Puzzling From Home!

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In the wake of puzzly public events like the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament being cancelled, as well as the shutdown of various school districts, workplaces, and businesses in order to limit exposure to the Coronavirus, it’s completely understandable that some puzzle fans may be feeling disappointed or even isolated from their fellow puzzlers.

But fear not! There are all sorts of options available to solvers looking to enjoy a puzzly experience from home, either on their own or with friends.


If you’re looking for crosswords, all you need is your computer. The New York Times, The LA Times, The Washington Post, and many other outlets offer online puzzle-solving, either by subscription or through watching ads before solving.

If you have access to a printer, you can print those puzzles out for the true pencil-and-paper solving experience.

And it’s not just newspapers. Many constructors — Brendan Emmett Quigley comes to mind — offer their own free puzzles semi-regularly (though you’re welcome to tip as a thank you). There is a world of puzzles out there on the Internet awaiting solvers.

But you don’t even have to go to a computer anymore. There are loads of terrific puzzles available right on your phone. Forgive us for tooting our own horn, but Daily POP Crosswords is a great puzzle app with a free puzzle every day and additional puzzle packets available for purchase or through our in-app coin system. (We also offer Word Seeks, Sudoku, and a marvelous story-driven puzzle mystery, Wordventures, if you’re looking for something different.)

Oh, and speaking of something different, if you’re looking to delve into more elaborate puzzles, there are some fantastic puzzle services by mail that offer all sorts of challenges.

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Wish You Were Here by the Enigma Emporium conceals an entire mystery within a handful of postcards, challenging you to mine them for every scrap of information as you uncover a series of coded messages. It’s spycraft in an envelope, very clever stuff.

The Cryptogram Puzzle Post out of the UK offers something unique, mixing puzzles and encryption with bits of mystery and supernatural narratives to create standalone chapters in an ongoing story. So you can pick one season or an entire year, depending on how deep you want to go!

And for multi-month affairs, there are outlets like Hunt a Killer and The Mysterious Package Company, which create vast, immersive puzzle experiences by mail. (Though according to friends’ recommendations, Hunt a Killer works better without the month wait between installments.)

As you can see, there’s a wide variety of ways you can puzzle from home, whether you prefer to solve online, by email, on the phone, or by mail!


That’s all well and good, you might be saying, but what about the social aspect? Well, there are options there as well, even from the comforts of your home.

Photo by Matt MacGillivray, licensed via Creative Commons

Some puzzlers actually livestream their puzzle-solving online through avenues like Twitch, Facebook, and YouTube. The New York Times periodically does this as well, often with celebrity guest solvers!

You can keep your eyes peeled on Facebook and Twitter for constructors and solvers who do so. It often adds a fun, communal element to puzzle-solving (especially if they struggle with the same tricky clues that you do). Some pub trivia outlets are also moving online to allow for participating from home!

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But if you don’t want to wait for someone to livestream their solving, you can do it yourself! Between Facetime and similar apps on smartphones and all the online avenues for audio and video-chatting (Skype, Google Hangouts, Discord, etc.), you could pair up with a friend and tag-team a crossword puzzle or other puzzly challenge!

It’s like co-working, except with puzzles. Co-solving!

In times like this, where uncertainty abounds and our comfortable routines have been upended, puzzles can offer a wonderful refuge from all the stresses of the world. And with technology on our side, we can even keep the communal joys of puzzling in our lives.

Happy puzzling, friends.


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International Puzzle Day is almost here!

 

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This Sunday, January 29th, is International Puzzle Day (aka National Puzzle Day), a day dedicated to all things puzzly — be it crosswords, jigsaw puzzles, riddles, or other brain teasers — and there are plenty of fun ways you could celebrate.

For instance, last year, we commemorated the day by building a puzzle fort!

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Now, if you don’t have dozens of puzzle books handy, don’t despair! You could bust out an old jigsaw puzzle (or a new one!), try your hand at a Rubik’s cube, or tackle a puzzle you’ve never tried before!

If you’re looking for more of a group activity, you’ve got the Internet at your fingertips. You could find your nearest hobby shop and try out a new puzzle, or track down an Escape Room or Puzzle Hunt event near you!

For instance, I stumbled upon this link for a National Puzzle Day Jigsaw Competition in Mobile, Alabama this Sunday! Race to see who can solve a 1,000 piece jigsaw the fastest!

And that’s just one of dozens of events happening around the country this Sunday.

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Need a place to start? Check the event calendar for your local library! Many libraries host events open to public on days like International Puzzle Day, and you might meet fellow puzzlers in your area!

And if there’s not an event in your area, why not host one? You could host a team puzzle-solving challenge, a scavenger hunt, a crossword contest, or a night of trivia!

This year, we opted to do something a little different, whipping up some puzzly bouquets of Daisy, Flower Power, and other floral puzzles, and handing them out to friends! Just a little way to brighten someone’s day! (This excellent suggestion came from puzzler and friend of the blog Jen Cunningham.)

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And, hey, if you need something a bit more extreme, you could celebrate like this guy and solve a Rubik’s cube while skydiving!

Now, I won’t be doing that, but that doesn’t mean you can’t.

So, how are you celebrating International Puzzle Day? Let me know! I’d love to hear from you!


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PuzzleNation Reviews: Linkee and Mr. Lister’s Quiz Shootout

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

The folks at Bananagrams are synonymous with letter-tile games like Pears in Pairs, Zip It, and of course their flagship product, but today they’ve brought us something a little different. Instead of flashing your anagram skills or showing off your well-honed Scrabble techniques, these games will test your trivia knowledge, your ability to play well with others, and how shrewd a strategist you are.

In this post, we’ll be reviewing Linkee and Mr. Lister’s Quiz Shootout!

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Linkee is a trivia game for three or more players. (Up to 30, apparently!) Each trivia card has a letter on the back, and the goal of the game is to acquire enough letter cards to spell “LINKEE.”

One person acts as the Question Master, while the other players (or teams, if you prefer) each grab a pencil and pad. The Question Master shows the players what letter they’re playing for, then poses each of the four questions on the card. The players write down the answers and try to figure out what theme links the four answers.

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The first player or team to shout out “LINKEE!” and identify the link gets the letter card. You can shout out “LINKEE!” at any point, but if you’re wrong, you’re out until the next card is played. So confidence and boldness has to be tempered with strategy.

That’s what makes the game more intriguing than your average trivia game. It’s not just knowing the answers to individual trivia questions; it’s figuring out the link between them, and doing so before your opponents.

If the four answers aren’t enough for any player or team to figure out the link, the Question Master reads a clue at the bottom of the card.

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Although this can be a fun game for a few players, it really shines when you can get four teams going at once, because the shouting and competitiveness really brings out the fun of the game. (Thankfully, you don’t need to get both the yellow and green Es. That was the difference maker in one game this weekend.)

Although I’d rate the trivia as fairly easy for the average board game fan or puzzler in your household, some of it is not geared toward younger players — I doubt the 8- or 10-year-olds in your house know about the Rat Pack or Malala Yousafzai, for instance — so that’s something to consider.

Otherwise, this is the rare trivia game that’s more about speed and association than about straight-up trivia knowledge.

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Mr. Lister’s Quiz Shootout follows a similar format to Linkee, but has a completely different flavor.

Here, instead of a Question Master, you have Mr. Lister, the mustachioed bartender. Instead of spelling out LINKEE, you’re trying to acquire five different drinks, which are on the backs of the question cards. Again, players get a pad of paper and a pencil.

The main difference is that instead of figuring out the link between trivia questions, the teams must instead try to figure out which entries appear on the card, in the manner of Family Feud. For instance, a card could list “Americans’ 10 Favorite Cheeses.” Now the teams have a brief bit of time in which to write down which cheeses they think are in that top ten.

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Once the teams have made their lists, it’s time for the shootout! The first team selects one of the answers they’ve jotted down and tells Mr. Lister. If the answer is on the card, Mr. Lister marks it as a hit. If not, Mr. Lister marks it as a miss. Then the other team takes their first shot.

After both teams each take three shots, the team with the most hits wins the card. If there’s a tie, Mr. Lister reads the tie-breaking Last Chance Saloon trivia question at the bottom of the card. Each team writes down their answer, and whichever team is closest to the correct answer wins the card.

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This game feels more like a night of bar trivia than a round of your favorite trivia board game, and the old-timey saloon shtick is delightful. (Throwing in a mustache eraser that fits on atop the pencil is just the icing on the cake.) This is reinforced by the awesome box design, which features several bullet holes that go all the way through to the other side. It’s a simple gag, but an effective one, a highlight in game design for me.

Unfortunately, the gameplay was marred slightly by a few themed categories that were unclear or otherwise poorly explained. (The loose definition of “amusement parks” and “ethnic groups” led to some acrimony during one session, especially since these were trivia hounds, who are nitpickers and hair-splitters by nature. In the future, I recommend any Mr. Listers read through the card beforehand in order to avoid similar issues.)

Whether you prefer list building or associative thinking, both of Bananagrams’ latest trivia offerings will make welcome additions to your gaming arsenal.

[Linkee is available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com, and on the Bananagrams website. Mr. Lister’s Quiz Shootout is available at Target and on the Bananagrams website.]


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!