It’s Follow-Up Friday: Importmanteau 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 portmanteaus.

[Image courtesy of upenn.edu.]

For the uninitiated, a portmanteau is a word that combines two words and represents aspects of both of them. Smog is a portmanteau of smoke and fog. Spork, avionics, brunch, labradoodle, cyborg, Pinterest, webinar, glitterati, Reaganomics, sharknado…these are all portmanteau words.

It can be a handy way to coin a term for a situation that doesn’t already have a word to describe it. For instance, I like to think of that unpleasant sensation that you’re going to drop your car keys down a storm drain as “sedanxiety.” A disastrous kiss? “Liplockalypse.”

And clearly I’m not the only one who enjoys crafting new portmanteaus.

Tom Murphy, not to be confused with Tom Swifty (another big name in wordplay), set himself a seemingly impossible challenge: create a portmanteau that includes every word in the English language. A lofty goal, considering there are around 100,000 words in our dictionary.

Utilizing a keen knowledge of French grammar, he coins this project a portmantout, using the French word for “all.”

And not only does he coin a few choice portmanteaus along the way, but he succeeds in creating a single portmanteau that contains every word in the English language:

Granted, that word is 611,000 letters long, but hey, it’s still a pretty impressive bit of coding and wordsmithing.

I look forward to a future video where he says the word out loud.


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PuzzleNation Product Review: LEGO Maze

For years, one of the most marketable things about LEGO sets has been that you can use their pieces in your own ingenious creations. They’ve taken it a step further over the last few years, and now fan creations have the chance to become actual sets!

The Ecto-1 from GhostBusters, the set of The Big Bang Theory, a collection of noteworthy female scientists… these are some of the awesome sets that were designed by amateur builders, voted on by LEGO fans, and approved to become marketed LEGO sets.

And the latest edition to that fan-created line of specialty sets is one of the puzzliest products they’ve ever sold: the LEGO Maze.

Jason Allemann of JK Brickworks created the original design, which was voted on by fans, approved by LEGO, and then improved upon by professional LEGO model designer Steen Sig Andersen.

It’s based on classic wooden marble mazes; the goal is to tilt the board with the two dials on the sides of the maze in order to navigate your marble from one end of the maze to the other without dropping the marble through one of the many treacherously placed holes.

In the LEGO maze, those holes are replaced by black depressions in the maze that trap your marble without dropping it out of sight. (Though I’m sure amateur builders are already designing their own maze layouts that incorporate actual holes just to up the challenge factor.)

[The medieval layout included in the instructions.]

Oh yes, there’s not just one layout. As you can see, the set includes all sorts of pieces with which to create numerous possible layouts from basic ones to advanced. (I’m currently working on one of my own design. Maybe it’ll pop up on Instagram soon!)

The adaptability of the maze layout is one of the highlights of this set, encouraging the same entrepreneurial building spirit that inspired the set in the first place.

And speaking of the set, the design is pretty impressive. It cleverly allows you to lock the tilting maze in place by using the storage box for the marbles as a stabilizer, and you can remove it just as easily. (Remove one piece — and the travel lock under the opposite corner, and you’re ready to play!)

Replicating the full range of motion cannot have been an easy task for either Allemann or Andersen, and that leads to the only negative aspect of the set. I was a little underwhelmed by the control offered by the two dials. Each tilts more toward one direction than the other, so you don’t have the full range of traditional marble mazes. (I suspect this could be remedied by a slightly shorter rod connecting each dial to the two frames allowing you to tilt the maze more in the opposite direction.)

That being said, it’s a minor quibble. On a perfectly flat surface, a steady hand will lead you to victory, if you’re patient enough.

[The build in progress…]

As a long-time fan and builder, I enjoyed both the simple and complex aspects of the building process, and I was surprised that they didn’t number each bag of pieces, as they’ve recently started to do with their higher-end, more complicated sets. That might put off a casual builder, but as someone who enjoys the additional challenge of digging through a pile of pieces looking for that one particular piece, I didn’t mind at all.

LEGO has really been pushing the boundaries of what you can accomplish with these classic interlocking bricks, and the LEGO Maze is one of the most inventive and impressive designs I’ve ever seen.

[The LEGO Maze is available from LEGO.com for $69.99.]


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Vikings: Warriors in Life, Warriors in Dice

[Image courtesy of Arlington Viking Fest.]

Board games have been around a long time, longer than most people realize. Chess can be traced back to the 7th century in India, and Go has been played in China for more than 5,500 years!

And it turns out that board games were important to the Vikings as well. Not only were they valued in life, but in the afterlife as well.

An article in the UK’s Daily Mail details the discovery of a Viking grave site known as a boat burial where board games were among the items interred with the dead. And apparently, this was not an uncommon occurrence.

[Image courtesy of The Times.]

From the article:

Mark Hall, a curator at Perth Museum and Art Gallery, has published a new study on Viking board game burials across Northern Europe.

He says there have been 36 burials where board games of some description have been found in the graves around Northern Europe.

This grave site, dating back to the 9th century, grants intriguing insight into how the Vikings viewed board games as a learning tool. After all, board games require strategy and a level of initiative, which are both qualities found in accomplished Viking warriors, so it’s believed that including a board game among the effects of the deceased signals not only their skill and status as a warrior, but their preparedness for the afterlife itself.

So what sorts of games did the Vikings play?

The game pieces were used in multiple games. Researchers believe the dice were used in a game called tabulal alea, which is reminiscent of backgammon.

Many of the bigger pieces were used in a chess-like game known as hnefatafl. In hnefatafl, each player has a king protected by defender pieces, and the goal is for your king to reach the edge of the board before the other player takes him out.

Just imagine what the Vikings could have learned from a game like Risk.

[This story was brought to my attention by Kim Vandenbroucke.]


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It’s Follow-Up Friday: Harold and the Hashtag Game 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’m posting the results of our #PennyDellKidsBooks hashtag game!

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

For over a year now, we’ve been collaborating on puzzle-themed hashtag games with our pals at Penny Dell Puzzles, and this month’s hook was #PennyDellKidsBooks, mashing up Penny Dell puzzles and anything and everything having to do with picture books, storybooks, kids books, nursery rhymes, anything!

Examples include Oh the Places Please You’ll Go!, Charlotte’s Spider’s Web, and The Giving Three from Nine.

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


The Wonderful Wizard Words of Oz

The Jumble Book

The Tail Tags of Peter Rabbit

Horton Hears a Who’s Calling? / Horton Hears a Sudoku! / Horton Hears a Guess Who! / Horton Hears a Word Games

Gerald McBingo Bingo

The Cat in the Hat Comes Back Around the Block

The Categories in the Hat / The Categories in the Hategories

One and Only Fish, Two by Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
One and Only Fish, Two at a Time Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
Pine Cone Fish, Two by Two Fish, Assembly Required Fish, Blue Fish

Green Eggs and Piggybacks

Dr. Seuss’s Sleep Bookworms

Hopscotch on Pop / Hop on Top to Bottom

Oh Say Can You Say That Again?

How the Grinch Stole Crisscross / How the Grinch Split and Splice Christmas

A Great Day for Ups and Downs

Shuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale

Fox In and Around Socks / Fox in Shadowbox

The Very Hungry Caterpill-around the Block / The Very Hungry Bookworm / The Very Hungry Crackers-pillar

Where the Wild Animal Crackers Are / Where and There the Wild Things Are / Where the Wild Wacky Words Are

A Wrinkle in Timed Word Seek / A Wrinkle in Two at a Time

The Secret Word Garden

Mad-End of the Line / MadeLine ‘Em Up

Love You ForEverything’s Relative

Harold and the Purple Pencil Pusher / Harold and the Point-the-Way Crayon

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Wheels Bus / Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus Wheels

The Story of Ferdinand and the Bull’s-Eye Spiral

One Morning in Mystery State

Chips for Sal

Harry Potter and the Samurai Sudoku / Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secret Words

Hubcaps for Sale

If You Give A Mouse Crackers / If You Give a Mouse a CooKeyword / If You Give A Mouse a Crostics / If you Give a Mouse a Codeword

Alice in Wonderland: By Another Name: Everything’s Relative All Mixed Up / Alice’s Adventures in Word Seek Land

Goodnight, Sunrays

Are You My Mother? Who’s Calling?

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel Build A Pyramid

Curious George Goes to the Crypto-Zoo

Where the Crossroads End: A Visual Deduction Problem

Crisscross Country Cat

The Windowboxes in the Willows

Patchwords the Bunny / Patmatch the Bunny

Make Word Ways for Ducklings

The Cricket in Times Square Deal

Bob-the-Build(er)-A-Pyramid

These Three Blind Mice

Rub-A-Dub-Dub, These Three Men in a Tub

Snow White and The Seven-Up Dwarfs

Good Night Moon, Good Night Star Words

The Itsy-Bitsy Spider’s Web went up the water spout

Crisscross Moo: Cows that Type

The Dial-a-Grams of a Wimpy Kid

The Little Puzzler That Could / The Logic Problem That Could

James and the Puzzler’s Giant Peach

The Give & Take Tree

The Giver and Take

A Crisscross in Time

Penny and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Decisions

One Topsy-Turvy Crazy Summer Fill-in

Anagrams of Green Gables

The Lion, the Which Way Words and the Wardrobe

The Tales of Uncle Rebus

The Word Maze Runner

The Hardy Boys “Hunting for Hidden Word Squares”

Nancy Drew “The Secret Word at Shadowbox Ranch”

Put me in the Crypto-zoo

The Magic Scrambled Up Bus


Several of my fellow puzzlers went above and beyond with these, launching such gloriously wordy titles as:

Alexander and the “Takeout”, “Hubcaps”, “No-List”, Very “Blips” Day

AND

Make Way for Crackers (er, quackers) as they Crossblocks and Dash-It (Mother Duck heard to quack: Keep On Moving! as they Shuffle along in the Middle Of The Road)

Talk about a mouthful!


And members of the PuzzleNation readership also got in on the fun! On Twitter, @HereLetty submitted Where the Wizard Words Are!

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

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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 with PuzzleNation Social Media Manager Glenn Dallas

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!)

For the entire month of August, I’ll be introducing the PuzzleNation readership to many of the members of the PuzzleNation team! So every Thursday this month, you’ll meet a new name and voice responsible for bringing you the best puzzle apps on the market today!

And we’re continuing this series with me, your friendly neighborhood PuzzleNation blogger, as our latest 5 Questions interviewee!

My name is Glenn Dallas, and I’m not only lead blogger for PuzzleNation Blog, but also Social Media Manager for PuzzleNation, maintaining and providing content for all of our social media platforms. A lifelong puzzler and board game enthusiast, I try to infuse every blog post with that same level of dedication and passion. Hopefully, I succeed.

I consider it a privilege for me to take some time out to talk to the PuzzleNation audience, so without further ado, let’s get to the interview!


5 Questions with Glenn Dallas

1. How did you get started with puzzles and games?

Looking back, it seems like puzzles and games were always around. My mother has always been a dedicated crossword solver. I can remember my older sister playing “School” with me and my younger siblings, using brain teasers and puzzles from old issues of GAMES Magazine as “lessons.” The classic board games were played often — Monopoly, Sorry, Mouse Trap, Battleship, even Trivial Pursuit, which I was probably too young for. But I’ve always been a trivia nerd.

Although formal puzzling fell by the wayside as I got older, wordplay and riddles and the like remained a recurring interest. I would often create puzzle content for friends’ websites or my own blog that involved Say That Again?-style rewording, palindromes, puns, anagrams, portmanteaus, brain teasers, and other forms of wordplay. (And, for a bit of context for long-time internet users, I’m talking about Geocities and Angelfire websites, as well as a blog that pre-dated LiveJournal.)

I got back into puzzles more directly in college when I began playing Dungeons & Dragons and other role-playing games, because I enjoyed challenging my players with tests beyond the usual monster hunts. So mechanical puzzles, sliding-block puzzles, and more Myst-style puzzle-solving became an interest (along with riddles and such).

After college (and a stint as a TV cameraman), I had an interview at Penny Press and was hired as a puzzle editor, bringing my amateur puzzly skills into a professional setting working on traditional (and non-traditional!) pen-and-paper puzzles like word seeks, crosswords, cryptograms, fill-ins, etc. And more than a decade later, I’m still at it.

2. You’re one of the senior members of the PuzzleNation team, dating back to its earliest days. How has your work for PuzzleNation changed over time and what can you tell us about PuzzleNation as it evolves and moves forward?

That’s true! Originally, I was just pitching in occasionally as a product tester — helping look for bugs or problems with early versions of apps — and I started providing ideas for content to our social media person for Facebook posts. I was a big proponent early on of expanding our efforts to include a blog; it’s a great centerpiece to a social media platform (and one that allows for more control than your average Facebook post).

But I also wanted PuzzleNation Blog to be a hub for all things puzzles and puzzle games, because there’s not really anywhere like that on the Internet. If you like movies, there’s IMDb. If you like books, there’s Goodreads. You’ve got Gizmodo for tech, science, and sci-fi, and Board Game Geek for board games. And although there are plenty of terrific crossword blogs out there, there’s not one central place to go to talk about puzzles in general. I always envisioned PuzzleNation Blog as that place.

When our previous social media person left the company, I was already writing blog posts once or twice a week (alongside Eric Berlin, who was our top contributor to the blog in its early days), and I inherited his position, along with the Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest accounts that went with them. (I have since added Tumblr and Instagram to our bevy of social media platforms.)

So, as you can see, I’ve gotten a bit busier as time passed, expanding my duties and becoming the lead blogger on the site, writing three (and sometimes more) blog posts a week.

[Here I am, hard at work trying to beat a stuffed teddy bear in Jenga… and failing.]

I feel like the blog has grown and matured into what I originally envisioned — though there’s always room for expansion and improvement! — and my goal right now is continue maintaining that level of interest and quality.

As for our Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets, I’m always looking to encourage more interaction with the PuzzleNation audience. I’m hoping at some point to have recurring puzzle features on every platform. (For now, we’ve got the Insta-Anagram game every Monday on Instagram, and the Crossword Clue Challenge every weekday on Facebook and Twitter.)

3. The crossword has been around for over a hundred years, and many puzzles (whether pen-and-paper or mechanical) have roots that can be traced back even farther. What, in your estimation, gives puzzles such lasting appeal?

I think it’s the Eureka! moments that keep people coming back. They’re certainly what I find the most enjoyable and the most motivating factor. And puzzles provide those in spades.

[Image courtesy of tnooz.com.]

When you approach a particularly fiendish brain teaser, or a crossword clue that keeps eluding you, or a mechanical puzzle that has you stymied, and then suddenly, that light bulb appears over your head. You’ve cracked the code, found the hidden latch, connected the missing pieces, made a deductive leap that would make Sherlock Holmes proud…those Eureka! moments never fail to make it all worthwhile.

And when you work with puzzles, you get to see those moments more often than most people.

4. What’s next for Glenn Dallas and PuzzleNation Blog?

For me, quite a bit. My writing partner and I just launched a new promotional blitz for the novel we published last year, Sugar Skulls (my first novel!), and I’m deep into several ongoing writing projects, one of which is on track to wrap up before the end of the year.

On the side, I’m a freelance book reviewer, and I recently posted my 1,200th book review. I’ve also started work on another in-office murder mystery that I’m hoping to run at our summer picnic event next month. (And I’ll be sure to share pictures here and on Instagram of that!)

As for PuzzleNation Blog, I’m proud to announce that, after the recent success of our PuzzleNation team series of interviews, 5 Questions will be returning as a regular, recurring feature on the blog!

It will be at least once a month (but hopefully twice a month), and I’ve already lined up our first guest for September, with more terrific puzzlers, constructors, and personalities to follow!

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

Make time for yourself every day to do something that fuels you. If you want to write, write something every day, whether it’s just a haiku or a journal entry or a limerick or whatever. If you like games, play a round at lunch with friends or coworkers. There are plenty of quick-play games and puzzles that fit that bill. (Oooh, that gives me an idea for a blog post…)

But I digress.

We spend so much time worrying about, well, everything, it’s easy to let the good stuff, the stuff that reinvigorates you and keeps your spirits up, fall by the wayside. So make a little time for you every day. It does wonders.


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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!

A Puzzly Success Story: The Codex Silenda

In the past, I’ve covered plenty of puzzly Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns that I thought might interest my fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers.

Today, I’m not so much recommending a campaign — since it’s pretty much closed right now — but I do want to share the story of that campaign, because I think they’ve learned from the mistakes of other campaigns and they’re doing things right.

So let’s talk about the Codex Silenda project.

Codex Silenda: The Book of Puzzles is a series of mechanical puzzles, each of which unlocks the next “page” until you get to the final puzzle, which reveals a prize. It’s an awesome concept, and all of the photos of the 5-page Codex look gorgeous.

Now, there are several noteworthy things about this particular Kickstarter campaign. The first is that the puzzle project funded in a day, and within two days, every tier that allowed you to receive a complete Codex was filled up. By day three, even the tier that stated you’d receive the Codex disassembled and you’ve have to put it together yourself was filled up.

So in 72 hours, if you wanted the Codex for yourself, you had to settle for the lower tier allowing you to receive a single page of the Codex of your choosing, or you had to set yourself for a long wait until the Kickstarter campaign had been fulfilled and the team had moved on to accepting orders once more.

That brings me to the second noteworthy thing about this campaign: their patience and forethought.

Many Kickstarter campaigns that turn out to be more successful than expected become victims of their success, accepting more and more backing from supporters, adding loads of stretch goals to fulfill, and basically getting caught up in the excitement of being a well-funded runaway success.

[Image courtesy of expertrain.com.]

Unfortunately, those campaigns are often overwhelmed once they finally realize the monumental task ahead of them: producing the product for LOADS of supporters, becoming stressed by delays, missteps, and the ever-looming deadline they promised during the campaign. I’ve seen it time and time again, even with well-staffed, supremely organized campaigns. Things happen.

But the Codex team nipped that possibility in the bud early, declaring that they would NOT be adding additional tiers. Although this would mean losing out on more funding AND potentially disappointing interested customers, they wanted to fully commit to the supporters they already had and not overtax their team.

It’s an act of patience and restraint that will serve them well, even if it did leave latecomers to the campaign like me a little disheartened.

And that brings me to the third noteworthy aspect of this campaign: planning for the future.

[Image courtesy of tibco.com.]

Now that they had secured funding and already turned their eyes toward production, they offered an olive branch to all the interested supporters who had found them after that amazing 72-hour launch to success. You see, one of the few stretch goals they had built into the campaign were 6th and 7th pages to add to the Codex, which would be exclusive to the Kickstarter campaign.

That means that the Codex produced for customers after the campaign would only be 5 pages, and latecomers would miss out. The team thought that was unfair, so they’ve offered a unique solution: an upgrade voucher.

By adding a bit more to your donation for one of the non-Codex tiers, you would receive a voucher proving you were a Kickstarter supporter. That way, when the Kickstarter campaign is complete, all those orders are filled, and the team begins accepting orders from customers, that voucher entitles you to a Codex with the Kickstarter-exclusive 6th and 7th pages.

Now that is smart marketing and customer service.

I look forward to seeing where the Codex Silenda team goes from here, and how the campaign proceeds once they move into formal production and eventually, product delivery. With forethought and planning like this, I think they’ll be a big success.


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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!