laugh far furry” is a broken speech-recognition software’s way of interpreting the familiar saying “the best things in life are free.” You’ll also have to extract certain highlighted letters from that phrase (and all the others) to build a final quote, which is the information you’ll need for the meta puzzle.

And this year’s meta puzzle was a doozy.

Once I had the keywords from the previous 12 puzzles, I entered specific letters from them into three different grids that appeared to be a random collection of circles and lines. These connected circles spelled out encouraging phrases (such as “Thanks for helping me!”), but I knew I wasn’t finished.

Another sheet gave me instructions for folding these three grids, origami-style, until I had three shapes which had to somehow be fitted together in a certain way to form one three-dimensional object. I struggled with it all throughout lunch, but when I finally figured it out, it was a moment of triumph. The connected circles on the outside now spelled a question that led me to a final keyword, earning me a special sticker to put on my button. Success!

[A huge assortment of games available for guests to play…]

While there were no shortage of concerts and events to attend on the cruise ship, I went out of my way to participate in this enjoyable and challenging event. Curtis and his team of puzzlers (John, Josh, Sean, Corby, and DeeAnn) put together a series of puzzles that taxed my intellect and facilitated conversation with the other passengers. Kudos to them all!


Thank you to Jason for his outstanding writeup of Number 5 is Alive and the JoCo Cruise in general!

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!