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New Disruptors 70: Puzzle Maker Chris Yates

Chris Yates is a polymath. A sculptor, artist, woodworker, cartoonist, entrepreneur, dog-kennel assembler, musician, and more. He's best known now for his handmade jigsaw puzzles. He's on the show to talk about his zigzag path to making a niche for himself.

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Interactive version of EFF's NSA crossword

Here's a nice little Christmastime Creative Commons and free/open source software success story: yesterday, I posted the Electronic Frontier Foundation's NSA-themed crossword puzzle, which was CC licensed. Shortly after, TheDod posted an interactive version of the puzzle to Github, forking an interactive crossword program written by the Boston Globe's Jesse Weisbeck.

Interactive edition of EFF's Xmas 2013 NSA crossword puzzle (Thanks, Dave!)

Celebrate the crossword's centenary with EFF's NSA-themed crossword puzzle


Dave from the Electronic Frontier Foundation sez, "Tomorrow is the 100th anniversary of the crossword puzzle, so EFF designed one to test your knowledge of NSA surveillance. EFF Global Policy Analyst Eva Galperin was able to defeat the puzzle in under 15 minutes, but a few of the questions stumped even some of our experts."


Update: Shortly after this was posted, TheDod posted an interactive version of the puzzle to Github, forking an interactive crossword program written by the Boston Globe's Jesse Weisbeck.

Crossword Puzzle: What Did We Learn About the NSA This Year? (Thanks, Dave!)

Regular expressions crossword


On Coinheist.com, a crossword puzzle you solve by interpreting regular expressions.

PDF download

Chocolate Fix: a favorite puzzle game, now a mobile app

Chocolate fix 01
The puzzle game Chocolate Fix has been a family favorite around our house for years. The puzzle consists of 9 plastic chocolate candies (in three colors and shapes), a tray that holds the candies in a 3 x 3 grid, and a spiral-bound book with various challenges to solve. The challenges offer clues on how to arrange the candies in the tray. The hints sometimes show just the shape but not the color, the color but not the shape, or the shape and the color of a candy that belongs to a particular spot, column, or row in the grid. It's your job to figure out the single solution to correctly arrange the candies.

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Motif Cubes

75.jpg I don't quite know what it is about Brooklyn5and10's Motif Cubes that's so addictive, but at $25 a set I just can't resist. There's nothing to solve, no winning arrangement or maze (though wouldn't that be neat?) just a few billion combinations to explore. There's also a white edition with more angular designs.

Climb On!

I want to entertain an offhand theory that I’ve had ever since I became obsessed with indoor rock climbing two and a half years ago: It’s great for geeks, and we should all be doing it.

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The Intimidator

intimidator1B-600h.jpg GarE Maxton's 125-piece Intimidator appears, at first look, to be named for its own complexity as a puzzle: blocks of precious metals interlinked in a hellish, impossible-looking block.
This design is by far my most complex metal sculpture and it's both mentally and physically intimidating, thus the name. ... In June 2009, starting with a few extra parts from my Labyrinth sculpture, I began working night and day creating this sculpture. It grew to eight inches tall, four inches deep and five inches wide; there's a lot of volume to fill with interlocking parts and assembly of this puzzle is extremely difficult; you'll need a lot of time on your hands. Physically, it tips the scale at over 40 pounds.
But it's not just a toy: when certain pieces are reassembled just so, it also has an intimidating function. intimidator1_pistol-500h.jpg Inspired by Scaramanga in 1974's The Man with the Golden Gun, the .45 caliber firearm puzzle will remain "part of my personal collection," writes the creator. Maxton, however, does offer many delightful and mysterious metal puzzles for sale. Submitted by InsertFingerHere and Defunctdoormat.

Video of Perplexus 3D maze toy


Kevin Kelly shares my enthusiasm for the Perplexus, a 3-D maze toy.

We've found the puzzle to be extremely addictive to anyone who gets started. Because it's like a 3D video game without the electronics, the very physical nature of playing -- turning it this way and that -- is very satisfying. In addition, the maze is like a sculpture, the design of the route is geekily brilliant, and the elegance of the eternal return of the steel ball within the sphere is a stroke of genius. Perplexus has the glow of a work of art. It makes me happy just to pick it up.

A couple of years ago I asked Michael McGinnis, the creator of the Perplexus, to write a Make story about how he designed and produced the toy. It turns out that the Perplexus has been a lifelong obsession. He now makes giant size Perplexii for museums. You can read the story and see photos of early prototypes here.

After being out of production for a number of years, the Perplexus is back and available on Amazon. I love this toy.

Brilliant 3D Maze: Perplexus