A Logic Puzzle Mystery, Brought to Life!

Halloween might be over and done with, but there’s still plenty of spooky puzzling to be found if you know where to look.

For instance, if you’re looking for a game that takes the traditional logic puzzle in a new direction, let’s talk about Return of the Obra Dinn, a PC game that has received some rave reviews recently.

In 1802, the merchant ship “Obra Dinn” set out from London for the Orient with over 200 tons of trade goods. Six months later it hadn’t met its rendezvous point at the Cape of Good Hope and was declared lost at sea.

Early this morning of October 14th, 1807, the Obra Dinn drifted into port with sails damaged and no visible crew. As insurance adjustor for the East India Company’s London Office, find means to board the ship and recover the Crew Muster Roll book for assessment.

With that intense historical premise to work with, you know you’re in for a few scares and some sinister storytelling.

So the game centers around a first-person perspective of this ship as you explore what happened to the crew. You’re armed with two items: a book that contains the ship’s manifest and other documents, and a pocketwatch that, when worn near a corpse, magically reveals what happened at the moment of the character’s death.

The book works like a standard logic problem’s puzzle grid, where you can fill in the information you know and deduce, say, the last names of five people in a marching band, their ages, and what instrument they play. Except, in the case of the Obra Dinn, instead of the details of a fictional marching band, you need to uncover the identity of every person on the ship, how they died, and who killed them.

The pocketwatch sequences are the centerpiece of the puzzle, giving you a static scene of the moment of death, the characters frozen in place, along with the sounds and dialogue that accompanied the person’s demise. You can walk around the frozen scene and examine details, using the book to help document what you discover and slowly eliminate possibilities from the list.

It’s a bit like a scene from Sherlock or Hannibal, as you play the detective walking through the death scene, trying to tease out the key information lurking within.

So the book is both a solving tool and the main body of the puzzle itself, a place for storing information, making guesses, and confirming when you have the correct chain of events for a given character’s death.

The Obra Dinn is one giant, interconnected puzzle, built out of many little moments like this, and only when you’ve taken the time to examine all of it, exploring the ship and the crew from all angles, can you fill in the story of what happened.

It’s essentially a murder mystery novel, but only the first chapter and the finale are in place; it is up to you as you piece together disparate fragments and assemble the narrative. In the end, it’s a simple story, but one told backward, forward, and out of order.

Return of the Obra Dinn is the kind of storytelling that takes puzzles off the page and plants them smack-dab in the center of your imagination. And that’s pretty cool.

If you’d like to try out the game for yourself, Return of the Obra Dinn is out now on PC and macOS for $19.99.

[For more information, check out these reviews from Kotaku and Screen Rant, as well as the creator’s homepage.]

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Follow-Up Friday: Other puzzles you might not know! (Volume 2)

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, now that we’ve presented some new puzzles for crossword devotees to try out, let’s turn our attention to Fill-In puzzle fans.

Fill-Ins feature the same grid-filling solving as crosswords, but instead of coming up with the answers to clues, you’re given all of the words in advance, organized by length, and it’s up to you to deduce which words fit the across boxes and which fit the down boxes.

Fill-Ins don’t demand the same level of recall and vocabulary as crosswords, but the deduction aspect more than makes up for it. And if you’re a Fill-In fan, but looking for something different, there are plenty of options out there for you.

Like Frameworks, for instance.

[Click here or on the grid for a larger version.]

A Framework puzzle is like a Fill-In, but without the rigid crossword-style grid. Instead, the grid is looser, allowing for longer words and interesting themes to be incorporated into the puzzle. The trade-off here is that, with fewer letters crossing, you have fewer hints for placing words in the grid. You’ll have to rely on knowing word lengths and counting boxes to complete these grids.

But for something a little less familiar, how about Places, Please?

[Click here or on the grid for a larger version.]

Places, Please gives you all of the words to place in the grid, just as Fill-Ins do, but there are no black squares to help guide you. Instead, you’re told where the first letter of each word will be placed, and you have to figure out in which direction each word will read.

You’ll want to start with the longest words first, seeing which directions will allow them to be placed. As you place each word, those letters offer clues for placing other words. Eventually, you’ll fill the entire grid! (It’s like a word seek in reverse!)

And if that’s a bit too open-ended for you, let’s talk Stretch Letters.

[You get the idea.]

Stretch Letters puzzles offer the same word-list format as Fill-Ins (organized by word length), but you’ll only enter them reading across. The wrinkle here is that some of the words above and below each row will share those letters, stretching the boxes (and the letters themselves).

It’s a visually striking take on word-placement puzzles, and the stretched letters make for a fun and interactive grid. One S could provide S’s for a half-dozen words or more!

Of course, if you enjoy the deductive side of Fill-Ins — figuring out word placement in the grid — you should also consider trying traditional Logic Puzzles.


Now, I know these grids can seem a little daunting to new solvers, but they’re simply a way of organizing information. As you work your way through the different clues in the Logic Puzzle, you exclude possibilities in the grid by putting an X in the box where those two options cross.

For instance, in the above Logic Problem, based on clue 7, you’d place an X in the box where Esther (listed under First Name) crosses Tyson (listed under Last Name), eliminating it as a possibility.

The more boxes you fill with X’s, the greater the amount of information you garner from the grid, and eventually, you’ll know their full names, ages, and instrument of choice based on those seven clues. Pretty impressive deduction there.

Next week, we’ll take a break from these puzzle recommendations posts, but if you’ve got puzzle recs for your fellow puzzlers in the meantime, please let us know in the comments!

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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!