Lollapuzzoola 11 This Weekend!

This Saturday, August 18, marks the eleventh edition of the Lollapuzzoola crossword puzzle tournament!

For the uninitiated, Lollapuzzoola is an independent crossword tournament run by Brian Cimmet and Patrick Blindauer, featuring puzzles constructed with a more freewheeling style than the traditional American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. As they say, it’s “the best tournament held in New York on a Saturday in August.”

The format is similar to BosWords. Competitors are placed in one of four divisions: Express (solvers with tournament experience), Local (other solvers), Rookies, and Pairs.

With seven tournament puzzles — designed with inimitable style, both fun and befuddling in how often they innovate classic crossword tropes — you’re guaranteed to get your money’s worth as you solve.

And for those who reach the top of mountain, “winners in each division are awarded prizes, which could range from a box of used pencils to a brand new car. So far, no one has ever won a car.

Registration is still open if you want to attend in person!

But if you can’t, the At-Home Division is open for any and all solvers to enjoy. For $15, you’ll receive the tournament puzzles the next day for your enjoyment (or frustration, depending on the difficulty).

It should be a great time, either in person or for solvers at home. Lollapuzzoola is one of the highlights of the puzzle calendar.

Are you planning on attending Lollapuzzoola or solving from home? Let me know! I’d love to hear from you!


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The Future of Crosswords: Multilingual Grids?

[Image courtesy of Seton.]

Anyone familiar with crosswords these days knows that you need more than a thorough knowledge of English to be a topnotch solver these days.

Sure, English is still the basis for the vast majority of crosswords you’ll encounter — even if some weird, unexpected, and obscure words pop in from time to time — but you’ll need a grasp of other languages to complete most grids these days. (And I’m not just talking about European rivers or foreign currencies.)

After all, the Greek alphabet shows up in crosswords all the time. I can’t recall the last grid I completed that didn’t have ETA, IOTA, RHO, or PHI in it. And clues like “Fraternity letter” are rarely specific enough to help you fill the clue on your first try.

[Image courtesy of Greek Boston.]

You need to know your Latin to solve puzzles too. ET TU, AD HOC, DIES IRAE… plenty of words and phrases pilfered from Latin litter crossword grids.

The modern crossword will send you on a linguistic tour of the globe. From “Scottish Gaelic” for ERSE and “Indian nanny” for AMAH to “Kimono sash” for OBI and “German mister” for HERR, you could visit the languages of half a dozen countries in a single crossword.

But if you’re talking about other languages in crosswords, the top two are undoubtedly Spanish and French.

[Image courtesy of Wikipedia.]

Spanish and French words are so common that Wordplay, the blog dedicated to The New York Times crossword, has entire articles dedicated to Spanish and French words you need to know.

For Spanish, they list entries like BESO for “kiss,” ESTA for “this,” and RIATA for “rope.” (Though they missed TIO/TIA for “uncle/aunt” in their rundown.)

On the French side of things, you get common crossword entries like AMI for “friend,” ROI for “king,” or SEL for “salt.”

(The crew at Crossword Unclued even wrote an article about how often French words are used in Cryptic-style cluing, for fans of that version of crosswording.)

[No, something a little tougher than that. Image courtesy of Mommy Maestra.]

All this multilingual puzzling made me wonder… has anyone tried to create a bilingual crossword? I’m talking about a crossword where a significant portion of the entries (if not half) are from a second language.

As it turns out, constructor Bryan Betancur recently accepted that challenge, creating “Bilingual Puzzle #1.” This puzzle not only features a fair number of Spanish words in the grid — not as filler but as significant entries (which I won’t mention, in case you want to solve it yourself!) — but many of the clues for Spanish AND English words are written in Spanish, ensuring a mental challenge beyond the usual crossword fare.

Yes, it was a confusing solve not to know whether the answer to a given clue would be English or Spanish, but that made it all the more satisfying when I was able to confidentally place words in the grid.

It’s the only crossword on the WordPress Blog “Bilingual Crossword,” but here’s hoping others join it soon.

In the cultural melting pot that is modern society, there’s not only opportunity for inclusivity, but there’s also opportunity for challenging, bilingual crossword grids to pique your interest (and make you wish you’d paid more attention in high school foreign language classes).


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Six Years of PuzzleNation Blog (Plus a Contest)!

[Image courtesy of Bogoreducare.org.]

Yes, we’re celebrating today, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers!

We’re celebrating because it is the sixth anniversary of the very first post here on PuzzleNation Blog! Yes, we’ve been on this puzzly journey together since August of 2012, and in my admittedly biased yet humble opinion, it’s been a brilliant one.

In those six years, we’ve published over a thousand posts! (More than nine hundred of them penned by yours truly.) We’ve delved into puzzle history, cracked diabolical brain teasers, marked milestones like the centenary of the crossword, and even rejoiced at puzzly proposals of marriage!

And to celebrate six years of PuzzleNation Blog, we’ve got a week of activities planned for our marvelous readers and fellow puzzlers!

For starters, we’re loading over a hundred new pins to our Pinterest account for your viewing pleasure!

And we’re launching a promotion across all of our social media platforms to celebrate the anniversary. It’s our PuzzleNation 6th Anniversary Contest!

[Image courtesy of Ad Libbing.]

Starting today, and every day for the next five days, we’ll be posting a different brain teaser on Instagram.

Also starting today, keep your eyes peeled on Facebook and Twitter, because each day for the next five days, we’ll be asking for a single answer from that day’s Daily POP Crosswords App puzzle and that day’s Penny Dell Crosswords App puzzle.

(These will be separate from the usual Crossword Clue Challenge posts, and we’ll mark them with “PuzzleNation 6th Anniversary Contest” to distinguish them.)

Message us on FB or Twitter with the answer, or message us on Instagram with the answer to a brain teaser, and you’ll go into a drawing for a terrific prize! (And yes, since there are different brain teasers each day and different answers for each of the two daily puzzles, you can enter multiple times to increase your odds of winning!)

Enjoy the contest, fellow puzzlers. It’s a small thank you for being a part of the PuzzleNation community.


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It’s Puzzle Magic!

[Crossword constructor and magician David Kwong wows an audience.]

There is a certain sense of wonder that accompanies a well-constructed puzzle. The skill and artistry it takes to craft a quality crossword or brain teaser, weaving together words and leaving a finished puzzle in your wake, rather than a bundle of crosswordese and obscurities is truly something remarkable.

But that’s not the sort of puzzle magic we’re discussing today. No, instead, we’re returning to the CW summer series Penn and Teller: Fool Us to observe the magic of another puzzly entertainer at work.

For the uninitiated, Fool Us is a show where magicians and performers from all around the world present their best tricks, illusions, and bits of magical wizardry to try and stump the famous duo.

And on a recent episode, magician John Michael Hinton performed two acts of magical trickery involving a Rubik’s Cube.

Check out this video where he dazzles Penn and Teller:

That final reveal was a thing of beauty!

You can check out more of John Michael Hinton’s magic on his YouTube page! And let me know if you’ve seen any other acts of puzzle magic! I’d love to check them out!


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PuzzleNation Product Review: Star Trek Fluxx and Star Trek: TNG Fluxx

[Note: I received a free copy of this game in exchange for a fair, unbiased review. Due diligence, full disclosure, and all that.]

Innovation is part of the fabric of the puzzle/game industry. Constructors and game designers are constantly pushing the envelope, finding new ways to reinvent the puzzles and games we love in order to create new solving and playing experiences. Every new wrinkle is a step forward, and Looney Labs has been at the forefront of that movement for years now.

And it’s only fitting that Fluxx, a card game all about dynamic gameplay and ever-shifting rules, continues to grow, evolve, and adapt, adding new gameplay mechanics to an already loaded bag of tricks.

Their newest release also fits that ambitious aesthetic. After all, the Star Trek series has always been about boldly going where no one has gone before. Today, we’re doing the same as we review Star Trek Fluxx, Star Trek: The Next Generation Fluxx, and a special expansion pack.

For the uninitiated, Fluxx is a straightforward card game. You collect keeper cards and put them into play. Different combinations of keeper cards complete different goals, and each player has the chance to put different keeper cards and goal cards into play in order to win. So you might find yourself working toward completing the goal at hand when suddenly somebody plays a new goal, and the object of the game changes.

Along the way, players affect how the game is played by utilizing action cards and new rule cards which alter what players can and can’t do. Suddenly, you’ll have to trade your hand with another player, or start drawing three cards each turn instead of one.

Star Trek Fluxx marries the chaotic gameplay of the now-classic card game with familiar characters and themes from the iconic science fiction franchise to create a fresh and enjoyable play experience.

The special touches are immediately identifiable, as the title at the top of every single card is written with the famous Star Trek font.

Even as you collect and play cards bearing the images of beloved characters like Kirk, Uhura, and Spock, you’ll find yourself on a strange new world, as unfamiliar new actions and obstacles appear in your path. I encountered Action cards I don’t recall ever seeing in previous Fluxx games, like Taxation, which requires every other player to give you one card from their hands, and Brain Transference, where you switch seats, cards, Keepers, and Creepers with another player.

Not only that, but lurking in the deck amidst rules, keepers, and goals is an Ungoal, a card that works like a goal, except when all of the conditions on the card are met, everyone loses.

But that unpleasantness is balanced nicely by the many references to the classic show featured throughout the game. As a long-time Star Trek fan, it warmed my heart to see the goal card Majel’s Voice, which credits actress Majel Barrett (wife of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry) in her dual roles as Christine Chapel and the voice of the Starfleet computers in future editions of the series (as well as Deanna Troi’s mother, Lwaxana, in The Next Generation).

I was also delighted to see the Fizzbin card, which features ridiculous rules reminiscent of the fictional game Kirk and Spock make up as a distraction in the episode “A Piece of the Action.”

These clever touches not only add depth to the gameplay, but serve as welcome nerdy reminders to fans of the series, little inside jokes that entertain, even as they wink and nod in tongue-and-cheek fashion.

The Star Trek: The Next Generation edition of Fluxx covers a lot of the same ground as Star Trek Fluxx — including a special font for the card titles, Ungoals, and gameplay mechanics built around the technology like the Transporter — but adds numerous little touches that make for an enjoyably distinct play experience.

The Holodeck, for instance, comes into play with several cards, proving to be just as big a distraction (and occasionally, annoyance) as it was in the TV show. Some of the Keeper cards also grant additional actions to the players who use them — like taking additional cards, resolving Creepers that would prevent you from winning the game, etc. — that make them more desirable and handy than Keepers in other editions of the game.

Not only that, but the cards are packed to capacity with inside jokes and fun references to events from the series. From the officers’ poker night to Picard’s harrowing declaration that “There Are Four Lights,” many of the show’s most memorable moments are reflected in some way in the gameplay.

Heck, there’s even a rule card that rewards you for communicating using only names and numbers like the aliens in the classic episode “Darmok.” It’s a super-clever idea based on a much-loved episode of the show.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Fluxx has all of the strengths embodied by Star Trek Fluxx, but still feels like it was created specifically for fans of the Picard years. It’s an elegantly balanced approach.

And, for the very first time, two Fluxx games have been designed so that you can combine and mix them to create a unique play experience!

Although there’s nothing stopping you from mixing Fluxx games — the card backs always look the same, after all — sometimes differing games don’t mesh well, spoiling the fun. But in this case, not only were the two games designed to have similar elements — crew members, technology, ships named Enterprise — but there’s a small bonus pack, The Bridge Expansion, which is crafted to make the most of merging your two games.

Yes, much like the Borg, you can assimilate each game’s individual strengths into a single, unified core.

With goals that encourage crossovers between the two shows, as well as a rule card called The 5 Card Mission (referencing the U.S.S. Enterprise’s original 5-year mission), The Bridge Expansion allows for double the Fluxx-fueled chaos and fun.

Whether you’re choosing to play one of these new star-spanning editions of the game, or combining all three products for the ultimate Star Trek Fluxx experience, you are guaranteed to be surprised and amused. Looney Labs games continue to innovate, entertain, and grow in both complexity and cleverness, and they’ve truly outdone themselves this time around.

[Star Trek Fluxx, Star Trek: The Next Generation Fluxx, and The Bridge Expansion are all available now from Looney Labs and certain online retailers.]


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A Scavenger Hunt with a Dragon at the End?

Although I’m the only one who works in the puzzle field, I’m far from the only member of my family with puzzly skills.

Mom is a whiz at cracking crosswords, Sudoku, and Jumble puzzles. My younger sister demolishes jigsaw puzzles, rules trivia games and bar trivia nights, and has a knack for tackling escape rooms. My older sister loves city-spanning scavenger hunts like The Great Urban Race.

And although the GUR is no longer running, plenty of other events around the country are waiting to be discovered to scratch the puzzly itch of enthusiastic solvers.

One of them is coming up in a few weeks, in fact. If you’re near Boston, you can join the Boxaroo crew for their third annual City Scavenger Adventure, The Dragon of Bostonshire!

On August 19th from 1pm to 5pm, Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park will be the starting point — and final destination — for a quest worthy of the name…

Once upon a present time, in a parallel universe known as Bostonshire, a loud rumbling echoed throughout the land. As the town became concerned, the noble Knights of Bostonshire went to investigate… and lo and behold! They discovered a ferocious, enormous dragon, raging and breathing fire. Alas, the Knights are in dire need of YOUR help- will you and your team be able to help them defeat the dragon before Bostonshire is destroyed?

Teams of up to 5 will race around Boston in order to take pictures, solve puzzles, accomplish tasks, and hopefully collect enough clues to return to the park in order to complete the final challenge and slay the dragon!

I reached out to the Boxaroo team for a bit more detail, and they kindly indulged me, explaining that the scavenger hunt aspect of the quest is a combination of puzzle-solving, running around, and accomplishing tasks. The puzzle-solving ranges from memory games and trivia to logic puzzles, with each location providing a different challenge to overcome in order to earn a clue.

It sounds like an awesome time, and I hope it’s a grand success for the players and organizers alike! Click here for more details!

What do you think, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers? Will you accept the challenge of the Dragon of Bostonshire? Have you competed in an event like this one? Let us know! We’d love to hear from you?


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