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

Legend: A Game of Maps Review

One thing I love about these immersive puzzle games is there is so much room for creativity. Just about everyone that has played these games has an idea brewing in their mind. I discovered one of the most brilliant and creative mystery games that I’ve played to date. Well-hidden amongst the arts and crafts of Etsy is an independent game called Legend: A Game of Maps. A true piece of art by its own right.

The game is beautiful and ingenious. The documents and maps you receive are made with great care and craftsmanship. They all look and feel hundreds of years old and possibly lead to some long-forgotten treasures. All the puzzles make it seem as though you’re the historian treasure hunter discovering hidden messages and codes in these old documents. Right now, there are two chapters of the game that can be purchased separately or as a bundle. Although, I can’t imagine just stopping at one.

Legend: A Game of Maps first game.

The first game came to me in a shiny red envelope with my name hand-written in cursive on the front. The personal touch is something you won’t find anywhere else. Opening the envelope revealed a letter from the Kettering Institute asking for my help with the following documents. Three pages written in a strange cipher and an accompanying clothe map. They believe the pages contain some clue in finding a buried treasure and naturally they heard I was good at this sort of thing. They must be fans of the blog.

This chapter of the game is enjoyable if you like cracking ciphers. It’s challenging because it uses symbols instead of letters. I spent a good hour or two doing frequency analysis before I realized there’s a hint in the Kettering Institute letter that saved me a bunch of time. Always read the directions people! After solving the message I was able to plot some locations on the map and sent in my findings to the Kettering Institute via email. After a couple of days I received the conclusion to the story.

The second game is where things get really exciting. The difficulty level also goes way up and it’s where we leave behind the amateurs. Once again I received a personalized envelope which contained a letter from the Kettering Institute asking that I take a look at the following documents; a large map of the Caribbean, a Mayan manuscript, a letter from a sailor to his wife and daughter, several cards with symbols and cutouts, and a paper artifact. The Kettering Institute thinks that the Caribbean map and Mayan manuscript are linked somehow. The other items are their own mystery which means we are getting two treasure hunts in one game.

Holy lifeboat, this game is amazing. I cannot believe the volume of puzzle that the creator managed to fit into these documents. Every time I solved a piece, I got an elated feeling of accomplishment. Imagine if you were Nicholas Cage in National Treasure and finding the Templar treasure. This game is more riddle based and you will have to go from riddle to riddle finding the clues. When I found the first hidden message in the sailor’s letter, I thought that was all there was to it. But as I pondered what it could mean I realized there was more. I was in shock when I found the next step and realized that this single letter contained an extremely sophisticated set of riddles that seemed to never end. With that much puzzle you would think the letter would be a jumbled mess of words, but it reads like a simple letter from a man to his wife, just describing some of his adventures. There’s even a part where you have to make a decision on which path you continue forward.

The Caribbean map and Mayan manuscript are their own incredible puzzle. Studying the map shows a lot hidden content, but where to start. From the title of the map of course. It’s hard to go into detail without spoiling anything, but you will go back and forth between the map and manuscript as it’s clear the Spanish explorers used the manuscript to create a treasure map. Eventually you will decipher some coordinates that will lead you to the buried treasure. X marks the spot! Once you are completed you will email the Kettering Institute with your findings they will explore those areas and report back what they’ve found.

Ron Francesangelo is the creator and I believe a one-man operation. I personally think he’s a genius as I’ve never seen this level of puzzle before. If you get stuck on any part and need a hint, you can email him with the address provided and he was happy to help. His hints are perfect as they give away nothing but help you on what you should be focusing on.

You need to buy this puzzle! There are two ways to buy, you can buy the first and second parts independently for $25 or $35 respectfully, or you can save $5 and buy the bundle for $55. At only $55 for both games, it’s a steal. I spent $50 in New Zealand on a map of Middle Earth, and that only gets me to the dumps of Mordor. This game is hand crafted and everything looks and feels like it’s hundreds of years old. The website claims that this is only the beginning in a whole series. I might be biased, but you need this game. I cannot wait any longer for the third installment to come out.


-J.C. Mystery Detective