Step Right Up and Test Your Puzzly Skills! It’s Carnival Time!

[Image courtesy of Wikipedia.]

The local carnival has already come and gone in my town, but there are many more county fairs, state fairs, and amusement park visits in the immediate future. After all, summer is almost here.

With carnivals and fairs, there are certain universal attractions. The Ferris wheel. The burlap sack slide. And, of course, those devious midway games.

Games of strength, games of dexterity, games of skill and chance… carnival games are tailor-made to separate you from your hard-earned dough. But we’re not any run-of-the-mill rube or mark for the carnival crews to exploit; we’re puzzlers!

So is there anything we can do to improve our odds?

You betcha.

Let’s look at a few classic carnival games and how we can increase our chances for stuffed animal prize success.

[Image courtesy of BGR.]

One of my personal favorites is the basketball shot. It seems simple, since all you have to do is make what looks like a regulation three-pointer.

But looks are deceiving. The hoop is usually higher than normal, as well as farther away. In addition, the ball is overinflated to increase unfriendly bounces, and the rim of the hoop is often bent in an oblong shape to discourage successful tosses. (At one carnival, the hoop was so warped that my friend’s toss actually landed ON the hoop, proving there was no way to successfully make a basket.)

Assuming the hoop actually allows for a ball to pass through, your best chance is to avoid the backboard entirely and go for a clean swish.

[Image courtesy of Art of Manliness.]

What about the rope ladder? The rope ladder seems like the fairest carnival game, since there’s little visual trickery involved. It’s all about balance after all.

But, as expected, it’s harder than it appears. Since the rope’s peak is anchored at only one point — not the two points of contact at the bottom — it’s far easier to tip over. You have to keep your center of balance as close to the center line of the ladder as possible. But it’s virtually impossible to stay in the center of the rungs as you climb, because lifting yourself up and away from the ladder — as you would in normal climbing — makes tipping over likely.

Many websites recommend using your left arm and right foot in tandem, then alternating to your right arm and left foot. If you have a strong center of gravity, that will definitely help. Be sure to stay low and flat, which will allow you greater control of the ladder. Ignore the rungs and focus on using the outside ropes to pull yourself.

And, of course, keep an eye on the operator. Some will hold the ladder steady for you at first, and then let go at an inconvenient moment for you.

[Image courtesy of Art of Manliness.]

Water guns and pellet guns also make appearances in carnival games, with the “shoot the star” game being among the most infamous. The goal in this game is to shoot away any traces of the star from the paper.

It goes without saying that the BB gun will not shoot true, so take a few practice shots to get used to adjusting for the gun’s idiosyncrasies.

Your instinct will be to aim at the center of the star and work your way out, but that’s guaranteed failure. Doing so creates little flaps of paper as the center is eaten away, and those flaps will fold and bend as they’re hit, rather than tearing away.

The recommended tactic is to shoot a circle around the star, which prevents those little energy-absorbing flaps from forming. Granted, if you are successful with this tactic, the star itself will become a flap near the end of the game. It’s best to leave the top part of the circle connected last, since gravity at the very least will be on your side. (If, for instance, you shot away the top part of the circle first, the circle could easily fold or tip down, making it much harder to hit.)

This is definitely one of the tougher midway games. The FBI actually studied how the size of the star affects players’ chances for success, and it turns out the smaller the star, the better your odds. (Specifically, an inch or smaller in diameter is your best bet. If the star is wider than 1.5 inches, you’re outta luck.)

This video features a terrific statistical breakdown of the odds of various carnival games and some techniques for beating them. (It also confirms what we’ve all long suspected… that no matter how quickly you win a prize, you’ve already overpaid for it.)

And before we go, let’s conclude the post with a few more tips for not getting scammed. After all, for the most part, we’ve treated these games as difficult, but ultimately winnable. That’s not always the case.

So make sure to watch a game for a while before you play. Some unscrupulous operators will use different balls or equipment in demonstration than you get to use when your money’s on the line. Be aware.

Also, when trying out a game, always try to stand where the operator was standing. Most carnival games involve showing you “how easy it is to win” in order to sucker you in. But if the operator won’t let you try to recreate exactly how they did it — including which ball and where they’re standing — you might be playing an unfairly rigged game.


Got any other advice for carnival game enthusiasts? Let us know in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you.

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TableTop Day 2019: PuzzleNation Style!

tabletopday_logo

International TableTop Day is one of our favorite days of the year around here! Whether you play board games, role-playing games, card games, dice games, puzzles, or logic games, this is the holiday for you, family, and friends to come together and play games.

As we discussed in a previous post, there has been some controversy surrounding the date of TableTop Day this year, so we decided to celebrate our own in-house TableTop Day last Tuesday!

For the seventh year in a row, we put aside some time to indulge in some puzzles and games with our friends at Penny Dell Puzzles, and as always, it was a delight. Games were played, snacks were consumed, and fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers were introduced to some terrific games.

For our TableTop Day event, we focus on quick-play games and games for 2 to 4 players, since that allows people the opportunity to try several games without taking too big a bite out of the workday. Not only that, but with smaller groups or 1-on-1 games, it’s easier to introduce someone to a game and really get into the mechanics and gameplay swiftly.

[The spread of games available for the event. Can you name them all?]

As usual, the event started with people picking out their favorites and introducing new players to the game. Quarto was immediately snatched up, and I played several rounds of Tak with a newcomer to the game who really enjoyed the board game’s strategy, simplicity, and elegant design.

At another table, several rounds of the quick-play pattern-matching card game Loonacy marked a fast-paced and chaotic start to the day’s festivities for new players and familiar faces alike.

A few games of the British History edition of Timeline soon followed, as well as new players trying out the labyrinth-building challenge of The Abandons, which quickly proved both difficult and addictive for one particular celebrant. One-player puzzles like Puzzometry and Knot Dice were also popular.

We concluded our celebration of gaming and community in suitably epic fashion with a round of Exploding Kittens. The players bravely tried to avert and avoid the catastrophes induced by various adorable, oblivious, combustible cats, and it made for a fun, silly ending to another terrific event.

People got to blow off some steam, try some new games, and enjoy some snacks. What more can you ask for? All in all, we definitely call that a success!

[Naturally, people waited with baited breath to see who won our raffle AND this terrific bundle of games and goodies!]

So, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers, do you celebrate International Tabletop Day? Let us know in the comment section! We’d love to hear from you!


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To Solve This Murder Mystery, You Need to Break the Game

[Image courtesy of Game Informer.]

Our readership isn’t a predominantly video game-savvy audience. We have lots of app users and lots of pencil-and-paper solvers in the PuzzleNation membership, but fewer gamers.

So you may wonder why I periodically write about video games when it’s a niche interest for the majority of our readers. That’s an entirely fair question.

As a puzzle enthusiast, I’m constantly seeking out new ways to build puzzles and solve them. Brain teasers, word problems, riddles, and mechanical puzzles all fit under the umbrella of “puzzles,” but they’re all very different solving experiences. Similarly, there’s a huge difference between a pencil-and-paper puzzle and an escape room, a murder mystery and a scavenger hunt, an encrypted message and a puzzle box.

But they’re all puzzles. And that’s what I find so fascinating. There are endless ways to challenge ourselves in puzzly fashion, and video games are constantly innovating when it comes to puzzle-solving.

[Image courtesy of Zelda Dungeons.]

Whether we’re talking about navigating past guards with well-placed arrow shots in the Thief games, navigating the labyrinth of the Water Temple in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, or maneuvering around a room in mind-bending ways with your portal gun in Portal, video games can take 2D puzzle ideas and bring them into the third dimension in amazing ways.

A friend recently told me about a game called Iris Fall, where you actually manipulate light and shadows in order to solve puzzles. That’s not just ingenious, it’s beautiful as well.

There are even games that let you change the rules of the puzzle itself in order to solve it.

[Image courtesy of Born Frustrated Studio.]

And another game in that vein recently came to market, a detective game called File://maniac.

In this murder mystery, you’re tasked with tracking down a devious murderer who happily taunts you with messages as you pursue them. But instead of pursuing leads and accomplishing tasks in more traditional detective-game format, you actually have to manipulate the files of the game itself as you play.

Yes, the very coding and organization of the game is the basis of the puzzles and codes for you to unravel.

Heather Alexandra at Kotaku explains more:

Getting rid of a locked door might require placing the door’s files in your recycling bin. Finding the password to a lock means opening up a handful of notebook files and searching until you find the code. It’s a different sort of puzzle solving, one that encourages the player to be aware of the game world’s artificiality… playing around with the actual game files creates a fun mixture of puzzling and “exploration” as you poke around folders and directories.

[Image courtesy of Go Go Free Games.]

It’s a brilliantly meta concept. Whereas many games and puzzle experiences are all about immersion, ensuring you forget you’re playing a game and encouraging you to dive into the narrative and gameplay itself, File://maniac demands that you not only remember you’re playing a game, but forces you to think like the designers of the game to circumvent each challenge.

It’s like being trapped in a maze, then being able to shift your perspective to an overhead view of the maze and navigate yourself out with omniscient ease. It’s a total perspective shift, and the a-ha moment of figuring out how to change the rules to your advantage is an immensely satisfying reward.

Do you know of any games out there that create unique and unexpected puzzly experiences? Let us know in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you!


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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!

View a Clue: Crosswordese Answers!

Last week, we brought back one of our trickiest recurring features, the View a Clue game!

If you recall, we selected ten words that commonly show up in crossword grids — frequently and infamously enough that they’ve becomes crosswordese at this point —  to see if the PuzzleNation audience could identify them from pictures.

Without further ado, let’s get to it!


#1 (3 letters)

Answer: SST, aka supersonic transport

#2 (5 letters)

Answer: AERIE, a high nest for a bird of prey

#3 (3 letters)

Answer: TAW, a large marble used as a shooter

#4 (4 letters)

Answer: SERF, a medieval laborer bound to serving a feudal lord

#5 (5 letters)

Answer: AIOLI, mayonnaise flavored with garlic

#6 (4 letters)

Answer: YEGG, a safecracker

#7 (5 letters)

Answer: SABOT, a wooden shoe worn in European countries

#8 (4 letters)

Answer: OGEE, a pointed arch or molding in an S-shape

#9 (4 letters)

Answer: APSE, a semicircular vaulted area of a church

#10 (3 letters)

Answer: ELL, a building extension added at a right angle to the main building


How did you do? Let us know in the comments below!

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!

The Indie 500 Crossword Tournament returns soon!

Four years ago, a new crossword tournament joined the ranks of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament and Lollapuzzoola, immediately carving out its own niche in the puzzle world. The Indie 500 offered topnotch puzzles and a pie-fueled solving experience both live in Washington, D.C., and for solvers at home.

And it’s back! The fifth edition of The Indie 500 is happening on Saturday, June 1, and this year, the theme is “Going Around in Squares.”

This year’s tournament follows the same format as previous years: five preliminary puzzles of varying difficulty, plus a final puzzle for the top three scorers in both divisions.

[There’s also a fair amount of slapstick.]

Registration is open for the tournament! They’re at capacity for attending in person (there is a waiting list in case anyone drops out!), but worry not, because solving from home is only $10!

Not only that, but there’s a travel-themed meta suite that lets you name your own price, as well as access to the previous tournament bundles for $5 apiece. Those are super-affordable prices for some outstanding puzzles!

Andy Kravis, Erik Agard, and Neville Fogarty all make their fifth appearance as veteran constructors — understandable, since they’re also event organizers — and they’re joined once again by Angela Olson Halsted and Peter Broda, as well as tournament constructors Jenna LaFleur, Bryan Betancur, Janie Smulyan, Rebecca Falcon, and Yacob Yonas!

And, of course, there will be pie.

You can click here for the Indie 500 home page, and click here for a rundown of last year’s puzzles!

Will you be competing, or participating from home? Let us know in the comments below!


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!

New Puzzle Sets for PDCW App and Daily POP Crosswords!

Hello puzzlers and PuzzleNationers!

We’re excited to announce new puzzle sets for both of our marvelous crossword puzzle apps! Yes, whether you’re a fan of our Penny Dell Crosswords App or our Daily POP Crosswords app, we’ve got something special for you!

First off, for Daily POP Crosswords users, we have our latest featured set, Superhero Fun!

Consisting of ten puzzles, all with superpowered themes, this puzzle set offers the smart, pop culture-savvy cluing you’ve come to expect from PuzzleNation, all in ten marvelous puzzles collected for your convenience and enjoyment!

The Avengers might have reached their Endgame, but we’re just getting started!

And for the Penny Dell Crosswords App, we have two new deluxe sets available!

If you’re looking for something sweet, we have the Dessert Deluxe bundle, and if you want a playful twist on crosswords, there’s the Games Deluxe bundle!

With special themed puzzles and loads of great crosswords at all difficulty levels for you to enjoy, these bundles are a fresh and fun way to relax and keep your puzzly wits sharp!

All three are available now for in-app purchase, so don’t miss out on these terrific new puzzle bundles!

Happy puzzling, everybody!


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!