5 Questions: Alumni Edition!

Welcome to a special edition of PuzzleNation Blog’s interview feature, 5 Questions!

Normally, I’d be posting a new interview with a puzzle constructor, game designer, puzzle enthusiast, or a member of any other creative field that enriches the world in a puzzly way.

But instead, today I thought I’d reach out to our 5 Questions alumni and bring you news on what they’ve been up to since their sessions of 5 Questions.

First off, puzzle constructor Trip Payne’s new Puzzle Extravaganza launches tomorrow, August 1! You can still sign up through the end of August, and the extravaganza is only $10 (a little more for bonus puzzles).

Put your puzzly skills to the test against a topnotch constructor who has contributed to dozens of newspapers, outlets, and puzzle books, including Will Shortz’s WordPlay!

[To check out Trip's session of 5 Questions, click here!]

Next up, the dynamic duo of Aubrey and Angela, better known as The Doubleclicks, are continuing to fulfill all the promises made in the Kickstarter fundraising campaign for their newest album, Dimetrodon!

And they’re currently touring across the Midwest and East Coast! Their ambitious schedule of venues includes Toronto, Boston, Brooklyn, and plenty of other cities, many that will experience the Doubleclicks live for the very first time!

In addition, they’ve just completed their Weekly Song Wednesday project, where they posted a new song and video every Wednesday for ten weeks. You can visit their YouTube page to explore all sorts of delightful content fit for puzzlers and game fans of all ages.

[To check out Angela and Aubrey's session of 5 Questions, click here!]

And lastly, I have some exciting updates from BaffleDazzle founder Rachel Happen.

After launching a tremendous Kickstarter campaign to fund BaffleDazzle’s first line of jigsaw-inspired puzzles, Rachel recently sent her Kickstarter backers an update on how the production phase is going.

So far, she’s on target to deliver all of her promised puzzles by the end of August!

As a one-woman puzzle-making machine, Rachel is exceeding expectations on all fronts, not only redesigning and improving every aspect of the looming delivery process, but designing brand new bonuses to include.

Just take a gander at these stacks of Codebreakers puzzles, freshly produced and awaiting happy homes and eager puzzlers:

[To check out Rachel's session of 5 Questions, click here! And for a spoiler-light review of the BaffleDazzle puzzle Cirkusu, click here!]

These are just a few examples of puzzly people doing amazing, entertaining, fascinating things, and I’m glad I’m lucky enough to share their work with you, my fellow puzzlers.

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Birdbrain, indeed!

[Here, a crow reaches food by adding stones to containers
in order to raise the water level. Pretty crafty.]

Without a doubt, one of my favorite aspects of human society is our love of puzzles. We have this marvelous desire to challenge each other with all sorts of mechanical puzzles, logic games, pen-and-paper puzzles, apps, and riddles, and arguably the only thing better than creating such diabolical obstacles is overcoming them.

But humans aren’t the only puzzle solvers on the planet. In previous blog posts, we’ve explored the puzzly skills of octopuses and cockatoos, two immensely clever species that’ve each tackled their fair share of mechanical puzzles.

Sure, they’re not solving Sudoku grids or unraveling centuries-old mysteries like Nicolas Cage in National Treasure, but they are putting memory, dexterity, and problem solving to the test with remarkable success.

And today, we welcome a third non-human species to the pantheon of Earthly puzzle solvers: crows.

Check out this video, a segment from a BBC documentary, featuring a crow solving a multi-stage mechanical puzzle in order to feed itself:

[Not quite a feast for crows, is it?]

While this video is amazing, I can’t say I’m surprised. Crows are immensely clever creatures. I remember reading a news story from Japan a few years ago about crows outwitting numerous anti-crow efforts by the Japanese to control the sometimes-dangerous birds. (In Tokyo, crows have caused power outages, downed Internet lines, and even injured citizens.)

When anti-crow traps and sweeps began thinning their numbers, the crows responded by building multiple fake nests to mislead and flummox employees tasked with controlling the bird problem.

And with puzzly skills like those shown in the video on their side, those crows could prove to be an even bigger challenge than they expect.

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!

It’s Follow-Up Friday: Hunger Games edition!

Welcome to Follow-Up Friday!

For those new to PuzzleNation Blog, Follow-Up Friday is a chance for us to revisit the subjects of previous posts and update the PuzzleNation audience on how these projects are doing and what these people have been up to in the meantime.

And today, I’d like to talk about hunger and games! (No, not THOSE hunger games).

This year marked the 30th anniversary of Tetris, one of the all-time favorite video games in history, and I recently posted about the world record Tetris game played on the side of a skyscraper in Philadelphia.

But did you know that Tetris could be good for your health?

In a recent study, visually distracting and engaging games like Tetris were found to reduce the urge to snack by up to 24%!

From the article:

According to a theory called Elaborated Intrusion, our cravings are driven by visual images that often pop into our heads. With this in mind, Plymouth University psychologists Jessica Skorka-Brown, Jackie Andrade, and Jon May wondered if a visually based task, like playing a video game, could decrease the frequency of craving imagery, and with it, the cravings themselves.

Apparently, only three minutes of gameplay was needed to make an impact on food cravings!

As if we needed another reason to love those distinctive little blocks.

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!

Wait a Minute, Mr. Postman…

With subscriptions to puzzle magazines like Will Shortz’s WordPlay and GAMES Magazine, as well as puzzle-by-mail services like The Uptown Puzzle Club and The Crosswords Club, there are plenty of ways to get puzzles by mail.

But one particular puzzler in the UK has put an intriguing twist on the idea of puzzles-by-mail: he’s challenged the carriers of the Royal Mail postal service to solve puzzles in order to deliver his mail.

A graphic designer by trade, James Addison was impressed by the diligence of the postmen of the Royal Mail, and he playfully decided to test their mettle with different challenges, including maps, word searches, pictograms, and other befuddling methods to conceal the intended destination of the letter.

From an article on The Telegraph website:

Although he enjoys solving puzzles himself, he said his hobby was fuelled by a desire partly to test the Royal Mail’s ingenuity and partly to honour old-fashioned letter-writing, following his mother’s advice that a handwritten thank-you note showed you had made an effort.

Well, Mr. Addison is certainly taking his mother’s words to heart. And it seems the postmen of the Royal Mail quite enjoy the spirited challenges his letters offer.

[To try your hand at solving some of Jim's letters, including those pictured in this post, click 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 our library of PuzzleNation apps and games!

A revolution in puzzles?

Crosswords have certainly changed the world. They’re the most popular puzzles in history, challenging the minds of millions every day and kickstarting a pencil-and-paper puzzle revolution in the process. Heck, they’ve even been used in England as part of the recruitment process for code breakers and other puzzly government positions!

But did you know that some constructors have been accused of trying to bring about actual revolutions with crosswords?

Oh yes! The Venezuelan newspaper El Aragueno has been accused on several occasions of hiding encrypted messages within their daily crossword puzzles in order to incite revolt against the government. (And a year ago, another Venezuelan newspaper, Ultimas Noticias, was accused of concealing messages ordering the assassination of a public official!)

While there are no details on what the incendiary message secretly contained within El Aragueno’s puzzle might have said, this isn’t the only time crosswords and constructors have run afoul of the powers that be.

Back in June of 1944, physics teacher and crossword constructor Leonard Dawe was questioned by authorities after several words coinciding with D-Day invasion plans appeared in London’s Daily Telegraph.

The words Omaha (codename for one of Normandy’s beaches), Utah (another Normandy beach codename), Overlord (the name for the plan to land at Normandy on June 6th), mulberry (nickname for a portable harbor built for D-Day), and Neptune (name for the naval portion of the invasion) all appeared in Daily Telegraph crosswords during the month preceding the D-Day landing.

So it was possible (though highly improbable) that Dawe was purposely trying to inform the enemy of Allied plans, and the powers that be acted accordingly. (In the end, no definitive link could be found, and consensus is that Dawe either overheard these words, possibly slipped by soldiers stationed nearby, and slipped them into his grids unwittingly, or this is simply an incredible coincidence.)

Either way, it just goes to show you how influential crosswords have been (and could be!) over the last hundred years.

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!

It’s Follow-Up Friday: Word Crimes edition!

Welcome to Follow-Up Friday!

For those new to PuzzleNation Blog, Follow-Up Friday is a chance for us to revisit the subjects of previous posts and update the PuzzleNation audience on how these projects are doing and what these people have been up to in the meantime.

Last month, I did a Follow-Up Friday post on music videos that reinforced puzzly devices like Rube Goldberg machines and optical illusions.

But today, I’d like to use a music video to talk about grammar and punctuation, two key elements of proper cluing.

The Internet is a breeding ground for new slang and abbreviations, but it’s also the place where spelling and grammar sometimes goes to die. Everything from “there/their/they’re” confusion to misused apostrophes and beyond can be found in most comment sections and far far too many Facebook posts.

Thankfully, musician / comedian / grammar crusader “Weird Al” Yankovic has taken steps to remedy the situation with a song on his new album “Mandatory Fun.”

“Word Crimes” is a parody of the Robin Thicke song “Blurred Lines,” and it takes multiple spelling and grammar offenders to task in truly hilarious fashion.

Enjoy:

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