Visual Video Trickery!

Visual trickery plays an important role in puzzles. It can be the clever rebus that challenges you to find the words each image represents, or a visual brain teaser that forces you to think outside the box.

But nowhere in the realm of puzzles is visual trickery more obvious or more disconcerting than in optical illusions. Some are simple, like the famous old woman/young woman image above (or this hilarious video version). But others are not only more complex, they’re absolutely mind-bending.

Few optical illusions are as effective as those done on video. Drawings and photos are all well and good, but incorporating movement and performance into the illusion are something else entirely.

And stop-motion animator Kevin Parry has some doozies in his Instagram feed.

Check out this one involving a mirror and a wooded area. I’ve watched it a half-dozen times and I haven’t figured it out yet:

He’s also a dab hand at forced perspective illusions, as he shows in this video with a can of soda:

With innovators like Kevin at work, we will never run short of visual wonders, that’s for sure.


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The Puzzly Art of Carmina Figurata

We don’t discuss poetry all that often in the blog. To be fair, when it comes to poetry and crosswords, all you really need to know are E’ER, O’ER, ODE, E’EN, and ‘NEATH.

But there is one form of poetry that lends itself quite handily to our favorite field of study, sitting at the crossroads of art, poetry, and puzzles. Today, we’re going to talk about carmina figurata.

[A poem shaped like an altar, a work by Publilius Optatianus Porphyrius.
Image courtesy of Some Grey Matter.]

A carmina figuratum is a poem wherein either the entire body of the poem or select parts form a shape or pattern. Often this shape reflects the subject of the poem.

But that’s what the term has come to mean over time, as poetry has evolved and grown. The original carmina figurata were religious-based poems where letters were colored red to stand out from the regular black lettering in order to draw attention to or highlight a certain religious figure.

[“De laudibus sanctae Crucis” by Oliverus.
Image courtesy of WTF Art History.]

For instance, in this image, titled “Praises to the Holy Cross,” you can see “rex,” meaning “king” in red above Christ’s head and “virtu” on his stomach, among other words. Obviously, having the image superimposed over the text helps highlight the words, representing John 1:14, ““And the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.”

Quite a bit to unpack in such a small piece.

Other carmina figurata have no color or imagery, relying on the cleverness of the reader to uncover the hidden messages within the text. This was particularly true of the poet Publilius Optatianus Porphyrius, who wrote dozens of carmina figurata of increasing complexity.

Some of these hidden messages honored the same rulers the poems were meant to impress. Other messages referenced the date the poem was written or the poet himself. Some even concealed drawings or designs.

[Several of Porphyrius’s most ambitious creations, revealing just how far a reader would have to delve to uncover the hidden messages. Images courtesy of Some Grey Matter.]

From the article on Some Grey Matter:

The poems contain supplementary text ‘hidden’ within the main body of the individual poems and intended to be ‘discovered’ by the reader. These versus intexti poems were apparently intended to dazzle Constantine with their technical virtuosity and thereby inspire the hoped–for recall of their creator…

Now that’s ambition. Imagine you’re constructing a Marching Bands puzzle, with the overlapping lines and loops of text, but all in the hope of courting favor with a major political player. And to do so, you need to hide even more information in the grid. That’s next-level puzzling, to be sure.

Whether you’re moved by the artistry, impressed by the construction, or intrigued by the puzzly challenges they represent, you must admit: carmina figurata are works of puzzle art unlike anything else.


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This chess game will cut you to the quick!

When it comes to games, chess is a certified classic, the benchmark against which many tactical games are still measured to this day.

We’ve discussed chess several times in the past here on the blog, whether we’re talking products inspired by chess, like All Queens Chess and Scrimish, or tackling puzzles using chess boards, like knight’s tours or other chess-based brain teasers.

In today’s post, we’ll be looking at a new variation on chess, one meant to dissuade players from careless gameplay by use of a historically appropriate method of enforcing the rule of law: the guillotine.

Fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers, say hello to Tour De Force chess.

According to the creators:

Tour De Force chess entices the players to strategize and invest more thought into the game by introducing consequence in the form of a guillotine that beheads captured pieces. Based on early testing with a rough and ready model we confirmed that this game addition makes the prospect of losing a piece unsavory enough to motivate more careful strategy.

You see, in Tour De Force chess, a captured piece isn’t gone immediately. It goes into the stockade until another piece is captured. There are two stockades, which means that once your opponent captures a third piece, that first piece goes to the guillotine, loses its head, and is gone for good.

Not only is this meant to enhance the feeling of loss that comes with having a piece taken, but it introduces an interesting mechanic to the game: saving pieces from a nasty end.

According to the official rules, “a player can save a captured piece that has not yet been beheaded by taking a higher value piece with a pawn. That pawn is then substituted with the piece closest to beheading.”

Although the higher-value rule means that there’s no saving your captured queen (unless you capture the king, which of course, ends the game anyway), it is an intriguing wrinkle to standard chess that could definitely alter your gameplay. Do you continue to play as you always would, immediately accepting the consequences when a piece is lost? Or do you try to rescue that piece, diverting temporarily from your primary goal of capturing your opponent’s king?

What do you think, PuzzleNationers? Is Tour De Force chess a welcome variation to the game, or an unnecessary twist on a classic? Sound off in the comments below!


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New Puzzle Sets for the Penny Dell Crosswords App!

Hello puzzlers and PuzzleNationers! Happy Friday!

That’s right, you get a special bonus blog post today because we’ve got some exciting news!

Our latest puzzle set for the Penny Dell Crosswords App just launched for both iOS and Android users, and it’s one of our best yet!

Say hello to Collection 22!

For the prolific puzzlers and savvy solvers among you, we’ve just launched the perfect puzzle bundle, designed for any skill level!

You can grab any of the Collection 22 puzzle sets, which range from easy to medium to hard, each one featuring 30 topnotch puzzles!

Or you can pick up one of the Collection 22 puzzle combos, which offer 60 easy puzzles or 60 medium puzzles for your solving enjoyment!

But that’s not all! You can always opt for the Collection 22 Value Pack, which offers 150 easy, medium, and hard puzzles designed to satisfy and challenge any puzzler!

You can’t go wrong with these awesome deals! PuzzleNation is dedicated to bringing you the best puzzle-solving experience available, with world-class puzzles right in your pocket, ready to go at a moment’s notice! That’s the PuzzleNation guarantee.

Happy solving, everyone!


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Cross Worlds with Crosswords (and Other Puzzles)!

You may be familiar with the board game Schmovie, hashtag games on Twitter, or @midnight’s Hashtag Wars segment on Comedy Central.

For years now, we’ve been collaborating on puzzle-themed hashtag games with our pals at Penny Dell Puzzles, and this month’s hook was #PennyDellPuzzleGeography, mashing up Penny Dell puzzles and countries, cities, landmarks, tourist spots and more!

Examples include Stepping Stonehenge, Sri Linkwords, and Istanbul’s-Eye Spiral!

So, without further ado, check out what the puzzlers at PuzzleNation and Penny Dell Puzzles came up with!


Match-Up Picchu

Warsaw Squares

The Shadow of Liberty

Bricks and Mauritania

Empire State Building Blocks

Around the Block Island

Sutokyo

Leicester Anagram Magic Square / Amazon Magic Square

Fill-Indonesia

TimbukTwo at a Time

Three Sommes

Across and Down Under

Ups and Churchill Downs

Torontop to bottom / Top to Foggy Bottom

Rhyme Times Square / Times Square Deal / Time Squares / Times Squares

Charing Crossroads

Around the Great Bend

Bermuda Triangle Seek / Bermuda Try-Angles

Paris in Rhyme

Build-a-PyraMidland

Arctic Circle Search / Arctic Circle Sums / Arctic Circles in the Square

Hidden Circle in the Squares / Piccadilly circles in the Square

9 of Diamonds Head

MarbleHeadings

Classified Addis Ababa

Grand Tours / Rio Grande Tour / Grand Canyon Tour

Boston Common Bond

In the Middle East

End of the Maginot Line

HidDenali Word Squares

Make the MaConnection / Make the Connecticution

It’s Ural Move / It’s Your Mo-ja-ve

United KingDomino Theory

Quote Niagara Falls / Niagara Quotefalls

Montauk Point the Way / West Point the Way

QuotaGramercy Park

SpinWheeling

Right of Appian Way

Dubl-In and Around

TripLexington

Madriddle Me This

Cancuncellations

Helsinkey Word

Mexicombos

Mount Skill-O-Gram-jaro

Pentagon Match

Missing Sphinx

Word Thames

Crypto-Bolivia

Continent Search

LouisiAnacrostics

Three from Rhine

Middle of the Abbey Road

A-spenwheel

Lake Tahoe Many Squares?

Acropolistics

Egyptograms

Catacombies

Crackerjacksonville

The Appalachian Word Trail

Little Fancy Five Points

Little Rock Puzzler

Mount Places Pleasant / Places, Belize

Eiffel Tower Power / Flowrida-er Sunshine Power

Florida Keywords / Turkeyword

Trafalgar Squares

Minsk Bag / Mixed Baghdad

Dublin Crosser

Amsterdiamond Rings

Birminghome Runs

Madaga-stars and Arrows

Sum-alia Triangles

Alaskan Penin-syllacrostic

Puzzle Der-bai

M_ss_ss_pp_ng V_w_ls

Who’s Whousatonic

Ottawat Is It?

Picture Paris

Chicago Fish

Crypto-Kalamazoo

Pencilvania Pusher

Stockholm Runs

Say That Againsville?

Okefenokeyword Swamp

Angkor What’s Left? / What’s Left Bank?

Finnish the Fours

Battleships Creek

Ken-Kenya

Sierra Leone and Only

Tierra Dell Fuego

Caribbean carnival

Red Rock Challenge


There were a few submissions that deserve their own section, as several of our intrepid puzzlers went above and beyond.

One offered a tourism pitch for a puzzly destination: Mount OddsandEverest: Only a HopSkipandJump ToptoBottom

Another offered the following exchange and puzzly directions:

1: “Excuse me, how do you get to these Places, Please? Could you Point the Way?”
2: “Just follow the Word Trails until you get to the Borderline. If you see the Quotefalls, you’ve gone to far. At the Four Corners, Keep On Moving until you reach the Crossroads. Then it’s just a walk Around the Block and you’ll be at the Crypto-Zoo!”

Finally, one offered a quick tour of her favorite puzzle locale:

One of my favorite locations to visit is Anagram Magic Square, where if you take your PLACES, PLEASE, you can ESCAPE A SPELL to anywhere on earth. You can travel to PARIS in PAIRS, or dine on ALPHABET SOUP at an UPBEAT L.A. SHOP. And whether you’d rather see a SLICK DUBLIN BOG or a GLIB LISBON DUCK, you can find it in the BUILDING BLOCKS of this amazing place.


Have you come up with any Penny Dell Puzzle Geography entries of your own? Let us know! We’d love to see them!

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Puzzles Come to Life!

A few years ago, I wrote about the world’s largest jigsaw puzzle, a 5 feet by 19 feet, 33,000-piece monster called “Wildlife,” which took a young puzzle enthusiast 450 hours to complete.

That was a cool story in and of itself, but as it turns out, some other puzzlers have gone one step further, using the Wildlife jigsaw puzzle as their canvas for a stop-motion animation video.

This YouTuber, who goes by the name of Sky!, transformed the Wildlife puzzle into games of Tetris, Space Invaders, Pac-Man, and Mario Brothers, using completed sections of the puzzle as their gameplay elements.

It’s absolutely mind-blowing. Check it out:

Apparently, it took Sky! and a cohort over 400 hours to solve the puzzle and another 400 hours to animate the video. That is some serious dedication.

But that video got me thinking about other ways creative folks have used puzzly elements to tell stories.

And I was reminded of a video that’s been making the rounds on social media lately. It employs one of my favorite puzzle devices — a Rube Goldberg machine — to tell a story of three brothers who face danger and live to tell the tale. (They do use a bit of stop-motion animation at the start, but afterward, it’s all real-time motion.)

This is the story of a ball named Biisuke. Enjoy!

It’s adorable and even has a song! How could you not love that?

It just goes to show you there’s no end to the puzzly stories you can tell with a little creativity.


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