It’s Follow-Up Friday: Blind Spot edition!

[No, not THAT Blindspot. Though friend of the blog David Kwong works on that show…]

Welcome to Follow-Up Friday!

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.

[Image courtesy of Geekologie.]

We’ve discussed optical illusions many times in the past, covering everything from the Necker Cube to the Dress, but today’s illusion is a little bit different.

The 12-dot optical illusion pictured above, also known as a Hermann grid, has been making the rounds lately, and although many puzzlers have accused people of using a video or an animated gif instead of a simple picture, that’s simply not true.

This is a static picture, but our eyes are not designed to capture 12 dots in view at once, so the others vanish when you focus on one dot in particular.

And the folks at ASAP Science have an explanation for this phenomenon! As it turns out, this illusion and others involve both how your brain processes visual information and how the natural structure of your eye creates a blind spot that some optical illusions exploit.

Check out the full explanation here:

So next time someone shares one of these optical illusions, you’ll be ready to explain how they work and show off your puzzly knowledge.


And thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!

PuzzleNation Review: The Great Dinosaur Rush

The Bone Wars marked one of the craziest, most productive periods in scientific history, as two titans of the burgeoning field of paleontology — Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Marsh — competed to discover and catalog dinosaur fossils.

Cope and Marsh spied on each other, sabotaged each other’s digs, falsified their own records to deter spying, and even blew up their own digs to prevent the other from finding anything else there in their absence.

It was absolute lunacy, and it led to more fossil discoveries than any other point in history.

And, in today’s review, we look at a game that recreates the Bone Wars for your enjoyment. This is The Great Dinosaur Rush.

In this game, players assume the roles of famous paleontologists at a dig site, collecting bones and preparing their specimens for display at a museum.

The game is played in three rounds. Each round consists of three phases: the Field Phase, the Build Phase, and the Exhibit Phase.

In the Field Phase, you move around the dig site and collect various bones. Different colored pieces represent different bones, which can only be placed in a dinosaur skeleton in certain ways. Red are limb bones, yellow are neck and tail bones, etc.

In this phase, you can take standard actions — like determining the scoring of various dinosaur attributes (making a taller dinosaur more valuable than a ferocious-looking one, for instance) or trading bones for points — or you can take actions that increase your notoriety, like sabotaging other digs or stealing bones from adjacent digs.

Notoriety is a double-edged sword, however; your notoriety gets you points at the end of the game… unless you’re the most notorious player, in which case you lose points.

The Field Phase is all setup for the Build Phase, where you use the bones you’ve collected to prepare your exhibit.

Oh yes, part of this game is a puzzle where you get to make your very own new dinosaur. (The screens included in the game block the other players from seeing your dinosaur-in-progress, as well as offering you important information on how to build your dinosaur.)

It’s up to you to figure out how to place them in order to make your dinosaur excel in certain ways. Depending on the scoring values — determined in the Field Phase — maybe you’ll want to emphasize the neck, or the arms, or give it unique attributes like a triceratops’s horns or a stegosaurus’s spiky plates. It’s up to you — it’s your discovery.

Finally, we have the Exhibit Phase, where the screens are lowered and each dinosaur is scored on its attributes as you show off your creation. (I also encourage players to name their creations, which has proven to be great fun in each game I’ve played.)

That’s the end of the first round. For rounds two and three, you go through the Field, Build, and Exhibit Phases again, but the point values are changed.

And at the end of the third round, you settle your notoriety points, determining final scores. Highest score wins!

Although the game can look a bit daunting at the start, it’s essentially Scrabble with dinosaur bones. You get your pieces and try to maximize your points by stringing them together in creative ways. It’s just that instead of words and clever crossings, you’ve got limbs and tails and Allosaurus skulls.

[Here’s my creation, the Dallosaurus. I imagine it’s like one of those toy birds that drinks water, pivoting on its hipbone atop those long legs and dipping its head to eat or drink.]

I was thoroughly impressed by how elegant the gameplay was, and how many actions you could take in the Field Phase. There’s so much you can do as you try to collect the bones you need to make your dinosaur, and it’s a wonderful mix of strategy, skill, and luck.

And then to follow that with pure puzzle solving as you must use every bone you’ve collected to create your dinosaur… it’s a game that engages you on several levels in very satisfying fashion. (The fact that it brings to life one of my favorite rivalries from history is just the cherry on top for me.)

It does take about an hour to play (sometimes longer, when you introduce new players to the game), but it’s worth the time investment. It’s a terrific family game — especially if you use the variant rule that leaves out the notoriety aspect. And it offers a new chance to make history every time you play.

[The Great Dinosaur Rush is distributed by APE Games and appears in this year’s Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide.]


And thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!

Cracking Einstein’s Riddle!

Fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers, it’s time to put on our thinking caps and crack another puzzly mystery!

I’ve seen this riddle making the rounds online lately, and like many logic problems, puzzles, and brain teasers that go viral, it claims that 98% of the world couldn’t solve it!

Well, I don’t buy that. (I also don’t buy that Einstein created it or had anything to do with it, but since it circulates under the name “Einstein’s Riddle,” I’m also calling it such.)

[Image courtesy of Mental Floss.]

Einstein’s Riddle

  • There are five houses that are each a different color.
  • There is a person of a different nationality in each house.
  • The five owners drink a certain drink. They each smoke a certain brand of cigar and also have a certain pet. No owner has the same pet, smokes the same brand of cigars, nor drinks the same drink.

CLUES

1. The British man lives in the red house.
2. The Swedish man has a dog for a pet.
3. The Danish man drinks tea.
4. The green house is on the left of the white house.
5. The owner of the green house drinks coffee.
6. The person that smokes Pall Mall raises birds.
7. The owner of the yellow house smokes Dunhill.
8. The person that lives in the center house drinks milk.
9. The Norwegian lives in the first house.
10. The person that smokes Blend lives next to the one that has a cat.
11. The person that has a horse lives next to the one that smokes Dunhill.
12. The one that smokes Bluemaster drinks beer.
13. The German smokes Prince.
14. The Norwegian lives next to a blue house.
15. The man that smokes Blend has a neighbor that drinks water.

The question is “who owns the fish?”


Now, the first step is going through the clues and getting all five options for every variable. This will help us with the second step: building a grid to help us organize information.

  • Colors: Blue, Green, Red, White, Yellow
  • Nationalities: British, Danish, German, Norwegian, Swedish
  • Beverages: Beer, Coffee, Milk, Tea, Water
  • Cigars: Blend, Bluemaster, Dunhill, Pall Mall, Prince
  • Pets: Birds, Cat, Dog, Fish Horse

Okay, let’s build our grid. Now, we could list every intersection of information, like a full logic problem grid, but I don’t think that’s necessary here. We can simplify.

So where do we start? Well, since several clues refer to a first house, a center house, or neighboring houses, let’s assume that we’re talking about five houses in a row, and use that as our top line. Then we can list all of the other categories we need to determine along the left side.

Now let’s fill in what we know from the clues. We know the Norwegian lives in the first house (clue #9), the man living in the center house drinks milk (clue #8), and the Norwegian lives next to the blue house (clue #14).

This might not seem like much, but we can already determine what color the Norwegian’s house is. The British man lives in the red house (clue #1), so the Norwegian’s house isn’t red. The green house is on the left of the white house (clue #4), so the Norwegian’s house is neither green nor white, since there’s no house to the left of the Norwegian’s house, and the house to the right is blue. Therefore, the Norwegian’s house is yellow, the only color left.

And that tells us something else. The owner of the yellow house smokes Dunhill (clue #7), so we know what the Norwegian smokes. Plus, the man who keeps the horse lives next to the man who smokes Dunhill (clue #11), so we know the pet for the blue house.

We can now determine the color for every house. The green house is to the left of the white house (clue #4), and the owner of the green house drinks coffee (clue #5). But since we already know the owner of the center house drinks milk, that means the green house has to be the fourth, and the white house the fifth. Therefore, the center house is red.

But that’s not all we know now! The British man lives in the red house (clue #1), so we can place him as well.

Hmmm, where do we go from here? Well, let’s take a look at the beverages. We know the Norwegian doesn’t drink coffee or milk, but we also know that the Danish man drinks tea (clue #3), so the Norwegian doesn’t. We also know that the one that smokes Bluemaster drinks beer (clue #12), and the Norwegian smokes Dunhill, so that eliminates beer. Therefore, the Norwegian drinks water.

Since the man that smokes Blend has a neighbor that drinks water (clue #15), we can place Blend in the second house. (Clue #10 tells us that the person that smokes Blend lives next to the one that has a cat, but right now, we can’t be sure if that’s the first house or the center house, so let’s table that clue for now.)

But remember clue #12, the one that smokes Bluemaster drinks beer? Well, we know all the drinks except the second house and the fifth house, and the owner of second house smokes Blend, so the owner of the fifth house must both smoke Bluemaster and drink beer.

That leaves tea as the only possible beverage for the second house, and the Danish man drinks tea (clue #3), so we can place him as well.

Now we’re cooking! The German smokes Prince (clue #13), and since we know the nationality of the third house’s owner and what the fifth house’s owner smokes, the only option remaining is the fourth house. By process of elimination, that also places the Swedish man in the fifth house and Pall Mall in the center house.

And we’re left with only the pets to place. Appropriate, given that the question that got us started is “who owns the fish?”

According to clue #2, the Swedish man has a dog for a pet, and the person that smokes Pall Mall raises birds, so that takes care of the center and fifth houses, leaving only the first house and the fourth.

Clue #10, the one we put aside earlier, now comes into play. The person that smokes Blend lives next to the one that has a cat, and since the neighbor on one side (the center house) raises birds, that leaves only the first house open to have a cat.

Therefore, the German man — who smokes Prince, drinks coffee, and lives in the green house — also owns a fish.

98% of people can’t solve it? Apparently, I have greater faith in solvers than “Einstein” did.


And thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!

It’s Follow-Up Friday: Sneaker Solving edition!

Welcome to Follow-Up Friday!

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 3-D puzzles.

[Image courtesy of Amazon.com.]

We’ve mentioned 3-D puzzles several times on the blog in the past — in discussions of 3-D printed puzzles, puzzles made of wood, and the Pict project at National Museums Scotland — and a new 3-D puzzle has been generating some buzz recently.

Friend of the blog, creator of Baffledazzle, and shoe aficionado Rachel Happen passed along this story about a promotional puzzle designed to mimic the qualities of the Air Flight Jordan 45 hightop basketball sneaker. Check it out:

Only 30 of these puzzles are being made, and they’re selling for 195 pounds in the UK, which is a staggering $245.85 in the US! Seems like quite a price to pay for a 19-piece puzzle. (Especially one, as this video shows, that can be solved fairly quickly.)

The creation of graphic artist Yoni Alter, this puzzle appears to be a new venture, diverting from his previous works in silkscreen and prints, including this similarly-styled lamborghini:

Too pricey for most puzzlers and not wearable enough for most sneaker enthusiasts, I’m not sure who this puzzle was designed for, but I’m curious to see how it sells.

As for me, I think I’ll save my 195 pounds for another day and another puzzle.


And thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!

PuzzleNation Review: Pyramid Arcade

Today’s review is going to be a little bit different, because I’m not reviewing a game… I’m reviewing 22 of them in one fell swoop.

That’s right, Pyramid Arcade represents the latest evolution in the Looney Pyramids series of puzzle games, combining and refining years of Looney Labs games and innovations into one sleek package. You see, when Andrew Looney started the Looney Pyramids series of games, his goal was to develop a puzzle game as infinitely adaptable as a deck of playing cards.

Pyramid Arcade is the next step in that process, amassing 22 games — some previously released, some new — in one massive rulebook. And everything you need to play is included, from game boards and dice to sets of pyramids in ten different colors.

[Two piece-placement games, Pharaoh and Petal Battle. Pharaoh is built around controlling the center square and the neighboring squares, while Petal Battle is about controlling five adjacent petals.]

Honestly, there’s a game in here for every type of puzzler. There are one-player games as well as games for 2-6 players, and even games for 10 players. There are combat games, collaborative games, wagering games, games of chance, balance games, and more. Some games require all 90 pyramids in the set!

And although some of the games are a little abstract — I’m still wrapping my head around Martian Chess — sitting down and actually playing through all the different options brings even the abstract concepts down to earth. You might be playing an insect in one game or a germ in another, but traditional puzzle skills and board-game styles rule the day here.

[Two strategy games, the Risk-inspired World War 5 and the miniature chess game Hijinks, which we previously reviewed as the standalone game Pink Hijinks.]

Stacking games like Hijinks are where the Looney Pyramids really shine as puzzle games. Being able to move beyond the two-dimensional play that defines so many board games adds a great deal of strategy and style to the gameplay. Whether you’re building rockets in Launchpad 23 or Jenga-like towers in Verticality, the pyramids become more than simple game pieces.

Although the price tag is higher than the usual board game or puzzle game fare, Pyramid Arcade is worth it. Not only do you get over twenty different games, but the rulebook includes a history of Looney Pyramids products, challenges for you to make your own Looney Pyramids games, and teasers for 22 additional games created by fans and submitted to Looney Labs online.

It’s impressive, all that you can accomplish with these curious little pyramids.

[Pyramid Arcade is available from Looney Labs and featured in our Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide!]


And thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!

5 Questions for Constructor Doug Peterson

Welcome to 5 Questions, our recurring interview series where we reach out to puzzle constructors, game designers, writers, filmmakers, musicians, artists, and puzzle enthusiasts from all walks of life!

It’s all about exploring the vast and intriguing puzzle community by talking to those who make puzzles and those who enjoy them! (Click here to check out previous editions of 5 Questions!)

And I’m excited to welcome Doug Peterson as our latest 5 Questions interviewee!

Crossword gentleman and constructor Doug Peterson is a regular in the Los Angeles Times and many other outlets, offering topnotch grids and brilliantly fun, pop-culture-savvy cluing. Doug was also one of the constructors in this year’s Lollapuzzoola crossword tournament and a winner at this year’s American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. Anytime you encounter one of his puzzles, you’re guaranteed a great solve.

Doug was gracious enough to take some time out to talk to us, so without further ado, let’s get to the interview!


5 Questions for Doug Peterson

1. How did you get started with puzzles?

Like many others, I caught the puzzle bug from older family members, specifically my dad and maternal grandmother. I’d spend summers at my grandparents’ house, and my grandma always had a stack of Dell puzzle books on hand. My favorite thing was to tackle one of the huge 21×21 crosswords, which would literally take me days to finish. And that was great, because I had a lot of long, boring days to get through.

2. What, in your estimation, makes for a great puzzle? What do you most enjoy — or most commonly avoid — when constructing your own? What do you think is the most common pitfall of constructors just starting out?

I think the most important element in a puzzle is craftsmanship, meaning that significant effort has gone into making that puzzle as enjoyable as possible. I realize that’s a little vague, but it’s like the old line about pornography: “I know it when I see it.” Basically, the theme, fill, and clues should all demonstrate care and a personal touch.

I’m not the best at coming up with themes, so I strive to make my fill and clues pick up the slack, so to speak. There’s plenty I avoid in my grids, and I’m getting pickier all time. For the record, I’ve never used ÉTÉ in a grid. I don’t trust three-letter words with two accent marks. Also on my “banned list” are IDI, AMIN, and ULEE. I’m not going there. I hate brutal dictators, and bees kinda scare me.

The most common pitfall I’ve found among newbies is trying to do too much right out of the gate. My advice is to get a few 15×15’s under your belt before trying to construct that 21×21 triple rebus with five meta-answers and a tribute to your favorite band hidden diagonally. My first published puzzles are embarrassing to look at now. I used PATLY in my debut puzzle. PATLY? That barely resembles a word that a human would use. But I got better, and by the time I was ready to tackle something truly challenging, I had some constructing chops.

Teaser: I’ll give my best advice to newbies (and all constructors) in my answer to Question 5.

[Two of Doug’s books currently available on Amazon: Sit & Solve© Brain-Straining Crosswords and Sit & Solve© Lickety-Split Crosswords.]

3. Do you have any favorite crossword themes or clues, either your own or those crafted by others?

We’re living in a golden age of crosswords, and there are so many superb themes and clues out there, and of course I can’t think of anything specific off the top of my head right now… I solve a crapload of puzzles, more than 20 per week, so honestly it’s hard to single out themes or clues that made me say “Oooh!”

Constructors whose themes I admire include Brendan Emmett Quigley, Andrew Ries, and Erik Agard. They’re at the top of my “why the hell didn’t I think of that?” list. BEQ publishes two free high-quality puzzles a week, which boggles my mind. And he used to do three a week! Just recently, he posted puzzle #900. I would have burned out years ago. BEQ’s puzzles are a blast to solve, and they’re hip without being eye-rolly.

Andrew Ries publishes a weekly crossword (www.ariesxword.com) that’ll run you $12 bucks a year (a steal!) and consistently features fresh themes and clues. It’s often my favorite puzzle of the week. And then there’s Erik Agard over at gluttonforpun. Mind-bending, multi-level themes and clues that make me laugh out loud. This dude is the next wave of crossword puzzles.

The best venue for stand-out themes by a variety of constructors is Fireball Crosswords, edited and sometimes constructed by Peter Gordon. Shameless plug: I constructed the first Fireball puzzle of 2017, which will hit solvers’ in-boxes in January. It’s a theme that’d been bouncing around in my brain for over two years, and I finally got off my lazy butt and made the puzzle.

Cool entries do tend to stick in my head, and a couple recent entries I loved (and wish I’d thought to use myself) were BEER O’CLOCK and DC UNIVERSE. Both were in puzzles by another of my favorite constructors, C.C. Burnikel. She turns out quality puzzles on a regular basis. In fact, on a more-than-regular basis. C.C. is remarkably prolific. Nary a week goes by that I don’t solve a well-crafted Burnikel puzzle in one of the major outlets.

4. What’s next for Doug Peterson?

On the constructing front, I’d like to branch out a little and create more non-American style crossword puzzles. I love constructing cryptic crosswords. I had a couple published in the New York Times ages ago, and then I drifted away from them. I got my start writing cryptic clues back in the Dark Ages in the rec.puzzles.crosswords Usenet group. (Psst, constructors. No one remembers USENET anymore, so stop putting it in your grids. SYSOP, too.) And maybe I’ll try my hand at constructing a Rows Garden or a Marching Bands puzzle. Something outside my comfort zone.

[A. A familiar Sudoku grid; B. A Kakuro (or Cross Sums) grid; C. A Nurikabe
grid, a variation on Minesweeper-style solving; D. A Hashiwokakero grid,
which readers might remember from this year’s UK Puzzle Championship.]

Speaking of comfort zones, on the solving front, I want to get much better at solving logic puzzles. And by “get much better at,” I mean “actually be able to solve.” I’m talking about Sudoku, Kakuro, Nurikabe, Hashiwokakero (yes, that’s an actual puzzle type I just found on Google), all the puzzles with Japanese names and little lines and boxes and circles. I’ve solved maybe ten Sudoku puzzles in my life, and it would be cool to stretch my brain in another direction or many other directions.

And hey, it will open up a whole new world of puzzles that I can print out and never quite get around to solving!

5. If you could give the readers, writers, aspiring constructors, and puzzle fans in the audience one piece of advice, what would it be?

To aspiring constructors, my best advice is: Solve puzzles! I cringe when I hear a constructor say that they don’t solve puzzles or “can’t” solve puzzles. Just looking at answer grids or reading reviews of puzzles isn’t enough. To me, solving is the only way to figure out what sorts of things make a puzzle enjoyable. There’s a reason I don’t use ULEE in my grids, aside from my slight apiphobia. It’s because it bugs me when I see it in a puzzle I’m solving.

Create the kinds of puzzles that you enjoy solving, and you can’t go wrong. (Unless you like solving really crappy puzzles for some reason.) And if you’re interested in being published and getting paid a few bucks for your hard work, it’s essential to solve puzzles from the venue you’re submitting to.

OK, I’ve rambled on long enough. Look for my été-free puzzles in all the usual places. Thanks for reading. Peterson out.


A huge thank you to Doug for his time. Be sure to follow him on Twitter for the latest updates on all his puzzly creations!

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!