Piecing the Language Together

New Girl’s Winston Bishop doesn’t let his colorblindness get in the way of his passion for jigsaw puzzles. Should you take a page out of his book?

In January, I came across a tweet from poet NM Esc, also known as Neon Mashurov, reading, “I think translating activates the same part of my brain as doing jigsaw puzzles, which, for anyone who has never seen the absolutely obsessive way I tackle jigsaw puzzles, means I might have a new favorite project genre.” As a monolingual writer, I lack the tools necessary to fully immerse myself in the jigsaw experience of transforming, from scratch, one language into another. As someone who has assisted a former classmate with the process of editing poetry translations, however, I see exactly why a jigsaw puzzle would be an obvious point of non-linguistic comparison.

Each word in a translated poem should accurately evoke the meaning of the original; that much is obvious. Less obviously, depending on the poem and its style and artistic or ideological goals, a translated word might also need to evoke the original’s shape, its sound, its rhythm, its rhyme. It might need to carry a whole world of connotations on its back. There is rarely just one option for the right word in a translation, so the translating poet must shift through a mess of word-pieces, seeking whichever will lock into place exactly with the others, fitting comfortably and bringing the desired larger image to life.

There are limitations to this metaphor. Mainly, because as Willis Barnstone explained in the 2001 piece, “An ABC of Translating Poetry,” “A translation is an x-ray, not a xerox.” The poetry translator’s goal is not to perfectly recreate the image on a box. Rather, it is as though the translator is looking at the image on a box and then imagining what lies just beneath. The skin is stripped away and a skeleton is constructed for the image, from deduction and imagination, in a kind of cryptozoological (cryptopaleontological?) act of artistry. We see not what readers of the original language see, but we see what made the original language work. What made it stand up and move. This might not be the work of a jigsaw-solver, but it certainly presents a puzzle.

Barnstone’s work also tells us, “A good translation is a good joke. Reader, you are fooled.” A successful pun considers, transforms, and makes art from a word’s multiple meanings and dimensions, and a successful translation does the same. Translating poetry is fundamentally an act of wordplay. One must play with the words as if with Lincoln Logs or Play-Doh—or jigsaw pieces! In an earlier post on poetry, I featured the above comic strip, in which Nancy takes a creative, boundary-breaking approach to solving the jigsaw puzzle of her surroundings, and perhaps that is the most accurate metaphor for translation.

In a 2018 conversation with NPR, translator and poet Aaron Coleman posits, “The language lapses that inhibit an ideal interpretation can ultimately be ‘a creative, productive failure.’” Coleman goes on to say, “Maybe it can open up a new way for us to see what can happen in English and what can happen in Spanish, for me, or whatever the original language is.” Nancy, in switching around the puzzle pieces, has engaged in creative, productive failure, opening up a new way for us to see what can happen in the language of the puzzle. I love this perspective on translation, as someone who would not typically be considered to have the language skills necessary to translate from one language to another.

If you too are hesitant to try poetry translation because of the limits of your language, I’d like to invite you to go ahead and try anyway, even if you have to lean on Google Translate every step of the way. Even if you resort to marking some sections entirely untranslatable. In the words of The Magic School Bus’ Ms. Frizzle, “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy,” this National Poetry Month! Find some creative, productive failures that open up new ways for you to look at language. Maybe your finished product will be the verbal equivalent of Winston’s jumble of a jigsaw puzzle at the top of this post; that doesn’t mean you can’t call it a masterpiece.


You can find delightful deals on puzzles on the Home Screen for Daily POP Crosswords and Daily POP Word Search! Check them out!

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

PuzzleNation 2021 Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide: By Age

Welcome to the PuzzleNation Blog 2021 Holiday Gift Guide!

We’re excited to be bringing you our biggest gift guide ever! There are so many tremendously fun and puzzly products to share with you. 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!


This year’s Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide is sponsored by Daily POP Crosswords!

Daily POP Crosswords offers a different themed puzzle every single day, spanning everything from TV and film to sports and music!

Available for both Android and iOS users, you get terrific content from some of the world’s top constructors! And the download is free!



For Ages 6 and Up

Chessplus (board game)

The first thing you learn in chess is how the pieces move. But what if that could change? What if you could make new pieces that move in unexpected ways? How would that change the game? With Chessplus, you’ll find out, as you mix and match chess pieces in order to capture your opponent’s king. The possibilities really are endless! ($49.95)

[Click here for our full review of Chessplus!]

lexiconsmall

Lexicon-GO! (Winning Moves UK, puzzle game)

Are you a word-forming pro? Take your speed-solving skills and try them out with Lexicon-GO!, a Scrabble-style tile game suitable for solvers of all ages. And those very distinctive letter tiles are available in more ways than ever! You can enjoy Lexicon-GO! in its classic form, in Harry Potter style, or in famous Jumble style! ($11.89 in classic form)

[Click here for our full review of Lexicon-GO!]

qwirkle

Qwirkle (MindWare, board game)

A wonderful mix of Uno and Mexican Train DominoesQwirkle is a tile-placing game where you try to maximize your points while minimizing the help you give to your opponents. With six bright colors and six different shapes to match up, Qwirkle is endless fun that’s so easy to jump into! ($24.99)


For Ages 7 and Up

countaloupe

Countaloupe (Bananagrams, dice game)

A card game and a dice game in one, test your luck and your math skills with Countaloupe! Two to four players each have a deck of slice cards, numbered from one to sixteen. Your goal is to roll the dice and discard slice cards from your deck faster than your opponents. Will you savor the fruits of your mathematical labors, or will others enjoy the sweet taste of victory? ($9.99)

[Our review of Countaloupe can be found here!]

Tenzi (dice game)

All of us have rolled dice in games before, but can you roll what you need as fast as possible? That’s the challenge of Tenzi, a game that pits up to four players against each other in tests of speed and dexterity. Can you roll ten 6’s before everyone else? ($14.95)

Scrimish (Nexci, card game)

Combine the card game War with elements of Chess and Memory, and you’ve got something approximating Scrimish, a card game that’s effortless to learn, but offers endless possibilities. Can you protect your crown card while hunting down your opponent’s? With cards for both defense and offense, there’s a lot packed into just 25 cards apiece! ($9.99)

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

Tile Securing Travel Scrabble (Hammacher Schlemmer, board game)

Hammacher Schlemmer has always been home to some intriguing Scrabble variants available — who could forget their World’s Largest Scrabble Game? — but when it comes to travel-friendly puzzle game fun, they’ve got just the thing. Tile Securing Travel Scrabble is perfect for those who want to solve on the go! Take your game anywhere and rest assured not a single tile will have moved! ($39.95)

61SjADfF0ZL._AC_SL1000_

Timeline (Zygomatic 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! ($9.99)

tsuro

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. Try not to meet any other dragons or fly off the board! It’s a simple mechanic with plenty of replay value, and perfect for quick games with large groups. ($40)


For Ages 8 and Up

Coaster Games (The Dark Imp, party/group game)

Coaster Games is a six-pack of games encompassing all sorts of gameplay styles. Counting, word building, deduction, strategy, resource management, and more, and they all fit in your pocket. Perfect for parties or quickplay fun between longer game sessions, you’re guaranteed to find something to enjoy here! (£6.99)

[Find our review of Coaster Games here!]

block-chain-intro

Block Chain (ThinkFun, brain teaser)

These linked four-sided blocks can be rotated, spun, tilted, and overlapped. But can you twist and arrange them into a single cube where every face fits a pattern or a path? That’s the challenge of Block Chain, ThinkFun’s delightful twisty puzzle that lets you tinker, twist, and swing each of the three linked blocks into various positions! ($5.99)

[Check out our review here!]

archerporthos

Star Trek Fluxx: The Archer Expansion and The Porthos Expansion (Looney Labs, card game)

Star Trek is an ever-expanding universe of stories, heroes, adventures, and questions to explore, so it’s only fitting that the ever-changing card game Fluxx has a host of Star Trek-themed card decks for you to try out. Whether you’re a fan of The Original Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, or Voyager, there’s a Fluxx deck stacked with your favorite characters, villains, and pivotal moments from each show. ($20 each)

And now you can combine and cross over those decks and play Fluxx like never before with The Archer Expansion and The Porthos Expansion. These small additional decks not only introduce characters from the show Enterprise to the mix, but they allow new rules for mixing up decks and new paths to victory. Plus they add the beloved pets Porthos and Spot to the game! ($5.00 each)

And if Star Trek isn’t your style, maybe you’d enjoy Fantasy Fluxx, Wonderland Fluxx, Astronomy Fluxx, or any of the other marvelous variations on this classic quick-changing card game! ($16 each)

[Our review for the Porthos and Archer Expansions can be found here. And be sure to check out our full reviews of Star Trek Fluxx, Star Trek TNG Fluxx, and Star Trek Voyager Fluxx too!]

Knot Dice and Knot Dice Squared (Black Oak Games, dice game)

Can you twist, turn, and spin these dice to complete beautiful, elaborate patterns inspired by Celtic knots? That’s the name of the game with Knot Dice, a dice game as challenging as it is gorgeous. With single-player and multi-player puzzles included, you’ll be tying yourself in knots for days! ($35, available in green or blue)

And you can add new wrinkles and patterns to your solving with Knot Dice Squared, an expansion set with 26 additional dice, new rules, and more! ($45)

[Click here to check out our full review of both games!]

cracker-components-1

Cracker Games: The Imp Box (The Dark Imp, party/group game)

Six unique family games in a reusable box that looks like a Christmas cracker? What an idea! Voting, collecting, observation, and trading are among the gameplay styles you’ll find in The Imp Box, and this neat little package packs a lot of variety into a small space! (£19.99)

callclp112_1

12 Days (Calliope Games, card game)

A proper holiday-themed game for the holidays? You betcha. This wagering game, based on the 12 Days of Christmas, has some of the most beautiful art in the entire card game genre. Plus the two ways to earn points — winning each day of Christmas with the lowest card in the pot vs. keeping as many of a certain value card as possible for the end of the game — offer tons of strategic opportunities in a simple card game. What a treat! ($20)

4j0

Pocket Brainteasers (ThinkFun, brain teaser)

How good is your spatial awareness? You’re about to find out with this quartet of puzzlers, each its own obstacle for you to overcome. Can you reposition the four pieces into a smaller space in 4-T Puzzle or the wi-fi bars of Rec-Tangle into a new arrangement? Can you separate the 4-Piece Jigsaw, or combine the four chairs into The Fifth Chair? These bite-sized brain teasers will certainly keep you guessing. ($6.99 each)

[Click here to check out our review of all four Pocket Brainteasers!]

Slapzi (Tenzi, party/group game)

Slapzi will keep you on your toes. In this quick-reaction game, you’ve got to match your picture cards to the clue cards before your opponents. But with clues like “Not sold in a hardware store” or “Two of the same letter together,” this isn’t as easy as it appears! ($19.95)

[Click here to check out our full review of Slapzi!]

trysp-1

GolfWords (David L. Hoyt, party/group game)

Combining the skill of golf with a love of wordplay, GolfWords takes puzzles off the page and into your home, testing you both mentally and physically! Complete with the letter mat, putters, golf balls, scoring pads, and other accessories, this unique combination of puzzle and sport can be played solo or by the whole family! ($299.99)


For Ages 9-10 and Up

Escape Room Advent Calendar (Insync Games, miscellaneous puzzle swag)

This advent calendar has no numbers on the doors, and solving a daily puzzle is the only way to figure out which door to open! This clever, festive, chocolate-filled treat is a puzzly twist on a holiday classic! (£19.99)

pasco

Paolo Pasco’s Crossword Puzzles For Kids (puzzle book)

Recommended by several top solvers, this just might be the perfect gateway puzzle book for the young solver in your life. ($9.99)

godzilla

Godzilla: Tokyo Clash (Funko Games, board game)

Choose one of these four iconic monsters and let loose your fury all over Tokyo in Godzilla: Tokyo Clash. This tactical monster-vs.-monster game allows you to smash buildings, vehicles, and your fellow monsters on a game board that’s different every time you play! Will you be King of the Monsters by the time Tokyo is in ruins? ($35)

[Check out our full review of Godzilla: Tokyo Clash here!]

smart10small

Smart10 (Bananagrams, party/group game)

Can you pick one correct answer from a field of possibilities? Smart10 challenges you and a group of friends to do just that by selecting correct answers from a list of possible responses. It’s tougher than it sounds, and it’ll test your trivia skills and your ability to think under pressure. ($14.99)

[Check out our full review here!]

Pinbox 3000 (Cardboard Teck Instantute, puzzle game)

How about the chance to build your own game? Is that puzzle enough for you? Pinbox 3000 provides all the pieces you’ll need, plus valuable advice for brainstorming and creating your very own pinball game. It’s endlessly customizable, so you can make your Pinbox pinball game as simple or as complex as you like! ($49.95, $54.95 for the Beta Booster Bundle)

51x7kNoEi5L._AC_

Unlock!: Squeek and Sausage (Asmodee, escape room / solve the mystery game)

Unlock! games consist of entirely of a deck of cards and your app. The cards provide locations, challenges, helpful items, solutions, and warnings, all identified with numbered or lettered cards in the deck. And while there are numerous Unlock! escape games to try — covering everything from haunted houses to desert islands — we recommend the mad scientist-fueled Squeek and Sausage, which is enjoyably silly and still a satisfying challenge! ($11.99)

A-Puzzle-A-Day puzzle calendar (Insync Games, miscellaneous puzzle swag)

Eight puzzle pieces, 365 different puzzles. Now that’s value for your money. Can you place these Tetris-like pieces to tell today’s date, or a favorite date, or any date you choose? (£15.99)

The Great Dinosaur Rush (APE Games, board game)

Bring the insane real-life rivalry of paleontologists Cope and Marsh to life in The Great Dinosaur Rush! As you collect fossils and discover your own unique dinosaur, you must also steal bones, sabotage other scientists, and more! Show off your cunning and creativity in this game that proves historical truth is weirder than fiction! ($50)

Spaceteam (Timber and Bolt, card game)

Can you repair your ship and get the engines up and running before a black hole ends your space adventure forever? That’s the name of the game in Spaceteam, a cooperative, communication-based game where you have to accomplish various tasks with your fellow players while sharing tools. It’s delightful chaos, heightened by the five-minute hourglass timer counting down your dwindling seconds before disaster strikes! A definite favorite around here. ($27.95)

Sagrada (Floodgate Games, dice game)

One of the most beautiful strategy games on the market today, Sagrada is a singularly peaceful gaming experience. Compete with other players to build the most beautiful stained glass window, but with dice instead of glass! Unique and challenging, Sagrada is something else. ($40)

castellan1castellan3

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!]


For Ages 11-12 and Up

7a4b6658-937e-4e18-b835-dc7799dd8ad1_1024x1024@2x

Pass the Pugs (Winning Moves UK, dice game)

A classic tumbling game gets a delightfully charming new update in Pass the Pugs! Collect points based on how the pugs land and race your opponents to 100 points. Will you push your luck and risk your points on additional rolls, or will you “paws” and keep the points you have? (£9.99)

ENIGMAS_deck

Enigmas Puzzle Hunt Playing Cards (David Kwong/Dave Shukan, solve the mystery game)

A puzzle hunt lurking within a normal deck of cards? It sounds impossible, but when you’re dealing with puzzler and magician David Kwong, anything can happen with Enigmas! Can you unravel the mystery hiding amongst these playing cards? ($18)

Zendo (Looney Labs, puzzle game)

Puzzle games are all about the rules, but what if you don’t know the rules? That’s where Zendo comes in. In this puzzle game, you arrange Looney pyramids and other shapes into various designs, and then see if those designs conform to a mysterious rule. A game of deduction and trial-and-error, Zendo is a very different solving experience. ($40)

Plus there are two expansion packs available for Zendoeach offering additional rules and varying in difficulty! ($5 each)

[Check out our full review for Zendo here and our review of Expansion Pack #2 here!]

photo-1024x7682

Puzzometry (jigsaw puzzle)

For a next-level jigsaw challenge, Puzzometry is tough to top. These beautiful pieces can be combined in seemingly endless combinations, and yet, there’s only one solution. Available in seven different styles — Puzzometry ($23.50), Puzzometry Jr. ($18.50), Puzzometry Squares ($23.50), Puzzometry Hex ($23.50), Puzzometry Steps ($23.50), Puzzometry Six ($23.50), and Puzzometry Jr. 2 ($18.50) — you’ve got distinct challenges appropriate for all different ages!

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

top trumps 2021

Friends Top Trumps and James Bond Top Trumps: Gadgets & Vehicles (Winning Moves UK, card game)

Do you enjoy the sitcom Friends? Or the world of James Bond? No matter what your favorite subject or pop culture franchise, Top Trumps is ready and waiting with a sharply packaged game full of question-fueled competition. Each team opens their drawer on the carrying case and removes five cards, all with the potential to stump their opponents. Will your team triumph or will the other team’s trivia smarts win the day? (£10.00 each)

91HVzZFegAL._AC_SL1500_

Exit: The Game: Dead Man on the Orient Express (Kosmos, escape room / solve the mystery game)

Exit: The Game products create an escape room experience by combining a deck of cards, a guidebook, a sliding decoder ring, an interactive phone app, and miscellaneous items to be used throughout the game. What sets Dead Man on the Orient Express above and beyond is that there’s a mystery to solve in the background, even as you tackle all the delightful escape room-style puzzles! ($10.59)

5dee55bcc61d1b4b3f2038fe609fdd4f_original

Cheapass Games in Black and White (Cheapass Games/Greater Than Games, board game)

The library of Cheapass Games is expansive, but even diehard fans don’t have the majority of the company’s original game library. Unless, that is, they own Cheapass Games in Black and White, a hardcover compendium of every game from the black-and-white era. Featuring the rulebooks for famous titles like Button Men and Kill Doctor Lucky, alongside more obscure entries like Escape from Elba, this is a terrific resource for any game fan. ($60, but the digital download is FREE!)

Decrypto (IELLO, party/group game)

Can you covertly communicate with your teammates without revealing your secret code to the opponent team? That’s the name of the game in Decrypto, a party game all about word association and deduction. The first team to crack the opposing team’s codes twice wins! ($20.32)

Tak: A Beautiful Game (Cheapass Games/Greater Than Games, board game)

Many new games build off of classic mechanics, but very few new games truly feel like they could have been played centuries ago. Tak definitely fits that mold, using simple wooden pieces to create a game that feels both fresh and ancient all at once. Inspired by the eponymous game in Patrick Rothfuss’s KingKiller Chronicles series, Tak is a wonderful two-player game that quickly grows addictive. ($40 for University Edition, $59.95 for Classic Edition)

[Click here for our full review of Tak!]

b3ef10855c16e8a081d3604cbd19db97

The Oregon Trail (Pressman Toys, card game)

The classic computer game comes to life as you and your fellow players team up to survive the perilous journey along The Oregon Trail. With art evoking old-school computer games, rampant threats and calamities to endure, and a long and challenging road to travel, will any of you will make it to Oregon? ($12.79)

[Check out our full product review of The Oregon Trail by clicking here!]

Deluxe Pairs (Hip Pocket Games/Greater Than Games, card game)

Building on the legacy already established by the bar-friendly series of Pairs decks available, Deluxe Pairs offers a new artistic spin on the classic Pairs “Fruit Deck,” as well as a companion booklet with rules for numerous Pairs variants you can play with the deck! This isn’t just one card game, it’s dozens! ($17)

[Click here for our full review of Deluxe Pairs!]

gearjitssmall

Gearjits Roller Coaster (Gearjits, jigsaw puzzle)

Bring your puzzle skills to life as you assemble a working roller coaster from these wooden pieces. Assembling handcranks and gears to operate the machine along with the structure of the roller coaster itself makes this 3-D puzzle more exciting and satisfying than the average 3-D puzzle. ($40.95)

The Island of Doctor Lucky (Cheapass Games/Greater Than Games, board game)

People have been trying to kill Doctor Lucky for over twenty years, and this time around, you’re visiting his exotic island estate to try your murderous luck against the titular Doctor! The Island of Doctor Lucky offers a new gameboard to explore, new movement mechanics, and a very distracting cat. This is the best addition to the series yet! ($40)

And if you’re looking for something closer to the classic game, there’s always the Deluxe 24 3/4ths Anniversary edition of Kill Doctor Lucky. ($39.95)

[Check out our full review of The Island of Doctor Lucky by clicking here!]


For Ages 13-14 and Up

minotaur 1

Minotaur’s Labyrinth (Project Genius, brain teaser)

Can you crack this wooden brain teaser? That’s the question posed by Minotaur’s Labyrinth, a mechanical brain teaser where you must maneuver the Minotaur out of the Labyrinth, then flip over the token, and return to the center of the maze! Ready your puzzle skills and your patience, or you’ll be trapped in the Labyrinth forever! ($24.95)

[Check out our review of Minotaur’s Labyrinth here!]

cold case

Cold Case: A Story to Die For and Cold Case: A Pinch of Murder (ThinkFun, solve the mystery game)

In these mystery puzzle games, you pick up a cold case where the investigation left off, rifling through police interview transcripts, evidence, photographs, and more! Can you solve the murder of a dead journalist or find out what happened to a woman missing from a church bake sale? With an interactive online submission form to test your solution, these ThinkFun murder mysteries are a fascinating bit of hands-on puzzling and crime solving! ($14.99 each)

[Check out our spoiler-free reviews of A Story to Die For and A Pinch of Murder!]

atlas-games-gloom-the-card-game

Gloom (Atlas Games, card game)

Do you enjoy The Addams Family or the art of Edward Gorey? Then Gloom might be a strategy game worth checking out. In this tactical game with a sinister twist, you’re trying to make your Victorian family miserable for points and the lives of your opponents’ families better! Yup, misfortune equals good fortune for you! With gorgeous transparent cards you can lay over each other to track your scores, there’s no storytelling game out there quite like it.

With loads of expansions to add to the creepy world of Gloom — and preorders open for the new Gloomier spinoff game — this is hilariously macabre fun! ($27.95)

cluebox

Cluebox Escape Rooms in a Box (iDventure, brain teaser)

These multi-stage puzzle boxes are completely self-contained. You need to explore every inch of its surface to find clues and tools to unlock each stage of the puzzle box and reveal further challenges. Whether you delve into Davy Jones Locker ($49.99) or try to unravel the mystery of Schrodinger’s Cat ($39.99), you will definitely find your puzzly mettle tested by these devious devices!

codex small

Caesar’s Codex (Project Genius, brain teaser)

Just slide the four coded levers into place and open the box. Sounds simple, right? When you’re talking about Caesar’s Codex, one of the brain teasers from the True Genius collection, what appears simple quickly becomes a proper puzzly challenge. There are over 4,000 possible combinations! Can you discover the correct one? ($19.99)

[Check out our review of Caesar’s Codex here!]

escape the room

Escape the Room: The Cursed Dollhouse (ThinkFun, escape room / solve the mystery game)

Can you construct and then escape one of the most fully realized home escape room games on the market today? The Cursed Dollhouse is a diabolical and immersive puzzly experience, encompassing five rooms and a host of different puzzles to unravel in the hopes of escaping a horrible fate! ($42.99)

[Check out our spoiler-free review here!]

 

Tavern Puzzles / Tucker-Jones House Inc. (brain teaser)

These hand-forged beauties are ready to challenge your dexterity and cleverness, as you accept the Tavern Puzzles challenge. Whether you’re trying to remove twice as many pieces in a Collaborative Effort or free the triangle from Tridiculous, you’re sure to put your skills to the test. ($27.50 each)

codenamessmall

Codenames (Czech Games, card game)

It’s a race against time to locate all of your spies before your opponents. But in order to do so, you need to communicate information with a single word. Codenames will put your word association skills to work as you try to find secret agents disguised with code words, while avoiding innocent citizens and dangerous assassins along the way! ($11.49)

[Read our full review of Codenames here!]

Lightbox (Eric Clough, brain teaser)

A puzzle box unlike anything you’ve ever seen, Lightbox creates different patterns of shadow and light as you shift and arrange the various plastic plates that make up the box. As you twist and reset them, different electrical connections are made, and different plates light up. As gorgeous as it is challenging, Lightbox is a very eye-catching puzzle that always wows new solvers. ($85)

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

geodesmall

Geode Puzzle (Uncommon Goods, jigsaw puzzle)

Forget looking for the edge pieces, because these nature-based puzzles take jigsaws beyond the usual patterning. Geode Puzzle‘s flowing, unusual shapes and vibrant colors create a unique solving experience. ($68)

bunny kingdom

Bunny Kingdom (IELLO, board game)

There are plenty of board games where you control resources, build cities, and achieve glory. But how many of them let you do that while being BUNNIES? In Bunny Kingdom, a game combining drafting and area control mechanics, each player builds a fiefdom and tries to outmaneuver their fellow players in managing territory, materials, and trade. The most cunning bunny wins with the most points wins and captures the title “Big Ears!” ($48.92)

The Abandons (Puzzling Pixel Games, board game)

Can you escape a dangerous labyrinth that changes every time you explore it? The Abandons pits the solver against a random deck, where luck, quick decision making, and puzzly skill all must be on your side if you ever want to see daylight again.  ($15)

[Check out our full review by clicking here!]

dragoncurve

Wooden Fractal Tray Puzzles (Martin Raynsford, jigsaw puzzle)

Laser-cut precision and patterns built on fractal designs make these wooden tray puzzles as maddening as they are beautiful. The pieces fall so seamlessly into place that they practically vanish… that is, if you can puzzle out how to place them all into the tray. ($35.99)


For Ages 16 and Up

alice is missing

Alice is Missing (Hunters Entertainment, solve the mystery game)

Can you and your fellow players solve a mystery without ever saying a word? That’s the challenge offered by the uniquely atmospheric and haunting RPG mystery game Alice Is Missing.

A game played entirely through text messaging, each player takes on the role of a character in the town of Silent Falls, trying to find out what happened to Alice Briarwood. We promise, you’ve never played anything like it. ($21.99)


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.

new ppd banner

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

Maybe you’re looking for one kind of puzzle, like their Logic Problems Spectacular 5-Pack ($16.95), the Crossword Extravaganza collection ($7.99), or a value pack of Jumble puzzles ($13.95)! Maybe you’d like the ease of printing puzzles at home with Print N’ Solve Seasonal Crosswords ($2.99). Either way, the folks at Penny Dell Puzzles have got you covered.

peanuts

They have some new offers just in time for the holidays, like their upcoming Winter Fun Pack. Plus their Peanuts line of Word Seek puzzles is available in both Subscription ($25.97 for 1 year) and Print ‘n Solve versions ($4.25 per issue)!

And be sure to check out their deals on Facebook and Twitter throughout the holiday season. They’ve got bundles and discounts for days!

And while we’re on the topic of puzzle books, some of the best constructors working today have released their own books for your perusal! And with New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and USA Today crosswords to their credit, you’re sure to find some quality puzzlers within these pages!

–Doug Peterson and Jeff Chen’s It’s So Easy Crosswords ($9.95)

–Eric Berlin’s Puzzlesnacks: More Than 100 Bite-Size Puzzles for Every Solver ($8.49)

–David Steinberg’s Juicy Crosswords from the Orange County Register ($11.33)

–Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Octopus Crosswords ($6.95)

–Matt Gaffney’s Fast & Fun Mini Crosswords ($7.95)

–Andrew Ries’s Maverick Crosswords ($5.97)

–Todd McClary’s Fresh Freestyle Crosswords ($7.74)

–Erik Agard’s Food for Thought Crosswords ($9.95)

USA Today’s Crossword Super Challenge 3 ($9.99)

–Frasier Simpson’s Cryptic Crosswords Volume 1, Volume 2, and Volume 3 ($10.95 each)

–Cynthia Morris’s CynAcrostics Volume 6: Imagine That! (Volume 7 coming soon!) and American Acrostics Volume 9: Amazing American Women ($9.95 each)

–Andrews McMeel Publishing’s Pocket Posh Sixy Sudoku Easy to Medium and Pocket Posh Sixy Sudoku Hard ($8.99 each)

USA Today’s Sudoku Super Challenge 3 and Sudoku and Variants Super Challenge ($9.99 each)

–Andy Kravis’s Challenge Accepted!: 100 Word Searches ($7.76)

–Shawn Marie Simmons’s 25 Word Search Puzzles for Classic Comics Lovers and 25 Word Search Puzzles for Classic Literature Lovers ($8 each)

USA Today’s Word Fill-In Puzzles Super Challenge ($9.99)

–Andrews McMeel Publishing’s Posh Take Care: Creative Challenge ($12.99)

–Oliver Roeder’s The Riddler: Fantastic Puzzles from FiveThirtyEight ($14.77)

–Andrews McMeel Publishing’s Take Care by Posh: Inspired Activities for PeaceTake Care by Posh: Inspired Activities for ClarityTake Care by Posh: Inspired Activities for Tranquility, and Take Care by Posh: Inspired Activities for Balance [featuring crosswords and other puzzles] ($8.99 each)

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

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

The Crosswords Club Digital (six crossword puzzles per month, $42.95 per year) [also available in print, details below]

The American Values Crossword (subscription and daily puzzles, $22 for 1 year)

The Inkubator, edited by Laura Braunstein and Tracy Bennett (crossword puzzles constructed exclusively by women, three puzzles a month, $30 for 1 year)

–Matt Gaffney’s Weekly Crossword Contest (starts at $3 per month on Patreon)

–Peter Gordon’s Fireball Crosswords ($32 for 1 year)

Crucinova crossword puzzles (weekly puzzles, $4.99 per month, $29.99 per year)

–Andrew Ries’ Aries Freestyle themeless crosswords ($15 per year), and Aries Rows Garden ($30 per year) [available as a bundle together for $40]

–Joon Pahk’s Rows Garden puzzles ($20 for 1 year) and Variety puzzles ($15 for 1 year) OR get both for $30!

–Paolo Pasco’s Expansion Pack crossword suite (pay what you want for the base set, $10 for the XL version)

–Eric Berlin’s Puzzlesnacks puzzles ($3 per month) and Puzzlesnacks Plus bundle ($7.99)

–Bryant Park 2018 tournament puzzle pack ($5) and 2016/2017 bundle ($10) [$12 for both!]

Boswords 2020 Fall Puzzle Packet ($10) and previous puzzle packets ($5-10 each)

Topple puzzle magazine ($1 per issue)

g4glogo

Also, there are some wonderful puzzle bundles available in exchange for donations to worthy causes!

Grids for Good, a 42-puzzle bundle supporting coronavirus relief and groups fighting systemic racism

Queer Qrosswords 2, a 32-crossword bundle supporting LGBTQ+ charities and organizations

Women of Letters, an 18-crossword bundle by female constructors in support of women’s rights causes

–Enrique Henestroza Anguiano’s Mexican Midis, a 5-puzzle bundle supporting COVID relief

And for any puzzle fans that love receiving surprises in the mail, we’ve got you covered there as well!

crosswordsclubsmall

The Crosswords Club

A monthly publication with six Sunday-sized crosswords, The Crosswords Club utilizes some of the sharpest crossword constructors in the business today, and the puzzles are all edited by top constructor Patti Varol. Each bundle is as fun as it is challenging, plus each monthly bundle has an extra word game printed right on the envelope! ($42.95 for 12 issues) [also available digitally]

enigmasmall

Wish You Were Here (The Enigma Emporium)

Imagine an entire mystery hidden across a handful of postcards. That’s the multilayered puzzle experience offered by Wish You Were Here, where a series of coded messages awaits you. Unravel all the secrets and discover an exciting tale of danger and spycraft along the way! ($15)

[And if you enjoy Wish You Were Here, there are all sorts of additional puzzle bundles to try out!]

cryptosmall

Cryptogram Puzzle Post (Jack Fallows)

A combination of different puzzles and encrypted messages interwoven together with bits of narrative, each edition of the Cryptogram Puzzle Post is a standalone story steeped in mystery and supernatural elements. But solve them all together, and a grand universe of storytelling unfolds. Sold in seasonal bundles and annual subscriptions, this episodic puzzly adventure is quite unique. (£7.50 for single issues, £20 and up for seasonal bundles and collections)

curious correspondence

Curious Correspondence Club

An ongoing episode puzzle adventure, the Curious Correspondence Club helps you assemble and solve an ever-evolving mystery surrounding the Guardians and their hunt for the twelve artifacts. What does it all mean? Check your mail every month for new puzzles, hints, and additions to the story. ($21.95 for single chapters, $60 for 3-chapter collections)

Do you need some miscellaneous puzzle swag to complete a bundle of holiday goodness for the puzzlers in your life?

flyingcolorssmall

Flying Colors coloring book (Penny Press)

Our puzzly pals at Penny Press know that sometimes, you need a break from puzzles, so why not unwind with their Flying Colors coloring book ($6.99).

travelmugsmall  Word-Nerd-Mug-WNMG

I’d Rather Be Puzzling travel mug and Word Nerd mug (Penny Press)

After a long day of puzzling, or while pondering a devious clue, sip some coffee from a snazzy I’d Rather Be Puzzling Travel Mug ($7.95) or this sturdy and bright Word Nerd Mug ($19).


Thank you to all of the constructors, designers, and companies taking part in this year’s holiday puzzly gift guide!

dailypopwsicon

Treat yourself to some delightful deals on puzzles. You can find them on the Home Screen for Daily POP Crosswords and Daily POP Word Search! Check them out!

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

The Ultimate Jigsaw Puzzle Table?

puzzle tables

Whether you’re a jigsaw puzzle solver or a tabletop game enthusiast, you’ve probably seen puzzle and game tables. A relatively new addition to the furniture options available for puzzlers and game fans, these tables generally come in one of two forms.

Either they have a removable top with a recessed area underneath to keep your puzzles mid-solve or games mid-play, or they have a central solving surface and side drawers to contain separated pieces. Sometimes this solving surface tilts up / tilts toward you to make it easier to work on.

But those are generally what you’ll see when it comes to puzzle / gaming tables.

il_794xN.1390654132_bmcv

[This table is available on Etsy.]

Each has its pluses and minuses. With the removable top version, you have to put the top somewhere, and then you have the deeper solving space, which some solvers find uncomfortable.

With the center table and drawers, you’re still dedicating most of a table to puzzles, and many of them struggle to keep your work in place when folded up or moved around. (Some of these have a removable tray, which can slide into the body of the table, but this can also be unwieldy.)

simone table 3

As they say in the infomercials, there’s gotta be a better way. And YouTuber/inventor/DIY guru Simone Giertz came up with her own solution.

Simone is known for her wacky, inventive, hilarious, and creative construction projects, many of which involve robotics or moving parts. So let’s see what she came up with.

Puzzle-Table-feature-image-10012021

Her table features two hand cranks, each of which solves one of the problems with the removable top version of a puzzle/gaming table.

The first crank turns gears which roll the table top underneath and out of the way, revealing the hidden puzzle-solving space inside. This prevents you from having to worry about storing or handling a heavy or cumbersome tabletop while you solve.

simone table 2

The second crank raises the solving space until it’s flush with the sides of the table. This removes any need to lean down into a recessed play area or solving space to enjoy your puzzles and games. The puzzle literally comes to you!

simone table 4

Plus, this solves some of the issues with other solving tables. There’s no removable tray to navigate, or sliding drawers or flaps that could cause what you’ve already built to shift or fall apart. It simply lowers into the body of the table itself, otherwise resting just as you left it.

simone table

This video shares the entire construction process, including missteps, problems, new solutions, and the eventual successful reveal. (Fair warning: the video is mostly safe for work, but there are two random f-bombs in it, so be aware.)

As you can see, the final product is absolutely beautiful, and unlike virtually every other puzzle or game table you see on the market today.

Pretty much every jigsaw solver I know — and a fair few board game players — would love a piece like this in their house, myself included.

simone table 5

What do you think, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers? Would you like to have this lovely table in your house? Or is there another piece of puzzly furniture that’s caught your eye? Let us know in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you.


dailypopwsicon

Well, summer’s over, but we still have deals galore for you to check out. You can find them on the Home Screen for Daily POP Crosswords and Daily POP Word Search! Check them out!

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

Puzzling and Brain Health Update: Crosswords and Jigsaw Puzzles

brain health

[Loads of images come up when you google “brain health” or “brain fitness,”
but I liked this one much more than all of the ones with brains lifting barbells.]

“Brain health.” “Brain fitness.” “Brain-training.” Ever since I started writing for PuzzleNation Blog, I’ve been chronicling the debate over whether solving puzzles makes a verifiable, detectable impact on brain function, development, and overall health.

There are plenty of puzzle magazines, apps, websites, and services that claim to help with brain fitness. Some make vague assertions related to memory, mental flexibility, and other cognitive functions. Others are insanely specific, promising to reverse the aging process or to help prevent the onset of dementia and other cognitive difficulties later in life.

(Examples of the latter style of advertisement are rarer these days after Lumosity’s two-million-dollar payout for falsely advertising that their puzzle games could “reduce or delay cognitive impairment associated with age and other serious health conditions,” as well as “stave off memory loss, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease.”)

cogs-in-the-shape-of-a-human-brain-ryger

[This puzzle by Ryger can be found here!]

Whether we’re talking short-term or long-term benefits to brain health from puzzling, you’ll find dozens of articles online arguing both sides. Unfortunately, so much of the data out there is inconclusive, or is hindered by test groups too small to be applicable to the general population.

However, the positive, verifiable data we can find is encouraging.

Tetris has been used by researchers to help people suffering from traumatic flashbacks, a type of post-traumatic stress. The University of Exeter conducted a study involving more than 19,000 participants that concluded that adults age 50 and older who regularly solve puzzles like crosswords and Sudoku have better brain function than those who do not.

(While 19,000 is still relatively small when compared to millions upon millions of adults over 50, it’s still one of the largest test groups yet assembled for brain health studies related to puzzles.)

dory

And while people are always discussing short-term memory or long-term memory and how they relate to puzzle solving, it turns out there’s a middle ground between the two that crosswords may have a positive effect on. An article from Scientific American last year discussed how crossword solving engages the episodic buffer, one of the mechanisms related to our working memory, our ability to temporarily hold information while performing cognitive tasks.

Most cognitive activities engage the working memory through either verbal components or visuospatial components. (Visuospatial means how we perceive the relationships between different objects in multiple dimensions). But as it turns out, while playing Scrabble or solving crosswords, both visuospatial and verbal components are utilized by the short-term memory.

Of course, this is preliminary work, and there’s so much more to learn about short-term and long-term memory, but apparently, wordplay like Scrabble and crosswords could have a unique effect on how our working memory functions. That’s pretty cool!

But they’re not the only puzzles that we’ve discovered some fascinating new details about. Jigsaw puzzles can have a positive effect on the brain during the solving process.

BrainGames-scaled

Now, like crosswords and Sudoku puzzles, jigsaw puzzles have been the subject of several articles claiming they can help with brain health (or even decrease the presence of Beta-amyloid protein in the brain, a major component of the plaque that indicates Alzheimer’s disease). But I cannot verify those facts in scientific journals to my satisfaction, so I’m tabling that part of the argument.

What I do want to talk about it is how jigsaw puzzle solving can induce a mental state similar to dreaming, one that helps with stress, relaxation, and mood.

The company Sanesco Health is heralded as an industry leader in neurotransmitter testing, and according to an article on their site, placing those tricky little pieces in the right places can do you a world of good:

The connections made while working on jigsaw puzzles aren’t limited to our brain cells. Exercising both sides of the brain simultaneously also allows the brain to move from a Beta state, the wakeful mind, into an “Alpha” state, the same mental state experienced while dreaming. The Alpha state is where we tap into our subconscious mind.

Jigsaw puzzles naturally induce this state of creative, focused meditation, where connections can be made on deeper levels. And that release of dopamine with every puzzle piece you successfully place is an added bonus! Dopamine causes improved motor skills, an increase in concentration, optimism, confidence, and an enhanced recollection.

[Imagine how restful she felt after this!]

Considering that jigsaw puzzle sales spiked during the pandemic — with some outlets reporting sales increases of up to 500% — it sounds like people were either consciously or subconsciously making the perfect choice to cope with the stresses of lockdown.

As always, we’ll keep our eye out for any additional data on these findings.

But in the meantime, happy puzzling! It might be good for you!


dailypopwsicon

Well, summer’s over, but we still have deals galore for you to check out. You can find them on the Home Screen for Daily POP Crosswords and Daily POP Word Search! Check them out!

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

The Rapid Advancement of Wooden Puzzles!

The essential elements of puzzles are centuries old. The knot to be unraveled, the wordplay to be processed, the pieces to be reassembled, the message to be decoded, the inconsistency to be spotted.

And yet, puzzles continue to evolve, finding new ways to express and employ these ancient components into fresh, satisfying solving experiences.

We recently discussed the evolution of Rubik’s-style twisty puzzles thanks to 3-D printing and computer modeling, and the same is true for an even older puzzle style: wooden puzzles.

Wooden puzzles frequently adhere to one of several formats:

Many of these puzzles are still effective and satisfying challenges today. If you’ve ever tried to hold four pieces in place at once in order to assemble a wooden camel, or suss out the dozen or so steps to open a himitsu-bako (or Japanese puzzle box), you know what I’m talking about.

Of course, like their twisty counterparts, these puzzles have only grown more complex over time.

And a relatively recent addition to the arsenal of wooden puzzle designers and creators is at-home laser cutters allowing for efficient production of puzzles and pieces at an affordable rate.

cirkusupiecesall

Over the years, we’ve seen projects like Cirkusu and the Baffledazzle line of specialized jigsaw puzzles, as well as the hit Kickstarter project Codex Silenda (which even appeared in an episode of NCIS: New Orleans), thanks to crowdfunding campaigns and affordable laser cutters.

Check out some of the most recent wooden puzzles I’ve encountered, created through laser cutter design:

Martin Raynsford’s Antikythera Tablets

This collection of five puzzle tablets, each themed around different aspects of Greek mythology, create a beautiful and well-constructed narrative chain that feels brilliantly unique and immersive.

iDventure’s Cluebox Escape Rooms in a Box

These multi-stage puzzle boxes are completely self-contained. You need to explore every inch of its surface to find clues and tools to unlock each stage of the puzzle box and reveal further challenges!

The field has advanced so far in just last few years, so who knows where wooden puzzles will go in the future?

Have you seen any mind-blowing wooden brain teasers that you’d recommend, fellow puzzlers? Let us know in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you!


dailypopwsicon

Have you checked out our special summer deals yet? You can find them on the Home Screen for Daily POP Crosswords and Daily POP Word Search! Check them out!

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

How People Used Puzzles and Games to Endure the Pandemic

Puzzles and games have been there for many people during the pandemic.

Many puzzle and game companies offered (and continue to offer) “COVID discounts” and giveaways to help people financially impacted by the crisis. Companies released free online or zoom-compatible versions of their products to help people get by.

There are all sorts of articles out there about how Dungeons & Dragons and other roleplaying games have served as critical socializing tools in virtual hangouts. Bar-style trivia, zoom games, Jackbox, Board Game Arena, Fall Guys, Among Us… lots of communal activities went virtual as puzzles and games filled a rapidly growing niche.

Whether solved alone or with other members of the household, jigsaw puzzles sales increased 500% or more. Online sites to coordinate trades sprang up, allowing people to swap puzzles they’d solved before for ones new to them.

At a terrible time for many people, puzzles and games helped us cope.

And honestly, if you know the history of games and puzzles, it makes sense. Many of them have been born out of unpleasant circumstances.

Monopoly was a hit during the Great Depression, offering an escape and the illusory feeling of being rich. The game itself only cost two dollars, so it was a solid investment with a ton of replay value.

Candy Land was created to entertain children with polio (although that fact wasn’t commonly known for 50 years). Clue was designed during air raid drills as a way to pass the time. The Checkered Game of Life (later The Game of Life) was inspired by Milton Bradley’s own wild swing of business misfortune.

Risk and other conflict-heavy games weren’t popular in postwar Germany, so an entire genre of games that avoided direct conflict was born: Eurogames.

It’s just as true in the modern day. What game was flying off the shelves during COVID-19 lockdowns? Pandemic.

That combination of escapism and social interaction is so powerful. Games are low-stakes. They offer both randomness (a break from monotony) and a degree of control (something sorely missing during lockdown).

Puzzles too assisted folks in maintaining their mental health. And isn’t it interesting that crossword solving, something viewed by many as a solitary endeavor — I guess they never needed to ask someone else 5-Down — helped fill a crucial social role for people?

Constructors stepped up in interesting, inventive ways. The sense of community fostered by online crossword events like Crossword Tournament From Your Couch (which filled the void of ACPT in 2020) and the Boswords Themeless League was absolutely invaluable to puzzlers who couldn’t attend some of the highlights of the puzzle calendar year.

As I said before, there are numerous articles out there celebrating the benefits of roleplaying games like Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, and more.

Roleplaying games certainly helped keep me sane during lockdown. It might sound ridiculous, but dealing with world-threatening threats, fiercely dangerous monsters, and sinister plots that I could DO something about was medicinal. It was escape in its truest form. It recharged me, allowing me to lose myself in storytelling with friends.

The last 18 months were hard. There may be hard months ahead. But I’m grateful for the puzzle/game community — and the many marvelous pastimes they’ve created — for helping me and many others get by. To smile. To cope. To socialize. And to enjoy.

What games and puzzles have helped you deal with unpleasant circumstances, fellow puzzlers? Let us know in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you.


dailypopwsicon

Have you checked out our special summer deals yet? You can find them on the Home Screen for Daily POP Crosswords and Daily POP Word Search! Check them out!

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!