A New Year’s Eve Countdown!

It’s New Year’s Eve, and we are literally counting down the hours until 2016, so why not celebrate the end of 2015 with a little countdown of our own?

Here are my 10 favorite blog posts from 2015!


#10 Rubik ‘Round the World

One of the most amazing things about the world today is how interconnected we all are. The Internet has made it easily to not only keep in touch with far-flung friends, but to forge new, meaningful friendships and connections with staggering ease.

And I confess, I am a total sucker for those heartwarming clickbait videos that spread the message that we are all the same. (The one of that guy doing the same dance in countries across the world comes to mind.) So seeing people from all over the world solve a Rubik’s Cube one move at a time…what can I say? It got me.

#9 Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide

Every year, one of my favorite activities is putting together our Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide. I get to include the best products sent to me for review by top puzzle and game companies, mix in some of my own favorites, and draw attention to terrific constructors, game designers, and friends of the blog, all in the hopes of introducing solvers (and families of solvers) to quality puzzles and games.

#8 Music and Puzzles

Talking about how puzzles are relevant to daily life is one of my favorite subjects for blog posts. Brain health, stress relief, the long-term benefits of puzzle solving…we’ve discussed all these topics and more during my time as lead blogger.

This year I continued that tradition with this post about how listening to music can make you a more effective solver. It’s always interesting for me to do some research and really delve into a topic — especially scientific ones because they’re often so drastically misreported or misinterpreted by mainstream outlets — and give the PuzzleNation audience the straight story.

#7 The Dress

One of the most bizarre moments of 2015 was when someone shoved their iPhone in my face and asked me what color a dress was. It wasn’t until a few moments later that I found out this was a big thing on the Internet that people were vociferously debating.

The chance to explain exactly what was going on in the photo through one of my favorite puzzly mediums — the optical illusion — was too much fun to resist, and it resulted in one of the year’s most popular, most shared blog posts.

#6 The American Crossword Puzzle Tournament

Although it’s a highlight of the puzzly calendar every year, this year’s ACPT was extra special for me because it was the first I attended in person.

Not only did I get to meet a lot of top names in crosswords — in many cases, finally getting a chance to put names to faces after many emails and tweets exchanged — but I got to enjoy the Big Fight feel of seeing so many friends and puzzlers test their mettle against some great puzzles.

#5 A Puzzly Wedding Proposal

Our friends at Penny Dell Puzzles pulled off one heck of a puzzly coup when an intrepid fellow puzzler asked them for help proposing to his girlfriend with a special Escalators puzzle.

I reached out to the lucky fiancé and got his permission to share the story with the PuzzleNation readership, and as I learned more about who was involved and how they’d managed to make it happen, I just became more and more enamored with the story. I have no doubt that years from now, this will still be one of my favorite blog posts.

#4 Max Reviews the Boston Festival of Indie Games

Guest bloggers are nothing new to PuzzleNation Blog, as Sherri regularly pops in with her app reviews, but Max Galpern pushed things to another level with his appearances throughout the year. Not only did he pioneer our first video review (with assistance from Fred), but he took over the blog for an entire day with his review of the Boston Festival of Indie Games.

Here’s hoping we can get Max back for 2016 a few times, though I suspect he’ll be in high demand.

#3 Will Sudoku

We do a lot of reviews (board game and card game reviews, puzzle reviews, tournament reviews, app reviews, etc.) and I thoroughly enjoy introducing new puzzly products and events to my fellow PuzzleNationers and sharing my thoughts on them.

But it’s rare that we get the first shot at introducing a brand-new never-before-seen puzzle or product, and that’s what separates the Will Sudoku post from many others. Serving as the debut outlet for a new puzzle was great fun and very exciting, one of those rarities that made 2015 such a terrific year.

#2 Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Island Seesaws

Brain teasers were a big part of 2015 for the blog, since several challenging ones went viral this year. But I don’t think any of them taxed my brain — both to solve AND to explain how to solve — like the island seesaw brain teaser from an episode of Fox’s sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine did.

It is an epic-length blog post — one I needed a mathematician friend of mine to help me write — but it broke down a tough puzzle bit-by-bit and explained every step. In a year of brain-melting puzzle posts, it still stands out.

#1 Announcing Free Daily Puzzles for the Penny Dell Crosswords App

I almost put announcing the Android release for the App here instead — because so many people had been asking about it for so long — but in the end, the free daily puzzle announcement won out, and not simply because it was a terrific new feature for the App, one that I feel would draw a lot of new eyes to the product.

Getting to interview Fred and talk about not just what we’ve been working on for years, but where we were headed in the future, made it feel like a special event for the PuzzleNation Team as a whole. Plus it was a chance to introduce all of you to another member of the team, something I hope to do more of in 2016.

It may sound self-serving or schlocky to talk about our flagship product as #1 in the countdown, but it’s something that we’re all extremely proud of, something that we’re constantly working to improve, because we want to make it the absolute best it can be for the PuzzleNation audience. That’s what you deserve.

Thanks for spending 2015 with us, through logic problems and love stories, through dresses and debuts, through Rubik’s Cubes and revelations. We’ll see you in 2016.


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PuzzleNation Looks Back at 2015!

The year is quickly coming to a close, and as I look back on an eventful year in the world of puzzles and games, I’m immensely proud of the contributions both PuzzleNation Blog and PuzzleNation made to the puzzle community as a whole.

Over the last year, we explored dice games and tile games, apps and pen-and-paper puzzles. We met designers, constructors, and creative types of all kinds. We cracked brain teasers and tackled mind-bending riddles.

We explored the history of puzzles, broadened our understanding of how puzzles and games contribute to brain health, and celebrated the lives of puzzle greats Bernice Gordon, Henry Hook, Merl Reagle, and Leslie Billig, who were taken from us too soon.

We spread the word about numerous worthwhile Kickstarters and Indiegogo campaigns, watching with glee as a puzzle/game renaissance continued to amaze and surprise us with innovative new ways to play and puzzle.

We celebrated International TableTop Day, the debut of The Indie 500 crossword tournament, a new Star Wars movie, the 80th anniversary of Monopoly, new world records set by Rubik’s Cube solvers, and a puzzly wedding proposal, and we were happy to share so many remarkable puzzly landmark moments with you. Heck, we even solved the mystery of The Dress!

It’s been both a pleasure and a privilege to explore the world of puzzles and games with you, my fellow puzzle lovers and PuzzleNationers. I recently posted my 450th blog post, and I’m even more excited to write for you now than I was when I started.

And that’s just the blog. PuzzleNation’s good fortune and accomplishments in 2015 went well beyond that.

In January, we launched the Penny Dell Bible Word Search for iPad, and in March we started our monthly hashtag games. In May, we added Penny Dell Jumbo Crosswords 2 for iOS devices, and July saw the debut of our Crossword Clue Challenge every weekday on Twitter and Facebook.

But the standout showpiece of our puzzle app library has been the Penny Dell Crossword App. With our Dell Collection puzzle sets, our monthly Deluxe puzzle sets, and the 2015 Deluxe Combo (not to mention our various value packs and supreme bundles), we maintained a steady stream of quality puzzle content for solvers and PuzzleNationers.

We added a free daily puzzle feature for all users, and just before Christmas, we launched the Penny Dell Crossword App for Android devices, ensuring that more puzzle lovers than ever have access to the best mobile crossword app on the market today.

[Fred, our Director of Digital Games, shows off the Penny Dell Crossword App
at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in March.]

And your response has been terrific! We amassed over 1500 followers for the blog and we’re closing in on 1700 followers of the PuzzleNation Facebook page, numbers that are both humbling and very encouraging.

2015 was our most productive, most exciting, and most creatively fulfilling year to date, and 2016 promises to be even brighter.

Thank you for your enthusiasm, your support, and your feedback, PuzzleNationers. Have a fantastic New Year. We’ll see you in 2016!


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

You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!

It’s Follow-Up Friday: That Dress 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 optical illusions.

Yes, by popular demand, I’m talking about The Dress.

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[The original photo is in the middle. To the left, the photo has been color-corrected toward white and gold. To the right, the photo has been color-corrected toward black and blue.]

For those who haven’t heard — and wow, I’m sincerely amazed you haven’t by now — the above picture of a dress was uploaded to Tumblr not too long ago, and the Internet collectively lost its mind debating whether the dress was white and gold or black and blue.

Some people think that color blindness has something to do with the different opinions on the dress, but the answer is simpler than that.

I’ve written about optical illusions in the past, and this photo is another prime example. As for why people are seeing two different sets of colors, it’s all about visual context and how we interpret contrasting colors.

The photo is saturated with sunlight, which skews the color of the dress. But for some people, when their eye color-corrects to determine what they’re looking at, they discount the blue in the photo, and end up seeing white and gold. Other people discount the gold in the photo, and see blue and black.

(This was also one of those cases where actually tilting your laptop screen could significantly change how the colors looked, since changing the angle of your screen altered how the image interacts with whatever light sources are nearby.)

I’ll give you another example. Check out this image from Gizmodo:

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These green and blue spirals, contrasted against the pink and orange, appear to be different colors, but they are actually the exact same color. Our eyes are fooled into seeing them as different shades by the alternating stripes around them. (The “green” have orange contrast while the “blue” have pink.)

The differing interpretations of The Dress operate under the same principle.

Oh, and for the record, here’s the dress without the sunlight skewing the color scheme, as seen on Ellen DeGeneres’s show:

people-behind-the-dress-appear-on-ellen-02

So which camp were you in, fellow puzzlers? White and gold or black and blue?

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!