PuzzleNation Blog Looks Back on 2018!

2018 is quickly coming to a close, and as I look back on an eventful year in the world of puzzles and games, I’m incredibly proud of the contributions both PuzzleNation Blog and PuzzleNation made to the puzzle community as a whole.

Over the last year, we explored board games and card games, strategy games and trivia games, dice games and tile games, do-it-yourself puzzlers and pen-and-paper classics. We met game designers, constructors, artists, YouTubers, and creative types of all kinds.

We unraveled math puzzles and diabolical brain teasers. We pondered optical illusions, Internet memes, and more, even questioning our place in the world of puzzles as AI and solving robots continued to rise in capability.

We delved into puzzle history with posts about ancient board games from centuries ago, Edgar Allan Poe’s secret codes, and the legacy of influential female codebreakers and spymasters previously lost to revisionist history like Elizebeth Smith Friedman and the Countess Alexandrine. We brought to light valuable examples of puzzles in art, comic strips, animation, music, television, film, and popular culture.

We spread the word about numerous worthwhile Kickstarters and Indiegogo campaigns, watching as the puzzle/game renaissance continued to amaze and surprise us with innovative new ways to play and solve. We shared worthy causes like Queer Crosswords and Women of Letters, as well as amazing projects like new escape rooms, puzzle experiences like The Enigmatist, online puzzle quests, and long-running unsolved treasure hunts.

We celebrated International TableTop Day, offered up puzzly suggestions for Valentine’s Day, attended the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, and dove deep into an ever-expanding litany of puzzle events like the Indie 500, BosWords, and Lollapuzzoola.

We found puzzly ways to celebrate everything from Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas to Star Wars Day and the anniversary of the Crossword, and we were happy to share so many remarkable puzzly landmark moments with you.

It’s been both a pleasure and a privilege to explore the world of puzzles and games with you, my fellow puzzle lovers and PuzzleNationers. We marked six years of PuzzleNation Blog this year, I’m closing in on my 1000th blog post, and I’m more excited to write for you now than I was when I started.

And honestly, that’s just the blog. PuzzleNation’s good fortune, hard work, and accomplishments in 2018 went well beyond that.

Every month, we delivered quality content for both the Penny Dell Crosswords App and Daily POP Crosswords. Whether it was monthly deluxe sets and holiday bundles for PDCW or the world-class topical puzzles by some of the industry’s best constructors for Daily POP, hundreds of topnotch crosswords wended their way to our loyal and enthusiastic solvers.

And a little more than a week ago, we launched our newest puzzly endeavor — Wordventures: The Vampire Pirate — bringing you a unique, story-driven puzzling experience, complete with gorgeous visuals, atmospheric music, and an immersive mystery to keep you solving!

But whether we’re talking about crosswords, Sudoku, or Wordventures, I’m proud to say that every single puzzle represents our high standards of quality puzzle content crafted for solvers and PuzzleNationers.

And your response has been fantastic! Daily POP Crosswords is thriving, we’re very excited about the response to Wordventures, the blog has over 2300 followers, and with our audience on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other platforms continuing to grow, the enthusiasm of the PuzzleNation readership is both humbling and very encouraging.

2018 was our most ambitious, most exciting, and most creatively fulfilling year to date, and the coming year promises to be even brighter.

Thank you for your support, your interest, and your feedback, PuzzleNationers. The new year looms large, and we look forward to seeing you in 2019!


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Take Puzzles to the Next Level with a Puzzly Experience!

Hey there, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers. It’s the day after Thanksgiving, and naturally, our thoughts turn toward the upcoming holiday season. (Particularly with all the Black Friday advertising!)

Sure, we could use this opportunity to talk about our Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide, which went live Tuesday and features all sorts of marvelous games, puzzles, and products.

We could also talk about our fantastic lineup of apps, from Daily POP Crosswords and the Penny Dell Crosswords App to Penny Dell Sudoku and Classic Word Search. Of course we could do that.

But instead, today we’d like to talk about puzzly experiences.

If you’re looking for an engaging and interactive puzzly adventure to share with the puzzlers in your life, there are all sorts of options available to you.

There are yearly puzzle hunts like BAPHL, the Boston Area Puzzle Hunt League. There are crossword tournaments like Lollapuzzoola and the Indie 500 (plus local ones all over the country!). Murder mystery dinners, scavenger hunts… not only are there places that host all of these, but there are even kits available online that let you host your own!

More Escape Rooms pop up every year — from Breakin Escape Rooms in London to our friends at Escape 101 in Connecticut — and one near you is just a Google search away.

But there’s one particular puzzly experience I want to highlight as an option for you this holiday season.

Magician and crossword constructor David Kwong is launching a one-of-a-kind puzzle experience, The Enigmatist, at the High Line Hotel in New York City during the month of January.

Advertised as “an immersive evening of puzzles, cryptology and illusions,” the show is based on the experiences of William and Elizebeth Friedman’s work at Riverbank, a peculiar hotbed for codebreaking in the early days of the twentieth century.

David is a master at melding the world of puzzles with illusions, magic, and sleight of hand, deftly employing both humor and skill to wow audiences, and I expect he has outdone himself with this show.

The Enigmatist sounds like a unique and amazing puzzly experience, and if you’re interested, you can get tickets here.

For full details, visit the Enigmatist website. I think the show will be something truly special.


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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!

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!

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!

Playing Dungeons & Dragons Like Royalty!

Dungeons & Dragons (or any roleplaying game, for that matter) is about telling a story together. Many Dungeon Masters go above and beyond to immerse players in the roleplaying experience.

Some use miniatures or models atop battlemats to help players visualize the events that are taking place (especially combat). Others use music to set the tone, create atmosphere, or provide dramatic effect.

These little bits of set dressing can be simple or elaborate, but they all contribute to a better roleplaying experience.

Now imagine if you could turn the dial up to 11 and really immerse yourself in your setting. Say, by playing D&D in an actual castle.

That’s the idea behind D&D in a Castle, a special event being held in Challain-la-Potherie, France, from July 1st to the 5th.

Check out the sales pitch:

Spend four days playing Dungeons and Dragons in a castle with world class DMs in a vacation like none you have ever experienced. Retreat into a magnificently restored castle for a spot of luxury, relaxation, and, of course, role-playing.

Yup, a team of professional Dungeon Masters help attendees to build their characters and familiarize themselves with the game before they even walk through the door. And after that, there are two daily RPG sessions and optional ones in the evening.

Over the course of the five days, you are guaranteed to play at least 24 hours of Dungeons & Dragons.

Now THAT is immersion.

With names like Jeremy Crawford (the lead rules developer for D&D) and Satine Phoenix (actress, artist, and DM) involved, this is sure to be a massively creative event, and I am thoroughly envious of anyone and everyone attending.

This will certainly raise the bar for D&D night at the house afterward. Dimming the lights and putting on some mood music will pale in comparison to the palatial spread at Challain-la-Potherie.

Of course, if you’re looking for a more affordable option here in the US, I highly recommend Troll Haven in Sequim, Washington. The Gate Keeper’s Castle is absolutely awesome, and the perfect setting for a LARP, an escape room, or some immersive D&D.

Just be careful if you invite a rogue to the castle, folks. They have sticky fingers.


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!

Kickstarter Roundup!

Oh yes, it’s that time again. For several years now, crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo have been hotbeds of innovative puzzle and game design, and I’m always happy to spread the word about worthy projects that I think will delight and amaze my fellow PuzzleNationers.

So let’s take a look at some projects that are currently seeking funding and see if any pique your interest!


Verwald’s Treasures is a puzzle hunt designed by Nathan Curtis that can be solved either from home or in a live puzzle hunt event held in the Boston area.

Curtis promises that the puzzle hunt will involve over thirty different puzzles, including three-dimensional challenges to really test your puzzly mettle.

For a smaller donation, you’ll receive a number of variety pencil puzzles (unconnected to the puzzle hunt itself), but in order to participate in the hunt itself, pledges start at $60. The campaign is about halfway funded with 22 days to go, and should provide a puzzly challenge outside the norm for solvers accustomed to pencil-and-paper puzzles.

Another puzzle-filled project is The Conjurer’s Almanaq, touted as an escape room in a book. It is a self-contained puzzling experience that will test all sorts of puzzly skills, masquerading as a book of magic. Clearly a great deal of storytelling and homework has gone into this one, including cryptic tales of the great Qdini, who created the book.

Plus this Kickstarter edition of the book will be different from the mass market version to come. Not only will more of the pages be in color, but backers will receive their copy of the book at least a month before the mass market version goes on sale.

This seems like a really intriguing campaign, and it’s already over 200% funded with two weeks to go, so your chances of seeing the campaign come to fruition are already pretty good.

Let’s switch gears from puzzles to games and check out The Mansky Caper, a heist game from Ray Wehrs at Calliope Games.

There are safes to crack, explosives to acquire, loot to hide, and other members of an ambitious mob family to contend with. You can forge alliances with other players too, but be careful… if you press your luck too far, you might just fall victim to an explosive booby trap.

This looks like great fun, and it’s three-quarters of the way funded with over three weeks to go in the campaign.

For a game with more of a social element — heavy on negotiation — there’s Black Hole Council. Every player is a member of council that allocates resources to different planets — and consigns some to destruction in a black hole.

Each player has their own agenda they’d like to advance, and as the role of “leader” passes from player to player, deals are negotiated, bribes are offered, arguments are made, and votes are held to see just how the various planets are arranged. Can you convince your fellow players to make moves that are to your advantage, or will these planets slip from your fingertips?

The game is already funded and chasing stretch goals at this point (with over two weeks to go), and it looks like a nice step up in complexity from other deceit and negotiation games like Coup or The Resistance.

We’ll conclude today’s Kickstarter roundup with a music-minded strategy game, Re-Chord.

In this game, you’re a guitarist pursuing the top of the charts, and you do so by playing actual chords to complete songs and build your level of fame. You can learn music while you play!

The game is 200% funded with over 20 days to go — which means they’re well on their way to funding expansions to the game, additional chord cards, and more — and it seems like a clever mix of music and tactics, the perfect bridge to bring non-gamers to the table.


Have any of these games hooked you? Let us know which ones you’re supporting in the comments section below! And if there are any campaigns you’re supporting that we missed, let us know!

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!