Behold: The Lemonade Machine!

A Rube Goldberg machine, for the uninitiated, is a device designed to accomplish a simple task in as many unnecessary, ludicrous steps as possible. The name comes, appropriately enough, from Rube Goldberg, a cartoonist and inventor most famous for his cartoons featuring singularly silly and elaborate machines like the one pictured below.

We’ve posted videos of Rube Goldberg machines in the past, because they’re a perfect example of a mechanical puzzle in action. Only when things happen in a precise order does the machine complete its task.

But it turns out that an old friend of the blog — domino master Lily Hevesh, aka Hevesh5 — is now venturing into the world of Rube Goldberg machines.

And her first attempt was a doozy.

Teaming up with five machine-building YouTubers — essentially, videomakers who specialize in chain-reaction mechanical devices — Lily and the group descended upon an AirBnB in San Diego to build a Rube Goldberg machine that would span the entire house!

The Lemonade Machine, as they call it, travels from room to room, utilizing items commonly found in those rooms (silverware and a teapot in the kitchen, for instance) to construct an epic-length chain reaction with everyday household objects.

The end goal? Pouring a glass of lemonade for each member of the build team.

So, how did they do?

They constructed a real mechanical marvel here. It took three days to build, and another day to execute a complete successful run of all of the machine’s components in a single take. The end result was the largest Rube Goldberg device constructed in the United States this year.

Not only that, but Lily documented the entire process, so you can watch both the construction and the many MANY attempts on Falldown Day to achieve a successful run of The Lemonade Machine.

It’s a mind-blowing feat, combining puzzly skill, creativity, patience, and determination, and there’s no denying that they built something truly unique and pretty cool.

I’m gonna go watch it again.


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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!

Delving into the Lollapuzzoola 11 puzzles!

The eleventh edition of Lollapuzzoola arrived, as expected, on a Saturday in August, and it did not disappoint. The largest annual crossword tournament in New York (and the second largest in the world) has become not only one of the highlights of the puzzle calendar, but an institution at this point.

I was not in attendance, but I did sign up for the Solve At Home puzzles. Last weekend, I finally had a chance to sit down and try my hands at this year’s tournament puzzles, and I was not disappointed. Lollapuzzoola continues to push the envelope with inventive themes and unique spins on how to bring crosswords to life. (Although there was nothing as raucous as last year’s De-cat-hlon puzzle that had participants meowing aloud.)

This year’s theme was “Back to School,” so every puzzle had something academic or el-hi about it, and the constructors were clearly inspired in all sorts of ways. Let’s take a look at what they came up with.


Warm-Up: Twinlets by Brian Cimmet

This puzzle felt more like hitting the ground running than warming up, but it definitely got the creative juices flowing. The solver is presented with two identical grids and two sets of clues, and you have to figure out which grid each answer applies to.

This was complicated by the fact that several of the clues were the same for multiple entries. For example, the clue to 1 Across for both grids was “One party in an after-school one-on-one encounter.” The grids themselves also made for a tough solve, since there were several sections only connected by a single word, so you had fewer ins to tell you which answer applied.

Overall, this was a tough but fair way to open up the tournament.

Interesting grid entries included US OPEN, GLAIVE, STEVIA, and CAN IT BE, and my favorite clue was “Fit to finish?” for ATEE.

Puzzle 1: Back to School by Aimee Lucido

The competition puzzles kicked off with this gem — my first Aimee Lucido puzzle, if I recall correctly — a terrific variation on a 17×17 grid with a clever hook. The themed entries had 4-letter colleges hidden backwards inside them (inside shaded boxes), and those colleges reappeared elsewhere in the grid, this time reading the correct way.

With four themed entries and four repeated colleges in a tight space, you could’ve easily had some tough crossings and awkward fill, but instead, the solve was smooth and the grid construction tight. A really great starting puzzle overall.

Interesting grid entries included COSTCO, TAOIST, MALAWI, and AGITATOR, and my favorite clues were “Mac alternative?” for BUB, “Movies, and some comics, but *definitely* not video games, according to some” for CANON, and “Axle attachments that always make me think of the world record holder for the 100-meter dash” for U-BOLTS.

Puzzle 2: Going Off by Erik Agard and Yacob Yonas

The difficulty increased with Puzzle 2, as Yacob Yonas and ACPT champion and speed-demon Erik Agard tested solvers with this diabolical entry. This puzzle’s hook was a familiar phrase where the final letter was replaced by the word “ring” — for instance, LUNCH BUFFET became LUNCH BUFFERING — and this hook was revealed in the final themed entry, SAVED BY THE BELL.

You see, each of those missing letters was “saved,” spelling out the word TEST. Truly a time in school when you’d hope to be saved by the bell. It’s a clever hook, but one that wasn’t easily parsed, at first.

Interesting grid entries included SHINNYING, FEE WAIVER, LIE ABED, and YOU UP?, and my favorite clues were “Sewer’s terminus?” for HEM and “Wood-chopping site” for DOJO, which is on the shortlist for my favorite clue of the year.

Puzzle 3: Subject to Change by Patti Varol

A nice palate cleanser after Puzzle 2, Puzzle 3 featured three pairs of themed entries where common expressions and phrases that ended in school subjects had those subjects swapped. So, for instance, YOU DO THE MATH and MARTIAL ART became YOU DO THE ART and MARTIAL MATH.

This was a really fun solve, and the hook was both challenging but very intuitive. The themed entries were complemented by great fill and a lot of fun, accessible cluing. This easily could’ve slotted in as the first puzzle, but served as an excellent midpoint for the regular tournament puzzles.

Interesting grid entries included TERMINATOR, I DON’T GET IT, GIANNI, and ALL IN ALL, and my favorite clues were “Two out of nine, literally” for ENS and “Result of hitting a certain bar” for SPACE. (Also, points for a quality Simpsons reference with “KWYJIBO” in one of the themed entry clues.)

Puzzle 4: Roll Call by Jeff Chen

This hook took me longer to get than it should’ve — which was the story of my Lollapuzzoola solving experience this year — as parts of an actor’s name were literally inserted into other entries. But the clues only reflected the word without the insert, which added to the challenge. For instance, CONSUMES became CONSUMMATES with MAT inside, but it was clued “Depletes,” so it was up to you to figure out the longer entry.

And which actor was hiding within the themed entries? Well, quite appropriately, it was MAT/THEW/BRO/DER/ICK, who famously played lovable truant Ferris Bueller. Well played, Mr. Chen.

Interesting grid entries included RYDELL (referencing another famous school from a film), SAMOSA, LIP RINGS, and BEER STEIN, and my favorite clues were “Caesarian section?” for VIDI and the pair of “Org. concerned with millions of screens” for TSA and “Organizations concerned with millions of screens?” for TV NETWORKS.

Puzzle 5: Watch Your Tone! by Paolo Pasco

The regular tournament puzzles wrapped up with this 21×21 puzzle, which expanded on the trading-words hook we saw in Puzzle 3. But instead of school subjects, we were treated to the entire musical scale, as seven themed entries shifted letters. For instance, instead of DOCK OF THE BAY (which started with DO, the first note), we had TICK OF THE BAY (featuring TI, the second note).

That DO was swapped down to the next entry, where REMAINS TO BE SEEN became DOMAINS TO BE SEEN, and RE was the note sent down to the next entry. This formed a complete chain by the seventh themed entry, with the eighth themed entry serving as the revealer explaining what was going on in this class: PASSING NOTES.

The trade-off for this fun and ambitious theme was some pretty tough fill entries to make the grid work, but those difficult entries were mitigated somewhat by very solid cluing, making for a challenging, but ultimately fair puzzle.

Interesting grid entries included CD CASES, A JIFF, ELASTICITY, and AERO MEXICO, and my favorite clues were “’Look at that puppy!’” for AWW, “Crossword making, for one” for ART, and “’____, ____, Nanette’ (possible Russian remake of the ‘Tea for Two’ musical” for NYET.

Puzzle 6: Finals by Mike Nothnagel and Doug Peterson

As always, there were two sets of clues for the Finals puzzle, the Local and the more difficult Express clues. No matter which clues you were working with, you were in for a terrific tournament finale.

With two 15-letter entries crossing in the middle to build around, Mike and Doug delivered a tight grid with some terrific filler entries. As for the cluing, it felt like a summation of high school classes, with references to math, foreign languages, Greek mythology, and American history.

(That clue in particular shined in both versions of the puzzle. In the Local Finals, it read “American ship sunk in Havana Harbor… don’t you remember?” and in the Express, it was “Ship in 1898 headlines.” The answer? USS MAINE.)

This was a final puzzle worthy of a tournament built around clever hooks, top-notch construction, and delightful cluing, and it delivered in spades.

Interesting grid entries included HAVE A SNACK, EPIC FAIL, RENAULTS, and MEDEA, and my favorite clues were “Event at which you might stand for a spell?” for BEE and “Ikea’s AROD and KLABB, e.g.” for LAMPS.

There was also a tiebreaker puzzle which kept me guessing for a long while, especially with clues like “Mother’s father’s daughter’s son’s daughter” for NIECE and “’I have to write ____ on my blog tonight, mostly to complain about this atrocious partial in the Lollapuzzoola tiebreaker'” for A POST.


The puzzles at Lollapuzzoola always impress, and this year was no exception. The grids were tight, there was very little crosswordese, and the creative themes and puzzle mechanics — from swapping classes and passing notes to replacing missing letters with “rings” — ensured that not only would fun be had by all, but that the unique puzzles would linger in your memory.

Mission accomplished, and congratulations on the competitors and the organizers who made it all happen. Lollapuzzoola is only getting more creative, more groundbreaking, and more clever with each passing year.

I can’t wait to see what they come up with next year!


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New Puzzle Sets for PDCW App and Daily POP Crosswords!

Hello puzzlers and PuzzleNationers! Happy Friday!

We’re excited to announce new puzzle sets for both of our marvelous crossword puzzle apps! Yes, whether you’re a fan of our Penny Dell Crosswords App or our Daily POP Crosswords app, we’ve got something special for you!

First off, we have the Cheers! Deluxe Set for the Penny Dell Crosswords App!

With special themed puzzles and plenty of great puzzles at all difficulty levels for you to enjoy, it’s the perfect way to cap off the end of summer, the start of the school year, or just a pleasant Friday at home!

And for the Daily POP Crosswords users, we have our latest featured set, Out of This World!

Consisting of ten puzzles, all with space-related themes, this puzzle set offers the fresh, pop culture-savvy cluing you’ve come to expect from PuzzleNation, all in ten terrific puzzles collected for your convenience and enjoyment!

Both are available now for in-app purchase, so don’t miss out on these terrific new puzzle bundles!

Happy puzzling, everybody!


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!

A 5-Letter Word Related to Crossword Skills? Try “Music”

A few years ago, I wrote a post discussing the curious intersection of music and puzzles. It centered around several studies about the effects both listening to music and performing music can have on individuals taking tests or solving puzzles.

There were two intriguing takeaways from these studies:

  • Both adults and children perform better on tests, puzzles, and problem-solving exercises when music is involved (ex.: if they listen to music before or during the test).
  • Children who are given music lessons often achieve greater heights in other subjects, including math and sports.

But it didn’t occur to me until much later that the connection between music and crosswords in particular has been in evidence for quite some time.

There are two 7-time champions in the history of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament: Dan Feyer and Jon Delfin. Think about that. Fourteen out of forty-one ACPT tournaments have been won by one of these men. Practically one out of every three!

And both of them have a musical background as pianists and music directors.

But they’re not the only ones. Constructor Patrick Blindauer, puzzler and actress Whitney Avalon, Lollapuzzoola co-founder Brian Cimmet, and even our own Director of Digital Games Fred Galpern are all musicians.

So what’s the connection between music and crossword puzzles?

No one can say for sure, but there are theories.

In the crossword documentary Wordplay (and quoted from the article linked below), former New York Times Public Editor Daniel Okrent mentioned why he felt that musicians and mathematicians were good fits as crossword solvers:

Their ability to assimilate a lot of coded information instantly. In other words, a piano player like John Delfin, the greatest crossword player of our time, he sits down and he sees three staffs of music and he can instantly play it. He’s taken all those notes and absorbs what they mean, instantaneously. If you have that kind of mind, and you add it to it a wide range of information, and you can spell, you’d be a really great crossword puzzler.

Crossword constructor and psychology professor Arthur Schulman — known for a series of seminars entitled “The Mind of the Puzzler” at the University of Virginia — would agree with that statement. He posited a correlation between word puzzles, math, and music, in that they all involve a quick and intuitive understanding of symbols. It’s about “finding meaning in structure.”

In an interview with the New York Times, Dan Feyer built on this idea, stating that music, math, and puzzles all have pattern recognition in common, quickly recognizing combinations of blanks and spaces and mentally filling in possible answer words, even before reading the clues.

Now, clearly, musical skill and proficiency isn’t required to be a good crossword solver — I’d classify myself as a pretty good solver and I have an almost magical lack of musical talent — but it’s intriguing to ponder how puzzling could easily be wrapped up with a musical bow.

Do you know any other puzzlers with a musical background, or are you a lyrical solver yourself? Let us know in the comments section 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!

A Dollar For Your Thoughts? It’s the Hundred Dollar Puzzle!

[Image courtesy of ColourBox.com.]

That’s right, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers! It’s that time again when we pit our puzzly minds against a fiendish brain teaser and test our mental mettle!

You might’ve seen this brain teaser making the rounds on social media. It’s known as the hundred dollar puzzle, and unlike most brain teasers, this one is less about the puzzle and more about how we got to the solution.

Intrigued? You’re not the only one. Let’s take a look at the brain teaser:

A young man sees a shirt for $97. He borrows $50 from mom and $50 from dad. He buys the shirt and is left with $3 change.

He gives $1 to mom, $1 to dad, and keeps $1 for himself. Now he owes his mom $49 and his dad $49.

$49 + $49 = $98 + his remaining $1 = $99. Where did the other $1 go?

[Image courtesy of CollecTons.]

People love brain teasers like this, because at first glance, and even at second glance, the math SEEMS to hold up.

But the real trick to this one is that it’s asking the wrong question. The other dollar didn’t go anywhere.

The problem here is… as soon as he pays his parents back, it’s no longer about one hundred dollars. It’s about ninety-eight dollars.

Let’s look at total borrowings versus borrowings after paying back his parents. The original specs were:

What he owed: $100
What he had: $3 and a $97 dollar shirt.

But the goalposts changed when he paid his parents back a dollar each. (And if he plans to pay the loan off a dollar at a time, it’s going to take FOREVER for them to get their money back.)

What he now owes: $98
What he has: $1 and a $97 dollar shirt.

The math adds up. Your total borrowings go from $100 to $98 dollars, and you spent $97 dollars and put the extra dollar in your pocket.

So the final equation in the brain teaser is flawed. It’s not $49 + $49 = $98 + his remaining $1 = $99. It’s $49 + $49 = $98 = his remaining $1 and his fancy shirt $97.

[Image courtesy of Ali Express.com.]

Sometimes, brain teasers aren’t about crunching numbers, but finding the logical flaw in the puzzle itself.

We hope you enjoyed unraveling the hundred dollar puzzle, and if you have any brain teasers, riddles, or other puzzly suggestions for mental challenges to conquer, let us know in the comment section 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!