Puzzling From Home!

Problem-solving-crossword

In the wake of puzzly public events like the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament being cancelled, as well as the shutdown of various school districts, workplaces, and businesses in order to limit exposure to the Coronavirus, it’s completely understandable that some puzzle fans may be feeling disappointed or even isolated from their fellow puzzlers.

But fear not! There are all sorts of options available to solvers looking to enjoy a puzzly experience from home, either on their own or with friends.


If you’re looking for crosswords, all you need is your computer. The New York Times, The LA Times, The Washington Post, and many other outlets offer online puzzle-solving, either by subscription or through watching ads before solving.

If you have access to a printer, you can print those puzzles out for the true pencil-and-paper solving experience.

And it’s not just newspapers. Many constructors — Brendan Emmett Quigley comes to mind — offer their own free puzzles semi-regularly (though you’re welcome to tip as a thank you). There is a world of puzzles out there on the Internet awaiting solvers.

But you don’t even have to go to a computer anymore. There are loads of terrific puzzles available right on your phone. Forgive us for tooting our own horn, but Daily POP Crosswords is a great puzzle app with a free puzzle every day and additional puzzle packets available for purchase or through our in-app coin system. (We also offer Word Seeks, Sudoku, and a marvelous story-driven puzzle mystery, Wordventures, if you’re looking for something different.)

Oh, and speaking of something different, if you’re looking to delve into more elaborate puzzles, there are some fantastic puzzle services by mail that offer all sorts of challenges.

enigmasmall

Wish You Were Here by the Enigma Emporium conceals an entire mystery within a handful of postcards, challenging you to mine them for every scrap of information as you uncover a series of coded messages. It’s spycraft in an envelope, very clever stuff.

The Cryptogram Puzzle Post out of the UK offers something unique, mixing puzzles and encryption with bits of mystery and supernatural narratives to create standalone chapters in an ongoing story. So you can pick one season or an entire year, depending on how deep you want to go!

And for multi-month affairs, there are outlets like Hunt a Killer and The Mysterious Package Company, which create vast, immersive puzzle experiences by mail. (Though according to friends’ recommendations, Hunt a Killer works better without the month wait between installments.)

As you can see, there’s a wide variety of ways you can puzzle from home, whether you prefer to solve online, by email, on the phone, or by mail!


That’s all well and good, you might be saying, but what about the social aspect? Well, there are options there as well, even from the comforts of your home.

Photo by Matt MacGillivray, licensed via Creative Commons

Some puzzlers actually livestream their puzzle-solving online through avenues like Twitch, Facebook, and YouTube. The New York Times periodically does this as well, often with celebrity guest solvers!

You can keep your eyes peeled on Facebook and Twitter for constructors and solvers who do so. It often adds a fun, communal element to puzzle-solving (especially if they struggle with the same tricky clues that you do). Some pub trivia outlets are also moving online to allow for participating from home!

new york times

But if you don’t want to wait for someone to livestream their solving, you can do it yourself! Between Facetime and similar apps on smartphones and all the online avenues for audio and video-chatting (Skype, Google Hangouts, Discord, etc.), you could pair up with a friend and tag-team a crossword puzzle or other puzzly challenge!

It’s like co-working, except with puzzles. Co-solving!

In times like this, where uncertainty abounds and our comfortable routines have been upended, puzzles can offer a wonderful refuge from all the stresses of the world. And with technology on our side, we can even keep the communal joys of puzzling in our lives.

Happy puzzling, friends.


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Happy One Year Anniversary, Crossword Puzzle Collaboration Directory!

It’s funny how crosswords can seem like a solitary pursuit — and are often depicted as such in pop culture — and yet, there’s such a sense of camaraderie that comes with being a solver.

I talk a lot about the PuzzleNation community and my fellow PuzzleNationers, or about the puzzle community in general, because it’s one of my favorite aspects of being a puzzle guy.

Whether it’s engaging in a puzzly activity with friends (like an escape room or a D&D adventure), hanging out with fellow puzzlers at events like the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament (registration is open now!), or just teaming up with a pal to crack a particularly devious puzzle or brain teaser, those moments of shared experience are as encouraging as they are welcome.

So it’s very cool to see one of the newer parts of the puzzle community celebrating its one-year anniversary: The Crossword Puzzle Collaboration Directory.

This Facebook group is part gathering place for established and aspiring constructors and part resource for constructors of all skill levels.

Over the last year, people have posted and shared information about everything from grid construction, editing programs, and cluing advice to networking, test-solving, and encouraging feedback.

[Some constructors even offer visual aids when answering questions!]

Inexperienced and aspiring constructors meet and collaborate with established names. Obstacles, problems, and questions are handled with equal care and support. Heck, some constructors have even posted rejection notices they’ve received in order to share the valuable feedback it contains.

And some members of the group have greater ambitions for the Crossword Puzzle Collaboration Directory, hoping to encourage more constructors from underrepresented groups to construct and submit their puzzles, bringing a genuine level of equality and equal representation in the world of puzzles.

It’s a place to learn, to network, to grow, to celebrate one’s successes, and learn from one’s setbacks. One of the regular visitors of the group even managed to cross off one of her New Year’s resolutions last year by submitting a crossword to The New York Times, thanks in part to the resources and support provided by this marvelous group of people.

And that’s definitely something worth celebrating.


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!

Six Years of PuzzleNation Blog (Plus a Contest)!

[Image courtesy of Bogoreducare.org.]

Yes, we’re celebrating today, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers!

We’re celebrating because it is the sixth anniversary of the very first post here on PuzzleNation Blog! Yes, we’ve been on this puzzly journey together since August of 2012, and in my admittedly biased yet humble opinion, it’s been a brilliant one.

In those six years, we’ve published over a thousand posts! (More than nine hundred of them penned by yours truly.) We’ve delved into puzzle history, cracked diabolical brain teasers, marked milestones like the centenary of the crossword, and even rejoiced at puzzly proposals of marriage!

And to celebrate six years of PuzzleNation Blog, we’ve got a week of activities planned for our marvelous readers and fellow puzzlers!

For starters, we’re loading over a hundred new pins to our Pinterest account for your viewing pleasure!

And we’re launching a promotion across all of our social media platforms to celebrate the anniversary. It’s our PuzzleNation 6th Anniversary Contest!

[Image courtesy of Ad Libbing.]

Starting today, and every day for the next five days, we’ll be posting a different brain teaser on Instagram.

Also starting today, keep your eyes peeled on Facebook and Twitter, because each day for the next five days, we’ll be asking for a single answer from that day’s Daily POP Crosswords App puzzle and that day’s Penny Dell Crosswords App puzzle.

(These will be separate from the usual Crossword Clue Challenge posts, and we’ll mark them with “PuzzleNation 6th Anniversary Contest” to distinguish them.)

Message us on FB or Twitter with the answer, or message us on Instagram with the answer to a brain teaser, and you’ll go into a drawing for a terrific prize! (And yes, since there are different brain teasers each day and different answers for each of the two daily puzzles, you can enter multiple times to increase your odds of winning!)

Enjoy the contest, fellow puzzlers. It’s a small thank you for being a part of the PuzzleNation community.


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!

It’s Follow-Up Friday: Carpet Conundrum edition!

Welcome to Follow-Up Friday!

By this time, you know the drill. Follow-Up Friday is a chance for us to revisit the subjects of previous posts and bring the PuzzleNation audience up to speed on all things puzzly.

And in today’s post, I’d like to return to the subject of visual puzzles.

We’re keeping it simple today. In this photo that’s been making the rounds on Facebook and Reddit, can you find the iPhone?

Let us know if you spotted it! It’s tougher than you might think!

Happy Friday!


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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!

Tougher than 99% of solvers? I think not.

A friend on Facebook sent me this link to a quiz that claims being able to solve the following brain puzzles puts your IQ in the Top 1%.

The Top 1% of what, I have no idea. But I digress.

I can’t resist a brain teaser, especially one with such a lofty premise, so I clicked the link and accepted the challenge.

And I feel confident saying that, except for one question, I firmly believe every PuzzleNationer in the audience could conquer these “brain puzzles” effortlessly.

To be fair, I have good reason to feel confident going into this challenge, because the example was the parking lot puzzle we featured on the Blog years ago.

And thus, I clicked and ventured forth into the realm of supposed geniuses.

The first question asked that we count the number of Fs in a sentence, counting on the tendency of people to miss Fs in small words like “of.” No problem here.

The second question offered a brain teaser classic, asking us to count how many squares are in this grid:

[I’m sure you’ve seen this one before.]

The third was a brain teaser, one of those calendar-based ones like “If today is Thursday’s yesterday’s yesterday’s yesterday, how many days away is Friday?” No sweat.

Then there were some optical illusions, visual manipulation, and spacial awareness puzzles, like what would such-and-such look like if this happened. That sort of thing. Easy-peasy.

But then the quiz took a strange turn. It asked what you saw first in a picture containing with several images. (It’s like that picture of the old woman and the young woman, asking which you saw first. It’s a really odd question under the circumstances.)

Then, as advertised, the parking lot puzzle showed up.

The last one was the only real challenge. You were given a six-by-six grid full of symbols — black clubs and spades from playing cards, plus red hearts, diamonds, and squares, some upright, some upside-down — with one square empty. And you had to pick which symbol fit the empty space.

I confess, I haven’t yet cracked this one, but apparently my guess — upside-down spade — was good enough to merit the following response:

Based on this assessment, your intelligence is extremely advanced. You are a genius with a near-perfect IQ. You have an incredible mastery of both analytical AND abstract thought processes. You are very number-orientated and have strong mathematical and logic skills.

And on the other hand, you have a avid imagination and the keen ability to think outside of the box. Your core capacities include mental imagery, spatial reasoning, image manipulation, and strong artistic skills. As evident by this test, you are excellent at solving puzzles. You will most likely succeed in technical, scientific, or mathematical fields.

Now, I understand that most of these quizzes exist to make you feel smart and/or give you something positive to post on Facebook and share with friends and family.

That being said, this is hardly a challenge that would exclude 99% of solvers. In fact, my fellow PuzzleNationers, considering some of the brain teasers we’ve tackled together, I think we’re all justified in posting that victory text on Facebook. I have no doubt that we’ve all earned it.


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PuzzleNation Looks Back at 2015!

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

Over the last year, we explored dice games and tile games, apps and pen-and-paper puzzles. We met designers, constructors, and creative types of all kinds. We cracked brain teasers and tackled mind-bending riddles.

We explored the history of puzzles, broadened our understanding of how puzzles and games contribute to brain health, and celebrated the lives of puzzle greats Bernice Gordon, Henry Hook, Merl Reagle, and Leslie Billig, who were taken from us too soon.

We spread the word about numerous worthwhile Kickstarters and Indiegogo campaigns, watching with glee as a puzzle/game renaissance continued to amaze and surprise us with innovative new ways to play and puzzle.

We celebrated International TableTop Day, the debut of The Indie 500 crossword tournament, a new Star Wars movie, the 80th anniversary of Monopoly, new world records set by Rubik’s Cube solvers, and a puzzly wedding proposal, and we were happy to share so many remarkable puzzly landmark moments with you. Heck, we even solved the mystery of The Dress!

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. I recently posted my 450th blog post, and I’m even more excited to write for you now than I was when I started.

And that’s just the blog. PuzzleNation’s good fortune and accomplishments in 2015 went well beyond that.

In January, we launched the Penny Dell Bible Word Search for iPad, and in March we started our monthly hashtag games. In May, we added Penny Dell Jumbo Crosswords 2 for iOS devices, and July saw the debut of our Crossword Clue Challenge every weekday on Twitter and Facebook.

But the standout showpiece of our puzzle app library has been the Penny Dell Crossword App. With our Dell Collection puzzle sets, our monthly Deluxe puzzle sets, and the 2015 Deluxe Combo (not to mention our various value packs and supreme bundles), we maintained a steady stream of quality puzzle content for solvers and PuzzleNationers.

We added a free daily puzzle feature for all users, and just before Christmas, we launched the Penny Dell Crossword App for Android devices, ensuring that more puzzle lovers than ever have access to the best mobile crossword app on the market today.

[Fred, our Director of Digital Games, shows off the Penny Dell Crossword App
at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in March.]

And your response has been terrific! We amassed over 1500 followers for the blog and we’re closing in on 1700 followers of the PuzzleNation Facebook page, numbers that are both humbling and very encouraging.

2015 was our most productive, most exciting, and most creatively fulfilling year to date, and 2016 promises to be even brighter.

Thank you for your enthusiasm, your support, and your feedback, PuzzleNationers. Have a fantastic New Year. We’ll see you in 2016!


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!