May the Fourth Be With You!

Hello fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers! It’s Star Wars Day, and what better way to celebrate than with a puzzly Star Wars brain teaser!

A fellow Star Wars fan found this logic puzzle online and tasked us with solving it. Can you unravel the fiendish Imperial plot? Let’s find out!


Rebel Roundup

The Empire came up with a brilliant plan in order to trap various members of the Rebel Alliance: creating a fake Rebel summit. Each Imperial agent involved would invite a Rebel to the summit while posing as one of the Rebels being invited.

It would have worked perfectly, except for the fact that Admiral Ozzel posed as the person that he had invited. OOPS. Courtesy of Ozzel’s bumbling, the Rebels were warned ahead of time and armed themselves, hoping to turn the tables on the Empire.

Thanks to Han Solo’s timely warning, Luke had hidden his lightsaber and a vibroknife with R2-D2 and C-3PO respectively. These extra weapons allowed the seven Rebel agents of them to escape. It also helped that Admiral Ackbar arrived last in his ship, Home One.

Each Rebel arrived in a different spaceship, but two Rebels hitched a ride with fellow agents, so only five spaceships were involved.

Answer these questions:

  • Who traveled with Leia?
  • Who traveled with Luke?
  • What vehicle did each Rebel arrive in?
  • Which Imperial invited which Rebel?
  • Who did each Imperial pose as?
  • What weapon did each Rebel carry?

Here are your clues:

1. Leia, having been warned by Han, carried a concealable Holdout Blaster. She did not arrive in an X-Wing, nor did she fly the Millennium Falcon.

2. Han wouldn’t let anyone fly his baby. Han carried his Heavy Blaster Pistol, ready to shoot the Imperial who invited him while posing as him. This naturally made Han suspicious.

3. When Admiral Ackbar saw who invited him, he put his Force Pike to the Imperial’s throat. He was not invited by Darth Vader, who had posed as R2-D2.

4. C-3PO arrived on the Tantive IV, along with another passenger. This was not the ship Lando used.

5. The Lady Luck was flown by the man invited by Admiral Piett. Its pilot, who traveled alone, carried a Blaster Rifle with him. He gambled a bit, and almost crashed into Luke’s X-Wing. The Imperial who invited him posed as Admiral Ackbar.

6. Grand Moff Tarkin invited Admiral Ackbar. He did not pose as Luke Skywalker, nor did he pose as Leia.

7. General Veers invited R2-D2. Veers posed as R2-D2’s best friend. Captain Needa did not pose as Lando.

8. Leia was led to believe that Luke invited her to the summit. Emperor Palpatine invited Luke while posing as Leia. R2-D2 delivered his weapon to the Rebel so he could keep his father busy long enough for everyone to escape.

Good luck, fellow puzzlers! Although the puzzle is a bit easier if you’re familiar with the Star Wars Universe, any solver should be able to crack this puzzle with the clues provided!

Let us know if you solved it in the comments below! And May the Fourth Be With You!


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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.

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.

[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.

[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.

[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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Puzzle My World

[Image courtesy of Reddit.]

For me, one of the best things about puzzle-solving is the a-ha moment.

You’ve been staring at a clue, or a brain teaser, for what feels like forever. You’ve tackled it from seemingly every angle. And you’ve got nothing. You’re stymied. Flummoxed. You know the answer is within your reach, but you just can’t find it.

And then, the a-ha moment strikes. Wheels turn, pieces fall into place. And when the dust settles, you have your solution, and you can’t help but wonder how you didn’t see it sooner.

When puzzly thinking is taken outside the realm of puzzles and games and applied to the real world, it can make those a-ha moments even more enjoyable.

Now look at that image at the top of the page. Did you immediately realize what it was, or did you stare for a bit before having that a-ha moment?

Yes, it’s a map of the world done in the style of artist Piet Mondrian. How cool is that?

Today I’d like to look at a few maps that visualize our world in a different way and let you experience an a-ha moment or two.

[Image courtesy of Mental Floss. Click here for a larger version.]

This first map of the world has all of the familiar landmasses and borders that you know, but it has swapped around the actual countries so that the country’s population is now equivalent to its size.

It’s truly paradigm-altering to see countries like China, India, and Pakistan in those large landmasses, and on the flip side, the Netherlands taking the islands of the former Japan, while Japan moves to a much larger space in Africa.

Plus, there are a few countries that wouldn’t move in this situation, like the U.S., Brazil, Yemen, and Ireland, which is all the more striking when you see so many countries moving around them.

Just imagining the political landscape in this world is mind-boggling!

[Image courtesy of The Edge.ca.]

This next map says more about our culture than our numbers, but it’s still interesting. Here’s part of a map labeled only with song titles that mention these places.

It’s a very clever concept that not only name-checks many terrific songs, but mixes genres and eras of music in surprising ways. If you were to attempt this, how much of the world could you fill in with song titles?

[Image courtesy of Texas.gov. Click here for a larger version.]

And speaking of puzzly map challenges, I’ve got one for you, fellow puzzlers. Here’s a map of the United States.

I challenge you to print out this map and color it in using only four colors. The trick? No neighboring states can be the same color.

Hopefully, accepting this challenge will provide you with a puzzly a-ha moment of your own. Enjoy!


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Joel McHale Hides Puzzles Where You’d Least Expect!

Last year, I was surprised to stumble across a puzzle in the autobiography of comedian, actor, and magician Neil Patrick Harris, Choose Your Own Autobiography. It was a clever Neil-centric cryptic word-cross puzzle that rewarded attentive readers, since all of the answers were about events Neil discussed in the book.

So I guess I shouldn’t have been too surprised to again discover a puzzle in a celebrity autobiography. But this time around, comedian, host, and actor Joel McHale has upped the ante by offering three puzzles in his book Thanks for the Money: How to Use My Life Story to Become the Best Joel McHale You Can Be.

Amidst hilarious anecdotes, bad advice for starting a career in Hollywood, and actual biographical facts, Joel includes a word-cross, a word search, and a matching game, all of which are about him!

The matching game is arguably the toughest of the three, since you have to match the image of him to the name of the character he portrayed.

The word-cross, though, is not far behind when it comes to difficulty, since the limited crossings offer fewer helpful letters to assist in solving. Not to mention that more straightforward clues like 1 Down — Second word in title of ninth chapter — are few and far between. More often, you encounter something like 14 Across — Anagram for synonym of puzzle.

Plus, there’s no clue at all for 33 Down, making the grid even tougher.

Although I was able to solve most of the grid, some of the entries eluded me.

Still, I have to give style points to 29 Across: “Police Academy” star, if his name had one less “T” and he invented movable type for printing presses.

The word search, which is branded a “Wrod Jembul” (since Joel is dyslexic), is both the most creative and the most solvable of the three puzzles.

In this puzzle, you’re given thirteen clues for various products Joel has done advertisements for, and you need to find them in the grid. Except every entry is jumbled up, complicating things greatly.

Although the puzzle is not perfect — FITBIT can be found in two ways, as can IHOP, and KLONDIKE BAR is the only entry spelled out for some reason — it’s great fun and a very fair solve.

Thanks for the Money is a very fun read, outrageous and engaging in equal measure. But finding a few puzzles inside? That’s the cherry on top.


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Puzzle Romance!

Hello there, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers!

It’s Valentine’s Day, and in lieu of our usual post touting different ideas for celebrating love in a puzzly way — since it’s a bit short-notice for those ideas — we thought we’d share some of our favorite tales of puzzle romance.

(Of course, if you ARE looking for ideas, you’re welcome to click here. Just saying.)

In the past, I’ve had the privilege of reporting on two puzzly proposals that were quite brilliantly facilitated by our friends at Penny Dell Puzzles. Each time, the gentleman in question — both times named Bryan, oddly enough — asked that the proposal be hidden in a favorite puzzle, slipped into one of their puzzle books. The first time, it was Escalators, the second, Simon Says.

Both times, the plans were executed to perfection, and both times, the lovely fiancees-to-be said yes.

(We’ve also previously shared the stories of proposals couched in a game of Monopoly and a Rubik’s Cube.)

But my favorite story of puzzle romance involves two friends of mine who are both devotees of cryptic crosswords. (For the sake of anonymity, I’ll call them Carol and George.)

Carol and George are one of those brilliantly matched couples that makes you smile just thinking of them. Marvelously compatible interests and senses of humor and general weirdness that makes relationships worthwhile.

George had several gifts picked out for Carol, but he wanted to surprise her with a little something extra, a bit of diabolical sweetness only a true puzzle devotee would love.

So, before Carol received each small token of affection, she was given a cryptic crossword (also known as a British-style crossword) clue to solve. Cryptic crossword clues involve both cunning wordplay and a definition. The number after the clue provides the number of letters in the answer word.

[A cryptic crossword by constructors Cox and Rathvon,
courtesy of National Post Cryptic Crossword Forum.]

Here are the clues George created. Hopefully you can figure out the answers just as Carol did!

Really glitchy web address loaded between Tuesday and first of year (5)

Found, amidst mishap, pyramid’s content (5)

Begin tortured existence (5)

Thine enemy, in the end, belonging to us both (5)

Plus, there’s an added bonus: the four five-letter answers, when placed in order, form a phrase.

Hopefully, there will be some wonderful new stories of puzzle romance to come. Maybe even tonight! If you have a story to share, comment below! We’d love to hear it!


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A husband’s puzzly tribute takes a century to solve!

Some people immortalize their loved ones in poetry or song. Doctor Samuel Bean chose a different path, immortalizing his wives with a 15×15 puzzle grid on a marble tombstone dedicated to them both.

For nearly forty years, Bean refused to explain his tribute to his lost wives. In fact, he took the secret to his grave when he drowned during a vacation to Cuba in 1904.

The headstone remained in place, unsolved for decades to follow. Many puzzlers attempted to crack the puzzle, but the only person who claimed to solve it was the groundskeeper of the cemetery in 1942. (Naturally, he didn’t share his solution, leaving his claim unverified.)

Decades more followed with no solution in sight.

Finally, in the 1970s, a woman in her 90s who lived in a nearby retirement home shared her solution for the headstone puzzle, solving a mystery that had lasted over a century.

If you want a shot at cracking it yourself, you’re welcome to scroll up and look at the headstone again.

Go ahead. I’ll be right here when you get back.

Welcome back. Did you solve it? No? That’s okay. I can give you a hint, if you like.

There you go. I’ve highlighted the names of both wives in the grid. “Susanna” reads out like a standard word search entry, but “Henrietta” makes you work a little harder, zigzagging across part of the grid.

Okay, give it another shot. Good luck!

Hey there, welcome back! Whether you solved it or not, this is your warning that I’ll be discussing the solution below. So if you want to remain unspoiled, STOP READING HERE.

Last warning before spoilers!

Okay, hi there!

The zigzagging pattern revealed by “Henrietta” in the grid is really the key to unraveling this grid. For reasons that aren’t entirely clear, the message starts seven places in and seven places down. (Perhaps because the number rhymes with heaven? Maybe that’s what “reader meet us in heaven” means.)

Five straight lines in an expanding spiral spell out the words “In memoriam,” and then the zigzagging pattern takes over for the word “Henrietta,” continuing the spiral.

But the zigzagging pattern grows a little more complex at each corner of the spiral, jumping from one letter to another in an L shape (like a knight’s move in chess).

The zigzag spiral continues outward for four more stretches, before reverting to the straight lines that started the spiral. Those straight lines take over for five stretches of the spiral, and then the zigzag pattern returns (plus those knight-style corners) until the grid is completely filled in.

And what was Dr. Bean’s message?

In memoriam: Henrietta, Ist wife of S. Bean, M.D., who died 27th Sep. 1865, aged 23 years, 2 months and 17 days, and Susanna, his 2nd wife, who died 27th April, 1867, aged 26 years, 10 months and 15 days. 2 better wives 1 man never had, they were gifts from God but are now in Heaven. May God help me, S.B., to meet them there.

A lovely message that Bean clearly wanted strangers to work for. Nicely played, doctor.

[You can get more details on the lives of Samuel, Susanna, and Henrietta in this article (but be aware that they have a mistake in their recording of Bean’s message).]


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