Solution to Last Week’s Merry Birthday Puzzle!

A week ago, we shared a brain teaser sent in by a PuzzleNationer named Darrin (who credited Marilynn Rapp Buxton as the creator of the puzzle). Darrin challenged us to solve the following logic puzzle.

Today, we’re going to share not only the solution, but how we got there! Please enjoy this brief solve and tutorial, submitted by one of your fellow PuzzleNationers!


Four friends — two girls named Holly and Joy, two boys named Kris and Noel — all celebrate their birthdays during December. Though none was born on Christmas Day — each was born on a different day — they all have festive names. Can you figure out each person’s last name and order of birth?

1. Nobody’s first name goes with the traditional last name (Berry, Fully, Kringle, or Singer) that you might expect.
2. Someone’s birthday is three days after their friend Joy’s birthdate.
3. Holly’s birthday is three days before Noel’s and three days after Kris’.
4. Miss Fully’s birthdate is six days after Joy’s.
5. Noel’s birthdate is six days after the one whose last name is Berry.


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[Image courtesy of Moji-Moji Design on ravelry.]

Let’s sort out the order of birth first.

We know from rule 3 that Holly’s birthdate is three days before Noel’s and three days after Kris’s. So their birthdate order is Kris, Holly, Noel.

But we also know from rule 2 that someone’s birthday is three days after Joy’s. Since they all have different birthdays, that means Joy’s birthday comes first in the order, giving us Joy, Kris, Holly, Noel.

Rule 4 tells us that Miss Fully’s birthdate is six days after Joy’s, so Holly’s last name is Fully.

Rule 5 states that Noel’s birthday is six days after the one whose last name is Berry, so Kris’s last name is Berry.

That gives us Joy ____, Kris Berry, Holly Fully, Noel ____.

Rule 1 tells us all four last names — Berry, Fully, Kringle, and Singer — and that nobody’s first name goes with the traditional last name that you might expect. Logically, those names would be Holly Berry, Joy Fully, Kris Kringle, and Noel Singer.

Since Kringle and Singer are the two remaining last names, and Singer can’t go with Noel, our final list reads Joy Singer, Kris Berry, Holly Fully, Noel Kringle.

How did you do, fellow PuzzleNationers? Did you solve this one? Let us know in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you.


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Assemble the Party!

Long-time readers of the blog have no doubt noticed one of the recurring themes in blog posts over the years: everything is better with puzzles in it.

Mysteries, adventures, historical accounts… all of them have been enhanced in one way or another by the inclusion of a puzzly element to the topic.

And romantic gestures are no different. For years now, we’ve shared stories where moments of puzzle romance brought people closer together. Sometimes it’s a custom Monopoly board, other times it’s a puzzle-fueled proposal organized by our friends at Penny Dell Puzzles.

What can I say? I’m a sucker for this sort of thing.

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So when I stumbled across this story about a super-creative way for Dungeons & Dragons fans to announce their engagement, I knew I had to share it.

If you’re not familiar with the roleplaying game Dungeons & Dragons, it’s a cooperative storytelling game. One of the major elements that makes it so fun is assembling your party — the group of friends and adventurers who journey together throughout the game, engaging in imaginary acts of derring-do.

And anyone who has planned to get married knows that there is also a party to assemble for that particular endeavor… a wedding party.

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So one couple reached out to their fellow D&D players and asked them to join the wedding party in truly apropos D&D fashion: with custom minis and dice for the occasion.

Each player/invitee even had their role in the wedding party inscribed in the base of their personalized miniature figure:

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It’s a delightfully unique and nerdy way to include close friends from a beloved pastime in a huge milestone in their lives, and it brings me joy just to see the photos everyone has shared.

Yes, the future bride and groom got minis of their own… to use as wedding cake toppers.

toppers

You can check out more details of this wonderful story here. Here’s hoping that the party — in both real life and the dice-filled realm of their favorite tabletop game — continue to share such marvelous adventures in the years to come.

Do you have any favorite puzzly tales of romance, fellow PuzzleNationers? Let us know in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you.


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Speed and Stats in Solving: The Pros and Cons of Streaks

Even before the advent of puzzle apps, stats and record-keeping in puzzle-solving was a thing.

Plenty of solvers keep track of their solving times — here at PuzzleNation we share ours during our Daily POP posts across social media each morning — and it can be for any number of reasons. Maybe they like to keep in tournament-solving shape, maybe they enjoy a bit of friendly competition with fellow solvers, or maybe they simply like testing themselves against their own previous times.

Whether it’s a thread on Reddit’s r/crossword forum or in a conversation with another puzzler regarding how look it took to complete that devious Saturday stumper, these numbers matter to many solvers.

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When you factor in the stat-keeping of puzzle apps, that numeral awareness increases. Take Daily POP Crosswords, for instance. It tracks your best times across the seven different daily categories, as well as the number of days in a row you’ve solved the daily puzzle.

And these streaks — unbroken chains of solved puzzles across days, weeks, and even months — are prized achievements for some solvers.

I get it. During my best run of daily solving, I managed 150 days or so in a row until I slipped and missed a day one weekend. We even celebrated a friend of the blog hitting a one-year streak back in 2019!

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But sometimes, it seems like streak hunting is becoming too much of a priority for some solvers. I see posts where people lament “ruining” a potential month of clean solves by missing a day.

I mean, if you enjoyed solving the puzzles, missing a day can’t wipe away the good time you had solving those other 30 puzzles that month. Right?

Focusing just on time and statistics can mean you’re not taking the opportunity to really drink in all that puzzle has to offer.

We should be taking the time to appreciate the clues and solving experience, even if we’re looking to top our best Tuesday time or hoping to complete week three of a month-long run of success solves.

Heck, one of our own constructors suggested we slow down and smell the roses after posting a time he claimed was too fast for him to fill the grid… and he designed the grid!

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To be fair, I always go back and read through the clues once I’ve solved a puzzle, in case I’ve missed any choice cluing by zipping through the grid. But that doesn’t mean our constructor’s argument lacks merit.

Hopefully, avid solvers can strike a solid balance and get the most out of each and every solve.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m hoping for a sub-4 minute solve on this Daily POP Plus puzzle.

What do you think, fellow solvers? Are you a streak hunter? Do you track your times? Do you find yourself taking more time on paper or through an app? Let us know in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you.


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A Festive Brain Teaser Submitted For Your Puzzly Pleasure!

[Image courtesy of SharpBrains.com.]

When’s the last time you had your brain properly tied in knots by a riddle?

That’s a pretty common occurrence around here, honestly. In our puzzly explorations of the world, we stumble across all manner of brain teasers, riddles, logic puzzles, math problems, mind ticklers, deduction games, and wordplay-fueled bits of linguistic legerdemain.

Sometimes, we even receive them directly from our fellow PuzzleNationers!

And on those occasions, we happily share them with you, dear reader, so that you can also enjoy the challenge of unraveling whatever fiendish puzzly conundrum has been placed before us.

This time around, a solver named Darrin submitted this festive holiday puzzle he found in his aunt’s collection of puzzle books. (He credits Marilynn Rapp Buxton as the constructor of this puzzle.)

Let’s see how we do.


Four friends — two girls named Holly and Joy, two boys named Kris and Noel — all celebrate their birthdays during December. Though none was born on Christmas Day — each was born on a different day — they all have festive names. Can you figure out each person’s last name and order of birth?

1. Nobody’s first name goes with the traditional last name (Berry, Fully, Kringle, or Singer) that you might expect.
2. Someone’s birthday is three days after their friend Joy’s birthdate.
3. Holly’s birthday is three days before Noel’s and three days after Kris’.
4. Miss Fully’s birthdate is six days after Joy’s.
5. Noel’s birthdate is six days after the one whose last name is Berry.

Will you be accepting this puzzly challenge from a fellow PuzzleNationer? Let us know in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you!


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Hosting A Holiday Puzzle Hunt?

If you’re looking to spruce up Christmas morning with a puzzly challenge, or maybe prevent the kids from tearing through that wrapping paper in record time, you could create a mini holiday puzzle hunt for them to extend the holiday fun a little longer.

There are several ways to do this. You could have Santa leave them a treasure map to follow. You could create a scavenger hunt with different places to check. Or you could create a puzzle hunt where each clue or puzzle leads to the next and has to be solved in order.

But how do you flesh it out and keep it seasonal? We’ve got a host of suggestions awaiting you. Sprinkle a few of these across the house on Christmas morning and you’ll be sure to delight the puzzly denizens of your home after Santa has come and gone.


Maybe they have to look for gifts wrapped in a particular type of wrapping paper. Perhaps there are clues written on them or hidden inside, or maybe the wrapping paper itself sends them on to their next clue.

If it’s more of a scavenger hunt-style of game, the wrapping paper approach is perfect. They could be stashed around the house, waiting to be found, and there’s no threat of them being mixed up with the actual gifts.

Perhaps there are puzzle pieces at the bottom of their stockings, and they have to work together to assemble them and figure out where to go next. (Craft stores have plain white mini jigsaw puzzles, you could write out or draw out clues, mix up the pieces, and distribute them in several spots with ease.)

Did Santa leave a clue when he sampled the milk and cookies left out of him? Maybe a gingerbread man points the kids in a certain direction, or Santa urges the children to have breakfast before the festivities start (pushing them toward another clue in the kitchen AND toward a healthy Christmas breakfast in the morning).

Your Christmas tree is also perfect for concealing clues and puzzly elements. With lights and ornaments galore, it’s the ideal spot to hide things, whether it’s letters that spell things out, or numbered clues to be solved in order. You could even hang different numbers of various objects (6 candy canes, 3 silver stars, 4 photo ornaments) that are used as a code later to unlock something.

Does the Elf on a Shelf have a clue? Did it see something, or can it point them in the right direction? Is there a paper chain of snowflakes where the different branches of the snowflake are highlighted like clock hands?

Once you start looking at the trappings of the holiday in a puzzly way, you’ll find more and more methods for stashing hints and elements of your puzzle hunt anywhere and everywhere.

Hopefully these suggestions got you off to a good start! Have you hosted a holiday puzzle hunt or celebrated the holidays in a puzzly way, fellow PuzzleNationers? Let us know in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you.


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The 2021 Boswords Fall Themeless League: Looking Back

boswords new

After two months of challenging, engaging, and thoroughly enjoyable weekly solving, the Boswords 2021 Fall Themeless League came to a close last week.

If you’re unfamiliar, the Boswords 2021 Fall Themeless League spreads out a tournament-style solving experience over nine weeks, one themeless crossword per week. Each puzzle is scored based on your answer accuracy (incorrect letters, empty squares, etc.) and how quickly you complete the grid.

While each week’s puzzle only had one solution, there were three sets of clues, each representing a different difficulty level for solvers. Smooth was the least challenging, Choppy was the middle ground, and Stormy was the most challenging. (When solvers registered to participate, they chose the difficulty level that suited them best.)

Hundreds of solvers signed up for the challenge of two months of themeless puzzle solving and a bit of friendly competition, and now that it’s over, I’d like to share a few thoughts about my experience in the League.

With the previous two Themeless League events under my belt, I had a good sense of what to expect both from the puzzles and from myself.

Although I rarely solve online — and I solve themed crosswords far more often than themeless crosswords — I now have a good base to build on.

Unfortunately, I accidentally signed up for the wrong difficulty level this time around. The previous two seasons, I’d opted for the middle ground, Choppy. I signed up for Stormy by mistake, and didn’t realize my error until I logged in and prepared to solve the season’s first puzzle.

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As you might expect, being freed from the shackles of themed puzzle building allows constructors to really flex their creative muscle, indulging all sorts of curious and unexpected vocabulary as they cross long entries and employ fewer black squares in these impressive grids.

And since I’d mistakenly opted for the toughest level of cluing, I also saw the decidedly clever and devious side of each constructor as I navigated tricky wordplay and more challenging clue content.

The first puzzle of the season immediately showed me what I’d gotten myself into. I didn’t know the number of operas Beethoven had written, or who spoke what ended up being a Madonna quote, or what Mohsin Hamid’s “Exit West” was about.

I hit nearly half an hour with my solving time, which I think was a ten-minute increase from my performance in the previous League’s debut puzzle.

Although I would have better performances later in the season — my time averaged out to 24:48 across eight puzzles — that was definitely a shot right across the bow of my confidence.

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I could have contacted the organizers and asked to be moved over to Choppy. I’m sure they would have accommodated me; the Boswords team is terrific.

But instead, I decided to throw myself into the deep end and stick with Stormy and see how it went.

As I expected, it was quite a challenge. But I trusted my instincts more — filling in more guesses at the start, rather than letting them sit empty until crossing words offered confirmation — and overall, I enjoyed the experience. Sure, I was a little disheartened at how my season started, but knowing that I was competing — however slowly — at the steepest level available pushed me to keep going.

I’ve never been the fastest solver to begin with — doesn’t matter if it’s pencil and paper or on a computer — and I rarely time myself when I solve in my free time. But I kept setting different goals each week. If I had half the grid filled by a certain time, I’d set a time to beat based on that. I didn’t always succeed, but more often than not, I kept my time below whatever goals I’d set.

(Still, I dare not look at the times of the top performers, lest I despair once more. Heh.)

In the end, my individual rank was 220 (out of 303 Stormy solvers), and my overall rank was 251 (out of the 871 individual solvers). Not too shabby. A staggering 1253 people participated in this season’s event,

As for the puzzles themselves, they were solid. The vocabulary — particularly the longer entries — was incredibly creative and unexpected. And the constructors were fantastic.

Each brought their own style and flavor to the competition, and it was great to see well-established names like Byron Walden, Evan Birnholz, Kameron Austin Collins, and the dynamite duo of Doug Peterson and Angela Olson Halsted mixed with newer names to the field like Mollie Cowger and Quiara Vasquez.

All in all, I enjoyed the Fall Themeless League. (Although I was more comfortable with the solving interface and I had a better handle on themeless solving, given that this was my third go-around, I still felt like a rookie tackling the Stormy-level clues.)

I think when the Spring Themeless League rolls around, I’ll try Stormy again. Now that I have a baseline to compare it to, I’d like to see how I can improve.

And with the promise of future Boswords-hosted events in 2022 like the Winter Wondersolve event on February 6th and the Spring Themeless League, it’s nice to have exciting puzzle events to look forward to in the near future.

They’ve already announced the teams for each! The Winter Wondersolve will be constructed by Kate Chin Park, Christina Iverson, Adesina Koiki, and Matthew Stock.

The Spring Themeless League will be handled by Adam Aaronson, Wendy L. Brandes, Katja Brinck, Julian Lim, Frank Longo, the team of Sophia Maymudes & Kyra Wilson, Ada Nicolle, Robyn Weintraub, and one constructor to be named later.

(Yup, a mystery constructor. They’re actually selecting them based on an open submission process, the details of which will be announced tomorrow, Wednesday 12/8! How cool is that?)

Kudos to everyone who helped bring this marvelous project together, and kudos to everyone who participated. It was tough, but also a great deal of fun.


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