Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Puzzly Delights!

Merry Christmas, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers! (And if you don’t celebrate Christmas, then Happy December 25th, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers!)

I’m a sucker for a festive event, so I’ve got a puzzly double feature lined up for you today.

First, allow me to present a delightful video concocted by friend of the blog Hevesh5. Lily is a domino master who has created numerous domino chains and Rube Goldberg-style machines with elements that fit a given theme. So naturally, given the season, she’s devised a marvelous domino chain with all sorts of holiday elements. Enjoy!

And since we’re on a holiday kick, there’s an anagram challenge for you too!

What are the longest common words you can make from the letters in the following phrase?

M-E-R-R-Y C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S

No plurals or proper nouns are allowed, and you can only use the letters in the phrase. (Meaning, for instance, you can use 3 Rs, but not 4, since there are only 3 in the phrase.)

We came up with one 10-letter word, four 9-letter words, twelve 8-letter words, and thirty 7-letter words.

Let’s see how you do!

Have a marvelous holiday (or day), and happy puzzling to you!


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The Puzzly Magic of Marbles!

As regular readers well know by now, I’m a huge fan of Rube Goldberg devices. They are my favorite form of mechanical puzzling, because they not only require innovation and creativity, but it’s immediately obvious whether the device actually works or not.

It’s amazing how many different ways people have concocted to move marbles, lift objects, circumvent physical obstacles, and span distances with everything from household items to living creatures.

An intriguing variation on the Rube Goldberg device has been gaining steam on YouTube, though, and today, I’d like to shine a bit of a spotlight on the crafty designers behind them.

Essentially, these devices are as complex as Rube Goldberg devices, but they use fewer materials. The goal is to simply get the marble from one end to the other.

But restricting themselves to marbles, wooden blocks, tubes, magnets, and so on hasn’t limited their creativity in the slightest. If anything, it’s made them more inventive!

As you can see, each device is built on a slightly tilted table, so that gravity does the work of moving the marbles. But everything else, from slingshots to moving parts and triggers, is activated through clever mechanics.

The combination of timing, positioning, and creativity is entrancing at times, leaving you dumbfounded at how they’d ever conceived of these delightful obstacle courses to begin with.

Some are set to music while others tell little stories of adventure and romance, but all of them are mind-bendingly entertaining, often taking several viewings to catch everything going on!

And hopefully, these puzzly creations by Kaplamino and DoodleChaos brought a smile to your face today.


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Behold: The Lemonade Machine!

A Rube Goldberg machine, for the uninitiated, is a device designed to accomplish a simple task in as many unnecessary, ludicrous steps as possible. The name comes, appropriately enough, from Rube Goldberg, a cartoonist and inventor most famous for his cartoons featuring singularly silly and elaborate machines like the one pictured below.

We’ve posted videos of Rube Goldberg machines in the past, because they’re a perfect example of a mechanical puzzle in action. Only when things happen in a precise order does the machine complete its task.

But it turns out that an old friend of the blog — domino master Lily Hevesh, aka Hevesh5 — is now venturing into the world of Rube Goldberg machines.

And her first attempt was a doozy.

Teaming up with five machine-building YouTubers — essentially, videomakers who specialize in chain-reaction mechanical devices — Lily and the group descended upon an AirBnB in San Diego to build a Rube Goldberg machine that would span the entire house!

The Lemonade Machine, as they call it, travels from room to room, utilizing items commonly found in those rooms (silverware and a teapot in the kitchen, for instance) to construct an epic-length chain reaction with everyday household objects.

The end goal? Pouring a glass of lemonade for each member of the build team.

So, how did they do?

They constructed a real mechanical marvel here. It took three days to build, and another day to execute a complete successful run of all of the machine’s components in a single take. The end result was the largest Rube Goldberg device constructed in the United States this year.

Not only that, but Lily documented the entire process, so you can watch both the construction and the many MANY attempts on Falldown Day to achieve a successful run of The Lemonade Machine.

It’s a mind-blowing feat, combining puzzly skill, creativity, patience, and determination, and there’s no denying that they built something truly unique and pretty cool.

I’m gonna go watch it again.


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“World’s Greatest Billiards Shot” is actually a feat of puzzly engineering!

I stumbled upon this video recently, and the bombastic headline caught my eye: “World’s greatest billiard shot spanned two floors and nine tables.”

As someone who enjoys pool and trick shots, I clicked on it. But, as it turns out, this isn’t the world’s greatest billiard shot.

It is, however, one heck of a Rube Goldberg machine made out of billiards gear.

A Rube Goldberg machine, for the uninitiated, is a device designed to accomplish a simple task in as many unnecessary, ludicrous steps as possible. The name comes, appropriately enough, from Rube Goldberg, a cartoonist and inventor most famous for his cartoons featuring singularly silly and elaborate machines like the one pictured below.

rubenvent

We’ve posted videos of Rube Goldberg machines in the past, because they’re a perfect example of a mechanical puzzle in action. Only when things happen in a precise order does the machine complete its task.

And they’ve been around long enough that we’re starting to see fun variations on the concept. Beyond simply accomplishing a task, many Rube Goldberg devices tell stories or center around a given theme. (We even featured one that was designed to take weeks to complete!)

This video fits nicely into that grand tradition of overly complicated mechanical devices that accomplish something simple.

So, without further ado, I give you the Allstars Sports Bar Rube Goldberg device:


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It’s Follow-Up Friday: LEG-OH NO WAY edition!

Welcome to Follow-Up Friday!

By this time, you know the drill. Follow-Up Friday is a chance for us to revisit the subjects of previous posts and bring the PuzzleNation audience up to speed on all things puzzly.

It’s been quite a week here at PuzzleNation Blog!

After posts that ran the gamut from Comic-Con encryption puzzles and new puzzle sets for the Penny Dell Crosswords app to becoming a sharper Hangman or Guess Who? player and enjoying the puzzly chain reactions known as Rube Goldberg devices, I was left with quite a conundrum: How do I close out such an eclectic week?

This will be my sixth post in six days after all. What would be an appropriate capper?

Well, I think I found the perfect Friday post idea: some visual LEGO puzzle wizardry.

Specifically, it’s a moving piece of puzzle art that combines the visual wonder of the pop-up book with the puzzly skill of a LEGO master builder.

I give you the LEGO Pop-Up Himeji Castle:

I’ve watched the video over and over, and I have no idea how the castle fits together OR compresses itself flat enough to fit between the “covers.” This is mind-blowing LEGO skill and puzzly three-dimensional manipulation of space.

And apparently, this sort of next-level three-dimensional spatial reasoning is second-nature to YouTuber Talapz, since he also managed to create this multi-dimensional sculpture that allows a ball to traverse it in three different arrangements:

I first stumbled across Talapz’s works on this site (written in French, no less!), and quickly followed his work on his YouTube page. Be sure to click the link for more brain-melting works of puzzly LEGO art.


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It’s Follow-Up Friday: Subway Time Travel edition!

Welcome to Follow-Up Friday!

By this time, you know the drill. Follow-Up Friday is a chance for us to revisit the subjects of previous posts and bring the PuzzleNation audience up to speed on all things puzzly.

And today, I’d like to return to the subject of puzzly events!

I’m a huge fan of events where puzzly-minded people get together and create something new. Whether it’s a festival of indie games or a Rube Goldberg machine about Passover, a prom-themed puzzle tournament or a crossword contest about a crossword contest, anything is possible when folks with a mind for puzzle fun collaborate.

The team at Improv Everywhere know this better than most, as they’ve put together some terrific live experiences to entertain unsuspecting strangers.

In the past, they’ve staged a repeating time loop at a coffee shop, recreated the opening of Star Wars on a subway, and (my personal favorite) made a cabbie the hero of a reunion right out of a romantic comedy.

This time around, they faked time travel with four sets of twins. Check it out!

You can explore the full details of the prank/performance here, as well as many other “missions” from their past, but sufficed to say, it took a fair amount of puzzly skills and improvisational style to pull this off!

I wonder what delightful trickery they’ll attempt next.


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