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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It’s Follow-Up Friday: Valentine Puzzles 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 with one day before the deluge of flowers, candy, teddy bears, and romance, I’d like to return to the subject of Valentine’s Day puzzles!

You might not have heard, but we’ve got two new puzzle sets for the Penny Dell Crosswords app! The newest is Penny Dell Crosswords Collection Four, but we also recently released our Valentine’s Day Deluxe Set!


Both are available for purchase within the app and waiting to keep you and your loved ones busy with Valentine’s Day puzzly goodness!

Our friends at Penny/Dell Puzzles are also getting into the spirit of the day! They’re offering a free downloadable Valentine’s puzzle packet, a Valentine’s Framework puzzle, AND some puzzly valentines for kids! (As well as 15% off all month long!)

Not only that, but friend of the blog George Barany pointed me to this puzzle created by fellow constructor Charles Deber for Valentine’s Day!

Check out that lovely and clever heart in the center! You can click here to download and solve the puzzle. (Don’t worry, the grid is bigger and easier to read in the link.)

Have a marvelous Valentine’s Day, friends and fellow PuzzleNationers!

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!

Thursday is National Puzzle Day! Are you ready?

I was recently informed that January 29th is National Puzzle Day.

Considering that I am something of a burgeoning puzzle scholar, I was surprised that I didn’t know there was a national puzzle day. I try to stay on top of these things, after all. So I started researching.

As far as I can tell, this isn’t a nationally recognized holiday in an official sense, which is why we don’t get the day off from work. Blasphemy! Everyone should have the day off to celebrate puzzles! (This is also why there seems to be some dispute over whether it’s National Puzzle Day or International Puzzle Day.)

Although more prominent coverage has only appeared over the last five years or so, I found references in school schedules and archived activity calendars stretching back years and years!

Some articles state that (Inter)National Puzzle Day was created in 1995 by a consortium of game companies, but some conflicting sources seem to predate that claim. And it is intriguing that Tetris debuted in the United States as a PC game on January 28, 1988.

But, in any case, Thursday is a day to celebrate all things puzzly, and I’m here to offer some suggestions for how to participate in (Inter)National Puzzle Day fun! (Many of these can be done any day of the year, which is handy for those of us snowed in right now!)

#1: Team-tackle a crossword puzzle

Are you daunted by the puzzles published in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The L.A. Times, or even your local paper? Gather everyone in the house and tackle it as a team!

Not only are you pooling a greater wealth of knowledge by including more people, but one suggestion could trigger another, and then another, and suddenly, you’re filling in whole chunks of the grid with flashes of puzzly insight or bits of crowd-sourced trivia!

It’s a great technique for building both familiarity and confidence in crosswords, and a neat way to challenge yourselves as a team! (By the way, the Penny Dell Crosswords App is ideal for such activities, since you can use the alternate clue feature AND pass the phone around with ease!)

[Image courtesy of]

#2: Make your own jigsaw puzzle!

If you’ve conquered all of the jigsaw puzzles in your house, you can always make your own! Either flip one over and draw something new on the back of an old puzzle, then separate it and re-solve…


Get a big piece of paper, create your own image, cut it up, and try to solve!

I’ve found that cutting them into triangles, squares, and other common shapes is easier — and surprisingly more challenging — than trying to recreate jigsaw-style pieces.

And, of course, some companies sell blank jigsaws so you can create your own images!

#3: Create a scavenger hunt!

Now, I realize that scavenger hunts can be very time-intensive, but a great one can be simpler than you think! Limit the scope, but make it more personalized.

For instance, do you have a lot of books? Great! Make it a book-focused scavenger hunt! Ask for a book…

–with fire on the cover
–with sky on the cover
–a book that’s a certain color (or your favorite color)
–a book based on a movie
–a book without a person on the cover
–a book where a word in the title starts with the same letter as the author’s name
–the book with the funniest word on a given page

Toys, photos, funny google searches… if you tailor it to your family or household, a terrific scavenger hunt can be both easy to prep and fun to play!

#4: Come up with your own wordy puzzle challenge!

Are you good at anagrams? See how many words you can make with the letters in a given word, like INCREDIBLE.

Are you good at rhyming? Create rhyming phrases and see if people can guess the original!

Put your creative strengths and puzzly skills to the test by creating puzzles for those around you!

Let us know how you’re celebrating (Inter)National Puzzle Day, PuzzleNationers! Our pals at Penny/Dell Puzzles are working on a Word Seek Challenge for Thursday, and I’ll post more details when I have them. But until then, keep on puzzling, and enjoy!

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!

Penny Dell Crosswords featured in the App Store!

Hello there, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers!

Yes, it’s true that we don’t normally post on Mondays, but we’ve got some exciting news to share with you and we just couldn’t wait ’til tomorrow!

Our friends at Apple are featuring the Penny Dell Crosswords App on the App Store for iPad!

The feature is listed for iPad and the app is available for iPad, iPhone, AND iPod touch devices! You can download the app for free by clicking here to get started puzzling!

Please share this post with your friends, family, and fellow puzzle-lovers!

Thank you to Apple for the attention and thank you to all PuzzleNationers everywhere for your support and enthusiasm! We’ll be back tomorrow with your regularly scheduled blog post!