The Great Escape (Room)!

room

For years now, Headless Horseman in Ulster Park, New York, has been one of the premiere haunted houses in the country, complete with hayrides, a corn maze, and hundreds of employees working to surprise and spook you. Celebrated for their immersive storytelling, as well as scares designed to delight and terrify all at once, it’s a Halloween tradition in the Northeast.

But recently, they’ve turned their creative energies toward a more puzzly experience: escape rooms.

This weekend, my siblings and I (plus some friends) tackled one of Headless Horseman’s escape rooms, Houdini’s Workshop, and it was an absolute blast.

houdinis-workshop

Here’s the story behind Houdini’s Workshop, courtesy of the Headless Horseman website:

Houdini, the world’s greatest escape artist and famous magician, made a pact with his wife Bess to try and make contact from beyond the grave upon his death. They also set a deadline by which they would give up and Bess was to move on with her life.

As the hour approaches for the deadline, you and your friends are their last hope. You have one hour to discover the final item so that Bess may make one last attempt to contact her beloved husband.

And so, the ten of us piled into Houdini’s parlor and set out to explore… and there was plenty to explore! Hidden panels, riddles, brain teasers, and red herrings galore, not to mention a plethora of locks that would take cleverness, deduction, and teamwork to crack open.

How did we do? Well, I’m proud to announce that we escaped with 4 minutes, 30 seconds left on the clock. Everyone contributed to the solve, and everyone had a fantastic time.

Now, I can’t give you details on specific puzzles or anything like that, because that would ruin the experience for others who might accept the challenge of Houdini’s Workshop.

But it occurred to me that I could give you suggestions for other ways to exercise your puzzly mind and flex your mental muscles in the real world.

1.) Puzzle Hunts

fantasticrace

[Game Master Bob Glouberman instructs a batch of competitors
in the Fantastic Race. Image courtesy of The LA Times.]

Puzzle hunts are interactive solving experiences that often have you wandering around a certain area as you crack codes, unravel riddles, and conquer puzzles. Some only run at certain times each year as annual events, while others (like the Fantastic Race or the Great Puzzle Pursuit) run for a longer time before being retired.

2.) Murder Mystery Dinners

[Image courtesy of Vancouver Presents.com.]

Murder mystery dinners thrive on the theatricality of the event. Attendees can overhear arguments, catch snippets of banter and exposition as they walk around, and engage characters in conversation to learn more. The more you interact with the story, the better chance you have of solving the mystery, but even passive players will get the big picture.

Some restaurants and nightly cruises run murder mysteries, but there’s a growing trend of people running their own as party events. I ran two in the office last year for fellow puzzlers!

3.) LARPing

LARPing, or Live-Action RolePlaying, takes the fun and imagination of a tabletop roleplaying game like Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, or Legend of the Five Rings, and puts it into the real world.

It might sound a bit bizarre if you’ve never done it, but as a longtime D&D fan, some of my favorite puzzles I’ve ever solved were physical puzzles I encountered during a LARP session.

Whether it’s reassembling a shattered piece of tablet to read the message on it or a mechanical puzzle where a door will only open after I’ve pulled a series of levers in the correct sequence, a tangible puzzle-solving experience gains another dimension of fun and challenge when it’s part of a greater narrative.

In fact, engaging in some of these activities gave me a lot of confidence going into the Houdini’s Workshop escape room. I’d never done an escape room before, but as a veteran of both murder mystery dinners and dungeon romps in Dungeons & Dragons, I was optimistic that my puzzly chops would prove useful.

And I hope my fellow puzzlers get a chance to do the same in the very near future.


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!

PuzzleNation 2015 Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide: By Category

Welcome to the PuzzleNation Blog 2015 Holiday Gift Guide!

We’re overjoyed to have so many tremendously fun and puzzly products to share with you this year. We just might be your one-stop shop for all things puzzly!

This guide is broken down into categories for ease of searching. We have puzzle apps, puzzle books, downloadable puzzles and puzzles by mail, jigsaw puzzles, puzzle games, board games, card games, and party games. We’re sure you’ll find the perfect gift for any puzzler on your list!


Puzzle Apps

Naturally, you’ll forgive us for starting off with a link for a familiar puzzle app!

The Penny Dell Crossword App not only features bundles of terrific puzzle content, but it offers a free daily puzzle to all users! You can check out the full details on the PuzzleNation website!


Puzzle Books

Pencil-and-paper puzzles are alive and well, and we’re happy to share some of our favorites with you.

 

 

Our friends at Penny Dell Puzzles have put together some outstanding holiday collections with puzzles galore to be solved!

Whether it’s the Colossal Grab-a-Pencil Book of Brain Boosters ($10.50, also available with Logic Puzzles!), the Splash of Color Christmas Special (and its sister title, Flying Colors, both $6.99), the Logic Problems Spectacular collecting more than a hundred brain teasing puzzly challenges ($8.99), or their Super Grab-a-Pencil Pocket series — with a crossword edition (pictured above), a Fill-In editiona Sudoku edition, and a Word Seek edition ($7.95 each) — Penny Dell has you covered.

And be sure to check out their deals on Facebook and Twitter for the entire holiday season. 15% off all sorts of puzzle bundles and books!

And for more specialized puzzle books, some high-level constructors have books of their own for your perusal! With New York Times and Los Angeles Times crosswords to their credit, you’re sure to find some puzzlers within these pages!

–Ian Livengood’s Sit & Solve® Sports Crosswords ($5.95)

–Rich Norris’s A-to-Z Crosswords ($8.95)

–Doug Peterson’s Easy ABC Crosswords ($8.95)

–Jeff Chen’s puzzles for bridge enthusiasts ($12.95)

–Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Sit & Solve® Marching Bands ($5.95) and Diagramless Crosswords ($20.98)

–Patrick Blindauer’s Sit & Solve® Quick-As-A-Wink Crosswords ($5.95) and Wide-Screen Crosswords ($8.95)

–Dale Maron’s Pentdoku Puzzles: Volume 1 ($12.95)

The Maze of Games by Mike Selinker

And we simply have to mention one of the most innovative puzzle books released this year, the interactive puzzle novel The Maze of Games! Now going into its second edition, this delightfully challenging read allows solvers to choose their own path through various labyrinths and challenge themselves to dozens of puzzles, this is a one-of-a-kind solving experience. Factor in the Wil Wheaton-read audiobook and Austin Wintory’s soundtrack, and you have a real winner here. ($49.95 in hardcover, $20 in ebook form)

[Click here to check out our full review!]

Collins Little Book of Bananagrams

Are you a Bananagrams fan who’s looking for something to give you an edge? The Collins Little Book of Bananagrams might be just what you need! With a list of puzzle words you might not otherwise think of, suggestions for other games to play with Bananagrams tiles, and techniques for speeding up your gameplay, you’re sure to be Top Banana with this handy guide in your pocket. ($9.95)


Downloadable Puzzles and Puzzles by Mail

Many top constructors and organizations market their puzzles directly to solvers, so between by-mail offers and downloadable puzzle bundles, you’ve got plenty of quality choices!

The Uptown Puzzle Club (puzzle bundles by mail) ($35 for 12 issues)

The Crosswords Club (puzzle bundles by mail, available in both regular and large print; $39.95 for 12 issues, $59.95 for large print)

David Steinberg’s Chromatics (color-themed puzzles)

The American Values Crossword (subscription and daily puzzles) ($20 for 1 year)

–Matt Gaffney’s Weekly Crossword Contest ($26 per year)

–Bassey Godwin’s Will Sudoku (PDF puzzle bundle, full review here!) ($10)


Jigsaw Puzzles

Puzzometry

For a next level jigsaw-style challenge, Puzzometry is tough to top. These beautiful pieces can be combined in seemingly endless combinations, and yet, there’s only one solution. Available as Puzzometry ($16), Puzzometry Jr. ($11), and Puzzometry Squares ($16), you’ve got three distinct challenges appropriate for different ages!

[Check out the full review of Puzzometry by clicking here!]

Tavern Puzzles

These hand-forged beauties are ready to challenge your dexterity and cleverness, as you accept the Tavern Puzzles challenge. Whether you’re trying to free your heart from the tangled pieces of Heart’s Desire or remove the ring from the Iron Maiden, you’re sure to put your skills to the test. ($22)


Puzzle Games

These one- and two-player puzzle games are perfect to train your brain and keep you guessing!

Houdini, Gravity Maze, and Laser Maze Jr. (ThinkFun)

ThinkFun meshes learning and gameplay with three logic games ready to challenge kids and adults alike. Whether it’s the ropes and locks challenging nimble fingers in Houdini ($19.99), the marble-dropping path-building of Gravity Maze ($24.99), or the study of optics and mirrors with an actual laser in Laser Maze Jr. ($29.99), young minds and older minds will soon be in fighting trim for puzzling!

[Check out our full product reviews of Houdini by clicking here, Gravity Maze by clicking here, and Laser Maze Jr. by clicking here!]

Word Winder (David L. Hoyt)

Word Winder (also available in app, puzzle book, and GIANT versions!) is a game of finding chains of hidden words in an ever-changeable grid! Put your strategy and spelling skills to the test! ($19.95)


Board Games

Some of the puzzliest games on the market today are being made by top-flight board game companies, and we’ve got some marvelous games that will appeal to puzzlers of all ages!

Stuff and Nonsense (Cheapass Games)

Many games are about grand adventures, but only Stuff and Nonsense is about pretending to go on grand adventures while scamming your fellow would-be adventurers. Can you sneak around London and gather the props you need for your impressive lie, all while avoiding the fiendishly clever Professor Elemental? Great fun and quick to learn. ($25)

[To check out the full review of Stuff and Nonsense, click here!]

Castellan (Steve Jackson Games)

Build a castle and then occupy it in Castellan, a game of strategy and opportunity. With great modeled pieces that really add to the aesthetic, Castellan has style and substance. ($34.95)

[Check out our full product review here!]

Zip It (Bananagrams)

Bananagrams is already pretty travel-sized, but if you’re looking for a game you can play on an airplane tray table, you need to check out Zip It. This 24-cube game works on Bananagrams rules AND allows you to use the carrying case to keep score! For puzzling in your pocket, you can’t go wrong. ($12.99)

Tsuro: The Game of the Path (Calliope Games)

A path-laying game with tons of style and historical spirit, Tsuro casts up to eight players as flying dragons, and tasks you with laying out your path with special tiles. Your goal is to avoid meeting another dragon or flying off the board. It’s a simple mechanic with plenty of replay value, and perfect for quick games with large groups. ($29.99)

Walk-By Scrabble Board, Lexicographer’s Extended Scrabble, and Drawing Room Scrabble (Hammacher Schlemmer)

Hammacher Schlemmer has several Scrabble variants available, including the Lexicographer’s Extended Scrabble for those with mega-syllabic ambitions ($29.95) and Drawing Room Scrabble for those with swankier taste ($149.95) — not to mention the mindboggling World’s Largest Scrabble Game for $12,000! — but few are as clever or as convenient as the Walk-By Scrabble Board! Designed as a family game for people on the go, it’s a perfect way to bring back Board Game Night for busy families! ($29.95)

[Check out our full product review of the Walk-By Scrabble Board here!]

Qwirkle (MindWare)

A wonderful mix of Uno and Mexican Train Dominoes, Qwirkle is all about placing your tiles to maximize points and minimize helping your opponents. With six bright colors and six different shapes to match up, Qwirkle is endless fun that’s so easy to jump right into! ($34.99)

Tak•tak (Twizmo Games)

If you’re looking for a game that combines the strategy of chess and the mechanics of Upwords, Tak•tak is right up your alley. Score points by stacking and attacking your opponent’s pieces in this game that’s more than meets the eye! ($18.95)

[Check out our full product review of Tak•tak by clicking here!]


Card Games

These card games add a bit of friendly competition to some splendid strategizing for puzzlers of all sorts!

Pairs (Hip Pocket Games)

A simple card game with a lot of strategy behind it, Pairs is about NOT scoring points and avoiding pairing your cards at all costs. With new deck styles arriving all the time — like the Goddesses of Cuisine deck and the Lord of the Fries deck — complete with numerous variant games available, Pairs is a perfect group card game you can pick up quickly. ($10)

Give Me the Brain (Cheapass Games)

In this revamped version of a lesser-known classic, you and your fellow players are zombies running a fast food joint, competing to complete your tasks first. Unfortunately, there’s only one brain for all of you to share. A mix of strategy and luck, Give Me the Brain is the most fun you can having working in fast food, undead or not! ($25)

[Review coming soon!]

The Stars Are Right (Steve Jackson Games)

Build an army of followers and change the stars themselves in The Stars Are Right, a thoroughly enjoyable card game where the goal is summoning an elder god and destroying the world. As you do. ($27.95)

[Check out our full product review here!]

Batman Fluxx, Retro Loonacy, and Just Desserts (Looney Labs)

The folks at Looney Labs are all about games where the rules can change in an instant. They’ve broadened their library of Fluxx card decks with a marvelous Batman-fueled version ($20), as well as putting a new twist on their fast-play matching game with Retro Loonacy ($15)! Plus, you can always put your culinary skills to the test in the deliciously busy Just Desserts! ($18)

[Check out our full product reviews of Batman Fluxx here, Retro Loonacy here, and Just Desserts here, plus reviews for Adventure Time Fluxx and Fluxx Dice here!]

Timeline (Asmodee Games)

Timeline pits your knowledge of history against a growing timeline of important events, inventions, and historical moments. You don’t have to know exact dates; you just need to know if something happened before OR after something else. Was the toothbrush invented before or after the syringe? Which came first, language or agriculture? Timeline is a fast, fun way of learning (or relearning) history! ($14.99)

Adorable Pandaring (Asmadi Games)

We can all agree that pandas are adorable, but in Adorable Pandaring, you only earn points if your pandas are adorable, so you need to change the rules to favor the pandas in your hand. This game might have some mighty cute art, but don’t be fooled — it is all about timing and strategy. ($12)

[Check out the full review of Adorable Pandaring by clicking here!]

Compose Yourself (ThinkFun)

For a card game that’s marvelously musically different, try your hand at Compose Yourself. It’s designed to teach people of all ages the magic of music, and you can use the cards included to compose your own pieces, performed by an actual orchestra! I sincerely doubt you’ve ever seen — or heard — anything like it. ($14.99)

[Check out the full review of Compose Yourself by clicking here!]


Party Games

Some puzzles are best enjoyed in groups, so here are a few fun options for party puzzling!

Schmovie (Galactic Sneeze)

Are you the funniest, punniest one in your group of friends? Find out by playing Schmovie, the party game that pushes you to scribble down the best name for an imaginary movie created on the spot! Now redesigned in a sleeker box and playable by all ages, this is the movie game for everyone. ($19.95)

[Check out our full product review of the original version of Schmovie here!]

ROFL! (Cryptozoic)

Challenge your friends to decode famous movie lines, catchphrases, and song lyrics in Cryptozoic’s game ROFL!, created by Dork Tower‘s John Kovalic! Put your texting and abbreviation skills to the test in this laugh-out-loud party treat! ($35)

[Check out our full product review here!]


Thank you to all of the constructors, designers, and companies taking part in our holiday gift guide!

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!

PuzzleNation 2015 Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide: By Age

Welcome to the PuzzleNation Blog 2015 Holiday Gift Guide!

We’re overjoyed to have so many tremendously fun and puzzly projects to share with you this year. We just might be your one-stop shop for all things puzzly!

This guide is broken down by age group, so we’re sure you’ll find the perfect gift for puzzlers of any age on your list!


For Ages 5 and Up

Laser Maze Jr. (ThinkFun, puzzle game)

Nothing brings home the study of optics and mirrors quite like an actual working laser! In Laser Maze Jr., ThinkFun has redesigned their classic reflective puzzle game, not only making it more accessible for young minds, but safer too! ($29.99)

[Check out our full product review of Laser Maze Jr. by clicking here!]


For Ages 6 and Up

Qwirkle (MindWare, board game)

A wonderful mix of Uno and Mexican Train Dominoes, Qwirkle is all about placing your tiles to maximize points and minimize helping your opponents. With six bright colors and six different shapes to match up, Qwirkle is endless fun that’s so easy to jump right into! ($34.99)

Compose Yourself (ThinkFun, card game)

For a card game that’s marvelously musically different, try your hand at Compose Yourself. It’s designed to teach people of all ages the magic of music, and you can use the cards included to compose your own pieces, performed by an actual orchestra! I sincerely doubt you’ve ever seen — or heard — anything like it. ($14.99)

[Check out the full review of Compose Yourself by clicking here!]


For Ages 7 and Up

Zip It (Bananagrams, board game)

Bananagrams is already pretty travel-sized, but if you’re looking for a game you can play on an airplane tray table, you need to check out Zip It. This 24-cube game works on Bananagrams rules AND allows you to use the carrying case to keep score! For puzzling in your pocket, you can’t go wrong. ($12.99)

Collins Little Book of Bananagrams (puzzle book)

Are you a Bananagrams fan who’s looking for something to give you an edge? The Collins Little Book of Bananagrams might be just what you need! With a list of puzzle words you might not otherwise think of, suggestions for other games to play with Bananagrams tiles, and techniques for speeding up your gameplay, you’re sure to be Top Banana with this handy guide in your pocket. ($9.95)


For Ages 8 and Up

Batman Fluxx, Retro Loonacy, and Just Desserts (Looney Labs, card games)

The folks at Looney Labs are all about games where the rules can change in an instant. They’ve broadened their library of Fluxx card decks with a marvelous Batman-fueled version ($20), as well as putting a new twist on their fast-play matching game with Retro Loonacy ($15)! Plus, you can always put your culinary skills to the test in the deliciously busy Just Desserts! ($18)

[Check out our full product reviews of Batman Fluxx here, Retro Loonacy here, and Just Desserts here, plus reviews for Adventure Time Fluxx and Fluxx Dice here!]

Pairs (Hip Pocket Games, card game)

A simple card game with a lot of strategy behind it, Pairs is about NOT scoring points and avoiding pairing your cards at all costs. With new deck styles arriving all the time — like the Goddesses of Cuisine deck and the Lord of the Fries deck — complete with numerous variant games available, Pairs is a perfect group card game you can pick up quickly. ($10)

Timeline (Asmodee Games, card game)

Timeline pits your knowledge of history against a growing timeline of important events, inventions, and historical moments. You don’t have to know exact dates; you just need to know if something happened before OR after something else. Was the toothbrush invented before or after the syringe? Which came first, language or agriculture? Timeline is a fast, fun way of learning (or relearning history)! ($14.99)

Tsuro: The Game of the Path (Calliope Games, board game)

A path-laying game with tons of style and historical spirit, Tsuro casts up to eight players as flying dragons, and tasks you with laying out your path with special tiles. Your goal is to avoid meeting another dragon or flying off the board. It’s a simple mechanic with plenty of replay value, and perfect for quick games with large groups. ($29.99)

 

Walk-By Scrabble Board, Lexicographer’s Extended Scrabble, and Drawing Room Scrabble (Hammacher Schlemmer, board games)

Hammacher Schlemmer has several Scrabble variants available, including the Lexicographer’s Extended Scrabble for those with mega-syllabic ambitions ($29.95) and Drawing Room Scrabble for those with swankier taste ($149.95) — not to mention the mindboggling World’s Largest Scrabble Game for $12,000! — but few are as clever or as convenient as the Walk-By Scrabble Board! Designed as a family game for people on the go, it’s a perfect way to bring back Board Game Night for busy families! ($29.95)

[Check out our full product review of the Walk-By Scrabble Board here!]

Word Winder (David L. Hoyt, puzzle game)

Word Winder (also available in app, puzzle book, and GIANT versions!) is a game of finding chains of hidden words in an ever-changeable grid! Put your strategy and spelling skills to the test! ($19.95)

Houdini (ThinkFun, puzzle game)

The master escape artist is in your hands in HoudiniTackle dozens of tricky scenarios as your nimble fingers and puzzly wits are pitted against ropes, locks, and other obstacles to Houdini’s freedom! ($19.99)

[Check out our full product review of Houdini by clicking here!]

Tak•tak (Twizmo Games, board game)

If you’re looking for a game that combines the strategy of chess and the mechanics of Upwords, Tak•tak is right up your alley. Score points by stacking and attacking your opponent’s pieces in this game that’s more than meets the eye! ($18.95)

[Check out our full product review of Tak•tak by clicking here!]

Gravity Maze (ThinkFun, puzzle game)

Can you bend gravity to your will? Gravity Maze pits the solver against increasingly difficult puzzles where the goal is to place the towers so that a dropped marble will end up in the red goal square. Can you unravel each maze without losing your marbles? ($24.99)

[Check out our full product review of Gravity Maze by clicking here!]

ROFL! (Cryptozoic, party game)

Challenge your friends to decode famous movie lines, catchphrases, and song lyrics in Cryptozoic’s game ROFL!, created by Dork Tower‘s John Kovalic! Put your texting and abbreviation skills to the test in this laugh-out-loud party treat! ($35)

[Check out our full product review here!]


For Ages 10-12 and Up

Castellan (Steve Jackson Games, board game)

Build a castle and then occupy it in Castellan, a game of strategy and opportunity. With great modeled pieces that really add to the aesthetic, Castellan has style and substance. ($34.95)

[Check out our full product review here!]

Adorable Pandaring (Asmadi Games, card game)

We can all agree that pandas are adorable, but in Adorable Pandaring, you only earn points if your pandas are adorable, so you need to change the rules to favor the pandas in your hand. This game might have some mighty cute art, but don’t be fooled — it is all about timing and strategy. ($12)

[Check out the full review of Adorable Pandaring by clicking here!]

Puzzometry (puzzle game)

For a next level jigsaw-style challenge, Puzzometry is tough to top. These beautiful pieces can be combined in seemingly endless combinations, and yet, there’s only one solution. Available as Puzzometry ($16), Puzzometry Jr. ($11), and Puzzometry Squares ($16), you’ve got three distinct challenges appropriate for different ages!

[Check out the full review of Puzzometry by clicking here!]

Give Me the Brain (Cheapass Games, card game)

In this revamped version of a lesser-known classic, you and your fellow players are zombies running a fast food joint, competing to complete your tasks first. Unfortunately, there’s only one brain for all of you to share. A mix of strategy and luck, Give Me the Brainis the most fun you can having working in fast food, undead or not! ($25)

[Review coming soon!]

The Stars Are Right (Steve Jackson Games, card game)

Build an army of followers and change the stars themselves in The Stars Are Right, a thoroughly enjoyable card game where the goal is summoning an elder god and destroying the world. As you do. ($27.95)

[Check out our full product review here!]

Stuff and Nonsense (Cheapass Games, board game)

Many games are about grand adventures, but only Stuff and Nonsense is about pretending to go on grand adventures while scamming your fellow would-be adventurers. Can you sneak around London and gather the props you need for your impressive lie, all while avoiding the fiendishly clever Professor Elemental? Great fun and quick to learn. ($25)

[To check out the full review of Stuff and Nonsense, click here!]


For Ages 13-14 and Up

The Maze of Games by Mike Selinker (puzzle book)

And we simply have to mention one of the most innovative puzzle books released this year, the interactive puzzle novel The Maze of Games! Now going into its second edition, this delightfully challenging read allows solvers to choose their own path through various labyrinths and challenge themselves to dozens of puzzles, this is a one-of-a-kind solving experience. Factor in the Wil Wheaton-read audiobook and Austin Wintory’s soundtrack, and you have a real winner here. ($49.95 in hardcover, $20 in ebook form)

[Click here to check out our full review!]

Schmovie (Galactic Sneeze, party game)

Are you the funniest, punniest one in your group of friends? Find out by playing Schmovie, the party game that pushes you to scribble down the best name for an imaginary movie created on the spot! Now redesigned in a sleeker box and playable by all ages, this is the movie game for everyone. ($19.95)

[Check out our full product review of the original version of Schmovie here!]

 

Tavern Puzzles (jigsaw puzzles)

These hand-forged beauties are ready to challenge your dexterity and cleverness, as you accept the Tavern Puzzles challenge. Whether you’re trying to free your heart from the tangled pieces of Heart’s Desire or remove the ring from the Iron Maiden, you’re sure to put your skills to the test. ($22)


For Ages 18 and Up

Most puzzle books would probably fall in the Age 9-10 and Up range, but oftentimes, the cluing is geared toward an older audience, so to avoid confusion, I’ve bundled the majority of the puzzle books here.

 

 

Our friends at Penny Dell Puzzles have put together some outstanding holiday collections with puzzles galore to be solved!

Whether it’s the Colossal Grab-a-Pencil Book of Brain Boosters ($10.50, also available with Logic Puzzles!), the Splash of Color Christmas Special (and its sister title, Flying Colors, both $6.99), the Logic Problems Spectacular collecting more than a hundred brain teasing puzzly challenges ($8.99), or their Super Grab-a-Pencil Pocket series — with a crossword edition (pictured above), a Fill-In editiona Sudoku edition, and a Word Seek edition ($7.95 each) — Penny Dell has you covered.

And be sure to check out their deals on Facebook and Twitter for the entire holiday season. 15% off all sorts of puzzle bundles and books!

And for more specialized puzzle books, some high-level constructors have books of their own for your perusal! With New York Times and Los Angeles Times crosswords to their credit, you’re sure to find some puzzlers within these pages!

–Ian Livengood’s Sit & Solve® Sports Crosswords ($5.95)

–Rich Norris’s A-to-Z Crosswords ($8.95)

–Doug Peterson’s Easy ABC Crosswords ($8.95)

–Jeff Chen’s puzzles for bridge enthusiasts ($12.95)

–Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Sit & Solve® Marching Bands ($5.95) and Diagramless Crosswords ($20.98)

–Patrick Blindauer’s Sit & Solve® Quick-As-A-Wink Crosswords ($5.95) and Wide-Screen Crosswords ($8.95)

–Dale Maron’s Pentdoku Puzzles: Volume 1 ($12.95)

And that doesn’t even cover the many great by-mail and downloadable puzzle books and sets available this holiday season!

Many top constructors and organizations market their puzzles directly to solvers, so between by-mail offers and downloadable puzzle bundles, you’ve got plenty of quality choices!

The Uptown Puzzle Club (puzzle bundles by mail) ($35 for 12 issues)

The Crosswords Club (puzzle bundles by mail, available in both regular and large print; $39.95 for 12 issues, $59.95 for large print)

David Steinberg’s Chromatics (color-themed puzzles)

The American Values Crossword (subscription and daily puzzles) ($20 for 1 year)

–Matt Gaffney’s Weekly Crossword Contest ($26 per year)

–Bassey Godwin’s Will Sudoku (PDF puzzle bundle, full review here!) ($10)

And naturally, PuzzleNation offers a terrific puzzle app for the discerning puzzle solver!

The Penny Dell Crossword App not only features bundles of terrific puzzle content, but it offers a free daily puzzle to all users! You can check out the full details on the PuzzleNation website!


Thank you to all of the constructors, designers, and companies taking part in our holiday gift guide!

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!

PuzzleNation 2015 Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide: Grab Bag!

Welcome to the PuzzleNation Blog 2015 Holiday Gift Guide!

We’re overjoyed to have so many tremendously fun and puzzly products to share with you this year. We just might be your one-stop shop for all things puzzly!

This guide is a grab bag of all sorts of puzzle games, card games, puzzle books, party games, and board games, the perfect random assortment for any puzzle fan you need ideas for! We’re sure you’ll find the right gift for any puzzler on your list!


Naturally, you’ll forgive us for starting off with a link for a familiar puzzle app!

The Penny Dell Crossword App not only features bundles of terrific puzzle content, but it offers a free daily puzzle to all users! You can check out the full details on the PuzzleNation website!

And we’ll follow up with some puzzle books before we get into the grab bag of games, puzzles, and other terrific holiday treats!

 

 

Our friends at Penny Dell Puzzles have put together some outstanding holiday collections with puzzles galore to be solved!

Whether it’s the Colossal Grab-a-Pencil Book of Brain Boosters ($10.50, also available with Logic Puzzles!), the Splash of Color Christmas Special (and its sister title, Flying Colors, both $6.99), the Logic Problems Spectacular collecting more than a hundred brain teasing puzzly challenges ($8.99), or their Super Grab-a-Pencil Pocket series — with a crossword edition (pictured above), a Fill-In editiona Sudoku edition, and a Word Seek edition ($7.95 each) — Penny Dell has you covered.

And be sure to check out their deals on Facebook and Twitter for the entire holiday season. 15% off all sorts of puzzle bundles and books!

And for more specialized puzzle books, some high-level constructors have books of their own for your perusal! With New York Times and Los Angeles Times crosswords to their credit, you’re sure to find some puzzlers within these pages!

–Ian Livengood’s Sit & Solve® Sports Crosswords ($5.95)

–Rich Norris’s A-to-Z Crosswords ($8.95)

–Doug Peterson’s Easy ABC Crosswords ($8.95)

–Jeff Chen’s puzzles for bridge enthusiasts ($12.95)

–Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Sit & Solve® Marching Bands ($5.95) and Diagramless Crosswords ($20.98)

–Patrick Blindauer’s Sit & Solve® Quick-As-A-Wink Crosswords ($5.95) and Wide-Screen Crosswords ($8.95)

–Dale Maron’s Pentdoku Puzzles: Volume 1 ($12.95)

And that doesn’t even cover the many great by-mail and downloadable puzzle books and sets available this holiday season!

Many top constructors and organizations market their puzzles directly to solvers, so between by-mail offers and downloadable puzzle bundles, you’ve got plenty of quality choices!

The Uptown Puzzle Club (puzzle bundles by mail) ($35 for 12 issues)

The Crosswords Club (puzzle bundles by mail, available in both regular and large print; $39.95 for 12 issues, $59.95 for large print)

David Steinberg’s Chromatics (color-themed puzzles)

The American Values Crossword (subscription and daily puzzles) ($20 for 1 year)

–Matt Gaffney’s Weekly Crossword Contest ($26 per year)

–Bassey Godwin’s Will Sudoku (PDF puzzle bundle, full review here!) ($10)


And here is our grab bag of puzzle games and products galore!

Compose Yourself (ThinkFun, card game)

For a card game that’s marvelously musically different, try your hand at Compose Yourself. It’s designed to teach people of all ages the magic of music, and you can use the cards included to compose your own pieces, performed by an actual orchestra! I sincerely doubt you’ve ever seen — or heard — anything like it. ($14.99)

[Check out the full review of Compose Yourself by clicking here!]

Zip It (Bananagrams, board game)

Bananagrams is already pretty travel-sized, but if you’re looking for a game you can play on an airplane tray table, you need to check out Zip It. This 24-cube game works on Bananagrams rules AND allows you to use the carrying case to keep score! For puzzling in your pocket, you can’t go wrong. ($12.99)

Batman Fluxx (Looney Labs, card game)

The folks at Looney Labs are all about games where the rules can change in an instant. They’ve broadened their library of Fluxx card decks with a marvelous Dark Knight-fueld version that puts a superheroic twist on the rapid-fire rule changes and ever-shifting objectives of the usual Fluxx fun! ($20)

[Check out our full product review of Batman Fluxx here, plus reviews for other Fluxx variants like Adventure Time Fluxx and Fluxx Dice here!]

The Stars Are Right (Steve Jackson Games, card game)

Build an army of followers and change the stars themselves in The Stars Are Right, a thoroughly enjoyable card game where the goal is summoning an elder god and destroying the world. As you do. ($27.95)

[Check out our full product review here!]

Word Winder (David L. Hoyt, puzzle game)

Word Winder (also available in app, puzzle book, and GIANT versions!) is a game of finding chains of hidden words in an ever-changeable grid! Put your strategy and spelling skills to the test! ($19.95)

Pairs (Hip Pocket Games, card game)

A simple card game with a lot of strategy behind it, Pairs is about NOT scoring points and avoiding pairing your cards at all costs. With new deck styles arriving all the time — like the Goddesses of Cuisine deck and the Lord of the Fries deck — complete with numerous variant games available, Pairs is a perfect group card game you can pick up quickly. ($10)

Tak•tak (Twizmo Games)

If you’re looking for a game that combines the strategy of chess and the mechanics of Upwords, Tak•tak is right up your alley. Score points by stacking and attacking your opponent’s pieces in this game that’s more than meets the eye! ($18.95)

[Check out our full product review of Tak•tak by clicking here!]

The Maze of Games by Mike Selinker (puzzle book)

And we simply have to mention one of the most innovative puzzle books released this year, the interactive puzzle novel The Maze of Games! Now going into its second edition, this delightfully challenging read allows solvers to choose their own path through various labyrinths and challenge themselves to dozens of puzzles, this is a one-of-a-kind solving experience. Factor in the Wil Wheaton-read audiobook and Austin Wintory’s soundtrack, and you have a real winner here. ($49.95 in hardcover, $20 in ebook form)

[Click here to check out our full review!]

Tsuro: The Game of the Path (Calliope Games, board game)

A path-laying game with tons of style and historical spirit, Tsuro casts up to eight players as flying dragons, and tasks you with laying out your path with special tiles. Your goal is to avoid meeting another dragon or flying off the board. It’s a simple mechanic with plenty of replay value, and perfect for quick games with large groups. ($29.99)

ROFL! (Cryptozoic, party game)

Challenge your friends to decode famous movie lines, catchphrases, and song lyrics in Cryptozoic’s game ROFL!, created by Dork Tower‘s John Kovalic! Put your texting and abbreviation skills to the test in this laugh-out-loud party treat! ($35)

[Check out our full product review here!]

Puzzometry (puzzle game)

For a next level jigsaw-style challenge, Puzzometry is tough to top. These beautiful pieces can be combined in seemingly endless combinations, and yet, there’s only one solution. Available as Puzzometry ($16), Puzzometry Jr. ($11), and Puzzometry Squares ($16), you’ve got three distinct challenges appropriate for different ages!

[Check out the full review of Puzzometry by clicking here!]

Castellan (Steve Jackson Games)

Build a castle and then occupy it in Castellan, a game of strategy and opportunity. With great modeled pieces that really add to the aesthetic, Castellan has style and substance. ($34.95)

[Check out our full product review here!]

Schmovie (Galactic Sneeze, party game)

Are you the funniest, punniest one in your group of friends? Find out by playing Schmovie, the party game that pushes you to scribble down the best name for an imaginary movie created on the spot! Now redesigned in a sleeker box and playable by all ages, this is the movie game for everyone. ($19.95)

[Check out our full product review of the original version of Schmovie here!]

 

Walk-By Scrabble Board, Lexicographer’s Extended Scrabble, and Drawing Room Scrabble (Hammacher Schlemmer, board games)

Hammacher Schlemmer has several Scrabble variants available, including the Lexicographer’s Extended Scrabble for those with mega-syllabic ambitions ($29.95) and Drawing Room Scrabble for those with swankier taste ($149.95) — not to mention the mindboggling World’s Largest Scrabble Game for $12,000! — but few are as clever or as convenient as the Walk-By Scrabble Board! Designed as a family game for people on the go, it’s a perfect way to bring back Board Game Night for busy families! ($29.95)

[Check out our full product review of the Walk-By Scrabble Board here!]

Laser Maze Jr. (ThinkFun, puzzle game)

Nothing brings home the study of optics and mirrors quite like an actual working laser! In Laser Maze Jr., ThinkFun has redesigned their classic reflective puzzle game, not only making it more accessible for young minds, but safer too! ($29.99)

[Check out our full product review of Laser Maze Jr. by clicking here!]

Retro Loonacy (Looney Labs, card game)

If you’re looking for a fast-play combination of Memory and Slapjack with a lot more options, then Retro Loonacy is for you! It’s a manic pattern-matching good time for groups of all sizes, now revamped with a stylish retro theme! ($15)

[Check out our full product review of Retro Loonacy here!]

Collins Little Book of Bananagrams (puzzle book

Are you a Bananagrams fan who’s looking for something to give you an edge? The Collins Little Book of Bananagrams might be just what you need! With a list of puzzle words you might not otherwise think of, suggestions for other games to play with Bananagrams tiles, and techniques for speeding up your gameplay, you’re sure to be Top Banana with this handy guide in your pocket. ($9.95)

Houdini (ThinkFun, puzzle game)

The master escape artist is in your hands in HoudiniTackle dozens of tricky scenarios as your nimble fingers and puzzly wits are pitted against ropes, locks, and other obstacles to Houdini’s freedom! ($19.99)

[Check out our full product review of Houdini by clicking here!]

Just Desserts (Looney Labs, card game)

Put your culinary skills to the test in the deliciously busy Just Desserts! Can you cobble together the perfect dessert treats for your hungry customers before the other players, or will you be feasting on humble pie instead? ($18)

[Check out our full product review of Just Desserts here!]

Stuff and Nonsense (Cheapass Games, board game)

Many games are about grand adventures, but only Stuff and Nonsense is about pretending to go on grand adventures while scamming your fellow would-be adventurers. Can you sneak around London and gather the props you need for your impressive lie, all while avoiding the fiendishly clever Professor Elemental? Great fun and quick to learn. ($25)

[To check out the full review of Stuff and Nonsense, click here!]

Adorable Pandaring (Asmadi Games)

We can all agree that pandas are adorable, but in Adorable Pandaring, you only earn points if your pandas are adorable, so you need to change the rules to favor the pandas in your hand. This game might have some mighty cute art, but don’t be fooled — it is all about timing and strategy. ($12)

[Check out the full review of Adorable Pandaring by clicking here!]

Gravity Maze (ThinkFun, puzzle game)

Can you bend gravity to your will? Gravity Maze pits the solver against increasingly difficult puzzles where the goal is to place the towers so that a dropped marble will end up in the red goal square. Can you unravel each maze without losing your marbles? ($24.99)

[Check out our full product review of Gravity Maze by clicking here!]

 

Tavern Puzzles (jigsaw puzzles)

These hand-forged beauties are ready to challenge your dexterity and cleverness, as you accept the Tavern Puzzles challenge. Whether you’re trying to free your heart from the tangled pieces of Heart’s Desire or remove the ring from the Iron Maiden, you’re sure to put your skills to the test. ($22)

Give Me the Brain (Cheapass Games, card game)

In this revamped version of a lesser-known classic, you and your fellow players are zombies running a fast food joint, competing to complete your tasks first. Unfortunately, there’s only one brain for all of you to share. A mix of strategy and luck, Give Me the Brainis the most fun you can having working in fast food, undead or not! ($25)

[Review coming soon!]

Qwirkle (MindWare, board game)

A wonderful mix of Uno and Mexican Train Dominoes, Qwirkle is all about placing your tiles to maximize points and minimize helping your opponents. With six bright colors and six different shapes to match up, Qwirkle is endless fun that’s so easy to jump right into! ($34.99)

Timeline (Asmodee Games, card game)

Timeline pits your knowledge of history against a growing timeline of important events, inventions, and historical moments. You don’t have to know exact dates; you just need to know if something happened before OR after something else. Was the toothbrush invented before or after the syringe? Which came first, language or agriculture? Timeline is a fast, fun way of learning (or relearning history)! ($14.99)


Thank you to all of the constructors, designers, and companies taking part in our holiday gift guide!

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!

PuzzleNation Product Review: ThinkFun’s Laser Maze Jr.

Whether you’re unraveling locks and ropes in Houdini, bending gravity to your will in Gravity Maze, making music note-by-note with Compose Yourself, or mastering the basics of programming in Robot Turtles, playing with the puzzle games by ThinkFun always encourages you to learn while you solve.

Today, we see if Laser Maze Jr. matches the high standard set by those other puzzly products.

Now, for those of you familiar with the original Laser Maze, you might be expecting a simplified version, akin to the Jr. versions of Rush Hour or other puzzle games where the difficulty lessens but the game remains the same. Worry not. Laser Maze Jr. is actually a heavy redesign that keeps the best aspects of the original and tailors itself to players as young as 6, both in gameplay and in safety.

Perhaps the biggest change from the original is the board itself.

Not only is the laser fixed in place, but the board is surrounded by red plastic barriers that both protect young eyes and highlight where the beam is projecting at any given time. You would have to seriously tamper with the game to endanger your eyes with this layout; with the original, there was a greater (though still quite slim) chance that unmonitored gameplay could lead to an accident.

The laser also has a switch instead of a button to press, so if you choose, you can leave the laser on and see the beam’s path change as you add elements to the game board. As a learning tool, this is a super-helpful feature for younger minds. (The original encouraged more of a wait-and-see approach to placing the elements.)

The final change to the board’s layout involves the cards that provide the specifics of each puzzle. Instead of small cards that tell you which elements are fixed and which you add in order to solve the puzzle and light up the targets, the new cards actually slide into place beneath the board, showing you where to place the set pieces. Again, ease of setup and play is a main consideration.

The game pieces also got retooled. Instead of the gateway piece that players had to direct the laser beam through en route to the targets, Laser Maze Jr. has large rocks that block the laser’s path. This is a simple, effective way of providing obstacles for younger solvers to overcome.

The three light-up targets have been replaced with two light-up rockets. While this does eliminate some of the most complex puzzles from the original game, that’s forgivable, given that this is intended for younger solvers.

I was slightly disappointed with the laser, though. It’s less powerful than the previous one (either that or the rockets don’t light up as brightly as the original targets), and to be honest, part of the appeal of the puzzle is seeing your targets light up when you’re done!

[Taken at night with most of the lights off. Unless you’re willing to play in near-darkness — and use the night feature on your camera — the end result won’t be as bright.]

The 40 puzzles (2 on each challenge card) range from easy to super-hard, and solving them in order is a great way to slowly introduce new players to the game. Although “super-hard” is clearly a ranking for kids, not adults, the challenge of placing the beam splitter properly and avoiding the rocks is still a lot of fun for an older solver.

(Be careful when getting started, though; one of the explanatory graphics in the instructions is wrong. ThinkFun is aware of the error, and they’ll be correcting it on their next printing.)

In the end, I was pretty impressed with Laser Maze Jr. and the many changes made to tailor it to younger solvers, both in terms of safety and gameplay. While the laser is a little underwhelming, it doesn’t impact the gameplay too much, and the same solid foundation of logic and experimentation that drove the fun of the original is alive and well here.


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 Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!

PuzzleNation Product Review: Compose Yourself

Compose Yourself, ThinkFun’s latest offering, is unlike any product I’ve ever reviewed before, and that’s part of what makes it special. It is a single unending puzzle and a million different smaller puzzles all at once. It is literally as simple or as complex as you choose to make it.

You’re given sixty transparent cards (two copies each of thirty distinct note patterns). Each card features four different codes: one for the notes as they appear, one for the notes rotated 90 degrees, one for the notes backward, and one for the notes backward AND rotated 90 degrees. This allows for a staggering number of choices for a budding composer.

As you play around with placing the transparent cards in various order, you can log into the ThinkFun website and use the code provided to access a digital composing program.

[A picture of my first composition in progress…]

Input the codes from your layout of transparent cards in groups of four — as many as you wish! — and then click play. You can hear your new composition played on marimba, performed by an orchestra, or in both modes simultaneously!

Now, I confess, I am not a musically inclined person, but after fifteen minutes or so playing around with random cards — placing, flipping, reversing, and rotating them — I finally clicked play, and I was surprised by the results. (I’d unintentionally created a tune that felt perfect for the background of a Legend of Zelda game. *laughs*)

It feels like your work comes to life at your fingertips. And all you can think about is how to improve it, how to make the most of it, and how new cards will change it.

Each card represents part of a puzzle, and you may have no idea what the finished product will be, but that doesn’t make the process any less satisfying. This is old-school free-form creativity, like dipping your hands into a bucket of LEGOs, pulling out some pieces, and seeing what you can create.

ThinkFun has challenged us in the past with puzzlers like Houdini and Gravity Maze, and they’ve offered younger solvers the chance to learn coding in Robot Turtles and optics in Laser Maze, all while enjoying an experience that feels like play because it IS play.

But they’ve truly outdone themselves with Compose Yourself; it’s a learning experience, a creative experience, and a puzzly experience all at once. What a treat.

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out the growing library of PuzzleNation apps and games!