Puzzle Books by R.W. Galland

Lots of new puzzle books are coming out that use new and innovative ways to enhance the puzzle solving experience.  Many are using smart phones or websites.  What can you do when you head out to go camping or loose that precious wifi signal though?  For that reason, sometimes it’s better to go old school.  You won’t need to look for the USB connection for the puzzle books by R.W. Galland.  You will need to power up that brain though.

So far I have worked my way through ‘Puzzles in Wonderland’, ‘The Knights of the Round Table Puzzle Quest’, and ‘The Leonardo Da Vinci Puzzle Codex’.  Each book works the same way.  Almost 200 pages of puzzles and all of the answers are in the back.  Sweet and simple.  Each book is split into three sections.  The easy puzzles, the medium puzzles, and the hard puzzles.  Each section is roughly the same length.  The puzzles in these books tend to require explanations so you won’t spoil it for yourself by flipping to the back and accidentally looking at the next problem’s solution.

The puzzles range from beginner level to pretty complex.  The books favor riddles and word problems which make up roughly eighty percent of the puzzles.  In each book there are no repeats, but from book to book I noticed several of the riddles were duplicates.  The word problems are heavily math based so be wary if you failed math or if numbers make your head spin.  The remaining puzzles are actually pretty different between the different books.  The Alice book has image puzzles where you need to find the differences between two mirrored images.  These are difficult but a fun and classic image puzzle.  The Leonardo book had a ridiculously easy puzzle where you have to match missing blocks to some of Da Vinci’s paintings.  Almost as easy as learning not to put the square block in the round hole.  The King Arthur book had a maze type puzzle where you had to collect all the water and leaf symbols while following rules.  It also had a battle type of puzzle that I still don’t really understand that was heavily math based. 

The puzzles are perfectly melded with the narrative that takes place.  For ‘Puzzles in Wonderland’ we follow Alice through her whimsical adventures in Wonderland.  For ‘The Knight’s of the Round Table Puzzle Quest’ we follow the King Arthur myths from childhood to death.  For ‘The Leonardo Da Vinci Puzzle Codex’ we follow one of Leonardo’s apprentices and are presented the puzzles as Leonardo would to his students.  I learned a lot from the King Arthur and Leonardo Da Vinci books.  These books tell the stories through a series of riddles and puzzles.

The art in each book is taken from its original source material.  Some of the art has been modified to turn it into a puzzle.  This was mostly used in ‘Puzzles in Wonderland’ and ‘Leonardo Da Vinci’s Puzzle Codex’.  If you love Da Vinci’s artwork, many of his sketches were used to make the puzzles.  His paintings were chopped up though to make the lame matching puzzle, so don’t expect to get a good print of the Mona Lisa.  The original artwork from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is colored and enhanced in this book.  The puzzles simply mirror the artwork and make small changes which keeps the original looking good.  I’m not completely sure where the artwork from the King Arthur book is from.  I would guess several sources from artwork, books and stories over the centuries. 

My personal favorite was the ‘Puzzles in Wonderland’ book.  As you may know, Lewis Carroll was the author of ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’.  He was also a mathematician and huge nerd of puzzles, just like us!  He actually published countless puzzles in magazines, books, and leaflets.  This book features several puzzles that he created or that he loved.  Even the writing matches the fun poetic and riddling speech that Lewis Carroll uses in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  It’s basically the perfect theme for a puzzle book and collects several Lewis Carroll originals.

So if you’re looking for a way to cut down on that blue light before you go bed, picking up these puzzle books is a great way to do it.  They are beautifully illustrated and have a great range of puzzles.  You could simply read through the books and check on the answers for some relaxing entertainment. You can also challenge yourself and try to solve the puzzles on your own.  Start with the theme that intrigues you the most and go from there.  The latest two books remaining from the series that I haven’t tried is ‘The Nikola Tesla Puzzle Collection’ and ‘Pride and Prejudice and Puzzles’.  I’ll definitely be finishing my collection in the future and picking those up.  Never leave a puzzle unsolved!

J.C. Mystery Detective

Sleuth Kings Review

It was the end of a painfully long day when the light bulb flickered at my desk.  I wasn’t sure if it needed to be changed or if the electricity bill was past due.  Business wasn’t going well and if it continued like this any longer, I might have to pack up my business.  A knock at the opaque glass door where my name was painted startled me.  That’s when she walked in.  She was beautiful despite her red puffy eyes.  “Excuse me.  Are you the private investigator?” she asked.  End scene.  Whatever happened to the old detective stories?  Or a private investigator set in the classic noir style with lots of fedoras?  Well the practice is still alive and well with Sullivan King and the monthly subscription box Sleuth Kings.

Once a month you will receive a case file to help Sullivan King solve a mystery.  Usually a murder mystery but the stories vary.  Each file consists of roughly three pages of story and four clues that are in the form of puzzles.  Once you solve the mystery the story is concluded in a separate envelope titled Epilogue.  What really makes this box pop though is that you get to talk with Sullivan King himself during the investigation via email.  Sullivan and you will work through the clues together until the mystery is solved and the day is saved.  Except for whoever was murdered in the first place. 

The email works by sending a message to Sullivan on the web page for that month’s mystery.  It’s all automated, but I like to write Sullivan messages as though I were really on the case with him.  I usually start with, “Hey Sully, what have you got for me on this case?”.  Once you send the initial message, all you have to do is reply to the emails without changing the email title so the computer knows where you are in the story.  If you need to talk about clue 1, you simply include “clue 1” in the body of the email and Sullivan will comment and help you out with that clue.  Once you have the solution, include “solution” in the body of the email and Sullivan will let you know what he found out.  The system works really well as long as you follow the directions on how to communicate.  The directions are told to you several times so you can’t miss them. 

The puzzles for the box range in style, puzzle type, and complexity.  The box starts with the four clues, but as you progress you will usually run into two or more puzzles that Sullivan will send you or that you’ll find by going to a website.  Some of the puzzles I understood right away and some of them I don’t think I would have ever solved.  There was one in the last box that I asked for all the hints and finally the solution and I still have no idea how they came to that conclusion.  It’s difficult to make brand new puzzles every month and sometimes I don’t think their puzzles work out as smoothly as they should.  For the most part though, the puzzles are always original and clever.  They are themed with the story and usually make sense with the story, in the sense that if everyone involved in a crime always wrote down encrypted clues to help you solve it. 

Inevitably with every puzzle box or book, you’re going to get stuck.  If you do all you need to do is email Sullivan King and he can help you out.  For each puzzle you will receive one hint and the solution.  The hint will explain to you roughly how you might solve the puzzle.  Usually the hint will make the solution obvious and you’ll just have to do the leg work to complete it.  Once you ask for the solution, Sullivan will solve it for you and discuss what to look at next.  If you want a lighter hint, the last of the printed pages is Sullivan’s initial take on each clue.  You can skip this page if you’re a pro and want to solve everything on your own.  This system is smooth until you get into the final puzzles that aren’t one of the initial clues.  A couple times I had to go through the motions of asking Sullivan to solve several puzzles that I already completed just so he can catch up to me and ask if I need a hint on the new puzzle. 

The stories are fairly simple making this more of a puzzle box.  You will hardly ever have to solve the mystery with deduction as the clues you gather will spell out “who dun it” for the most part.  There is an ongoing back story where Sullivan is looking for his missing father.  After you conclude the case, Sullivan continues to email you with updates on his search with additional puzzles and websites that continue the story.  You can even catch up to the story at any time without having to buy all the previous boxes. 

Similar boxes will sometimes include little trinkets or objects that are related to the story.  It’s rare in this box but they will include the occasional item if it’s needed to solve a puzzle.  I recently found a treasure and was rewarded with a tiny plastic treasure box and a penny, so that was exciting.  This box is more focused on the puzzles however and will take you around 2-3 hours to solve everything.  The trinkets in other boxes are highly over-rated and the Sleuth Kings give your money’s worth in good content. 

If you love puzzles and playing detective, this is the box for you.  Although the story doesn’t involve much deduction except when solving the puzzles, you’ll still get your monthly detective fix.  The unique email system makes this box a must try for me.  It seems like it could be a simple script but it adds so much excitement, especially as you’re waiting to see what Sullivan King found with your results.  They recently started a Rookie Detective subscription that is cheaper and should only take an hour to solve.  Or you can jump into Master Detective which has taken me 2-3 hours to solve.  You can even send them your address to get a free post card puzzle.  Good luck though because I have never solved that thing.  With that said, never leave a postcard puzzle unsolved!  Allright, I’ll give it another shot.

-J.C. Mystery Detective