Ten Year Celebration: A Brief History of PuzzleNation

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As you no doubt saw across all our social media yesterday, PuzzleNation is celebrating ten years of delivering quality puzzles to solvers.

Given this marvelous milestone, I thought I would take you on a brief trip through the history of PuzzleNation.

It all started with a website. PuzzleNation.com. A place to sign up, solve puzzles, and engage socially with fellow puzzlers in both forums and head-to-head puzzle-solving.

But that nearly wasn’t our name. No, in the early days, there was the suggestion that we call our site Puzzle Beach, but that got nixed fairly quickly. After all, you can really only enjoy the beach at certain times of the year, whereas you’re welcome to visit PuzzleNation and enjoy puzzles whenever you like!

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As the cover image for our Decade of PuzzleNation Puzzle Packet, I made a timeline chronicling the history of PN through our various puzzles, and the first few images are from PuzzleNation.com puzzles.

It started with a handful of puzzle types to solve. There were some favorites from our friends at Penny Dell Puzzles like Tanglewords and StarSpell, along with classics like crosswords, Sudoku, and word searches.

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I started working for PuzzleNation as the volunteer forum manager for the site. I answered questions, offered solving advice, posted conversation starters, and hosted contests for site users.

But even then, we knew our future rested in the pockets of millions of solvers: puzzle apps.

By the time we launched PuzzleNation Blog, our Penny Dell Crossword App was already available for iPad and iPhone.

Fred, our Director of Digital Games, joined us not long after, and has been deftly steering the ship ever since.

We soon followed with iBooks for Classic Word Search and downloadable puzzle collections called Penny Dell Jumbo Crosswords. The green, blue, and red icons should be quite familiar to our long-time app users.

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In 2014, we expanded our iPad puzzle app library to include Classic Sudoku and Classic Word Search, as well as launching an update to Penny Dell Crosswords, our flagship app. The next year, Penny Dell Crosswords came to Android by popular demand.

We relaunched a much improved Penny Dell Sudoku for all platforms the following year, and in 2017, we launched the first in our Daily POP series, Daily POP Crosswords. Focusing on themed days and the freshest puzzle themes and cluing, Daily POP Crosswords launched us to the next level in puzzle apps.

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Along the way, our programming team has gone from strength to strength, and the addition of insightful puzzlers, both behind the scenes and in the ranks of our contributing constructors, have made our puzzles better than ever.

Our most recent app launch was Daily POP Word Search, and as for what’s on the horizon… well, all I can say for now is that we have some very exciting projects in the works. Be sure to watch this space.

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[And this space too.]

And, as you might expect, as our brand evolved and grew, so did my duties at PuzzleNation. Soon I was social media manager for the forums… and then occasional blogger for PuzzleNation Blog… and then social media manager for the whole brand… and then lead blogger for PuzzleNation Blog as well.

It’s been an amazing journey, and we’re so grateful to have you, our fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers, along for the ride. Thank you for your enthusiasm, your support, and your puzzly spirit.

For anyone who would still like to participate in our Decade of PuzzleNation Celebration and receive a free downloadable puzzle packet, there are a few ways you can do so:

  • Like us on Facebook and share our anniversary post there
  • Follow us on Twitter and share our anniversary post there
  • Join us here on the blog and share this post to either Facebook or Twitter

You only need to do one of those things! Once we’ve seen your shared post, we’ll contact you with the special code to download our anniversary puzzle packet by clicking the link below!

[Special super-secret PN Anniversary Packet link]

Thank you so much for supporting PuzzleNation and celebrating a decade of terrific puzzles with us. Happy puzzling, solvers!

Celebrating Ten Years of PuzzleNation With a Free Puzzle Packet!

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Hello PuzzleNationers!

Today marks ten years of PuzzleNation. Yes, on October 11th, 2011, we launched PuzzleNation.com and started on this marvelous journey of puzzle fun, learning, and growth.

A decade later, we have a marvelous line-up of puzzle apps and a thriving community of fellow puzzlers to design new puzzly delights for every day!

We want to thank you for your support, so we’re celebrating ten years of PuzzleNation with a free anniversary puzzle packet!

There are three ways to receive this wonderful puzzle bundle chronicling a decade of PuzzleNation in puzzly form:

  • Like us on Facebook and share our anniversary post there
  • Follow us on Twitter and share our anniversary post there
  • Join us here on the blog and share this post to either Facebook or Twitter

You only need to do one of those things! Once we’ve seen your shared post, we’ll contact you with the special code to download our anniversary puzzle packet by clicking the link below!

[Special super-secret PN Anniversary Packet link]

Thank you so much for supporting PuzzleNation and celebrating a decade of terrific puzzles with us. Happy puzzling, solvers!

Big Changes Coming to Dungeons & Dragons?

There’s no denying that Dungeons & Dragons isn’t just the granddaddy of roleplaying games, it’s also the most well-known and recognizable example of the genre.

But there’s never been a richer time for roleplaying games than right now. Patreon and Kickstarter are bringing new designers and storytellers to prominence, websites like DriveThruRPG give terrific visibility to creators large and small, and contenders for the throne both old (White Wolf Games) and newer (Pathfinder) continue to grab their own share of the RPG market.

Although it’s two years away, the fiftieth anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons is looming large, and some big moves are being made this year.

At the D&D Celebration 2021 event, the creative team announced that the game will be getting a major update for the first time in nearly a decade.

The current version of the rules — known as fifth edition or 5e — marked a return to form for Dungeons & Dragons after a less-than-glowing response to their fourth edition ruleset, and it has served as a game system that welcomes new players and satisfies long-time players as well.

Now, we don’t know if this is simply an update to the system to improve/tweak the rules — D&D 5.5e, you might say — or if this will be a wholesale relaunch of the core system. (Though that seems unlikely, given that 2020 was the company’s most profitable year ever.)

What they have promised is that, whatever form the update takes, EVERYTHING that they’ve released for fifth edition over the last decade will still be compatible with the new system. This is not a cash grab that will force players to shell out for all sorts of new books.

It’s an intriguing announcement that has fans already speculating, even though the update’s release isn’t due until 2024.

[In this video, long-time roleplayers The Dungeon Dudes break down their thoughts on potential 5th edition updates.]

But those big moves we mentioned above aren’t only being made by the industry leader. Some important names from D&D’s past are also contributing to the growth and variety of roleplaying games in impressive ways.

It was recently announced that Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis would be collaborating on a new setting and system based on 5e rules: Skyraiders of Abarax.

Now, if you don’t know those names, you should. The world of D&D over the last 50 years would be a lot less varied without them. Tracy and Laura Hickman were instrumental voices behind two iconic D&D settings that have endured for decades — Ravenloft and Dragonlance — and the idea that they’re creating a brand new world for players to enjoy is immensely exciting.

Not only that, but several influential creators have launched their own new world and system on Kickstarter recently: Tanares.

Folks like Skip Williams, Bruce Nesmith, Jeff Grubb (who contributed some of my favorite Star Wars RPG supplements), and the legendary Ed Greenwood — who created The Forgotten Realms, another hugely famous D&D setting — have collaborated on an immersive new world and play system.

Considering that they raised over two MILLION dollars for the project on Kickstarter, it’s fair to say that there’s a market for fresh content that fits the D&D aesthetic but takes the gameplay in exciting new directions.

Now, if you’re not familiar with roleplaying games, you may be wondering what the big deal is. Why does an updated system or a new setting matter?

New systems can be welcoming to new players and put them at ease, or end up so daunting that it scares off new players while alienating established players.

Similarly, a new setting can offer fresh gameplay opportunities and give players the chance to try different styles, genres, and characters in ways they might never have considered otherwise.

And who knows where roleplaying games will be in two years? Will indie publishers continue to thrive? Will Tanares or Skyraiders of Abarax be household brands? And what exactly do the designers behind the world’s most famous roleplaying game have in store for their loyal and lapsed players in 2024?

Only time will tell.

In the meantime, keep rolling those dice. Happy roleplaying!


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Halloween is almost here, and we have some spookily good deals for you to check out. You can find them on the Home Screen for Daily POP Crosswords and Daily POP Word Search! Check them out!

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

The Ultimate Jigsaw Puzzle Table?

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Whether you’re a jigsaw puzzle solver or a tabletop game enthusiast, you’ve probably seen puzzle and game tables. A relatively new addition to the furniture options available for puzzlers and game fans, these tables generally come in one of two forms.

Either they have a removable top with a recessed area underneath to keep your puzzles mid-solve or games mid-play, or they have a central solving surface and side drawers to contain separated pieces. Sometimes this solving surface tilts up / tilts toward you to make it easier to work on.

But those are generally what you’ll see when it comes to puzzle / gaming tables.

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[This table is available on Etsy.]

Each has its pluses and minuses. With the removable top version, you have to put the top somewhere, and then you have the deeper solving space, which some solvers find uncomfortable.

With the center table and drawers, you’re still dedicating most of a table to puzzles, and many of them struggle to keep your work in place when folded up or moved around. (Some of these have a removable tray, which can slide into the body of the table, but this can also be unwieldy.)

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As they say in the infomercials, there’s gotta be a better way. And YouTuber/inventor/DIY guru Simone Giertz came up with her own solution.

Simone is known for her wacky, inventive, hilarious, and creative construction projects, many of which involve robotics or moving parts. So let’s see what she came up with.

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Her table features two hand cranks, each of which solves one of the problems with the removable top version of a puzzle/gaming table.

The first crank turns gears which roll the table top underneath and out of the way, revealing the hidden puzzle-solving space inside. This prevents you from having to worry about storing or handling a heavy or cumbersome tabletop while you solve.

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The second crank raises the solving space until it’s flush with the sides of the table. This removes any need to lean down into a recessed play area or solving space to enjoy your puzzles and games. The puzzle literally comes to you!

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Plus, this solves some of the issues with other solving tables. There’s no removable tray to navigate, or sliding drawers or flaps that could cause what you’ve already built to shift or fall apart. It simply lowers into the body of the table itself, otherwise resting just as you left it.

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This video shares the entire construction process, including missteps, problems, new solutions, and the eventual successful reveal. (Fair warning: the video is mostly safe for work, but there are two random f-bombs in it, so be aware.)

As you can see, the final product is absolutely beautiful, and unlike virtually every other puzzle or game table you see on the market today.

Pretty much every jigsaw solver I know — and a fair few board game players — would love a piece like this in their house, myself included.

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What do you think, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers? Would you like to have this lovely table in your house? Or is there another piece of puzzly furniture that’s caught your eye? Let us know in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you.


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Well, summer’s over, but we still have deals galore for you to check out. You can find them on the Home Screen for Daily POP Crosswords and Daily POP Word Search! Check them out!

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

Crosswords as Pop Culture Shorthand?

In television and movies, there are a lot of different techniques for revealing character traits. While some shows spend time developing their characters and slowly revealing their traits to the audience, other shows rely on visual shorthand. You often see a letterman’s jacket for a jock, or glasses for a nerdy boy or a mousy girl.

The act of solving a crossword puzzle has also become visual shorthand in pop culture. Crosswords often serve as a universal sign of intelligence.

In an episode of Jimmy Neutron, Sheen is shown solving a crossword puzzle in ink. This is an instantaneous sign that his brainpower has increased. (And when Cindy points out that her dad does the same thing, Sheen one-ups her by saying the puzzle is from The Beijing Times.)

It could have been math or organization or memorization, but instead, they went with crosswords.

In The Wire, the show uses a scene with a crossword to reveal that there’s more to street-smart Omar Little than meets the eye. Before testifying at Bird’s trial, he helps the bailiff with a crossword clue, identifying the Greek god of war as Ares. The scene immediately punches holes in several stereotypes both characters and viewers might have about the character.

This also happens on Mad Men, where one of the founders of the company is solving a crossword, only to be corrected by one of the secretaries. For that brief moment, the playing field has been levelled.

And because crosswords are seen as this visual shorthand for intelligence, they’re also used as a intellectual measuring stick, for better or for worse.

Rachel on Friends struggled with a crossword for an entire episode to prove she didn’t need anyone’s help, but still has to obliquely obtain information from others to finish the puzzle.

In an episode of House, M.D., House goes speed-dating, and is initially intrigued by a woman who brought a crossword puzzle with her. But when he notices she’s filled in random words instead of actually solving it — in order to pass herself off as someone she’s not — he quickly bursts her bubble in typically acerbic fashion.

P.G. Wodehouse loved to reveal the intelligence — or lack thereof — of characters through the use of crossword clues as fodder for banter. And that’s because it works. The audience draws conclusions based on these interactions.

In a fifth-season episode of Angel, a doctor is shown asking his receptionist for random crossword clues, only to fail at answering several. This immediately colors the audience’s opinion of him.

Crosswords can also be used as a mirror to reflect differences between characters. On The West Wing, President Bartlet couldn’t get past his own presuppositions and assumptions to properly complete the puzzle, while the First Lady had no problem navigating the same puzzle because of her own diplomatic skills.

Similarly, the parents in an episode of Phineas and Ferb show off their dynamic while solving a crossword. The father implies that every answer is obvious, and then waits for his wife to actually provide the answer. It says volumes about him, her, and the two of them as a pair.

But all of this raises the question: is this fair? Is the one-to-one association of crosswords and intelligence in pop culture valid?

[Check out this stock image from Deposit Photo.]

Crosswords are, essentially, piles of trivia and information, crisscrossing vocabulary locked behind clever or vague cluing. But are intelligence and access to information the same thing?

I mean, we’ve discussed the issue of crossword accessibility in the past. Many female constructors, constructors of color, and LGBTQIA+ constructors are helping to change the language used in crosswords, but plenty of people still see them as the domain of older white men. Which implies it’s not actually intelligence, just what older white men deem to be reflective of intelligence.

For a long time, pop culture clues were considered unwelcome or verboten. Beneath the crossword, even. Different editors bring different definitions of what’s appropriate for the puzzle.

And if people associate crosswords with intelligence because of this visual shorthand, and they don’t see themselves reflected in the puzzle, then they suffer from that jagged flip side of the pop culture coin. They’re excluded because of the measuring stick.

I realize most of the examples I cite above are intended to be humorous. Bartlet’s wrong answers are meant to be funny, as is Rachel’s struggle or the dad’s inability to answer on Phineas and Ferb.

But it’s worth mentioning that anyone who feels like they’ve been rapped across the knuckles by the measuring stick carries that with them. I’ve seen it plenty of times when I tell somebody that I work in puzzles. If they “can’t do them,” they look down when they say it. They already carry that visual shorthand with them.

While it’s fascinating that crosswords are part of that immediately recognizable pop culture lexicon, I also kinda wish that they weren’t.


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Well, summer’s over, but we still have deals galore for you to check out. You can find them on the Home Screen for Daily POP Crosswords and Daily POP Word Search! Check them out!

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

Puzzly Tombstones for October 1st!

[Image courtesy of How To With Kristin.]

It’s October 1st, and for many folks, it’s the official start of the spookiest of seasons, aka the lead-up to Halloween.

One of the things I really enjoy about the weeks before Halloween is seeing the decorations go up, and wondering just how elaborate they’re going to get. One house near me does a big fake spider web every year that’s made out of rope and dominates half of their yard!

But it’s the little fake tombstones that get me. It’s a simple thing, but I quite enjoy how people always put something interesting on them. Sometimes it’s funny inside jokes, or silly punny names like Bart Simpson would use to prank Moe the bartender on The Simpsons.

And it occurs to me that we as puzzlers could get in on this. Puzzly tombstone decorations! Why not?

Here are a few real-world examples to spark some ideas for you.

This gorgeous design adorns the gravestone of Michael and Elisabeth Ayrton. He was a painter and sculptor, and she was a writer.

It’s simple, but quite lovely.

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If you wanted, you could recreate this puzzly tribute that took passersby a century to finally unravel.

In a similar vein, this tombstone hides a simple message in thousands of different ways, if you know where to get started.

You could hide a coded message on them, like James Leeson did with his own tombstone in the Trinity Churchyard in Manhattan.

You could even offer a riddle or puzzly epitaph for people to solve, like this one found on the gravestone of Henry Rogers in Christchurch Priory in Dorset.

So what do you think, fellow PuzzleNationers? Will you be decorating with any puzzle-inspired tombstones? Or maybe you have something else that’s puzzle-inspired in store for Halloween.

Let us know in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you.


dailypopwsicon

Well, summer’s over, but we still have deals galore for you to check out. You can find them on the Home Screen for Daily POP Crosswords and Daily POP Word Search! Check them out!

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!