The Puzzly Magic of Marbles!

As regular readers well know by now, I’m a huge fan of Rube Goldberg devices. They are my favorite form of mechanical puzzling, because they not only require innovation and creativity, but it’s immediately obvious whether the device actually works or not.

It’s amazing how many different ways people have concocted to move marbles, lift objects, circumvent physical obstacles, and span distances with everything from household items to living creatures.

An intriguing variation on the Rube Goldberg device has been gaining steam on YouTube, though, and today, I’d like to shine a bit of a spotlight on the crafty designers behind them.

Essentially, these devices are as complex as Rube Goldberg devices, but they use fewer materials. The goal is to simply get the marble from one end to the other.

But restricting themselves to marbles, wooden blocks, tubes, magnets, and so on hasn’t limited their creativity in the slightest. If anything, it’s made them more inventive!

As you can see, each device is built on a slightly tilted table, so that gravity does the work of moving the marbles. But everything else, from slingshots to moving parts and triggers, is activated through clever mechanics.

The combination of timing, positioning, and creativity is entrancing at times, leaving you dumbfounded at how they’d ever conceived of these delightful obstacle courses to begin with.

Some are set to music while others tell little stories of adventure and romance, but all of them are mind-bendingly entertaining, often taking several viewings to catch everything going on!

And hopefully, these puzzly creations by Kaplamino and DoodleChaos brought a smile to your face today.


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You Autumn Pick Up These Puzzle Sets!

Fall is in full swing! The leaves are turning and falling, and Halloween is almost here! (Have you submitted any #SpookySolvingSelfies yet?)

We’re celebrating the season the way we know best: with some terrific Puzzle Sets for the Penny Dell Crosswords App!

That’s right, you have three fall combos to choose from! Each one is loaded with terrific easy, medium, and hard puzzles, plus seasonal theme puzzles as a bonus! That’s 70 puzzles in each combo!

And hey, would you like to pick up all three combos in one fell swoop AND save a little money on the deal?

We’ve got you covered there too, with our Fall Double Deluxe Bundle! All three Fall Combos together at last! That’s 210 quality crosswords, locked and loaded and ready to go, brought to you by the fine puzzlesmiths at PuzzleNation!

Plus they’re available for both iOS and Android users!

Happy puzzling, everybody!


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Time for Some Spooky Solving Selfies!

[An appropriately spooky crossword puzzle from 1927, London After Midnight.]

We love interacting with members of the PuzzleNation community, so we’ve cooked up something new that we think you’ll enjoy!

Welcome to our first round of Solving Selfies!

The game is simple! We’ll give you a theme, and you reply with a photo! We’ll randomly pick a winner each month for a terrific Daily POP Crosswords prize!

Ready to play? Great!

Today’s theme is “Spooky Solving Selfie!”

Show us your Halloween spirit! Do you deck out your house for the holiday? Or have a killer costume picked out? Do your kids or pets get involved in Halloween shenanigans? Or maybe your favorite place to solve is particularly spooktacular?

We’d love to see it! Send us your Spooky Solving Selfie today! And be sure to use the hashtag #SolvingSelfies or #SpookySolvingSelfies so we don’t miss it!

[Our resident office tentacle is getting into the Spooky Selfies spirit while solving!]


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A New Venue to Publish More Women!

Long-time readers know that one of my favorite things about the blog is that I can use it to spread the word about different worthwhile projects.

In the past, we’ve proudly provided a signal boost to folks adapting popular games for the visually impaired, game shops that could use more support, and campaigns to encourage and recruit constructors from more diverse backgrounds.

So when I heard about the Kickstarter campaign for The Inkubator, I knew it was another worthwhile project to put a spotlight on.

The brainchild of crossword constructors Tracy Bennett and Laura Braunstein, The Inkubator is a by-email subscription puzzle service where 100% of the puzzles will be constructed by women. (It follows in the footsteps of the wonderful Women of Letters project from last year.)

From the public announcement:

The editors invite women — cis women, trans women, and woman-aligned constructors — to submit themed and themeless crosswords or queries in any stage of development. (If you think you may be eligible to construct, but you’re not sure, you’re eligible to construct. Still not sure? Ask us!) If you’re new to constructing, we’ll make every effort to connect you with a collaborator.

Yes, The Inkubator is not only a publishing outlet for anyone who identifies as female, but it is intended to help and encourage new and inexperienced constructors, providing resources and advice in the hopes of publishing more women.

The Kickstarter has only been up for two days, and they’ve already passed their initial funding goal, proving that there is not only a market for women-driven puzzles, but a lot of support for female constructors as well. They’re currently brainstorming stretch goals for the project right now!

I wish The Inkubator not only luck, but success, and I can’t wait to see what new voices the project helps bring to the fore.

For more details or to donate to The Inkubator, check out the Kickstarter page for the project here.


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Novelty Crossword Songs!

Although the crossword as we know it celebrates its birthday on December 21, tracing its roots all the way back to 1913, it was the 1920s where crosswords really caught the public eye.

By 1924, crosswords had officially become a fad, inspiring fashion trends (black and white patterns) and moral panics alike.

But it was also the year of the novelty crossword song. Yes, crosswords found their way into the world of music, serving as inspiration for numerous comedic ballads.

Perhaps the most famous of the 1924 crossword songs is the curious “Crossword Mama, You Puzzle Me (But Papa’s Gonna Figure You Out).”

The subject of the song is an ardent puzzle solver, but the singer of the song is more bothered by the fact that he doesn’t have her full attention, painting her as someone who ignores him or flirts with other guys. He is clearly suspicious of her, and expresses his suspicions through crossword clue references.

[Although written and arranged by James V. Monaco and Sidney Clare,
this version of the song was recorded in 1925 by Frank Crumit.]

For example:

Crossword Mama you puzzle me,
But Papa’s gonna figure you out.
You call me honey – that means bee!
Looks like I’ll get stung no doubt.

Your Papa’s gonna crossword you right now,
You better get your answers right.
I heard you mention “butcher” – that means “meat”!
Who you gonna “meet” tonight?

The singer is clearly confused by both crosswords and the object of his affections. It would be best if he just left them both alone for a while.

Given how difficult some people find crosswords, you shouldn’t be surprised that there was a blues song penned about crosswords the same year.

“Cross-Word Puzzle Blues,” penned by Fred Herendeen and performed by The Duncan Sisters, is surprisingly upbeat, as the sisters describe themselves as “criss-cross crazy” and discuss their difficulties solving puzzles. It’s very silly indeed.

Be careful not to confuse this with the jazzier song by D.J. Michaud and Marguerite Bruce, “I’ve Got the Crossword Puzzle Blues,” featuring such tongue-in-cheek downbeat lyrics as “I’m feeling awfully down and cross / I spend all day solving, but I still don’t have a clue.”

(Unfortunately I couldn’t find a decent public recording of this one to share with you.)

There’s a strange recurring theme with these songs where women are primarily the solvers, and the men in their lives are utterly baffled by the pastime.

In a similar vein to the first song, “Cross-Words (Between Sweetie and Me)” is all about a man who feels spurned and underappreciated by his crossword-obsessed lady.

Sorrow has torn at my heart strings
I wonder who is to blame
My sweetie never has time for me
She’s deep in love with a game
Crosswords have made me blue as can be,
Cross, crosswords between my sweetie and me,
She’s been puzzling, don’t seem to care
Whether I’m near her or taking the air
I’m jealous. How can I win sympathy?
I’m hoping she’ll soon need L-O-V-E.

[Recording of Billy Jones from Edison Records, circa 1925]

He goes on to describe how a group of people solving crosswords were so quiet, he thought they had died, and he subsequently broke into the house to make sure they were all right.

Billy clearly has boundary issues, and although his sweetie might be spending too much time with crosswords, at least they’re keeping her away from her weird, weird paramour.


This is just a sampling from a single crossword-obsessed year. I’m sure there are many more puzzle-inspired songs out there. Do you know any? Let us know in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you!


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This New Puzzle Set for the Penny Dell Crosswords App Is Making Me Hungry!

Hello puzzlers and PuzzleNationers! Yes, we’ve got a second bonus blog post for you today, because there’s simply too much great stuff to announce today!

We’re excited to announce a new puzzle set for the Penny Dell Crosswords App

It’s the Breakfast Deluxe Puzzle Set!

Start your mornings right with a hearty breakfast and some terrific crossword puzzles, courtesy of your friendly neighborhood constructors at PuzzleNation!

Offering 30 easy, medium, and hard puzzles, plus 5 breakfast-themed bonus puzzles to sate your puzzly appetite, no matter what your skill level, the Breakfast Deluxe puzzle set is part of a well-balanced day of solving!

Plus it’s available for both iOS and Android users!

Happy puzzling, everybody!


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