News and Updates for December

logoChristmastime is here, by golly!

Whether you call it Christmas, Hanukkah, Hogswatch, Krampusnacht, Pancha Ganapati, Winterval, Yule or Yalda, the end of the Gregorian Calendar year is, for many, a season of glad tidings and enforced time with the extended family.

Puzzles and games are a great way to soothe political and religious differences, offering something entirely different for people to argue about.

As I write this, there’s still time to pick up some of these puzzle books if you’re stuck for gift ideas. Alternatively, there are a few online challenges to while away the northern hemispherically cold winter evenings.

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Merlin Mystery Solution: Part 10

Merlin Mystery wand

The Merlin Mystery prize wand

Go to the Merlin Mystery Solution Index.

This is Part 10 of my solution to The Merlin Mystery by Jonathan Gunson and Marten Coombe.

This post provides the complete solution to the Diabolo mini-puzzle. This is the last mini-puzzle and is so straightforward that the bulk of this post is devoted to a summary of all 7 mini-puzzles which make up The Merlin Mystery.

In part 3, we established a chain of objects that links the Diabolo to an open, blank book. The book has the right page half turned over. Literally, this means “turn to the next page of The Merlin Mystery”.

The Diabolo mini-puzzle simply says that the sequence of steps described by the previous 6 mini-puzzles should be carried out on every page of the book. That’s it.

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Cryptic Crossword Primer for Christmas

crossword

Click for full size version

Cryptic crosswords are one of those things you either love or hate, that you either understand or can’t stand. Part of the problem is that there is a huge set of rules for solving them which you are simply supposed to know. If you don’t know the rules, you’ve got no chance.

This post is a Chritmas present to readers. It includes a short introduction on how to solve cryptic crosswords and a special Christmas themed crossword to try your hand at. It is not like some of the devious cryptic crosswords in the broadsheets. Most of the clues should be fairly easy and fun.

You can click on the image to the right to view the crossword at full size, and here is a PDF version to download and print.

I believe that puzzles are a great activity for families stuck together for extended periods trying to think up topics of conversation! So print a few of the crosswords off and work together over the holiday period to find the answers.

This crossword and the primer below were written by myself and my partner in crime at inkflamingos.com. Please visit her art blog!

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Merlin Mystery Solution: Part 9

Merlin Mystery cover

The Merlin Mystery

Go to the Merlin Mystery Solution Index.

This is Part 9 of my solution to The Merlin Mystery by Jonathan Gunson and Marten Coombe.

This post provides the complete solution to the Cuboid mini-puzzle.

In part 3, we established a chain of objects that links the Cuboid to the copper tiles. The Cuboid also links to the Nim and Mer symbols, but this created an ambiguity since the Pyramid and the Cone also link to these symbols. The ambiguity was resolved in the earlier parts of the solution by focusing on the gold and silver Zodiac and Alchemy symbols scattered across every page. This leaves only the Zodiac and Alchemy symbols inscribed into the copper tiles for the Cuboid puzzle.

Understanding what these copper tiles mean involves exploring the steps in the chain between the Cuboid and the Nim and Mer symbols more carefully. This penultimate mini-puzzle turns out to be a maze of overlapping ideas.

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Dickens’ Final Chapter: A TimeTrap Escape Room

TimeTrap logo

TimeTrap Escape

TimeTrap Escape are a small escape room company based in Reading, Berkshire. So far they have produced two temporary “pop-up” rooms in bars around the town.

There were some great word-of-mouth reviews for “The Dungeon”, held in the basement of The Purple Turtle, but I couldn’t make it in person. So when I heard that “Dickens’ Final Chapter” was having a short run in the library of the historic Great Expectations hotel and bar, I didn’t miss my second chance and visited them during their final week.

And so a willing friend and I travelled back in time to discover which felon had stolen the manuscript of Charles Dickens’ final book.

Though the room is now dismantled, I have attempted to keep this review spoiler free in case it is recreated in the future.

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The Egyptian Jukebox: Solution Part 2

Egyptian Jukebox book cover

The Egyptian Jukebox

The Egyptian Jukebox by Nick Bantock is a dark and intriguing conundrum. The book asks a single question: “Where do my worlds join?”. The answer can be discovered in the 10 Drawers that make up the book.

This is Part 2 of my solution to the Egyptian Jukebox. Part 1 is here and provides some hints to get you started before going into the full explanation of the puzzle methodology and the solutions for the first 5 Drawers.

This part will give a brief recap of how the puzzle works before giving the solutions for the last 5 drawers and fitting them together for the final answer.

If you want to avoid spoilers as much as possible and just want a few hints, stop reading this post now and go read Part 1.

Last chance!

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Merlin Mystery Solution: Part 8

owl

The Owl clock on P2

Go to the Merlin Mystery Solution Index.

This is Part 8 of my solution to The Merlin Mystery by Jonathan Gunson and Marten Coombe.

This post provides the complete solution to the Cylinder mini-puzzle.

In part 3, we established the chain of objects that links the Cylinder to the owls and to the moon symbos.

If you’ve been following the solution so far, you can guess that that the next step will be to count all the moons on every page. This is no mean feat as they are often very well camoflagued.

But counting the moons is of no use without knowing what they mean and, for that, we need to look at the owls.

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The Egyptian Jukebox: Solution

Egyptian Jukebox book cover

The Egyptian Jukebox

The Egyptian Jukebox by Nick Bantock is a dark and intriguing conundrum. The book asks a single question: “Where do my worlds join?”. The answer can be discovered in the 10 Drawers that make up the book.

Solving the puzzle requires a few good guesses and a willingness to test out ideas, so it’s easy to get stuck. But I think this is a fun puzzle to solve and do not want to spoil it by giving away the complete solution immediately.

Instead, this post gives a few hints to spark your own ideas before explaining the main method of solving the puzzle. There is then a detailed solution to the Drawer 1 puzzle, and finally a summary of the solutions for the next 4 Drawers. I’ll published solutions for the final 5 Drawers next week.

There are two key steps to solving The Egyptian Jukebox. The first is to crack the cryptic message in the Inscription:
“The gods stand upright and give latitude.
From the yarns pluck golden songs to string across.
With this grid you may now navigate The Egyptian Jukebox.
Ten drawers – ten small solutions – and an answer.”
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Warming Thoughts as Winter Closes In

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“The warm sun thaws the benumbed earth and makes it tender” 
– The Spring by Thomas Carew (1595-1640)

I have been trying out some Adalogical Aenigmas at Pavel’s Puzzles over the past couple of weeks, and the quote above popped out as an answer to one of them.

I’m sharing it here since, with winter closing in, I’m sure many people must yearn for a little warm sun and a little tenderness at the moment. Winter is coming, but it perforce gives way to the Spring.

Here’s the full poem:

Now that the winter’s gone, the earth hath lost
Her snow-white robes, and now no more the frost
Candies the grass, or casts an icy cream
Upon the silver lake or crystal stream;
But the warm sun thaws the benumbed earth,
And makes it tender; gives a sacred birth
To the dead swallow; wakes in hollow tree
The drowsy cuckoo, and the humble-bee.
Now do a choir of chirping minstrels bring
In triumph to the world the youthful Spring.
The valleys, hills, and woods in rich array
Welcome the coming of the long’d-for May.
Now all things smile, only my love doth lour;
Nor hath the scalding noonday sun the power
To melt that marble ice, which still doth hold
Her heart congeal’d, and makes her pity cold.
The ox, which lately did for shelter fly
Into the stall, doth now securely lie
In open fields; and love no more is made
By the fireside, but in the cooler shade.
Amyntas now doth with his Chloris sleep
Under a sycamore, and all things keep
Time with the season; only she doth carry
June in her eyes, in her heart January.

Merlin Mystery Solution: Part 7

Merlin Mystery wand

The Merlin Mystery prize wand

Go to the Merlin Mystery Solution Index.

This is Part 7 of my solution to The Merlin Mystery (“MM”) by Jonathan Gunson and Marten Coombe.

This post provides the complete solution to the Sphere mini-puzzle.

In part 3, we established the chain of objects that links the Sphere to the Cadency symbols. Specifically, the Sphere links to a book with a gold Cadency symbol on the left page and silver Cadency symbol on the right page. This book is shown most clearly on P6,S42

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