International Puzzle Day is almost here!

 

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This Sunday, January 29th, is International Puzzle Day (aka National Puzzle Day), a day dedicated to all things puzzly — be it crosswords, jigsaw puzzles, riddles, or other brain teasers — and there are plenty of fun ways you could celebrate.

For instance, last year, we commemorated the day by building a puzzle fort!

puzzlefort

Now, if you don’t have dozens of puzzle books handy, don’t despair! You could bust out an old jigsaw puzzle (or a new one!), try your hand at a Rubik’s cube, or tackle a puzzle you’ve never tried before!

If you’re looking for more of a group activity, you’ve got the Internet at your fingertips. You could find your nearest hobby shop and try out a new puzzle, or track down an Escape Room or Puzzle Hunt event near you!

For instance, I stumbled upon this link for a National Puzzle Day Jigsaw Competition in Mobile, Alabama this Sunday! Race to see who can solve a 1,000 piece jigsaw the fastest!

And that’s just one of dozens of events happening around the country this Sunday.

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Need a place to start? Check the event calendar for your local library! Many libraries host events open to public on days like International Puzzle Day, and you might meet fellow puzzlers in your area!

And if there’s not an event in your area, why not host one? You could host a team puzzle-solving challenge, a scavenger hunt, a crossword contest, or a night of trivia!

This year, we opted to do something a little different, whipping up some puzzly bouquets of Daisy, Flower Power, and other floral puzzles, and handing them out to friends! Just a little way to brighten someone’s day! (This excellent suggestion came from puzzler and friend of the blog Jen Cunningham.)

puzzleflowers

And, hey, if you need something a bit more extreme, you could celebrate like this guy and solve a Rubik’s cube while skydiving!

Now, I won’t be doing that, but that doesn’t mean you can’t.

So, how are you celebrating International Puzzle Day? Let me know! I’d love to hear from you!


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A Legend of Zelda Escape Room? Puzzles Plus Adventure!

[Image courtesy of LaCrosse Escape Room.]

Escape Room puzzles are really pushing new boundaries in terms of themes and storytelling. Horror, post-apocalypse, and other disaster themes are fairly common, and we recently discussed a escape event in Chicago with a monsters-on-the-loose theme.

So I’m definitely not surprised to see media companies getting in on the action. As it turns out, Nintendo has gotten in on the ground floor and will be producing a touring escape-the-room event this year.

The theme: The Legend of Zelda. One of the most beloved video game franchises of all time.

Defenders of the Triforce offers the opportunity for game fans and puzzlers to leap into the vast universe of the Zelda games, exploring, solving puzzles, and becoming an adventure hero just like Link!

Unlike traditional escape-the-room challenges, you’re not locked in a room with only your team. Several teams use the space at the same time to try to solve all the puzzles and “escape,” but each team has its own table to serve as a base of operations. (Though the organizers warn “you will need to get up and explore the game space in order to find all the clues. Write everything down!”)

You have to buy tickets in advance to ensure a spot at one of these events, and teams of six will participate in the game. So you can sign up with friends or sign up on your own and join a team!

[Image courtesy of Zelda.com.]

No specific Zelda game knowledge is required in order to play, but I suspect long-time fans of the Zelda games will get more out of the experience.

These are the dates announced so far:

San Francisco: Jan 31 – Feb 5 (sold out)
Los Angeles: Feb 10 – Mar 12 (sold out)
Phoenix: Feb 15 – Feb 17 (1 date with spaces left)
San Diego: Feb 23 – Feb 25 (sold out)

Further information on events in Seattle, Houston, Chicago, and New York will be announced on January 24th. And be quick on the button, because these things are clearly selling out fast!

This sounds like a perfect matching of video game puzzlers and traditional puzzle solvers, and I can’t wait to hear about the events. I’ll be sure to keep you posted, and if anyone in the PuzzleNation readership is planning on attending, let me know! I’d love to hear from you!

[You can find more details on the event here, along with links to The Legend of Zelda and SCRAP, the escape room team organizing the event.]


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An Escape Room in a Box!

[Image courtesy of Escape Game Addicts.]

Escape rooms have been all the rage lately, as teams of people pit themselves against riddles, puzzles, codes, and other challenges in order to escape a room within a certain amount of time. It’s about as close as you’ll get to being MacGyver or Batman in this life, and it can be great fun.

They’ve been around long enough that themed escape rooms are beginning to emerge. From post-apocalyptic and horror themes to hockey, schools, pirates, and more, escape rooms are constantly innovating to keep solvers on their toes.

So when I heard about an upcoming escape-the-room-style event in Chicago, I had to share it with my fellow puzzlers.

Revolution Brewing Tap Room in Chicago will be hosting Creatures on the Loose on December 28, a creation of The Mystery League, and they’ve put a curious twist on the escape-the-room scenario: everything you’ll need is inside a locked briefcase.

From the announcement on Eventbrite.com:

Ten terrible creatures, each from an alternate dimension, have been let loose to wreak havoc on our town. The culprit’s identity and motives are unknown. Hunters have been on the case, snooping around town and collecting evidence. But they too have vanished, leaving just their locked briefcases behind. You will need to break into the briefcase, find the creatures, and figure out who is causing all this mayhem.

Inside the briefcase you will find all the tools you need to solve the mystery, including (but not limited to): a newspaper, a magic wand, a bible, a calculator, a wallet of money, a pile of stocks, a Wonka bar, a leather strap, a code wheel, a map, and an enigmatic computer.

The idea of an escape room that comes to you is an awesome one, and I hope the Mystery League finds great success with this challenge. (And the winning team gets a round of pints as their prize!)

Tickets start at $29 for a 90-minute event, and that sounds like a great deal for a puzzly experience like this. Let me know if you participate! I’d love to hear about it!


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The Great Puzzle Pursuit: Puzzle Hunting Across the U.S.!

Puzzle hunts are interactive solving experiences that often have you wandering around a certain area as you crack codes, unravel riddles, and conquer puzzles.

Whether you’re working alone or you’ve recruited a team to help with the hunt — perhaps solvers whose skills complement your own or fill a gap in your puzzling ability — it takes puzzles a step further, often making for a memorable puzzle experience, akin to Escape the Room challenges.

We’ve covered some puzzle hunts in the past, like BAPHL or the Trials Evolution hunt. We’ve also explored puzzle hunts that combine aspects of scavenger hunts and physical challenges to create a more physically demanding solving experience, like the Great Urban Race.

But I don’t know that we’ve ever covered something quite on the scale of The Great Puzzle Pursuit.

Instead of one city, you have 15 possible cities to test you. Instead of racing other teams over the course of a day or a weekend, you have a seven-month window of opportunity to test your puzzly mettle.

Intrigued yet? I certainly was, so I reached out to the team behind The Great Puzzle Pursuit to find out more about this ambitious solving experience. Co-creator Jason was kind enough to answer my questions about the event.


What inspired the Great Puzzle Pursuit?

A little background about us first. My wife Amy and I have been frequent participants in events like Warrior Dash, Urban Dare, and various scavenger hunts for the last 10 years. Now that I am older I can tell you that breaking both of my ankles previously ensured that I just cannot run like I used to.

So my wife and I, who are enormous fans of puzzles and the outdoors, tried various geocaching activities. Which we loved, but that is more just hide and seek. Then we went on to try various scavenger hunts and found the challenges to generally be silly tasks as opposed to actual puzzles.

After much research, we just couldn’t find exactly what we were looking for so we decided to make it ourselves, launching in Pittsburgh, PA.

You have 15 cities listed as possible points of entry into this puzzle hunt. What are the logistics involved in creating something of this scope? How many team members do you have running GPP?

The logistics in running multiple simultaneous hunts is somewhat of a challenge. In each city, we choose 7 locations — generally monuments, statues, or unique features — and then weave puzzle elements into these locations. Essentially you will need to solve 7 location puzzles and 7 on-site puzzles to complete your city.

[Glenn’s note: Location puzzles lead you to a location, while on-site puzzles can only be solved once you reach a given location.]

The locations are different but the puzzle elements are identical between cities so we can ensure it is a fair competition. Assuming a team bests their city challenge, all teams across the country share one last Meta puzzle. To date only 4 teams have unlocked this final challenge and now qualify for the cash prize nearing $1,200.

My wife and I are the owners and operators and we have a team of 8 that helps us create the challenges, scope out future locations, etc.

How many groups/competitors are involved right now?

We are nearing 300 teams now, with 4 total finishers [people who have completed a city challenge and the meta puzzle]. Two for Pittsburgh, one from Buffalo, and one from Hartford. All teams have until September 15 to finish so we expect to see a few more by then.

What lessons did you learn from season 1 that have informed this season’s event?

What we learned from season 1 is that people want to be challenged. In season 1 we made a puzzle hunt that was difficult but 50% of all teams completed it.

The vast majority said they wanted it to be even harder! So this year we added that 15th and final national puzzle that only the best of the best will be able to unlock.


Thank you to Jason and Amy for taking the time out to talk to us today! You can find out more about the Great Puzzle Pursuit on their website here and on Twitter here!

And remember, there are 15 possible cities to conquer:

  • Austin, Texas
  • Baltimore, Maryland
  • Boise, Idaho
  • Buffalo, New York
  • Cleveland, Ohio
  • Columbus, Ohio
  • Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
  • Hartford, Connecticut
  • Indianapolis, Indiana
  • New York, New York
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • St. Augustine, Florida
  • Springfield, Massachusetts
  • Washington, D.C.

Let us know if you’re going to accept the Great Puzzle Pursuit challenge in the comments below!


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The Crystal Maze returns!

[Host Richard O’Brien tempts you into testing your mettle in The Crystal Maze.]

Crowdfunding strikes again!

This time around, fan support and puzzly outreach has resurrected The Crystal Maze, a classic puzzly TV show from across the pond.

From 1990 to 1995, contestants would team up to overcome physical and mental obstacles under a tight time limit as they tackled the show’s signature themed zones, including an Aztec one, a medieval one, and an industrial one, earning crystals for every completed puzzle or activity.

Those crystals could then be converted into time allotted to confront the final challenge: the Crystal Maze itself.

The Indiegogo campaign raised nearly double what the team of designers was asking for! But, instead of a TV show, The Crystal Maze is returning as a fully interactive experience for the public, tasking you with completing these challenges yourself.

With the recent popularity explosion of Escape the Room experiences, this seems like a fantastically entertaining next step in immersive puzzle-solving.

[A computer-generated mock-up of the new Aztec zone.]

Not only are there actors to play various roles within each zone, but host Richard O’Brien is returning to “welcome guests in a time-honored fashion.”

Tickets are on sale now for the March 15, 2016, launch of The Crystal Maze experience in London. You can book individually (£50 on weekdays, £60 on weekends), sign up with a full team (8 people), or book an entire session (32 people, since 4 teams can run through each session). Each session runs approximately 90 minutes.

Hopefully you’ll do better than this player:


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(More Than) 5 Questions: Escape the Room edition!

Welcome to a very special edition of 5 Questions!

Usually, 5 Questions is simply that: five individual questions answered by our guest. But this time around, we’ve ditched the 5 Q format in lieu of a more relaxed, conversational interview. I hope you enjoy!


Escape the Room games started as a video-game phenomenon, but have since moved into the real world with great success as teams are tasked with physically finding clues and solving puzzles in order to escape!

[Darcy, right, poses with another solver, complete with
deerstalker and Meerschaum pipe a la Sherlock Holmes.]

Penny Dell Puzzles social media coordinator (and friend of the blog) Darcy recently tackled the challenge posed by Mission Escape Games, and she was gracious enough to take the time out to answer some questions about this intriguing puzzle-solving experience.

So without further ado, let’s get to it in a very special edition of 5 Questions!


So, Darcy, correct me if I’m wrong, but your friend invited you to be locked in a room with her, with only your wits and cunning to help you both escape within a certain amount of time? How did this come about?

As unfavorable as it may seem, it was actually a birthday gift. My husband bought me tickets to Mission Escape Games in NYC, and we went with a group of friends.

Oh, so how many of you could be in a given escape room? (I’m assuming there is more than one.)

There are a few rooms. We had 9 people in our room. Our group was teamed up with another group to find out what happened to Dr. Jekyll before Mr. Hyde showed up.

All the other rooms have other themes, and the owners try to change up the challenges frequently. That’s so people can keep coming back and playing something fresh, but also so others who have played won’t give away the secrets of how to escape

So your group and another team are all in a room together. What does the room look like? Is there someone there to guide you and answer questions, or are you on your own?

You’re on your own! We were told that we had an hour to escape and to look everywhere — and they mean everywhere — for clues. We walked into a small Victorian-era room with a fireplace and other period props and just started searching. We upended tables, took out drawers, you name it.

Many clues didn’t make sense at first, but as the game progressed, we realized every clue was there for a reason. There was also a small TV screen in the corner of the room that very ominously counted down your time.

But as we found out, the TV screen served a dual purpose. We had someone watching us the entire time who would provide clues, if necessary, through the screen.

Can you give us an example of some of the clues you found, and how they made more sense as the game progressed?

Not to give too much away, but we found a key that seemed to have no relevance at first, since it didn’t open the only door in the room. We soon discovered our little room was not as small as it seemed.

Most clues turned out to be more than they seemed at first. There were a lot of puzzles solved by trying to find out what was missing, rather than where something was hiding.

You said that the people running the game could give you clues through the television. Could you elaborate on that?

If we got stuck, we could ask for a hint. At one point, we were all standing over a chess board, befuddled because we knew it needed to come into play, we just didn’t know how. After discussing chess moves for a while, the TV screen showed us a poem using the words “King,” “Queen,” and “Knight.”

This reminded us that much earlier, we had found a deck of cards, so we knew that the deck of cards and the chess board were both necessary to solving that part of the puzzle.

How long did you have to escape?

One hour.

And did you?

Technically, no. But we came so close, our “handler” gave us an extra two minutes to finish.

Do you feel like a bigger or smaller group would have helped more?

You know, at first I wasn’t so sure about working with complete strangers, but by the end of the mission, I felt that every single person contributed in some way.

In my case, the more people present, the more knowledge brought to the table. For instance, I’m terrible with numbers, but others in the group used their very strong math skills to keep us afloat. My strength is in brain teasers and optical illusions, so I could help identify some of the riddles and visual tricks.

So you would definitely go again?

Absolutely! We had such a good time! We made new friends and, despite not escaping in time, we still felt very proud of ourselves.


Many thanks to Darcy for her time and her story about Mission Escape Games! You can check out her social media skills on the Facebook and Twitter accounts for Penny Dell Puzzles!

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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!