PuzzleNation Product Review: Chicken War

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

The farm is no longer the quiet, idyllic escape you pictured when learning the sounds barnyard animals make. Instead, it has fallen to factional fury and un-cooped combat between various groups of chickens vying for victory. Such is the setting for ThinkFun‘s latest brain-training game, the colorful and crafty tile game Chicken War.

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There are two ways to win Chicken War. You can either be the last player standing or the first player to complete their army. To be the last player standing, your opponents’ leaders must be identified. To be the first player to complete your army, you have to have nine other chickens with two traits in common with your leader.

As you can see, Chicken War’s hybrid style of play combines the player observation of a game like Throw Throw Burrito or Scrimish with the deductive reasoning of a game like Clue.

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Each player is trying to recruit chickens for their army, and must do so in full view of the other players. This means that you have to strategize not only your recruitment process, but how to do so without revealing too much to your opponents. Plus you have to do all that while keeping an eye on your opponents’ efforts to recruit!

First, you select your leader from the ten starting chickens in your yard. Optimally, you’ll pick a leader where many of the other starting chickens already share two traits, which gives you a leg up in building your army.

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You’ll hide your leader token under that particular chicken to mark it, using your screen to do so away from the prying eyes of other players.

Remember, that’s two traits and only two traits in common.

chicken war trait

The four possible traits, as shown above, are weapon, shirt color, eyewear, and footwear. Each trait has three variations. For instance, shirt color can be blue, red, or green. Eyewear can be sunglasses, mask, or none.

(Keep those four traits in mind. Body type, pose, and style of tail are all irrelevant, but can be distracting.)

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As you can see here, the top two chickens have two traits in common: shirt color and eyewear. (Footwear and weapon differ.) The two bottom chickens have three traits in common: shirt color, eyewear, and footwear. Therefore, if 05 and 06 are leaders, 05 has a recruit, but 06 does not.

How do you recruit chickens? By drawing from the discard pile. You either keep the new chicken and discard one of the chickens from your yard, or you immediately discard the new chicken.

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The only other ways to recruit chickens are to use the two special tiles: steal and infiltrate.

Steal lets you take a chicken from another player’s yard and discard one of your unwanted chickens into the discard pile. This not only gives you a new chicken, but leaves your opponent one chicken short. This can be a strategic advantage, because any player with fewer than 10 chickens can’t lob an egg and cannot win the game, even if their remaining chickens all match the leader.

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Infiltrate allows you to swap one of your chickens with one of your opponents’ chickens. That player must then tell you one trait your chicken (the one placed in their yard) has with their leader. If there are no traits in common with the leader, they must tell you that instead. And if you accidentally trade for their leader, they must pick a new leader and start over. So in any case, you gain a new chicken and important knowledge about your opponent’s game.

If multiple players gang up on a single player, the Infiltrate card can prove very dangerous, eventually outing the player’s leader and making them easy pickings for an egg and elimination from the game. (This tactic is more likely to catch new players, as more experienced players would endeavor to repeat the same revealed trait over and over, whenever possible.)

So each turn, you must either draw a chicken from the discard pile or lob an egg.

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Lobbing one of your three eggs means you place your egg on a chicken in another player’s yard that you suspect is their leader. If you’re correct, that player is out.

But if you’re wrong, you lose an egg and have to discard two chickens from your yard, leaving yourself two chickens short of victory. (Also, as we stated before, you can’t win the game or lob an egg with fewer than 10 chickens in your yard.)

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The two methods of winning can often lead to two different styles of gameplay. Either a player focuses on their recruitment, hoping to be the first to complete their army, or they focus on eliminating another player by sussing out who their leader chicken is.

This adds a lot of variety to the game, particularly when it comes to repeat playthroughs. Figuring out your opponents’ tactics can inform your own, and yet, you don’t want to tip your hand.

Once I had one or two playthroughs behind me, I really started getting invested in the gameplay and trying to get into my opponents’ heads. (Also, there’s something delightfully demented about these chickens all being armed with “weapons” we would use to make breakfast from their eggs. That’s a nice touch.)

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Although it makes for a tense, enjoyable one-on-one game, the full potential of Chicken War comes alive with all four players involved. It forces to split your attention, retain a lot of information, and constantly adapt your strategy to an ever-shifting landscape.

As you can see, there’s a surprising amount of thought, strategy, and complexity behind this so-called guessing game, and it makes Chicken War a terrific gateway game to other board games in the same style, but with more complex rulesets or player choices. War is hell, but Chicken War is healthy brain-fueled fun.

[Chicken War is available from ThinkFun and other retail outlets.]


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Answer to the Fiendish Second Conway Puzzle, The Ten Divisibilities!

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Last month, in honor of mathematician and puzzly spirit John Horton Conway, we shared two of his favorite brain teasers and challenged our fellow PuzzleNationers to crack them.

Two weeks ago, we shared the solution to puzzle #1The Miracle Builders, and offered a few hints for puzzle #2, The Ten Divisibilities.

Now that we’ve heard from a few solvers who either conquered or got very close to conquering the second puzzle, we happily share both the solution and how we got there.


The Ten Divisibilities

I have a ten digit number, abcdefghij. Each of the digits is different, and:

  • a is divisible by 1
  • ab is divisible by 2
  • abc is divisible by 3
  • abcd is divisible by 4
  • abcde is divisible by 5
  • abcdef is divisible by 6
  • abcdefg is divisible by 7
  • abcdefgh is divisible by 8
  • abcdefghi is divisible by 9
  • abcdefghij is divisible by 10

What’s my number?

[To clarify: a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, and j are all single digits. Each digit from 0 to 9 is represented by exactly one letter. The number abcdefghij is a ten-digit number whose first digit is a, second digit is b, and so on. It does not mean that you multiply a x b x c x…]

And here are the hints we offered to help:

-If you add all the digits in a number, and the total is divisible by 3, then that number is also divisible by 3.
-If the last two digits of a number are divisible by 4, then that number is divisible by 4.
-If the last three digits of a number are divisible by 8, then that number is divisible by 8.


The solution is 3816547290.

So, how do we get there?

First, we use process of elimination.

Any number divisible by 10 must end in a zero, so j = 0.

Any number divisible by 5 must end in a zero or a five, so e = 5 (because each digit only appears once).

That gives us abcd5fghi0.

But that’s not all we know.

If a number is divisible by an even number, that number must itself be even. So that means b, d, f, and h must all be even numbers (i.e. some combination of 2, 4, 6, and 8). That also means that a, c, g, and i must all be some combination of the remaining odd numbers (1, 3, 7, and 9).

That’s a lot of information that will come in handy as we solve.

So, where to next? Let’s look at one of those even-numbered spots.

We’ve been told that abcd is divisible by 4. But any number is divisible by 4 if the last two digits are divisible by 4. So that means cd is divisible by 4.

So, if c is odd, d is even, and cd is divisible by 4, that limits the possibilities somewhat. cd must be 12, 16, 32, 36, 72, 76, 92, or 96.

So d is either 2 or 6.

That will be helpful in figuring out def. And knowing def is the key to this entire puzzle.


One of the clues we offered in our last post was that if the sum of a number’s digits is divisible by 3, then that number is also divisible by three. We know abc is divisible by 3, so that means a + b + c is also divisible by 3.

And if something is divisible by 6, then it’s also divisible by 3, so a + b + c + d + e + f is divisible by 3.

Here’s where things get a little tricky. Since a + b + c + d + e + f is divisible by 3, and a + b + c is divisible by 3, then when you subtract a + b + c from a + b + c + d + e + f, the result, d + e + f would also be divisible by 3.

Why is that helpful? Because it means we can look at def instead of abcdef, and we know a lot about def right now.

d is either 2 or 6. e is 5. f is either 2, 4, 6, or 8. And the sum of d + e + f is divisible by 3.

So that gives us two possibilities to deal with, either 2 + 5 + f, where the sum is divisible by 3, or 6 + 5 + f, where the sum is divisible by 3.

Since each number is only used once, that’s six possible equations:

  • 2 + 5 + 4 = 11
  • 2 + 5 + 6 = 13
  • 2 + 5 + 8 = 15
  • 6 + 5 + 2 = 13
  • 6 + 5 + 4 = 15
  • 6 + 5 + 8 = 19

Only 258 and 654 have sums divisible by 3, so they’re our two possibilities for def.

We’ll have to try both of them to see which is the correct choice. How do we do that?

Let’s start with the assumption that def is 258.


That would mean our answer is abc258ghi0. We know b and h have to be even numbers, and only 4 and 6 are left as options. Since fewer numbers are divisible by 8 than by 2, let’s look at abc258gh.

One of the other hints we offered was that if the last three digits of a number are divisible by 8, then the whole number is divisible by 8.

So that means if abc258gh is divisible by 8, then 8gh is divisible by 8. That’s much more manageable.

So, f is 8, h is 4 or 6, and g is either 1, 3, 7, or 9. That gives us eight possibilities for 8gh: 814, 834, 874, 894, 816, 836, 876, and 896.

Dividing each of these by 8 reveals only two possible choices: 816 and 896. That means, in this scenario, h is 6, b is 4, and our number is a4c258g6i0.

What’s next? Well, remember that trick we did with abcdef before? We’re going to do it again with abcdefghi.

Any number divisible by 9 is divisible by 3. Our rule of sums tells us that a + b + c + d + e + f + g + h + i is also divisible by 3. And since a + b + c + d + e + f is divisible by 3, subtracting it means that g + h + i is also divisible by 3.

With 816 and 896 as our possibilities for fgh, that means our possibilities for ghi are 16i and 96i. That gives us the following possibilities: 163, 167, 169, 961, 963, 967, where the sum of our answer must be divisible by 3.

  • 1 + 6 + 3 = 10
  • 1 + 6 + 7 = 14
  • 1 + 6 + 9 = 16
  • 9 + 6 + 1 = 16
  • 9 + 6 + 3 = 18
  • 9 + 6 + 7 = 22

963 is the only one that works, which gives us a4c2589630. With only 1 and 7 remaining as options, our possible solution is either 1472589630 or 7412589630.

But, if you divide either 1472589 or 7412589 by 7 — which is faster than running every one of the 10 conditions through a calculator — neither divides cleanly. That means 258 is incorrect.


I know that was a lot of work just to eliminate one possibility, but it was worth it. It means 654 is correct, so our solution so far reads abc654ghi0.

And we can use the same techniques we just employed with 258 to find the actual answer.

We know b and h have to be even numbers, and only 2 and 8 are left as options. Again, since fewer numbers are divisible by 8 than by 2, let’s look at abc654gh.

4gh is divisible is 8. So, f is 4, h is 2 or 8, and g is either 1, 3, 7, or 9. That gives us eight possibilities for 4gh: 412, 432, 472, 492, 418, 438, 478, and 498.

Dividing each of these by 8 reveals only two possible choices: 432 and 472. That means b is 8, and our number is a8c654g2i0.

Now, let’s look at ghi.

With 432 and 472 as our possibilities for fgh, that means our possibilities for ghi are 32i and 72i. That gives us the following possibilities: 321, 327, 329, 721, 723, 729, where the sum of our answer must be divisible by 3.

  • 3 + 2 + 1 = 6
  • 3 + 2 + 7 = 12
  • 3 + 2 + 9 = 14
  • 7 + 2 + 1 = 10
  • 7 + 2 + 3 = 12
  • 7 + 2 + 9 = 18

Okay, that leaves us four possibilities for ghi: 321, 327, 723, and 729.

Stay with me, folks, we’re so close to the end!

Let’s look at our four possibilities:

  • a8c6543210 (79)
  • a8c6543270 (19)
  • a8c6547230 (19)
  • a8c6547290 (13)

Next to each number, I’ve placed the only digits missing in each scenario, two for each.

That means there are only 8 possible ways to arrange the remaining numbers:

  • 7896543210
  • 9876543210
  • 1896543270
  • 9816543270
  • 1896547230
  • 9816547230
  • 1836547290
  • 3816547290

So let’s do what we did last time, and divide each chain at the seventh number by 7.

  • 7896543 / 7
  • 9876543 / 7
  • 1896543 / 7
  • 9816543 / 7
  • 1896547 / 7
  • 9816547 / 7
  • 1836547 / 7
  • 3816547 / 7

Only one of the chains can be cleanly divided by 7, and it’s 3816547.

Which means the solution for abcdefghij is 3816547290.


I know this was a monster of a solve — it rivals our Brooklyn Nine-Nine seesaw puzzle solution in complexity — but it’s one that every one of our fellow PuzzleNationers are capable of puzzling out.

How did you do on this diabolical brain teaser, folks? Let us know in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you!


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A Conway Puzzle Solution (And Some Hints for the Other Puzzle)

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Two weeks ago, in honor of mathematician and puzzly spirit John Horton Conway, we shared two of his favorite brain teasers and challenged our fellow PuzzleNationers.

So today, we happily share the solution for puzzle #1, The Miracle Builders.

I had a window in the north wall of my house. It was a perfect square, 1 meter wide and 1 meter high. But this window never let in enough light. So I hired this firm, the Miracle Builders, who performed the impossible. They remodeled the window so it let in more light. When when they’d finished the window was a perfect square, 1 meter high and 1 meter wide.

How did they do it?

Both windows are perfect squares, 1 meter wide and 1 meter high. So how can there be a difference in the amount of light?

The trick of this puzzle is in the description. Although the original window was a perfect square, the dimensions of the square aren’t 1 meter by 1 meter. No, it was a square placed like a diamond, with one corner directly above its opposite. So the 1 meter dimensions were the diagonals, not the sides.

All the Miracle Builders had to do was build a square window in the usual arrangement (two sides horizontal, two sides vertical) with dimensions of 1 meter by 1 meter. That creates a larger window (with a diagonal of √2m) and allows more light.

Very tricky indeed.


We had several solvers who successfully cracked the Miracle Builders puzzle, but there was less success with puzzle #2, The Ten Divisibilities.

So, in addition to the original puzzle, we’re going to post some solving hints for those intrepid solvers who want another crack at the puzzle.

The Ten Divisibilities

I have a ten digit number, abcdefghij. Each of the digits is different, and:

  • a is divisible by 1
  • ab is divisible by 2
  • abc is divisible by 3
  • abcd is divisible by 4
  • abcde is divisible by 5
  • abcdef is divisible by 6
  • abcdefg is divisible by 7
  • abcdefgh is divisible by 8
  • abcdefghi is divisible by 9
  • abcdefghij is divisible by 10

What’s my number?

[To clarify: a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, and j are all single digits. Each digit from 0 to 9 is represented by exactly one letter. The number abcdefghij is a ten-digit number whose first digit is a, second digit is b, and so on. It does not mean that you multiply a x b x c x…]

Here’s a few hints that should help whittle down the possibilities for any frustrated solvers:

-If you add all the digits in a number, and the total is divisible by 3, then that number is also divisible by 3.
-If the last two digits of a number are divisible by 4, then that number is divisible by 4.
-If the last three digits of a number are divisible by 8, then that number is divisible by 8.

Good luck, and happy puzzling!


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A PuzzleNation First Look: Setka

Making a new puzzle is challenging. You have to strike a balance between established solving styles (those that are familiar and effective) and innovative twists, mechanics, and variations, all without making the puzzle too convoluted, too tedious, too easy, or too hard.

In the world of crosswords, some variant success stories include Double Trouble, cryptic crosswords, Brick by Brick, and diagramless. With Sudoku, there are variants like Extreme Sudoku (aka X-Sudoku or Diagonal Sudoku), Samurai Sudoku, and Word Sudoku.

I’m always on the lookout for new puzzles and variations to try out, so when the folks behind Setka contacted me, I was more than happy to try out their puzzle brand and explore their signature attempt to combine Sudoku and clued-puzzle elements.

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In short, Setka puzzles start with a single word. The consonants of that word not only form the answers to the clues, but also provide the letters to place in the accompanying grid.

For example, if the starting word was INFORM, the key letters would be N, F, R, and M. Every clue answer would feature one or more of those letters. The answer words, like the starting word, ignore the vowels. So you could have answers like NeaR, MoRoN, or MaiNFRaMe. (In the case of duplicate letters, like ReRaN, any duplicates are dropped, so the key letters here would be RN.)

And since there are four letters, there would be an accompanying 4×4 grid for you to fill in, where no letter is repeated in any row or column, Sudoku-style.

To place the letters, the clues are numbered, and the relevant cells in the grid are numbered to match. So, for NeaR (let’s say it’s clue 2), there would be two neighboring cells in the grid with a number 2 in them, and you could place the letters as RN or NR. Words that are three letters or above can read backward, forward, or in an L-shape in the grid.

This mechanic separates Setka from other clued or letter-placement puzzles, because you need both the clue answer AND the Sudoku no-repeats rule in order to complete a grid. Without the clue answers, there can be alternate solves where grid letters swap. And without the Sudoku-style placement, it would be virtually impossible to actually place the answer letters into the grid, because there’s more than one way to do so.

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The cluing style alternates between standard crossword-style clues (but usually longer and a little more conversational or trivia-based) and fill-in-the-blank clues. The clues also fit the theme established by the starting word. For instance, the clues above all have to do with kids, which fits the puzzle’s theme word, CHILD.

It takes time to get used to seeking out answer words from the given consonants (since you have to supply any vowels or duplicate consonants missing in order to come up with the correct answer word), but once you’re a few puzzles in, it becomes second nature and a fun component to the solving experience.

Setka puzzles range in size from 4×4 to 7×7, with its signature size being 5×5. Honestly, 5×5 is really where it becomes a proper puzzle. With a 4×4 grid, once you have a few letters placed, it becomes an elementary logic puzzle and you don’t really need the clues.

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[A selection of Setka sizes and themes.]

The puzzle itself is reminiscent of another puzzle we tried late last year — Cluedoku — but Setka’s letter-based theme and smaller grids make for a far more sustainable puzzle going forward, and the mechanic of placing the words in the grid (rather than just individual letters/numbers) adds an intriguing wrinkle to the solve.

All in all, I enjoyed trying out Setka — I solved a half-dozen or so puzzles to get a feel for different sizes and difficulties — and I think they’ve forged an engaging and clever combination of crossword-style cluing and Sudoku-style solving.

You can try Setka for yourself on their website, either playing interactive versions of Setka on the site or printing and solving PDF copies of Setka puzzles. They also offer a subscription where you can receive a Setka puzzle each week along with news and updates.

What do you think of Setka, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers? Let us know in the comments below! We’d love to hear from you.


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PuzzleNation Product Review: Minecraft Magnetic Travel Puzzle

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

Minecraft is one of the biggest indie video game success stories of the last twenty years. A simple block-style game about building things (and destroying things) is now a multimedia empire, complete with toys, LEGOs, and of course, video games across numerous platforms.

It was only a matter of time before it made the leap to puzzles, and as it turns out, the clever folks at ThinkFun were just the designers to bring Minecraft into a puzzlier world.

Minecraft Magnetic Travel Puzzle pits the player against devious deduction puzzles with elements of the Minecraft universe included. By using the clues provided on each challenge card, the player must arrange three swords, pickaxes, and pieces of armor (all different colors, making nine unique game pieces) on the 3×3 crafting table in a particular pattern.

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Completing the grid is the only way to bypass the ender dragon (who is placing these challenge obstacles in your path) and continue onto the next world in your journey.

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).

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The gameplay itself is all about interpreting the clues provided with each challenge card. Some clues offer hints on where to place pieces according to color, others according to shape. Additional clues center around a given piece’s location on the grid or in relation to another piece.

For instance, in Beginner Challenge #5 in the image below, the solver gets two hints: one about color and the other about the game pieces.

All three of the blue pieces will be placed along the diagonal, according to the first hint. And according to the second hint, a piece of armor will be in the upper right corner and a pickaxe will be in the middle square. Combining these two hints tells us where to place the blue armor and blue pickaxe. And since only one blue gamepiece is left, the blue sword goes in the lower left corner.

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Similarly, the combination of the yellow square in the center of the top row in the first hint and the sword image in the center of the top row in the second hint tells us where to place the yellow sword. Once that’s in place, we look at the remaining sword image on the second hint and know where to place the gray sword.

The gray square in the upper left corner of the first hint and the pickaxe image in the upper left corner of the second hint point to where to play the gray pickaxe (and the yellow pickaxe by process of elimination).

tfmine5

With two game pieces left and one unoccupied yellow square in the first hint, the solver can easily complete this challenge, besting the ender dragon’s latest obstacle and moving forward.

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.

For instance, in Advanced Challenge #25, the negative hints tell us that a gray gamepiece can never be directly below and to the right of a blue gamepiece, or above and to the left of a yellow gamepiece.

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These restrictions will prove to be valuable hints going forward, often telling a savvy solver more about the layout of the crafting table than the regular clues!

By gradually teaching deductive reasoning — slowly introducing new ways to provide information and eliminate possibilities — the solver quickly grasps a key component of strategy and planning: “If this, then that” thinking.

This sort of cause-and-effect observation allows a solver to hold 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. (Just as every Sudoku puzzle is an exercise in deduction, so is every challenge card in Minecraft Magnetic Travel Puzzle.)

Fun for younger solvers and older alike, ThinkFun’s latest deduction puzzle game turns Minecraft into Mindcraft, adding a valuable puzzly tool to the arsenal of every solver.

Minecraft Magnetic Travel Puzzle is available from ThinkFun and certain online retailers.


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Answers to Our Thanksgiving Logic Puzzle

We’re halfway to Christmas already, but remember Thanksgiving? It wasn’t all that long ago, we swear!

We celebrated the holiday by posting a fun little logic puzzle for our fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers. And we’re overdue to post the solution to our little dinner dilemma!

So, without further ado, let’s get to work!


Four girls — Emma, Taylor, Madison, and Morgan — are waiting for the Thanksgiving dinner.

Each is a different age (8, 9, 10, or 11) and looking forward to eating a different Thanksgiving staple (turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, or pumpkin pie).

Can you puzzle out the age and favorite Thanksgiving food of each girl from the clues below?

  • Madison is looking forward to eating turkey.
  • The girl who likes pumpkin pie is one year younger than Morgan.
  • Emma is younger than the girl that loves turkey.
  • The girl who likes stuffing is two years older than Morgan.

So where do we start? Simple. We start with Morgan.

Why Morgan? Because we have two clues connected to her that mention ages, clues 2 and 4.

There is a girl one year younger than Morgan and a girl two years older. Since the ages are 8, 9, 10, and 11, that means Morgan must be 9 years old.

thankspuzzle1

Now let’s look at clue 3. The girl who loves turkey is either age 9 or 10, since we already have foods for the other ages. Emma is younger than that girl. The only way Emma can be younger than age 9 or 10 is to be 8 years old.

So let’s fill that part in.

thankspuzzle2

Sticking with turkey-related clues, we can now look at clue 1. If Madison is the one who likes turkey, she has to be age 10, because that’s the only age in the chart with both the girl’s name and the favorite food uncompleted.

And by process of elimination, that means Morgan likes mashed potatoes and Taylor likes stuffing.

thankspuzzle3

How did you do, fellow puzzlers? Did you solve the logic puzzle in time for turkey dinner? Let us know in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you.


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