It’s Follow-Up Friday: Domino Wonder 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 our recent 5 Questions interviewee, Lily Hevesh, aka Hevesh5.

You might have seen the above video from Hevesh5, the amazing triple spiral, which we shared on our Facebook and Twitter accounts.

It’s honestly one of the coolest, most staggering domino creations I’ve ever seen, a 15,000-domino work of kinetic art that took Lily 25 hours to assemble, and I couldn’t resist sharing it with my fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers.

Apparently, I wasn’t alone in that. The spiral got FOUR MILLION views in two days. It got major attention on Reddit, the YouTube front page, CNN, CBS News, and more!

It has amassed over TEN MILLION views in less than a fortnight.

And, as you might expect, Lily was not only humble, but grateful for the support of puzzlers and domino fans like.

Check out this video discussing the video’s success, as well as Lily’s plans for the future:

So great to see such positive attention for her and her work. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer person.


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1 word, 3 letters, a world of possibilities

As I was writing Tuesday’s post and returning to the world of crossword-inspired art, it made me wonder what other puzzly works are out there, waiting to be discovered, appreciated, and perhaps mistakenly filled in.

So I did a little digging, a little Googling, and a little research, and I thought I’d introduce you, my fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers, to some of the crossword-infused works of art I discovered.

So, without further ado or hullabaloo, let’s get to it!


This work from 2005, entitled “I Can’t Read,” is a collage of crossword and newsprint, and although I discovered it on Crossword City, it was originally posted on the DeviantArt account of content creator PrairiePunk.

This Untitled piece by artist Juliet A is just one of several crossword-inspired pieces I found on the website Milliande.com. They featured themed weeks for posts, and “crossword puzzles” apparently provided plenty of inspiration for several impressive, engaging creations.

This wonderful bit of crossword-fueled street art, discovered in Ghent, Belgium, was posted on Pinterest.

Inspired by the Mendel Art Gallery in Saskatoon, as well as the Saskatoon art scene itself, this work by Megan Mormon was developed for partygoers to play with and solve (with post-its provided). The clues and entries are all geared toward local art.

My personal favorite was this piece by Tony Blue, entitled Crosswords 2, a work of mixed media on canvas.

Puzzles meet performance in this sketch by Emily Jo Cureton, based on key words from the May 16, 2008, New York Times crossword.

Crosswords have even found their way into the world of nail art, as typified by this design by Hannah Rox Nails, created for Girls’ Life. [Note: the link leads to a YouTube page.]

I’ll close out today’s gallery with this intriguing piece of interactive crossword puzzle art, created by Gary Hill. The ever-shifting view of the grid only allows you to examine small portions at once, leaving you curiously adrift as you solve along with the artist.


This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to crossword-inspired art. A quick Google search or targeted Pinterest hunt will reveal many more.

For a few more pieces of crossword art, complete with commentary from the artists themselves, check out this article from CrosswordUnclued.com.


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Making a Profit Through Puzzly Vandalism!

[Image courtesy of Thoibao.today.]

Hey there, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers. Do you remember that post I did a month or two ago about the woman who defaced a piece of crossword-inspired art?

If you don’t recall, a 91-year-old woman was visiting the Neues Museum in Nuremberg with a senior citizens group when she found the piece, “Reading-work-piece” by artist Arthur Koepcke, and began filling in the empty grid, mistakenly thinking it was an interactive art work.

The museum was none too pleased with her efforts, and restored the piece to its original condition.

But as it turns out, that’s not the end of the story.

You see, the woman claims — in a seven-page rebuttal to the German police’s investigation of her vandalism — that she has not harmed the work, instead arguing that she has brought the work greater public attention thanks to her efforts, reinvigorating interest in the piece and increasing its value.

[Image courtesy of Bill Watterson.]

Amazingly, that is not all. According to Ars Technica UK:

Frau K.’s lawyer claimed that her additions meant that she now held the copyright of the combined artwork — and that, in theory, the private collector might sue the museum for destroying that new collaboration by restoring it to its original state.

Yes, they assert that the private collector who loaned the Koepcke work to the Neues Museum might not only approve of her defacement of the piece, but be angry with the museum for their efforts to ensure that the piece was returned to him in the same condition.

Well, that’s certainly doubling down on your hand. It takes a certain confidence and bombast to make a claim like that, but the woman believes she’s in the right artistically.

The argument is based around the spirit of Koepcke’s work, which was part of the Fluxus movement. They go on to explain that “Fluxus artists did not agree with the authority of museums to determine the value of art, nor did they believe that one must be educated to view and understand a piece of art.”

It will certainly be interesting to see where the case goes from here. Naturally, I can’t help but wonder. Heck, if Da Vinci had been a Fluxus devotee. I could’ve drawn a mustache on the Mona Lisa and made millions.


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It’s Follow-Up Friday: Kickstarter Roundup 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 crowdfunding.

First, let’s talk about Herbaceous. Ed and the Herbaceous team were hoping for $6500 to make the game a reality, and they absolutely crushed that goal!

The final total was a staggering $59,032! Congrats to everyone involved, and kudos to all the PuzzleNationers that contributed!

And in the spirit of such marvelous Kickstarter success, let’s take a look at four very different projects that might appeal to puzzle fans and game enthusiasts!

I missed my chance to try out Originz: The Superpowered Card Game at the CT FIG event earlier this year — though you can try it out at the CT FIG mid-year event this weekend in Newington, CT! — but I definitely like what I’ve seen from their Kickstarter campaign.

In this deck-building game, you try to equip your villain or hero with the best mix of powers imaginable to keep your foes at bay! This accessible game is richly illustrated and detailed, a sure-fire hit with any fans of superheroics in your household.

If you’re looking for a more traditional style of puzzling, there are only a few days left to get in on the ground floor of LightBox, a Rubik’s-style light-up puzzle box.

By rotating and rearranging the layers of plastic that form the cube, you will illuminate different layers and create different patterns of light! Whether you’re solving to create a particular pattern or to shut the LightBox off entirely, you’re sure to work your brain into knots with this curious puzzle box.

And speaking of short deadlines, there are only a few days left to contribute to Word Domination, an intriguing mix of Scrabble-style spelling and a strategy card game.

The concept is devilishly simple: by spelling words, you acquire artifacts to help you in your criminal escapades. The mix of tactical spelling — sometimes, shorter words have more value than longer words — with the roguish qualities of an evildoer allow for all sorts of gameplay possibilities.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen these two puzzle-game formats combined like this before, and the result could be something great.

Our fourth and final project today has the most potential, simply because of its design. It’s the PinBox 3000, and it’s a foundation for designing, decorating, and constructing your very own pinball game.

Merging DIY possibilities with a classic form of game play seems like a no-brainer, and I can’t believe we haven’t seen something like this on the market before. This is the perfect community builder, and I can foresee forums and Pinterest pages popping up all over, as fans and creators share their unique designs. What an awesome palette to work with!

Hopefully one or more of these projects piques your interest, my fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers! I wish all of these creators the best of luck in shepherding their brainchildren toward success!


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Identity and Gender in The New York Times Crossword

[Image courtesy of the Odyssey Online.]

Only two months ago, I wrote a blog post about a Slate article discussing how The New York Times crossword can be socially tone-deaf at times. So it’s heartening today to write about a New York Times crossword puzzle that’s progressive, one that is bringing the conversation forward instead of feeling out-of-touch.

On Thursday, September 1, the paper published a crossword by constructor Ben Tausig. Even on the surface, this was a rare puzzle, because it allows for multiple entries that fit a given definition. These puzzles are known as Quantum puzzles or Schrödinger puzzles.

The most famous example is the 1996 Election Day crossword pictured below, which “predicted” the outcome of the election quite cleverly by allowing for either CLINTON ELECTED or BOB DOLE ELECTED to read out, depending on how the solver answered seven down clues.

In Ben Tausig’s puzzle, there are four across entries and four down entries that each allow for two possible answers. For instance, 67 Across is clued “Tough stuff to walk through” and the answer can be FIRE or MIRE. That entry crosses 60 Down, which is clued “Word that can precede sex,” allowing for the answers SAME or SAFE.

What separates Tausig’s puzzle from this elite group of masterfully constructed Quantum crosswords is what it represents on a social inclusiveness level.

The letter variability — allowing for M or F to appear in the box and still fit the definition — is a wonderful metaphor for the fluidity of gender, especially in the limiting, but generally accepted, binary concept of male or female. Having GENDER FLUID as the revealer entry helps demystify both the theme and the topic at hand for solvers.

[Click here to see a larger version of the grid.]

As constructor Ben Tausig says in his XwordInfo write-up of the puzzle:

The theme letters don’t move from M to F or from F to M, in the manner of a binary, but float in an unresolved place in between. That’s a simple but reasonable way of representing queer sexuality — as a forever-exploration of identity and desire.

And although those two concepts only scratch the surface of the rich panoply of emerging terms and definitions with which people can express their gender or identity, this is an excellent step forward.

Kudos to Tausig and the crew at The New York Times crossword for a puzzle that’s elegant and inclusive in more ways than one.


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These brain teasers are the cat’s meow.

[Image courtesy of Psychlinks.ca.]

It’s difficult to write about the potential health benefits of puzzles. Believe me, I’ve tried.

But many scientific articles, research studies, and other professional analyses disagree on the short-term or long-term benefits that puzzles have on the brain. There’s a wealth of material out there on brain health and the impact of puzzles, but much of it is inconclusive.

I’ve always tried to be careful to discuss any scientific articles on brain health for that reason, especially after Lumosity’s two-million-dollar payout earlier this year for falsely advertising that their puzzle games could “reduce or delay cognitive impairment associated with age and other serious health conditions,” as well as “stave off memory loss, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease.”

That’s less of an issue, thankfully, when writing about other puzzle-solving creatures, though. In the past, we’ve seen crafty cockatoos, clever crows, outwitting octopuses, and deductive dogs. Apparently, we can also add cats to the list of fellow puzzlers!

[A mobile feeder toy. Image courtesy of Purina One.]

A recent article in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery reports that their findings indicate that a healthy dose of puzzle-solving at mealtime is beneficial to a kitty’s welfare.

According to the folks at Gizmodo, by utilizing food puzzles that require cats to roll a toy to release some food or manipulate a game board to reveal food, “these puzzles take advantage of the feline hunting instinct, fulfilling their ingrained desires. By ‘foraging’ for food in this way, cats are more physically active, they experience reduced levels of stress, and they become less demanding of their owners.”

Apparently, it’s all about engaging the cats, giving them something to work against in order to earn the food. The case studies cited by the report include behavioral issues and obesity that were overcome thanks to the use of food puzzles.

[A stationary puzzle feeder. Image courtesy of CatFoodDispensersReviews.com.]

I already knew that cats were skilled at treasure and scavenger hunts — based on the absolutely ludicrous places I would find the toys my sister’s cats left behind, often weeks after their visits — but I had no idea they belonged among the elite puzzle-solving animals we’ve previously chronicled here.

Makes sense, though. I solve puzzles for snacks sometimes. *shrugs* It’s a living.


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