It’s Follow-Up Friday: 2016 Countdown edition!

It’s the final Follow-Up Friday of the year, so what do you say we revisit all of 2016 with a countdown of my ten favorite blog posts from the past year!

#10 Doomsday Prep

One of the big surprises for me this year was discovering that crosswords and puzzle books were hot-ticket items for doomsday preppers. The idea that crosswords belong next to necessities like food, water, shelter, and knowledge was a revealing one, something that gave me great hope for the future, whether we need those caches or not.

#9 Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide

Every year, one of my favorite activities is putting together our Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide. I get to include the best products sent to me for review by top puzzle and game companies, mix in some of my own favorites, and draw attention to terrific constructors, game designers, and friends of the blog, all in the hopes of introducing solvers (and families of solvers) to quality puzzles and games.

#8 A Puzzly Proposal

Our friends at Penny Dell Puzzles once again pulled off a heck of a puzzly coup when an intrepid fellow puzzler asked them for help proposing to his girlfriend with a special Simon Says puzzle.

I reached out to the lucky fiancé and got his permission to share the story with the PuzzleNation readership, and as I learned more about who was involved and how they’d managed to make it happen, I enjoyed the story more and more. Here’s hoping for many happy puzzly years ahead for the young couple!

#7 Puzzle Fort

For International Puzzle Day, I built a fort out of puzzle books.

It was awesome. Definitely one of my favorite puzzly moments of the year.

#6 The End of Sudoku?

The Sudoku boom may be over, but Sudoku remains one of the most popular puzzles in the world, and I got to thinking… when would we run out? I mean, eventually, statistically speaking, every single Sudoku puzzle permutation would get used at some point, so when would that happen?

So, I crunched the numbers, and it turns out, we’ve got centuries before that happens. Still, it was a fun mental puzzle to unravel.

#5 Murder Mystery

At some point this year, I let slip to my fellow puzzlers that I’d written and staged murder mystery dinners in the past, but it had been a while since I’d done anything like that. Naturally, they volunteered to be participants, urging me to stage something in the office.

Eventually, I accepted their challenge, pitting myself against a half-dozen or so of my fellow puzzlers, allowing some of them to investigate while others played a part in the mystery. It was an enormous undertaking and an absolute blast that lasted three days, and it was definitely a highlight of the year for me.

#4 Puzzle Plagiarism

There was probably no bigger story in crosswords all year than the accusations of plagiarism leveled against Timothy Parker. The editor of puzzles for USA Today and Universal UClick. After numerous examples of very suspicious repetitions between grids were discovered in a crossword database compiled by programmer Saul Pwanson and constructor Ben Tausig, Parker “temporarily stepped back from any editorial role” with their puzzles.

Eventually, Parker was removed from any editorial influence on USA Today’s puzzles, but it remains unknown if he’s still serving in a puzzle-related capacity for Universal Uclick. But the real story here was about integrity in puzzles, as many puzzle and game companies rallied to defend their rights as creators. That’s a cause we can all get behind.

#3 Interviewing the PuzzleNation Team

Our recurring interview feature 5 Questions returned this year, but what made it truly special to me was being able to turn the spotlight on some of my fellow puzzlers here at PuzzleNation as part of celebrating 4 years of PuzzleNation Blog. Introducing readers to our programmer Mike, our Director of Digital Games Fred, and yes, even myself, was a really fun way to celebrate this milestone.

#2 ACPT, CT FIG, and Other Puzzly Events

There are few things better than spending time with fellow puzzlers and gamers, and we got to do a lot of that this year. Whether it was supporting local creators at the Connecticut Festival of Indie Games or cheering on my fellow puzzlers at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, getting out and talking shop with other creators is invigorating and encouraging. It really helps solidify the spirit of community that comes with being puzzly.

#1 Penny Dell Sudoku and Android Expansion

Those were our two biggest app releases this year, and I just couldn’t choose one over the other. This has been a terrific year for us as puzzle creators, because not only did we beef up our library of Android-available puzzle sets to match our terrific iOS library, but we launched our new Penny Dell Sudoku app across both platforms, broadening the scope of what sort of puzzle apps you can expect from PuzzleNation.

It may sound self-serving or schlocky to talk about our flagship products as #1 in the countdown, but it’s something that we’re all extremely proud of, something that we’re constantly working to improve, because we want to make our apps the absolute best they can be for the PuzzleNation audience. That’s what you deserve.

Thanks for spending 2016 with us, through puzzle scandals and proposals, through forts and festivities, through doomsday prepping and daily delights. We’ll see you in 2017.

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PuzzleNation Looks Back at 2016!

The year is quickly coming to a close, and as I look back on an eventful year in the world of puzzles and games, I’m unbelievably proud of the contributions both PuzzleNation Blog and PuzzleNation made to the puzzle community as a whole.

Over the last year, we explored board games and card games, strategy games and trivia games, dice games and tile games, do-it-yourself puzzlers and pen-and-paper classics. We met designers, constructors, authors, artists who work in LEGOs and dominos, and creative types of all kinds.

We unraveled math puzzles and used statistics to play Hangman and Guess Who smarter. We accepted the challenge of diabolical puzzles, optical illusions, Internet memes, and more.

We delved into puzzle history with posts about Bletchley Park, puzzle graffiti from ancient Greece, Viking board games, and modern mysteries like the Kryptos Sculpture and the Voynich Manuscript. We separated fact from fiction when it comes to puzzles and brain health, avoiding highfalutin promises and sticking to solid science.

We spread the word about numerous worthwhile Kickstarters and Indiegogo campaigns, watching as the puzzle/game renaissance continued to amaze and surprise us with innovative new ways to play and solve. We shared amazing projects and worthy causes like Humble Bundles and puzzle/game donation programs for schools that allowed puzzle lovers to help others.

We celebrated International TableTop Day, built a puzzle fort in honor of International Puzzle Day, attended the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament and the Connecticut Festival of Indie Games, and dove deep into puzzle events like the Indie 500, the UK Sudoku Championship, the 2016 UK Puzzle Championship, and Lollapuzzoola. We even celebrated a puzzly wedding proposal, and we were happy to share so many remarkable puzzly landmark moments with you.

It’s been both a pleasure and a privilege to explore the world of puzzles and games with you, my fellow puzzle lovers and PuzzleNationers. We marked four years of PuzzleNation Blog this year, I’m approaching my 650th blog post, and I’m more excited to write for you now than I was when I started.

And honestly, that’s just the blog. PuzzleNation’s good fortune, hard work, and accomplishments in 2016 went well beyond that.

In April, we launched Penny Dell Crosswords Jumbo 3 for iOS users, and in May, we followed that with Penny Dell Crosswords Jumbo for Android. In November, we launched our new Penny Dell Sudoku app on both Android and iOS.

But the standout showpiece of our puzzle app library remains the Penny Dell Crossword App. Every month, we release puzzle sets like our Dell Collection sets or the themed Deluxe sets for both Android and iOS users, and I’m proud to say that every single puzzle represents our high standards of quality puzzle content for solvers and PuzzleNationers.

We even revamped our ongoing Crossword Clue Challenge to feature a clue from each day’s Free Daily Puzzle in the Crossword app, all to ensure that more puzzle lovers than ever have access to the best mobile crossword app on the market today.

And your response has been fantastic! The blog is closing in on 2000 followers, and with our audience on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other platforms continuing to grow, the enthusiasm of the PuzzleNation readership is both humbling and very encouraging.

2016 was our most ambitious, most exciting, and most creatively fulfilling year to date, and the coming year promises to be even brighter.

Thank you for your support, your interest, and your feedback, PuzzleNationers. Have a marvelous New Year. We’ll see you in 2017!

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It’s Follow-Up Friday: Math Puzzle Madness edition!

Welcome to Follow-Up Friday!

By this time, you know the drill. Follow-Up Friday is a chance for us to revisit the subjects of previous posts and bring the PuzzleNation audience up to speed on all things puzzly.

And today, I’d like to revisit the world of viral puzzles and discuss two that have been making the rounds on Facebook recently.

If you’ve been on social media recently, you’ve no doubt seen one or both of these puzzles:



Each was probably accompanied by some hyperbolic phrasing like “95% of people and most dogs can’t solve this puzzle! Heck, they can’t even agree on an answer! CAN YOU?!?!?!?!”

Well, duh. Of course they can’t agree on an answer. There’s plenty of room to make different assumptions.

Let’s look at the first puzzle again.


Now, if you take the puzzle at face value, the chain would appear to be this:

1 + 4 = 5

2 + 5 (+5) = 12 (We’ve added the previous answer, which is where the +5 comes from.

3 + 6 (+12) = 21

8 + 11 (+21) = 40

So the answer is 40.

But wait. if you assume that the pattern continues for the digits between 3 and 8, you end up with this:

1 + 4 = 5

2 + 5 (+5) = 12

3 + 6 (+12) = 21

4 + 7 (+21) = 32

5 + 8 (+32) = 45

6 + 9 (+45) = 60

7 + 10 (+60) = 77

8 + 11 (+77) = 96

And, in truth, it could be either. You’re not given enough information to know for sure how to proceed. It’s a coin toss whether the last line immediately follows the third line, or whether there’s a whole bunch of lines in between and you need to “get the pattern” to extrapolate the 8th line.

Now let’s look at that second puzzle again.


This one also has the potential for alternate answers, but instead of inferences, it depends on whether you follow the traditional order of operations (parentheses, exponents, multiplication/division, addition/subtraction) or you simply read left to right.

If you use traditional order of operations, you end up with:

Horse + Horse + Horse = 30, so Horse = 10.

Horse + Horseshoes + Horseshoes = 18, so Horseshoes = 4 and Horseshoe = 2.

Horseshoes – Boots = 2, so Boots = 2 and Boot = 1.

Boot + Horse x Horseshoe = Boot + (Horse x Horseshoe) = 1 + (10 x 2) = 21.

But if you simply read the last equation from left to right, you end up with:

Boot + Horse x Horseshoe = 1 + 10 x 2 = 11 x 2 = 22.

So, in fairness, there is no right answer to either puzzle, given the information we have.

Which, to me, doesn’t seem like a great puzzle, but it probably makes for great clickbait.

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!

Unraveling the Riddle of Math Puzzles!

Math puzzles are among the most intimidating in the world of puzzles. Many people will happily dive into a crossword or tackle a word seek at a moment’s notice, but drop some numbers into a puzzle, and they hesitate.

But there’s no reason to fear!

Math puzzles are certainly a different form of puzzling, but like all puzzles, there’s always a way in, if you know how to look for it. Today, we’re going to solve two math puzzles together in the hopes of demystifying this style of puzzle.

Let’s take a look at our first math puzzle, “Count the Votes.”

A problem developed at a recent election where 5,219 votes were cast for four candidates. The victor exceeded his opponents by 22, 30, and 73 votes, yet not one of them knew how to figure out the exact number of votes received by each. Can you?

Okay, where do we begin?

Let’s start with what we know. We know the total number of votes, 5,219. That will be one side of our equation.

We also know that the winner beat his three opponents by 22 votes, 30 votes, and 73 votes, respectively. Which means that the number of votes the winner received is the key to solving this puzzle. Let’s call that number of votes “x.”

The winner beat one opponent by 22 votes (x – 22), another by 30 votes (x – 30), and the last by 73 votes (x – 73).

We can build our simple equation from that information:

x + (x – 22) + (x – 30) + (x – 73) = 5219

Still a little daunting, but we can simplify it, because it doesn’t matter in which order we add or subtract things. So let’s look at that formula without the parentheses:

x + x – 22 + x – 30 + x – 73 = 5219

Now let’s reorganize it, putting the addition parts together and the subtraction parts together:

x + x + x + x – 22 – 30 – 73 = 5219

Subtracting those three numbers separately is the same as subtracting their total, so let’s simplify again:

x + x + x + x – 125 = 5219

Adding four x’s together is the same as multiplying one x by 4, so let’s express that:

4x – 125 = 5219

Now we’re getting somewhere.

And subtracting 125 from 4x is the same as adding 125 to 5219, so let’s do that:

4x = 5344

Finally, we divide 5344 by 4 to give us the value of x:

x = 1336

Which means that our victor got 1336 votes, one opponent got 1314 (x – 22), another opponent got 1306 (x – 30), and the last got 1263 (x – 73), totalling 5129 votes.

Now, that wasn’t so bad, was it? Let’s try another that’s a little bit harder.

This one is called “The Mathematical Cop.”

“Top of the mornin’ to you, officer,” said Mr. McGuire. “Can you tell me what time it is?”

“I can do that same,” replied Officer Clancy, who was known on the force as the mathematical cop. “Just add one quarter of the time from midnight until now to half the time from now until midnight, and it will give you the correct time.”

Can you figure out the exact time when this puzzling conversation took place?

Okay, this one isn’t as obvious about providing us with information, but the info is there if you look.

Since everything relates to the time “now,” we’ll make “now” our x.

Then we take each part of Officer Clancy’s statement in turn. “Just add one quarter of the time from midnight until now.”

“The time from midnight until now” is the same as “now,” x, so one quarter of that time is x/4.

And we’re meant to add that to “half the time from now until midnight.”

That’s a little bit tougher. After all, “the time from midnight to now” was easy, but “the time from now until midnight” covers the rest of a 24-hour day. So, if x covers the time from midnight to now, then “1440 – x” covers the time from now until midnight.

(There are 1440 minutes in a day, 60 minutes times 24 hours, and it’s easier to do all this in minutes, rather than hours and minutes.)

So “half the time from now until midnight” is (1440 – x)/2.

Okay, so what does our equation look like?

x/4 + (1440 – x)/2 = x

That’s pretty daunting, but we know what our goal is: to combine all those x’s and get them on the same side of the equal sign. And like the equation we built for “Count the Votes,” we can simplify it with some careful applied math.

The first step is to get rid of those pesky fractions.

Let’s multiply everything by 2 in order to remove the “/2” below “(1440 – x),” which gives us:

2x/4 + (1440 – x) = 2x

We can use the same trick to remove the “/4” below 2x:

2x + 4(1440 – x) = 8x

Now we’re getting somewhere! Let’s get rid of that 2x on the left by subtracting 2x from both sides:

4(1440 – x) = 6x

Let’s go a step further by multiplying both 1440 and x by 4:

5760 – 4x = 6x

One more step, and we’ve got all of those x’s combined on one side of the equation, as we’d hoped:

5760 = 10x

Divide 5760 by 10 and we’ve got x:

576 = x

If you recall, x represented the time “now,” but it’s still in minutes. To get the actual time, divide 576 by 60 to get the number of hours. 540 minutes = 9 hours, so 576 is 9 hours, 36 minutes.

It’s 9:36 AM, Officer, though to be honest, if you tell everyone the time this way, I imagine people stop asking you the time after a while.

I realize these are only two examples, and math puzzles come in all shapes and sizes, but hopefully, they don’t seem quite so intimidating, now that you know how to pick them apart for the important information.

Good luck! And if you find any math puzzles you need help with, send them our way! They could end up the subject of a future blog post!

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!