## Review

Sunome is a new logic puzzle, invented by Adam Bontrager. The name is an abbreviation of “Suji no meiro” which means “digit maze” in Japanese.

Sunome puzzles come in the form of a grid with numbers on the sides, and a Start (S) and End (E) cells inside. The goal is to design a “proper” maze with the given Start and End cells, such that the amount of vertical and horizontal walls in each row and column is predetermined by the numbers around the grid. The meaning of “proper” involves a lot of technical requirements, such as existence of a unique path from Start to End, lack of closed off regions, etc.

Initially, the rules of Sunome seem relatively complex in comparison to the likes of Sudoku and Kakuro. However, it takes little time to get a good grasp of them. The clues regarding the number of walls in the rows and columns are the ones used mostly, just like in a Nonogram. Once the player gets stuck, they need to apply some of the other rules, which unlock the solving process further. Overall, I find the experience highly enjoyable, since it requires paying attention to multiple components at once.

Each puzzle in the Sunome books is manually designed, so that the solution can be deduced analytically, without the need of a trial-and-error approach. The difficulty is generally lower than Sudoku and Kakuro which allows the player to complete a few puzzles in a 10 to 20 minutes long break and get back to working on other things.

While the original Sunome puzzles would hardly get boring, the author makes sure new puzzle mechanics are introduced in each successive book in the series:

• BOOK 2: Pits, Portals, and Passages – adds objects and complexity to the grid
• BOOK 3: Sunome Cubed – changes the shape of the grid to a cube
• BOOK 4: Sunome Blocks – instead of a creating a maze, the player must break the grid into shapes with predetermined sizes, similarly to Shikaku

In addition to Sunome, the author has started publishing a separate series of original Transportation puzzles. So far this includes Kartdoodle and Skyways, with Railways coming out soon. While all puzzles are highly entertaining, my personal favorite so far is Skyways. It plays a lot like Numberlink and the mobile game “Flow Free” but has some added complexity.

One can get the PDF versions of the books from itch.io for merely $1 each (at the time of publishing this post), which is a great bargain for such a good bundle of puzzles. Physical versions are also available on Amazon for$8. Each one of them is in the form of a small-format softcover, ideal to keep in the bag during travels. I hope the author will eventually consider combining all Sunome books in one deluxe hardcover edition and will do the same with his Transportation puzzles.

If you are still not convinced about Adam’s original puzzles, you can try the free sampler provided below. Also, for just a few bucks per month, you can subscribe to his Patreon. I am very happy to see such a prolific puzzle creator and looking forward to try his future work.

• about 100 puzzles in each book
• variations keep the puzzles engaging
• affordable PDF and physical formats

## Review

“Journal 29” is a series of three interactive book games by Dimitris Chassapakis, which were consequently re-released together in one premium hardcover edition. Each of the three books contains about 100 pages, full of creative puzzles and cryptic imagery. The puzzles are in the spirit of real-life Escape Rooms, mostly visual and loosely connected with an underlying story about alien encounters.

What made me immediate impression is the effort put into making the book resemble an actual journal. The illustrations look like they are scribbled with a pencil, the pages are yellow and have smudges all over them, the font is handwritten. There are QR codes printed on every other page that give quick access to online solution checkers, and their design fits well the Sci-Fi/mystery theme of the book.

In order to navigate the journal, the reader needs to use the official website journal29.com, so internet access is required. Each puzzle has its own unique URL, where the reader can input their guesses. If a correct answer is given, a KEY is provided which can be used for solving further puzzles. Currently, the keys need to be written down and stored manually. A nice potential feature would be if users could create accounts on the Journal29 website and have their keys stored there automatically.

While I appreciate the high quality art, the most important components of the book are naturally the puzzles. There is a great variety of them, providing a mix of both old and new ideas. The reader will encounter various cyphers, optical illusions, and classic puzzles with unique twists. In addition, a large assortment of new creative puzzles is devised.

As of writing this post, I have just finished the first book in the series. I find the puzzles so far to be very well-designed and logical, with varying levels of difficulty. Some ideas were naturally familiar to me, but there were also a lot of new, unexpected “A-Ha” moments. I particularly loved the way some of the puzzles required me to explore the book and interact with it in clever ways, like solving a mechanical puzzle.

My only criticism is that on 1 or 2 occasions I had to use Google search. Of course, this is necessary when a message in Braille or Morse code needs to be deciphered. However, I prefer that it is avoided for researching clues that are not considered common knowledge.

Above, three of the puzzles from Journal29 are presented. While many of the puzzles in the book are dependent on each other, these three can be solved separately. You can verify your answers using the official solution checkers provided below each puzzle. If you encounter difficulties, you can take a look at our hints.

This is a message written in Braille.

The code for each sector is formed by 3 pairs of digits. The first digit in each pair designates the number of skeleton parts in the corresponding group. The second digit encodes the type of those skeleton parts.

There are 3 differences between the two pictures. Find them and examine their coordinates in the grid.

Once I put my hands on the hardcover edition of Journal29, it quickly became one of my favorite puzzle books. I get back to it regularly, don’t rush it, and simply enjoy my time with it. I always pay much attention to details and I can see the author Dimitris does as well. In addition to designing 160 clever puzzles, he has also supplemented them with beautiful art, developed an accompanying website, and supports a forum where he personally helps readers. He has even built an Amazon Alexa skill that can provide hints for the puzzles if you ever get stuck. I can only appreciate all of that.

• 160 creative puzzles that take weeks to solve
• remarkable artwork and presentation
• accompanying website with solution checkers and forum
• the hardcover edition looks and feels premium

## Review

The Cipher Solver Series is a collection of cipher puzzle books, written by D. H. Bernhardt. Each of the books teaches about various cipher techniques and then provides examples that help the reader master them. So far, there are 3 volumes released, and a fourth one is on its way.

Each book in the series starts with a short history on ciphers. Then, it provides 2 chapters on how to encode and decode specific ciphers, followed by 2 chapters with puzzle-examples. Finally, the books end with hints and solutions.

Volume 1 and 2 focus on the so-called Route and Rail ciphers, while volume 3 introduces us to the Pen and Polybius ciphers. The former are examples of transposition ciphers, those are ciphers in which the symbols are preserved, but their order is scrambled. The latter are examples of substitution ciphers, those are ciphers in which the original symbols are replaced with new ones.

### Rail Cipher Example

The following example of a Rail cipher is taken out of the first book in the series. Let’s say the task is to encode the phrase “Beware of the attack from the North”. To do that, we create a rectangular grid and starting from the top left corner, we enter the letters of the phrase in a zigzag manner. We add some “X” letters at the end as padding, if necessary. This results in a route-like structure inside the grid, consisting of alternating diagonal rails.

Then, if we read the letters line by line, top to bottom, we get the encryption:

BOCT TXEE FAKM HRHX XWRA TFOE OXXA TRNX

To decrypt an encoded phrase, we just need to determine the dimensions of the grid and the size of the rails of the route. You can practice your route ciphering skills with the following puzzle from the book:

The transposition ciphers are fun but quite easy to solve, especially the Route ciphers. They all have been chosen with identical grid widths, so the only unknowns there are the route rails sizes. I recommend getting just one of the first two volumes, since the novelty in the second one lies mostly in the introductory chapter.

The two substitution ciphers are harder to solve and require more careful analysis. However, it is worth noting that the decoding procedure works identically for both of them, even though the ciphers use different encryption symbols.

Despite the remarks above, I think the books are educational, well-structured, and would be engaging to new cipher enthusiasts. I hope once the author completes his series, he considers combining the content in one larger edition divided into sections based on cipher type, such as transposition and substitution.

• a great presentation on various ciphers
• engaging educational chapters in the book introductions
• the route ciphers could have used various grid widths
• the substitution ciphers decoding works identically

## Review

LOK is a new original puzzle book, created by the musical and visual artist Blaž Gracar. It is his first published work in this domain and considering the attention to detail put into puzzle design, solutions system, and illustrations, I would say that’s an impressive start, and I am looking forward to his future endeavors.

The puzzle mechanics of LOK are quite innovative, and despite my long-time puzzle history, I cannot relate them to anything I have seen before. Each puzzle consists of a grid partially filled with letters and the goal is to black out all cells by marking certain words and then triggering their effects. For example, if one has the letters L, O, K in consecutive cells and marks the resulting word LOK, then they must black out the cells of all three letters plus an additional cell by choice.

There are 5 more trigger words that appear in the book, but since it is the solver’s challenge to figure out what their effects are, I will not spoil them for you. All I can say is that each of them works uniquely and sometimes solving the puzzles gives the feeling of planning ahead the moves of a chess game.

In addition to the funny-sounding trigger words, new chapters introduce various other mechanics, building upon the previous ones and making the puzzles progressively more complex. You will encounter ”conductors“ that let you connect separated letters, “clouds” that let you black out a given configuration of cells, and other interesting concepts.

The book is split into 12 parts: 8 chapters with a total of 80 puzzles, 2 expansions with 10 extra puzzles, Rules that explain all the concepts in the book that have been left to the solver to discover, and Solutions that provide the answers to all puzzles. The parts are separated by beautifully illustrated pages of cute worm-like creatures, called ”Loks”, performing various activities, such as flying in space or working in a factory, on 10 additional solvable grids. Of course, the author could assemble the book just with all the 100 puzzles inside, and it still would have been great, but that extra touch of art is what makes LOK even more special for me.

While the market is currently flooded with all kinds of derivative logic books filled with computer generated Sudokus and Kakuros, LOK differentiates itself as an ingenious passion project of someone who simply wants to contribute to the world of puzzling. You can get the digital version of LOK for free from the author’s website by clicking the button below. If you like, there you can also purchase the physical edition and solve the puzzles the way they are intended to be solved, with pencil and eraser on paper. For those who prefer to keep their puzzle books in immaculate condition, a transparent draw board is included in the package. Thanks!

• appropriate for all ages
• more than 90 carefully hand-crafted puzzles
• surprising mechanics taught through practical solving
• explained rules and solutions included

## Review

Topple is a new online magazine that can be printed out and solved with pen and paper, the old-fashioned way. The price of each issue is just a meager $1, and for that amount you get a PDF of about 10 pages and up to 20 puzzles. The magazine authors have worked hard to offer a wide range of puzzles for everyone to enjoy. There are interesting trivia questions, rebuses, grid logic puzzles, as well as some unique challenges I have never encountered before. The number of puzzles in the magazine keeps increasing with each next issue: Issue 1: 7 Issue 2: 7 Issue 3: 10 Issue 4: 10 Issue 5: 10 Issue 6: 12 Issue 7: 16 Issue 8: 18 Issue 9: 18 The quality of the puzzles keeps improving as well, as you can see from these two identical puzzles, the second one of which has updated artwork. To catch a glimpse of the activities you will encounter in Topple, you can check the 4-page sampler provided below. Regular issues are much longer and feature proper formatting, complete with front and back covers. It’s just like purchasing any magazine from a newsstand. If you enjoy these puzzles as much as we do, we recommend you get the latest issue of Topple and then start collecting the previous ones in reverse order. At just$1, it will be hard to find something that provides better value for the money.

• appropriate for all ages
• PDF booklet for easy printing
• about 10-20 puzzles per issue
• fun old-school vibes
• just \$1

## Review

Creative expression, learning, and focusing are some of the most important activities children should be encouraged to practice from an early age. Driven by this idea, Elizabeth Carpenter has published several oversized books that give kids the opportunity to solve beautifully drawn line mazes, color them, and learn interesting trivia, all at once.

The Mummy Mazes Monumental Book contains 28 poster-size mazes based on Ancient Egypt themes, along with explanations about each of the included objects. The Dino Mazes Colossal Fossil Book contains 31 poster-size mazes, depicting various dinosaurs, accompanied by descriptions and quick facts about them. Recently, Elizabeth also published a Mandala Mazes book which is suitable for older people looking for fun and relaxing activities as well. In terms of difficulty, the Dino and the Mummy mazes seem to fall on the easier side, while the Mandala mazes are a bit more challenging. After being completed, the mazes can be detached and used as posters, even though we think they look best organized together.

All three books offer great quality, and we would highly recommend them to any maze enthusiast.

• 8 – 12 years, 4 – 6 grade
• about 30 over-sized mazes per book
• beautiful line mazes, suitable for coloring
• mazes can be detached from the books
• books include interesting trivia

## Review

Mathematical Puzzles: A Connoisseur’s Collection by Peter Winkler is not your casual puzzle book. Even though most of the problems inside are easy to formulate, many of them require extensive mathematical background and well-developed analytical thinking. If you possess these two qualities, however, you will certainly enjoy this book. The puzzles are hard, the solutions are beautiful, and the explanations are very well-written. The book contains over 100 puzzles that are split into different categories – Insight, Numbers, Geometry, Geography, Algorithms, and others. In order to give you an idea of what to expect, I have selected several puzzles from the book which represent its overall level.

1. Given 10 red points and 10 blue points on the plane, no three on a line, prove that there is a matching between them so that line segments from each red point to its corresponding blue point do not cross.

2. A phone call is made from an East Coast state to a West Coast state, and it’s the same time of day at both ends. How can this be?

3. The hour and minute hands of a clock are indistinguishable. How many moments are there in a day when it is not possible to tell from this clock what the time is?

4. Associated with each face of a solid convex polyhedron is a bug that crawls along the perimeter of the face, at varying speed, but only in the clockwise direction. Prove that no schedule will permit all the bugs to circumnavigate their faces and return to their initial positions without incurring a collision.

MP:ACC is one of the most valuable puzzle books in my collection. If you are up to the challenge it offers, you owe yourself a favor to buy it. Even if you don’t feel too confident in your abilities to solve the problems in the book, you can still get it and study the solutions. And if you need more mathematical brilliance, you can check out Peter Winkler’s other puzzle book, Mathematical Mindbenders.

• 15 years and up
• math-heavy, difficult puzzles
• ingenious and elegant solutions
• various categories, including geography!
• great explanations and notes by the author