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.

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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.

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You’ll never guess this Viking secret message…

I write about codebreaking a lot in this blog. For me, it’s one of the most fascinating real-world applications of puzzle-solving skills. The fact that so many of these stories involve momentous and fascinating times in history — like the Civil War, World War II, and even the identity of the Man in the Iron Mask — is just icing on the cake.

But it’s nice to be reminded that playing around with codes for fun is an equally long-lasting tradition.

K. Jonas Nordby (probably my favorite name that has ever appeared on the blog, by the way), is a runologist — a scholar of runes — at the University of Oslo, and he recently cracked a runic code employed by the Vikings, the jotunvillur code, based on samples scratched into a stick from the 13th century.

From an article on Medievalists.net (though I first spotted the story on IO9):

For the jötunvillur code, one would replace the original runic character with the last sound of the rune name. For example, the rune for ‘f’, pronounced fe, would be turned into an ‘e’, while the rune for ‘k’, pronounced kaun, became ‘n’.

The messages themselves range from simple expressions — “Kiss me” — to taunts by confident codesmiths daring readers to try to crack a given runic code.

Heck, some of the encoded messages even included a Viking cryptographer boasting about his skills!

It’s fun to imagine Vikings toying with various codes and runes during their downtime. Even marauders take time out for some quality puzzling, it seems. =)

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!

Follow-Up Friday: Optical Illusion 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 optical illusions.

Puzzles for the eye, optical illusions challenge the viewer to shift perspectives and accept that seeing is not always believing. And whether it’s Ok Go!’s tricky music video or a carefully crafted LEGO illusion, they’re a favorite subject here at PuzzleNation Blog. I mean, heck, we’ve got entire boards on Pinterest dedicated to them!

So you can imagine my delight when I stumbled upon a CollegeHumor video that had some fun with a few classic optical illusions.

I present Optical Illusion Girlfriend:

Have a marvelous weekend, puzzlers and PuzzleNationers! Here’s hoping everything you see is what it seems. =)

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 App Review: Paper & Light

Welcome to the sixth edition of PuzzleNation App Reviews! Today we continue our quest to explore the world of puzzly games and apps for your tablet or smartphone!

Our resident App player and puzzle fiend Sherri has another intriguing game for us today, so let’s get down to business and dive into her review of Paper & Light for iPad and iPhone!


If you enjoy mazes, then Paper & Light is the game for you. It is an iOS game in which you are a cardboard box who must navigate your way around obstacles to the exit.

This is a very cute game. You play a cardboard box, and your friend is a bright firefly. Your goal in each level is to find your way around other boxes, toolboxes, and various other obstacles to the exit. The firefly is quite helpful, as it’s your only source of light. While you only have a narrow range of light from the firefly, you can switch between the cardboard box and the firefly as needed.

The game is divided into chapters and there are 15 levels in each chapter. As the firefly, you can scope out the area to plot your route to the exit. You earn stars for not using the firefly, but you can redo the level to get the star. For collecting 12 stars in each chapter, you earn a special reward.

I played through the first chapter, The Basement. To open later chapters, you need to complete a certain number of levels. I was pulled in by the cute graphics. I enjoyed playing the game. The levels were laid out in a pleasing manner and became increasingly more difficult. A big drawback, though, is that you can’t move the box very quickly. My wrist became quite sore as I was playing.

[Pictures courtesy of Yahoo.]

The mazes became more and more challenging as the game progressed. It did become a bit monotonous, and my wrist hurt after a while, but it was still an enjoyable way to pass the time. Figuring your way out of the mazes really worked the brain.

Ratings for Paper & Light:

  • Enjoyability: 3/5 — If you enjoy mazes, this is the game for you.
  • How well puzzles are incorporated: 4/5 — This is quite a puzzly game. You need to plot your path around the obstacles well.
  • Graphics: 3/5 — The graphics are simple but cute. The eyes on the cardboard box move when you move it, and the firefly flutters. The obstacles have some nice detail.
  • Gameplay: 2/5 — The box doesn’t move very quickly, so your wrist can get quite sore trying to reach the exit.

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!

Embracing the cold for a good cause

[A Boston crowd takes part in the Ice Bucket Challenge.
Photo courtesy of Forbes.com]

You’d be hard-pressed to find another Internet awareness campaign as cleverly designed and effective as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge that swept the world this summer.

If you somehow managed to miss it, people were challenged on video to donate to research battling ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease), and if they didn’t do so within 24 hours of being challenged, they had to donate AND dump a bucket of ice water over their heads on video to spread awareness of the disease and the campaign.

[Note: Specific dollar amounts and whether or not the ice bucket was involved in each challenge varies, depending on who tagged who. I've read conflicting reports, so I've tried to encapsulate (to the best of my ability) most of the videos I've seen.]

This charity drive took the Internet and the world by storm. Fire departments, casts of television shows, athletes, comedians, YouTubers, business magnates, and actors joined thousands of others in spreading the word about ALS. Everyone from Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking to George W. Bush and Donald Trump posted videos.

Everyone seems to have favorite ALS Ice Bucket Challenge videos, whether it’s Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch’s video, Isaiah Mustafa’s video with Old Spice commercial silliness, or Taylor Swift’s fan-fueled group video. But, as you might expect, my personal favorite Ice Bucket Challenge video has a puzzly twist.

YouTuber Amanda McKenna (of Amanda’s Chronicles) executed a Rube Goldberg-inspired Ice Bucket challenge with Doctor Who flavor and terrific results. Check it out:

To donate to ALS research, click here. And if there are any great Ice Bucket Challenge videos I missed, please let me know!

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 our library of PuzzleNation apps and games!