Puzzling From Home!

Problem-solving-crossword

In the wake of puzzly public events like the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament being cancelled, as well as the shutdown of various school districts, workplaces, and businesses in order to limit exposure to the Coronavirus, it’s completely understandable that some puzzle fans may be feeling disappointed or even isolated from their fellow puzzlers.

But fear not! There are all sorts of options available to solvers looking to enjoy a puzzly experience from home, either on their own or with friends.


If you’re looking for crosswords, all you need is your computer. The New York Times, The LA Times, The Washington Post, and many other outlets offer online puzzle-solving, either by subscription or through watching ads before solving.

If you have access to a printer, you can print those puzzles out for the true pencil-and-paper solving experience.

And it’s not just newspapers. Many constructors — Brendan Emmett Quigley comes to mind — offer their own free puzzles semi-regularly (though you’re welcome to tip as a thank you). There is a world of puzzles out there on the Internet awaiting solvers.

But you don’t even have to go to a computer anymore. There are loads of terrific puzzles available right on your phone. Forgive us for tooting our own horn, but Daily POP Crosswords is a great puzzle app with a free puzzle every day and additional puzzle packets available for purchase or through our in-app coin system. (We also offer Word Seeks, Sudoku, and a marvelous story-driven puzzle mystery, Wordventures, if you’re looking for something different.)

Oh, and speaking of something different, if you’re looking to delve into more elaborate puzzles, there are some fantastic puzzle services by mail that offer all sorts of challenges.

enigmasmall

Wish You Were Here by the Enigma Emporium conceals an entire mystery within a handful of postcards, challenging you to mine them for every scrap of information as you uncover a series of coded messages. It’s spycraft in an envelope, very clever stuff.

The Cryptogram Puzzle Post out of the UK offers something unique, mixing puzzles and encryption with bits of mystery and supernatural narratives to create standalone chapters in an ongoing story. So you can pick one season or an entire year, depending on how deep you want to go!

And for multi-month affairs, there are outlets like Hunt a Killer and The Mysterious Package Company, which create vast, immersive puzzle experiences by mail. (Though according to friends’ recommendations, Hunt a Killer works better without the month wait between installments.)

As you can see, there’s a wide variety of ways you can puzzle from home, whether you prefer to solve online, by email, on the phone, or by mail!


That’s all well and good, you might be saying, but what about the social aspect? Well, there are options there as well, even from the comforts of your home.

Photo by Matt MacGillivray, licensed via Creative Commons

Some puzzlers actually livestream their puzzle-solving online through avenues like Twitch, Facebook, and YouTube. The New York Times periodically does this as well, often with celebrity guest solvers!

You can keep your eyes peeled on Facebook and Twitter for constructors and solvers who do so. It often adds a fun, communal element to puzzle-solving (especially if they struggle with the same tricky clues that you do). Some pub trivia outlets are also moving online to allow for participating from home!

new york times

But if you don’t want to wait for someone to livestream their solving, you can do it yourself! Between Facetime and similar apps on smartphones and all the online avenues for audio and video-chatting (Skype, Google Hangouts, Discord, etc.), you could pair up with a friend and tag-team a crossword puzzle or other puzzly challenge!

It’s like co-working, except with puzzles. Co-solving!

In times like this, where uncertainty abounds and our comfortable routines have been upended, puzzles can offer a wonderful refuge from all the stresses of the world. And with technology on our side, we can even keep the communal joys of puzzling in our lives.

Happy puzzling, friends.


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!

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.


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!

5 Questions with Christina Aimerito of Girls’ Game Shelf!

Welcome to 5 Questions, our recurring interview series where we reach out to puzzle constructors, game designers, writers, filmmakers, musicians, artists, and puzzle enthusiasts from all walks of life!

It’s all about exploring the vast and intriguing puzzle community by talking to those who make puzzles and those who enjoy them! (Click here to check out previous editions of 5 Questions!)

And I’m excited to welcome Christina Aimerito as our latest 5 Questions interviewee!

Christina pulls double duty as both the creator and host of Girls’ Game Shelf, a YouTube series all about board games and card games. As the host, Christina introduces the game and explains the rules before she and a rotating panel of female players put the game to the test.

It’s the perfect one-two punch to learn about new games and classics alike, as you get the one-on-one how-to at the start, followed by a strong sense of what the actual gameplay looks and feels like. Couple that with insights from the other players, and you’ve got a recipe for a terrific show that highlights the best of both games and communal play.

Christina 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 Christina Aimerito

1. How did you get started with games?

I played games when I was younger, but the normal fare: Taboo, Scattergories, Stratego, MasterMind, and other classics. I’ve always had a fondness for games. But I started playing more modern games a little later in life. My husband wanted to get me into it, so he introduced me to Dominion, which was a pretty wise choice. I’ve always liked collecting things and had never played a deck-building game before. So yeah, that got me hooked and opened the door to the world of board games.

2. What, in your estimation, makes for a great gaming experience? What separates a good two-player game from a good group game?

I enjoy games the most when there’s a good mix of strategy and conversation. A good two-player game and a group game still require those elements for me since I play games to interact with people.

The difference for me in two-player vs. large group games is more of a personal one. When I play a 2-player game, it’s usually to play with folks who are competitive and like strategy games. But in the group I play with, we have a pretty big variety of gamers. Some of them enjoy RPGs, some like heavy strategy, and often we have a newcomer to the table.

[Image courtesy of Geek and Sundry.]

The unifying element I’ve found is a game that forces people to interact with others during their turn. Games that lead people into analysis paralysis aren’t ever as exciting, and when there’s a group game we like to keep the energy up. Social deduction games, or games like Cosmic Encounter or Sheriff of Nottingham, are great because they involve everyone around the table.

3. You have a film background and a theater background. How do those aspects of your experience contribute to the process of making GGS, either in terms of production or in terms of being an on-camera personality?

Those aspects absolutely help me behind the scenes. In fact my background in film and theatre are what led me to create the series. I wanted to create a show so that I could get back in that creator headspace. I’m happy when I make things. Choosing a show about board games was a no-brainer because it was marrying the two things I loved most.

While my experience helped me off-camera in terms of producing, editing, and crafting the episodes, it surprisingly didn’t help me one bit in front of the camera. Playing a character is VERY different than being yourself. It was a terrifying experience for me at first. The whole first season I think I was just learning how to be comfortable with being myself instead of “getting it right.”

4. What’s next for Girls’ Game Shelf?

Well, we just started a podcast, so that’s the new baby right now. If that goes well, I’m very eager to start working on an RPG series with the girls. Whatever the case, Girls’ Game Shelf will certainly continue to make the original series, and hopefully down the line we’ll have the means to release more than one episode per month.

5. If you could give the readers, writers, aspiring YouTubers/podcasters, and game fans in the audience one piece of advice, what would it be?

For me, the first and most important thing is to be a good listener. Putting your voice out there takes guts, but listening takes discipline. It separates the good content from the stuff that feels heavy handed or forced. Truly listen to your peers, people you agree with, and people you disagree with in regards to the content you’re creating. This is part of doing your due diligence, but it’s also part of being a strong voice and a good host. I am constantly working on this for myself. Luckily, playing board games is usually a good training ground for it.

And secondly, be completely yourself. THAT is what people want to see. And if you’re trying to be anything but that, it will be so obvious. If you’re going to be podcasting or YouTubing, and feel anxious about this, then I highly recommend recording yourself in a few private episodes, just so you can gain that comfort before you share your voice with the world.


A huge thank you to Christina for her time. Be sure to check out Girls’ Game Shelf on YouTube, and to keep up on all things GGS on Twitter. To support this terrific show, you can check out the GGS Patreon page, which is loaded with bonus content, raffles, and more!

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: Funding and Fright 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’ve got some updates and answers for you!

First off, I want to say congratulations to Patrick Blindauer, whose Piece of Cake Crosswords Kickstarter campaign was funded by solvers hungry for quality puzzles without the obscurities and crosswordese!

It was down to the wire, but the campaign raised the final $10,000 in just seven days to pass the funding goal and ensure that 52 terrific puzzles will be wending their way to solvers all over the world!

In fact, the first one has already arrived in solvers’ inboxes! I can’t wait to see what Patrick has up his sleeve for the next 51 weeks!


And now, on to the answers!

On Monday, I posted a video by musician, comedian, and pun-enthusiast Ali Spagnola where she assembled twenty Halloween themed (or just generally spooky) songs and challenged you to name them all.

How did you do?

1. “Thriller” — Michael Jackson
2. Ghostbusters theme — Ray Parker Jr.
3. “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” — Eurythmics
4. “Time Warp” — The Rocky Horror Picture Show
5. “The Monster” — Eminem ft. Rihanna
6. “Monster Mash” — Bobby “Boris” Pickett and the Crypt-Kickers
7. “The Phantom of the Opera” — Andrew Lloyd Webber
8. The Addams Family theme
9. “This Is Halloween” — The Nightmare Before Christmas
10. The Twilight Zone theme
11. Little Shop of Horrors theme
12. “Crazy Train” — Ozzy Osbourne
13. Scooby Doo, Where Are You? theme
14. “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” — Backstreet Boys
15. “Enter Sandman” — Metallica
16. “Somebody’s Watching Me” — Rockwell
17. “Disturbia” — Rihanna
18. “Heads Will Roll” — Yeah Yeah Yeahs
19. “Hungry Like the Wolf” — Duran Duran
20. “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” — The Charlie Daniels Band

Admittedly, I didn’t get all of them — the Ghostbusters theme eluded me, and I don’t think I’d ever heard Rihanna’s “Disturbia” — but I got all of the others! Not too shabby!


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: Domino Wonder 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 our recent 5 Questions interviewee, Lily Hevesh, aka Hevesh5.

You might have seen the above video from Hevesh5, the amazing triple spiral, which we shared on our Facebook and Twitter accounts.

It’s honestly one of the coolest, most staggering domino creations I’ve ever seen, a 15,000-domino work of kinetic art that took Lily 25 hours to assemble, and I couldn’t resist sharing it with my fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers.

Apparently, I wasn’t alone in that. The spiral got FOUR MILLION views in two days. It got major attention on Reddit, the YouTube front page, CNN, CBS News, and more!

It has amassed over TEN MILLION views in less than a fortnight.

And, as you might expect, Lily was not only humble, but grateful for the support of puzzlers and domino fans like.

Check out this video discussing the video’s success, as well as Lily’s plans for the future:

So great to see such positive attention for her and her work. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer person.


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!

5 Questions for Domino Artist and YouTuber Hevesh5!

Welcome to 5 Questions, our recurring interview series where we reach out to puzzle constructors, game designers, writers, filmmakers, musicians, artists, and puzzle enthusiasts from all walks of life!

It’s all about exploring the vast and intriguing puzzle community by talking to those who make puzzles and those who enjoy them! (Click here to check out previous editions of 5 Questions!)

And I’m excited to continue this series with Lily Hevesh (aka Hevesh5) as our latest 5 Questions interviewee!

[Image courtesy of Eagle Tribune.com.]

Lily Hevesh, better known as Hevesh5 on YouTube, is a professional domino artist, a Rube Goldberg machine master, and an advertising whiz who uses skill, patience, and creativity to design wonderfully transfixing works of kinetic art.

She has appeared on The Today Show (auditioning for America’s Got Talent), helped set Guinness World Records — setting up 200,000 dominoes in group displays, as well as 22,000 dominoes on her own for certain projects — and her videos have accumulated over 200 million views on YouTube.

Hevesh5 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 Hevesh5

1. What is your process when creating one of these ambitious works of kinetic art? How much planning goes into them before the first domino is laid? How do you know if you’re heading in the right direction or if you need to stop, reassess, and try something else?

Planning time varies a lot depending on the type of project. Sometimes I do absolutely zero planning and just start building and see where things go. I think of ideas while building which keeps me going. Other times (especially for live events) I have to plan out the whole setup by digitally drawing out the domino path from start to finish.

[A video thank you posted when Lily reached 2,000,000 views on YouTube.]

First I have to decide what I am going to build — whether that be a logo, an image of something, some sort of text, etc. Then I have to figure out the best way to build this as a domino trick. Dominoes can be built in many ways: lines, domino fields, walls, 3D structures, and other creative tricks, so I have to decide which technique is best for each individual project. Then it’s a matter of connecting every trick with domino lines and figuring out the position on the floor.

If I’m heading in the wrong direction, I’ll usually realize something is wrong — maybe it doesn’t look like what I envisioned, the structure looks risky or is becoming too difficult to build, it looks sloppy, etc. In those cases, I will make the best of the situation and try to correct the mistakes, sometimes even knocking it down and starting over if I feel like it doesn’t live up to what I’m picturing.

[Lily and several other domino artists craft a 30,000 domino masterpiece at the
Brattleboro Museum and Art Center for the 9th annual Domino Toppling Extravaganza!]

2. On your YouTube page, you answer the question “How did I get into dominoes?” with “I searched ‘dominoes’ on YouTube.” Was that the spark of all of your kinetic art (like your Rube Goldberg devices) or were you into mechanical puzzles before that?

The reason I searched dominoes was because I loved to play with the classic dotted dominoes and set them up for fun. I was intrigued by the knock down and wanted to find out if there were others who set up dominoes like I did as a kid. Searching dominoes certainly fueled my love for kinetic art an extraordinary amount though.

3. You have helped set world records and amassed over 200 million views on YouTube. Amongst all those awesome, mind-blowing projects, which are some of your favorites? And what’s the best part of collaborating with fellow domino artists and kinetic sculptors?

Amongst all the projects I’ve been involved with, 2 stand out: “The Incredible Science Machine” (new American domino record with 250,000 dominoes and world record for most dominoes in a circle field) and working on a domino segment for the upcoming feature film Collateral Beauty starring Will Smith.

The best part about collaborating with other domino artists is finally being able to talk to someone who understands your “domino language”. Meeting new people is always exciting, but it’s even more exciting when they share the same passion for such a unique art form. It’s always fun learning from other builders and seeing different styles of building.

[A stick-bomb chain reaction.]

4. What’s next for Hevesh5?

Right now I am just starting my gap year to do dominoes and YouTube full time. I plan to make as many domino videos as possible and create an inventory so that I can post them periodically when I go to college (I won’t have time to make videos in college, so I’m making a lot now to save up for the future).

I plan to post a video on my channel (YouTube.com/hevesh5) every week while also doing side projects for companies, ad agencies, and others who may need domino art.

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

Don’t give up on what you love. Patience and perseverance are key, even in the most challenging times.


A huge thank you to Hevesh5 for her time. Be sure to visit her YouTube page for new videos and updates on her latest projects. I cannot wait to see what she has in store for us next!

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!