Puzzle Romance!

Hello there, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers!

It’s Valentine’s Day, and in lieu of our usual post touting different ideas for celebrating love in a puzzly way — since it’s a bit short-notice for those ideas — we thought we’d share some of our favorite tales of puzzle romance.

(Of course, if you ARE looking for ideas, you’re welcome to click here. Just saying.)

In the past, I’ve had the privilege of reporting on two puzzly proposals that were quite brilliantly facilitated by our friends at Penny Dell Puzzles. Each time, the gentleman in question — both times named Bryan, oddly enough — asked that the proposal be hidden in a favorite puzzle, slipped into one of their puzzle books. The first time, it was Escalators, the second, Simon Says.

Both times, the plans were executed to perfection, and both times, the lovely fiancees-to-be said yes.

(We’ve also previously shared the stories of proposals couched in a game of Monopoly and a Rubik’s Cube.)

But my favorite story of puzzle romance involves two friends of mine who are both devotees of cryptic crosswords. (For the sake of anonymity, I’ll call them Carol and George.)

Carol and George are one of those brilliantly matched couples that makes you smile just thinking of them. Marvelously compatible interests and senses of humor and general weirdness that makes relationships worthwhile.

George had several gifts picked out for Carol, but he wanted to surprise her with a little something extra, a bit of diabolical sweetness only a true puzzle devotee would love.

So, before Carol received each small token of affection, she was given a cryptic crossword (also known as a British-style crossword) clue to solve. Cryptic crossword clues involve both cunning wordplay and a definition. The number after the clue provides the number of letters in the answer word.

[A cryptic crossword by constructors Cox and Rathvon,
courtesy of National Post Cryptic Crossword Forum.]

Here are the clues George created. Hopefully you can figure out the answers just as Carol did!

Really glitchy web address loaded between Tuesday and first of year (5)

Found, amidst mishap, pyramid’s content (5)

Begin tortured existence (5)

Thine enemy, in the end, belonging to us both (5)

Plus, there’s an added bonus: the four five-letter answers, when placed in order, form a phrase.

Hopefully, there will be some wonderful new stories of puzzle romance to come. Maybe even tonight! If you have a story to share, comment below! We’d love to hear it!


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Puzzle Romance!

Valentine’s Day is only a few days away, and a friend who knows I write a weekly puzzle blog asked if I’d be penning anything in particular for the blog regarding the holiday.

I replied that I was working on a post about puzzly ideas for Valentine’s Day gifts and experiences, similar to the post I did last year. And he laughed at the very idea of puzzle romance, the poor fool.

“Sir, how dare you doubt the power of puzzles to sway the heart of someone special!” I bellowed back, caught up in the moment.

I mean, seriously. Does this guy not realize that we’ve featured several wonderful stories of puzzle romance in this blog alone?

Heck, one of my favorite posts last year was about a puzzly proposal that our friends at Penny Dell Puzzles helped orchestrate.

You can get the full story here, but in short, a puzzler in love reached out to PDP for their assistance in hiding his proposal within one of his girlfriend’s favorite puzzles, Escalators. They even did a small print run just for him to camouflage the proposal in a puzzle book!

It was a marvelous team effort, brilliantly executed…oh, and she said yes.

Plus there’s this terrific story about a friend of mine who composed some cryptic-crossword-style clues as part of a gift for his longtime girlfriend. When she solved all of the clues, they spelled out the message “Truly happy being yours.”

There are all sorts of thoughtful and romantic puzzle ideas out there, from a relationship scavenger hunt like the one from Parks and Recreation to this video of a Rubik’s Cube-themed proposal at a speed-solving event:

With a little ingenuity — and maybe some puzzly friends — you can create a unique and wonderful experience for someone you love. Puzzle romance is real, my friends. Just look at this happy couple, united by their mutual love of puzzles:


I wanted to close this post out with a little something for all the puzzlers and PuzzleNationers out there. And with Valentine’s Day coming up, it seemed appropriate to whip up a Matchmaker puzzle for you to solve. Enjoy!

Fill in the missing first letter of each word in the column on the left. Next, look for a related word in the group at the right and put it in the blank in the second column. When the puzzle is completed, read the first letters of both columns in order, from top to bottom, to reveal a romantic song lyric.


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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, like our Valentine’s Day-themed puzzle set!

A New Year’s Eve Countdown!

It’s New Year’s Eve, and we are literally counting down the hours until 2016, so why not celebrate the end of 2015 with a little countdown of our own?

Here are my 10 favorite blog posts from 2015!


#10 Rubik ‘Round the World

One of the most amazing things about the world today is how interconnected we all are. The Internet has made it easily to not only keep in touch with far-flung friends, but to forge new, meaningful friendships and connections with staggering ease.

And I confess, I am a total sucker for those heartwarming clickbait videos that spread the message that we are all the same. (The one of that guy doing the same dance in countries across the world comes to mind.) So seeing people from all over the world solve a Rubik’s Cube one move at a time…what can I say? It got me.

#9 Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide

Every year, one of my favorite activities is putting together our Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide. I get to include the best products sent to me for review by top puzzle and game companies, mix in some of my own favorites, and draw attention to terrific constructors, game designers, and friends of the blog, all in the hopes of introducing solvers (and families of solvers) to quality puzzles and games.

#8 Music and Puzzles

Talking about how puzzles are relevant to daily life is one of my favorite subjects for blog posts. Brain health, stress relief, the long-term benefits of puzzle solving…we’ve discussed all these topics and more during my time as lead blogger.

This year I continued that tradition with this post about how listening to music can make you a more effective solver. It’s always interesting for me to do some research and really delve into a topic — especially scientific ones because they’re often so drastically misreported or misinterpreted by mainstream outlets — and give the PuzzleNation audience the straight story.

#7 The Dress

One of the most bizarre moments of 2015 was when someone shoved their iPhone in my face and asked me what color a dress was. It wasn’t until a few moments later that I found out this was a big thing on the Internet that people were vociferously debating.

The chance to explain exactly what was going on in the photo through one of my favorite puzzly mediums — the optical illusion — was too much fun to resist, and it resulted in one of the year’s most popular, most shared blog posts.

#6 The American Crossword Puzzle Tournament

Although it’s a highlight of the puzzly calendar every year, this year’s ACPT was extra special for me because it was the first I attended in person.

Not only did I get to meet a lot of top names in crosswords — in many cases, finally getting a chance to put names to faces after many emails and tweets exchanged — but I got to enjoy the Big Fight feel of seeing so many friends and puzzlers test their mettle against some great puzzles.

#5 A Puzzly Wedding Proposal

Our friends at Penny Dell Puzzles pulled off one heck of a puzzly coup when an intrepid fellow puzzler asked them for help proposing to his girlfriend with a special Escalators puzzle.

I reached out to the lucky fiancé and got his permission to share the story with the PuzzleNation readership, and as I learned more about who was involved and how they’d managed to make it happen, I just became more and more enamored with the story. I have no doubt that years from now, this will still be one of my favorite blog posts.

#4 Max Reviews the Boston Festival of Indie Games

Guest bloggers are nothing new to PuzzleNation Blog, as Sherri regularly pops in with her app reviews, but Max Galpern pushed things to another level with his appearances throughout the year. Not only did he pioneer our first video review (with assistance from Fred), but he took over the blog for an entire day with his review of the Boston Festival of Indie Games.

Here’s hoping we can get Max back for 2016 a few times, though I suspect he’ll be in high demand.

#3 Will Sudoku

We do a lot of reviews (board game and card game reviews, puzzle reviews, tournament reviews, app reviews, etc.) and I thoroughly enjoy introducing new puzzly products and events to my fellow PuzzleNationers and sharing my thoughts on them.

But it’s rare that we get the first shot at introducing a brand-new never-before-seen puzzle or product, and that’s what separates the Will Sudoku post from many others. Serving as the debut outlet for a new puzzle was great fun and very exciting, one of those rarities that made 2015 such a terrific year.

#2 Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Island Seesaws

Brain teasers were a big part of 2015 for the blog, since several challenging ones went viral this year. But I don’t think any of them taxed my brain — both to solve AND to explain how to solve — like the island seesaw brain teaser from an episode of Fox’s sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine did.

It is an epic-length blog post — one I needed a mathematician friend of mine to help me write — but it broke down a tough puzzle bit-by-bit and explained every step. In a year of brain-melting puzzle posts, it still stands out.

#1 Announcing Free Daily Puzzles for the Penny Dell Crosswords App

I almost put announcing the Android release for the App here instead — because so many people had been asking about it for so long — but in the end, the free daily puzzle announcement won out, and not simply because it was a terrific new feature for the App, one that I feel would draw a lot of new eyes to the product.

Getting to interview Fred and talk about not just what we’ve been working on for years, but where we were headed in the future, made it feel like a special event for the PuzzleNation Team as a whole. Plus it was a chance to introduce all of you to another member of the team, something I hope to do more of in 2016.

It may sound self-serving or schlocky to talk about our flagship product as #1 in the countdown, but it’s something that we’re all extremely proud of, something that we’re constantly working to improve, because we want to make it the absolute best it can be for the PuzzleNation audience. That’s what you deserve.

Thanks for spending 2015 with us, through logic problems and love stories, through dresses and debuts, through Rubik’s Cubes and revelations. We’ll see you in 2016.


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Well, that escalated quickly.

I talk a lot in this blog about the role puzzles have played in history, in our culture, and as touchstones for particular individuals. But it’s far more rare for me to talk about one puzzle in particular that changed someone’s life.

Today, I have the privilege of doing precisely that, because a puzzle crafted by our friends at Penny Dell Puzzles has changed two lives for the better.

One day, a gentleman named Bryan reached out to Penny Dell Puzzles with an audacious proposition: his girlfriend is a big fan of their puzzles and he wanted their help in crafting a special puzzly proposal of marriage!

He supplied ideas for clues and entry words, and a topnotch editor accepted the challenge of crafting a page of Escalators puzzles specially tailored for the occasion.

(For the uninitiated, an Escalators puzzle involves clued entries where a 6-letter word loses a letter and anagrams into a 5-letter word, then loses another letter and is anagrammed into a 4-letter word. Those lost letters end up spelling out words and phrases reading down when each grid is complete.)

So this singular puzzle featured his girlfriend’s name, then his name, and then the fateful question: will you marry me?

And to really cap off the presentation, the puzzle was inserted into an actual puzzle magazine (in a special limited run at the printers), so that our hero could deftly guide her toward the puzzle with her being none the wiser.

It’s an absolutely awesome idea, a testament to puzzly ingenuity, and honestly, just about the cutest proposal story I’ve ever heard.

I’ll let Bryan take it from here, in an email to his fellow collaborators at Penny Dell Puzzles:

I wanted to let you know that I proposed to Erin today with the puzzle and she said yes! It went perfectly. The puzzle looked great in the book and Erin thought nothing of it, thinking it was just another Escalators puzzle.

Once we got about halfway through the puzzle and she saw my name, it became kind of obvious, and once I knew that she knew, I got down on one knee and popped the question.

She was so surprised and blown away she even forgot to say yes and was just asking how I made it happen! She did eventually say yes after a lot of hugging, kissing, and tears, and then we continued to solve the puzzle before making calls to the rest of our family and friends.

Congratulations to Bryan and Erin! I wish them nothing but the best on their journeys to come.

And kudos to our friends at Penny Dell Puzzles for truly going the extra mile for puzzle fans and romantics alike.


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