Tuesday is Puzzled Pint day in London and Manchester

Puzzled Pint London logoPuzzled Pint Manchester logoThe second Tuesday of every month is always Puzzled Pint day! The Pint has been growing around the world and this month there are set to be thirty meetings around the planet, from New Zealand to Europe to the west coast of North America. For the first time, this includes two meetings in different UK cities; London is well into its third year of Puzzled Pint and now Manchester is diving in. As you can see, London’s shades of red and blue are roundel-inspired, whereas Manchester takes its hues from football colours. There’s no reason why other UK cities couldn’t host their own versions; it just needs someone to take responsibility for doing so.

The simplest way to think of Puzzled Pint is to imagine a pub quiz that you solve with a team of your friends, but replace the quiz questions with puzzles: all sorts of puzzles – word puzzles, picture puzzles, maybe codes, perhaps maths or logic puzzles – and usually very good ones. The atmosphere is deliberately very accessible and hints are freely available, so everyone, from first-timers onwards, can have the fun of surprising themselves by solving puzzles that they thought they would never be able to solve. It’s probably more fun if you come with a group, but if you come alone then the organisers will help you find a team and hopefully make new friends. There’s no charge for taking part!

Take a look at this month’s location puzzle; you’re more likely to overthink it than underthink it, and the style may give you a very exciting sense of the theme for the month. As ever, hints are available; once you’ve got the answer, the London and Manchester locations are revealed. In London, there’s a single giant location, but it’s a good one; you need to submit a response because places are limited – and if you do submit a RSVP and cannot attend, please submit a cancellation so that someone else might use the place that you won’t be taking up. (The Manchester location has no RSVP requirement yet.)

The nominal timing of the event is 7pm to 10pm, but there’s some flexibility – and your team’s timing only starts when you get the puzzles, no matter what time you turn up. Please bring a pair of scissors if you can.

Looking ahead to 2016: predictions for the year

Peering into a Crystal Ball

This site has ran predictions features over the second half of 2014 and over the whole of 2015, assessing the accuracy of the predictions each time so that the world can have a giggle at just how wrong the guesses were in the first place. Let’s have another go for 2016, more because it’s fun than for any other reason. (Compare to the 2016 predictions for London by The Logic Escapes Me.)

That said, predictions are only so-o-o-o interesting. It’s more fun to think about plausible edge cases; it’s more fun to predict a long shot than something more obvious, but who’s to say what’s obvious and what isn’t? This list of predictions will also attempt to minimise the extent to which it covers previously-trod ground, as “this was an entertaining long-shot that didn’t happen last year and remains an entertaining long-shot this year” isn’t particularly exciting. A couple of other starting-points for predictions: this site will steer clear of predicting things it believes to be foregone conclusions already, and this site will attempt to make the most ambitious predictions that it feels confident making; this site would set over-under lines for the numerical predictions only a little above the figures quoted.

This site considers each of the following to be at least slightly more likely than not:

  • This site will become aware of more than 51 exit game openings in the UK and Ireland in 2016. (Not part of the prediction, but this site suspects that at least 40% of the openings will come from brands and people already in the business in 2015, with a decreasing number of people starting from scratch. Deliberately short-lived pop-up games are not included in the count.)
  • This site will become aware of more than 13 exit game closures in the UK and Ireland. Not every closure is a catastrophe: some businesses have decided to deliberately run a game with a finite duration, possibly with later sequels in mind.
  • At least one brand will have at least nine locations open in the UK and Ireland in 2016. (This is perhaps the most marginal of predictions, but eight seems just a little too safe to predict.)
  • Crowdfunding will get harder; no reasonably traditional exit game based in the UK or Ireland will attract more than £5,000 in funding in 2016 unless the people behind it have an established track record in this or another closely related industry.
  • Many of the biggest gaps in the market will close. At least one exit game will open in 2016 within eight miles of the main train station in at least four of the seven following locations: Reading, Portsmouth, Milton Keynes, Hull, Middlesbrough, Coventry and Peterborough. (This site has heard people talk about possible sites in two of these, but that’s far from a done deal. Other possible cities have been rejected from the list for being too safe a prediction.)
  • The exit game industry will continue to grow sufficiently quickly that this site’s estimate for the number of unique players in the UK or Ireland by the end of December 2015 reaches or exceeds 750,000.
  • There will be a meeting in the UK or Ireland in 2016 with exit games as its focus which attracts more than 50 attendees.
  • This site will become aware of someone that it does not already know at the time of making this prediction running an exit game for friends and family on an amateur basis within the UK and Ireland in 2016 using something more elaborate than, say, a Breakout EDU kit or similar.
  • London and at least two other UK towns will each hold at least four Puzzled Pint events in 2016. (This site has six possibilities in mind.)
  • There will be a UK DASH event and it will sell at least 25 team spaces – or sell out completely if the organisers choose a lower capacity – within 12 days.
  • There will be at least 18 locations in at least three countries around the world at this year’s DASH.
  • Ulrich Voigt will win the World Puzzle Championship this year for his eleventh victory in seventeen years.
  • David McNeill of Northern Ireland will defend his over-50s title in at least one of the World Sudoku Championship and the World Puzzle Championship; hopefully both!
  • This site will finally predict the WPC winning team after picking second place for the last two years.
  • This site loves stories of marriage proposals taking place at exit games and there have been at least ten customer proposals on record. A more interesting prediction is that by the end of 2016, this site will become aware of at least one proposal between a couple who got to know each other by both working at the same exit game.

This site considers each of the following to be less likely than not – maybe something like 30% likely each? – but nevertheless these are interesting possibilities.

  • Some company may bring larger-scale live escape events to the UK, with relatively many teams playing the same game at once. (This is inspired by SCRAP’s Real Escape Game events playing in France and Spain as well as other continents, and is surely slightly more likely than last year.)
  • An exit game brand in the UK and Ireland may take over at least one other existing game, or maybe even another exit game brand altogether.
  • There may be a single-day puzzle hunt in the UK and Ireland that is not the continuation of a series run in previous years and that attracts at least a hundred players.
  • There may be some interactive transmedia storytelling (or an Alternate Reality Game, as people called them a decade and a bit ago) to promote a new exit game or a new room at an exit game.
  • This site may become aware of an Irish exit game community; the rooms do exist, as well as the Boda Borg centre at Lough Key and doubtless other things far too cool to exist in the UK yet, so it would be a delight for someone to start a blog with an Irish focus and maybe even get meetings going as is starting to happen in the UK.

This site considers each of the following to be much less likely than not – maybe something like 15% likely each? – but nevertheless these are entertaining outside possibilities.

  • There might be a TV puzzle show made in the UK or Ireland to match up with the best puzzle shows that we’ve had in the past; if someone were to commission a local version of The Genius and it were to live up to its potential, that would count, or if someone were to make a really good exit game TV show, that would count too.
  • There might be a puzzle competition (as opposed to an armchair treasure hunt or puzzle hunt) launched in the UK or Ireland which is designed to be played in teams – maybe even an inter-town league or an inter-university championship. This site really misses the Croco-League.
  • Someone might start an overtly humorous blog about the genre in the UK and Ireland: two-thirds serious content, one-third shtick.
  • Someone might start an attraction just north of Heathrow called The Crystal Hayes or in South Essex called The Crystal Grays

Reviewing this site’s predictions for 2015

Crystal ballAt the start of 2015, this site made a number of predictions as to what might happen over the course of of the year. The accountability department declares it time to go back, review those predictions and have a good laugh. Expect counterpart predictions for 2016 early in the new year.

There is a 5% chance that an exit game business sufficiently motivates and enthuses its staff to vote it into the top twenty of the next Sunday Times “Best Small Company to Work For” list.

No. Apparently this was never likely to happen in the first place as companies have to be at least three years old even to be eligible for nomination. Companies have won local business awards, though.

There is a 10% chance that the newspapers will find a new style of puzzle that attracts half as much public attention as sudoku. There is a 80% chance that the newspapers will claim they have done, but only a 10% chance that it will actually stick in close to the way that sudoku has.

Not the 10% chance, at least. A quick search for "the new sudoku" points to Hidato in The Guardian, which hasn’t caught on.

There is a 15% chance that the world will gain a second global monthly puzzle event. There’s a definite reason for one to exist: the wonderful Puzzled Pint is for the benefit of the community, which (generally) goes to visit a different venue each month in each city. Suppose there were a second event run for the benefit of the venues; individual bars (etc.) could adopt the event, pledging to host a puzzle night in their location each month. There are places that would find that a compelling attraction!

Not to this site’s knowledge. The closest is Puzzle Night, which has yet to spread beyond Minneapolis – St. Paul in the US.

There is a 20% chance that some company brings larger-scale live escape events to the UK, with relatively many teams playing the same game at once. (For those who get the distinction, think Real Escape Game as opposed to Real Escape Room.)

Couldn’t really say so in the way this was intended. Corporate entertainment companies have games which come close to fitting the bill, but they’re not (to this site’s knowledge) selling team tickets to teams of all-comers. Compare to this Irish event or this Dutch event. On the other hand, exactly those sorts of events are happening in France and in Spain, so it’s definitely possible that they’ll come to the UK at some point.

There is a 25% chance that the 25th anniversary of The Crystal Maze, which will happen on 15th February this year, will see a reawakening of interest and the show will catch the public mood once more.

Yes; yes, with bells on! £927,252 worth of yes!

There is a 30% chance that one of the big players in the leisure industry starts a chain of exit games within its own facilities, or teams up with an existing exit game business which wants to expand rapidly by opening in a number of facilities. For instance, if you’re going to go to either of the branches of the real-snow indoor ski slope Xscape, you know you’re prepared to spend money, and the chance to play “Escape at Xscape” would surely be irresistible…

Not yet proven. The escape room at Namco Funscape would count (though is, perhaps, one-fifth the size of what this site had intended) but this site has not yet seen evidence that it’s available at more centres than the London County Hall centre. If it is available more widely among the chain, then it counts.

There is a 35% chance that the UK team produces its best performance in the next World Puzzle Championship, beating its previous best of sixth from the twenty national “A” teams in Beijing in 2013.

Not quite. As recently discussed, the team were so-o-o-o close to matching their previous sixth place finish, but seventh it will have to be.

There is a 40% chance that another UK city develops a puzzle community like that of London, with at least one regular monthly event and at least one larger annual event – maybe as simply as hosting its own Puzzled Pint and DASH events, maybe something of its own. All it takes is someone willing to be the first onto the dancefloor.

A very honourable mention to the wonderful Exit Games Scotland and their exit game binges, which is something that even the community in London does not have. It would be very prescriptive (to put it far more kindly than it would deserve) to suggest that the community in London is, in any sense, the only way to have a community.

There is a 45% chance that the UK mass media will catch on to just how cool exit games are. Maybe the “The One Show” team will go and play, or someone will take the idea to Dragon’s Den, or The Apprentice might consider them to be sufficiently zeitgeist-y to take an interest. At the top end, this site might dream of a revival of The Adventure Game, which effectively featured (among other things) room escape games a good thirty years ahead of the time.

Only to a very technical extent, what with the UK version of the Discovery channel signing up to show repeats of the US Race to Escape show, and not actually starting to air them until 2016.

There is a 55% chance that at least one exit game will earn the Living Wage Employer mark. Perhaps there is at least one out there which pays the stipulated wage already. This site doesn’t believe that every exit game can afford to pay the stipulated level; indeed, many owners, especially of very new games, will be some way from covering costs, and consistent wage rises might force them out of business outright. However, perhaps there’s a business out there who would take pride from going down this route.

Not as far as this site is aware.

There is a 60% chance that the next World Puzzle Championship will be won by Ulrich Voigt of Germany, which would be his eleventh overall and the first time anyone has ever won four in a row.

While Ulrich was the very clear leader going into the play-off, he was only second place coming out of it, so that prediction pays out on “no”.

There is a 65% chance that the exit game industry continues to grow sufficiently quickly that this site’s estimate for the number of unique players in the UK or Ireland by the end of December 2015 reaches or exceeds half a million… and this site will not attempt to fix the figures just for the sake of proving this relatively weakly-held prediction correct.

You’ll see soon. (SPOILER! Nearly, but not quite.)

There is a 70% chance that at least one exit game will start to advertise itself using a formal endorsement from a reasonably well-known, mainstream national or international celebrity.

Not yet. The Escape Room of Manchester have posted several photos of Manchester United’s Daley Blind playing there, but that stops short of a formal endorsement.

There is a 75% chance that the Puzzled Pint community of London will continue to grow, flourish, with teams getting to know each other ever more closely and look forward to meeting each other at the other puzzle events that exist through the course of the year.

Puzzled Pint in London was getting about 50-60 attendees late in 2014. It has grown so large that it has had to split into two locations and now attracts 90-110 attendees most months. That’s a definite yes.

There is a 80% chance that eleven or twelve of the calendar months of the year will see at least one new site open for business in the UK or Ireland.

Very much so, and any fault here in the prediction was one of a lack of ambition.

There is a 85% chance that there will be a UK-based exit game review blog set up this year, to which this site will very happily link. There are many different sites out there who want the publicity from the reviews that they might get; be any good (goodness knows, this site doesn’t set the bar high) and proprietors will be climbing over themselves to invite you to play!

Yes, hooray! QMSM, Escape Game Addicts and The Logic Escapes Me fill this site with joy every time they post. Still room for plenty more, though!

There is a 90% chance that the London leg of DASH 7 will expand from 8 teams in 2013 and 21 teams in 2014 to at least 25 teams for 2015. The London capacity for 2013 and 2014 was 25 teams, so it’s quite possible that London DASH might well sell out.

The London leg of DASH did indeed sell tickets to 25 teams within the space of about two weeks, so this prediction counts as fulfilled (in an airline sense) even if only 23 teams did turn up on the day.

There is a 95% chance that at least two existing exit games covered by this site will officially call it a day.

Sadly so, ending on a downbeat note, but the strength in depth of the market as a whole is something that causes this site great delight.

Meetings of minds near and far

"Up The Game" adApril 2016 is set to be an extremely interesting month. The banner above is an advert for Up The Game, a conference focused not just on exit games but also other real-life games, which will take place in Amsterdam, in the Netherlands, on Saturday 18th April 2016. “ As one of the fastest growing entertainment trends since the rise of cinema, real life gaming has taken the world by storm. ((…)) Where traditional games are a bit of a niche, real life gaming attracts a wide range of customers and people who exit a great escape room do so with shining eyes and a budding addiction- ‘where can I play more?’ But it doesn’t stop here, new games keep adding even more crazy ideas, more technology and more compelling interaction to the experience. We love to see all those new ideas as the better our games are, the more people will become excited about real life gaming.

That’s not April’s only attraction, though. Back in June, this site proposed that the UK industry meet up at the forthcoming The Crystal Maze live attraction. We have a date – Tuesday, 26th April 2016 – and an afternoon timeslot. (We don’t have a location, other than King’s Cross, London; this site’s uninformed guess is “somewhere within the Granary Square complex”.) There’s no guarantee who’ll turn up, but tickets have been bought by representatives of Escape Hour, Enigma Quests, Escape Quest, Archimedes Inspiration, Agent November, the The Escape Room chain, Breakout Manchester/Liverpool, Escape Live (both Birmingham and the forthcoming Southend branch) and the Escape chain, as well as by five fans with no business connection. 31 tickets have been paid for in total with a 32nd still available, plus potential resales from people who can’t make the event in the end. That 32nd ticket is available at cost price – £32.50 – which is rather cheaper than the £50 or £60, plus booking fee, you’ll pay for a ticket today. If the company appeals, as well as the price, then please get in touch by e-mail. ((ETA:)) Someone has called dibs on the 32nd ticket but if you’re still interested in going, I’m operating a waiting list in case there are resales.

Why wait until April, though? On Wednesday, 13th January 2016, there will be an exit game unconference in Leeds at a central venue to be announced. This has been discussed previously and the discussion of the counterpart unconference in Canada sounds intriguing. Be sure to grab yourself a ticket today.

Why wait as many as five and a half weeks, though? This Tuesday is Puzzled Pint day, and the December theme is Mad Men – though, as ever, no knowledge of the subject is required. The location puzzle has been posted; solve it to find out where the event will take place. My partner and I will be helping to run the London East location; being December, we’ve had to guarantee a high minimum spend so that they don’t pass us over for another Christmas party, so we really hope to see you there on Tuesday night!

Sunday night links

A golden chain of linksYou all know the puzzle about “how many links would need to be cut in order to make a complete chain”, surely? This site was going to have to post these links anyway, so here’s an old-fashioned link-log post.

1) Episode three of Race to Escape was broadcast on Saturday night and has made its way to illicit video-sharing sites already. The variety of themes and puzzles from show to show are at the very top end of what might be hoped for, even if inherently it has to represent a certain sort of theoretical exit game, rather than a practical exit game that you might play in practice. The illicit video-sharing sites don’t make it easy – there are doubtless plenty of adverts and maybe worse – but here’s a link to a list of sites. Megavideoz worked relatively well here.
2) Ken points to something a little special happening at Alton Towers as part of Scarefest: “In 1994, a government organisation known as The Phalanx, tasked with protecting the world from unknown threats, took on their most high profile case ever – to control the Nemesis creature and contain those that served it to the underground. ((…)) Sub Species: Operation Lockdown is a two hour extreme horror escape room experience. As Phalanx Operatives you’ll be put into small groups and must complete a series of challenges throughout the operation including facing one of three escape rooms. Gain points by being the least contaminated Operative at the end of the mission and be entered in the leader board of infamous Phalanx Ranked Operatives. This will be a test of skill and nerve as you work together as team.” It’s very exciting to see that a company with the resources of a major theme park is looking at the market, and perhaps they have the wherewithal to throw things at it that smaller companies cannot; they are using their credibility and reputation to set a price point of £99 per player, which redefines the top end of the mass market, so they had better have something very special for the money.
3) David points to a BBC News story about a biannual puzzle contest at hacker event Def Con. Interesting to see that the social aspects of hacking (as opposed to, or as well as, the technical ones) are as much an element of the contest as they are in real-life digital espionage.
4) If you want a much more accessible puzzle event, then this Tuesday is the second of the month, which means it’s Puzzled Pint time, including in London. London has eastern and western events; the majority of the free tickets have already gone for the eastern one and no more can be made available. (The western venue doesn’t have a formally limited capacity, but isn’t all that big, either.) Solve the location puzzle, using the hints if you like, to find out where the puzzles and pints will be.
5) If you don’t want to wait even that long for a puzzle contest, the Indian Puzzle Championship is taking place online right now, and worldwide solvers have a couple more days to finish it. Find a 2½-hour window of your choice and enjoy the puzzles which look exciting and accessible.
6) Superb work from The Logic Escapes Me on their timeline of London games, which builds on this site’s own timeline by tracking not only when sites opened and closed, but also when individual rooms opened and closed at each one. An admirable piece of documentation!

Mid-July news

Rolled-up newspaperA jumble of short news stories this time:

  • After recently moving to Caledonian Road, clueQuest have opened two more “Plan 52” rooms between Thursdays and Sundays, to go with their first two open daily. Additionally, they have released plans to expand further with a new game, Revenge of the Sheep; a trailer video reveals a little more. There’s still one free trial spot left for 3:30pm on Wednesday; apply via their Facebook page.
  • Tomorrow is the second Tuesday of the month, which makes it Puzzled Pint day around the world, notably in London. This month represents the fifth anniversary of the event starting and the theme reflects its Portland origin. Solve the latest location puzzle to find out where the London East and London West groups will be meeting. London East has a few spaces left (tickets are free, but run out to limit numbers) – London West has no limits other than those imposed by the space of the bar.
  • As previously discussed, there are still a few hours left to take part in the UK Puzzle Association‘s annual online UK sudoku championship. Start by 11:59pm tonight and you have two hours to solve as many of the sudoku and variants as you can, with the top two qualifying for the UK team for the World Sudoku Championship later in the year.
  • The Exeter Express and Echo had a news story a little while ago about an upcoming exit game there. If you’re in town, you might be interested in this Kickstarter campaign; the town had a pop-up board games café for three months in a temporary location and are now crowdfunding to set up for good. An exit game and a board game café would make for a very fun town.
  • Also as previously discussed, the Kickstarter campaign for Hyde only has three days to go, and the impressive £12,000 of pledges raised is sadly only about a quarter of what the campaign needs to fund. The creators have plans for a dark maze that they could make in practice with current technology this year; while it’s not the same thing, perhaps success there may help sell people on the concept for a second attempt to crowdfund while there isn’t a 500-pound gorilla being funded at the same time.

Puzzle news in brief

News in BriefNot convinced about that graphic, but it took so much more work than it probably should have done… :-/

Puzzled Pint in London’s “Bubble” location was a smashing success; 79 players took part on 19 teams (not counting 3 GC members and two spectators), of whom 17 finished in full. The puzzles attracted plenty of compliments, with at least one that will last in the memory as probably better suited to being attempted after a couple of pints. As ever, the puzzles will be uploaded within, probably, a few days so that if you couldn’t make it then you can print them out and enjoy them in the comfort of your own home. Feel free to move from “Bubble” to “Squeak” from month to month according to which location suits you better, but this month there was plenty of room at “Squeak” and a bit of a squash at “Bubble”; when booking two rooms requires a certain amount to be spent at both, a more even split would suit rather better.

A new puzzle show – the category being a puzzle-focused subset of game shows – started on BBC 2 at 6:30pm on Monday. Cuddly Uncle John Craven oversees a team of four contestants attempting to solve three examples of two styles of puzzles in each of four “zones”, themed around different sorts of puzzle style. The more puzzles that are answered correctly, the more time the team have to try to win the prize at the end of the show. It’s a bit like a low-budget all-mental-game The Crystal Maze except much less kinetic – practically stationary. The puzzles include some very familiar styles, but the puzzle material is habitually very good and extremely well-suited for playing along at home. The endgame is great fun and rattles through at a good pace. Some videos of the first episodes have been uploaded to YouTube, possibly officially, possibly illicitly, so you may be able to take a look even if you’re outside the UK.

There was a hint at Puzzled Pint of an extremely exciting-sounding event possibly taking place; no specifics, but more news will follow if the event is confirmed and if this site gets permission to share. Fingers crossed, because the suggestion caused literal bouncing with excitement!

Tuesday night is Puzzled Pint night

Puzzled Pint London logoThe second Tuesday of every month is Puzzled Pint night… which means that tomorrow night is the puzzliest night of the month!

Puzzled Pint is a monthly, casual puzzling event as previously discussed on this site. The simplest way to think of it is to imagine a pub quiz that you solve with a team of your friends, but replace the quiz questions with puzzles: all sorts of puzzles – word puzzles, picture puzzles, maybe codes, perhaps maths or logic puzzles – and usually very good ones. The atmosphere is deliberately accessible and hints are freely available, so everyone can have the fun of surprising themselves by solving puzzles that they thought they would never be able to solve.

Puzzled Pint keeps growing and growing; it is now played in eighteen locations in three countries. Two of those locations are in London, referred to as Bubble and Squeak, because having two locations each with a few dozen people involved is so much more practical than a single location; a single month with almost a hundred solvers proved to be impractical, and last month the attendance at the two London locations totalled over a hundred. Finding suitable pubs is a large part of the challenge.

Take a look at the location puzzle; it shouldn’t detain you long, and the logo may give you a sense of the theme for the month. As ever, hints are available; once you’ve got the answer, the two London locations are revealed. Pick whichever one suits you better, please submit your RSVP and turn up. The nominal timing of the event is 7pm to 10pm but there’s some flexibility. The conclusion to this month’s final puzzle is particularly surprising and satisfying, so maybe better not to leave it too late. One request: this month, please bring a pair of scissors if you can.

My wife has been co-running the whole event this year, more recently specifically the Bubble location. I’ll be one of her team, helping run the event tomorrow. You’ll recognise us by our Game Control T-shirts. Hope to see you there!

The Metagrobologist

The Metagrobologist logo

The Metagrobologist is a beautiful, beautiful site about mechanical puzzles and those who love them. The star attraction is the magazine, an online .pdf to download full of interviews with mechanical puzzle designers and collectors. The first issue was released in three parts over the course of 2014; the second issue has had its first part released a couple of weeks or so ago and the remainder will roll out over the course of the year. Many of the interviews are also featured on the web site.

The puzzles themselves look gorgeous, far more often than not, and magazine editor Dave Holt has the same tremendous sense of aesthetic taste, which is reflected in the site and magazine’s design. The lighting on the photography consistently shows the items off to their full effect; so many of the design elements on the layout of the site clearly have a great deal of love lavished on them. The standard of craftsmanship of the site matches up with that of the site’s subject matter.

From the outside, the world of mechanical puzzles can seem to be a little difficult to get into at a deeper-than-Rubik’s-cube level; some of the pieces can cost a few tens, others several hundreds. (Yet, as seems to be the case with so many aspects of the puzzle world, it seems likely that people are paying themselves very scant wages for the considerable time and effort they put in, even putting aside the expertise in artifice that they have developed as well as their plain ingenuity.) When serious collectors own many hundreds, or thousands, of puzzles, it’s clear that it’s possible to delve extremely deeply into the hobby, especially if you are well-heeled. As with many other puzzle hobbies, there is great intrigue and joy to be had, no matter what level of depth you find yourself comfortable with.

The London Puzzle Party meets monthly on the second Tuesday of each month, which would surely be a very accessible way to learn more about the mechanical puzzle hobby. Of course, the London legs of Puzzled Pint also meet – as does every other Puzzled Pint around the world – on the second Tuesday of each month. What are the chances of the collision? It’s tempting to guess at “about 1 in 30”, considering the usual ratio of months to days, but this site hypothesises that regular monthly events are not going to be uniformly distributed about the month, with a tendency towards midweek days, and “about 1 in 20” might feel more plausible. If you like one, you’d probably like the other, though you probably know in advance which one suits you better. Nevertheless, both are well worth a go!

Talking of events well worth a go, there are only six of the original 25 tickets remaining for the DASH 7 puzzle hunt in London and 15 US cities, less than seven weeks away. As both of the monthly events mentioned above will be happening this week, people will be meeting this week, likely discussing DASH and registering. Those six are likely to go very soon!

Tuesday night is Puzzled Pint night in London

Puzzled Pint London logoAnother Puzzled Pint London logoYes, you are deliberately seeing double here… well, very nearly. Two pictures tell a couple of thousand words, but here’s the textual version that tells the rest of the story.

Puzzled Pint is a monthly, casual puzzling event as previously discussed on this site. The simplest way to think of it is to imagine a pub quiz that you solve with a team of your friends, but replace the quiz questions with puzzles: all sorts of puzzles – word puzzles, picture puzzles, maybe codes, perhaps maths or logic puzzles – and usually very good ones. The atmosphere is deliberately accessible and hints are freely available, so everyone can have the fun of surprising themselves by solving puzzles that they thought they would never be able to solve.

The event started almost five years ago in Portland in the north-west of the United States and made the relatively short hop to spawn in Seattle in mid-2012. People started saying “if it’s possible to host a Puzzled Pint in two cities, is it possible to host one elsewhere?” and London caught the bug in late 2013. From there, people started saying “if London can, then surely we can too”; Chicago started a year ago and was a big hit, and the last year has seen rapid growth. This month’s event can be expected to have gatherings in three countries, something like fourteen cities (or areas – depends what you count, really) and eighteen locations within those cities. It’s big enough now that it’s getting hard to keep count.

The difference between the fourteen cities and the eighteen locations arises because there are several cities where Puzzled Pint has become so popular that a single pint glass is no longer sufficient to contain all the goodness – and, rather than overflow, it has become a Quizzical Quart. Seattle has split into City and Eastside, the Bay Area has split into San Francisco and the Peninsula (i.e. greater Silicon Valley) and the original Portland site will be splitting from this month onwards as well. As the graphic suggests, so will London. Late last year, London Puzzled Pint was attracting crowds of 50 or 60; this year, January drew well over 70, and February well over 90.

However, the London situation won’t be quite the same as the others; instead of being two separate locations, it will become two halves of one large location, simply because London has very few (if any?) sufficiently large venues available that press all the Puzzled Pint buttons. Instead of splitting into, say, East and West, the London halves have gone for something rather more local: Bubble and Squeak. (Holmes and Watson was another pair of names under consideration, but implied one half was junior to the other… and one half might always be near Baker Street. So was Dots and Dashes, but that could be confusing.) Perhaps the Bubble location will be more convenient for your team one month, perhaps the Squeak location will work better for you the next month; chop and change according to your mood.

The latest location puzzle is up, and it’s a fun one – just be sure to solve it from the screen, not a printout! Once you’ve put the answer together, you’ll find the two locations and pick which one suits you better.

The north-west has so many exciting exit games going on, and such a well-ingrained puzzle crowd, that it seems likely that – over time – Puzzled Pint might thrive there as well. (Don’t necessarily expect an overnight success; see how small many other cities’ events were at their start, and two of the first three London events had no more than five teams each.) It just takes someone to be willing to commit to running it. On the other hand, MCR folk, you do get your own cool-looking games sessions, like this one on Wednesday afternoon…