PuzzleNation First Look: Letters to Margaret, an interactive puzzle novel

Some of the coolest puzzle experiences of the last decade have come from the team at Lone Shark Games. Not only have they spearheaded numerous puzzle packs connected to various charitable causes, but they also created Puzzlecraft, a one-stop shop for learning how to construct dozens of different puzzles!

Their masterpiece, though, is The Maze of Games, a wonderful story-driven series of puzzles that took literal years to finally be unraveled by dedicated solvers.

These days, The Maze of Games encompasses an audiobook version read by Wil Wheaton, an accompanying radio show full of audio puzzles, a poster map, The Keymaster’s Tome, The Theseus Guide to the Final Maze, and the main book featuring hundreds of pages of story and puzzles detailing the epic adventure of the Quaice siblings and their quest to escape the clutches of the diabolical Gatekeeper. It’s an entire world to explore.

So, when I heard that there was a new narrative puzzle project on the horizon for this talented team, you better believe I was excited.

And that project is going live on Kickstarter today!

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Letters to Margaret is a solvable, double-sided 128-page comic book loaded with crossword puzzles. Yes, there are two overlapping narratives here, exploring the story from two perspectives, each with its own puzzles and insights.

Knowing what they pulled off with The Maze of Games, I’m already psyched to see the final version of Letters to Margaret, but I’m even more intrigued knowing that Lone Shark Games is working with artist Hayley Gold on this project.

Hayley is an incredibly talented artist who previously combined her creative spark with an wry insightful look at the puzzles published in The New York Times in her webcomic series Across and Down. Each comic focused on a particular puzzle, offering a delightful mix of humor, tongue-in-cheek wordplay, and savvy commentary from an experienced solver, discussing themes, crosswordese, and pop culture all in one fell swoop.

Honestly, this is a can’t-miss pairing. Both Hayley and the Lone Shark team have plenty of experience crafting engaging visual narratives, and each brings a keen understanding of puzzles to the table in their own unique ways.

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The first chapter alone opens with a crossword to solve, delves a bit into crossword history, introduces our main characters, and gets the narrative rolling, all with some smartly snarky commentary on college life, modern media, and crossword solvers (and their blogs). It’s a brilliant whirlwind of an opening, and you genuinely won’t want to wait to read (and solve!) the rest of the book.

But you don’t have to wait! We’ve been granted an early look at some of the art for the comic book. One picture is featured above, but here are two more exclusive images! (They are missing any dialogue and the notations from the omniscient commenters that appear throughout the book. But you can’t fault the team for keeping gems like those tucked away for now.)

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But that’s not all!

We’ve also got an exclusive puzzle preview for you to enjoy!

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[Click this link to download a copy of this puzzle!]


You can click here to check out the Kickstarter campaign for Letters to Margaret, which includes information on the puzzles, Hayley’s perspective on the story, and much more!

It’s a really smart, sincere story told from two sides, loaded with top-notch puzzles and a lot of humor and worthwhile commentary. It would be cliche to call it a love letter to crosswords, and incorrect to boot. It’s more like a slyly subversive wink to crosswords and crossword culture through a thoroughly modern lens. I really dig it, and I think you will as well.

Thank you to Mike Selinker, Hayley Gold, Andy Kravis, and the entire Lone Shark Games team for giving us an early look at the project. I think it’ll be a grand success!


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PuzzleNation Book Review: Tetris: The Games People Play

Welcome to another installment of PuzzleNation Book Reviews!

All of the books discussed and/or reviewed in PNBR articles are either directly or indirectly related to the world of puzzling, and hopefully you’ll find something to tickle your literary fancy in this entry or the entries to come.

Let’s get started!

The subject of today’s book review is Box Brown’s graphic novel Tetris: The Games People Play.

[Image courtesy of Macmillan.]

Tetris was a masterpiece right out of the gate. Simple, elegant, and infinitely replayable, it would go on to become one of the most beloved video games in history. And that popularity, that universal charm, sparked a bidding war unlike anything the video game world has ever seen. With secret meetings, dubious contracts, language barriers, and the involvement of the suffocating Soviet regime, it was a recipe for sitcom-style misunderstandings on a global scale.

Tetris: The Games People Play brings the whole ridiculous story to life with immense charm and style. From the creation of Alexey Pajitnov’s delightfully addictive brainchild to the globe-spanning race that ensued as production rights went international, this is a story as convoluted and madcap as it is epic.

Although the drawings accompanying the story are relatively simple, the large cast of characters — from executives and game designers to members of the Soviet government — never feels overwhelming or confusing.

[Image courtesy of DownTheTubes.net.]

Illustrator and author Box Brown brings the story to life with the same panache and colorful style that made his visual biography of Andre the Giant such a warm, enjoyable read. The rounded edges and busy frames help sell both the silliness and chaos of the story, and the mix of yellow, black, and white shading in each illustration harkens back to the earliest days of video games.

(The yellow feels especially inspired, given how easily the story could’ve bogged down in the omnipresent gray tones of Soviet society or the bureaucratic doubletalk that typifies business negotiations.)

Most importantly, Brown never allows readers to lose sight of Alexey’s role as creator and keeper of the faith, a man who, under one of the most oppressive regimes in history, brought to life a game that continues to delight generations of fans.

As entertaining as it is insightful, Tetris: The Games People Play is a fun, fascinating read.

[Tetris: The Games People Play is available in paperback wherever books are sold.]


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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!