PuzzleNation 2014 Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide: Grab Bag!

Welcome to the PuzzleNation Blog 2014 Holiday Gift Guide!

We’re overjoyed to have so many tremendously fun and puzzly products to share with you this year. We just might be your one-stop shop for all things puzzly!

This guide is a grab bag of all sorts of puzzle games, card games, puzzle books, party games, and board games, the perfect random assortment for any puzzle fan you need ideas for! We’re sure you’ll find the right gift for any puzzler on your list!


Naturally, you’ll forgive us for starting off with a link for some familiar puzzle apps!

Click these links for all the details on the Penny Dell Crossword App for iOS devices, Classic Word Search for Android and Kindle Fire, our Sudoku App and more!

And we’ll follow up with some puzzle books before we get into the grab bag of games, puzzles, and other terrific holiday treats!

   

Our friends at Penny/Dell Puzzles have put together some outstanding holiday collections with puzzles galore to be solved!

Whether it’s their Sudoku Spectacular, the Only Yesterday Word Seek looking back across the decades, the Crossword Extravaganza collecting some of the best puzzles around, or their Home for the Holidays Signature Puzzle gift bundles — with an all Word Seek collection (pictured above), an all Crossword, an all Fill-In, and many more options — Penny/Dell has you covered.

And right now, they’re offering 15% off their Selected Puzzles and Dell Collector’s Series books with the offer code “SNOW15″!

And for more specialized puzzle books, some high-level constructors have books of their own for your perusal! With New York Times and Los Angeles Times crosswords to their credit, you’re sure to find some puzzlers within these pages!

–Ian Livengood’s Sit & Solve® Sports Crosswords

–Rich Norris’s A-to-Z Crosswords

–Doug Peterson’s Easy ABC Crosswords

–Jeff Chen’s puzzles for Bridge enthusiasts

–Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Sit & Solve® Marching Bands

–Patrick Blindauer’s Quick-As-A-Wink Crosswords and Wide-Screen Crosswords

Many top constructors and organizations market their puzzles directly to solvers, so between by-mail offers and downloadable puzzle bundles, you’ve got plenty of quality choices!

The Uptown Puzzle Club (puzzle bundles by mail)

The Crosswords Club (puzzle bundles by mail)

Patrick Blindauer PuzzleFests (puzzle bundles by email)

David Steinberg’s Chromatics (color-themed puzzles)

The American Values Crossword (subscription and daily puzzles)

–Matt Gaffney’s Weekly Crossword Contest


And here is our grab bag of puzzle games and apps galore!

Bananagrams Wild Tiles (Bananagrams, board game)

The board game that requires no board, Bananagrams Wild Tiles is the latest variation on the beloved tile game, and with the introduction of new Wild Tiles that can stand in for any letter, Bananagrams is only getting faster to play and more accessible to solvers of all ages! ($14.99)

[Check out our full review of Bananagrams Wild Tiles by clicking here!]

Holiday Fluxx (Looney Labs, card game)

The folks at Looney Labs are all about games where the rules can change in an instant. They’ve broadened their library of Fluxx card decks with a marvelous Holiday version that puts a festive twist on the rapid-fire rule changes and ever-shifting objectives of the usual Fluxx fun! ($15.99)

[Check out our full product review of Holiday Fluxx here!]

The Stars Are Right (Steve Jackson Games, card game)

Build an army of followers and change the stars themselves in The Stars Are Right, a thoroughly enjoyable card game where the goal is summoning an elder god and destroying the world. As you do. ($27.95)

[Check out our full product review here!]

Word Winder (David L. Hoyt)

Word Winder (also available in app, puzzle book, and GIANT versions!) is a game of finding chains of hidden words in an ever-changeable grid! Put your strategy and spelling skills to the test! ($19.95)

Pairs (Hip Pocket Games, card game)

A simple card game with a lot of strategy behind it, Pairs is about NOT scoring points and avoiding pairing your cards at all costs. With numerous variant games available (depending on which deck you buy), Pairs is a perfect group card game you can pick up quickly. ($9.95)

Rudenko’s Disk (Brainwright, puzzle game)

Brainwright has a solid color-based brain teaser here to test your wits! The post-sliding and strategy-demanding Rudenko’s Disk offers you a single goal — move all of the colored pegs to one side or the other — and any number of ways to do it! ($9.99)

[Check out the full product review of Rudenko’s Disk by clicking here!]

The Maze of Games by Mike Selinker (puzzle book)

And we simply have to mention one of the most innovative puzzle books released this year, the interactive puzzle novel The Maze of Games! Allowing the reader to choose their own path through various labyrinths and challenge themselves to dozens of puzzles, this is a one-of-a-kind solving experience. ($49.95 in hardcover, $20 in ebook format)

[Click here to check out our full review!]

Tsuro: The Game of the Path (Calliope Games, board game)

A path-laying game with tons of style and historical spirit, Tsuro casts up to eight players as flying dragons, and tasks you with laying out your path with special tiles. Your goal is to avoid meeting another dragon or flying off the board. It’s a simple mechanic with plenty of replay value, and perfect for quick games with large groups. ($29.99)

ROFL! (Cryptozoic, party game)

Challenge your friends to decode famous movie lines, catchphrases, and song lyrics in Cryptozoic’s game ROFL!!, created by Dork Tower‘s John Kovalic! Put your texting and abbreviation skills to the test in this laugh-out-loud party treat! ($35)

[Check out our full product review here!]

  

Baffledazzle (jigsaw puzzles)

Baffledazzle offers absolutely gorgeous jigsaw puzzles-with-a-twist, allowing the solver to learn about different cultures and uncover deeper mysteries as you place each piece. Whether you’re rediscovering ancient board games with Cirkusu, exploring the animal kingdom with Ozuzu, or running in circles with Code Breakers, you’ll find that these high-quality puzzles are more than meets the eye. (Prices range from $25 to $125)

Castellan (Steve Jackson Games)

Build a castle and then occupy it in Castellan, a game of strategy and opportunity. With great modeled pieces that really add to the aesthetic, Castellan has style and substance. ($34.95)

[Check out our full product review here!]

Schmovie (Galactic Sneeze, party game)

Are you the funniest, punniest one in your group of friends? Find out by playing Schmovie, the party game that pushes you to scribble down the best name for an imaginary movie created on the spot! ($29.95)

[Check out our full product review of Schmovie here!]

 

Walk-By Scrabble Board, Lexicographer’s Extended Scrabble, and Drawing Room Scrabble (Hammacher Schlemmer, board games)

Hammacher Schlemmer has several Scrabble variants available, including the Lexicographer’s Extended Scrabble for those with mega-syllabic ambitions ($39.95) and Drawing Room Scrabble for those with swankier taste ($199.95) — not to mention the mindboggling World’s Largest Scrabble Game for $12,000! — but few are as clever or as convenient as the Walk-By Scrabble Board! Designed as a family game for people on the go, it’s a perfect way to bring back Board Game Night for busy families! ($29.95)

[Check out our full product review of the Walk-By Scrabble Board here!]

Laser Maze (ThinkFun, puzzle game)

ThinkFun brings us a logic game with an actual laser in Laser Maze, a game of light, mirrors, strategy, and skill! ($26.95)

[Check out our full product review of Laser Maze by clicking here!]

Loonacy (Looney Labs, card game)

If you’re looking for a fast-play combination of Memory and Slapjack with a lot more options, then Loonacy is for you! It’s a manic pattern-matching good time for groups of all sizes! ($14.99)

[Check out our full product review of Loonacy here!]

Tic Tac Tome by Willy Yonkers (puzzle book)

And if you’re looking for a one-on-one solving experience, pit your mind against the Tic Tac Tome and see if you can beat the book at Tic Tac Toe. ($11)

[Click here to read our full book review!]

Robot Turtles (ThinkFun, puzzle game)

Teach your kids the basics of programming with this fun and deceptively simple board game! Robot Turtles uses board game rules and easy-to-learn card commands to show kids how to navigate their turtles past obstacles and to the jewel! ($29.99)

[Check out our full product review of Robot Turtles by clicking here!]

Chrononauts (Looney Labs, card game)

Time travel can be tough, but when other time travelers are changing history, it can be downright weird. In Chrononauts, you’ll bend the rules of time and space in the hopes of completing your mission and going home. And who hasn’t wanted to make history once or twice? ($20)

[Check out our full product review here!]

Get Lucky (Cheapass Games, card game)

Everyone wants to kill Dr. Lucky, but as his name suggests, that’s no easy task. Get Lucky challenges you and your friends to a strategy game to see who will be the first to beat the odds and take down Dr. Lucky! (And there’s a secret puzzle lurking within this game that no one has solved yet!) Will you be the first to solve the puzzle OR kill Dr. Lucky? ($16.95)

Collide-O-Cube (Brainwright, puzzle game)

It’s where pattern-matching precision meets magnetic randomness! Collide-O-Cube challenges you to recreate various colored patterns with these eight blocks, which sounds simple until you realize some blocks repel each other! Can you make the blocks mesh and solve the mystery of each pattern? ($19.99)

[Check out the full product review of Collide-o-Cube by clicking here!]

Fluxx: The Board Game (Looney Labs, board game)

Take a board game, and make the cards, goals, and board changeable, and you’ve got Fluxx: The Board Game. It’s the ultimate think-on-your-feet experience, and like nothing you’ve played before. ($30)

[Check out our full product review here!]

Gravity Maze (ThinkFun, puzzle game)

Can you bend gravity to your will? Gravity Maze pits the solver against increasingly difficult puzzles where the goal is to place the towers so that a dropped marble will end up in the red goal square. Can you unravel each maze without losing your marbles? ($24.99)

[Check out our full product review of Gravity Maze by clicking here!]

 

Tavern Puzzles (jigsaw puzzles)

These hand-forged beauties are ready to challenge your dexterity and cleverness, as you accept the Tavern Puzzles challenge. Whether you’re trying to free your heart from the tangled pieces of Heart’s Desire or remove the ring from the Iron Maiden, you’re sure to put your skills to the test. ($22)

Pink Hijinks (Looney Labs, puzzle game)

Part of Looney Labs’ multi-colored Pyramids series, Pink Hijinks is a quick-to-play strategy game for two players! Roll the dice, make your move, and try to race your opponent to the finish in this easily transported game of tactics! ($12)

[Check out our full product review here!]

Qwirkle (MindWare, board game)

A wonderful mix of Uno and Mexican Train Dominoes, Qwirkle is all about placing your tiles to maximize points and minimize helping your opponents. With six bright colors and six different shapes to match up, Qwirkle is endless fun that’s so easy to jump right into! ($34.99)

Timeline (Asmodee Games, card game)

Timeline pits your knowledge of history against a growing timeline of important events, inventions, and historical moments. You don’t have to know exact dates; you just need to know if something happened before OR after something else. Was the toothbrush invented before or after the syringe? Which came first, language or agriculture? Timeline is a fast, fun way of learning (or relearning history)! ($14.99)


Thank you to all of the constructors, designers, and companies taking part in our holiday gift guide!

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! And remember to check out our Facebook Giveaway for the chance to win a free puzzle app download!

5 Questions with Constructor Brendan Emmett Quigley

Welcome to another edition of PuzzleNation Blog’s interview feature, 5 Questions!

We’re reaching out to puzzle constructors, video game writers and designers, board game creators, writers, filmmakers, musicians, and puzzle enthusiasts from all walks of life, talking to people who make puzzles and people who enjoy them in the hopes of exploring the puzzle community as a whole.

And I’m overjoyed to have Brendan Emmett Quigley as our latest 5 Questions interviewee!

A professional puzzle constructor for almost 20 years, Brendan is one of the top names when it comes to crosswords with strong craftsmanship and clever cluing. One of the most prolific contributors to The New York Times Crossword in the modern era, his puzzles have appeared everywhere from GAMES Magazine and The Los Angeles Times to Wired.com and The Crosswords Club.

In addition to the two puzzles he constructs every week for his website, he’s created many puzzle books of his own, and contributed puzzles to an American Red Cross fundraiser for Hurricane Sandy victims. (He also masterminded Puzzle #5 at this year’s American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, the puzzle only a few dozen solvers managed to conquer in the time allotted.)

Brendan was gracious enough to take some time out to talk to us, so without further ado, let’s get to the interview!

5 Questions for Brendan Emmett Quigley

1.) How did you get started with puzzles?

I started making puzzles at a very early age. In Kindergarten art class, specifically. We were given 11×17 sheets of paper and told we could draw anything. I drew mazes. Shortly after that, I realized I could make the puzzles more complicated if I eschewed crayons and used finely sharpened pencils. When I discovered GAMES Magazine, sometime in second grade, I was hooked and became a puzzler for life.

I didn’t get into crosswords until much later. It was a way to while away the hours at a miserable summer job in 1995. After a whole summer of dutifully attempting (and not necessarily succeeding) at solving the Times crossword, I was determined to make and sell one. Which I did by January of 1996. I haven’t stopped since.

2.) What, in your estimation, makes for a great puzzle? (Other than your signature knack for stacking long entries.) What do you most enjoy — or most commonly avoid — when constructing your own? What do you think is the most common pitfall of constructors just starting out?

A good original and hopefully funny theme is all you need to make a great puzzle.

The most common pitfall for newbies is unoriginal themes, or ones that don’t employ enough wordplay. The English language is full of nuances, we should exploit them.

[Check out Brendan’s latest collection, Sit & Solve® Marching Bands!
For more information on marching band puzzles, click here!]

3.) Will Shortz has credited you with bringing some hipness to the New York Times Crossword with your cluing and entry-word choices. Do you have any favorite clues or entries that have appeared there, either in your puzzles or puzzles by other constructors?

Mike Shenk once wrote the clue “Strips in a club” for BACON, and well, that’s a classic.

4.) What’s next for Brendan Emmett Quigley?

I think I’m going to have a beer.

5.) If you could give the readers, writers, and puzzle fans in the audience one piece of advice, what would it be?

Don’t do drugs. Be drugs.


Many thanks to Brendan for his time. Check out his website for twice-weekly puzzles, and be sure to follow him on Twitter (@fleetwoodwack) for updates on all things Quigley. I look forward to solving whatever he cooks up next.

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