Pi Day and Puzzly Foods!

It’s Pi Day — March 14th, a.k.a. 3.14 — and as one of the nerdiest days of the year, we happily celebrate it here at PuzzleNation.

A friend of the blog asked if we’d be celebrating Pi Day with some apple pi pie, and sent me this video from YouTuber Rosanna Pansino:

That gave me an idea. Why not dedicate an entire blog post to puzzly foods?

Naturally, I have to start with some Rubik’s-inspired foods. It’s blocky style lends itself to foodly imitations, and in previous blog posts, we’ve shown off both Rubik’s fruit salads (like the one above) and Rubik’s cakes.

And while we’re talking about cakes, that brings me to another puzzly product that is easily replicated in food form: Tetris.

These cupcakes adorned with Tetris pieces are a perfect puzzly dessert, and a simple way to marry puzzling and food.

But if you’re looking for something a bit more challenging and involved, check out this Tetris bento box, crafting Tetrominoes into blocky veggies on a bed of rice for lunchtime enjoyment!

And puzzly foods only get more creative and complicated from here. Let’s talk about bagels.

Yes, there is a way to cut a bagel to leave two interconnected pieces. In fact, there are several ways to cut a bagel allowing for a more mathematical eating experience! It’s the mobius bagel!

But if you’re looking for the puzzliest food I can find, look no further than the Churroduo: two interlocked churro pyramids.

I think this excerpt from a write-up on Geekologie sums up the appeal of the Churroduo nicely:

Still, the best thing about the Churroduo is that you don’t have to feel bad about eating the whole thing, because you only ordered ONE of something, you can’t help that it’s actually like twelve churros stuck together.

Do you have any examples of puzzly foods that I missed? Are you celebrating Pi Day in a puzzly way? Let us know in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you!

Happy Pi Day, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers!


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PuzzleNation Book Review: Tetris: The Games People Play

Welcome to another installment of PuzzleNation Book Reviews!

All of the books discussed and/or reviewed in PNBR articles are either directly or indirectly related to the world of puzzling, and hopefully you’ll find something to tickle your literary fancy in this entry or the entries to come.

Let’s get started!

The subject of today’s book review is Box Brown’s graphic novel Tetris: The Games People Play.

[Image courtesy of Macmillan.]

Tetris was a masterpiece right out of the gate. Simple, elegant, and infinitely replayable, it would go on to become one of the most beloved video games in history. And that popularity, that universal charm, sparked a bidding war unlike anything the video game world has ever seen. With secret meetings, dubious contracts, language barriers, and the involvement of the suffocating Soviet regime, it was a recipe for sitcom-style misunderstandings on a global scale.

Tetris: The Games People Play brings the whole ridiculous story to life with immense charm and style. From the creation of Alexey Pajitnov’s delightfully addictive brainchild to the globe-spanning race that ensued as production rights went international, this is a story as convoluted and madcap as it is epic.

Although the drawings accompanying the story are relatively simple, the large cast of characters — from executives and game designers to members of the Soviet government — never feels overwhelming or confusing.

[Image courtesy of DownTheTubes.net.]

Illustrator and author Box Brown brings the story to life with the same panache and colorful style that made his visual biography of Andre the Giant such a warm, enjoyable read. The rounded edges and busy frames help sell both the silliness and chaos of the story, and the mix of yellow, black, and white shading in each illustration harkens back to the earliest days of video games.

(The yellow feels especially inspired, given how easily the story could’ve bogged down in the omnipresent gray tones of Soviet society or the bureaucratic doubletalk that typifies business negotiations.)

Most importantly, Brown never allows readers to lose sight of Alexey’s role as creator and keeper of the faith, a man who, under one of the most oppressive regimes in history, brought to life a game that continues to delight generations of fans.

As entertaining as it is insightful, Tetris: The Games People Play is a fun, fascinating read.

[Tetris: The Games People Play is available in paperback wherever books are sold.]


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It’s Follow-Up Friday: Jumbo Jigsaw 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 world records!

Follow-Up Friday has become something of a repository of puzzly world records.

In previous installments, Follow-Up Friday posts have covered Largest Architectural Video Game Display (when a 29-story game of Tetris was played in Philadelphia), Most Game Show Episodes Hosted by the Same Presenter (for Alex Trebek’s run on Jeopardy!), and the solving of the World’s Largest Rubik’s Cube-style Puzzle.

Heck, just last week, I posted about the World’s Largest Vertical Maze.

And this week, I’ve got another cool one for you: the world’s largest jigsaw puzzle.

It is called “Wildlife,” and it’s produced by Educa. It retails for $400. It’s composed of 33,600 pieces. It measures 5 feet by nearly 19 feet. It is so large that it comes in ten separate bags, inside a wooden box on wheels for ease of movement. It is a monster.

The young woman pictured solved it in 450 hours (over the course of two and a half months). There is a world speed record for solving it, but it took 100 people over 19 hours to do it.

Pretty amazing, especially since she owns a cat, a creature rarely conducive to the solving of jigsaw puzzles.

So, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers, what’s the biggest jigsaw puzzle you’ve ever tackled? Let me know! I’d love to hear about it!

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It’s Follow-Up Friday: A-maze-ing 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 building-sized puzzles!

In the past I’ve mentioned some truly monster-sized puzzles, from the apartment building crossword in Ukraine to multi-story games of Tetris played on the sides of office buildings.

Well, another world record has been set for super-sized puzzles, this time in Dubai!

The largest vertical maze in the world (certified by the folks at Guinness!) can be found on the side of a 55-story building aptly known as Maze Tower.

Although LED lights make the maze quite an eye-catching spectacle at night, the maze is also visible in the daytime, since it was physically built along the side of the building.

All it needs is a digital minotaur prowling the corridors to chase off prospective solvers.

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PuzzleNation Product Review: Puzzometry

In the past, I’ve reviewed a few products — Robot Turtles and The Maze of Games, for example — that were crowdfunded before reaching the open market, but today’s product is the first where I’ve completely observed the process from campaign launch to holding the product in my hands.

Today’s product review is Puzzometry, a jigsaw-style piece-placement puzzle with a serious challenge factor.

You’ve got 14 puzzle pieces to place into the frame pictured below, and there’s only one way to place every piece and complete the puzzle. Can you find it?

Created by Jim Fox, Puzzometry had a bit of a rocky road to realization. The initial Kickstarter campaign failed to meet its lofty goals, but Fox, who had remained totally honest and forthright with his backers from day one, reached out to his supporters and presented two possible options: either relaunch on Kickstarter with a lower funding goal or immediately shift all of his efforts to an e-commerce site.

In a close vote, the backers opted for another Kickstarter campaign, which was funded within an hour of launching! In fact, the second campaign was ten times more successful than the original campaign!

Puzzometry comes in three flavors:

  • Puzzometry, which has 14 pieces to fit into the frame
  • Puzzometry Jr., which is smaller and has only 7 pieces to fit into a smaller frame
  • Puzzometry Squares, which also has 14 pieces, but eschews the octagonal shape of many Puzzometry pieces for right angles and more Tetris-like shapes to fit into the frame

[A sampling of Puzzometry’s signature puzzle pieces.]

There’s only one solution that allows you to place every piece in the frame, and the difficulty is a credit to the game’s impressive design. The pieces are all interesting, interlocking in unexpected ways and challenging even savvy jigsaw solvers.

At this point, I’ve only solved Puzzometry Jr. and Puzzometry (I haven’t picked up a copy of Squares yet), and found them both to be great fun. Puzzometry Jr. will be an easy task for older solvers, but it’s a perfect fit for younger puzzlers to introduce them to puzzles beyond the jigsaw format.

Plus, Fox includes instructions for a two-player game called Puzzometry Keepout, which is similar to Blokus. Each player chooses pieces, as if they’re drafting players for a dodgeball team. Then, once all the pieces are allocated, the players take turns placing pieces in the frame. You take turns until someone can’t fit one of their remaining pieces into the frame.

All three versions of Puzzometry are now available on the Puzzometry website, so check them out. They’d make a fine addition to any puzzler’s library.

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These puzzles deliver!

Puzzles are all around us. They’re in our newspapers and on our phones, they’re lurking in math problems and board games and children’s toys.

But as it turns out, according to an article forwarded to me by puzzler and friend of the blog Cathy Quinn, they’re also on our stamps.

At least in Macau, that is.

Late last year, Macau Post released the latest stamps in their Science and Technology series. Previous editions have featured the Golden Ratio, Fractals, and Cosmology, but this time around, they selected a topic near and dear to the hearts of many puzzlers:

Magic squares.

For the uninitiated, a magic square is a grid where the numbers within add up to the same total in every row, column, and diagonal.

Our friends at Penny/Dell Puzzles utilize patterns like this in their Anagram Magic Square puzzle, where a word to anagram accompanies each number in the diagram, eventually spelling out a bonus phrase or quotation.

But at its core, a magic square is about cleverly balancing every element until you reach a harmonious arrangement. It’s a curiously meditative sort of puzzle solving, and I can see how it would appeal to the meticulous nature of stamp collectors worldwide.

Here are the six stamps currently available through Macau Post.

There’s a classic 4×4 magic square grid in the upper left and an ancient Latin palindrome in the upper right, as well as part of a 4th-century Chinese palindromic poem in the lower left and a geometric puzzle in the lower right where the pieces in the inner squares can make all of the designs in the outer squares.

Not only that, but three additional stamps will be released this year, making a total of nine themed stamps, and wouldn’t you know it? The stamps themselves can be arranged to form a magic square when assembled, based on the values printed in the corner of each stamp.

Just another sign that puzzle magic is alive and thriving all across the world.

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