Games of 2011: 7 Little Words

I’ve spent a lot of time in 2011 playing games, but not a lot of time writing about them. Instead of my usual end-of-year game recommendations, I’d like to tell some stories or share some thoughts about the ones that meant the most to me this year. I’ll be posting one a day until Christmas. See all Games 2011 posts.

My childhood is filled with the debris of paper puzzles in various states of completion. Crossword books, scattered copies of GAMES Magazine, and orange-capped invisible ink pens filled my attention long before handheld gaming grew up with the Game Boy Advance. I would spend summer vacations crashed onto a bed or nestled in the car, mechanical pencil in hand, one finger carefully holding place on the answers page in case I got too stumped. After completing a puzzle, I’d place a checkmark at the top of the page and move on to the next.

When I first came across Blue Ox’s 7 Little Words, I immediately connected with the simplicity. Seven clues, twenty lettered blocks – use the blocks to spell words that solve the clues. Solving is one part vocabulary test, one part process of elimination, one part riddle solving, and one part stumbling luck. My average thought process while solving a clue in the puzzle above:

> 10 letters, “study of abnormal behavior”. Hmm. Two three-letter blocks left, but I can’t think of a matching word with both “PRE” and “BIG”, so it’s likely five two-letter blocks. Hmm, “RY”. Ends in “try”, maybe – and there’s a “PS”. Could it – yes, let’s try PS-YC-HI-AT-RY. Yes, that’s it. Next clue.

The beauty of 7 Little Words for me is that it is pure and straightforward. No score, no timer, no hints, no obnoxious noises if you’re wrong, nothing to unlock by solving puzzles. No Twitter integration, no leaderboards, no achievements. No flashy graphics, no driving soundtrack, no significant animation. It’s just you and the puzzles.

There is one thing, though. Once you finish the seventh word in a puzzle, and all the blocks are gone, a large smiley face fades in as a pleasant tone plays. The puzzle gets a checkmark next to it in the menu.

But success is just a small marker on the march forward. There’s always another puzzle waiting.

7 Little Words is available for iOS. The base game is free; additional packs with 50 puzzles are typically $1 each.

Puzzled Over

The Solution to “A Mac Puzzler” + Thoughts On Losing Everything

When we last spoke, I asked you WHAT CAUSED MY IMAC TO FAIL?

For the sake of compiling the responses (as some came in via other channels), they included:

Brett Slatkin:

>Guesses: 1. Unseated memory (though they would have replaced that?) 2. Bad power supply 12V rail

Richard “PkerUNO” Whittaker:

I’m not replying until you specify how many Picarats this is worth.
And the fact that you didn’t mention matchsteeks is highly suspicious!


>Hmm… I’m going to go with… SATA cable?

Adam “rampage” Meltzer:

So, multiple hard drives, multiple different media from multiple different sources. So, it’s not the CD drive, and not the hard drive.
We already have 12V rail and SATA cable as possibilities. What about the power cable for the HDD?
Sometimes it’s the simple things. I remember when I worked at Sun in the mid 1990s, the SPARC Stations of that vintage wouldn’t boot if there was no keyboard connected. Made for a troubleshooting nightmare when trying to figure out why the damn machine wouldn’t power on.

Ryan “Lee” Short:

>I think Major Nelson snuck into your iMac through the combined power of Live Anywhere and magic…that, or something entirely too simple like a loose jumper or something…

Narrated Puzzled Over

A Mac Puzzler

My Sunday afternoons used to have a twisted chain of logic:

My family would pile into the back of the car and my parents would drive wherever they felt like around the Finger Lakes. This was done in the name of getting out of the house and exploring, I suppose.

As it was the only consistent programming across that region of New York – because there were multiple stations all airing the same program – NPR’s lineup would be the soundtrack of the day. This would mean Car Talk, followed by Prairie Home Companion, followed by Thistle & Shamrock. (These are generally not shows that pre-teens and teenagers enjoy.)

With this in mind, the only part of the radio I would not tune out was a short section of Car Talk entitled The Puzzler, where a riddle having nothing (or little) to do with cars would be thrown at the listeners. Being the sort of kid who thrived on logic puzzles and riddles (I purchased a copy of Raymond Smullyan’s WHAT IS THE NAME OF THIS BOOK? when I was 14), I enjoyed the chance to stretch my brain a little shortly before Garrison Keillor’s dulcet tones would shut it down.

As my mom has pointed out to me that it’s been over a month since my last blog post, I figured I would turn the major reason why I’ve been away from writing into a computer nerd version of The Puzzler. Feel free to take a stab at this in the comments or via email – I’ll reveal the answer once someone gets it correct. (If I’ve already told you the answer, don’t spoil it for everyone else.)