Treasures Galore Await Puzzlers in Michigan!

johnny treasure

[Image courtesy of Johnny’s Treasure Quest.]

One famous treasure hunt might finally have ended, but another one has risen up in its place halfway across the country.

And unexpectedly, this new bright spot on the puzzly calendar has grown directly out of the darkness of the ongoing Coronavirus crisis.

I’ll give you the backstory first. J&M Jewelers has been a presence in Washington Township, Michigan, for decades as a local emporium for gold, silver, diamonds, and antiques, but unfortunately the store was forced to close due to the economic strains imposed by the state’s lockdown period.

With plenty of unsold inventory from the jewelry store just sitting around, owner Johnny Perri and his wife Amy came up with an ingenious way to salvage the situation…

A statewide treasure hunt.

Yes, the Perris have prepared actual treasure troves in places all around the state, and they have invited puzzlers and treasure seekers to accept the challenge of their Michigan-spanning “treasure quest.”

If you locate one of the hidden troves — marked by an X, of course — you can either keep the treasure as you find it or exchange it for its cash value with the organizers! How can you go wrong?

There are different quests in different counties on different days, and you need to sign up for your particular quest and pay a registration fee. Also, be sure to join their Facebook group for details.

Several of the quests have already sold out, so new ones have been added, but spots are going quickly!

Honestly, this is a pretty ingenious way to make the best out of a bad situation, allowing intrepid treasure hunters to embark on a puzzly adventure and help out a struggling business all at the same time.

The first of the treasure quests starts on August 1st, with more later in the month and others launching in September. (One was just announced for October as well!)

Good luck to all the aspiring treasure hunters out there. And to Johnny and Amy Perri, thank you for this marvelous puzzly adventure. We here at PuzzleNation wish you and your family all the best.


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The Fun Side of Crosswordese

Crossword.

Anyone who solves crosswords is familiar with some aspect of crosswordese, even if they don’t know it by that name. Crosswordese consists of words that appear frequently in puzzles, but not nearly as often in conversation or common use. My favorite variation on that definition is “words that crop up a lot in grids but are otherwise pretty useless.”

Part of becoming a better solver is building a personal lexicon of crosswordese and common crossword words so you’re not getting tripped up by the same obscurities, peculiarities, and cruciverbalist celebrities that so often occupy those black-and-white grids we enjoy.

Some of these words seem destined to remain obscure. ETUI will most likely never become commonplace. Most people don’t fence, and couldn’t tell an EPEE from a foil or a saber.

Oona-Chaplin

[Image courtesy of Celebs.Infoseemedia.com.]

Others are cyclical. OONA was Chaplin’s wife, until her granddaughter of the same name become a featured player in the first few seasons of Game of Thrones. Similarly, both ELSAS Lancaster and the movie feline have Frozen to thank for that name gaining new life in puzzles these days.

(Here’s hoping there’s a crop of Eastern-European actresses that will storm TV and film soon and breathe new life into clues for ONA, UNA, UTA, and OSA.)

But, for the most part, crosswordese evokes negative feelings. It’s easy to come up with a list of the words that irk us — the ones we’ve never encountered in the real world, or the ones that we simply cannot remember, even after filling them into a dozen grids or more.

But today I’d like to focus on the ones I do enjoy, the strange words I’ve learned through crossword solving and construction that have broadened my vocabulary and sent my mind down unexpected tangents and pathways I would’ve never otherwise wandered through.

edsel

[Image courtesy of Driving.ca.]

EDSEL

It’s amazing how a convenient letter pattern can keep an infamous failure in the minds of solvers decades and decades later. It was only manufactured for two years, and that was SIXTY years ago. And yet, whenever I see “Ford flop” or something similar as a clue, I always smile. It’s universal at this point.

NE’ER

There’s a lot of poetic license — see what I did there? — taken with poetry terms in crosswords, and most of them are well-and-truly overused. But for some reason, NEER ne’er bothers me. In fact, I enjoy seeing it. It probably has to do with “ne’er-do-well,” which is an incredibly fun term to throw around. It’s right up there with “deipnosophist” and “raconteur” as far as descriptive terms that need to make a comeback.

iago

[Image courtesy of Digital Spy.]

IAGO

He was first clued as a master manipulator from the works of Shakespeare, then as a conniving Disney sidekick who slowly turns toward the light over the course of the franchise. In either case, he’s a fascinating character whose handy combination of vowels ensures he’ll be a part of crosswords for years to come.

obiwanobi

[Images courtesy of StarWars.com and Polina Couture.]

OBI

As someone who is both a Star Wars fan and deeply interested in Japanese culture, I always enjoy when OBI makes an appearance in a grid. (More for the former reasons than the latter, if I’m being honest.)

In fact, this blog entry inspired me to search XWordInfo to see when OBI started being clued as part of Obi-Wan Kenobi’s name (twice, which is weird yet lyrical) and not just as a Japanese sash.

Although the character debuted in the first Star Wars film in 1977, his name wasn’t used in The New York Times crossword to clue OBI until 1990!

These are just the first common crossword entries that came to mind. There are a few others, not to mention all of the neat animals — mostly bird-related or African in origin — that crop up in crosswords. KEA and ROC, IBEX and ELAND, OKAPI and RATEL, just to name a few.

But now I turn the subject over to you, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers. What are your favorite common crossword words or bits of crosswordese that appear in grids but don’t irk you? Let us know in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you.


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It Was a Dark and Stormy (and Puzzly) Night…

dark and stormy

Long-time readers know that we often host in-house wordplay contests. Not only do we invite our friends at Penny/Dell Puzzles to participate, but our fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers as well!

This month, the challenge was to pen a Penny/Dell- or puzzle-inspired opening line in a novel!

Participants could create new opening lines from whole cloth or twist a classic opening line in a puzzly direction. Bonus points for any punny references to Penny/Dell puzzles or magazines!

With both text and art submitted, let’s check out what some clever puzzly minds came up with!


Some of our contributors went the parody route, so here are some familiar lines with a puzzly twist!

“Somewhere in La Mancha, in a Number Place whose Crypto-Name I do not care to Remember When, a gentleman lived not long ago.”Don Quick-quote

“All Four One this happened, more or less.”Slaughterhouse-Fancy Fives

“Here & There was no possibility of taking a walk that Daisy.”Jane-saw Square

“I had the story, Brick by Brick, from various people, and, as generally happens in such cases, each Timed Framework it was a different story.”Ethan Fromework


Others chose to craft a new line with puzzle references!

Brick by Brick, the Shadow, Spellbound, Wheels Bits and Pieces to the Crossroads.

***

It’s Your Move: In a Word, How Many Triangles does it take to solve How Many Squares?

***

Chrissie knew that that something was wrong when her Codeword was missing an X: Gerald never made mistakes that affected the basic rules of a puzzle. Something would have to have really affected him deeply for him to miss something like that.

***

“This is where I draw the line,” I said, trying to keep myself from using a few choice words; just because I had family ties with the local diamond mine didn’t mean I was ready to take on their case, but I’m not called the codebreaker for nothing and I knew I had to beat the clock if I was going to come face to face with the man called The Shadow, the one and only.


One intrepid solver submitted a series of opening lines from a fictional puzzle-novel series!

All first sentences were taken from the deluxe slipcase edition “Suddenly, a Shot Rang Out: the Best of Whitslocke’s Puzzling Adventures.”

***

Whitslocke’s mind reeled in shock as she struggled to make sense of the shocking discovery: she had a secret identical twin, but one who preferred Word Seeks to Crosswords!

Whitslocke gasped as she spotted the man in the threadbare suit several tables away from her in the Parisian bar as she realized that the Place Cards inventor must have faked his own death and created a new identity, but why?

Whitslocke saw the Deduction Problem’s answer in the reflection of her Bengal cat’s eye and thought, “My god, the prophesy is coming true!”

Whitslocke was painstakingly filling out her Logic grid when she saw a long shadow appear over her desk as a gravelly voice intoned, “I told you I’d be back.”

Whitslocke had just finished her lunch and her Letterboxes when she heard the thump of a package delivery right outside her door as she wondered, “But I didn’t order anything.”

Whitslocke squinted at the hieroglyphics in the Egyptian tomb, “Why, it looks just like a Cryptograms puzzle: soon all that treasure will be mine!”

Whitslocke took her coffee to her cafe table, sat down, and pulled out her Classic Variety puzzle magazine and a pencil when she heard a cheeky voice murmur, “I thought you’d be more of a Sudoku type, actually.”

Whitslocke despaired over the possibility of never finding her missing framed Logic Art puzzle, when she put on her coat and gloves, opened the door, and saw the most stunning sight imaginable.

Whitslocke returned to her study where she saw her prized macaw reach one talon out to snag her latest Masters Variety magazine and start to drag it into her cage, and thought, “Could he be my secret weapon?”

It was a dark and stormy night as Whitslocke stood at the front of the packed conference hall during the puzzle tournament – suddenly, a shot rang out!


Another solver created the first page (and cover!) of a puzzly children’s book!

gopher1

gopher2


Finally, another contributor tackled perhaps the most famous opening line in literature, and went above and beyond to capture the entire sequence:

A Tale of Two Cities at a Time
by Charles Brick by Brickens

It was the best of Rhyme Times,
it was the worst of Two Times Three,
it was the Camouflage of wisdom,
it was the Mirror Image of Roulette-ishness,
it Beat the Clock of belief,
Around the Block of incredulity,
it was the season of Double Delight,
it was the season of Marquee Malarkey-ness,
it was the spring of Kaleidoscope,
it was the winter of Cross Pairs,
we had Everything’s Relative before us,
we had nothing beFore ‘n’ Aft us,
we were going In All Directions to Heaven,
we were all Coming and Going direct the other way –
in Short Stretch, the period was so far like the present period,
that Some of the Parts of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received,
for Good Deal or for evil,
in the Superscore-lative degree of comparison only.


Did you come up with any puzzly opening lines for novels, fellow puzzler? Let us know in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you.

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A Handful of Puzzly Resources for Constructors!

Crossword.

The internet has really grown the crossword community by leaps and bounds. Puzzlers can share favorite puzzles, reviews, opinions, and feedback with fellow solvers, constructors, editors, and publishers at the touch of a button. With downloadable puzzles, online solving, and puzzle apps (like Daily POP Crosswords!), access to puzzles has never been easier.

Entire forums dedicated to solving and sharing a love of puzzling are cultivating a new generation of solvers and encouraging ambitious new constructors. Twitter is a great place to start, there’s a growing community on r/crossword, and on Facebook, you’ve got both the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament group and the Crossword Puzzle Collaboration Directory to keep you informed and aware of all things crossword.

That’s to say nothing of the fact that both solvers and constructors have greater access to resources than ever before. There are reviewers breaking down the crosswords printed by the major outlets on a daily basis, and blogs like Wordplay exploring how to construct and what words solvers and constructors should know. With searchable databases like XWordInfo out there as well, you can hunt down clues, entries, themes, and a huge chunk of the history of crosswords with ease.

But sadly, not all resources have made their way online, so building a personal library of key volumes to peruse and refer to can help boost your solving and constructing efforts.

So today, I thought I’d share a few of my personal favorite resources that I use when constructing not only crosswords, but all sorts of other puzzles, in the hopes that you find them useful as well.

Your mileage may vary, but to me, these books have been invaluable.


descriptionary

Descriptionary: A Thematic Dictionary (Fourth Edition) by Marc McCutcheon

Word Menu, in either book or online form, has long been the gold standard when it comes to building themed word lists that you can trust to be well-sourced and reliable. But when I need a theme idea, I have much greater luck flipping through the pages of the Descriptionary, a cross-cultural theme listing that covers everything from weather to fashion, medicine to crime.

Searchable by topic in the front and individual words in the index, it’s never difficult to find a list I’ve used before or to zero in on a topic as needed. I ended up buying my own copy after checking out the copy from my local library at least a half-dozen times, and I’ve never regretted it.

rhyming dictionary

The Penguin Rhyming Dictionary by Rosalind Fergusson

Whether I’m cluing, looking for rhymes to support a playful theme, or playing with pronunciation for a particular bit of wordplay, The Penguin Rhyming Dictionary is my go-to resource. It’s absolutely loaded with vocabulary, organized by individual rhyming syllables and patterns (as well as near-rhymes). Just look up your word to rhyme in the back index, and then go work.

cook's essential

The Cook’s Essential Kitchen Dictionary: A Complete Culinary Resource by Jacques Rolland

This book is a tremendous resource, running the gamut from food and equipment to cooking styles and common vernacular. Not only are these definitions informative, complete with preparation instructions and suggested dishes for given ingredients, but they add little touches of culinary history to the mix, offering context and greater detail.

The book also features subsections listing varieties of apples, cheese, salt, pasta shapes, and other ingredients. Whenever I need food-related clues or theme entries, this is my first stop.

Puzzlecraft: How to Make Every Kind of Puzzle by Mike Selinker and Thomas Snyder

If you need a starter guide or just a handy resource to remind you of the essentials for any puzzle you might be rusty on, Puzzlecraft is a self-contained masterclass in puzzle creation. Covering everything from crosswords and Sudoku to logic puzzles and brain teasers, this is the perfect launchpad for any and all aspiring puzzlers and constructors.

Snyder and Selinker break down the fundamentals of dozens of different puzzles, explaining how they work and what pitfalls to avoid when creating your own. Constructing an unfamiliar puzzle for the first time can be overwhelming, and this book can help get you going.

dictionaries

I’m a sucker for weird words and colorful vocabulary, so I thoroughly enjoy constructing any unthemed puzzle that allows me to play with language. And there’s any number of niche dictionaries out there to bolster your puzzle lexicon and spruce up any word list.

Here’s a list of some of my favorites:

  • Mrs. Byrne’s Dictionary of Unusual, Obscure, and Preposterous Words by Josefa Heifetz Byrne
  • Murfles and Wink-a-peeps: Funny Old Words for Kids by Susan Kelz Sperling
  • The Endangered English Dictionary by David Grambs
  • The Word Museum: The Most Remarkable English Words Ever Forgotten by Jeffrey Kacirk
  • Informal English: Puncture Ladies, Egg Harbors, Mississippi Marbles, and Other Curious Words and Phrases of North America by Jeffrey Kacirk
  • The Great Panjandrum (and 2,699 Other Rare, Useful, and Delightful Words and Expressions) by J.N. Hook
  • Stone the Crows: Oxford Dictionary of Modern Slang by John Ayto and John Simpson
  • I Love It When You Talk Retro: Hoochie Coochie, Double Whammy, Drop a Dime, and the Forgotten Origins of American Speech by Ralph Keyes
  • The Meaning of Tingo and Other Extraordinary Words from Around the World by Adam Jacot de Boinod
  • That’s Amore!: The Language of Love for Lovers of Language by Erin McKean
  • Much Ado About English: Up and Down the Bizarre Byways of a Fascinating Language by Richard Watson Todd
  • America in So Many Words: Words That Have Shaped America by David K. Barnhart and Allan A. Metcalf
  • The Highly Selective Dictionary of Golden Adjectives for the Extraordinarily Literate by Eugene Ehrlich
  • Word Catcher: An Odyssey Into the World of Weird and Wonderful Words by Phil Cousineau

(And, although this book isn’t a dictionary, it includes some terrific vocabulary along the way, so it’s worth checking out: Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages by Ammon Shea.)


Hopefully these resources can aid you in your puzzling endeavors as they’ve assisted me many times over. Are there any offline resources I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments section below! I’d love to hear from you.

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Weird Versions of Monopoly, Part 2!

Last week, we ventured on a deep dive into the expansive world of Monopoly. Yes, that most ubiquitous of games that everybody knows. That quintessential board game that comes in many different flavors, but only one texture.

In last week’s post, we strolled up and down the game’s historical timeline, covering curious updates, odd revamps, and truly baffling licensing deals that made for a cavalcade of dice-rolling piece-moving strangeness.

But we restricted ourselves to official releases authorized by either Hasbro or Winning Moves UK. That still leaves a world of unofficial, unauthorized, and third-party variations on Monopoly out there to be covered.

andy mangold monopoly

[Check out this incredibly classy repackaging of Monopoly
by designer and artist Andy Mangold.]

So in part two of this trip down a Marvin Gardens path of peculiarity, we’re casting a wider net and seeing what we catch.

These are the weirdest, least likely, and most envelope-pushing versions of Monopoly I could find. (Oh, and I’m excluding purposely offensive versions, so versions that mention ethnicity or sexuality have been left out of this post.)

Without further ado, let’s enjoy!


anti-monopoly

Anti-Monopoly

Let’s start with perhaps the most famous unofficial version of Monopoly to ever hit shelves. Anti-Monopoly starts where a traditional game ends — with many properties held by a few wealthy entities — and challenges the players to break up the monopolies. Both a smart inversion of the original and an interesting gameplay experience in itself, Anti-Monopoly kicked off an infamous legal battle.

In fact, after two appeals, the inventor was forced to let Parker Brothers buy him out, rather than go bankrupt himself defending his creation. That is the saddest sort of irony.

web-lovers-monopoly

Web Lovers Monopoly

A game that plays like Monopoly but bends some of its classic elements to fit the gimmick, Web Lovers Monopoly replaces properties with websites, including swapping Boardwalk for Yahoo and placing Facebook, Google, and YouTube fairly early on in the board, which makes me wonder when this game was produced.

Also, free parking is now free wireless and jail has been replaced with the real world. Other than mentioning websites and lightly ribbing internet users, I’m not really sure what the point of this game is. If it’s a satire, Monopoly for Millennials had more bite than this.

bibleopoly

BibleOpoly

Using a game representing one of the classic seven deadly sins to teach younger players about the Bible is certainly a curious choice, but hey, we’re not here to judge. (Okay, maybe we are, a little bit.)

In BibleOpoly (a name that does NOT flow off the tongue), players travel through Biblical cities in order to earn the bricks and steeple necessary to build a church. Instead of selfish or greed-fueled acts, you succeed by helping fellow players, making offerings, and doing Community Service (their version of Community Chest), which is nice.

But the less said about The Abyss being listed as a place alongside spots like Nazareth and Bethlehem, the better. Yikes.

photo-opoly

Photo-opoly

Yup, it’s a DIY Monopoly board where you select 22 photos to incorporate into the game. This is actually a cool idea — once you get past the whole “Here, I bought you this, now YOU make it” aspect of the game.

Of course, it makes one wonder about the consequences of making a family version of this game, then having another child, and then that child discovering they’re not included in the family Monopoly game. Or who gets the game in the divorce.

Let’s move on, shall we?

medical monopoly

Medical Monopoly

Yup. The for-profit medical industry in Monopoly form. The first player (er, doctor) to fill their hospital with patients wins.

I feel gross just writing about this game. And that was before I read the instructions:

The object of the game is to introduce and inform young people to the cause and treatment of common physical problems that have a solution known as First Aid. Office Visits to a doctor are also explained for both common and serious problems, giving a better understanding to the patient.

Yeah, they try to pass off this soulless cash-grabbery as a learning experience. ICK.

communist-monopoly

Queue

Now let’s look at a strange version of Monopoly that actually is educational. Queue, the creation of Karol Madj, is set in communist Poland and designed to educate folks on daily life at the time.

Yes, it’s Communist Monopoly. Which is interesting, since Fidel Castro ordered the nationwide destruction of Monopoly games upon taking power in Cuba.

Anyway, the goal of Queue is to line up in an orderly fashion to buy goods and services, including bread. It’s a sobering take on the traditionally cash-flashy game, and one that really immerses you in a different cultural experience.

And like many educational games, it is boring as all get out.

onopo

Onopo

Let’s close out today’s post with a visually fascinating variation of the famous game.

This is Onopo, the minimalist’s approach to Monopoly. An art project by creator Matthew Hollet, Onopo was designed to boil Monopoly down to basics in a visual sense, stripping away the traditional design elements but leaving behind a playable result.

onopo-4-460x460

There’s no geography and virtually no text in the game, but even a cursory glance at the gameboard and the cards reveal just how effective the minimalist approach can be. After a few seconds of confusion, you figure it all out.

onopo-3-460x460

Although Onopo was never commercially released, it’s worth including both for its ambitious design and the statement it makes about branding. In a game that increasingly remains relevant by draping itself in other popular trappings and logos, it becomes less interesting than this bare-bones version of itself.


We hope you enjoyed this two-week trip down the many avenues (and occasional places) that Monopoly has traveled.

Is there a strange or noteworthy version of the game that we missed? Let us know in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you.

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How Much Puzzle Can You Fit on a Single Page?

crossword1

If you’ve ever picked up a puzzle magazine or downloaded a puzzle suite, you can’t help but be impressed by how much puzzle content can be offered in a relatively small space.

Across a half-dozen or dozen pages, you might encounter loads of different puzzly challenges to test you in various ways. Math puzzles, deduction puzzles, trivia, word searches, anagrams, spatial acuity… all of these puzzly disciplines and more could be covered in a single puzzle packet.

But it does make me wonder… what if it was confined to a single page? How much puzzling can you cram onto a single 8.5 x 11 piece of paper?

Let’s start simple.

pn pt puzzle 1-2 image

A single, untouched crossword puzzle. Freshly printed. 15x, probably. Perhaps 17x. Maybe you have a subscription service. Maybe you nabbed a PDF online from any number of talented constructors.

Three or four columns of clues fill the page, along with that pristine grid, waiting patiently for you to start filling in answers.

But there’s still a lot of white space on that page. We can probably fit more puzzle on that page.

Check out this Crostic puzzle, published by our friends at Penny Dell Puzzles:

crostic puzzle

Read the clues, fill in the answers, and then fill in the corresponding letters in the grid below to build some trivia.

Not only is it a straightforward puzzle, but it fills the page nicely, and you’re hardly losing any real estate to explanations or anything other than the puzzle itself.

But I think we can still fit a bit more puzzle onto the page.

rows garden

How about a Rows Garden puzzle, like this one from our friends at Lone Shark Games?

Between that visually impressive grid, the across clues, and all the different bloom clues, that page is starting to fill up nicely.

But can we go further?

Indeed, we can, if we delve into the world of one-page RPGs.

year of one page

[Click here for more details on this bundle.]

Yes, we’re talking about an entire roleplaying game — rules, setting, character details, and gameplay — distilled onto a single piece of paper.

There are all sorts of places to hunt down one-page RPGs to fit whatever kind of game you’d like to play. Sarcastic or serious, fantasy or sci-fi, quick-play or long-form, clever game designers have got you covered.

One of my favorites is Grant Howitt, who creates both longer roleplaying games and one-page games to keep your roleplaying experiences fresh.

Perhaps his greatest creation when it comes to one-page RPGs is a little game called Honey Heist.

honey heist

[That is a LOT of detail jammed into a small space.
Click here for a larger version you can actually read.]

There are two things you need to know in Honey Heist:

1. You and your fellow players are attempting to pull off the greatest heist ever.
2. You are a BEAR.

Yes, in Honey Heist, every player portrays a criminal bear trying to steal a king’s ransom in honey from a honey convention.

Some of my favorite roleplaying moments over the last few months have been in games of Honey Heist. It’s a very silly idea, yes, but also one that allows for strategic gameplay, immersive roleplaying, and memorable experiences. What more could you ask for?


We’re sure there are other puzzles or puzzle experiences that also do an impressive job of condensing a metric ton of puzzling into a single page.

Can you think of any that we missed? Do you have any favorite one-page puzzles or games you’d like to see in the spotlight? Let us know in the comments below! We’d love to hear from you.

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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!