A White and Snowy White Grid Instead of Black and White?

Problem-solving-crossword

You can get crosswords in many forms these days.

You get books full of them, or find them in the newspaper. Spiral-bound collections. Puzzle-a-day calendars.

You can download PDFs and Puz files, or solve them right on your screen. You can solve through puzzle apps like Daily POP Crosswords.

You can solve along with friends on Zoom or with The New York Times Wordplay crew in their livestreams.

Heck, there’s a coffee mug where you can fill out different crosswords that all fit the same empty, fillable grid on the outside of the mug. I have a crossword analog wall clock that’s solvable.

But this is definitely the first time I’ve seen a crossword made of snow.

This puzzle is the creation of pumpkin carver and ice rink artist Robert Greenfield, and he shared his icy enigma with solvers through his Twitter account.

You can solve it in more conventional form here.

I think the gripping nature of this artistic act of puzzly expression was best summed up by his brother on Twitter:

This is a REAL crossword puzzle with REAL questions and solutions (see the thread) constructed on a REAL ice rink done by my REAL brother who is REALLY impressive.

I’m curious if other frigid puzzle styles will follow suit. Will we see an ice rink word seek where he has to skate around the words to loop them? Perhaps a rime-crafted rebus to challenge observers with wordplay?

There are definitely possibilities here, with a natural timer built-in as well!

Forgive the unintentional pun, but this is pretty cool.


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Weird Versions of Monopoly, Part 2!

Last week, we ventured on a deep dive into the expansive world of Monopoly. Yes, that most ubiquitous of games that everybody knows. That quintessential board game that comes in many different flavors, but only one texture.

In last week’s post, we strolled up and down the game’s historical timeline, covering curious updates, odd revamps, and truly baffling licensing deals that made for a cavalcade of dice-rolling piece-moving strangeness.

But we restricted ourselves to official releases authorized by either Hasbro or Winning Moves UK. That still leaves a world of unofficial, unauthorized, and third-party variations on Monopoly out there to be covered.

andy mangold monopoly

[Check out this incredibly classy repackaging of Monopoly
by designer and artist Andy Mangold.]

So in part two of this trip down a Marvin Gardens path of peculiarity, we’re casting a wider net and seeing what we catch.

These are the weirdest, least likely, and most envelope-pushing versions of Monopoly I could find. (Oh, and I’m excluding purposely offensive versions, so versions that mention ethnicity or sexuality have been left out of this post.)

Without further ado, let’s enjoy!


anti-monopoly

Anti-Monopoly

Let’s start with perhaps the most famous unofficial version of Monopoly to ever hit shelves. Anti-Monopoly starts where a traditional game ends — with many properties held by a few wealthy entities — and challenges the players to break up the monopolies. Both a smart inversion of the original and an interesting gameplay experience in itself, Anti-Monopoly kicked off an infamous legal battle.

In fact, after two appeals, the inventor was forced to let Parker Brothers buy him out, rather than go bankrupt himself defending his creation. That is the saddest sort of irony.

web-lovers-monopoly

Web Lovers Monopoly

A game that plays like Monopoly but bends some of its classic elements to fit the gimmick, Web Lovers Monopoly replaces properties with websites, including swapping Boardwalk for Yahoo and placing Facebook, Google, and YouTube fairly early on in the board, which makes me wonder when this game was produced.

Also, free parking is now free wireless and jail has been replaced with the real world. Other than mentioning websites and lightly ribbing internet users, I’m not really sure what the point of this game is. If it’s a satire, Monopoly for Millennials had more bite than this.

bibleopoly

BibleOpoly

Using a game representing one of the classic seven deadly sins to teach younger players about the Bible is certainly a curious choice, but hey, we’re not here to judge. (Okay, maybe we are, a little bit.)

In BibleOpoly (a name that does NOT flow off the tongue), players travel through Biblical cities in order to earn the bricks and steeple necessary to build a church. Instead of selfish or greed-fueled acts, you succeed by helping fellow players, making offerings, and doing Community Service (their version of Community Chest), which is nice.

But the less said about The Abyss being listed as a place alongside spots like Nazareth and Bethlehem, the better. Yikes.

photo-opoly

Photo-opoly

Yup, it’s a DIY Monopoly board where you select 22 photos to incorporate into the game. This is actually a cool idea — once you get past the whole “Here, I bought you this, now YOU make it” aspect of the game.

Of course, it makes one wonder about the consequences of making a family version of this game, then having another child, and then that child discovering they’re not included in the family Monopoly game. Or who gets the game in the divorce.

Let’s move on, shall we?

medical monopoly

Medical Monopoly

Yup. The for-profit medical industry in Monopoly form. The first player (er, doctor) to fill their hospital with patients wins.

I feel gross just writing about this game. And that was before I read the instructions:

The object of the game is to introduce and inform young people to the cause and treatment of common physical problems that have a solution known as First Aid. Office Visits to a doctor are also explained for both common and serious problems, giving a better understanding to the patient.

Yeah, they try to pass off this soulless cash-grabbery as a learning experience. ICK.

communist-monopoly

Queue

Now let’s look at a strange version of Monopoly that actually is educational. Queue, the creation of Karol Madj, is set in communist Poland and designed to educate folks on daily life at the time.

Yes, it’s Communist Monopoly. Which is interesting, since Fidel Castro ordered the nationwide destruction of Monopoly games upon taking power in Cuba.

Anyway, the goal of Queue is to line up in an orderly fashion to buy goods and services, including bread. It’s a sobering take on the traditionally cash-flashy game, and one that really immerses you in a different cultural experience.

And like many educational games, it is boring as all get out.

onopo

Onopo

Let’s close out today’s post with a visually fascinating variation of the famous game.

This is Onopo, the minimalist’s approach to Monopoly. An art project by creator Matthew Hollet, Onopo was designed to boil Monopoly down to basics in a visual sense, stripping away the traditional design elements but leaving behind a playable result.

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There’s no geography and virtually no text in the game, but even a cursory glance at the gameboard and the cards reveal just how effective the minimalist approach can be. After a few seconds of confusion, you figure it all out.

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Although Onopo was never commercially released, it’s worth including both for its ambitious design and the statement it makes about branding. In a game that increasingly remains relevant by draping itself in other popular trappings and logos, it becomes less interesting than this bare-bones version of itself.


We hope you enjoyed this two-week trip down the many avenues (and occasional places) that Monopoly has traveled.

Is there a strange or noteworthy version of the game that we missed? Let us know in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you.

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A Festive Bit of Domino Fun!

hann-christmas-007

[Image courtesy of Those Crazy Schuberts.]

Ah, the day after Christmas. The wreckage of wrapping paper has been swept up. Toys are being enjoyed. Some are relaxing, while others are back to work before the new year begins.

It can be a hectic time or a quiet time, depending on your circumstances. But in either case, it doesn’t mean the festivities have to end just yet.

At the very least, you can take a few minutes to enjoy a touch of puzzly percussion.

As is often the case when it comes to domino delights, this video comes to us courtesy of kinetic artist, domino master, and friend of the blog Hevesh5, and it’s a genuine treat.

Enjoy:

What separates Lily’s work from other (equally impressive) domino displays is that she is so immensely clever at incorporating the theme into the domino chain. Bundling up the toys (and making a toy train do the work), dropping the stockings from the mantle… it’s all so slyly Seussian that you can’t help but love it.

Hevesh5 has once again outdone herself with a clever chain reaction that’s as entertaining to watch backwards as it is forwards.


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Last Kickstarter Roundup for 2019!

Oh yes, it’s that time again.

For years now, crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo have been hotbeds of innovative puzzle and game design, and I’m always happy to spread the word about worthy projects that I think will delight and intrigue my fellow PuzzleNationers.

So let’s take a look at some projects that are currently seeking funding and see if any pique your interest!


The first is Peter Gordon’s Fireball Newsflash Crosswords.

Culturally timely clues and entries are a hallmark of this marvelous variation on Gordon’s long-running Fireball Crosswords brand, and you can rest assured that each Fireball Newsflash Crossword grid will be well-constructed and cleverly clued.

With twenty puzzles sent to you by email — one every two to three weeks — you’ll always have some terrific puzzling to look forward to.

Gordon has a knack for melding flowing grid design with sharp, topical entry words, and much of the time, you’ll not only be impressed by how much material makes it into the grid, but by what major and minor events you’ve missed recently! Gordon’s history of topnotch puzzles is all the incentive you need to contribute.

75% funded with 5 days to go, this project is a yearly favorite of mine, and I always look forward to supporting it.

13monsters

Our second project is a game called 13 Monsters.

A game that takes the strategy of a monster-building game like Bears vs. Babies or Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards and adds a memory component to the gameplay, 13 Monsters requires luck, skill, and tactics in order to assemble monsters and battle your fellow players for dice-rolling, monster-making supremacy.

Because you can only build your monster by finding matching pieces — which you do by flipping tiles and remembering where matching parts are, like in Memory or Concentration — experienced players and newbies have an equal chance at the game’s outset of making moves that seriously impact the game.

With fun mechanics, delightful art, and a clever premise, 13 Monsters looks like a blast.

77% funded with three days to go, 13 Monsters could easily cross the finish line in time, and if more people watched the incredibly charming How to Play video on the Kickstarter page, I think they’d be funded already.

dragondice

Our third project adds an artistic touch to a classic game tool: dice.

Dragon and Celtic Laser Dice allow you to augment your games — or your game-centric decor — with beautifully designed and intricately realized wooden and metal dice. With laser-cut precision, these dice are eye-catching and could inspire the creation of whole new games just for these dice alone.

Understandably, the project has already reached its funding goals with 24 days to go, but I still think it’s a gorgeous product that will appeal to game fans all over.

gameovercafe

Our fourth and final project today doesn’t focus on game fans all over, instead opting to focus on game fans in one particular area: Chattanooga, Tennessee.

You see, the dynamic duo of Gina and Janay want to open a gamer-friendly coffee shop — The Game Over Cafe — that mixes classic store elements with video game regalia and programming.

Proposing to be a “Gamer-friendly establishment offering quality coffee and beverages, delicious tea, snacks, and sandwiches,” The Game Over Cafe has potential to be a marvelous new business and networking spot for games and gamers.

A quarter of the way to their funding goal with 29 days to go, I think there’s a solid chance this project will find support and fulfill its mission.


Have any of these games or projects hooked you? Let us know which ones you’re supporting in the comments section below! And if there are any campaigns you’re supporting that we missed, let us know!

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Overwhelmed by Optical Illusions Underfoot

A good optical illusion is a puzzle for the eyes, a visual treat that tricks you into seeing things that aren’t there. The most convincing optical illusions can even affect your sense of balance and make you question every footstep you take.

For instance, imagine walking into a room and seeing this:

opticalillusionrug

This is a rug called “Black Hole,” designed by Daniel Malik, and it’ll make you doubt the ground beneath your feet.

Don’t believe me? Check this out:

opticalillusionrug2

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to optical illusions that can leave you dizzy and spinning.

Austrian artist Peter Kogler specializes in making empty spaces look larger, more twisted, and vertigo-inducingly unsettled.

kogler-6

Employing the walls, the floor, and the ceiling (along with any structural beams or other objects in the area), Kogler challenges your spacial awareness with lines and imagery that offset your natural depth perception.

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Astonishingly, the few recognizable items in this works — like a hanging lightbulb or even a fellow spectator — enhance the effect, making everything around those steady, relatable objects into an eye in the storm of chaotic imagery.

You no longer trust your ability to gauge height, distance, or even the angle of the room itself, even though you know in your heart that you’re walking on a flat surface.

kogler-1

We’ve featured some clever floor designs in the past — including one in a school that was designed to keep kids from running in the halls — but nothing on the scale of Kogler’s work.

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It almost makes you nostalgic for the simple trickery of a circular area rug that looks like a tunnel to the center of the Earth, doesn’t it?


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The Fold and the Beautiful

origamipot0

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.

origamipot1

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.

origamipot2

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.

origamipot3

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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