It’s Follow-Up Friday: Birthday 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, I’d like to return to the subject of birthday brain teasers!

Working on the Cheryl’s Birthday brain teaser a few days ago reminded me of another birthday-fueled puzzle that’s been around forever.

How many people do you need to enter a room before the probability of any 2 or more people sharing a birthday (day and month only, not year) is greater than 50%?

Assume for the sake of the puzzle that birthdays in the population at large are equally spread over a 365 day year.

Now, given that there are 365 days in the year, you’d assume the number of people necessary to get that probability of a shared birthday above 50% would be more than half of 365, or 183 people.

But it turns out that, statistically speaking, you don’t need anywhere near that many people.

Let’s break it down. Person A has a birthday. Person B has a birthday. There’s only one possible pairing, A-B. Person C has a birthday, but creates three possible birthday pairings: A-B, A-C, and B-C.

Person D could have a different birthday, but the introduction of Person D begins escalating the number of POSSIBLE shared birthdays. With these four people, we have SIX possible pairings: A-B, A-C, A-D, B-C, B-D, and C-D.

Our fifth person, Person E, allows for TEN possible pairings: A-B, A-C, A-D, A-E, B-C, B-D, B-E, C-D, C-E, and D-E. The probability of a shared birthday is increasing much faster with each new person.

As it turns out, it only takes 23 people to give us a 51% probability of a shared birthday.

And that would certainly save on catering.

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!

Palindromes and Magic Words

[Palindrome, written as an ambigram.]

Regular readers of PuzzleNation Blog know that I am a history buff. I love delving into the past and exploring the myriad ways that language and puzzles have evolved over the centuries. Whenever puzzles tie into a moment in history, whether it’s wartime cryptography or rumors of crossword espionage, I’m immediately hooked.

And it turns out that palindromes have been around far longer than I previously suspected.

Palindromes, as you probably know, are words, phrases, or sentences that can be read the same way backwards and forwards. From “race car” to “Madam, I’m Adam” to “Go hang a salami, I’m a lasagna hog,” palindromes are a classic example of wordplay.

One of the most famous palindromes is dated all the way back to 79 AD in Pompeii (though it has been found in other places throughout history), and is known as the Sator Square:

SATOR
AREPO
TENET
OPERA
ROTAS

Not only is this a working palindrome, but its use of five-letter words makes it a word square as well, since it can be read left-to-right in rows and top-to-bottom in columns, as well as in reverse in both directions.

Another ancient palindrome has been uncovered recently on the island of Cyprus, and the amulet on which it appears dates back nearly 1500 years!

The amulet has multiple pieces of religious iconography on one side, including references to Egyptian and Greek mythology.

On the other side, there is a palindrome written in Greek:

According to LiveScience.com, it roughly translates to “Iahweh is the bearer of the secret name, the lion of Re secure in his shrine.”

It’s believed that the amulet was meant to protect the wearer from danger, illness, or harm. And the palindromic nature of the inscription was key to the amulet’s supernatural potential.

Although word games and wordplay have seemingly always been popular in one form or another throughout the ages, it’s worth mentioning the power many assigned to words.

These weren’t simply displays of linguistic trickery or deftness, these were incantations or wards.

These were magic words.

In Jewish mysticism, words were said to give life to the Golem. The word “abracadabra” was originally used to ward off malaria. Invoking the name of a god and utilizing these carefully chosen words to do so combined some potent magical elements.

And once again, a puzzly moment in history offers an opportunity for greater understanding. Aren’t puzzles great?

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!

Are you smarter than a Singaporean student?

We love brain teasers here at PuzzleNation Blog. Whether we’re dealing with curious parking spaces, men in hats, the crew of the Enterprise playing games, or the seesaw-based conundrum that so baffled Captain Holt on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, we thoroughly enjoy tackling these often diabolical and curious logic problems.

And one has been making the rounds on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms recently. This one comes from a Singaporean classroom, and has made headlines all over the Internet.

Hmmm, doesn’t seem like a lot of information, does it?

So, we have ten possible dates.

Let’s put them in a chart to organize them as best as we can.

Now, let’s analyze each statement in order, since the progression is the key to solving this brain teaser.

Albert says: I don’t know when Cheryl’s birthday is, but I know that Bernard does not know too.

Since Albert is told the month, and there are multiple options for each month, there is no way he could know. At first. But he does know Bernard doesn’t know either. How?

Deduction. If Cheryl told Bernard 18 or 19 (the only days that appear once), Bernard WOULD know Cheryl’s birthday. So Albert can eliminate those two options.

And for Albert to KNOW that, Cheryl cannot have told him May or June, since those were the only months with days that appear once.

A lot of information in a single sentence. Let’s move on to the next sentence.

Bernard says: At first I don’t know when Cheryl’s birthday is, but I know now.

Bernard is on the same track as Albert. He’s eliminated May and June. And he says he knows Cheryl’s birthday. If you look at our chart now, there are three singlet dates (15 for August 15, 16 for July 16, and 17 for August 17). If he was told 14, he wouldn’t know if it were July or August, so we can eliminate those.

From ten possible days, we’re down to three. And Albert’s final sentence finishes the job.

Albert says: Then I also know when Cheryl’s birthday is.

Since Albert is only told the month, it has to be July, because there are two possible dates left in August.

Therefore, in impressively brisk fashion, both Albert and Bernard have deduced that Cheryl’s birthday is July 16. And so have we!

We’ve also deduced that Cheryl is sort of a pain in the ass. But I suspect that wasn’t much of a brain teaser.

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: Hashtag Game 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 International TableTop Day!

You may be familiar with the board game Schmovie, hashtag games on Twitter, or @midnight’s Hashtag Wars segment on Comedy Central. Well, I decided to host our own wordplay game in honor of TableTop Day.

Our hook was: Penny/Dell Puzzle Movies!

Examples could be “Starspell Wars” or “Legends of the Quotefalls” or “Live and Let Die-agramless.”

I received over 100 responses from PuzzleNation and Penny/Dell employees, and I simply had to compile a complete list and share it with you! (I’ve included links for as many puzzles as I could find!)

So, without further ado, please enjoy our feature presentation.


Sudo-Cujo

One Flew Over the (Sudo)ku-koo’s Nest

Two for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

The “Ken-Ken”tucky Fried Movie

A Scarlet Letterbox

Last Tangleword in Paris

Tanglewords and Cash

Django Un-Chain Words

What’s Left Pussycat?

Easy Crossword Midnight Express OR Midnight Express Easy Crosswords

The Good – the Bad, and the Ugly – Time Crosswords

Revenge of the Words

When Flower Met Power

The Flower Power and the Glory

Anagram Gables

The Trum-Anagram Show

(Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless) Mind Boggler

The Domino Theory of Everything

Domino (Conspiracy) Theory

Lord of the Ringers

(The Lord of the) Ringers: (The) Two-Step (Towers)

Lord of the Changeling

Lord of the Ring-master

Lord of the Diamond Rings

Diamond Rings are Forever

Nine of Diamonds Are Forever

Diamond Mines are a Girl’s Best Friend – (Starring Maria Monroe)

The Fantastic Four Corners

Four (Children of the) Corners

Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stepping Stones

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secret Words

The Wizard Words of Oz

Desperately Wordseek-ing Susan

Star Trek 3: The Word Search For Spock

The Secret Message of NIMH

Patchword Adams

A Patchwords of Blue

Nightmare on Garfield’s Word Seek

Around the Bend It Like Beckham

Here and There Will be Blood

How to Train Your Zigzag-on

Heads and Tails from the Crypt

Tales from the Crypt-O-Grams

Crypto-Riddles of the Sphinx

(X-Men: First) Classified Ads

(Dead and) Buried Treasure

Split (Second) Personalities

A Framework Orange

Fiddler’s Frame on the Roof

Charlie’s ANGLEWORDS

Trading Places, Please

Places, Please in the Heart

Fill-In Minnesota

To Fill-In a Mockingbird

Rapid (Fire) Reader

Puzzle (Down and) Derby

THE WHOLE TRUTH About Cats & Dogs

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Match-Ups

(One Hour) Photo Finish

(500 Days of) Sum(mer) Triangles

Gold-Figgerits

Dial-a-Grams for Murder

Place Your Murder by Numbers

The LETTER COUNT of Monte Cristo

Mad Maxi-Point

Add One Fine Day

Scramble Across Five Aprils

Piece by Pieces of April

12 Mon-Keywords

SQUARE NINES From Outer Space

Anacrostics Karenina OR Anna Karenina–crostics

Raiders of the Crostics Ark

Raiders of the List-A-Crostic

The Seventh Syllacrostic

Schindler’s List-a-Crostic

Schindler’s Missing List

First and Last Action Hero

Meet Joe BLACK MAGIC

Full Metal JACKPOT

Gone with the Window Boxes

Rear Window Boxes

Doctor DoLotto

The Da Vinci Codeword

An American in Pairs

Double Trouble Indemnity

Face to Face/Off

(The World’s) End of the Line


There were even a few TV shows offered — Dora The Exploraword and ACROSS AND DOWNton Abbey — as well as a theater show: The Bookworms of Mormon.

And now, I open the hashtag game up to you, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers! Can you come up with a Penny/Dell Puzzle Movie we missed? Message us on Facebook or Twitter! We’d love to see them!

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: Houdini

Whether made of wood, metal, plastic, or rope, mechanical brain teasers can be some of the most challenging and well-crafted puzzles a solver will ever encounter.

Engaging both the solver’s deductive skills and patience, these puzzles often involve removing one key piece from an elaborate interconnected grouping, be it a ball from a seemingly solid maze of wooden posts or a heart from a web of unyielding metal linkages.

The cunning and clever brains at ThinkFun have put their own unique spin on the mechanical brain teaser with their latest product, Houdini, putting you in the legendary escape artist’s shoes and pitting you against numerous scenarios, all intended to keep the magician’s plastic namesake firmly trapped.

Although Houdini’s body and arms are one solid piece — representing his wrists being shackled together — his legs are felt, allowing you to bend and twist them in ways that replicate Houdini’s legendary flexibility. As the ropes are wound around and through both Houdini’s limbs and various obstacles designed to prevent his movement, it’s up to the solver to find the hidden loophole that will allow Houdini to escape scot-free.

With only a lock, a barrel, a solid ring, the three-looped base, and a few easy-clip ropes, ThinkFun has conjured 40 layouts of increasing difficulty, and I admit, some of these seriously taxed my puzzly skills.

The later puzzles involve multiple steps to free Houdini, utilizing tricks you’ve learned solving the earlier puzzles. It’s a brilliant slow-build solving experience, one that ThinkFun has employed with similar success with Laser Maze, Gravity Maze, and other products.

Houdini is not only a wonderful tribute to an entertainment legend, it’s a terrific puzzle toy that introduces a new world of brain teasers to younger 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!

TableTop Day: PuzzleNation Style!

The third annual International TableTop Day was last Saturday, and according to reports across the Internet, it was the most successful and joyous TableTop Day yet! Games were donated by some of the top companies (our friends at Looney Labs and Steve Jackson Games among them) as well as by the folks at Geek & Sundry, and the puzzle game community came together once again to prove how amazing and warm puzzlers and gamers can be.

For the second year in a row, we at PuzzleNation had our own little TableTop Day event with our friends at Penny/Dell Puzzles, and it was great fun! Games were played, an insane amount of sugary treats were prepared, snacks were consumed, and fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers were introduced to some terrific games.

I raided my personal puzzle and game collection to provide some choice offerings for my fellow puzzlers, and readers of the blog will no doubt recognize several items from previous product reviews!

Here’s the full rundown of games we had:

(Sadly, a lot of personal favorites had to be excluded because they would take more than 30 minutes to play, like some of the offerings from Cheapass Games and other great companies, and it was a work day. I promise, this is a fraction of my full puzzle and game collection.)

Timeline proved to be one of the biggest hits of the day, because it’s so simple to play and offers endless replay value. (Especially with seven different editions of the game to choose from!)

I also managed to win my first game of Jenga in what seems like a decade!

There was plenty of switching between games as well. Here, a game of Just Desserts immediately followed a round of Bananagrams Wild Tiles!

But that wasn’t all! To include fellow puzzlers who couldn’t attend the event in person, we had our own Hashtag Game running in-house all day. Inspired by both @midnight hashtag games and our friends at Schmovie, we had a contest to create “Penny/Dell Puzzle Movies.”

I’ll be posting ALL of the entries on Friday, but here are a few favorites:

  • The Scarlet Letterboxes
  • Schindler’s List-A-Crostic
  • Double Trouble Indemnity

All in all, it was an awesome time. Hope everyone enjoyed!

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!