PuzzleNation’s 2019 Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide!

Happy Holidays and welcome to the PuzzleNation Blog 2019 Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide!

Each year, we scour the world of puzzles and games for the best, the most engaging, the most creative, and the most enjoyable products we can find, and we think this year’s collection is the best we’ve ever had!

We’ve got three different versions of the Gift Guide for your perusal, each of them absolutely loaded with all sorts of puzzly goodness and designed to make your puzzle and game shopping as easy as possible!

You can view the products in the Gift Guide organized by category, by age group, or in a randomized grab bag format!

So, if you’d like to view products sorted by category (puzzle games, board games, puzzle books, etc.), click the wreath!

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If you’d like to view products sorted by age group, click the penguin!

And if you’ve got a puzzle lover on your list and you’re not sure what to get them, you can stroll through a wonderful mixed bag of products by clicking the crossword tree!

A lot of terrific companies and puzzle constructors are taking part in our gift guide this year, and we’re sure you’ll find something for every puzzle lover on your list!

Happy browsing and happy puzzling to you and yours!

Meet the Daily POP Word Search Constructors: Jessica Giannone

One of the Daily POP Word Search app’s best features is the level of input from top-flight constructors. We’ve assembled one heck of a team when it comes to creating terrific, exciting, fresh, themed word search puzzles.

And over the next few weeks, we’d like to introduce you to some of them. Some names you may know, some you may not, but they’re all doing amazing work on these puzzles and deserve a little time in the limelight.

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For this installment, allow us to introduce you to constructor, singer, and doer of charitable works Jessica Giannone!


How did you get started in puzzles?

Since I was a child, I’ve always loved solving various kinds of puzzles, riddles, and word games. I was fascinated by how puzzles were made. As a writer and journalism graduate, an editorial opening at Penny Press was all it took to reel me into the puzzle-making world!

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What do you enjoy about working on Daily POP Word Search?

Getting to work on current topics is a refreshing treat because I don’t need to hold off on any subject that strikes my fancy. Normally, we work on material that won’t be released until the following year, and we tend to shy away from media (films, books, etc.) that is in the works. (For the sake of audience familiarity, we try to wait until a film has been out at least a year or that a TV show has made it to a second season, for instance.)

Working on Daily POP Word Search is also a great excuse to research trends we may not have heard of yet and incorporate fun ideas which appeal to a younger audience.

I enjoy the “Music Boxes” and “Book Smarts” themes the most because I am a lover of music and literature! I enjoy getting to research upcoming projects from various “creatives” everywhere. “Wildcards” also give us a chance to switch things up because we don’t typically cover a lot of pop culture.

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How is working on Daily POP Word Search different from constructing for some other outlet or magazine?

Constructing for Daily POP Word Search allows us to use a wide range of material and be a little less restrictive with our content because our audience is digital/less traditional. We’re also able to include topics that may not be quite mainstream yet. It’s interesting to take an experimental approach to editing, and Daily POP Word Search is the perfect outlet to have some fun with our “puzzly” practice.

In the spirit of trends, I’m also including the name of a fun new cause to promote random acts of kindness everywhere:

Check out #KindnessInspiredByAmara on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to share some love!


Note: Jess is also on the board of the nonprofit organization Riccio Pick-Me-Ups, which provides joy and aid to children and families in need. It was founded by her cousin Amara Riccio, who is fighting a lifelong condition of her own, but champions through to support people everywhere with her unconditional aid and warrior spirit. You can check out the cause here: http://www.ricciopickmeup.org/


A huge thank you to Jessica for her time! Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for her puzzles in the Daily POP Word Search app, free to download for both iOS and Android users!

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An Excluded Solver Strikes Back!

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Many people find crossword puzzles daunting.

For some, it’s the crosswordese, those obscure or curious words that you only encounter in crossword grids. Whether it’s European rivers or needlecases, these entries never make casual conversational appearances.

For others, it’s the pop culture that often feels dusty and out-of-touch. It’s not like many silent movie stars are household names these days.

Thankfully, many current outlets and constructors have moved away from this stodgy approach to grid construction and cluing, working hard to keep cultural references fresh and up-to-date, and striving for fluid grid-filling entries that remain both accessible and interesting.

Unfortunately, the reputation of crosswords as behind-the-times is still prevalent in many circles, including among younger solvers.

But I was amused to find one younger solver who sought to balance the scales a bit by taking matters into her own hands.

Tumblr user Greater-than-the-Sword created and shared her own crossword. (Well, technically a criss-cross to puzzle aficionados like ourselves, but the average person would call this a crossword.)

In her own words:

Tired of your parents always doing better than you at crossword puzzles just because they’re old and get the ancient pop culture references? I made this Millennial’s Crossword Puzzle™. Guaranteed to make your parents feel old and less smug.

Sample clues included “is either white and gold or blue and black” for DRESS (referencing the optical illusion that took over the Internet for a day or two) and “Popular Youtuber” for PEWDIEPIE.

Although the puzzle didn’t make me feel old or less smug, it did make me laugh, since I found several of the entries completely baffling and impenetrable. It also reminded me of how amazingly fast cultural references emerge and vanish in the age of the Internet. I got about half of the reference in the puzzle, many of which applied to memes and pop culture from the last few years.

(Though I must confess that it took me an embarrassingly long time to realize the clue “bendy cabbage patch” meant BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH.)

I was unable to reach Greater-than-the-Sword to ask her what sort of feedback she received on the puzzle — either from millennials or from older solvers who accepted the challenge — but I found it to be a delightful response to lazy crossword construction.

You’re welcome to try your luck against the puzzle here.


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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!

PuzzleNation Product Review: The Oregon Trail Card Game

For gamers and puzzlers of a certain age, there are many fond memories of a certain historical journey that tested your wits, your luck, your tactical skills, and your endurance. I’m speaking, of course, of The Oregon Trail, a computer-game classic that not only taught millions of young minds about the perilous journey, but probably introduced most of them to the concept of death by dysentery.

Ick.

For those not in the know, The Oregon Trail was a computer game designed to explore 19th-century pioneer life on the long journey between Independence, Missouri, and Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Players would manage food, supplies, and the pace of the trek in their covered wagon, occasionally dealing with dangers like disease, thieves, broken equipment, accidents, and treacherous rivers to cross.

A classic in the eyes of many, this beloved game has made the jump from the digital realm to the analog one with a card-game variation released this year by Pressman Toys.

Pressman Toys have outdone themselves with this nostalgia-fueled adaptation. The trail cards themselves evoke the classic black-and-green screen of old-school computers, while the supply and calamity cards are pixelated in a style more akin to 8-bit video games.

I daresay, though, that the card game is harder than the computer game. I don’t know that I’ve ever encountered a game that stacks the deck against the player quite so brutally.

To make the journey to Oregon successfully, players must traverse 50 trail cards, avoiding illness and unpleasant twists of fate along the way (represented by the calamity cards that come up all too often), managing meager supplies, and testing their luck against river crossings (where a roll of the die determines your fate).

This quickly becomes a strategic battle of resource management, trying to hold onto fort and town cards for as long as possible (since they provide some of the rare opportunities to gain new supplies), playing trail cards (which must link up in a continuous line), and deciding whether it’s better to spend medicine and clean water supplies on saving fellow players stricken by illness or letting players die and hoarding supplies for the survivors.

I’ve played the game a few times now — each session has lasted about 30 minutes, with the team failing to reach Oregon both times (though we made it more than halfway on the second try) — and it remains an engaging, enjoyable play experience. Yes, it can be disheartening to see a player die early on (as I did by rattlesnake bite in my very first turn one game), but the group play experience — pitting all of you against the game itself — is only enhanced by the difficulty.

There are some aspects of the computer game — hunting, for instance — missing from the card-game experience, but I suspect the development of simple house rules (like spending a bullet card and letting a handful of dice rolls determine your success hunting, to more closely recreate the computer game’s hunting mechanic, for instance) would enrich the gameplay.

Whether you’re a fan of the classic computer game or a newcomer to the franchise, I suspect The Oregon Trail will delight you (and challenge you!) like few card games ever have.

[The Oregon Trail Card Game is available at Target stores and through online outlets.]


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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!

Check out the Lone Shark Games’ Humble Bundle!

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Want to put your puzzly funds to good, charitable use AND receive some terrific puzzles in return?

Check out Lone Shark Games’s Humble Bundle!

From the website:

In case that’s a new thing for you, a Humble Bundle is a pay-what-you-want collection of games or books that you will never, ever, ever get for that price again. Like, you could only pay a dollar if you want. No, really, it’s an insane deal, and it only lasts two weeks. But that’s not the only cool part. A whole bunch of each person’s contribution goes to charity. So that’s your incentive to pay more than a dollar. Maybe a lot more.

They’ve put together a monster team of talent — Thomas Snyder, Francis Heaney, Brendan Emmett Quigley, Patrick Berry, and Patrick Blindauer among them — and honestly, it’s an incredible offer at any price, even without including The Maze of Games and the incentive of a new hint book!

So if you’d like to do some good for some wonderful causes, click this link!