Puzzly World Records: Redux!

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[Image courtesy of Amazon.]

A few years ago, I wrote a post chronicling some of the puzzly world records I’d found while reading the latest edition of the Guinness Book of World Records. Back then, I was surprised to see a two-page spread dedicated to puzzle-centric records.

As I perused this year’s edition of the iconic record-keeping tome, there was a two-page spread dedicated to Rubik’s Cube world records alone. (There were numerous other puzzly records scattered throughout the book as well.)

So, since 2019 is drawing to a close in the next few weeks, why not dedicate one of the last blog posts of 2019 to the most up-to-date puzzly world records I can track down?

Shall we? Let’s shall.

Let’s start with a few Scrabble records.

On January 21, 2012, Singapore’s Toh Weibin amassed the highest score ever recorded in a Scrabble tournament at the Northern Ireland Scrabble Championship in Belfast, scoring 850 points.

January is apparently a good month for word-tile world records, as on January 5, 2015, Lakshan Wanniarachchi set a record for playing the most opponents in Scrabble simultaneously — 40! — in Colombo, Sri Lanka. He defeated 31 of the 40 players in order to qualify for the record.

(So, yeah, you might have more Words with Friends games going at once than Wanniarachchi did, but did you win that many? Probably not.)

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[Image courtesy of Chess.com.]

Instead of multiple opponents, how about one opponent for 20 hours and 15 minutes?

That’s how long chess masters Ivan Nikolic and Goran Arsovic faced off in Belgrade on February 17, 1989, where they set a world record for the most moves played in a single chess game: 269.

We can stick around Europe for one more puzzly world record, this time in Wageningen, Netherlands, as the Ceres Student Association teamed with Hasbro to create a Monopoly board the size of three-and-a-half tennis courts. Yes, on November 30, 2016, they unveiled a 9,687-square-foot version of the famously frustrating game board.

9,687 square feet? That’s pretty big, I guess. Unless, of course, you’re talking about a world record set in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, where everything is ludicrously oversized and lavish.

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[Image courtesy of DMCC.]

On July 7, 2018, the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC) unveiled the world’s largest jigsaw puzzle, a 65,896-square-foot puzzle that commemorated the late Sheikh Zayed.

And speaking of jigsaw puzzles, students at the University of Economics Ho Chi Mihn City in Vietnam set a record by completing the jigsaw puzzle with the most pieces — 551,232 pieces! — on September 24, 2011, breaking the record previously set in Singapore — 212,323 pieces — which had stood since 2002.

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[Image courtesy of Guinness.]

According to the Guinness article covering the event:

It took the students 17 hours to first break up the 3,132 sections, each containing 176 pieces, into which the jigsaw puzzle had been divided, and then re-assemble them to create the puzzle.

Seventeen hours of puzzling is ambitious, but what about 24 hours of puzzling?

That’s what Richard Bragg, Daniel Egnor, Amanda Harris, and Ana Ulin — aka Bloody Boris’s Burning Bluelight Brigade — tackled when they set the world record for most escape rooms attended in one day. On October 3, 2018, they visited 22 escape rooms in 24 hours in Moscow, Russia. The team’s success rate was just as impressive; the team escaped all but one of the rooms in the allotted time.

Now that’s an escapade.

Of course, we couldn’t have a world records puzzling post without talking about the Rubik’s Cube.

The official fastest time for solving a standard 3x3x3 Rubik’s Cube is held by Feliks Zemdegs, who set an average time of 5.8 seconds in the 2017 Malaysian Cube Open. (In competition solving, the average time across three different solves comprises your official time.)

The unofficial record for the fastest 3x3x3 solve — meaning it was outside of tournament conditions — was set in China: 3.47 seconds by Du Yesheng.

But that’s only the official size. What about other Cubes? Let’s look at the fastest solves (that I can verify):

  • 7x7x7: 1 min 47.89 sec by Max Park
  • 6x6x6: 1 min 13.82 sec by Max Park
  • 5x5x5: 37.28 sec by Max Park
  • 4x4x4: 18.42 sec by Max Park (starting to see a pattern here…)
  • 2x2x2 (average solve): 1.51 Lucas Etter
  • 2x2x2 (single solve): .49 sec by Maciej Czapiewski

And, just to show off, Stanley Chapel holds the record for a blindfolded 4x4x4 solve: 1 minute, 29 seconds.

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[A different blindfolded solver. Image courtesy of Le Rubik’s Cube.]

Of course, now that we’ve mentioned one weird way to solve a Cube, let’s explore a few others.

Feliks Zemdegs set another world record by solving a 3x3x3 one-handed in 6.88 seconds. On March 1, 2015, Bhargav Narasimhan solved five Rubik’s Cubes one-handed in a blistering 1 minute, 23.93 seconds.

Daniel Rose-Levine holds the record for solving a 3x3x3 with his feet: 16.96 seconds. Not to be outdone, Que Jianyu unscrambled a trio of Rubik’s Cubes with his hands and feet simultaneously in just 1 minute, 36.38 seconds, in Xiamen, Fujian Province, China. (For the record, he solved one in each hand and one with his feet).

He later hung from a pole to record the fastest time to solve a Rubik’s Cube upside-down: 15.84 seconds. (He also holds the record for solving three Cubes while juggling, doing so in 5 minutes, 2.43 seconds.)

Jack Cai solved one blindfolded in 16.22 seconds. On July 22, 2018, at the Delhi Monsoon Open in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, India, Shivam Bansal shattered the field with the most Rubik’s Cubes solved while blindfolded: 48 out of 48 in under 1 hour.

George Turner holds the record for solving on a pogo stick: 24.13 seconds.

Krishnam Raju Gadiraju solved 2 Cubes simultaneously — underwater! — in 53.86 seconds. Kevin Hays achieved a world record for solving eight 3x3x3 Cubes underwater on August 19, 2015. He held his breath for 2 minutes and 4 seconds.

[Here’s a YouTube video of a different, but still impressive, underwater solve.]

Now let’s get truly ridiculous.

Phillip Kwa’han Espinoza holds the world record for most 3x3x3 Cubes solved while running a marathon. On November 14, 2015, he solved 839 Cubes over the course of 4 hours, 56 minutes, and 1 second during the 26.2 mile run in the REVEL Canyon City Marathon in Azusa, California, shattering the previous record of 175 Cubes.

26.2 miles is pretty good. But what about 12,000 feet?

That’s how high up Dan Knights was in June of 2003 when he jumped from a plane and solved a Rubik’s Cube in freefall while skydiving. He solved it in 34 seconds… which is good, because he only had 40 seconds before he’d have to deploy his parachute to safely execute a 12,000-foot fall.

To close things out today, let’s look at some Rubik’s records about quantity.

What about the most cubes solved:

  • one-handed while treading water in one hour? 137 by Shen Weifu
  • on a unicycle? 250 by Caleb McEvoy
  • on a bicycle? 1,010 by P K Arumugam

Finally, in January 27, 2018, the Kaligi Ranganathan Montford Group of Schools set a world record by bringing together the most people simultaneously solving Rubik’s Cubes — 3,997 — at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai, India. The average time to solve for the assembled students? A few minutes.

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[Image courtesy of Guinness.]

Imagine the records people will set in the 2020s.


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A Puzzle Hunt at a Wedding Reception?

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We’ve seen our fair share of puzzly romance here on the blog over the years, particularly when it comes to proposals. There was the Rubik’s Cube proposal, the Monopoly proposal, and of course, the two proposals facilitated by our friends at Penny Dell Puzzles.

Heck, just recently, YouTuber and author Hannah Witton proposed to her partner using some Fluxx cards she created especially for the occasion!

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But in today’s blog, we’ve got a new twist on things. We’ve seen puzzly proposals… but how about a puzzle-fueled wedding reception?

When Laser Webber (half of the wonderful musical duo The Doubleclicks) and Richard Malena got married, they decided to celebrate the day with a puzzly reception, since they love puzzles and games, and they knew some of their guests were diehard puzzle/game fans as well.

So, what’s the perfect hook for a wedding reception puzzle?

Simple. Their rings had gone missing, and it was up to the puzzlers in attendance to find them!

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Each table at the reception had a theme — Dungeons & Dragons, Oregon, Lord of the Rings, etc. — and on the back of each placemat was a letter. The letters spelled out a word related to another table’s theme, leading to certain tables teaming up. (There were also bonus letters on some of the placemats, which would be used in the next clue.)

So, say there were nine tables, and those nine tables boiled down to three teams (three tables per team), those teams could then combine the bonus letters from their tables to spell a bonus word.

The three bonus words, when combined, formed the phrase “ringing present interior.”

A-ha! A clue must be lurking on the present table!

The solvers made their way there, and shook the presents. Although several of them made interesting noises, only one contained a bell that rang out in suspicious fashion. The guests paused for a second, then tore into the paper and opened the box, revealing a Rubik’s Cube.

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Naturally, this one had been personalized for the event, with letters or star stickers on it in addition to the usual colors. When solved, from left to right, the cube read:

THESECRETCOD
EBEHINDTHECO
NSTELLATIONS

or

“the secret code behind the constellations.”

The eyes of solvers immediately turned to the paintings of constellations that decorated the reception area. Or, more specifically, to what was behind the paintings. With a touch more destruction — paper backings to the paintings, rather than wrapping paper this time — a number of playing cards were revealed, each with bits of a message painted on.

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When properly arranged, the message on the cards read, “What did that hobbits ask when he tricksed me?”

How clever is that? Not just a Lord of the Rings reference (one sure to delight LOTR fans in attendance), but a reminder of what they were looking for… the lost rings of the newly married couple.

The solvers then confronted the emcees and asked the crucial question, “What have I got in my pocket?” and the emcees revealed they had the rings all along.

The guests had triumphed and reunited the couple with their rings!

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It was a really unique way of celebrating being together with friends and loved ones — and doing something you love in a big, fun, silly, personalized way as well — and we here at PuzzleNation Blog are forever impressed by the creativity and puzzly ingenuity of our fellow puzzlers.

[For the full story, including a hilarious mishap during the placemat portion of the puzzle hunt, check out Richard’s blog post about the reception here.]


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Science Says Board Games Are Good For Your Relationship?

[Image courtesy of Medium.com.]

One of the hallmarks of a healthy relationship is enjoying the same activities. If you’re spending time together doing something you both find engaging, then you’re golden.

But, as it turns out, there are some activities that offer greater benefits than others.

According to a recent study published by Baylor University, couples who play board games together are actually strengthening their relationships chemically.

[Incidentally, there is a hilarious world of photos dedicated to couples with chess boards out there. Here are just some of my favorites.]

From the article on Baylor.edu:

For the study, Melton and Maria Boccia, Ph.D., professor of child and family studies, recruited 20 couples ranging in age from 25 to 40. Couples were randomly assigned to participate in one of two couple dates — game night or couple art class — for one hour.

One group played board games in a familiar home-like setting. Couples were alone. These couples chose familiar games that would not require them to read instructions.

The study was designed to examine any increase in levels of oxytocin in the couples’ hormone levels. Oxytocin, often referred to as the hugging hormone, plays a role in building social connections.

[Image courtesy of Daily Mail.]

Here’s the breakdown on oxytocin release increases:

  • men in the art class
  • women playing board games
  • women in the art class
  • men playing board games

Curiously, while there wasn’t a significant difference between the latter three categories, men in the art class released 2 to 2.5 times more oxytocin than the other groups.

There were measurable increases in the oxytocin levels for both men and women playing board games, lending credence to the idea that playing together is good for your relationship.

Some of the games used in the study: cards, checkers, chess, dominoes, and Monopoly. Given some of my unpleasant experiences playing Monopoly, I’m surprised that one didn’t throw off the curve somewhat.

[Image courtesy of Grey Mass Games.]

It does make me wonder, though, if some games would provoke greater oxytocin releases than others.

Would cooperative games like Pandemic, Forbidden Island, or Castle Panic! lead to increases, or is the type of game irrelevant? Are more stressful games, like those with timers or ones where quick reaction time is integral to winning, less likely to build those chemical connections?

Sounds like a field ripe for further study. Of course, I’m a little biased. I’ll take any excuse to play more games. =)


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A World of Puzzle Luxury

As recreational pastimes go, puzzles are pretty affordable.

A New York Times crossword subscription runs you $40 for the year. Many top constructors — like those featured in our Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide — offer outstanding puzzles on a weekly basis for less than that.

Puzzle magazines like those from our friends at Penny Dell Puzzles run $5 to $10 (even for the big ones!) and puzzle collections by constructors and puzzle outlets rarely crack double digits.

(Heck, our apps are free downloads!)

So you can imagine my surprise when I saw some constructors on Twitter discussing a subscription service called Puzzlelux that costs nine hundred dollars a year!

[In this actual photo from the website, a woman from a 1990s Calvin Klein TV ad appears to be mildly inconvenienced by an elegant puzzlenado that has swept her into the air, risking all sorts of luxurious papercuts.]

Yes, Puzzlelux offers seasonal bundles of puzzles — Sudoku, crosswords, Cryptograms, and word scrambles — for $75 a month.

Now, not having solved any of their puzzles, I cannot fairly judge whether they’re worth that kind of cash splashing. But I am skeptical, given that I can get awesome puzzles elsewhere for 1/30th that price.

I mean, $899 dollars is pretty steep. A trip on Cunard’s crossword cruise last year was cheaper than that!

Of course, I shouldn’t be surprised that someone came along to corner the market on high-end puzzlesmithing, since in the past, I have encountered a few examples of puzzle luxury items in my travels.

Every year in the Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide, I jokingly mention that the folks at Hammacher Schlemmer offer a $12,000 Scrabble game in their catalog.

Yes, The World’s Largest Scrabble Game takes up an entire wall of your home, but the odds are slimmer that you’ll ever misplace one of the game tiles in your couch cushions.

Then again, $12,000 looks reasonable next to $100,000, which was the price tag for a specialty version of Monopoly produced for FAO Schwarz.

With a solid gold board, emeralds and sapphires embedded in the board (as well as in hotels and houses), and real U.S. currency in place of the play money, this might be the peak of puzzle-game excess.

Unless, of course, you commission your own labyrinth, or want to solve Sudoku in space, or something like that. But who knows what the future holds for super-wealthy puzzlers out there?


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A Relaxing Game Night!

The world can be a very stressful place. We live under a constant deluge of news and information, and it’s so easy to get overwhelmed by it all. And while games can be a wonderful escape, you need the right games to restore your spirits and put you in a good mood.

As much fun as co-op games like Forbidden Island, The Oregon Trail Card Game, and Castle Panic! can be, they can also be a little stressful. And if you’re looking to relax, or to chill out after a long week, those might not be the games for you.

So today, I thought we could turn our attention to games that are as tranquil as they are tactical, in the hopes of helping my fellow PuzzleNationers enjoy a calm gameplay experience.


When I asked fellow game enthusiasts for games that are mellow and relaxing, the first one that always comes to mind is Tsuro.

In Tsuro, up to 8 players adopt the role of flying dragons soaring through the sky. Each player chooses from the tiles in their hands in order to build paths on the board, representing their paths through the sky. Naturally, these paths will eventually intersect, and you need to be careful to avoid colliding with another dragon or following a path right off the edge of the board. (Both of those scenarios cause you to lose.)

Despite the potential for competition, most Tsuro games are peaceful affairs as everyone enjoys watching their dragon token loop and swirl across various intersecting paths, hoping to be the last dragon standing on the board. It’s a beautiful, simple game that only takes about twenty minutes to play, and it’s the perfect palate cleanser after a more stressful round of some other game.

[Image courtesy of Starlit Citadel.]

Tokaido is another game about movement, but in a very different vein. Players in this game are all travelers, journeying across Japan’s famed East Sea Road from Kyoto to Edo. Whereas most travel-based games are about reaching a destination first, Tokaido is about reaching a destination with the widest array of meaningful experiences.

Along the way, your character can meet new people, enjoy new cuisines, collect souvenirs, visit hot springs, and visit scenic locales. You add experience points for these events (and acquire achievement cards) to represent your traveler partaking of these experiences.

This elegant game bypasses traditional competition entirely, building a unique game mechanic out of living your best life.

[Image courtesy of Board Game Quest.]

Sagrada is another wonderfully visual game about individual accomplishment. In this game, each player is building a stained glass window using different colored dice. No dice of the same color can neighbor each other, so you need to be strategic about how you place the dice you roll.

Each window is different, and has certain rules for maximizing points. (A certain pane can only be a certain color, or a certain die value, etc.) The players can boost their scores by selecting cards that reward them with points if they create certain patterns within their stained glass window.

Except for competing for the best point total at the end, there’s virtually no interaction between players. You’re all simply working simultaneously on the best window, which is a gameplay style that breeds camaraderie more than competitiveness. It’s genuinely encouraging to see fellow players make good choices in dice placement to create the most beautiful, elegant window patterns.

[Image courtesy of Starlit Citadel.]

For a change of pace, let’s look at a game that’s more about interaction with other players. Dixit is a gorgeous card game where each player is given a handful of cards, each depicting a different, unique, evocative piece of art.

Player 1 will choose a card from their hand and say a word or phrase to the other players that has some connection to that card. It could reference color, or part of the imagery. It could be a joke, or an idiom, or a song lyric. The goal is to be vague, but not too vague. The other players will then each select a card from their hand that could also be described by Player 1’s statement, and the cards are all shuffled face down so no one can see who submitted what card.

The cards are then all placed face up, and each player (except Player 1) votes on which piece of art they think Player 1 chose. Player 1 gets points if some (but not ALL) players chose his card. (If every player chooses it, the clue was too easy, and Player 1 gets no points.) And any other player’s card that earns votes also earns that player points.

This sort of associative gameplay really encourages your imagination and teaches you about how the other players think. There’s no other game quite like it on the market today, and it makes for an intriguing, low-key gaming experience.

Finally, let’s close out today’s post with a classic tile game that mixes Uno-style color- and pattern-matching with Mexican Train Dominoes-style gameplay. Qwirkle is a bit more competitive than the other games on today’s list, but it’s still a game more about collaborating than outdoing your opponents.

By placing different tiles onto a shared play area — either by matching colors or matching symbols — players earn points. If you complete a Qwirkle — a pattern of all six colors for a given shape or all six shapes in the same color — you earn bonus points.

The lighthearted gameplay style lends itself to friendly competition rather than the cutthroat mien evoked by games like Monopoly. Qwirkle’s not about grinding the other players down, it’s about adding to a colorful world in interesting, inventive new ways.


Hopefully these suggestions will make your game nights a little more mellow. And if you’re looking for puzzlier ideas for a tranquil game night, check out our reviews for ThinkFun’s Kaleidoscope Puzzle and Looney Labs’ Zendo, both of which might scratch your puzzly itch in a relaxing fashion.

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PuzzleNation Product Review: Constellations

Plenty of games offer ambitious goals for the players to achieve. You become a real estate tycoon in Monopoly, a castle owner in Castellan, and a time-traveling adventurer in U.S. Patent Number 1. You could traverse the country in The Oregon Trail, save the world in Pandemic, or conquer it in Risk. That’s part of the magic of games.

But what if you could build the night sky? What if you could harness the stars themselves, assemble constellations, and place them into the heavens above?

Now that is a puzzly endeavor worthy of your attention. And that’s the concept behind the game in today’s product review. We’ll be trying out Constellations by Xtronaut Enterprises.


Constellations combines the resource management card game mechanics of Just Desserts with the pattern-matching tile play of Carcassonne to create an educational and engaging play experience.

Each player starts with five star cards. Each star card represents a different type of star (or in some cases, two of that type of star). The star cards are used to assemble various constellations in order to score points.

The game begins with one constellation already placed in the sky, as well as three possible constellations to build. Players may reserve one of the three constellations, making it their primary goal and removing it from play for the other players.

As you can see in the picture above, different constellations require different combinations of star cards. Some constellations are simpler, so they’re worth fewer points. Other constellations have higher values, but more complex combinations of star cards, which may be harder or more time-consuming to collect.

[One constellation tile, plus the star cards played to complete it. As you can see, you can use extra stars as needed (like a Two B-Type Stars card above), as well as using O cards as wild cards (as I did for the two A-type stars needed to complete this constellation.]

Once a player has gathered all of the star cards necessary to complete the constellation, they then must play it in the night sky, placing it adjacent to one or more of the constellations already completed.

You score points by placing a constellation so that the gemstones along the edges match the neighboring constellation(s), and there are additional points available for placing constellations beside other constellations (as they would appear in the actual night sky). For instance, Leo Minor offers a two-point bonus when placed next to either Leo or Lynx.

Different arrangements of gemstones around the edges of the constellation tile require you to be crafty when and where you place your tile, since more matching gemstones means more points.

[In this layout, Taurus was added perfectly, matching gemstones with both Perseus and Ophiuchus. Pegasus, on the other hand, matched Perseus nicely, but only matched one gemstone with Orion.]

Unfortunately, you have to play a completed constellation, and sometimes the gemstone patterns don’t match up at all. If that’s the case, you’ll lose two points for a constellation played out of place. (Once again, the closer you get to placing your constellation as it would actually appear in the night sky, the better it is for your game.)

All of the game’s mechanics are designed around actual science, which is a very cool touch. The star cards include “Did You Know?” facts about each type of star, and the instruction booklet also includes a short guide to stargazing, star classification, and little write-ups for each constellation included in the game. (There’s even a criss-cross-style crossword on the back page!)

Constellations is great fun, requiring strategy, timing, and puzzly observational skills in order to effectively play the game. The educational aspect doesn’t detract from the gameplay at all, and the alternate rules offered in the back (as well as rules for shorter and longer gameplay times) offer an impressive amount of replay value.

All in all, Constellations mixes card games and tile games with ease, and it makes for a fun and mellow gameplay experience.

[Constellations is available from Xtronaut Enterprises and other select retailers.]


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