The Fold and the Beautiful


Anyone who has tried to fold up a road map knows that origami is a valuable skill to have. With the right folds, you can transform a few square sheets of paper into practically anything, from cranes that flap their wings and balloons that inflate to frogs that jump.

Origami is truly a puzzly art form with all sorts of unexpected uses in the modern day, providing a unique solution to confounding problems.

For instance, it’s rare to encounter a spacecraft that doesn’t incorporate folding solar panels, wings, or other collapsible/expandable parts that are based on classic origami folds.


This mechanism, a solar array, is based on a Miura fold. The creation of Japanese astrophysicist Koryo Miura, the Miura fold allows a checkerboard-like field of interconnected parallelograms to unfold like a flower into a large, flat, circular surface.

This design is easily scaled up by adding more pieces to the network of folding peaks and valleys, allowing for different sized circular fields to be formed as needed. The array of motors around the Miura fold work like a Hoberman sphere, one of those expanding plastic toys that blooms outward with ease.

Not only does this allow them to save space for travel (and remain safe in transit), but it maximizes space when unfolded, allowing for greater surface area for energy absorption. The Mars landers, for instance, routinely incorporated folding mechanisms not only for solar panels, but for the landing platforms from which the landers emerged onto the surface.

That sort of space-efficient thinking has led to another unexpected solution, this time for plant lovers.

One recurring problem with plants is that, as they grow, they sometimes require repotting into larger containers. But what if that wasn’t necessary? What if the flower pot could adapt to the needs of the plant?

Once again, origami principles rush to the rescue.


This is Growth, a resizable origami planter designed by Studio Ayaskan, and it incorporates origami folds into its basic design so that it can expand to fit the needs of a growing plant.

Unlike the Miura fold, Growth relies on a recurring series of triangular folds (possibly a variation of the Yoshimura folding pattern) that allow the piece to balloon outward, increasing the interior space for the plant’s root system to grow.


This feels like one of those RVs where the ceiling can be raised and the sleeping area expanded out beyond the camper itself, offering greater freedom of movement and more living space than allowed when the RV is closed up for travel.

Watching the unfolding pot accordion outward is thoroughly impressive, and this feels like a smart step forward for all sorts of storage. Imagine a suitcase with a similar design that becomes bigger as needed. That would be super-handy.

As we continue to invent and innovate forward, it’s amazing how new creations can trace their origins back to classic techniques, just applied in a clever new fashion.

That’s the puzzly way, of course.

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Last-Minute Puzzly Valentine’s Day Ideas!

Valentine’s Day looms large, and sometimes it’s hard to find that perfect way to express your love for that certain someone… particularly if that certain someone is the puzzly type.

But have no fear! We’re here with some terrific last-minute puzzly ideas for Valentine’s Day!

[Image courtesy of YouTube.]

Have you considered a puzzle bouquet? You could grab some newspaper crosswords and origami them into flower shapes for a fun puzzle-fueled spin on a holiday classic.

Or maybe they like coded puzzles? You could write the object of your affection a coded love letter!

All throughout history, people have employed different tricks and techniques to keep their private messages away from prying eyes, and you could do the same! Whether it’s a simple letter-shifting cipher or something more complex, just make sure your message is worth reading. =)

[Image courtesy of Shutterstock.]

Or maybe you’d like to show off how much you know about him or her. Then you could whip up a little scavenger hunt! You could leave clues around leading to a gift, or a romantic dinner, or some other grand finale. Maybe a rose with each clue.

(You could make each clue or destination about your relationship or about your partner, allowing you to show off how well you know them… where you first met, favorite meals, favorite movie… )

If you don’t want to leave things around where anyone could nab them, keep a few small tokens on you, giving one for each destination reached or clue solved. Heck, you could enlist a friend to text clues to your special someone once they’ve reached a particular destination!

For a family-friendly version of the same idea, have the kids help you cut out and hide jigsaw pieces around the house that, when put together, spell out a Valentine’s message, a picture of the family, or a picture of some gift or event to come!

You could even walk around and play Valentine’s Day Bingo.

Go for a walk or take your loved one out to dinner, and see if one of you can get bingo by observing different things. A couple holding hands as they walk, a Valentine’s Day proposal, outrageously priced flowers…

Even on short notice, the possibilities are endless when you put your mind to it. Happy Valentine’s Day, fellow puzzlers!

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Deck the Halls with Loads of Puzzles!

Merry Christmas, puzzlers and PuzzleNationers! I hope you’re having a marvelous holiday!

One of the integral parts of the holiday season is decorating, decking your halls in all manner of festive holiday fun. Whether it’s Santas or garland, mistletoe or sleigh bells, a Christmas village or little dancing reindeer, everyone expresses their holiday spirit differently.

Naturally, around here, we couldn’t resist adding some puzzly flavor to our holiday decorating. I put my origami skills to the test to come up with some puzzle ornaments for the tree my friends at Penny/Dell Puzzles were putting together, and I think the end result was something pretty terrific.

Here’s the tree in progress. You can already see some puzzly touches like a Mega Sudoku front and center there, as well as a wreath on the wall behind the tree!

Let’s take a closer look at that wreath! Darcy did an outstanding job on it, and you can see a lot of flagship Penny/Dell puzzles represented here, like Cross Sums (Kakuro), Codewords, Cryptograms, and Word Games Puzzles!

Here’s a close-up on some of those puzzlier ornaments, including a Crossword star and a Cryptogram crane (one of my contributions) soaring above the Mega Sudoku. (The tree was also liberally garnished with coupon offers!)

A few more ornaments, including a Flower Power grid in the lower left corner!

Here’s the tree in its finished state, all lit up and decked out with gifts. It looks great! The mix of traditional ornaments and puzzly ones really makes for a unique display.

And check out this word search-wrapped gift just waiting for someone! I wonder if the recipient’s name is hidden in the grid! (Maybe they can’t open it until they find themselves!)

Are there any puzzly decorations on your tree this year, fellow puzzlers? Let us know! Send us a picture! We’d love to see it!

Have a terrific holiday!

It’s Follow-Up Friday: Tetris edition!

Welcome to Follow-Up Friday!

For those new to PuzzleNation Blog, Follow-Up Friday is a chance for us to revisit the subjects of previous posts and update the PuzzleNation audience on how these projects are doing and what these people have been up to in the meantime.

And today, we’re celebrating the 30th anniversary of Tetris! (Following up our post last year about the 29th anniversary of Tetris, of course.)

[Feel free to leave this a capella version of Tetris’s Theme A music by musician Smooth McGroove running in the background to properly set the mood.]

If crosswords are the top pen-and-paper puzzle and the Rubik’s cube is the top puzzle toy, then Tetris has to be the top puzzle game of all-time. It is instantly recognizable and completely unforgettable. (I still get a little anxious whenever I think about the music speeding up when I got too close to the top of the screen.)

It’s available for every video game console, computer, and media device, and has been for decades. Alexey Pajitnov’s incredibly addictive puzzle game baby has conquered the world, and today, we are proudly to join in the global celebration with a few of our favorite Tetris themed pictures.

We previously featured a Tetris Halloween costume in our puzzly costumes post, but these kids upped the ante with four Tetramino pieces as a team costume!

Someone even managed to render the blocks in origami form! How cool is that?

And then there’s this enterprising chef, who whipped up a Tetris-themed bento box full of blocky veggies to enjoy!

We’ve collected more Tetris images on a special board on our Pinterest page, so feel free to check them out in honor of today!

And to Alexey Pajitnov, thank you for years of puzzle pleasure. Your game has crossed borders and won the hearts of millions. You changed the puzzle landscape forever, and for the better.

In closing, here’s another famous Tetris tune performed a capella style for your enjoyment:

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out the growing library of PuzzleNation apps and games!