ALIEN VS. EDITOR: Caption Contest Results!

Long-time readers know that we periodically invite our fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers to show off their wordplay skills with puzzly prompts like our recurring hashtag game. We even invite our friends at Penny Dell Puzzles to participate!

But this month, we did things a little differently. A member of the Penny Dell crew cooked up an image for us, New Yorker-style, and we challenged our friends and readers to compose the perfect caption for it.

So, without further ado, let’s check out what all these clever folks conjured up!


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“Well General, it appears he’s looking for a 2-letter word for ‘Spielberg Film.’”

“He appreciates the mention in the Crossword, but he still thinks that two-letter entries are bad form.”

“He wants an answer for 3 Across, ‘Earth ending.'”

“He says they come in peace, but that could deteriorate very rapidly if we don’t give him the answer to 17-Across.”

“He travelled 47.2 light-years to tell us he needs help with 23-Across.”

“I guess he finds the clue ‘Little green man’ offensive. Some aliens are so touchy!”

“Sheesh, he thinks we have nothing better to do than help him with the Sunday Crossword every week? And they accuse us of being non-intelligent life forms.”

“Take me to your proofreader.”

“He appreciates the Crossword as a gesture of goodwill, but says he’s partial to Sudokus.”

“They harnessed nuclear fusion and have spaceships that travel three times the speed of light, but they still can’t make heads or tails of that Crossword.”

“Well this is awkward. He says his name is Oz, he comes from the planet Toto, and that Crossword he’s holding? He thinks it’s a map of Kansas.”

“Oh crap. Doug, remember that time capsule that we planted on Mars? The one with the Crossword puzzle? I guess we forgot to include the answer.”

“Apparently, on Proxima Centauri, they’ve never heard of Britney Spears.”

“All right…which one of you is Will Shortz?”

“IT’S A COOKBOOK!!!”

“I guess E.T. wants us to phone Dell”.

“Commander, he’s armed with a Easy Fast & Fun Crossword, someone get Penny Dell Puzzles on the phone!”

“Guess they don’t like being defined as aliens!”

“Says they found an alt-solve!”

“We don’t want to cross him.”

“He looks pretty cross.”


“Excuse me, can you show me where we are?”

In the background another alien yells out “Honey, I told you we don’t need directions!”

And the other, “Ugh, this is so embarrassing.”


And members of the PuzzleNation readership also got in on the fun!

One of our Facebook followers, Pat Manzo, offered up the delightful “He’s from the planet Rebus.”


Have you come up with any fun captions for this image? Let us know! We’d love to see them!

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Jigsaw Puzzle Art Leads to Curious Creations!

If there’s one thing that puzzle fans of all shapes and sizes excel at, it’s pattern recognition. Whether it’s patterns of letters, patterns of numbers, patterns of logical facts, or patterns of puzzle pieces, puzzlers are outstanding at drawing order from chaos.

So it should come as no surprise that avid jigsaw puzzle solvers have noticed that some jigsaw puzzle companies use the same cutting molds over and over to create their jigsaw puzzles.

I myself realized this fact when I was younger. I was given three small Star Wars jigsaw puzzles, and all three of them were cut from the same mold. So once I’d solved one, solving the other two went much much faster. (I actually stacked them to make it even easier to complete the second and third puzzles.)

Naturally, this has led certain attentive and intrepid puzzlers to track down different puzzles with the same cutting mold to see how the two puzzles interact.

Artist Tim Klein is one of those observant individuals, and he’s had a lot of fun over the years crafting peculiar images by combining jigsaws with compatible molds:

Jigsaw puzzle companies tend to use the same cut patterns for multiple puzzles. This makes the pieces interchangeable. As a result, I sometimes find that I can combine portions from two or more puzzles to make a surreal picture that the publisher never imagined.

I take great pleasure in “discovering” such bizarre images lying latent, sometimes for decades, within the pieces of ordinary mass-produced puzzles. As I shift the pieces back and forth, trying different combinations, I feel like an archaeologist unearthing a hidden artifact.

And today, we’ve collected some of his puzzly creations for your enjoyment.


This mixture of summer and winter is marvelously balanced, particularly with the summer and winter bridges matching up so perfectly.

This fusion of a church and fairground adds a fun touch to an otherwise quiet and dignified image.

I like to call this one the Earth Mooover.

The Iron Horse comes to life in this surreal mashup.

In a natural evolution, this dinosaur train is no doubt the apex predator of the animal-train hybrid food pyramid.

This dinosaur/bunny monstrosity is a cuddly little ball of viciousness. No train parts needed.

Mixing up elements of three different puzzles brings us this Victorian ladypuppy in front of a scenic waterfall. This is dream or nightmare fuel, depending on your perspective.

This mixture of crosswords and fishing is wonderfully executed, offering the pleasantly appropriate metaphorical representation of “fishing for answers.”

And to close out this compilation of Klein’s jigsaw art, it seemed only appropriate to end on a holiday-themed note, with this kitty-in-kitty-in-present melange.


Klein’s jigsaw creations are as eye-catching as they are puzzling, and it makes you wonder what other hybrid constructions are awaiting the eagle eye of a devoted jigsaw puzzler.

[Images and quotation courtesy of Awkward.com and Twisted Sifter.]


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Jigsaw Puzzle Art!

[Image courtesy of the Official UK Puzzle Club.]

I tend not to talk about jigsaw puzzles all that much in this blog. It’s not that I have anything against jigsaw puzzles; it’s simply that, when it comes to the world of puzzles, for the most part, jigsaw puzzles occupy the easy end of the spectrum, and I prefer to focus on puzzles with a bit more bite or challenge.

(And yes, I do realize there are edgeless puzzles or repetitive patterns and 3-D puzzles that are far more challenging than the average jigsaw. But my point stands.)

That being said, when there’s something particularly interesting about jigsaws in the news, I’m happy to spread the word.

And I’ve got two jigsaw-centric stories for you today, both of which center around the worlds of art and pop culture.

The first story offers up some solvable art for you.

Artist Max Dalton finds inspiration in music and cinema, and one of his projects has been exploring the cultural impact and meaning of films by turning his art into 500-piece jigsaw puzzles.

There’s something immensely clever about that, since assembling a jigsaw requires you to study and stare at each element and figure out how it fits into the greater whole.

That’s a wonderful mentality to bring to films like King Kong or Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, movies that offer a lot of subtext and invite plenty of conversation.

The second story follows in Dalton’s footsteps, but has a distinctly modern pop culture twist.

HBO is releasing a series of six 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzles based on the works by artist Robert M. Ball. These puzzles depict key sequences from the show Game of Thrones, bringing bold colors and striking visuals to moments that fans and viewers still talk about today.

From Cersei’s assault on King’s Landing to Sansa turning Ramsey Bolton’s hounds loose on him, these are visceral moments presented with style.

The chance to savor them while putting them together seems like an undeniable treat for fans of the show.

It’s interesting to see topnotch artists elevating this classic puzzly form. I’m not much of a jigsaw guy, but these puzzles definitely had me thinking twice about giving them a shot.


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The Puzzly Art of Carmina Figurata

We don’t discuss poetry all that often in the blog. To be fair, when it comes to poetry and crosswords, all you really need to know are E’ER, O’ER, ODE, E’EN, and ‘NEATH.

But there is one form of poetry that lends itself quite handily to our favorite field of study, sitting at the crossroads of art, poetry, and puzzles. Today, we’re going to talk about carmina figurata.

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[A poem shaped like an altar, a work by Publilius Optatianus Porphyrius.
Image courtesy of Some Grey Matter.]

A carmina figuratum is a poem wherein either the entire body of the poem or select parts form a shape or pattern. Often this shape reflects the subject of the poem.

But that’s what the term has come to mean over time, as poetry has evolved and grown. The original carmina figurata were religious-based poems where letters were colored red to stand out from the regular black lettering in order to draw attention to or highlight a certain religious figure.

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[“De laudibus sanctae Crucis” by Oliverus.
Image courtesy of WTF Art History.]

For instance, in this image, titled “Praises to the Holy Cross,” you can see “rex,” meaning “king” in red above Christ’s head and “virtu” on his stomach, among other words. Obviously, having the image superimposed over the text helps highlight the words, representing John 1:14, ““And the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.”

Quite a bit to unpack in such a small piece.

Other carmina figurata have no color or imagery, relying on the cleverness of the reader to uncover the hidden messages within the text. This was particularly true of the poet Publilius Optatianus Porphyrius, who wrote dozens of carmina figurata of increasing complexity.

Some of these hidden messages honored the same rulers the poems were meant to impress. Other messages referenced the date the poem was written or the poet himself. Some even concealed drawings or designs.

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[Several of Porphyrius’s most ambitious creations, revealing just how far a reader would have to delve to uncover the hidden messages. Images courtesy of Some Grey Matter.]

From the article on Some Grey Matter:

The poems contain supplementary text ‘hidden’ within the main body of the individual poems and intended to be ‘discovered’ by the reader. These versus intexti poems were apparently intended to dazzle Constantine with their technical virtuosity and thereby inspire the hoped–for recall of their creator…

Now that’s ambition. Imagine you’re constructing a Marching Bands puzzle, with the overlapping lines and loops of text, but all in the hope of courting favor with a major political player. And to do so, you need to hide even more information in the grid. That’s next-level puzzling, to be sure.

Whether you’re moved by the artistry, impressed by the construction, or intrigued by the puzzly challenges they represent, you must admit: carmina figurata are works of puzzle art unlike anything else.

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Puzzles Come to Life!

A few years ago, I wrote about the world’s largest jigsaw puzzle, a 5 feet by 19 feet, 33,000-piece monster called “Wildlife,” which took a young puzzle enthusiast 450 hours to complete.

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That was a cool story in and of itself, but as it turns out, some other puzzlers have gone one step further, using the Wildlife jigsaw puzzle as their canvas for a stop-motion animation video.

This YouTuber, who goes by the name of Sky!, transformed the Wildlife puzzle into games of Tetris, Space Invaders, Pac-Man, and Mario Brothers, using completed sections of the puzzle as their gameplay elements.

It’s absolutely mind-blowing. Check it out:

Apparently, it took Sky! and a cohort over 400 hours to solve the puzzle and another 400 hours to animate the video. That is some serious dedication.

But that video got me thinking about other ways creative folks have used puzzly elements to tell stories.

And I was reminded of a video that’s been making the rounds on social media lately. It employs one of my favorite puzzle devices — a Rube Goldberg machine — to tell a story of three brothers who face danger and live to tell the tale. (They do use a bit of stop-motion animation at the start, but afterward, it’s all real-time motion.)

This is the story of a ball named Biisuke. Enjoy!

It’s adorable and even has a song! How could you not love that?

It just goes to show you there’s no end to the puzzly stories you can tell with a little creativity.


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Doing Crosswords at Home: The Artistic Way

A few years ago, I wrote about one of the biggest crossword puzzles in the world: the 100-foot-tall Lviv, Ukraine, crossword painted on the side of a building.

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But as it turns out, this isn’t the only supersized crossword to grace the side of a building in Europe. In a book about German street art, I saw a picture of a house with a facade painted to resemble a crossword puzzle.

Doing a bit more research, I discovered that the house was located in Dusseldorf, Germany, on a street called Kiefernstrasse, which is one of the world’s largest graffiti walls. Residents use the walls of their homes and neighboring buildings to make artistic and political statements.

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[Image courtesy of CherylTiu.com.]

It’s a vibrant, fascinating part of the city — one where personal expression trumps traditional aesthetics. Be warned, though: Travel and lifestyle blogger Cheryl Tiu advises tourists to visit only in the daylight hours, and in the company of others. In the 1980s, Kiefernstrasse was home to gangs, political dissidents, and squatters, and it retains some of that anarchic spirit to this day.

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[As a Tsuro fan, I appreciate this work in particular, one of hundreds of works in an overlapping, constantly changing canvas. Image courtesy of CherylTiu.com.]

But the crossword house, located at #31, is what brings us to Kiefernstrasse today.

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[Image courtesy of Daily Dose of German.]

The artists (and residents) of #31 view the house as a microcosm of the world; all of the overlapping, interconnected entries — many of which are political — representing the complexity of our world.

It’s kind of interesting that such a layered statement literally appears in black and white. It feels quite apropos, though, since crosswords are both a cultural barometer — updating and evolving with the times — and a cultural artifact from another time, building upon the knowledge of the past.

As of writing this blog post, it’s unclear whether the piece is actually finished, since the artists said that the final words and clues for the grid were going to be painted on a gate or fence nearby.

Nonetheless, they’ve created a striking and intriguing work of art, one that says as much about crosswords as it does about the world.


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