Sham Hepburn

2023 Signals Holiday Gift Guide

I'm here with some gift suggestions for the game and puzzle lovers in your life. Scroll down; the list starts below this month's Puzzler ๐Ÿ‘‡.

I'm coming to Minneapolis

I'll be in Minneapolis on next week, and I'm hoping to run my Search for a Superhero game at a local pub on the evening of Thursday the 7th. I'm still working out the details with a possible venue, so in the meanwhile, if you'd like to register your interest, tap this button and fill out the form:

November Puzzler

Every month I offer a new bite-sized puzzle. Here's the latest one:

Think of a movie based on a stage adaptation of a book. Take the first name of the leading actor in the movie, and change the last letter to get the last name of the author of the book. Who are they?

Submit your answer here ๐Ÿ—ณ


The Emerald Flame

Rita Orlov aka PostCurious makes beautiful, fun, deeply satisfying tabletop puzzle games. The Emerald Flame is a favorite of my family. We did the whole thing together over a few sessions, and the complexity of the puzzles was varied enough to engage puzzle experts and tweens alike.

Murder on the Ornament Express

My friends at Solve Our Shirts have a new tabletop puzzle game for the holidays. I haven't played this one yet, but everything I've played by them, including their solvable shirts and IRL escape rooms, have been fantastic.


Puzzmoโ€™s Lifetime subscriptions offer ends on Wednesday. I bought one, and I'm feeling pretty good about it so far. I log onto the site every day and play a few of the puzzles, starting with the Crossword. I've started a private Puzzmo Group for Signals Boosters (which posts a daily recap in our #puzzmo channel on the Booster Discord). Puzzmo is going to be adding new puzzles throughout the year, and with each one, the lifetime sub gets only more valuable.

P&A Magazine

Foggy Brume has been publishing P&A Magazine for 102 issues, and shows no sign of slowing down. Each issue, which comes out bimonthly, includes a puzzle extravaganza โ€” 12 or so word & logic puzzles whose answers feed into a metapuzzle. If you're familiar with Puzzled Pint and want to up your game a little, PANDAs are a great next step. You can visit the P&A Sampler on the FAQ page to see what it's like.

Video Games

Return of the Obra Dinn

There are plenty of lists out there of great puzzle games (here's one), so I'd just like to give a shout out to the one that enraptured me the most. Lucas Pope's Obra Dinn is the answer to the thought experiment how do you make a video game out of a logic puzzle? This is no dry sudoku though; it's a wholly engaging investigation into the mystery of why a ship disappeared and what happened to all the souls aboard. The story and gameplay would be enough on its own but then soundtrack goes hard too. 10/10

Board games

My favorite kind of board games are the ones that end up โ€” no surprise โ€” being little puzzles of min-max optimization. The best ones utilize a large possibility space so that every game is different. Here are a couple of my favorites in this subgenre:

Res Arcana

This is a very tight little engine builder that gives you just eight cards at the start of the game and demands you figure out how to build an engine with them. Those cards are random, but once you start to understand the game, you can introduce a drafting mechanic. The expansions are also great, if you enjoy the base game.


Since I got the game a few years ago, I've played more games of Innovation than almost anything else in my collection. The story here is that the game starts in Prehistory and moves through the ages of human innovation. As you progress through the ages, the cards get more and more powerful. The whole game is just a deck of cards that change the options of what you can do on your turn, but you can only have 5 active cards available at any one time. So it's another engine builder, but the engine has to adapt and change as the ages advance, or else you won't have any chance of winning. Each play is another fun puzzle to solve.


TUL ballpoint retractable medium weight pens

I do the crossword every day on newsprint, and this is the only pen I can do it with. It works well at light pressure (first guesses), or at a stronger pressure (corrected guesses). It's also good at writing for other, non-crossword-puzzle-based formats. Great grip and weight. It's nothing fancy, but it's my favorite.

PaperMate SharpWriter

I've gone through dozens of fancy mechanical pencils over the years, and they all have their shortcomings. The SharpWriter isn't fancy at all, but it's cheap, which means for the price of one fancy boy, I can get 12 almost disposable ones that do the job just fine. I learned of this strategy and brand from none other than Adam Savage, and if it's good enough for him, it's good enough for me.

Field Notes

I may be biased, but I never go anywhere without a Field Notes in my bag. The most recent edition, Heartland, features gorgeous illustrations by Dan McCarthy.

Solution to the October Puzzler

Think of two words: 1) somewhere you might go if youโ€™re feeling too much pressure, and 2) something you might do if youโ€™re feeling too much pressure. Put them together, add a space, and youโ€™ll get something that would come in handy if you have too little pressure. What are these words?

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