A pentimento is evidence that an artist painted over part of an artwork, either because they changed their mind about the composition, or to remove an element from the painting. Pentimento — the puzzle — is a multi-stage card puzzle loosely based on this theme.

In the first stage, players solve the four puzzles on their square Pentimento card. There are 40 cards, each with four unique puzzles. Each puzzle contains two definitions, side by side. The player must find a word that fits one definition, and by “painting over” one of the letters with a different one, create a word that fits the second definition. For example, “Cabbage site” / “Fisherman’s success” would yield PATCH and CATCH.

In the second stage, the players have solved their puzzles, and must compare their answers with the other players to identify which of two teams they are on. On every card, there is an answer that relates to the other cards of their team.

In the third stage, the players have found their teams (Team A and Team 1, to avoid any gloating over imagined alphabetic supremacy). They must now assemble their cards so that the keyword on each edge of their card combines with the edge of a neighbor’s card. For example, FIRE joins with ENGINE, PEPPER joins with MINT. When properly assembled, the cards reveal the grand payoff of the puzzle.

Presented at the SoCal puzzle party, May 21, 2011. 20 individual players solved their cards, found their teams, and successfully collaborated to solve the master puzzles.

Not currently available for download.

Crosswords LA 2011 Halftime Puzzle

A modified version of this puzzle was featured as a halftime diversion at the amazing Crosswords LA Tournament, on May 1, 2011. If you’re a puzzle fan who hasn’t experienced Crosswords LA, I strongly urge you to do so!

A suite of puzzles requiring a variety of skills yield clues to the final solution:

  • Box Office Smash, where fragments of movie posters and anagrammed titles must be unscrambled
  • Crossed Signals, a word search with a twist
  • Double Image, in which players combine pictures to create new words
  • Glyphs, which requires players to assemble word fragments to name 24 symbols in a grid
  • Phoning It In, a code puzzle where players must deduce locations encoded in phone numbers


Some Assembly Required

I had been toying with the idea of venturing into the third dimension for some time, and Some Assembly Required was the outcome.

It’s a puzzle in three stages. Players receive large paper cubes with truncated corners, six puzzle worksheets with detachable octagonal disks, and eight triangular corner pieces.

In the first stage, players match images on the worksheets to create new words: for example, PIN and CUSHION are a match (PINCUSHION). Key words are written on the octagonal disk in the center of the worksheet.

In the second stage, players detach the octagonal disks, and then attach them to the cube so that each key word points to one of the cube’s truncated corners. When properly aligned, the three key words will suggest a linking word: for example, MAN, HORSE, FILINGS suggest IRON (IRON MAN, IRON HORSE, IRON FILINGS).

Finally, players write the linking words on the triangular corner pieces and attach them to the cube. Like the disks, all of the corner pieces have a linking word that unites them. That word is the solution to the puzzle.

Introduced at the SoCal puzzle party, November 20, 2010. Played in teams of 5-6, with only minor papercuts.


Warning: this puzzle requires extensive preparation!