Start your engines! It’s the Indie 500 crossword tournament!

Having recently attended the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament for the first time, I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled for other puzzle events and tournaments to check out.

And I stumbled across an upcoming tournament with a lot of positive buzz and interest: The Indie 500.

I decided to reach out to one of the participating constructors, Evan Birnholz of Devil Cross. Having met Evan at the ACPT this year, I knew he would be the perfect go-to guy to fill me in on everything Indie 500.

1.) What is The Indie 500?

The Indie 500 is a new crossword puzzle tournament started by five guys with their own free, independent crossword websites: Erik Agard, Peter Broda, Neville Fogarty, Andy Kravis, and myself. We’re each writing and editing the puzzles and we’re excited to hold our first tournament on May 30 down in Washington, DC.

2.) How does it differ from other crossword tournaments/events?

I think our tournament is, first, an outgrowth of the work we do on our respective websites. On a larger scale, it’s essentially a celebration of indie puzzling. The five of us behind the Indie 500 had published only a few puzzles in mainstream outlets before launching our sites, and now most of our crosswords are things that we’ve created for self-publication.

Because we each drew inspiration from independent puzzle writers like Brendan Emmett Quigley and Matt Gaffney and Ben Tausig, we wanted to give others who didn’t have many published puzzles to their name a chance to have a spotlight of their own, so we held a blind, open submission contest to find a sixth tournament constructor with fewer than ten publications in mainstream venues like The New York Times, The LA Times, CrosSynergy, and so on.

If nothing else, we figured this would inspire new constructors to be creative and submit something that they wouldn’t normally send in to a newspaper. We got several amazing submissions, and ended up picking a winner in Finn Vigeland.

[The six contributors to The Indie 500, plus initials.]

I believe our unique voices as puzzle-makers will help set our tournament apart from others. The puzzles on our sites tend to skew younger in content compared with mainstream puzzles — no surprise considering we’re all 31 or younger (I’m the oldest) — and so we like to dabble in themes and clues that reference modern and sometimes edgy material.

Because we don’t have the same space or “breakfast test” constraints that a newspaper puzzle might have, that gives us a lot of liberty to work with fresh and creative clues and themes, and we’re hoping to bring a similar vibe to our event.

We’re also throwing in some fun features that you likely won’t see at other tourneys. First, we’ll be releasing a separate meta puzzle suite before the tournament featuring puzzles by all five of us co-founders; the suite isn’t required for solving the tournament puzzles, but we think it will be fun all the same.

Next, the solvers who make it to the finals will get to have their own individual entrance music while we announce their names in style. How cool is that?

But the biggest thing that sets our tourney apart? Pie. There will be Pie. No other crossword tournament can promise you that.

[Pie: an Indie 500 guarantee.]

3.) How did it start? How did you get involved in the tournament?

We each started talking about running our own collaborative gig shortly after the 2014 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. We just thought: events like this and Lollapuzzoola are such a blast, why not have our own tourney?

Of course we weren’t sure at first if it would be financially or logistically possible, but we got a great response from others in the puzzle world when we originally floated the idea. Over the last year, it’s just been a lot of planning, a lot of wrangling over the details, a lot of building and rebuilding grids… and now it’s almost here!

For myself, I just felt incredibly lucky to be included on the project with four other really talented puzzle constructors from the beginning. I had only published a small handful of puzzles on my website when we first discussed the idea of a new tournament, where the other four had been self-publishing for at least a year or two.

4.) As a constructor yourself, what’s your favorite part of an event like this? Do you have any favorite clues or puzzles you’ve crafted, either connected to the Indie 500 or on your own?

The best part about attending a crossword tournament is the camaraderie you get from hanging out with friends and meeting new people who enjoy the hobby of crosswords as much as you do. Solving the puzzles and creating them are fun to do, but that’s really secondary to the social aspect of a big event like this.

I’ve never had the chance to be on the other, more organizational side of things until now, but I will say that there’s a real rush I get from the thought of watching a whole room of people work on a puzzle of mine in real time.

[Solvers testing their skills at the Arlington Puzzle Festival.]

This won’t be the first time I’ve gotten that opportunity. Will Shortz once selected my first New York Times crossword as the final puzzle for the 2013 Westchester Crossword Tournament. That was a major thrill and I’m looking forward to that same adrenaline rush again.

As for favorite puzzles or clues of mine — I can’t really reveal much about what I’ve made for the tournament, but I’m a big fan of smooth grids with clues that really deliver a good a-ha moment, or at the very least make solvers laugh.

This early themeless puzzle is still one of my favorites because I was able to keep it relatively junk-free but still managed to fit in several longer, lively phrases.

This Halloween-themed puzzle was a nightmare to construct, but it had a fun gimmick and it gave me a chance to create some funny fake movie titles.

Often when I’m writing clues, I like to find quotations for famous people that may end up in my grids, especially comedians, since they’re usually a goldmine for funny sayings (like in 27-Down in this puzzle).

I’m also on the lookout for fresh angles on old crossword retreads — I once clued EDEN as [Apple site that was running perfectly until a couple of people violated its terms].

But for some reason, I still have a soft spot for a clue I wrote in the very first puzzle of mine that ever got published, in Ben Tausig’s Twenty Under Thirty compilation: [That’s what sheep said] (3 letters). The answer itself wasn’t exactly a great puzzle entry, but I figured, if the clue’s funny, people will still like it.


Thanks to Evan for taking the time out to answer my questions! You can check out the full details on The Indie 500 by clicking here!

I wish Evan and his fellow constructors the best of luck. Puzzle events and community-building efforts like this are always worthwhile endeavors.

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: Kickstarter Round-up 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 in today’s post, I’m returning to the subject of puzzly crowdfunding campaigns!

I’ve covered various campaigns for board games, card games, and puzzle projects across the Kickstarter and Indiegogo crowdfunding platforms over the years, and today I’d like to share three more that could use your attention.

The first is Peter Gordon’s Fireball Newsflash Crosswords.

Culturally timely clues and entries are a hallmark of this marvelous variation on his long-running Fireball Crosswords brand, and Gordon has a knack for melding flowing grid design with sharp, topical entry words.

He’s in the home stretch (only hours left in the campaign!) and Gordon’s history of topnotch puzzles is all the incentive you need to contribute.

But he’s not the only puzzler going straight to the puzzle audience with a new collection.

Constructor Brendan Emmett Quigley has a new collection of Marching Bands puzzles, and he’s offering a great deal! Twenty-six Marching Bands puzzles. Talk about value!

The last Kickstarter I want to highlight today comes from the board game end of the spectrum.

The folks at Calliope Games — responsible for Tsuro, one of my new favorites from the last year — have masterminded a three-year, nine-game program with some of the top names in the field, and they want your help bringing the Titan Series to fruition.


These are three intriguing and very worthy projects, and I hope you contribute to one or more of them. As someone who has become a regular donor to various Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns, I am proud to have funded some marvelous new ideas and watched them take shape over the months that followed.

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!

ACPT Wrap-up!

The 38th annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament was this weekend, and puzzlers descended on the Stamford Marriott Hotel in the hopes of putting their puzzly chops to the test in what has been dubbed “the Nerd Olympics.”

The tournament takes place over two days — with six puzzles to solve on Saturday, followed by one on Sunday — and then the championship puzzle, which the top 3 solve on white boards in front of the audience. On Friday and Saturday night, there are often puzzle events, demonstrations, and panels by top puzzlers and figures in the puzzle world as well.

I ventured down to Stamford myself Saturday morning amidst some unexpected snow flurries and sat in with my friends from Penny/Dell Puzzles at their booth.

They were armed to the teeth with tote bags, magazines, pencils, and freebie copies of The Crosswords Club, The Uptown Puzzle Club, Will Shortz’s Sudoku, and some of the tougher Penny Press and Dell Magazines titles. It was a sumptuous buffet of puzzly goodness, to be sure.

Joining me behind the tables were Penny Press proofreader and puzzler Debra Yurschak Rich and PuzzleNation‘s very own Director of Game Development, Fred Galpern, who was on hand to show off the Penny Dell Crosswords App.

We had a few hours before Puzzle #1 would kick off the tournament, so I wandered around, checked out the ballroom where the competition would take place, surveyed the other booths, and chatted with many tournament competitors and puzzlers.

Not only did I get to see friends of the blog like Uptown Crossword Club editor Patti Varol, author and puzzler Eric Berlin, constructor Ian Livengood and Penny Press variety editor Keith Yarbrough, but it was a great opportunity to match names and faces, since I’d had the chance to tweet, email, and otherwise interact with many of them online over the last few years, but never actually met them in person.

Among the folks I got to meet were crossword gentleman Doug Peterson, New York Times Wordplay blogger Deb Amlen, constructor and Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project curator David Steinberg, constructor Joon Pahk, top solver and former champion Ellen Ripstein, Los Angeles Times crossword editor Rich Norris, constructor Alan Olschwang, Evan Birnholz of Devil Cross, top competitor and former champion Tyler Hinman, and New York Times puzzle editor Will Shortz.

[Will stops in at the Penny/Dell Puzzles booth, and poses with his namesake titles.]

One of my favorite things about the tournament is the absolute and unabashed puzzle love shown by so many competitors. I saw crossword-patterned sweaters, ties, shirts, and earrings, as well as punny t-shirts of all kinds. One guy even dressed up in full papal regalia, but with a crossword theme!

[Fred poses with the eye-catching Puzzle Pope. In nomine puzzle…]

Finally, it was time for the tournament to begin, so the competitors filed into the ballroom where Will Shortz introduced Puzzle #1, created by Tracy Bennett, which would be a Monday difficulty puzzle.

It’s an excellent warm-up puzzle for competitors, and rarely one that poses a significant challenge. Dan Feyer, reigning five-time champion, set a new tournament record by completing Puzzle #1 in under two minutes. WOW.

But, as it turns out, there was a bit of a kerfuffle surrounding the first puzzle. From the Puzzle Brothers blog:

A weird scoring anomaly took place when the Puzzle 1 results were announced, when a solver named William Hall appeared to have solved Puzzle 1 a full four minutes before Dan Feyer did. Since Dan solved the puzzle in less than two minutes – believed to be an ACPT first – that meant that Hall would have had to do some serious messing with the time-space continuum to finish the puzzle TWO MINUTES BEFORE HE EVEN STARTED.

[I believe I met a third of the names on this list over the course of the day.]

The glitch was soon resolved and Dan Feyer returned to his proper spot at the top of the leaderboard.

Puzzles #2 and #3 (constructed by Joel Fagliano and Merl Reagle, respectively) proceeded without any scoring scandals, and throughout the day, I was getting great insight into the puzzles themselves and the energy of the room with post-puzzle updates from Keith, Patti, Doug, and some of the other competitors.

After a break for lunch, the ballroom filled once more for Puzzle #4, Paula Gamache’s contribution to the tournament. And then, it was time for Puzzle #5.

If you recall my report from last year’s tournament, Puzzle #5 is routinely the toughest puzzle in the tournament. While Brendan Emmett Quigley’s puzzle last year was widely regarded to be a brutally challenging one, Will Shortz said this year’s entry (constructed by Jeff Chen) was “easy for Puzzle #5.” Which is akin to calling something “the friendliest volcano” or “the warmest Eskimo.”

I happened to bump into Dan Feyer outside the ballroom after he completed Puzzle #5, and he jokingly inquired, “Where is everyone?” I looked at him point-blank and replied, “You know exactly where everyone is, Dan!”

Not long after, I received the following text, from another competitor: Puzzle 5. *sad trombone*

The day’s puzzle wrapped up with Puzzle #6, a Lynn Lempel creation that helped set the stage for Sunday’s remaining two crosswords: Patrick Berry’s Puzzle #7 and Byron Walden’s championship closer.

And although I wasn’t present for Sunday’s tournament finale, I continued to get updates from friends and fellow puzzlers throughout the day. When it came time for the top three to solve on their white boards in front of their fellow competitors, a familiar trio of names were listed: Dan Feyer, Tyler Hinman, and Howard Barkin.

Due to his performance over the previous seven puzzles, Dan began with a 5-second head start over Tyler. And that made all the difference.

Watch as Dan and Tyler race to the finish:

Only a half-second separated Dan and Tyler’s times, a nail-biter in ANY competition, but Dan Feyer locked up his sixth straight ACPT championship!

Not only did he top Tyler’s streak of 5 straight wins, but he’s put himself in contention to match Jon Delfin’s record of seven tournament victories next year! Names like Anne Erdmann, Francis Heaney, Joon Pahk, and Al Sanders were not far behind.

And out of more than 560 competitors, friends of the blog had a strong showing themselves! David Steinberg ranked 36th overall, and was named the Division C champion, the youngest ever!

Patti Varol placed 109th, and only a few steps behind her was Eric Berlin at 112th! Keith Yarbrough placed 177th, and Doug Peterson was the top performer in our little cabal of puzzlers, delivering some outstanding solves and placing 14th overall!

(In case anyone was curious, the Puzzle Pope placed 463rd.)

I’ve never experienced anything quite like the ACPT, but I’m definitely going back next year. Congratulations to all the competitors!

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 2014 Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide: By Category

Welcome to the PuzzleNation Blog 2014 Holiday Gift Guide!

We’re overjoyed to have so many tremendously fun and puzzly products to share with you this year. We just might be your one-stop shop for all things puzzly!

This guide is broken down into categories for ease of searching. We have puzzle apps, puzzle books, downloadable puzzles and puzzles by mail, jigsaw puzzles, puzzle games, board games, card games, and party games. We’re sure you’ll find the perfect gift for any puzzler on your list!


Puzzle Apps

Naturally, you’ll forgive us for starting off with a link for some familiar puzzle apps!

Click these links for all the details on the Penny Dell Crossword App for iOS devices, Classic Word Search for Android and Kindle Fire, our Sudoku App and more!


Puzzle Books

Pencil-and-paper puzzles are alive and well, and we’re happy to share some of our favorites with you.

   

Our friends at Penny/Dell Puzzles have put together some outstanding holiday collections with puzzles galore to be solved!

Whether it’s their Sudoku Spectacular, the Only Yesterday Word Seek looking back across the decades, the Crossword Extravaganza collecting some of the best puzzles around, or their Home for the Holidays Signature Puzzle gift bundles — with an all Word Seek collection (pictured above), an all Crossword, an all Fill-In, and many more options — Penny/Dell has you covered.

And right now, they’re offering 15% off their Selected Puzzles and Dell Collector’s Series books with the offer code “SNOW15″!

And for more specialized puzzle books, some high-level constructors have books of their own for your perusal! With New York Times and Los Angeles Times crosswords to their credit, you’re sure to find some puzzlers within these pages!

–Ian Livengood’s Sit & Solve® Sports Crosswords

–Rich Norris’s A-to-Z Crosswords

–Doug Peterson’s Easy ABC Crosswords

–Jeff Chen’s puzzles for Bridge enthusiasts

–Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Sit & Solve® Marching Bands

–Patrick Blindauer’s Quick-As-A-Wink Crosswords and Wide-Screen Crosswords

The Maze of Games by Mike Selinker

And we simply have to mention one of the most innovative puzzle books released this year, the interactive puzzle novel The Maze of Games! Allowing the reader to choose their own path through various labyrinths and challenge themselves to dozens of puzzles, this is a one-of-a-kind solving experience. ($49.95 in hardcover, $20 in ebook format)

[Click here to check out our full review!]

Tic Tac Tome by Willy Yonkers

And if you’re looking for a one-on-one solving experience, pit your mind against the Tic Tac Tome and see if you can beat the book at Tic Tac Toe. ($11)

[Click here to read our full book review!]


Downloadable Puzzles and Puzzles by Mail

Many top constructors and organizations market their puzzles directly to solvers, so between by-mail offers and downloadable puzzle bundles, you’ve got plenty of quality choices!

The Uptown Puzzle Club (puzzle bundles by mail)

The Crosswords Club (puzzle bundles by mail)

Patrick Blindauer PuzzleFests (puzzle bundles by email)

David Steinberg’s Chromatics (color-themed puzzles)

The American Values Crossword (subscription and daily puzzles)

–Matt Gaffney’s Weekly Crossword Contest


Jigsaw Puzzles

These are beautiful puzzles with a sense of history, designed to be assembled or unraveled by patient hands and hungry minds!

Baffledazzle

Baffledazzle offers absolutely gorgeous jigsaw puzzles-with-a-twist, allowing the solver to learn about different cultures and uncover deeper mysteries as you place each piece. Whether you’re rediscovering ancient board games with Cirkusu, exploring the animal kingdom with Ozuzu, or running in circles with Code Breakers, you’ll find that these high-quality puzzles are more than meets the eye. (Prices range from $25 to $125)

Tavern Puzzles

These hand-forged beauties are ready to challenge your dexterity and cleverness, as you accept the Tavern Puzzles challenge. Whether you’re trying to free your heart from the tangled pieces of Heart’s Desire or remove the ring from the Iron Maiden, you’re sure to put your skills to the test. ($22)


Puzzle Games

These one- and two-player puzzle games are perfect to train your brain and keep you guessing!

Gravity Maze, Robot Turtles, and Laser Maze (ThinkFun)

ThinkFun meshes learning and gameplay with three logic games ready to challenge kids and adults alike. Whether it’s the marble-dropping path-building of Gravity Maze ($24.99), the basics of programming brought to you by turtles and towers in Robot Turtles ($29.99), or the study of optics and mirrors with an actual laser in Laser Maze ($26.95), young minds and older minds will soon be in fighting trim for puzzling!

[Check out our full product reviews of Gravity Maze by clicking here, Robot Turtles by clicking here, and Laser Maze by clicking here!]

Rudenko’s Disk and Collide-O-Cube (Brainwright)

Brainwright has a few color-based puzzles to brighten your holidays! Whether it’s the pattern-matching Collide-O-Cube ($19.99), which adds a touch of randomness by incorporating magnets into their blocks, or the more challenging post-sliding and strategy-demanding Rudenko’s Disk ($9.99), these are great gateway puzzles to bring young solvers to the table.

[Check out the full reviews of Rudenko’s Disk and Collide-o-Cube by clicking here!]

Pink Hijinks (Looney Labs)

Part of Looney Labs’ multi-colored Pyramids series, Pink Hijinks is a quick-to-play strategy game for two players! Roll the dice, make your move, and try to race your opponent to the finish in this easily transported game of tactics! ($12)

[Check out our full product review here!]

Word Winder (David L. Hoyt)

Word Winder (also available in app, puzzle book, and GIANT versions!) is a game of finding chains of hidden words in an ever-changeable grid! Put your strategy and spelling skills to the test! ($19.95)


Board Games

Some of the puzzliest games on the market today are being made by top-flight board game companies, and we’ve got some marvelous games that will appeal to puzzlers of all ages!

Castellan (Steve Jackson Games)

Build a castle and then occupy it in Castellan, a game of strategy and opportunity. With great modeled pieces that really add to the aesthetic, Castellan has style and substance. ($34.95)

[Check out our full product review here!]

Tsuro: The Game of the Path (Calliope Games)

A path-laying game with tons of style and historical spirit, Tsuro casts up to eight players as flying dragons, and tasks you with laying out your path with special tiles. Your goal is to avoid meeting another dragon or flying off the board. It’s a simple mechanic with plenty of replay value, and perfect for quick games with large groups. ($29.99)

Walk-By Scrabble Board, Lexicographer’s Extended Scrabble, and Drawing Room Scrabble (Hammacher Schlemmer)

Hammacher Schlemmer has several Scrabble variants available, including the Lexicographer’s Extended Scrabble for those with mega-syllabic ambitions ($39.95) and Drawing Room Scrabble for those with swankier taste ($199.95) — not to mention the mindboggling World’s Largest Scrabble Game for $12,000! — but few are as clever or as convenient as the Walk-By Scrabble Board! Designed as a family game for people on the go, it’s a perfect way to bring back Board Game Night for busy families! ($29.95)

[Check out our full product review of the Walk-By Scrabble Board here!]

Bananagrams Wild Tiles (Bananagrams)

The board game that requires no board, Bananagrams Wild Tiles is the latest variation on the beloved tile game, and with the introduction of new Wild Tiles that can stand in for any letter, Bananagrams is only getting faster to play and more accessible to solvers of all ages! ($14.99)

[Check out our full review of Bananagrams Wild Tiles by clicking here!]

Qwirkle (MindWare)

A wonderful mix of Uno and Mexican Train Dominoes, Qwirkle is all about placing your tiles to maximize points and minimize helping your opponents. With six bright colors and six different shapes to match up, Qwirkle is endless fun that’s so easy to jump right into! ($34.99)

Fluxx: The Board Game (Looney Labs)

Take a board game, and make the cards, goals, and board changeable, and you’ve got Fluxx: The Board Game. It’s the ultimate think-on-your-feet experience, and like nothing you’ve played before. ($30)

[Check out our full product review here!]


Card Games

These card games add a bit of friendly competition to some splendid strategizing for puzzlers of all sorts!

Pairs (Hip Pocket Games)

A simple card game with a lot of strategy behind it, Pairs is about NOT scoring points and avoiding pairing your cards at all costs. With numerous variant games available (depending on which deck you buy), Pairs is a perfect group card game you can pick up quickly. ($9.95)

The Stars Are Right (Steve Jackson Games)

Build an army of followers and change the stars themselves in The Stars Are Right, a thoroughly enjoyable card game where the goal is summoning an elder god and destroying the world. As you do. ($27.95)

[Check out our full product review here!]

Holiday Fluxx, Loonacy, and Chrononauts (Looney Labs)

The folks at Looney Labs are all about games where the rules can change in an instant. They’ve broadened their library of Fluxx card decks with a marvelous Holiday version ($15.99), as well as a fast-play Memory game they call Loonacy ($14.99)! Plus, you can always try to alter time itself in Chrononauts! ($20)

[Check out our full product reviews of Holiday Fluxx here, Loonacy here, and Chrononauts here!]

Get Lucky (Cheapass Games)

Everyone wants to kill Dr. Lucky, but as his name suggests, that’s no easy task. Get Lucky challenges you and your friends to a strategy game to see who will be the first to beat the odds and take down Dr. Lucky! (And there’s a secret puzzle lurking within this game that no one has solved yet!) Will you be the first to solve the puzzle OR kill Dr. Lucky? ($16.95)

Timeline (Asmodee Games)

Timeline pits your knowledge of history against a growing timeline of important events, inventions, and historical moments. You don’t have to know exact dates; you just need to know if something happened before OR after something else. Was the toothbrush invented before or after the syringe? Which came first, language or agriculture? Timeline is a fast, fun way of learning (or relearning history)! ($14.99)


Party Games

Some puzzles are best enjoyed in groups, so here are a few fun options for party puzzling!

Schmovie (Galactic Sneeze)

Are you the funniest, punniest one in your group of friends? Find out by playing Schmovie, the party game that pushes you to scribble down the best name for an imaginary movie created on the spot! ($29.95)

[Check out our full product review of Schmovie here!]

ROFL! (Cryptozoic)

Challenge your friends to decode famous movie lines, catchphrases, and song lyrics in Cryptozoic’s game ROFL!!, created by Dork Tower‘s John Kovalic! Put your texting and abbreviation skills to the test in this laugh-out-loud party treat! ($35)

[Check out our full product review here!]


Thank you to all of the constructors, designers, and companies taking part in our holiday gift guide!

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! And remember to check out our Facebook Giveaway for the chance to win a free puzzle app download!

PuzzleNation 2014 Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide: By Age

Welcome to the PuzzleNation Blog 2014 Holiday Gift Guide!

We’re overjoyed to have so many tremendously fun and puzzly projects to share with you this year. We just might be your one-stop shop for all things puzzly!

This guide is broken down by age group, so we’re sure you’ll find the perfect gift for puzzlers of any age on your list!


For Ages 4 and Up

Robot Turtles (ThinkFun, puzzle game)

Teach your kids the basics of programming with this fun and deceptively simple board game! Robot Turtles uses board game rules and easy-to-learn card commands to show kids how to navigate their turtles past obstacles and to the jewel! ($29.99)

[Check out our full product review of Robot Turtles by clicking here!]


For Ages 6 and Up

Qwirkle (MindWare, board game)

A wonderful mix of Uno and Mexican Train Dominoes, Qwirkle is all about placing your tiles to maximize points and minimize helping your opponents. With six bright colors and six different shapes to match up, Qwirkle is endless fun that’s so easy to jump right into! ($34.99)


For Ages 7 and Up

Bananagrams Wild Tiles (Bananagrams, board game)

The board game that requires no board, Bananagrams Wild Tiles is the latest variation on the beloved tile game, and with the introduction of new Wild Tiles that can stand in for any letter, Bananagrams is only getting faster to play and more accessible to solvers of all ages! ($14.99)

[Check out our full review of Bananagrams Wild Tiles by clicking here!]


For Ages 8 and Up

 

Holiday Fluxx and Loonacy (Looney Labs, card games)

The folks at Looney Labs are all about games where the rules can change in an instant. They’ve broadened their library of Fluxx card decks with a marvelous Holiday version($15.99), as well as a fast-play Memory game they call Loonacy ($14.99)!

[Check out our full product reviews of Holiday Fluxx here and Loonacy here!]

Pairs (Hip Pocket Games, card game)

A simple card game with a lot of strategy behind it, Pairs is about NOT scoring points and avoiding pairing your cards at all costs. With numerous variant games available (depending on which deck you buy), Pairs is a perfect group card game you can pick up quickly. ($9.95)

Timeline (Asmodee Games, card game)

Timeline pits your knowledge of history against a growing timeline of important events, inventions, and historical moments. You don’t have to know exact dates; you just need to know if something happened before OR after something else. Was the toothbrush invented before or after the syringe? Which came first, language or agriculture? Timeline is a fast, fun way of learning (or relearning history)! ($14.99)

Tsuro: The Game of the Path (Calliope Games, board game)

A path-laying game with tons of style and historical spirit, Tsuro casts up to eight players as flying dragons, and tasks you with laying out your path with special tiles. Your goal is to avoid meeting another dragon or flying off the board. It’s a simple mechanic with plenty of replay value, and perfect for quick games with large groups. ($29.99)

 

Walk-By Scrabble Board, Lexicographer’s Extended Scrabble, and Drawing Room Scrabble (Hammacher Schlemmer, board games)

Hammacher Schlemmer has several Scrabble variants available, including the Lexicographer’s Extended Scrabble for those with mega-syllabic ambitions ($39.95) and Drawing Room Scrabble for those with swankier taste ($199.95) — not to mention the mindboggling World’s Largest Scrabble Game for $12,000! — but few are as clever or as convenient as the Walk-By Scrabble Board! Designed as a family game for people on the go, it’s a perfect way to bring back Board Game Night for busy families! ($29.95)

[Check out our full product review of the Walk-By Scrabble Board here!]

Fluxx: The Board Game (Looney Labs, board game)

Take a board game, and make the cards, goals, and board changeable, and you’ve got Fluxx: The Board Game. It’s the ultimate think-on-your-feet experience, and like nothing you’ve played before. ($30)

[Check out our full product review here!]

Word Winder (David L. Hoyt, puzzle game)

Word Winder (also available in app, puzzle book, and GIANT versions!) is a game of finding chains of hidden words in an ever-changeable grid! Put your strategy and spelling skills to the test! ($19.95)

 

Gravity Maze and Laser Maze (ThinkFun, puzzle games)

ThinkFun meshes learning and gameplay with two logic games ready to challenge kids and adults alike. Whether it’s the marble-dropping path-building of Gravity Maze ($24.99) or the study of optics and mirrors with an actual laser in Laser Maze ($26.95), young minds and older minds will soon be in fighting trim for puzzling!

[Check out our full product reviews of Gravity Maze by clicking here and Laser Maze by clicking here!]

 

Rudenko’s Disk and Collide-O-Cube (Brainwright, puzzle games)

Brainwright has a few color-based puzzles to brighten your holidays! Whether it’s the pattern-matching Collide-O-Cube ($19.99), which adds a touch of randomness by incorporating magnets into their blocks, or the more challenging post-sliding and strategy-demanding Rudenko’s Disk ($9.99), these are great gateway puzzles to bring young solvers to the table.

[Check out the full reviews of Rudenko’s Disk and Collide-o-Cube by clicking here!]

ROFL! (Cryptozoic, party game)

Challenge your friends to decode famous movie lines, catchphrases, and song lyrics in Cryptozoic’s game ROFL!!, created by Dork Tower‘s John Kovalic! Put your texting and abbreviation skills to the test in this laugh-out-loud party treat! ($35)

[Check out our full product review here!]


For Ages 10-12 and Up

Castellan (Steve Jackson Games, board game)

Build a castle and then occupy it in Castellan, a game of strategy and opportunity. With great modeled pieces that really add to the aesthetic, Castellan has style and substance. ($34.95)

[Check out our full product review here!]

Get Lucky (Cheapass Games, card game)

Everyone wants to kill Dr. Lucky, but as his name suggests, that’s no easy task. Get Lucky challenges you and your friends to a strategy game to see who will be the first to beat the odds and take down Dr. Lucky! (And there’s a secret puzzle lurking within this game that no one has solved yet!) Will you be the first to solve the puzzle OR kill Dr. Lucky? ($16.95)

Chrononauts (Looney Labs, card game)

Time travel can be tough, but when other time travelers are changing history, it can be downright weird. In Chrononauts, you’ll bend the rules of time and space in the hopes of completing your mission and going home. And who hasn’t wanted to make history once or twice? ($20)

[Check out our full product review here!]

The Stars Are Right (Steve Jackson Games, card game)

Build an army of followers and change the stars themselves in The Stars Are Right, a thoroughly enjoyable card game where the goal is summoning an elder god and destroying the world. As you do. ($27.95)

[Check out our full product review here!]

Tic Tac Tome by Willy Yonkers (puzzle book)

And if you’re looking for a one-on-one solving experience, pit your mind against the Tic Tac Tome and see if you can beat the book at Tic Tac Toe. ($11)

[Click here to read our full book review!]


For Ages 13-14 and Up

  

Baffledazzle (jigsaw puzzles)

Baffledazzle offers absolutely gorgeous jigsaw puzzles-with-a-twist, allowing the solver to learn about different cultures and uncover deeper mysteries as you place each piece. Whether you’re rediscovering ancient board games with Cirkusu, exploring the animal kingdom with Ozuzu, or running in circles with Code Breakers, you’ll find that these high-quality puzzles are more than meets the eye. (Prices range from $25 to $125)

The Maze of Games by Mike Selinker (puzzle book)

And we simply have to mention one of the most innovative puzzle books released this year, the interactive puzzle novel The Maze of Games! Allowing the reader to choose their own path through various labyrinths and challenge themselves to dozens of puzzles, this is a one-of-a-kind solving experience. ($49.95 in hardcover, $20 in ebook format)

[Click here to check out our full review!]

Pink Hijinks (Looney Labs, puzzle game)

Part of Looney Labs’ multi-colored Pyramids series, Pink Hijinks is a quick-to-play strategy game for two players! Roll the dice, make your move, and try to race your opponent to the finish in this easily transported game of tactics! ($12)

[Check out our full product review here!]

Schmovie (Galactic Sneeze, party game)

Are you the funniest, punniest one in your group of friends? Find out by playing Schmovie, the party game that pushes you to scribble down the best name for an imaginary movie created on the spot! ($29.95)

[Check out our full product review of Schmovie here!]

 

Tavern Puzzles (jigsaw puzzles)

These hand-forged beauties are ready to challenge your dexterity and cleverness, as you accept the Tavern Puzzles challenge. Whether you’re trying to free your heart from the tangled pieces of Heart’s Desire or remove the ring from the Iron Maiden, you’re sure to put your skills to the test. ($22)


For Ages 18 and Up

Most puzzle books would probably fall in the Age 9-10 and Up range, but oftentimes, the cluing is geared toward an older audience, so to avoid confusion, I’ve bundled the majority of the puzzle books here.

   

Our friends at Penny/Dell Puzzles have put together some outstanding holiday collections with puzzles galore to be solved!

Whether it’s their Sudoku Spectacular, the Only Yesterday Word Seek looking back across the decades, the Crossword Extravaganza collecting some of the best puzzles around, or their Home for the Holidays Signature Puzzle gift bundles — with an all Word Seek collection (pictured above), an all Crossword, an all Fill-In, and many more options — Penny/Dell has you covered.

And right now, they’re offering 15% off their Selected Puzzles and Dell Collector’s Series books with the offer code “SNOW15″!

And for more specialized puzzle books, some high-level constructors have books of their own for your perusal! With New York Times and Los Angeles Times crosswords to their credit, you’re sure to find some puzzlers within these pages!

–Ian Livengood’s Sit & Solve® Sports Crosswords

–Rich Norris’s A-to-Z Crosswords

–Doug Peterson’s Easy ABC Crosswords

–Jeff Chen’s puzzles for Bridge enthusiasts

–Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Sit & Solve® Marching Bands

–Patrick Blindauer’s Quick-As-A-Wink Crosswords and Wide-Screen Crosswords

Many top constructors and organizations market their puzzles directly to solvers, so between by-mail offers and downloadable puzzle bundles, you’ve got plenty of quality choices!

The Uptown Puzzle Club (puzzle bundles by mail)

The Crosswords Club (puzzle bundles by mail)

Patrick Blindauer PuzzleFests (puzzle bundles by email)

David Steinberg’s Chromatics (color-themed puzzles)

The American Values Crossword (subscription and daily puzzles)

–Matt Gaffney’s Weekly Crossword Contest

And naturally, PuzzleNation offers some terrific puzzle apps for the discerning puzzle solver!

Click these links for all the details on the Penny Dell Crossword App for iOS devices, Classic Word Search for Android and Kindle Fire, our Sudoku App and more!


Thank you to all of the constructors, designers, and companies taking part in our holiday gift guide!

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! And remember to check out our Facebook Giveaway for the chance to win a free puzzle app download!

PuzzleNation 2014 Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide: Grab Bag!

Welcome to the PuzzleNation Blog 2014 Holiday Gift Guide!

We’re overjoyed to have so many tremendously fun and puzzly products to share with you this year. We just might be your one-stop shop for all things puzzly!

This guide is a grab bag of all sorts of puzzle games, card games, puzzle books, party games, and board games, the perfect random assortment for any puzzle fan you need ideas for! We’re sure you’ll find the right gift for any puzzler on your list!


Naturally, you’ll forgive us for starting off with a link for some familiar puzzle apps!

Click these links for all the details on the Penny Dell Crossword App for iOS devices, Classic Word Search for Android and Kindle Fire, our Sudoku App and more!

And we’ll follow up with some puzzle books before we get into the grab bag of games, puzzles, and other terrific holiday treats!

   

Our friends at Penny/Dell Puzzles have put together some outstanding holiday collections with puzzles galore to be solved!

Whether it’s their Sudoku Spectacular, the Only Yesterday Word Seek looking back across the decades, the Crossword Extravaganza collecting some of the best puzzles around, or their Home for the Holidays Signature Puzzle gift bundles — with an all Word Seek collection (pictured above), an all Crossword, an all Fill-In, and many more options — Penny/Dell has you covered.

And right now, they’re offering 15% off their Selected Puzzles and Dell Collector’s Series books with the offer code “SNOW15″!

And for more specialized puzzle books, some high-level constructors have books of their own for your perusal! With New York Times and Los Angeles Times crosswords to their credit, you’re sure to find some puzzlers within these pages!

–Ian Livengood’s Sit & Solve® Sports Crosswords

–Rich Norris’s A-to-Z Crosswords

–Doug Peterson’s Easy ABC Crosswords

–Jeff Chen’s puzzles for Bridge enthusiasts

–Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Sit & Solve® Marching Bands

–Patrick Blindauer’s Quick-As-A-Wink Crosswords and Wide-Screen Crosswords

Many top constructors and organizations market their puzzles directly to solvers, so between by-mail offers and downloadable puzzle bundles, you’ve got plenty of quality choices!

The Uptown Puzzle Club (puzzle bundles by mail)

The Crosswords Club (puzzle bundles by mail)

Patrick Blindauer PuzzleFests (puzzle bundles by email)

David Steinberg’s Chromatics (color-themed puzzles)

The American Values Crossword (subscription and daily puzzles)

–Matt Gaffney’s Weekly Crossword Contest


And here is our grab bag of puzzle games and apps galore!

Bananagrams Wild Tiles (Bananagrams, board game)

The board game that requires no board, Bananagrams Wild Tiles is the latest variation on the beloved tile game, and with the introduction of new Wild Tiles that can stand in for any letter, Bananagrams is only getting faster to play and more accessible to solvers of all ages! ($14.99)

[Check out our full review of Bananagrams Wild Tiles by clicking here!]

Holiday Fluxx (Looney Labs, card game)

The folks at Looney Labs are all about games where the rules can change in an instant. They’ve broadened their library of Fluxx card decks with a marvelous Holiday version that puts a festive twist on the rapid-fire rule changes and ever-shifting objectives of the usual Fluxx fun! ($15.99)

[Check out our full product review of Holiday Fluxx here!]

The Stars Are Right (Steve Jackson Games, card game)

Build an army of followers and change the stars themselves in The Stars Are Right, a thoroughly enjoyable card game where the goal is summoning an elder god and destroying the world. As you do. ($27.95)

[Check out our full product review here!]

Word Winder (David L. Hoyt)

Word Winder (also available in app, puzzle book, and GIANT versions!) is a game of finding chains of hidden words in an ever-changeable grid! Put your strategy and spelling skills to the test! ($19.95)

Pairs (Hip Pocket Games, card game)

A simple card game with a lot of strategy behind it, Pairs is about NOT scoring points and avoiding pairing your cards at all costs. With numerous variant games available (depending on which deck you buy), Pairs is a perfect group card game you can pick up quickly. ($9.95)

Rudenko’s Disk (Brainwright, puzzle game)

Brainwright has a solid color-based brain teaser here to test your wits! The post-sliding and strategy-demanding Rudenko’s Disk offers you a single goal — move all of the colored pegs to one side or the other — and any number of ways to do it! ($9.99)

[Check out the full product review of Rudenko’s Disk by clicking here!]

The Maze of Games by Mike Selinker (puzzle book)

And we simply have to mention one of the most innovative puzzle books released this year, the interactive puzzle novel The Maze of Games! Allowing the reader to choose their own path through various labyrinths and challenge themselves to dozens of puzzles, this is a one-of-a-kind solving experience. ($49.95 in hardcover, $20 in ebook format)

[Click here to check out our full review!]

Tsuro: The Game of the Path (Calliope Games, board game)

A path-laying game with tons of style and historical spirit, Tsuro casts up to eight players as flying dragons, and tasks you with laying out your path with special tiles. Your goal is to avoid meeting another dragon or flying off the board. It’s a simple mechanic with plenty of replay value, and perfect for quick games with large groups. ($29.99)

ROFL! (Cryptozoic, party game)

Challenge your friends to decode famous movie lines, catchphrases, and song lyrics in Cryptozoic’s game ROFL!!, created by Dork Tower‘s John Kovalic! Put your texting and abbreviation skills to the test in this laugh-out-loud party treat! ($35)

[Check out our full product review here!]

  

Baffledazzle (jigsaw puzzles)

Baffledazzle offers absolutely gorgeous jigsaw puzzles-with-a-twist, allowing the solver to learn about different cultures and uncover deeper mysteries as you place each piece. Whether you’re rediscovering ancient board games with Cirkusu, exploring the animal kingdom with Ozuzu, or running in circles with Code Breakers, you’ll find that these high-quality puzzles are more than meets the eye. (Prices range from $25 to $125)

Castellan (Steve Jackson Games)

Build a castle and then occupy it in Castellan, a game of strategy and opportunity. With great modeled pieces that really add to the aesthetic, Castellan has style and substance. ($34.95)

[Check out our full product review here!]

Schmovie (Galactic Sneeze, party game)

Are you the funniest, punniest one in your group of friends? Find out by playing Schmovie, the party game that pushes you to scribble down the best name for an imaginary movie created on the spot! ($29.95)

[Check out our full product review of Schmovie here!]

 

Walk-By Scrabble Board, Lexicographer’s Extended Scrabble, and Drawing Room Scrabble (Hammacher Schlemmer, board games)

Hammacher Schlemmer has several Scrabble variants available, including the Lexicographer’s Extended Scrabble for those with mega-syllabic ambitions ($39.95) and Drawing Room Scrabble for those with swankier taste ($199.95) — not to mention the mindboggling World’s Largest Scrabble Game for $12,000! — but few are as clever or as convenient as the Walk-By Scrabble Board! Designed as a family game for people on the go, it’s a perfect way to bring back Board Game Night for busy families! ($29.95)

[Check out our full product review of the Walk-By Scrabble Board here!]

Laser Maze (ThinkFun, puzzle game)

ThinkFun brings us a logic game with an actual laser in Laser Maze, a game of light, mirrors, strategy, and skill! ($26.95)

[Check out our full product review of Laser Maze by clicking here!]

Loonacy (Looney Labs, card game)

If you’re looking for a fast-play combination of Memory and Slapjack with a lot more options, then Loonacy is for you! It’s a manic pattern-matching good time for groups of all sizes! ($14.99)

[Check out our full product review of Loonacy here!]

Tic Tac Tome by Willy Yonkers (puzzle book)

And if you’re looking for a one-on-one solving experience, pit your mind against the Tic Tac Tome and see if you can beat the book at Tic Tac Toe. ($11)

[Click here to read our full book review!]

Robot Turtles (ThinkFun, puzzle game)

Teach your kids the basics of programming with this fun and deceptively simple board game! Robot Turtles uses board game rules and easy-to-learn card commands to show kids how to navigate their turtles past obstacles and to the jewel! ($29.99)

[Check out our full product review of Robot Turtles by clicking here!]

Chrononauts (Looney Labs, card game)

Time travel can be tough, but when other time travelers are changing history, it can be downright weird. In Chrononauts, you’ll bend the rules of time and space in the hopes of completing your mission and going home. And who hasn’t wanted to make history once or twice? ($20)

[Check out our full product review here!]

Get Lucky (Cheapass Games, card game)

Everyone wants to kill Dr. Lucky, but as his name suggests, that’s no easy task. Get Lucky challenges you and your friends to a strategy game to see who will be the first to beat the odds and take down Dr. Lucky! (And there’s a secret puzzle lurking within this game that no one has solved yet!) Will you be the first to solve the puzzle OR kill Dr. Lucky? ($16.95)

Collide-O-Cube (Brainwright, puzzle game)

It’s where pattern-matching precision meets magnetic randomness! Collide-O-Cube challenges you to recreate various colored patterns with these eight blocks, which sounds simple until you realize some blocks repel each other! Can you make the blocks mesh and solve the mystery of each pattern? ($19.99)

[Check out the full product review of Collide-o-Cube by clicking here!]

Fluxx: The Board Game (Looney Labs, board game)

Take a board game, and make the cards, goals, and board changeable, and you’ve got Fluxx: The Board Game. It’s the ultimate think-on-your-feet experience, and like nothing you’ve played before. ($30)

[Check out our full product review here!]

Gravity Maze (ThinkFun, puzzle game)

Can you bend gravity to your will? Gravity Maze pits the solver against increasingly difficult puzzles where the goal is to place the towers so that a dropped marble will end up in the red goal square. Can you unravel each maze without losing your marbles? ($24.99)

[Check out our full product review of Gravity Maze by clicking here!]

 

Tavern Puzzles (jigsaw puzzles)

These hand-forged beauties are ready to challenge your dexterity and cleverness, as you accept the Tavern Puzzles challenge. Whether you’re trying to free your heart from the tangled pieces of Heart’s Desire or remove the ring from the Iron Maiden, you’re sure to put your skills to the test. ($22)

Pink Hijinks (Looney Labs, puzzle game)

Part of Looney Labs’ multi-colored Pyramids series, Pink Hijinks is a quick-to-play strategy game for two players! Roll the dice, make your move, and try to race your opponent to the finish in this easily transported game of tactics! ($12)

[Check out our full product review here!]

Qwirkle (MindWare, board game)

A wonderful mix of Uno and Mexican Train Dominoes, Qwirkle is all about placing your tiles to maximize points and minimize helping your opponents. With six bright colors and six different shapes to match up, Qwirkle is endless fun that’s so easy to jump right into! ($34.99)

Timeline (Asmodee Games, card game)

Timeline pits your knowledge of history against a growing timeline of important events, inventions, and historical moments. You don’t have to know exact dates; you just need to know if something happened before OR after something else. Was the toothbrush invented before or after the syringe? Which came first, language or agriculture? Timeline is a fast, fun way of learning (or relearning history)! ($14.99)


Thank you to all of the constructors, designers, and companies taking part in our holiday gift guide!

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! And remember to check out our Facebook Giveaway for the chance to win a free puzzle app download!