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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A New Year’s Eve Countdown!

It’s New Year’s Eve, and we are literally counting down the hours until 2016, so why not celebrate the end of 2015 with a little countdown of our own?

Here are my 10 favorite blog posts from 2015!


#10 Rubik ‘Round the World

One of the most amazing things about the world today is how interconnected we all are. The Internet has made it easily to not only keep in touch with far-flung friends, but to forge new, meaningful friendships and connections with staggering ease.

And I confess, I am a total sucker for those heartwarming clickbait videos that spread the message that we are all the same. (The one of that guy doing the same dance in countries across the world comes to mind.) So seeing people from all over the world solve a Rubik’s Cube one move at a time…what can I say? It got me.

#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 Music and Puzzles

Talking about how puzzles are relevant to daily life is one of my favorite subjects for blog posts. Brain health, stress relief, the long-term benefits of puzzle solving…we’ve discussed all these topics and more during my time as lead blogger.

This year I continued that tradition with this post about how listening to music can make you a more effective solver. It’s always interesting for me to do some research and really delve into a topic — especially scientific ones because they’re often so drastically misreported or misinterpreted by mainstream outlets — and give the PuzzleNation audience the straight story.

#7 The Dress

One of the most bizarre moments of 2015 was when someone shoved their iPhone in my face and asked me what color a dress was. It wasn’t until a few moments later that I found out this was a big thing on the Internet that people were vociferously debating.

The chance to explain exactly what was going on in the photo through one of my favorite puzzly mediums — the optical illusion — was too much fun to resist, and it resulted in one of the year’s most popular, most shared blog posts.

#6 The American Crossword Puzzle Tournament

Although it’s a highlight of the puzzly calendar every year, this year’s ACPT was extra special for me because it was the first I attended in person.

Not only did I get to meet a lot of top names in crosswords — in many cases, finally getting a chance to put names to faces after many emails and tweets exchanged — but I got to enjoy the Big Fight feel of seeing so many friends and puzzlers test their mettle against some great puzzles.

#5 A Puzzly Wedding Proposal

Our friends at Penny Dell Puzzles pulled off one heck of a puzzly coup when an intrepid fellow puzzler asked them for help proposing to his girlfriend with a special Escalators 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 just became more and more enamored with the story. I have no doubt that years from now, this will still be one of my favorite blog posts.

#4 Max Reviews the Boston Festival of Indie Games

Guest bloggers are nothing new to PuzzleNation Blog, as Sherri regularly pops in with her app reviews, but Max Galpern pushed things to another level with his appearances throughout the year. Not only did he pioneer our first video review (with assistance from Fred), but he took over the blog for an entire day with his review of the Boston Festival of Indie Games.

Here’s hoping we can get Max back for 2016 a few times, though I suspect he’ll be in high demand.

#3 Will Sudoku

We do a lot of reviews (board game and card game reviews, puzzle reviews, tournament reviews, app reviews, etc.) and I thoroughly enjoy introducing new puzzly products and events to my fellow PuzzleNationers and sharing my thoughts on them.

But it’s rare that we get the first shot at introducing a brand-new never-before-seen puzzle or product, and that’s what separates the Will Sudoku post from many others. Serving as the debut outlet for a new puzzle was great fun and very exciting, one of those rarities that made 2015 such a terrific year.

#2 Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Island Seesaws

Brain teasers were a big part of 2015 for the blog, since several challenging ones went viral this year. But I don’t think any of them taxed my brain — both to solve AND to explain how to solve — like the island seesaw brain teaser from an episode of Fox’s sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine did.

It is an epic-length blog post — one I needed a mathematician friend of mine to help me write — but it broke down a tough puzzle bit-by-bit and explained every step. In a year of brain-melting puzzle posts, it still stands out.

#1 Announcing Free Daily Puzzles for the Penny Dell Crosswords App

I almost put announcing the Android release for the App here instead — because so many people had been asking about it for so long — but in the end, the free daily puzzle announcement won out, and not simply because it was a terrific new feature for the App, one that I feel would draw a lot of new eyes to the product.

Getting to interview Fred and talk about not just what we’ve been working on for years, but where we were headed in the future, made it feel like a special event for the PuzzleNation Team as a whole. Plus it was a chance to introduce all of you to another member of the team, something I hope to do more of in 2016.

It may sound self-serving or schlocky to talk about our flagship product 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 it the absolute best it can be for the PuzzleNation audience. That’s what you deserve.

Thanks for spending 2015 with us, through logic problems and love stories, through dresses and debuts, through Rubik’s Cubes and revelations. We’ll see you in 2016.


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