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.

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Pints and Puzzles

If you’re a habitual crossword solver or a puzzle enthusiast in general, odds are you’ve got a good head for trivia.

Many of the puzzlers I know are vast storehouses of information, cobbled together in an incomprehensible mishmash of disorganized, dusty filing cabinets, containing endless wonder and factoids galore. They might not be the tidiest minds, but they’re invariably the most interesting.

And whether you exercise your voluminous knowledge with games like Trivial Pursuit, puzzles like crosswords, or online trivia associations like Learned League, you should know of yet another avenue to explore to satisfy your thirst for random facts and obscurities: the pub quiz.

Pub quizzes and trivia nights have been around for a long time now. While I was on vacation in Alaska, I participated in two nights of pub trivia shenanigans courtesy of Geeks Who Drink, wherein I performed admirably and represented PuzzleNation with honor, dignity, and no small amount of self-congratulatory cheering.

But did you know that puzzles are also quickly becoming prime entertainment options at bars and pubs worldwide?

Oh yes! The folks behind Puzzled Pint are the best known purveyors of pub puzzles these days, offering first a location-based puzzle for solvers to unravel (in order to discover where the next puzzle event will occur), then more puzzles to enjoy when solvers arrive!

Now, puzzles and pubs are hardly strangers to one another. Local blacksmiths often tasked their apprentices with creating mechanical puzzles like the one above (known as disentanglement puzzles) because forging the intricate pieces was excellent practice of various blacksmithing skills. These puzzles often found their way into nearby taverns, becoming popular pub activities and challenges.

As it turns out, you can find puzzles anywhere these days. And there’s nothing trivial about that. =)

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!