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Do you love unique and challenging puzzles? So do we.
The Year of Puzzles is 12, make that 18, no, make that 22 great puzzles from world‑class constructors. Brought to you by Puzzazz.
Do you love unique and challenging puzzles? So do we. The Year of Puzzles is 12, make that 18, no, make that 22 great puzzles from world‑class constructors. Brought to you by Puzzazz.
502 backers pledged $20,025 to help bring this project to life.

Naming Names

Posted by Roy Leban (Creator)

All of the puzzles that Puzzazz publishes have authors. But, you might have noticed that, aside from the guest puzzles, the puzzles in the free mini puzzlehunt haven't had authors listed. That's because most of the puzzles have been a collaborative effort on the part of the Puzzazz team.

One of the exceptions is the puzzle embedded in the video, which was created by Puzzazz founder Roy Leban. Here's Roy to tell you about it.

It was a lot of fun to put this puzzle together. It wasn't just a matter of asking people to be in the puzzle, it was discussing what photo they were going to take, what interesting object they were going to hold, etc. I am extremely grateful for all the people who agreed to be in the puzzle. Here's a summary (and, yeah, of course there's a puzzle here ... see the bottom).

Nolan Bushnell is the founder of Atari, one of the pioneers in the video game world. The name Atari comes from the game of Go where it's used as a warning of a potential capture. Nolan also founded Chuck E. Cheese and, most recently, Brainrush, which is make learning easy, fast, and fun. Of course, Nolan posed with a Go game (it's early, no atari yet).

When I saw Lenore Edman in November, she was carrying a giant d12 -- a dodecahedron-shaped "Handbag of Holding" to be precise. Turns out it's one of the products sold by Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories. With a name like that, you know they're good. So I asked Lenore to join in, having no idea they also had giant computer parts, like the footstool she's holding. Lenore runs Evil Mad Science with Windell H. Oskay, and they also blog about projects involving art, electronics, food, design, and more -- worth a read.

Scott Kim is an artist, computer game designer, and more. Scott's book Inversions introduced many people to the concept of an ambigram. Scott and I discussed a number of his ambigrams and he even considered making one for the photo. In the end, we chose one of his most famous ambigrams, the one he created for the cover of Inversions. It was fun thinking people might try to look at their monitors upside down to extract the right letter. Scott is one of Puzzazz's advisors.

David Risher runs Worldreader, a non-profit that gives ebook readers (and ebooks) to children in third-world countries. Puzzazz allows Worldreader to provide our puzzle ebooks for Kindle to these students. David was happy to take a new photo, but when he showed me the one with the schoolchildren in Ghana happily showing off their ebook readers, I though it was perfect.

Deb Amlen gets complete credit for her clever riff on the game of Clue in her photo. Perfect! Deb is a humor writer, writes the WordPlay blog for the New York Times, and is also a puzzle author -- she constructs the crossword for BUST magazine.

Adeo Ressi is very fond of asking people what they're passionate about. He says it's a super important question when you're starting a company -- you don't want to spend years working on something you're not passionate about. Adeo's passionate about helping entrepreneurs, and he created the Founder Institute to help entrepreneurs start companies around the world. Three years in, more than 700 entrepreneurs have started companies in 67 locations. A crystal ball in his office seemed perfect and the photo captures Adeo's personality well. I particularly like the fact that you can see the Founder Institute location map through the crystal ball.

Mike Selinker is a master puzzle author, President of Lone Shark Games, the author of Mike Selinker's Killer Cryptics (available from Puzzazz), and co-author of Puzzlecraft, the definitive guide on puzzle construction. I'm pretty sure Mike chose the duck as a reference to the Duck Conundrum, a puzzle types, but he's not telling. Mike will be creating one of the puzzles in the Year of Puzzles.

You've probably heard of Neil Patrick Harris, so I don't need to tell you who he is. Turns out he's into puzzles. Did you know he's also a magician? The magic here was coming up with one of my favorite images in the set, almost like he invented a character just for the photo.

Katherine Sears is Chief Marketing Officer for BookTrope, a new breed of publisher -- a team publisher, in which a whole team from author to cover artist is invested in the success of every book. There's a chance they will change book publishing forever.

Emily Dietrich is a novelist and author of The Case of the Missing Mask and other stories, a book of mystery stories with associated puzzles, for pre-teens and up. You have to solve the puzzle before reading the solution to the mystery. Emily's photo is a play on the title of her forthcoming novel, Holding True. It's being published by BookTrope, see above.

Thomas Snyder aka Dr. Sudoku is the founder of Grandmaster Puzzles (, a which specializes in hand-crafted logic puzzles. He is also a three-time World Sudoku Champion and six-time US Puzzle Champion. Thomas will be creating one of the puzzles in the Year of Puzzles.

Twenty five years ago, Cliff Johnson created an instant classic game, The Fool's Errand, which was basically a self-contained puzzlehunt, with many, many small puzzles that fed into a larger puzzle. Over time, it became an actual classic. At some point, Cliff announced a sequel. Years passed. Twenty-five years passed. In 2012, Cliff finally released The Fool and His Money. Sadly, I've been too busy to start solving, but I've heard it's great.

Wei-Hwa Huang is another World Champion puzzle solver, having won the World Puzzle Championship four times. And you might have heard of Google's Da Vinci Code Quest. Wei-Hwa created a lot of it. 

Elan Lee is one of the inventors of the Alternate Reality Game genre, having spent his career finding and sharing ways to extract adventure from the world around us. Early on, Elan was a fonder of 42 Entertainment (the company behind I Love Bees, Nine Inch Nails: Year Zero, and The Dark Knight), EDOC Laundry (which embeds secret narratives in clothing), and, most recently, Fourth Wall Studios, which won an Emmy for the series Dirty Work.

Stephen Sondheim is one of the unsung heroes of the puzzle world, credited as the man who brought the cryptic crossword to the US. While in England, he encountered this strange creation, like a crossword but not one at all. Not only did he bring some back to the US, he created more than 50 that were published in New York magazine. So, if you love cryptics, you know who to thank. And if you don't love cryptics, check some out in the Puzzazz app. And, oh yeah, I hear he writes music and lyrics too.

John Langdon is both the second ambigrammist on this list and the second person with a connection to The Da Vinci Code. A friend of author Dan Brown, John created the ambigrams used in the book Angels & Demons. It's no accident that the main character in the books is named Robert Langdon. Decide for yourself whether Tom Hanks looks like John Langdon.

Eric Harshbarger has variously worked as a professional Lego sculptor and a professional puzzle author. He also is an expert palindromist and knows a thing or two about mathematics. I asked Eric to show off the Go First dice, which he co-invented. The dice let you roll 2, 3, or 4 dice to determine who goes first in a game. No matter which dice you pick, everybody has an equal chance of going first. Perhaps deciding who goes first is not one of the world's pressing problems, but the dice are very cool nonetheless. Eric will be creating one of the puzzles in the Year of Puzzles, and we'll also be publishing an ebook of Eric's unique palindrome puzzles in 2013.

Ken Jennings is known as the guy who won only 74 times on Jeopardy! But his interests go beyond trivia. As his selection of a globe indicates, he's also interested in geography (see Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks). Most recently, he wrote about parental clichés, and which are fact and which are myth, in Because I Said So! If those aren't enough, read his blog at or follow him on Twitter @KenJennings. Ken is one of Puzzazz's advisors.

Glenn Fleishman was also on Jeopardy!, but didn't last quite as long as Ken. His downfall came in a true Daily Double toward the end of his third day, where he was off by a single letter in his question. He's immortalized the answer he'll never forget the question to in his photo. Aside from Jeopardy!, Glenn has been writing for some kind of publication since he was 5, and is the executive editor of The Magazine, a new iOS publication, and a regular contributor to Macworld, The Economist, The Seattle Times, and TidBITS. And he finds a little time to blog.

Theodore Gray is a founder of Wolfram Research, but more people probably know him because of his wonderful book The Elements and the correspondingly stunning iPad application. I'm a big fan of his 3D periodic table posters and his card deck. But, wait, there's more. Not only has he created the world's only periodic table table, he's also creating giant periodic table installations for museums. For his picture, Theodore chose the column of noble gases used in those installations. Boring to display in their normal state because they are all invisible, transparent, and colorless, these gases come to life with the addition of an electric current, in vivid, unique colors.

Peter Gordon is a prolific puzzle author with credits in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, Newsday, and numerous puzzle magazines, including Games, where he was an editor for seven years. He was crossword editor for The New York Sun from 2002 to 2008. Currently, he's Editorial Director of Puzzlewright Press, overseeing the puzzle and game books. In 2010, he started the superhard Fireball Crosswords puzzle, a subscription crossword. And he's authored, co-authored, or edited more books than you can imagine.

Bob Frankston and Dan Bricklin are the co-authors of VisiCalc, the first spreadsheet program available for home computers. There was a famous photo taken 30 years ago of Bob and Dan of VisiCalc running on an IMB PC. I asked them to pose with it on the screen of a Microsoft Surface, a nice mixture of the past and the present. They did me one better, having the same version of VisiCalc running in the background using an IBM PC emulator. Here's the story.

Molly Proffer founded and runs Proffer Productions, a video production company, though I think of them as much more than a video company. When the company started, the relevant technology was slides (physical ones) not computers. As the world changed, they've always changed with it, never forgetting that the most important thing was the content, not the technology. Molly chose to pose by a piece of outdoor art at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas CIty. An expert at marketing messaging, Molly is one of Puzzazz's advisors.

Art Thiel is co-founder of Sports Press Northwest in Seattle. His knowledge and insight into sports, even in just a casual conversation, is downright impressive. The first time I met him, I mentioned I went to the University of Kansas and he promptly gave me the latest Jayhawk sports news. Art chose to hold a basketball to represent the troubled relationship that Seattle has had with professional basketball.

I first met Sara Paretsky when I was in high school, the older sister of one of my best friends. Today, she's a well-renowned mystery writer, creator of hard-boiled private investigator V.I. Warshawski, who has appeared in 16 books and 1 movie (played by Kathleen Turner). Her picture came from a "Where in Chicago is V.I.?" contest she's been running on her blog.

Richard Garfield is best known as the inventor of the games Magic: The Gathering and RoboRally, but he is also a puzzle creator and game collector. A former college professor, Richard recently co-authored Characteristics of Games, one of the few books that focuses on what actually makes games of all types fun. If you're interested in creating games of any type, I highly recommend it. Richard is one of Puzzazz's advisors and will be creating one of the puzzles in the Year of Puzzles.

Tom Arnold is a Seattle entrepreneur and founder of PetHub, which provides the most affordable, convenient, and effective pet safety program available. I got to know Tom when we both went through the Founder Institute program. Naturally, Tom chose to pose with his dog, Ullr, who he is training for Avalanche Search & Rescue work.

Will Shortz is currently crossword editor of the New York Times. He also runs the annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament which was immortalized in the movie Wordplay. And, Will was instrumental in the modern-era resurgence of the National Puzzlers' League, the world's oldest puzzling organization. He serves as the League's historian. Will's choice of what to hold is particularly interesting -- an original copy of the first American crossword puzzle ever printed, by Arthur Wynne. Interestingly, Wynne was from Liverpool, England.

And There's A Puzzle ...

The following clues will give you the odd numbers you need to pull out a phrase from the people above.

Boeing plane that started service in 1968
Number of days of this Kickstarter campaign
"I can't drive ___" (Sammy Hagar tune)
1874 Victor Hugo novel set during the French Revolution
Herbie, the Love Bug
Area in Nevada for ETs?
Baskin-Robbins number
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's jersey number
India's country code
The "least random number", supposedly
Convenience store named after its former hours
Unlucky number

And Thanks For The Pizza

While we're naming names, we should mention that we're grateful to the folks at Mod Pizza (@ModPizza), who made the great-looking and tasty pizza we used for one of the first puzzles. Thanks!

More Useful Information

As people solve puzzles in the mini puzzlehunt, they've been learning little bits of useful information. Here's some more of what they've learned:

  • It's no accident that the MIT Mystery Hunt, one of the biggest puzzlehunts in the world, takes place on the last weekend of our campaign. The 2013 hunt is January 18th through 21st on the MIT Campus.

See earlier updates for more information.

Hints to Earlier Puzzles

  • If you're having problems viewing the puzzle hidden in iOS application icon, click on the icon on the home page to view a larger copy.
  • The puzzle hidden in the iOS application icon will yield a 9-letter phrase. It uses one of the coding methods listed in our How to Solve Codes page.

It's not cheating to ask for a hint. Send us a private message on Kickstarter or if you want a hint.

It is not cheating to talk about puzzles, write about them, blog about them, even post to Twitter or Facebook about them. However, to avoid spoiling puzzles for others, please do not put the answer to any puzzle in the mini puzzlehunt in the comments. To verify an answer, visit


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    1. Roy Leban Creator on

      Since we're getting toward the end of the mini puzzlehunt, I'll put a hint here.

      You should have 28 odd digits. And what's the title of the post?

      Not sure what the comment about MS Word means, but Word was not used in the construction of this puzzle and you don't need any tools to solve this puzzle.

    2. Urutsini

      Same, I've tried words, letters, splitting the numbers. Got nothing.

    3. Derek on

      Wow. Got nothing but crap on this one. My guess is that Word counts words differently. Ironic.