Even people who aren’t puzzle experts deserve puzzles that are interesting and varied and will bend the solver’s brain in dozens of new directions. That's what Puzzlesnacks are all about. Get them in your inbox for just $3/month.
Want a few more details? Read on.
For the past few years, I thought I was making puzzles for kids. I even called my Web site Puzzle Your Kids.
My goal was straightforward. I wanted to take the fun and interesting variety puzzles that expert solvers have long enjoyed, and put them in the grasp of younger solvers. Some of the puzzles were a bit unusual, but even my trickiest puzzles were intended to be just challenging enough. Not too easy, but not too hard.
I sent my puzzles out to homeschooling families and teachers around the world, and directly into the in-boxes of a whole lot of kids. From the very beginning, however, I noticed a funny thing happening:
It became clear early on that I only thought I was making puzzles for kids. It turned out I was making puzzles for anyone interested in clever, varied puzzles that use a straightforward and everyday vocabulary.
And so, it's time to expand my thinking a little -- and change my name. So long, Puzzle Your Kids! Hello, Puzzlesnacks!
So what are Puzzlesnacks, and how are they different from other word puzzles?
- They're designed to be tackled in a single sitting.
A typical daily newspaper crossword has 78 words. Puzzlesnacks have between 16 - 30 words.
- They never contain "crosswordese."
Most newspaper crosswords are packed with a lot of esoteric abbreviations and acronyms, not to mention last names of actors and actresses from bygone eras, not-exactly-well-known cities and rivers, etc. Puzzlesnacks contain none of that. My puzzles rely on words you either know or can figure out as you fill in the grid.
- They come in dozens of different styles.
Just because the words I use are approachable and familiar doesn't mean the puzzles are trivial to solve. Unlike a newspaper crossword, which works more or less the same way every time, Puzzlesnacks will challenge you in a variety of interesting ways.
There will be puzzles where you'll know an answer but not where to put it in the grid. In other puzzles, you'll need to write in some words backwards (which ones? I'm not saying). There will even be puzzles where you have to figure out the clues.
Here's the thing: Even though I'm expanding the audience for my puzzles, my original goal— getting more kids to solve and enjoy puzzles— still stands. For that reason, I intend to keep giving my weekly puzzle away for free, as I have since the beginning, so that kids don't have to pay. Even though I know that means some older folks will grab them for free, too, it's worth it to me knowing that kids around the world are enjoying my puzzles.
At the same time, though, I'd like to offset my costs and maybe even make a little money doing this.
So what I'm looking for is at least 150 people who enjoy puzzles — and who agree that it's a good idea getting more people, especially kids, to solve them. Those folks will get Puzzlesnacks e-mailed directly to them. That's the basic level, the lowest tier:
A Whole Lot of Snacks ($36): A one-year subscription to Puzzlesnacks. I'll e-mail you a great little puzzle every week... along with at least two dozen bonus puzzles that non-subscribers won't get.
I'd be fine if 150 people signed up at the lowest tier and we all called it a day. But if some of you want to climb into the higher tiers, I'd love to send you my books. I've got a bunch of 'em out there:
The Winston Breen Series: Three mysteries for middle-grade readers, nominated for over a dozen state reading awards. Packed with puzzles to solve as you read along!
Word Search Collections: By the end of the year, I'll have three different collections of word search puzzles on the market, courtesy of Sterling Publishing. Mainly for kids, most of these puzzles are straightforward word searches, but you'll find a lot of interesting curveballs in these pages as well.
Puzzlesnacks: I'm excited to announce that the very first collection of Puzzlesnacks puzzles will be published this summer by Simon & Schuster! A whopping 110 puzzles, covering 40 different puzzle types!
So! If you want more than just a weekly snack or two, the upper tiers provide a great many more puzzling calories:
A Full Meal ($65): You'll get a full year of Puzzlesnacks in your in-box, including many bonus puzzles. And you can choose either the new volume of Puzzlesnacks (when it's available, in late July) OR two books from the Winston Breen series or the word search series.
The Banquet ($125): The full year of Puzzlesnacks! The bonus puzzles! And every single book! That's all of the Winston Breen books, all of the word search books, and the first volume of Puzzlesnacks. (The last of the word search books comes out in the fall, so fulfillment on this will have to wait until then.) If you prefer, you can swap out for multiple copies of Puzzlesnacks, to give to others.
All books can be signed by the author, if you like.
Now, naturally, I wouldn't mind if way more than 150 people signed up as ground-floor subscribers for the Puzzlesnacks relaunch. To that end, let's talk about stretch goals, shall we?
We're gonna supersize some Puzzlesnacks! Starting at $7,000 and for each $1,000 we raise after that, I'll take one of my standard puzzle types and make a super-duper-uper version of it — way more than a couple of dozen words. I'll still use an everyday vocabulary, of course, but these aren't quick snacks. They're big, satisfying, beefy challenges.
UNLOCKED! $7,000: Hexed, Supersized! In a Hexed puzzle, words don't read across and down -- they go in a circle, one letter per space around its number. (The grid is shaped like a series of hexagons; hence the name.) A typical Hexed puzzle has 25 words. The supersized version will be at least twice as large.
UNLOCKED! $8,000: Labyrinth, Supersized! The Labyrinth is a wonderful puzzle type, originally given to us by Mike Shenk. Two words read across each row. But where in a typical crossword you'd also have words reading down, in a Labyrinth you have words forming a crazy, snaking path from start to finish. Figuring out where each word in the path begins and ends is part of the fun. And boy, there will be quite a path to trace out in the supersized version of this puzzle.
UNLOCKED! $9,000: Gotta Split, Supersized! A personal favorite. All of the clues in this puzzle have been split in half! The first halves are listed in the one column, the back halves in the other. Figure out which half-clues go together, and you'll learn where that answer fits in the grid. A great puzzle for co-solving with a friend, particularly in its supersized version!
NEW STRETCH GOALS!
We seem to be running out of stretch goals. Well, we can't have that. Let's throw a few more supersized puzzles on to the list.
UNLOCKED! $10,000: Trail Mix, Supersized! A great puzzle format by the endlessly creative Patrick Berry. You've got across answers as usual... but you also have a dozen or so "trails" weaving through the grid. You know where these trails begin, but not where they end -- you'll have to use some clever solving to fit all the trails together. Needless to say, the supersized version of this puzzle will have quite a bit more than just twelve trails.
$11,000: One Two Three, Supersized! This would be a normal crossword puzzle, except for one small thing: Some spaces get one letter, some get two letters, and some get three letters. Naturally, I don't tell you how many letters go into each space -- that's something you'll have to figure out.
$12,000: Spiral, Supersized! One list of words winds its way to the center of a spiral-shaped grid. Read that list backwards--starting at the center of the spiral and winding its way back out to the start--and you'll have a completely different list of words. A simple, elegant, and very enjoyable form.
- A brand-new Web site, to replace Puzzle Your Kids. I've been noodling around with smaller companies and individuals -- this time out, I'm hoping to work with a solid Web site development company. (I've got one lined up; now I'm just waiting to see if I can afford it.)
- Time. Easily the most valuable thing a successful funding will purchase is the time it takes to create these puzzles.
- Testsolving and editing. I pay outside people for this.
- If we raise enough funds, I would love to start commissioning puzzles from other constructors.
Eric Berlin is a puzzle constructor and writer living in Milford, Connecticut. He is the author of "The Puzzling World of Winston Breen" and its two sequels. He has created scores of crossword puzzles for The New York Times and other outlets. His live puzzle events have been commissioned by the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, the Connecticut Library Association, and the Museum of Mathematics in New York City. Eric is a member of the National Puzzlers' League.
This is Eric's third Kickstarter. The previous two were both successfully funded and fulfilled. Interesting trivia note: Eric's first project on Kickstarter was the sixth-ever project to be funded via the Web site.
Risks and challenges
The number-one risk to completing this project is that I am a one-man show, and I cannot predict what craziness might occur in the future. If some calamity occurs and causes me to shut down, I will do my best to return funds to my backers, amortized against the percent of the project already completed.
Aside from act-of-God stuff, though, I feel pretty confident about my ability to see this project through. I've been making puzzles for many years, and have successfully fulfilled two previous Kickstarter projects, including the precursor to Puzzlesnacks.
Music in video: "Our Big Adventure" by Scott Holmes. Used with permissionLearn about accountability on Kickstarter
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