The Indie 500 Crossword Tournament returns tomorrow!

That’s right! Tomorrow, June 2nd, will mark the fourth annual edition of the tournament, and registration is still open for $30, plus you can participate from home for only $10! Click here for details!

Not only that, but once again they’ve whipped up a meta-suite of puzzles to boot, and you name your own price for it!

I expect great things from the immensely talented team of constructors and directors they’ve assembled: Laura Braunstein, Erik Agard, Lily Silverstein, Sophia Maymudes, Angela Olson Halsted, Andy Kravis, Peter Broda, Anna Gundlach, and Neville Fogarty. With a “Dressed to Fill” theme, topnotch constructors, and pie (there’s always pie), you can’t go wrong!

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!


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PuzzleNation Product Review: IcoSoKu

[Note: I received a free copy of this game in exchange for a fair, unbiased review. Due diligence, full disclosure, and all that.]

Most puzzles — whether we’re talking about puzzle boxes, jigsaw puzzles, physical brain teasers, or mechanical puzzles — operate under a simple premise: the puzzle arrives in one configuration, and it’s up to you to solve it and put it into a different configuration.

With puzzle boxes, you’re opening them. With jigsaws, you’re assembling the pieces. With physical brain teasers and mechanical puzzles, you’re separating them, freeing a given piece, or accomplishing a particular task. But in each case, they’ve arrived that way. You have been pitted against the designer.

Project Genius‘s IcoSoKu is something different. IcoSoKu challenges you to create your own puzzle, and then solve it.

The setup is elegant in its simplicity. It’s a puzzle ball consisting of a twenty-sided icosahedron base, twelve numbered pegs, and twenty triangular tiles with different combinations of pips at the corners.

To start, remove all of the tiles and all of the pegs from the icosahedron. Place the numbered pegs wherever you wish on the puzzle ball.

Then, you must figure out how to arrange the triangular tiles on the puzzle ball.

This is tougher than it seems. Each triangular tile has a different combination of pips in its corners. Some corners have none, while others have one, two, or three pips. And each corner neighbors a different numbered peg. Each numbered peg is surrounded by five corners, and the pips on each corner, when added together, should total the number on the peg.

And with numbers ranging from 1 to 12, you have to be both clever and careful in your tile placement. That peg labeled “1” can only have a single pip neighboring it, meaning that the other four tiles surrounding that peg should have empty corners.

[Three different looks at the same solved puzzle ball.]

IcoSoKu combines the deduction of placement puzzles like Minesweeper or Blackout! with the mathematical puzzling of a magic square or a Sudoku puzzle. And by making the puzzle three-dimensional, it places a healthy demand on your puzzly faculties. You’re constantly tipping and turning the puzzle ball, because you can never see the whole puzzle at once, making it much harder to manage your tiles and maintain a good sense of just how many of those valuable little pips you’ve already used.

And as soon as you’ve placed the final tile and searched the puzzle ball all over, confirming a successful solution… all you want to do is strip away all of the tiles and pegs to test your wits again.

Assigning pegs randomly creates a completely different solving experience from bundling all the large numbers together on one side and all the small numbers together on the other side of the ball. Although you will begin to spot certain patterns and techniques that will come in handy as you solve each successive permutation of the puzzle, you’ll still find IcoSoKu to be an engaging and satisfying challenge.

Plus there are other ways you can enjoy the puzzle after cracking it yourself. I challenged a fellow puzzler to a timed IcoSoKu solve-off! First, I arranged the pegs and timed how long it took her to solve the puzzle ball I’d devised. Then, she arranged the pegs and timed how long it took me to unravel the puzzle ball she’d created. It added a fun touch of competition and uncertainty to the solving experience, one that my patient solo-solving didn’t capture.

But whether you’re tackling IcoSoKu yourself or with a puzzly rival, you’ll find plenty to enjoy here. It’s a DIY puzzle, masterfully put together and waiting for you to execute.

IcoSoKu is available from Project Genius and other participating retailers, appropriate for solvers 9 and up!


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Pride in London gets puzzly!

It is always inspiring to see puzzles being used to benefit others. Just recently, I wrote about the ambitious (and successful!) Women of Letters project, a puzzle packet designed as a bonus incentive to donate to worthy women’s causes and charities.

Yes, many of those charities are based here in the United States, but worry not: there are puzzly endeavors overseas working and collaborating with other worthy causes. Today, let’s look at one wonderful project happening just across the pond in England.

Pride in London is an annual pro-LGBTQ+ festival, one of the longest running in the United Kingdom, and it celebrates the diversity and spirit of the UK LGBTQ+ community. It’s a marvelous event, one that attracts a million visitors to London every summer.

And one of London’s premiere escape rooms is playing a part, presenting a series of special offers exclusively for the Pride in London festival.

Breakin Escape Rooms is hosting several dates across June and July for members and allies of the LGBTQ+ community, and they call the event Escape With Pride.

From the announcement page:

Get locked in one of our thrilling themed rooms, solving the puzzles inside to escape before the time runs out! Come on your own and meet new people, or get a team together. There’s a maximum of 6 players in one room, and a minimum of 3.

Whether you’re a pirate, detective, superhero or space-trooper there’s a game here for everyone. Can you escape with Pride?

A donation will be made to Pride from each ticket sold…

Escape With Pride events will be held on the following nights:

  • Wed June 13
  • Wed June 20
  • Thu June 28
  • Wed July 4

Honestly, I think this is an awesome way to celebrate Pride in London. Just think about it. Escape rooms are all about working together, relying on friends and strangers alike, to complete an important task. It’s exactly what the LGBTQ+ community has been doing for decades, and precisely what the community is celebrating with Pride in London.

(Of course, the stakes are lower — and a bit sillier — with the escape rooms, but still, the metaphor works.)

Will you be attending Pride in London or the one of the Escape With Pride events, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers? Let us know in the comments below! We’d love to hear from you!


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Pun for the Road: Puzzle Drinks!

Oh yes, it’s that time again! It’s time to unleash our puzzly and punny imaginations and engage in a bit of sparkling wordplay!

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

For years now, we’ve been collaborating on puzzle-themed hashtag games with our pals at Penny Dell Puzzles, and this month’s hook was #PennyDellPuzzleDrinks, mashing up Penny Dell puzzles with beverages, drinks, thirst-quenchers, and aperitifs, both alcoholic and nonalcoholic!

Examples include: HopScotch, Mojito-at-a-Time, and Sunrays-D.

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


All Mixed Up Drinks!

ZinfanDell

Crossword App-letini

Lemon Drop-Ins

Beer and There WS

Mixed Drinks: Sixes on the Beach

Hex(agrams) on the Beach

Word Seeks on the Beach

Long Island Roll of the Diced Tea

WhisKeyword

Sloe Gin Fill-Ins / Fill-Gin

Crypto Lime Rickey

Angostura Bits & Pieces

Mud Slide-o-gram / Mudslide-O-Rama / Mudslide Rule

Perfect Fit Schnapps

Schnapps-lines

Capri Sunrays

Tequila Sunrays

Tequilabyrinth

Pine Cone-lada

7 & 7-UP

Mezcalators

Mai Tie-In / Mai Tai-In

Family Mai Tais

Gimlet-terboxes / Take a Gimletter

Blue cura-countdowns

Anagram-aretto

Vodkakuro

HeinekenKen

Camouflager

JigSake Puzzle

Give and Sake

A to Zima-ze

Quilting Zombee

Bar-Tiles & Jaymes

Blackout! Russian

Blackout and Tan

Black and Tanglewords

Cosmopolitanglewords

Highball Scorer

Five Alive Twists

Apple InCiders

Bubbles Tea

Punch Bowl Game

V-8 Words

Red Bull’s Eye Spiral

Grand Pour

SyllaBubbles

Letter Powerade

Half and Halftime

Crosswords Club soda


Two Puzzly Drinks for the Price of One!

Sam Add-One Boston Longer Division

Crypto-Lime Rickeyword

Drummerman and Cokakuro

Lucky Score-pion Bowl Game


L’Drinkwords!

Baristar Words

Fair Trade-Off

Wine Connoisseur

Mixed Drink Bag

Mixer Master

Hey bartender, Fill ‘Er Up!

Five Twists of Lime

Name Blended Whiskeys

Top Shelf to Bottoms Up

Are we going to get Scorecarded for ordering any of these drinks?

Candy is dandy, but liquor is Quicker Quotes.

It’s Your Move
Puzzler
Add One


There was also a submission that deserves its own section, as one of our intrepid puzzlers went above and beyond by reimagining a classic tippler’s tune:

99 Bubbles of beer on Quotefalls, 99 Bubbles of beer, you take 1 Down, pass it In and Around, 98 Bubbles of beer on Quotefalls . . .


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

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Streets of Steel: An Early Look at a Kickstarter Campaign to Follow!

We’ve covered many interesting and ambitious Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns over the years, each with their puzzly goals and aspirations. Some reinvent an old classic, while others forge a new path by creating a unique solving experience.

The subject of today’s post is doing a little of both. Enjoy as we delve into the world of Streets of Steel!

Streets of Steel endeavors to capture the spirit of ’80s 8-bit Nintendo fighting classics like Streets of Rage or River City Ransom, all while creating an engrossing play experience built around cooperative combat.

As a huge fan of games like this (particularly the Double Dragon franchise, which has a similar gameplay style), I was immediately intrigued by the idea of translating the side-scrolling video game experience to the tabletop realm.

Check out this intro from the Kickstarter page for the game:

Steel City has fallen into disarray. You and your crew must clean up the streets in this 1-4 player SideScrollin Co-Op boardgame

A generation ago, Steel City was a shining beacon of cooperation, peace and prosperity. Neighbors cleaned up after their dogs. Graffiti rarely used offensive language. PTA meeting attendance was high. Then, the Disaster struck. Now, Steel City is a mere shadow of its former glory. Roving bands of thugs terrorize honest citizens. Evil corporations dump toxic waste in the street. PTA meeting attendance is low.

Tired and fed up, a few brave Steel City heroes have banded together to stem the tide of carnage. YOU are one of those heroes. YOU will clean up these STREETS OF STEEL.

The campaign has already reached its funding goal, and now supporters continue pushing the total higher, reaching several stretch goals that increase the quality of game pieces and add new mechanics to the gameplay itself. (And there’s still time to become a backer!)

I reached out to creator Ryan Lesser, and he was kind enough to answer a few questions about the early development days of Streets of Steel.

When asked about how Streets of Steel came to be:

I was thinking of other ways, besides my first board game High Heavens, to bring a combat-heavy tabletop game experience to non-hardcore gamers. Randomness and dice rolling are both pretty much non existent in High Heavens, so I figured I would go heavy on that.

I also wanted to make a cooperative game, where High Heavens is competitive. Those two goals had my mind crunching, looking for cool gameplay that could support that. Pretty quickly, I thought to bring the beat ’em up video game genre to the tabletop.

When asked how the development process (both in game design and Kickstarter launch) was different from his previous game, the thoroughly enjoyable mythology-fueled player-vs-player game, High Heavens:

In a lot of ways the dev was similar, but specifically, the co-op play was very different. Instead of creating a tight but expandable experience that pits players against each other, every decision that I made for SOS was to bring them together as a team. Every single new idea, move, power, etc that was generated, had to serve the purpose of team play.

I also designed this one, not alone, but with a partner-in-crime. Matt Moore and I have been working together since about 2006, when I hired him as an Artist at Harmonix. Since then, he has become an Art Director himself at other companies but all the while we have both played, and jammed on ideas for board games. This time I formalized things and he came on board to help me finish the game. He spent a large amount of his time on SOS crafting the Baddie Behavior Deck… our AI system that tells the game what to do against the players.

Another big difference is that instead of leaning heavily on ancient mythology, as in High Heavens, I wanted to invent my own, new IP based on all of the inputs I had during the 80s. It was sort of my Weird Science, but instead of trying to make a human, I wanted to make a board game. In SOS, you can see not only my own inventions, but lots of influences from movies, TV, music, comics and of course, video games.

He definitely nailed that aesthetic. Each player controls a different hero, each one a pastiche of fighting game characters and ’80s movie tropes. Average Joe, for instance, definitely wouldn’t have looked out of place as a member of Cobra Kai, or among the Warriors as they battled their way across town. And yet, for video game fans, there’s no denying the resemblance to Ken from Street Fighter.

Mayor Van Dammage, on the other hand, is every cop-movie authority figure joke simultaneously. He’s the exasperated police chief, the partner with one day until retirement, and the cigar-chomping rogue cop on a mission, all at once. And with a name strongly reminiscent of one of the hokiest tough guys in film history, every player will find something recognizable with him.

Plus the bad guys are topnotch. Check out this quick Instagram clip of Ryan getting the Boss Mutie’s expression just right (in a ghastly way, of course):

As a co-op game, players must work together, combining their skills, wits, and items acquired in the game in order to stop the bad guys and save Steel City. All co-op games rely on strong problem-solving, strategic thinking, and careful resource-management, which just happen to be three skills that puzzlers have in spades.

And I suspect this game will give puzzlers and fighters a challenge well worth their time.

I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse behind the curtain for Streets of Steel. There’s still time to back it on Kickstarter and contribute to the game’s production and success! Click here for all the details!

And be sure to check out their Kickstarter Live broadcast on Friday around 11am EST!

Thank you to Ryan Lesser for not only taking the time out to talk to us, but for opening up the archives to show us some of the development process for the game! Here’s hoping Streets of Steel reaches even greater heights of success before the campaign is through!


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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 Secret Code Lurking in the Library Stacks!

[Image courtesy of Wonderopolis.]

The best thing about secret codes is that they can hide in plain sight. In the past, we’ve referenced all sorts of ciphers and codes that were employed to pass secret messages across open channels.

But, as it turns out, clandestine communication isn’t the only end to which secret codes can be applied.

Recently, I stumbled upon a series of Tweets that detailed a mystery at a library involving a secret code.

[Image courtesy of Princeton.edu.]

Take it away, Georgia:

So there was a MYSTERY at the library today.

A wee old women came in and said “I’ve a question. Why does page 7 in all the books I take out have the 7 underlined in pen? It seems odd.”

“What?” I say, thinking she might be a bit off her rocker. She showed me, and they did.

I asked if she was doing it, she said she wasn’t and showed me the new book she was getting out that she hadn’t even had yet. It also had the 7 underlined! “I don’t know, maybe someone really likes page 7?” I said, assuming of course that there is a serial killer in the library.

I checked some other books. Most didn’t have it, but a lot in this genre did – they’re “wee old women” books (romances set in wartime Britain etc). Lots of underlined 7s. The woman who pointed it out shrugged and went on her way, “just thought you should know”.

[Image courtesy of MovieSteve.com.]

What could it mean? Was there a secret message spelled out somehow across the seventh page of all these books? Perhaps the seventh word? What could the message be? A warning? A threat? A great universal truth? A clue to a hidden treasure? The start of a symbol-laden journey across European with sinister forces hot on your heels?

Well, no. Calm down.

As it turns out, there wasn’t a secret message or a hunt across Europe or a threat from a diabolical library-obsessed serial killer on the loose. There was simply an elderly client with her own unique code.

Apparently, she was underlining page 7 in every book she read, in order to keep track of which books she’d already read, in case she comes across it on the shelf again.

And she’s far from the only one! Upon further research, the librarian uncovered a number of different tracking systems, many of them pre-dating the use of computers to keep library records!

Whether there’s a little star on the last page, or an F on the title page, or a page 7 underlined, each code reveals a different, dedicated reader with their own system.

When she posted this story on Twitter, other library employees and former employees piped up to share their own encounters with secret library codes that patrons employed!

I think it’s fascinating that systems like this seem to have been around as long as libraries, probably discovered (and re-discovered) periodically as different patrons and librarians alike notice them.

Better living through secret codes. Who knew?


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