The First Viral Handheld Puzzle Game?

It’s fair to say that PuzzleNation knows a little something about the world of mobile puzzling. Mobile apps are our bread and butter, after all, and whether you’re talking about our Daily POP Crosswords App or the Penny Dell Crosswords App, we are connoisseurs of puzzles that fit in your pocket.

Of course, puzzle apps are a relatively new addition to the genre. Mobile puzzles, like matchstick puzzles, have existed for centuries.

In fact, more than a hundred years ago, a mobile puzzle game went “viral” and became a cultural sensation. (And it has made a recent return to prominence thanks to the HBO drama Westworld.)

Today, let’s talk about Pigs in Clover.

Pigs in Clover is a ball-in-a-maze puzzle invented in 1899 by toymaker Charles Martin Crandall. Although puzzle historians aren’t sure if Pigs in Clover was the first ball-in-a-maze puzzle created, it was definitely the first to capture the imagination of consumers.

You’ve probably solved a ball-in-a-maze puzzle at some point in your life. From the flat disc and labyrinth-inspired models to spherical and more complicated three-dimensional versions, they’re a fun test of both dexterity and strategic thinking.

A quick Google image search turns up dozens of variations on the concept, including an iPhone case with two ball-in-a-maze puzzles built into it!

Pigs in Clover was a simpler design, involving only three rings and a center “pen” to herd the “pigs” into. But it’s one that was supposedly so popular upon launch in January of 1889, it impacted the actual operation of the U.S. government.

But how popular was “popular” in 1889?

Well, according to the Waverly Free Press, “The toy works are turning out eight thousand of ‘Pigs in Clover’ a day, and are twenty days behind with their orders.” According to some sources, over a million games were sold by late April 1889!

And one of those games found its way into the hands of William M. Evarts, senator from New York. Depending on the version of events you read, he purchased a copy of Pigs in Clover from either a street vendor or, curiously, an aggressive street fakir.

He then took it home and played with it for hours. At work the next day — and by work, I mean the Senate of the United States — another senator, George Graham Vest, borrowed it and went to the cloak room to try to solve the puzzle game.

Yes, a sitting U.S. senator went and hid in the coats to play this game. It’s sorta like hiding under all the coats at a Christmas party and playing Angry Birds, except in fancier clothing.

Oddly enough, Vest was soon joined in the cloak room by four other senators — Pugh, Eustis, Walthall, and Kenna — who were also interested in trying their hands at the popular game. Apparently, they were too impatient to share Evarts’ copy of the game, since a page was enlisted to go out and buy five more copies of Pigs in Clover for the distracted senators.

Once each had his own game in hand, they engaged in a pig-driving contest. It must’ve been harder than it looks, since it took Vest 30 minutes to herd all of his pigs into the pen.

Yup, at least half an hour of senate business was derailed by a few little metal balls in a cardboard maze. Amazing.

Naturally, the story got out, and a political cartoon in the New York World on March 17th commented on this peculiar delay in President Benjamin Harrison’s agenda, likening the political landscape to the game. With the White House as the pen and various lawmakers as the pigs, the cartoon asked, “Will Mr. Harrison be able to get all these hungry pigs in the official pen?”

It makes you wonder just how many man-hours were lost to Pigs in Clover! After all, a simple game — solved by many — can prove costly.

Remember the Google Doodle in 2010 that allowed you to play Pac-Man? It’s estimated it cost $120 million dollars, and nearly five million hours, in terms of productivity.

Sounds like President Harrison should count himself lucky it was just a half-dozen senators… as far as we know.

[Sources for this article: The Strong Museum of Play, Eli Whitney Museum and Workshop, Le Roy Historical Society, Antique Toy Collectors of America, Wikipedia, and A History of Video Games in 64 Objects.]


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The October PN/Escape 101 Promotion Starts Today!

A few weeks ago, we featured local escape room company Escape 101 in our latest edition of Citizen Shoutout!

And the crew at Escape 101 offered an awesome deal to all PuzzleNation users!

For the entire month of October, if you make a reservation for a room at Escape 101 and you have one of the PuzzleNation puzzle apps on your phone, you can show it to them at the door and they’ll give you a 10% discount on the entire booking!

That’s right, whether it’s Daily POP Crosswords, Penny Dell Crosswords, Penny Dell Sudoku, or Penny Dell Crosswords Jumbo 1, 2, or 3, being a PuzzleNation solver will give you a discount on a terrific solving experience.

You can call or email Escape 101 to reserve a room, or book a room through their website. (It’s always best to do so at least a few days out from your desired date and time, just to give them the best chance to meet your expectations.)

You can check out more of the Escape 101 experience in our Citizen Shoutout post or on the Escape 101 website.

They’ve got something for all skill levels. If you’ve never done an escape room before, the Ice Cream Truck room is the perfect introduction. And if you’re looking for a serious challenge, the Doomsday room will test your puzzly mettle.

With those and two other rooms to choose from, you’re guaranteed to find the right fit for you and your fellow solvers!

Enjoy! And let us know when you do! We’d love to hear from you!

Heck, we might even see you there!


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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Citizen Shoutout: Escape 101 Edition!

Welcome to the latest installment of our newest monthly feature on the blog, Citizen Shoutout!

Each edition of Citizen Shoutout is an opportunity to say thank you. It allows us to put the spotlight on folks in the PuzzleNation community who contribute to the world of puzzles and games in a meaningful way.

And in today’s edition, I’d like to highlight a local escape room that is delivering some marvelous puzzly experiences, Escape 101!

Located just off the highway and right by the Danbury Fair Mall in Danbury, Connecticut, Escape 101 offers some of the best, most immersive escape rooms I’ve ever had the pleasure of trying out. Every time the door is shut and the timer starts, you’re guaranteed a fun, challenging, wholly unique solving experience.

You can call or email Escape 101 to reserve a room, or book a room through their website. (It’s always best to do so at least a few days out from your desired date and time, just to give them the best chance to meet your expectations.)

You know you’re in for a quality challenge right away, as your Game Master gives you an opportunity to familiarize yourself with all of the different locks you’ll encounter in your chosen Escape Room. From combination locks and key locks to directional locks, and even a cryptex, they’ve got all sorts of diabolical tricks and challenges awaiting you, so make good use of your time before the room opens.

There’s a quick instructional video, and then you and your group of solvers will decide how many clues you want for your Escape Room.

There are three options:

  • Original: You get three clues and three clues only. Once they’re gone, they’re gone, and you’re on your own.
  • Meet Me Halfway: You get more than three clues, giving you additional chances (at your request) to get past frustrating or confusing stumbling blocks while still giving you a fair chance to escape.
  • Finish the Game: Your Game Master delivers unlimited clues and hints, maximizing your chances of escaping the room within the one hour time limit.

Personally, I like “Meet Me Halfway,” because you can still set the goal of using no more than three clues, but you still have the opportunity to ask for more if you need them. It’s the best of both worlds.

But what about the escape rooms themselves, you ask? Well, I’ve only tackled two of them so far, but I thoroughly enjoyed both experiences.

The easier of the two was The Ice Cream Truck room, wherein you and your group find yourselves in a local park with a simple goal: collect enough money for all of you to hit the ice cream truck before it leaves!

You’ll have to explore your environment, accomplish tasks, and help fellow parkgoers to accomplish your mission.

If you’ve never done an escape room before, I think this is the perfect introductory room. The puzzles are fun and challenging without being overwhelming, and the very environment is soothing, which counteracts the pressure of knowing you’ve only got one hour to escape.

[No pictures of the room, because I didn’t want to spoil any of the surprises for you.]

Of course, if you’re looking for something more challenging, Escape 101 has you covered there as well… with the Doomsday Room.

The Doomsday Room is a combination office/laboratory for the mysterious Dr. Apocalypse. You and your group have snuck into his workspace in the hopes of escaping with a very important bit of information: the date of the end of the world.

But Dr. Apocalypse won’t make it easy. You’ll need to explore the entire space, conduct experiments, show off your observational skills, and more in order to escape in the time allotted. It’s a genuine challenge, but a spectacularly fun one, even if you don’t manage to escape in time.

And if that’s not enough to entice you to visit and test your mettle against one of their escape rooms, we’ve got something special just for local PuzzleNation solvers.

Yes, for the entire month of October, if you make a reservation for a room at Escape 101 and you have one of the PuzzleNation puzzle apps on your phone, you can show it to them at the door and they’ll give you a 10% discount on the entire booking!

That’s right, whether it’s Daily POP Crosswords, Penny Dell Crosswords, Penny Dell Sudoku, or Penny Dell Crosswords Jumbo 1, 2, or 3, being a PuzzleNation solver will give you a discount on a terrific solving experience.

How cool is that?

Be sure to take advantage of this amazing offer, and let us know if you do! We’d love to hear from you!

Thank you for reading our latest Citizen Shoutout. Writing this month’s edition has been great fun.

But what about next month? I’m glad you asked.

As always, I am happy to take suggestions from my fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers for individuals, groups, and businesses to highlight in each month’s post.

So, if there’s a puzzler or designer who inspires you, a constructor who challenged you or surprised you with a puzzle, or someone who did something kind in a puzzly way, let us know!

Maybe you have a favorite local game shop / hobby shop where you meet other puzzlers, or that introduced you to a favorite game. Maybe your local library held an event that piqued your puzzly interest.

Maybe you’d like to give a shoutout to an escape room you think others would enjoy (like I did today), or to a puzzly event, like a scavenger hunt, a tournament, or a how-to solve event.

Or maybe, you’d like to put the spotlight on someone who went above and beyond to make a puzzly experience truly memorable.

You can submit your suggestions for the next Citizen Shoutout on Facebook, on Twitter, or in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you.


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!

New Puzzle Sets for PDCW App and Daily POP Crosswords!

Hello puzzlers and PuzzleNationers! Happy Friday!

We’re excited to announce new puzzle sets for both of our marvelous crossword puzzle apps! Yes, whether you’re a fan of our Penny Dell Crosswords App or our Daily POP Crosswords app, we’ve got something special for you!

First off, we have the Cheers! Deluxe Set for the Penny Dell Crosswords App!

With special themed puzzles and plenty of great puzzles at all difficulty levels for you to enjoy, it’s the perfect way to cap off the end of summer, the start of the school year, or just a pleasant Friday at home!

And for the Daily POP Crosswords users, we have our latest featured set, Out of This World!

Consisting of ten puzzles, all with space-related themes, this puzzle set offers the fresh, pop culture-savvy cluing you’ve come to expect from PuzzleNation, all in ten terrific puzzles collected for your convenience and enjoyment!

Both are available now for in-app purchase, so don’t miss out on these terrific new puzzle bundles!

Happy puzzling, everybody!


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!

Putting the “Daily” Into “Daily POP Crosswords”

One of my favorite features built into the Daily POP Crosswords app is the ability to keep track of the puzzles you’ve solved. The Calendar screen is always a treat, with a special, unique icon appearing on the calendar for every puzzle you’ve completed.

But in addition to those daily icons, there’s also a Streak counter that details both the number of days in a row you’ve solved the daily puzzle and the date your solving streak began.

You can see your streak on the Home screen in the lower left corner (next to your coin total), as well as on the Calendar screen in the upper right corner, on your Profile screen beside your Solver ID, and on your Scores screen at the top of the page.

The app keeps track of your streak even if you haven’t linked it to your Facebook account, just as it keeps track of your daily icons on the Calendar page. (Of course, if you link your FB account to the app, you get bonus coins with which to solve additional puzzles. Hint hint.)

Naturally, watching my own Streak counter rise, only to reset when I accidentally miss a day, makes me wonder… What’s the longest streak amongst Daily POP Crosswords solvers?

I took to social media to ask the PuzzleNation readership, and the top Streak counts that solvers reported hovered between the 50 and 60 day mark. Which is quite impressive! That’s nearly two months without missing a single day!

But, as it turns out, I didn’t have to go far to find the highest Streak count I’ve encountered thus far in my search. How high was the Streak count, you ask?

152!

Yes, one hundred fifty-two days in a row! Nearly five months of solving without missing a day!

This total was amassed by friend of the blog and fellow puzzler Lori, who revealed her impressive puzzly feat to me around the 90-something day mark, and has been dutifully solving ever since!

She sheepishly admitted to me this week that it had slipped her mind to solve on Monday, and she was devastated to have broken her Streak, as she’d been hoping to go a full 365 days.

What do you think about that, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers? Do you have a Daily POP Crosswords Streak that rivals super-solver Lori’s? Let us know where your Streak stands in the comment section below!


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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!

Answers to Our 6th Anniversary Instagram Brain Teasers!

Last week, we celebrated six years of PuzzleNation Blog by announcing a week-long puzzly social media blitz.

Facebook and Twitter saw twice-daily alerts for the puzzle of the day for both Daily POP Crosswords and Penny Dell Crosswords App, cuing solvers to contact us with the answers to particular across and down clues.

Instagram solvers were encouraged to tackle a series of brain teasers, and today, we’ve got all the answers for you! Let’s jump right in.


We started off on Tuesday with this relatively straightforward brain teaser: How can you add eight 4s together so that the total adds up to 500?

We got the most responses to this one, and it’s no surprise, as we have some very crafty followers on Instagram. The trick here is number placement. By grouping 4s, you create larger numbers that make it easier to add to your total.

Solution: 444 + 44 + 4 + 4 + 4 = 500


Wednesday’s puzzle involved placing the numbers 1 through 8 into the grid above. Consecutive numbers cannot appear in an adjacent or diagonal box.

This puzzle was actually created and submitted by a PuzzleNationer named Sanjana, so kudos to you, Sanjana, as you made one heck of a brain teaser!

Here’s the solution. (Using the same numbers in reverse or flipped layout creates four different variations on the same solution.)


Thursday’s brain teaser put your Scrabble and Upwords skills to the test, as we played a round of Quad-Doku! The goal is to play each tile, one at a time, onto the board, forming a new common word (or words) each time. Do this with all 8 tiles in any order. By the end, all four corners will have changed.

This is a nice chain-solving puzzle, and here’s the solution we came up with:

F makes FOUR/FIND, S makes FINS/SEEM, A makes SEAM, B makes FIBS, C makes SCAM, W makes SWAM, L makes FOUL/LOOM, and P makes LOOP/SWAP.


On Friday, we posted a riddle to test your puzzly skills. Once I am 24, twice I am 20, three times I am unclean. What am I?

Solution: The answer is X. It’s the 24th letter of the alphabet, two X’s makes 20 in Roman numerals, and three X’s marks something as inappropriate for some viewers.


Monday brought us our final brain teaser, a matchstick puzzle (or, in this case, a toothpick puzzle). Can you move four toothpicks in order to change the zigzag path into 2 squares? The two squares do not have to be equal in size.

In the image above, we’ve circled the four toothpicks to move.

And here is the completed puzzle, with two squares of unequal size.


How did you do, intrepid solvers? Well, based on the responses we received, pretty darn well! We’ll be reaching out to contest winners later this week!

But in the meantime, we’d like to thank everyone who participated in our PN Blog 6th Anniversary event. You help make this the best puzzle community on the planet, and we are forever grateful.


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!