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: Blind Spot edition!

[No, not THAT Blindspot. Though friend of the blog David Kwong works on that show…]

Welcome to Follow-Up Friday!

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 return to the subject of optical illusions.

[Image courtesy of Geekologie.]

We’ve discussed optical illusions many times in the past, covering everything from the Necker Cube to the Dress, but today’s illusion is a little bit different.

The 12-dot optical illusion pictured above, also known as a Hermann grid, has been making the rounds lately, and although many puzzlers have accused people of using a video or an animated gif instead of a simple picture, that’s simply not true.

This is a static picture, but our eyes are not designed to capture 12 dots in view at once, so the others vanish when you focus on one dot in particular.

And the folks at ASAP Science have an explanation for this phenomenon! As it turns out, this illusion and others involve both how your brain processes visual information and how the natural structure of your eye creates a blind spot that some optical illusions exploit.

Check out the full explanation here:

So next time someone shares one of these optical illusions, you’ll be ready to explain how they work and show off your puzzly knowledge.


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It’s Follow-Up Friday: This Illusion’s Got Legs 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 return to the subject of viral optical illusions.

Last year, we had The Dress. Then, in March of this year, we had The Jacket. And in May, we asked the question How Many Girls?

Whether we’re spotting iPhones or looking for cats in woodpiles, we can’t seem to get enough of optical illusions.

And there’s a new one making the rounds recently:

[Image courtesy of TheChive.com.]

A woman named Bree tweeted this image of a pair of bare legs that look incredibly shiny. Are they false legs? Are they lotioned or wrapped in Saran wrap? What’s going on here?

I’ll give you a few moments to ponder the image before revealing the secret behind it. Because, as Bree said, “Once you see it, you can’t unsee it.”

Ready? Okay, here we go.

Like most optical illusions, the answer is startlingly simple.

[Image courtesy of TheChive.com.]

The illusion of shininess is actually the result of strategically placed streaks of white paint or toothpaste or something similar.

Pretty impressive once you really look at it, isn’t it?

This image has truly gone viral. As I write this, it’s been retweeted over 16,000 times, and liked over 20,000 times. Bree herself seems baffled by the attention the post has received.

Amazing what you can do with a bit of white paint.


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How Many Girls Do You See?

Optical illusions are a topic we’ve covered numerous times here on the blog, but I’ve noticed a growing trend in the optical-illusion memes that go viral: something to debate.

Think about it. We had The Dress, which the Internet lost its collective mind over. Then we had The Jacket, which upped the ante from two interpretations to four.

Now a friend of the blog has sent me an optical illusion that’s been making the rounds in her group of friends and sparking much debate.

Fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers, I give you…How Many Girls?

What’s going on here? Is this a casting call? A family reunion? Are there mirrors involved, or identical twins? Is this a doppelganger convention? Evidence of human cloning?

This image first appeared a few months ago on the Instagram account of Swiss photographer Tiziana Vergari, and although it hasn’t quite reached the fever pitch of The Dress, it’s by far the most viewed image on her account.

So, how many girls do you see?

Last chance before I give you the definitive answer!

Okay then.

According to Vergari, this photo features two sisters, both of whom are looking into mirrors (although one of those mirrors is out of frame).

Honestly, based on the eye placement and angle of the heads for the two I circled, I would’ve said four.

Just goes to show you, you never can tell.

Except for The Dress. That was obviously blue and black. I mean, come on.


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It’s Follow-Up Friday: Here We Go Again edition!

Welcome to Follow-Up Friday!

Follow-Up Friday is an opportunity to look back on past posts and puzzly topics. Whether we’re updating you with new developments, providing answers to a previously-posted brain teaser or puzzle, or simply revisiting a subject with a fresh perspective, Follow-Up Friday lets us look back and look forward.

In today’s edition, I’d like to revisit optical illusions. One illusion in particular, in fact.

It’s hard to believe that almost exactly a year ago, I dedicated an entire post to explaining the viral Internet phenomenon known as The Dress.

For those who have forgotten (oh, how I envy you), the above picture of a dress was uploaded to Tumblr, and the Internet collectively lost its mind debating whether the dress was white and gold or black and blue.

But why are we revisiting this topic? Because there’s another oversaturated photo of an item of clothing sweeping the Internet these days.

I give you… The Jacket.

And this time around, there are FOUR possible color combinations that people are debating: blue and white, black and brown, green and gold, and green and brown.

So, take a look at that picture, and tell me what you see.

Made your choice? Okay.

According to this article on ABC News, the jacket is blue and white:

High school sophomore and Santa Clarita, California, resident Mariam Kabba said she began a group chat Thursday about the dress after one of her friends was adamant that her blue-and-white jacket was brown and black.

To be fair, I did a quick search of men’s and women’s jackets on the Adidas website, and the only color combinations I saw that fit the style and striping of The Jacket were…you guessed it, blue and white.

But I suspect that won’t dissuade doubters. I can still remember the ardent arguments of the white and gold faction during the heady days of The Dress.

I also wonder if Adidas might capitalize by releasing a four-set of The Jacket jackets, so you can truly have whichever one you see in the picture. That’s what I’d do.


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The Puzzly Art of Anamorphosis

Anamorphic illusions are all about perspective. Making the illusion work requires you to either be in a specific place (positioned a certain distance away and facing a certain direction) or the use of a mirrored cylinder or cone.

Using mirrored objects is called catoptric anamorphosis and using specific perspectives is known as oblique anamorphosis. It’s oblique anamorphosis we’ll be focusing on today.

Most of us have probably seen an example of anamorphosis recently, as it’s become a popular form of urban outdoor art. The ground is painted or colored to provide a fake perspective, and by standing in the proper spot, the illusion is formed.

This creates ample opportunity for some terrific photographs:

[Did you know we’ve got an entire Pinterest page dedicated to this?]

Having a hard time visualizing anamorphosis? Well, the folks at Brasspup have a fantastic YouTube page devoted to science and illusions, and they have several videos featuring some mind-blowing anamorphic illusions.

You can even use light to assist your illusion, as they do here:

What’s even more amazing is that these perspective tricks can move beyond two-dimensional works like paintings and photographs. If you know how to manipulate the viewer, three-dimensional illusions are within your grasp.

Check out this Escher-inspiring creation, built from pens and Jenga blocks! It looks positively impossible!

It really is baffling when you consider how many ways there are to trick the eye. From Necker cubes and shape illusions to forced perspective and anamorphosis, optical illusions are alive and well as a puzzly art form worth exploring.

Heck, look at what we can do with nothing more than black lines!

Imagine trying to walk a straight line in that room. Wow.


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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!