# Ever So Logical

Sudoku has become such a mainstay puzzle, a common find in newspapers and magazines, that it’s easy to forget that it wasn’t always this way. While Sudoku got its start as Number Place in the pages of Dell Magazines back in the late 1970s, it wasn’t until mid-2006 that the logic puzzle became an all-consuming worldwide fad, blowing up in a way no puzzle had since the crossword in the 1920s.

The fad has subsided a bit, but Sudoku is still with us, exercising the minds of millions of solvers. But for lovers of logic puzzles, Sudoku’s greatest impact is in how it inspired dozens if not hundreds of related puzzles, all with their own devious rules. If you love Sudoku but have wondered now and again what else there might be for you out there, read on.

A great place to start is at the blog of Grandmaster Puzzles, where Thomas Snyder and his crew of constructors post a new logic puzzle six days a week. It’s a great place to start, that is, if you can overcome the intimidation factor, which is significant. Take a look at that menu of puzzle types on the left! What are all those? Statue Park? Cross the Streams? Kakuro, Kurotto, Kuromasu?

Deep breaths. We’re going to give you a few good places to start, and then if you like what you see, you can branch out from there.

Star Battle: As simple to grasp as a logic puzzle gets, which is why you’ll sometimes see this type in other venues, notably in the New York Times under the (bizarre) name of “Two Not Touch.” All you need to do is place some number of stars (usually two) in every row, every column, and each bordered region so that stars are never right next to each other, even diagonally. Here are Grandmaster Puzzles’s easiest Star Battle puzzles, an excellent place to get started.

Fillomino: A step up in trickiness, but still a good type for newbies. You’ll need to divide up a Fillomino grid into irregularly shaped regions according to the following few rules: First, the area of each region must be equal to the numbers within it — so, for example, a region of three cells has to contain three 3s. (You’ll never have a region with different digits within it.) Second, no two regions of the same size may share an edge. Third… there is no third. That’s it, those are the two rules. See?

One thing newcomers to this puzzle type need to watch out for: Not every region in a completed puzzle will encompass one of the numbers given to you at the start. You might have a “hidden” region that is only logically revealed as you figure out the regions around it. Once you’re prepared for that possibility, though, this puzzle is reasonably straightforward. Here are the easiest Grandmaster Filliominos.

LITS: Looks a lot like Star Battle, right? Sure. But this time around you’re not placing stars. Instead, you will shade in exactly four spaces in each region, so that when you’re done, all of the shaded cells make a connected path through the grid. (That is, you can reach any shaded cell from any other shaded cell.)

There are only four shapes you can make with shaded cells: L, I, T, and S. (Hey, I think I figured out where this puzzle’s name comes from!) In the completed grid, no two shapes of the same type can share an edge. Also, no four shaded cells can form a 2×2 square. Those extra rules will definitely give you pause as you go about filling a grid. Try some easy LITS puzzles here.

Masyu: We’ll conclude with a slightly trickier puzzle to grasp — but only slightly. In Masyu, you’ll draw a loop that goes through some number of cells in the grid (not necessarily every cell). The white circles and the black circles obey different rules:

Black Circles: The path must turn here, and then the path must not turn in either adjacent cell.

White Circles: The path must go straight through these circles without turning. Also the path must turn in the cell just before and/or just after a white circle.

Not a ton of rules, but they can be a little confusing for the newbie. Still, this is a satisfying type. Try some easy examples here.

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Nobody is going to enjoy every logic puzzle type. I personally will wave away all attempts to get me to solve the math-oriented Kakuro — even though I enjoy both TomTom (an improvement on KenKen) and Japanese Sums, both of which are also math-based. Why? Who knows? We are what we are. So go explore the puzzle types above and then dive into Grandmaster’s full list of logic types. Your next favorite puzzle is in there somewhere.

# It’s Puzzletember!

The Curious Correspondence Club creates all manner of unusual, immersive puzzle experiences — a bit like if escape rooms could fit in your mailbox. These folks love puzzles, and as such, for the past few years they have decided that the month we are now in should be called Puzzletember. And what better way to celebrate Puzzletember than by turning the spotlight on a different online puzzle company for each day of the month? They’ve gotten thirty different puzzlemakers (full disclosure: your friendly PuzzleNation correspondent is one of them) to create an Instagram-friendly puzzle. Already we have seen offerings from Puzzling Pursuits, Gruzzle, the German company EscapeWelt, and Edaqa’s Room.

If you solve the daily puzzle and submit your answer, you might win a prize. But even if you don’t win, you’ll discover thirty different new places to add to your puzzle checklist, and that’s pretty good all by itself. Follow along with Puzzletember here!

# News from Crosswordland!

Hello there, PuzzleNationers! We’re happy to be back in blogging mode! Let’s kick things off with a look at what’s going on in the world of crosswords.

First up, it’s the return of Lollapuzzoola! After two pandemic-afflicted years where the freewheeling crossword tournament was forced online, Lollapuzzoola was back in its New York City home for a live event. (And also online — a virtual tournament was held in parallel.) Solvers were treated not only to crosswords by top-tier constructors like Will Nediger and Francis Heaney, but also a ton of extras, including a multi-crossword meta suite, and an entirely separate mini-puzzle hunt by prolific constructor Foggy Brume.

Whereas the venerable American Crossword Puzzle Tournament spreads out its proceedings over three days, Lollapuzzoola is a more concentrated blast of puzzling — solvers arrived at the Riverside Church by 11:00 a.m. for pre-show icebreakers; the first three tournament puzzles launched at noon; the second three tournament puzzles were handed out in mid-afternoon; and the three finalists were onstage competing for the crown just before dinnertime. Those three finalists — Gavin Byrnes, Matthew Gritzmacher, and Max Kurzman — went up against a puzzle by Brooke Husic that we heard from several corners was the hardest final puzzle they have ever seen. In the end, Matthew Gritzmacher reached the finish line first and was crowned champion. Congrats as well to Ada Nicolle, who won in the intermediate “Local” division, and to Tyler Hinman, who cleaned up in the online tournament.

If you missed the tournament but don’t want to miss the puzzles, including that killer finale and all the extra meta suites, they are available for \$20.00 — just click here!

Once upon a time, the annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament was the only game in town. These days, no sooner does one tournament end than the next one is on the horizon. Goodbye, Lollapuzzoola — hello, Finger Lakes! The 10th annual Finger Lakes Crossword Competition will take place entirely online on Saturday, September 24. Pay what you want to join the fun (be generous: all proceeds benefit an assortment of adult literacy charities), choose your difficulty level (Easier, Trickier, Toughest), and then be sure to show up early on the big day for a kick-off event featuring constructors Adam Perl and Anna Shechtman, New York Times “Wordplay” columnist Deb Amlen, crossword blogger Michael Sharp (better known as Rex Parker), and NYT crossword editor Will Shortz!

Finally, as part of its recent “Game On” celebration, YouTube hosted an unusual live crossword tournament: Top-rated solver Stella Zawistowski versus… well, the entire rest of the world, or at least the thousands of people watching the livestream at that exact moment. First the livestream crowd was presented with a crossword, the clues to which they could answer simply by typing an answer into chat. When the puzzle was completed, Stella took her shot, solo. Who came out on top in this best-of-three competition? Find out here!

# Count Dracula Ambling Down the Information Superhighway

Bram Stoker’s classic novel Dracula is a story constructed through modern communication technologies—modern for 1897, that is. Jonathan Harker’s journal is kept in shorthand; Mina prides herself on her ability to use a typewriter; and telegraphs, Kodak cameras, and phonographs all factor into the eerie plot as well. Arguably, then, successfully adapting the book in the here and now must mean drawing significantly upon the twenty-first century’s developments in communication technologies. Any version of Dracula created in 2022 that aims to be a strict nineteenth-century period piece can claim to be true to the letter of the book, sure. Not, however, the spirit. For that, we need, at the very least, the inclusion of the internet as a constant background hum, the way it is for most of us in real life.

What about an adaptation that stays true to the spirit and the letter? Such a project does exist, and if you’re reading this post before May 3, 2022, you have time to get in on the ground floor. Dracula Daily is more than simply a period piece; in fact, it does not stray one inch from Stoker’s original text. What makes it a modern adaptation is the delivery system: email. Specifically, the project is hosted through Substack, a popular platform for emailed newsletters. Dracula is an epistolary novel; each letter, news article, or diary entry is clearly dated, a design that, with the aid of 2022 technology, lends itself well to a “real-time” storytelling approach. Beginning next Tuesday and ending in November, project mastermind Matt Kirkland will send out each segment of Dracula‘s text to all subscribers on its corresponding date. Whether you’ve read Dracula before or you only know the Count through cultural osmosis, you too can have fun digesting the novel in timely, bite-sized chunks.

The appeal of joining others in experiencing a classic horror tale one day at a time is evocative of another labor of love that we’ve discussed on this blog before: Wordle. You may not usually think of Victorian literature when you think of binging media, but just like Wordle’s one-puzzle-per-day design, Dracula Daily’s slowed down approach to the reading experience resists the modern cultural impetus to consume our pleasures as quickly and greedily as possible. Simultaneously, as with solving the same Wordle as everyone else each day, reading these emails when they arrive presents the opportunity to know that you are sharing a little experience with others—whether simply strangers, or any friends you may convince to subscribe as well (maybe you’ll decide to form a book club). Thus, you can enjoy all of the zeitgeisty sense-of-belonging that binging new Netflix releases provides, with none of the sickening burnout.

This is not Kirkland’s first blood-sucking rodeo; the newsletter actually premiered May 3, 2021, and was not initially intended to run two years in a row. However, what began, in Kirkland’s words, as a “silly side project” blew up, with approximately 2,000 subscribers joining the digital “book club.” On April 18 of this year, Kirkland sent out a new email, asking if people wanted him to reprise the endeavor. As motivation, he cited that “Many people fell behind on the reading or joined partway though, which [is] fine! But not perhaps the ideal way to read a novel.” Hundreds of replies poured in, overwhelmingly of the “yes” variety, making up Kirkland’s mind. This Monday, he tweeted that the subscriber count had shot up to 13,000—the book club gained over 10,000 new members in only two days.

This train to Transylvania is gaining steam fast; still there’s always room for one more on board. You should never invite a vampire into your home, but inviting them into your email inbox should be perfectly safe.

You can find delightful deals on puzzles on the Home Screen for Daily POP Crosswords and Daily POP Word Search! Check them out!

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# Horse of a Different Color, Posts of a Different Blogger

You may remember that when long-time blogger Glenn stepped down from posting at the beginning of this year, he assured you all that it was time “for a new voice to take over.” Obviously, his prediction came true, and it’s been fun these past few weeks, regaling you with discussions of Wordle, a biblical adventure, and tarot cards. Maybe you’ve wondered, however, exactly whose voice you’re hearing. I think it’s time we get to know each other. This week, I pull back the curtain and reveal your new Wizard of Blog.

The Wizard of Oz revealed his full name to be Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkle Emmanuel Ambroise Diggs, but I’m going to go easy on you; you can just call me Rae. Puzzle fans are often excited to learn my name, pointing out that RAE is a common crossword entry. When you come across clues such as [“Call Me Maybe” singer Carly ___ Jepsen], [“Wayne’s World” actress ___ Dawn Chong], [Rap duo ____ Sremmurd], or countless others, you’ll already know the answer.

In addition to handling social media here at PuzzleNation, I act as our Editorial Assistant and as an occasional writer of Daily POP clues. Previously, I worked for Dell Magazines, writing clues for a range of crossword titles in addition to assisting the editors of Dell’s mystery and science fiction publications. Although my own writing is strictly nonfiction and poetry—I’m currently an MFA candidate in both disciplines—I am emotionally committed to genre fiction, mystery and sci-fi especially. You can expect to see those two genres making appearances on the blog in the future!

Outside of work, I’m a Simpsons buff and general television nerd, a voraciously omnivorous reader, a fan of superhero and heist media, and a painter. Wordplay, problem-solving, and board games are a few of my favorite things (the classic Clue is my favorite of the latter). As you may have inferred from blog posts thus far, I do read tarot, and yes, I try to solve Wordle right on the dot of midnight, turning to Queerdle immediately after (the artificial stress of Absurdle is a sometimes snack).

So what else, exactly, do I plan to bring to this digital table? The future holds a broad spectrum of posts, examining poetry and literature, art and music, TV shows and movies, video games, board games, and the scientific and historical sides of puzzles and games. Human interest pieces are close to my heart too—the puzzle and gaming worlds are full of fascinating people doing creative, groundbreaking things, and I can’t wait to spend time connecting with some of those individuals and bringing their stories to your screens.

On that note: it’s your turn! I would love to hear more about who’s reading. And if there’s anything in particular you’re interested in seeing on the blog, don’t be afraid to ask the Wizard for what you want.

One thing the Wizard can offer you now is delightful deals on puzzles!

They can be found on the Home Screen for Daily POP Crosswords and Daily POP Word Search! Check them out!

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# Returning to Wordle: The Evolution of a Phenomenon

Each day brings a new five-letter word for Wordle’s devotees to deduce. If I had to pick one five-letter word to describe Wordle’s current moment, it would be SHIFT, as in seismic movement and mutation. This is for a couple of reasons. The first is a piece of news that rippled through the puzzle-loving internet at the end of January: Wordle has been purchased by the New York Times, and will be packaged with games like Spelling Bee and Letter Boxed going forward. Creator Josh Wardle’s Twitter announcement pointed out, “If you’ve followed along with the story of Wordle, you’ll know that NYT games play a big part in its origins and so this step feels very natural to me.” For anyone who hasn’t done a deep dive into Wordle’s genesis: Wardle is referring, here, to the fact that he created the game as a gift for his partner after she got hooked on Spelling Bee and the Times crossword.

Despite how it started, Wordle is no longer just “a love story” (as a January 3rd Times headline said). It’s also a story of hitting the jackpot—reportedly, Wardle sold the game for a number in the low seven figures—and it could become, as well, a story of the internet’s ongoing privatization. Wardle’s tweet stated that the game will be “free to play for everyone” even after its migration to the Times website, but fears to the contrary abound. A Mashable article about the news features the sub-headline, “’Paywall’ has too many letters,” and ends by gloomily describing Wordle as “beautiful while it lasted.” Twitter user @mcmansionhell summed up the ordeal: “the NYT took one nice and simple thing that a lot of people really liked, a dumb bit of fun in our exhaustingly dark times, and implied that they’ll stick it behind a paywall. exhausting.” Overall, ominous social media speculation has little to do with resenting Josh Wardle’s laudable success, and everything to do with anxiety about the once-free commons of the internet becoming less and less free by the day.

In response to this anxiety, solvers are already finding workarounds for the possible future paywall. One solution is downloading the Wordle site to your device, a process with instructions located here. Another alternative is playing on the Wordle Archive, which recycles previous days’ words.

Even if the Times does decide to throw Wordle behind a paywall, its story will remain a love story. I’m not just talking about Wardle’s love for his partner; I’m referring to the public’s intense love for the game. Regardless of who officially owns Wordle, it has taken on a life of its own, and that’s the second reason why SHIFT is the word of the moment. Minimalist though it may appear, Wordle has sparked widespread creativity, inspiring memes and jokes, craft projects, and spin-off puzzles that take the game’s basic premise and alter the specifics just enough to be novel. In a short span of time, Wordle has mutated, in many incarnations, away from where it began in Wardle’s Brooklyn home.

Absurdle, for instance, is a version of Wordle that does not start out with one secret word in mind. Instead, behind the scenes, the site responds to the player’s guesses by—as slowly as possible—whittling down a mammoth list of possible words until the player essentially traps the computer into only having one word left. If you identified with my earlier post speculating that Wordle’s appeal lies in its un-bingeable nature and the way it provides all players with a short, sweet shared experience, then maybe the infinitely replayable Absurdle is not for you. On the other hand, if you prefer your puzzles to have concepts that can be difficult to wrap your brain around, then dive on in. You might also love to read a further explanation from the creator of the exact mechanics of the computer’s adversarial actions.

Then there’s Queerdle, a Wordle lookalike in which the word is a different length each day, but all are themed around LGBTQ culture and history. Answers have included COMPTON—in reference to the 1966 Compton Cafeteria Riot, a San Francisco-based Stonewall Riot predecessor—and DIVINE, as in the name of the drag queen best known for appearances in Hairspray and other John Waters films. When players guess correctly, a pop-up appears with a GIF or different snappy indicator of the word’s queer significance, and a grid of snake, coconut, and banana emojis meant to emulate Wordle’s shareable squares.

Byrdle is a version of Wordle where all answers are related to choral music. Gordle is Wordle for hockey fanatics. Squirdle invites players to guess names of Pokemon, Weredle howls words at the full moon, and you can probably guess the theme organizing Lordle of the Rings. Call them knock-offs, parodies, or homages, these variations most importantly are multiplying explosively. The New York Times may own the original game, but they cannot commandeer the inventive passion that Wordle has stoked in puzzlers everywhere.

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Not Wordle, just a different exciting opportunity to solve new word puzzles each day:

You can find delightful deals on puzzles on the Home Screen for Daily POP Crosswords and Daily POP Word Search! Check them out!

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