I just returned from the 179th National Puzzlers League Convention, known informally as the Con, in Milwaukee, a brilliant three days of meeting fellow puzzle mavens, solving puzzles, and playing original games designed by attendees that you can’t find anywhere else. It was my first time going, but I can tell you I’m hooked.
It can be daunting to join a subculture when you’re just starting to get into a thing, because you’re not sure if newcomers are welcome, or if your skills are up to par. I can tell you without reservation that the Con — and the people who attend — are incredibly friendly and welcoming of puzzle fans of all stripes and skills. There are games for everyone, and if you want to improve your skills in any given kind of puzzle (e.g. cryptics, flats, etc.) there are lots of people who are happy to give you an introductory lesson.
The Con has an interesting structure. Just a few hours each day are dedicated to scheduled programming. These programs run the gamut from party games (writing a question that exactly half the people at your table will answer “yes” to), to trivia (answering a trio of trivia questions that have swapped some of their words), to devious word puzzles (threading two words together, letter by letter, one of them backwards, to form a third word). The program sessions were all top-notch, and gave me lots of ideas for future games and puzzles.
The rest of the Con, going deep into the night, is reserved for unofficial programming, and it’s here where you can find strange and wonderful games like a beta of an upcoming hunt for kids, a pub crawl hunt, just-invented tabletop games, and ad hoc puzzles posted up on the walls. I especially enjoyed a late night round of Escape from Jeopardy!, which combined a jeopardy game and an escape room. That’s on top of the scads of paper-based and small physical puzzles, which are sitting out for anyone to grab and solve, either alone or with new friends.
The Con is over now, but the community continues on the NPL Facebook group and Slack. If you’re a puzzler and want to meet some like-minded pals, or if you’re looking to get better at puzzle creation, I strongly recommend signing up for NPL (link below) and then attending Con #180, which starts July 4th, 2019, in Boulder, Colorado.
Will Shortz used a puzzle I wrote on his Sunday Puzzle this week:
Name a famous person from Chicago — first and last names. The last name ends in an E. Change the E to an I and rearrange the letters in just the last name to get a famous actor — whose first name is the same as the first person’s. Who are these people?
Join the NPL to get the monthly ENIGMA newsletter, as well as to join a community of puzzle lovers.
In a sense, the puzzle-filled meta-reality of the app will serve as a museum guide, but education comes second in Porter and McFadden’s planning. Their goal is something as fun as a regular puzzle room—only, instead of $30-$40 per person, it’s free. Part of the idea is “to engage the community that’s cut off from puzzle rooms because of cost,” McFadden adds.
Bananas story of a couple that used math to hack the lottery.
…he happened to be the kind of person who saw puzzles all around him, puzzles that other people don’t realize are puzzles: the little ciphers and patterns that float through the world and stick to the surfaces of everyday things.