# PuzzleNation Reviews: ThinkFun’s Circuit Maze and Clue Master

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

Deduction is one of the most powerful puzzle-solving skills, and honestly, it’s a difficult one to develop.

“If this, then that” thinking involves holding several pieces of information in your head at once, eliminating red herrings and unhelpful possibilities until you’re left with one solution that fits all the requirements. (Every Sudoku puzzle is an exercise in deduction, after all.)

And today, we’ve got two new ThinkFun products to review that are centered around learning the art of deduction in different ways: Clue Master and Circuit Maze.

Clue Master is centered around a 3×3 grid that the solver must fill with nine dog toys: three bones, three balls, and three bowls. Each symbol comes in three colors — green, red, and blue — leaving us with nine unique pieces to place in our grid. (The solving style is very similar to their Brain Fitness puzzle game Chocolate Fix.)

Completing the grid is the only way to open the secret door of Tippy the dog’s doghouse, returning the friendly, blocky puppy to his rightful place in the back yard. (Hence the dog toys.)

The instructions, puzzles, solutions, game board, and pieces are all contained within the single spiral-bound game book, making this one of ThinkFun’s most portable products yet. The magnetic pieces are fairly sturdy, as is the game board, so it will hold up nicely to the rigors of travel (and being stuffed into various carry-on bags).

The gameplay itself is all about interpreting the clues provided with each challenge card. Some clues give you colors only, others shapes only, and the occasional clue is centered around a given piece’s location on the grid.

Once you graduate from the Beginner and Intermediate difficulty levels, you’ll face a new wrinkle: negative clues. Negative clues are layouts that must be avoided, so instead of telling you where to place a piece, they tell you expressly where NOT to place a piece, ratcheting up the difficulty.

Clue Master truly lives up to the “8 to adult” age range of the product. The Beginner puzzles walk you through simple deduction techniques, allowing younger minds and new solvers alike the chance to get accustomed to that sort of if-then chain-solving.

For a bit more of a challenge, let’s check out Circuit Maze.

ThinkFun has a solid track record when it comes to maze games that involve some level of logic or deduction, whether it’s learning optics with Laser Maze Jr. (or the original Laser Maze) or navigating the three-dimensional twists, turns, and drops of Gravity Maze.

Now, they’ve turned their attention to current and electricity with Circuit Maze, challenging solvers to use switches, connective pathways, and light-up relays to complete the partially-built circuits on each of the game’s challenge cards.

One of the more intriguing twists built into Circuit Maze is that your starting and ending points are a pair of connected pieces: the blue positive piece containing the batteries and the blue negative piece that closes the circuit. The current has to flow from positive to negative, so that means your light-up relays (which are also marked with + and – paths) can only be placed in certain configurations.

To add to the difficulty, oftentimes one of the two blue starting and ending pieces is NOT set in the challenge cards, so you won’t necessarily know what your starting or ending point is, placing another obstacle between you and successfully closing the circuit and ensuring your relays light up as needed.

The switch is another delightful wrinkle on the ThinkFun logic maze formula, since each setting can have its own unique requirements.

For instance, the above setup requires a different relay to light up for each switch setting (meaning that the switch’s first setting lights up the red, its second setting lights up the yellow, and its third setting lights up the green). These multiple goals make building your pathway more challenging and really forces you to think about how to use each piece to its utmost.

[Here the completed circuit causes each relay to light up with a flip of the switch.]

The challenge cards range from Beginner, which offers introductory tricks and lessons, to Intermediate, Advanced, and Expert puzzles, each with their own obstacles.

Sometimes, you know where a piece is placed, but not which direction it should face. Other times, you have to create pathways that will allow multiple relays to light up at once, and others where nothing lights up at all.

In the Advanced-level challenge card below, the solver has to make sure that the red relay always lights up, no matter what setting the switch is on, but other switch settings also have to light up either the yellow or green relays. It’s quite a mental workout!

Circuit Maze definitely rivals Gravity Maze as the most challenging ThinkFun product to date, but it’s a very worthwhile challenge to tackle. This is next-level deductive thinking, plotting out paths that accomplish different tasks at different times, all while maintaining a complete circuit and matching positive and negative current paths.

This serves as a strong follow-up to the deduction lessons new solvers learned in Clue Master, making for a solid one-two punch of logical puzzling the whole family can enjoy together (or you can play by yourself)!

Clue Master and Circuit Maze are both available this holiday season at Amazon or Target!

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

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# It’s Follow-Up Friday: TableTop Day Edition!

Welcome to Follow-Up Friday!

For those new to PuzzleNation Blog, Follow-Up Friday is a chance for us to revisit the subjects of previous posts and update the PuzzleNation audience on how these projects are doing and what these people have been up to in the meantime.

And today, I’m following up on all the International TableTop Day goodness we got up to this week.

The PuzzleNation offices weren’t open on April 5 for the actual TableTop Day, so we celebrated a few days late with an event on Tuesday, and we invited our pals from Penny/Dell Puzzles to join us in all the puzzly game activities we had planned.

Here’s the table of available games for play that day! Everything from one-player brain teasers from ThinkFun (like Rush Hour and the Sudoku-inspired Chocolate Fix) to bigger group games like Apples to Apples and Scattergories, and everything in between! (Including previously reviewed games like Castellan, Pink Hijinks, ROFL!, Fluxx: The Board Game, and Loonacy!)

Here, fellow puzzlers partake in a spirited round of Apples to Apples, the perfect way to blow off a little steam at work after a long morning of puzzlesmithing.

Furiously contested games of Bananagrams and Qwirkle were conducted at either end of our play area, and both were big hits with attendees.

I even had the opportunity to test my mettle against Penny/Dell’s well-traveled Corin the Puzzle Bear in a few rounds of Jenga.

While he beat me handily in two straight games, the tide soon turned against him in round three.

We had a pretty decent turnout overall, and everyone who attended had fun. What more can you ask for, really? (Other than more excuses to play games during work, that is…)

I hope your International TableTop Day was just as enjoyable. As Wil Wheaton says on his YouTube show TableTop, play more games!

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out the growing library of PuzzleNation apps and games!

# PuzzleNation Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide: Grab Bag!

Welcome to the PuzzleNation Blog Holiday Gift Guide!

We’re overjoyed to have so many tremendously fun and puzzly products to share with you this year. We just might be your one-stop shop for all things puzzly!

This guide is a grab bag of all sorts of puzzle games, apps, puzzle books, and board games, the perfect random assortment for a puzzle fan you need ideas for! We’re sure you’ll find the right gift for any puzzler on your list!

To start, we’ve got an assortment of pencil-and-paper puzzle books to choose from!

Our friends at Penny/Dell Puzzles have put together some outstanding holiday collections with puzzles galore to be solved!

Whether it’s their 100 Years of Crosswords commemorative book, their kid-friendly Kindergarten Learning Fun book (part of the Learning Fun series), their holidaytastic Sugar & Spice Pocket Sudoku Pack, or one of their many value packs featuring puzzles of all sorts, Penny/Dell has you covered. (And be sure to click here for their ongoing 12 Days of Holiday Savings promotion for even better deals!)

And for more specialized puzzle books, some high-level constructors have books of their own for your perusal! With New York Times and Los Angeles Times crosswords to their credit, you’re sure to find some puzzlers within these pages!

–Patrick Blindauer’s Quick-As-A-Wink Crosswords and Wide-Screen Crosswords

And many top constructors have started marketing their puzzles directly to solvers, so in addition to free puzzles available on their websites, they have downloadable puzzle bundles and collections!

Patrick Blindauer PuzzleFests (puzzle bundles)

David Steinberg’s Chromatics (color-themed puzzles)

Robin Stears’ StearsWords (themed puzzles)

The American Values Crossword (subscription and daily puzzles)

Of course, if you’d like to have a crossword specially created for someone, both Brendan Emmett Quigley and Robin Stears create puzzles to order on their sites! Two prolific, topnotch constructors are at your service!

And here is our grab bag of puzzle games and apps galore!

The Stars Are Right (Steve Jackson Games, card game)

Build an army of followers and change the stars themselves in The Stars Are Right, a thoroughly enjoyable card game where the goal is summoning an elder god and destroying the world. As you do. (\$27.95)

[Check out our full product review here!]

Penny/Dell Puzzles Crossword App

Test your crossword chops with this impressive app, featuring smart navigation to move you to partially filled-in entries and an alternate-clue option to help you solve!

Word Winder (David L. Hoyt)

Word Winder (also available in app, puzzle book, and GIANT versions!) is a game of finding chains of hidden words in an ever-changeable grid! Put your strategy and spelling skills to the test! (\$19.95)

ROFL! (Cryptozoic, party game)

Challenge your friends to decode famous movie lines, catchphrases, and song lyrics in Cryptozoic’s game ROFL!!, created by Dork Tower‘s John Kovalic! Put your texting and abbreviation skills to the test in this laugh-out-loud party treat! (\$35)

[Check out our full product review here!]

Seven Bridges (app)

Based on the classic Konigsberg Bridge puzzle, Seven Bridges challenges you to navigate different towns and cross each bridge only once! A terrific chain-solving game with more than a few tricks up its sleeve!

Castellan (Steve Jackson Games)

Build a castle and then occupy it in Castellan, a game of strategy and opportunity. With great modeled pieces that really add to the aesthetic, Castellan has style and substance. (\$34.95)

[Check out our full product review here!]

PuzzleNation Classic Word Search (iBook)

Enjoy our own puzzler-friendly classic word search iBook (with three volumes of themed puzzles to choose from)! With an adaptable screen and plenty of puzzles to keep you busy, Classic Word Search is a terrific way to pass the time!

Walk-By Scrabble Board, Lexicographer’s Extended Scrabble, and the World’s Largest Scrabble Game

Hammacher Schlemmer has several Scrabble variants available, including the Lexicographer’s Extended Scrabble for those with multisyllabic ambitions (\$39.95) and the mindboggling World’s Largest Scrabble Game (\$12,000!), but neither is as clever or as convenient as the Walk-By Scrabble Board! Designed as a family game for people on the go, it’s a perfect way to bring back Board Game Night for busy families! (\$29.95)

[Check out our full product review of the Walk-By Scrabble Board here!]

Laser Maze (ThinkFun, puzzle game)

ThinkFun brings us a logic game with an actual laser in Laser Maze, a game of light, mirrors, strategy, and skill! (\$26.95)

[Check out our full product review of Laser Maze by clicking here!]

Treasure Hunt Game (Hammacher Schlemmer, party game)

All the tools you need to create an engaging treasure hunt for kids can be found in Hammacher Schlemmer’s Award-Winning Treasure Hunt Game! With a map, clues, coins, and everything else you’ll need, it’s an all-in-one kit for scavenger hunt fun! (\$64.95)

Veritas (Cheapass Games, board game)

In Veritas, it’s the Dark Ages, and you’re trying to protect your brand of the truth. As monasteries burn and other versions of the truth are spread, can you become the predominant truth in France? This strategy game has a wicked sense of humor and some fun twists on the Risk model. (\$15, plus chips)

[Check out our full product review here!]

Chrononauts (Looney Labs, card game)

Time travel can be tough, but when other time travelers are changing history, it can be downright weird. In Chrononauts, you’ll bend the rules of time and space in the hopes of completing your mission and going home. And who hasn’t wanted to make history once or twice? (\$20)

[Check out our full product review here!]

Dabble (app)

This word-forming game will put your anagram skills to the test as you try to move letters between tiers in order to spell multiple words of varying lengths! It’s Scrabble taken to the next level!

Fluxx: The Board Game (Looney Labs, board game)

Take a board game, and make the cards, goals, and board changeable, and you’ve got Fluxx: The Board Game. It’s the ultimate think-on-your-feet experience, and like nothing you’ve played before. (\$30)

[Check out our full product review here!]

The Brain Fitness series: Solitaire Chess, Rush Hour, and Chocolate Fix (ThinkFun, puzzle games)

It’s three variations on ThinkFun’s classic puzzle games in order to keep your mind in fighting trim for puzzling! Put your chess skills in play for Solitaire Chess, your Sudoku skills on high for Chocolate Fix, and your chain-solving on overdrive for Rush Hour (\$14.99 each)!

[Check out our full product review of the Brain Fitness line by clicking here!]

Light ‘Em Up (app)

In this app, you control fire and you’re trying to burn all the woodpiles in the area. But fire is trickier than you think! A fun problem-solving game with a great medieval look!

Pink Hijinks (Looney Labs, puzzle game)

Part of Looney Labs’ multi-colored Pyramids series, Pink Hijinks is a quick-to-play strategy game for two players! Roll the dice, make your move, and try to race your opponent to the finish in this easily transported game of tactics! (\$12)

[Check out our full product review here!]

Thank you to all of the constructors, designers, and companies taking part in our holiday gift guide!

Thanks for visiting the PuzzleNation blog today! You can like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, cruise our boards on Pinterest, play our games at PuzzleNation.com, or contact us here at the blog!

# PuzzleNation Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide: By Category

Welcome to the PuzzleNation Blog Holiday Gift Guide!

We’re overjoyed to have so many tremendously fun and puzzly products to share with you this year. We just might be your one-stop shop for all things puzzly!

This guide is broken down into categories for ease of searching. We have puzzle books, downloadable puzzles, specialty puzzles, puzzle apps and iBooks, puzzle games, board games, card games, and party games. We’re sure you’ll find the perfect gift for any puzzler on your list!

Puzzle Books

Pencil-and-paper puzzles are alive and well, and we’re happy to share some of our favorites with you.

Our friends at Penny/Dell Puzzles have put together some outstanding holiday collections with puzzles galore to be solved!

Whether it’s their 100 Years of Crosswords commemorative book, their kid-friendly Kindergarten Learning Fun book (part of the Learning Fun line), their holidaytastic Sugar & Spice Pocket Sudoku Pack, or one of their many value packs featuring puzzles of all sorts, Penny/Dell has you covered. (And be sure to click here for their ongoing 12 Days of Holiday Savings promotion for even better deals!)

And for more specialized puzzle books, some high-level constructors have books of their own for your perusal! With New York Times and Los Angeles Times crosswords to their credit, you’re sure to find some puzzlers within these pages!

–Patrick Blindauer’s Quick-As-A-Wink Crosswords and Wide-Screen Crosswords

Many top constructors have started marketing their puzzles directly to solvers, so in addition to free puzzles available on their websites, they have downloadable puzzle bundles and collections!

Patrick Blindauer PuzzleFests (puzzle bundles)

David Steinberg’s Chromatics (color-themed puzzles)

Robin Stears’ StearsWords (themed puzzles)

The American Values Crossword (subscription and daily puzzles)

Specialty Puzzles

If you’d like to have a crossword specially created for someone, both Brendan Emmett Quigley and Robin Stears create puzzles to order on their sites! Two prolific, topnotch constructors are at your service!

Puzzle Apps / iBooks

Crosswords and other puzzles have absolutely taken over the portable market with apps and iBooks and games galore, so here are a few for the puzzle-loving techie on the go!

Penny/Dell Puzzles Crossword App

Test your crossword chops with this impressive app, featuring smart navigation to move you to partially filled-in entries and an alternate-clue option to help you solve!

PuzzleNation Classic Word Search iBooks

Enjoy our own puzzler-friendly classic word search iBook (with three volumes of themed puzzles to choose from)! With an adaptable screen and plenty of puzzles to keep you busy, Classic Word Search is a terrific way to pass the time!

Dabble

This word-forming game will put your anagram skills to the test as you try to move letters between tiers in order to spell multiple words of varying lengths! It’s Scrabble taken to the next level!

Seven Bridges

Based on the classic Konigsberg Bridge puzzle, Seven Bridges challenges you to navigate different towns and cross each bridge only once! A terrific chain-solving game with more than a few tricks up its sleeve!

Light ‘Em Up

In this app, you control fire and you’re trying to burn all the woodpiles in the area. But fire is trickier than you think! A fun problem-solving game with a great medieval look!

Puzzle Games

These one- and two-player puzzle games are perfect to train your brain and keep you guessing!

Laser Maze and the Brain Fitness series: Solitaire Chess, Rush Hour, and Chocolate Fix (ThinkFun)

ThinkFun brings us a logic game with an actual laser in Laser Maze (\$26.95), as well as three variations on their classic puzzle games in order to keep your mind in fighting trim for puzzling! Put your chess skills in play for Solitaire Chess, your Sudoku skills on high for Chocolate Fix, and your chain-solving on overdrive for Rush Hour (\$14.99 each)!

[Check out our full product review of Laser Maze by clicking here and our review of the Brain Fitness line by clicking here!]

Pink Hijinks (Looney Labs)

Part of Looney Labs’ multi-colored Pyramids series, Pink Hijinks is a quick-to-play strategy game for two players! Roll the dice, make your move, and try to race your opponent to the finish in this easily transported game of tactics! (\$12)

[Check out our full product review here!]

Word Winder (David L. Hoyt)

Word Winder (also available in app, puzzle book, and GIANT versions!) is a game of finding chains of hidden words in an ever-changeable grid! Put your strategy and spelling skills to the test! (\$19.95)

Board Games

Some of the puzzliest games on the market today are being made by top-flight board game companies, and we’ve got some marvelous games that will appeal to puzzlers of all ages!

Walk-By Scrabble Board, Lexicographer’s Extended Scrabble, and the World’s Largest Scrabble Game

Hammacher Schlemmer has several Scrabble variants available, including the Lexicographer’s Extended Scrabble for those with multisyllabic ambitions (\$39.95) and the mindboggling World’s Largest Scrabble Game (\$12,000!), but neither is as clever or as convenient as the Walk-By Scrabble Board! Designed as a family game for people on the go, it’s a perfect way to bring back Board Game Night for busy families! (\$29.95)

[Check out our full product review of the Walk-By Scrabble Board here!]

Castellan (Steve Jackson Games)

Build a castle and then occupy it in Castellan, a game of strategy and opportunity. With great modeled pieces that really add to the aesthetic, Castellan has style and substance. (\$34.95)

[Check out our full product review here!]

Veritas (Cheapass Games)

In Veritas, it’s the Dark Ages, and you’re trying to protect your brand of the truth. As monasteries burn and other versions of the truth are spread, can you become the predominant truth in France? This strategy game has a wicked sense of humor and some fun twists on the Risk model. (\$15, plus chips)

[Check out our full product review here!]

Fluxx: The Board Game (Looney Labs)

Take a board game, and make the cards, goals, and board changeable, and you’ve got Fluxx: The Board Game. It’s the ultimate think-on-your-feet experience, and like nothing you’ve played before. (\$30)

[Check out our full product review here!]

Card Games

These card games add a bit of friendly competition to some splendid strategizing for puzzlers of all sorts!

The Stars Are Right (Steve Jackson Games)

Build an army of followers and change the stars themselves in The Stars Are Right, a thoroughly enjoyable card game where the goal is summoning an elder god and destroying the world. As you do. (\$27.95)

[Check out our full product review here!]

Chrononauts (Looney Labs)

Time travel can be tough, but when other time travelers are changing history, it can be downright weird. In Chrononauts, you’ll bend the rules of time and space in the hopes of completing your mission and going home. And who hasn’t wanted to make history once or twice? (\$20)

[Check out our full product review here!]

Party Games

Some puzzles are best enjoyed in groups, so here are a few fun options for party puzzling!

ROFL! (Cryptozoic)

Challenge your friends to decode famous movie lines, catchphrases, and song lyrics in Cryptozoic’s game ROFL!!, created by Dork Tower‘s John Kovalic! Put your texting and abbreviation skills to the test in this laugh-out-loud party treat! (\$35)

[Check out our full product review here!]

Treasure Hunt Game (Hammacher Schlemmer)

All the tools you need to create an engaging treasure hunt for kids can be found in Hammacher Schlemmer’s Award-Winning Treasure Hunt Game! With a map, clues, coins, and everything else you’ll need, it’s an all-in-one kit for scavenger hunt fun! (\$64.95)

Thank you to all of the constructors, designers, and companies taking part in our holiday gift guide!

Thanks for visiting the PuzzleNation blog today! You can like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, cruise our boards on Pinterest, play our games at PuzzleNation.com, or contact us here at the blog!

# PuzzleNation Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide: By Age

Welcome to the PuzzleNation Blog Holiday Gift Guide!

We’re overjoyed to have so many tremendously fun and puzzly projects to share with you this year. We just might be your one-stop shop for all things puzzly!

This guide is broken down by age group, so we’re sure you’ll find the perfect gift for puzzlers of any age on your list!

For Ages 3-5 and Up

Treasure Hunt Game (Hammacher Schlemmer, party game)

All the tools you need to create an engaging treasure hunt for kids can be found in Hammacher Schlemmer’s Award-Winning Treasure Hunt Game! With a map, clues, coins, and everything else you’ll need, it’s an all-in-one kit for scavenger hunt fun! (\$64.95)

Kindergarten Learning Fun

The kid-friendly Kindergarten Learning Fun book (part of the Learning Fun series) is a perfect introductory book of puzzles for youngsters! (\$3.99)

For Ages 8 and Up

Walk-By Scrabble Board, Lexicographer’s Extended Scrabble, and the World’s Largest Scrabble Game

Hammacher Schlemmer has several Scrabble variants available, including the Lexicographer’s Extended Scrabble for those with multisyllabic ambitions (\$39.95) and the mindboggling World’s Largest Scrabble Game (\$12,000!), but neither is as clever or as convenient as the Walk-By Scrabble Board! Designed as a family game for people on the go, it’s a perfect way to bring back Board Game Night for busy families! (\$29.95)

[Check out our full product review of the Walk-By Scrabble Board here!]

Seven Bridges (app)

Based on the classic Konigsberg Bridge puzzle, Seven Bridges challenges you to navigate different towns and cross each bridge only once! A terrific chain-solving game with more than a few tricks up its sleeve!

Fluxx: The Board Game (Looney Labs, board game)

Take a board game, and make the cards, goals, and board changeable, and you’ve got Fluxx: The Board Game. It’s the ultimate think-on-your-feet experience, and like nothing you’ve played before. (\$30)

[Check out our full product review here!]

Word Winder (David L. Hoyt, puzzle game)

Word Winder (also available in app, puzzle book, and GIANT versions!) is a game of finding chains of hidden words in an ever-changeable grid! Put your strategy and spelling skills to the test! (\$19.95)

Laser Maze and the Brain Fitness series: Solitaire Chess, Rush Hour, and Chocolate Fix (ThinkFun, puzzle games)

ThinkFun brings us a logic game with an actual laser in Laser Maze (\$26.95), as well as three variations on their classic puzzle games in order to keep your mind in fighting trim for puzzling! Put your chess skills in play for Solitaire Chess, your Sudoku skills on high for Chocolate Fix, and your chain-solving on overdrive for Rush Hour (\$14.99 each)!

[Check out our full product review of Laser Maze by clicking here and our review of the Brain Fitness line by clicking here!]

Light ‘Em Up (app)

In this app, you control fire and you’re trying to burn all the woodpiles in the area. But fire is trickier than you think! A fun problem-solving game with a great medieval look!

ROFL! (Cryptozoic, party game)

Challenge your friends to decode famous movie lines, catchphrases, and song lyrics in Cryptozoic’s game ROFL!!, created by Dork Tower‘s John Kovalic! Put your texting and abbreviation skills to the test in this laugh-out-loud party treat! (\$35)

[Check out our full product review here!]

For Ages 10-12 and Up

Dabble (app)

This word-forming game will put your anagram skills to the test as you try to move letters between tiers in order to spell multiple words of varying lengths! It’s Scrabble taken to the next level!

Penny/Dell Puzzles Crossword App (app)

Test your crossword chops with this impressive app, featuring smart navigation to move you to partially filled-in entries and an alternate-clue option to help you solve!

Castellan (Steve Jackson Games, board game)

Build a castle and then occupy it in Castellan, a game of strategy and opportunity. With great modeled pieces that really add to the aesthetic, Castellan has style and substance. (\$34.95)

[Check out our full product review here!]

Chrononauts (Looney Labs, card game)

Time travel can be tough, but when other time travelers are changing history, it can be downright weird. In Chrononauts, you’ll bend the rules of time and space in the hopes of completing your mission and going home. And who hasn’t wanted to make history once or twice? (\$20)

[Check out our full product review here!]

PuzzleNation Classic Word Search (iBook)

Enjoy our own puzzler-friendly classic word search iBook (with three volumes of themed puzzles to choose from)! With an adaptable screen and plenty of puzzles to keep you busy, Classic Word Search is a terrific way to pass the time!

The Stars Are Right (Steve Jackson Games, card game)

Build an army of followers and change the stars themselves in The Stars Are Right, a thoroughly enjoyable card game where the goal is summoning an elder god and destroying the world. As you do. (\$27.95)

[Check out our full product review here!]

For Ages 14 and Up

Pink Hijinks (Looney Labs, puzzle game)

Part of Looney Labs’ multi-colored Pyramids series, Pink Hijinks is a quick-to-play strategy game for two players! Roll the dice, make your move, and try to race your opponent to the finish in this easily transported game of tactics! (\$12)

[Check out our full product review here!]

Veritas (Cheapass Games, board game)

In Veritas, it’s the Dark Ages, and you’re trying to protect your brand of the truth. As monasteries burn and other versions of the truth are spread, can you become the predominant truth in France? This strategy game has a wicked sense of humor and some fun twists on the Risk model. (\$15, plus chips)

[Check out our full product review here!]

For Ages 18 and Up

Most puzzle books would probably fall in the Age 9-10 and Up range, but oftentimes, the cluing is geared toward an older audience, so to avoid confusion, I’ve bundled the majority of the puzzle books here.

Our friends at Penny/Dell Puzzles have put together some outstanding holiday collections with puzzles galore to be solved!

Whether it’s their 100 Years of Crosswords commemorative book, their holidaytastic Sugar & Spice Pocket Sudoku Pack, or one of their many value packs featuring puzzles of all sorts, Penny/Dell has you covered. (And be sure to click here for their ongoing 12 Days of Holiday Savings promotion for even better deals!)

And for more specialized puzzle books, some high-level constructors have books of their own for your perusal! With New York Times and Los Angeles Times crosswords to their credit, you’re sure to find some puzzlers within these pages!

–Patrick Blindauer’s Quick-As-A-Wink Crosswords and WideScreen Crosswords

And many top constructors have started marketing their puzzles directly to solvers, so in addition to free puzzles available on their websites, they have downloadable puzzle bundles and collections!

Patrick Blindauer PuzzleFests (puzzle bundles)

David Steinberg’s Chromatics (color-themed puzzles)

Robin Stears’ StearsWords (themed puzzles)

The American Values Crossword (subscription and daily puzzles)

Of course, if you’d like to have a crossword specially created for someone, both Brendan Emmett Quigley and Robin Stears create puzzles to order on their sites! Two prolific, topnotch constructors are at your service!

Thank you to all of the constructors, designers, and companies taking part in our holiday gift guide!

Thanks for visiting the PuzzleNation blog today! You can like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, cruise our boards on Pinterest, play our games at PuzzleNation.com, or contact us here at the blog!

# PuzzleNation Product Review: ThinkFun’s Brain Fitness line

The folks at ThinkFun are always trying to raise the bar when it comes to puzzly games that keep the mind in fighting trim. (You may remember them from our review of Laser Maze over the summer.)

In that vein, they’ve unleashed the Brain Fitness line of puzzle games, offering all sorts of exercises to challenge you one-on-one and put your puzzly skills to the test.

They sent us copies of three Brain Fitness games to review, each with its own distinct flavor.

Brain Fitness Solitaire Chess

Solitaire Chess presents you with various layouts of pieces on a 4×4 grid, challenging you to clear the board of all but one piece. Every single move must eliminate a piece until only one remains.

Even the beginner puzzles gave me pause at first, because the need to knock out a piece with every move is a very different style of chess than I’m accustomed to. But I very quickly got into the groove of plotting out the chain of moves necessary to clear each board. With two pawns, two knights, two bishops, two rooks, a queen and a king, there are myriad layouts of varying complexity to solve, and some of them were serious brain melters.

Oddly enough, I found some of the expert-level grids easier than the advanced-level puzzles, though you could easily spend five or ten minutes on a single crafty puzzle.

Not only is it a terrific mental exercise, but it just might make you a better chess player in the long run.

Brain Fitness Chocolate Fix

Chocolate Fix is a marvelous variation on the Sudoku model, offering nine sweets of varying shape and color, and tasking you with deducing the intended position of each in a 3×3 baking sheet.

The beginner-level puzzles are child’s play, and would actually be a terrific introduction for younger puzzlers. But as soon as you reach the intermediate-level challenges, the difficulty begins ratcheting skyward. Some clues give you colors only, others shapes only, and the occasional clue is centered around a given piece’s location on the baking sheet.

Midway through the advanced-level challenges, they stop referencing specific sweets at all, leaving you to do some serious deductive work with shapes and colors alone.

By the time you reach the expert puzzles (which abandon any clues providing all nine squares, leaving you to mentally assemble Tetris-like pieces with shape and color symbols), it becomes a serious mental workout that banishes any false confidence and bravado that the easy early rounds might’ve sparked.

Victory may be sweet, but Chocolate Fix’s later challenges will make you earn it.

Brain Fitness Rush Hour

Rush Hour is a variation on the classic sliding-tile game, except instead of tiles, you’re sliding cars and trucks back and forth in order to clear a path for your heroic little red car to escape the traffic jam.

Rush Hour (in various forms) has been a great success for ThinkFun over the years, and the Brain Fitness version is a brilliantly simple adaptation. Self-contained and perfect for puzzling-on-the-go, Rush Hour takes the chain-move thinking of Chess Solitaire to the next level.

The jump from beginner-level to intermediate-level challenges is a sobering one, if only because the playing grid seems absolutely packed with cars! But you quickly realize that a packed grid means fewer possible moves, which helps to point you toward the solution.

The grid thins out again when you reach the advanced-level puzzles, but greater movement only leads to tougher challenges, since so many more moves are available to you, requiring chains of increasing complexity in order to rescue your little red car.

Having thoroughly tested all three games, I found Rush Hour the most difficult of the three (though Solitaire Chess wasn’t far behind), but I must admit, the multilayered colors / shapes / positioning clue style of Chocolate Fix provided the most unexpected challenge.

As an experienced puzzler, I was thoroughly impressed by the scalability of each idea. The easy puzzles were terrific introductions to the game, and the expert puzzles were challenges quite worthy of your time.

ThinkFun recommends 15 minutes of puzzling time a day with any of their Brain Fitness products in order to give your brain a proper workout, but I suspect you’ll have a hard time stopping there. If only physical workouts were as much fun as these mental ones!

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