That Puzzle Guy's Blog Nine-time ACPT champion (Non-Feyer Division)

8Nov/13Off

Plugs are alive and well!

I might not blog like I used to, but I'll never miss out on the chance to point out when it's my turn in the American Values Club rotation. It's a relatively light offering; hope you like it. And if you're not a subscriber... come on; we've been over this. Or you can buy just this one puzzle for an even buck.

I'll also take this opportunity to point out a few Kickstarter campaigns that are winding down. You have about a day left to back Matt Jones's crossword project. You can get the main set for just twenty cents a puzzle, but I recommend throwing in a little more to get the bonus pack as well. And when you're done with that, join more than 14,000 people excited for a new immersive game from Cyan. If you don't remember who they are, perhaps this next sentence will help: I'm honestly Myst-ified that this project didn't reach the goal in no time flat. I really want to see this one get to the finish line!

Lastly, congratulations to Eric LeVasseur on taking top honors at this year's Crosswords LA event. Hope everyone had fun at our new setting in Santa Monica. Did you miss the tournament? No worries; you can buy this year's puzzles to support charity.

26Sep/13Off

Something has happened

The mysterious YouTube channel Pronunciation Book has reached the end of its 77-day countdown, about which I wrote briefly. When I awoke on Tuesday morning, the final day, I didn't know what to expect; I was just trying to enjoy the ride. That wasn't the case for many people across the Internet, who seemed to spend much of their waking lives on forums dissecting every detail of the countdown videos, the picture encoded by the buzzing therein, Pronunciation Book's previous work, and a strange Tumblr that popped up with twenty days remaining. Excitement and speculation ran high.

The channel turned out to be merely a sort of art project, in conjunction with the spam Twitter account horse_ebooks, which was also unmasked on Tuesday. The responsible parties held a one-day exhibit in a New York City gallery in which a few people sat a table, answering phone calls with horse_ebooks tweets and immediately hanging up. (Gawker posted a look at the proceedings.) More enticingly for those who want the creativity to continue, a new alternate reality game called Bear Stearns Bravo was announced in the two accounts' final releases, though the material appears to be related to neither Pronunciation Book nor horse_ebooks.

Many followers were disappointed and upset. Was that all? No grand climax or big reveal? YouTube and the forum at 77days.net were besieged with angry messages. (I suppose that's normal on YouTube, but still.) I can't help but find the backlash a bit silly. The analysis of Pronunciation Book was rife with all sorts of conspiracy theories and insane leaps of logic; there's not much that would have lived up to the creators of those fanciful ideas. Some railed against the ARG, saying it was lame and that there was no way they were going to pay to play it. I disagree; I think it could be a cool experience and I'm willing to pay a measly seven bucks to dive in. I heard about but did not participate in This Is My Milwaukee, another Synydyne project, so I'm eager to experience their work firsthand this time around. In short, I think a lot of people got really carried away and are now crashing back to Earth, and frankly I think these folks need to lighten up.

See you in the Cowboy Cafe!

6Aug/13Off

Brain bucks

We just keep innovating over at the American Values Club Crossword. Now you can buy a single puzzle for just one dollar! So if you want to solve just that one particularly brilliant puzzle that has Twitbook and Facespace abuzz, or perhaps target the work of one specific gifted constructor who has red hair and writes a puzzle blog, you can do it! I can't think of a single better use for a dollar, except for applying it towards a full subscription, of course.

I don't plug my employer often here, but I feel I'd be remiss not to mention that our updated iOS app is now live! This is a big overhaul, with major improvements throughout, so give it a look. And yes, we're working on Android; I'm just as anxious for that as you are!

15May/13Off

Viva variety

Quite a few things to post about today from several areas of the puzzle world.

First off, an item from Sunday that I'd forgotten about. I made a guest appearance on Thomas Snyder's excellent Grandmaster Puzzles blog, contributing an odd logic puzzle I came up with. It's small, but might pose a decent challenge until you have the important breakthrough, so give it a try.

Another novel logic puzzle type is debuting on Nikoli's website; I've certainly never heard of it before. Meet Satogaeri. I blew through the sample puzzles and I'm interested to see what can be done with it at a harder difficulty. We were overdue for a new type on the site and I'm glad we're getting it.

On the crossword side of things, Fireball Crosswords mastermind Peter Gordon has turned to Kickstarter to continue the crosswords he contributed to The Week magazine until recently. If you like the Fireballs' style, but think you might like something a little easier and newsier, give this a look; you can get the puzzles for as little as a quarter apiece. Gordon has set an ambitious goal; I'll be keeping tabs to see if he gets there.

Hey, look, DASH 5 is on Saturday! Puzzlers in fourteen cities across America will solve the same puzzle hunt, tailored slightly to make a good walking game for each locale. A week from Saturday, it goes international, as even London gets in on the action. I'll join up with a slightly shorthanded League of Extraordinary Puzzlemen team; Dr. Sudoku's move to Seattle has trimmed our ranks. Nonetheless, I feel good about our upcoming experience in Half Moon Bay and I trust it'll be fun everywhere else too.

Lastly, on Monday, I got news that I immediately knew was going to be the best of my week. A sizable part of my childhood, The Incredible Machine, is coming back in the form of Contraption Maker, from the same team that did the original games! I'd always wondered what could happen in that game with modern technology and without some of the limitations of the versions I played. I have a large game backlog as it is, but I'll have to make room for this one!

3Dec/12Off

Screen shots

I've played several games on my Android device lately. Let's have a look at them after the jump!

10Nov/12Off

A city at play

This month, Come Out and Play returns to San Francisco, bringing with it a wide variety of games with varying degrees of physicality. As an inveterate puzzler, I most have my eye on The Hunt for Black Bart's Hidden Hoard, but a number of events look intriguing and fun. Get out there!

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18Sep/12Off

Apple bites

As an Android man, I'm somewhat loath to plug Apple-related items, but if you like to play games and puzzles on their devices, there's good news for you this week.

Some attendees of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in the last few years have played and enjoyed Peter Gordon's Celebrity Get-A-Clue game on his phone. I'm not much of a pop-culture guy, but the game has proven most engaging for me and everyone I've ever seen play it. At long last, the app has been approved for public consumption, so if you have a suitable device, go get it!

If you're looking for solo solving, Puzzazz has you covered. They've just announced their new store for downloading puzzle e-books. They've got American crosswords, cryptics, and plenty of miscellaneous verbal and logical challenges, with lots more material to come. If you'd like to supply some of that material, Puzzazz wants to hear from you.

Enjoy! I'll just be over here waiting for Android to get its due.

21Aug/12Off

Blob blurbs

Been a while since I've talked about a video game on this here blog. This is partly due to my relatively infrequent gaming (which means I wouldn't be discussing new games) and partly due to the fact that I have many friends in the video gaming industry and thus feel hopelessly unqualified to offer my own pedestrian opinions. But I finished A Boy And His Blob on the Wii last week, so what the hell.

In this game, you're, well, a boy. You navigate four worlds, trying to rid them of a dark force. Joining you is, er, a blob, which can eat a variety of beans you offer it. Each type of bean transforms the blob into a different useful item, such as a trampoline, an anvil, a parachute, and lots more. Your goal is simply to navigate each level, making your way past obstacles and enemies through creative use of whatever capabilities you have at your disposal for that level. (It's never explained how exactly you've been deprived of most of the beans for each level, nor how you're always so fortunate to have the subset you need to clear the level, but I'm overthinking things here.) The optional replay-value feature is each level's three hidden treasure chests, which your blob can swallow if you get it close enough. Collecting all three chests opens up a bonus level; clearing that lets you see art drafts and other behind-the-scenes stuff.

So yes, it's a puzzle game. There are many things that can kill you if you touch them, but, aside from each world's boss, most of the enemies just hang out and do very little that could be construed as an active attack. Plus, death on a regular level will deposit you right back at the start of that puzzle. (Bonus levels require a successful run from beginning to end, but are shorter.) Thus, you can usually try your ideas with relative impunity.

For the most part, I found the puzzles pretty easy. There were too many with signs depicting the ability needed for that puzzle. I could understand one such sign for every new ability as a sort of tutorial, but they appeared more often than that. That said, progressing was still satisfying, and I could at least appreciate the cleverness behind the problem. Plus, the boss fights were very engaging, requiring wits as well as a big additional dose of skill. Strangely, I found the second world's boss the hardest; I felt I got a little lucky when I finally defeated it.

Without question, the most annoying part of A Boy And His Blob is when the boy has to wait for the blob. After using the blob to move on, you'll need to call it back to your side for the next puzzle. Sometimes, calling for it once is sufficient, but very often, you'll need to beckon it three times in succession to make it transform into a landscape-ignoring balloon so it can float back to you... slowly. (For some reason, the balloon bean is always in your inventory, even though there's only one occasion when you actually have to throw it.) The wait is maddening when you have to do it so often. Also, there are some places where you'll throw a bean somewhere you can't reach, but your blob can due to its superior jumping ability. It isn't always so simple, though. Sometimes your blob will stubbornly attempt to reach the bean in the same way, from the same position, and it's quite fiddly to get it to start from the right spot. (I gave up on the last bonus level I unlocked for this very reason; it was no fun to mess with that, die on the next part, and have to do it all over again.) My last nit concerns the post-demise restarting points for the last two bosses. One requires you to run down a long hallway every time you attempt the battle, and the other has a short scene that always plays out before you regain control of your character. Since these baddies will likely best you at least a few times before you figure it all out, this is frustrating.

Overall, though, I'd recommend A Boy And His Blob. It may disappoint you if you're looking for a real brain-breaker, but I thought it was good fun all the same. Pleasing art complements the gameplay nicely as well. So, if you're still interested in games from a few years ago, check it out!

4Jun/12Off

Falling behind

I owe you, my loyal readers, a recap! I still have to do my big write-up of the Shinteki Decathlon. It's coming, but for now, let's run down a few shorter items.

June's Gryptics contest is posted! I found it smooth sailing, so why not do it yourself and try to win a book?

Over at Matt Gaffney's crossword contest, I was defeated last week after two consecutive perfect months, which is a pretty long streak for me. Despite my semi-routine humiliation, Matt's great work can't be denied. His tip jar is open until Friday, so if you enjoy these puzzles, do consider a donation.

This weekend, I participated in BANG 33 for the benefit of Elevate Tutoring. The puzzles were top-notch and made for a very enjoyable day in San Jose. The organizer, Bob Schaffer, is planning on running the game again this summer, so do take advantage of that if you're able.

On the train back from the BANG, I finished The Lost City, which I found courtesy of Clavis Cryptica. If you're looking for a light, compact adventure in the vein of Myst and its kin, definitely give this one a shot.

Have a good week, everyone. Get after it.

6Dec/11Off

Frii puzzle!

I almost forgot again: It's my turn in CrosSynergy! Have a go at it through either the JPZ or PDF file.

If you're wondering about the weird spelling in the title, it's because last night I received the Nintendo Wii that I was fortunate enough to win at RPI's Alumni Weekend in October. Any recommendations for games? I'm very much looking forward to Super Mario Galaxy, as I loved Super Mario Sunshine on GameCube.