PuzzleNation Product Review: Houdini

Whether made of wood, metal, plastic, or rope, mechanical brain teasers can be some of the most challenging and well-crafted puzzles a solver will ever encounter.

Engaging both the solver’s deductive skills and patience, these puzzles often involve removing one key piece from an elaborate interconnected grouping, be it a ball from a seemingly solid maze of wooden posts or a heart from a web of unyielding metal linkages.

The cunning and clever brains at ThinkFun have put their own unique spin on the mechanical brain teaser with their latest product, Houdini, putting you in the legendary escape artist’s shoes and pitting you against numerous scenarios, all intended to keep the magician’s plastic namesake firmly trapped.

Although Houdini’s body and arms are one solid piece — representing his wrists being shackled together — his legs are felt, allowing you to bend and twist them in ways that replicate Houdini’s legendary flexibility. As the ropes are wound around and through both Houdini’s limbs and various obstacles designed to prevent his movement, it’s up to the solver to find the hidden loophole that will allow Houdini to escape scot-free.

With only a lock, a barrel, a solid ring, the three-looped base, and a few easy-clip ropes, ThinkFun has conjured 40 layouts of increasing difficulty, and I admit, some of these seriously taxed my puzzly skills.

The later puzzles involve multiple steps to free Houdini, utilizing tricks you’ve learned solving the earlier puzzles. It’s a brilliant slow-build solving experience, one that ThinkFun has employed with similar success with Laser Maze, Gravity Maze, and other products.

Houdini is not only a wonderful tribute to an entertainment legend, it’s a terrific puzzle toy that introduces a new world of brain teasers to younger solvers.

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Pints and Puzzles

If you’re a habitual crossword solver or a puzzle enthusiast in general, odds are you’ve got a good head for trivia.

Many of the puzzlers I know are vast storehouses of information, cobbled together in an incomprehensible mishmash of disorganized, dusty filing cabinets, containing endless wonder and factoids galore. They might not be the tidiest minds, but they’re invariably the most interesting.

And whether you exercise your voluminous knowledge with games like Trivial Pursuit, puzzles like crosswords, or online trivia associations like Learned League, you should know of yet another avenue to explore to satisfy your thirst for random facts and obscurities: the pub quiz.

Pub quizzes and trivia nights have been around for a long time now. While I was on vacation in Alaska, I participated in two nights of pub trivia shenanigans courtesy of Geeks Who Drink, wherein I performed admirably and represented PuzzleNation with honor, dignity, and no small amount of self-congratulatory cheering.

But did you know that puzzles are also quickly becoming prime entertainment options at bars and pubs worldwide?

Oh yes! The folks behind Puzzled Pint are the best known purveyors of pub puzzles these days, offering first a location-based puzzle for solvers to unravel (in order to discover where the next puzzle event will occur), then more puzzles to enjoy when solvers arrive!

Now, puzzles and pubs are hardly strangers to one another. Local blacksmiths often tasked their apprentices with creating mechanical puzzles like the one above (known as disentanglement puzzles) because forging the intricate pieces was excellent practice of various blacksmithing skills. These puzzles often found their way into nearby taverns, becoming popular pub activities and challenges.

As it turns out, you can find puzzles anywhere these days. And there’s nothing trivial about that. =)

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out the growing library of PuzzleNation apps and games!