Tag Archives: games

The biggest jigsaw shop in the world – a review

We were in the Lake District recently and happened across this place:

Barney's News Box Jigsaws

They’re very modest on the sign. “Probably the largest selection of jigsaws in the world” they say. Probably! And it does look like an ordinary shop from the outside.

downstairs

This is the sight that confronts you on the ground floor. Impressive. Still, you’ve perhaps seen bigger jigsaw displays elsewhere. But then you go upstairs:

upstairs

This is the view from the top of the stairs, and the point at which things get a bit overwhelming. With jigsaws piled high from floor to ceiling you might struggle to make out that narrow opening on the right there. What’s through the rabbit hole?

rabbit hole

Here I am at the centre of the cardboard cave. A place where the walls themselves are towers of terrifying puzzles and distance is as meaningless as direction. A person could lose themselves forever here. And what did I find in the furthest corner of the labyrinth? This:

Downton Abbey jigsaw

A classy extension of Downton Abbey’s brand identity there. So which other cultural forces have taken jigsaw form in this brave new world?

Twilight jigsaws

It’s Twilight’s Edward and Jacob, in Puzzleball form! £6.99 each – a bargain. Finally Bella can have both! Who else is here?

hannah montana jigsaw

It’s Disney’s Hannah Montana of course! “Made in 2D, Displayed in 3D” – will Miley Cyrus EVER be able to move on?

jigsaw names

Here’s a selection of the generic jigsaws. The size and scope of the industry that keeps crazed fans in a constant supply of fresh puzzles had never occurred to me before. What evocative names.  Blooming Cart. Proud Peacock. Gotta Love Snow! Yes, you gotta. Is there anything a bit more racy though? Well…

naughty dots jigsaw

Oh this is the stuff. Really Really (Really) Naughty Dots – Explicit Jigsaw Fun For Adults Only. It’s the future our forebears fought for. It even comes with a special pen! Mind you, how many stages of frustration do you want to put yourself through? You’ll spend hours doing the jigsaw, and then you have to do the dot-to-dots, and finally you’re supposed to get some sort of erotic thrill out of a phallus you’ve drawn yourself with a wipe-clean pen.  I suppose for some people the anticipation’s everything. Here’s something a bit gentler for a happy finish:

young farmers

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My albums of 2012: Games & Puzzles special

Can YOU solve Plan B’s logic problem, spot the ball with Frank Ocean or help Usher find his climax? Find out in my Albums of the Year Puzzle Special!

10. Jessie Ware – Devotion

9. Bright Light Bright Light – Make Me Believe In Hope

8. Gossip – A Joyful Noise

Three very thoughtful, quietly euphoric albums to start us off. So let’s have a thoughtful and quietly euphoric teaser:

buffet riddle

You are queueing for the buffet at a music industry awards ceremony with Rod Thomas, Jessie Ware and Beth Ditto. You know that one of them always tells the truth, one of them always lies, and one can either lie or tell the truth as they choose. Rod says “The salmon en croute is nice! Don’t listen to Beth by the way, she always lies.” Jessie says “The profiteroles are lovely. And you can trust Rod, he always tells the truth.” Beth says “I do lie sometimes but I can tell the truth too if I want to! By the way the mushroom vol-au-vents are delicious.”

Which is the only food you can put on your plate with confidence?

7. Usher – Looking 4 Myself

I’m on my own with this one, I think. At least, I haven’t seen anyone else raving about it in end-of-year lists. Too much dance-pop for the R&B crowd? Too R&B for the pop crowd? Too cheesy for everyone else? Actually that last one doesn’t need a question mark. But I like it a lot. The centrepiece is of course Climax, a cleverly named song as Usher never actually reaches one. But can YOU help him get there?

ushers climax

 6. Angel Haze – Reservation

It’s not until you put an album on at work and everyone goes rigid with horror that you notice quite how sweary it is. The words in the puzzle are all taken from Angel’s lyrics. When fitted correctly into the grid, the shaded squares will reveal a special bonus word! What is it?

angel haze cross words

5. Frank Ocean – Channel Orange

franks ballsCan YOU see Frank’s balls in this picture? Mark with a cross where you think they are.

4. Plan B – Ill Manors

It’s a horrible world depicted in the film Ill Manors, with relentlessly awful things happening to everyone in it. The accompanying album is just as revolting and upsetting, but of course it’s all set to brilliant music. Plan B has drafted his plans for the sequel in the form of a logic problem – solve it if you dare!

ill manors

3. Tyson – Die On The Dancefloor

Here was a 2012 surprise – a concept album about morbidity delivered as a series of falsetto Hi-NRG bangers. Bloody great. So here’s a puzzle based on Tyson’s twin obsessions of disco and death.

tyson puzzle

2. Metric – Synthetica

I think Metric’s dark, sugary synth-rock is sounding better than ever, and these songs haunted and inspired me all year. Join the fun by solving the riddle to find a word associated with metric measurements.

metric riddle

1. Cassie – The Unreleased Classics Trilogy

CASSIE MYSTERYWell here’s a puzzle. A singer releases a very good first album and goes on to record stacks of even better material for a second album which six years later shows no sign of ever materialising. No don’t write in, there isn’t an answer to this one. But Cassie’s work since 2006 has now been collated and packaged up as a set of three downloads comprising 66 tracks. That’s right, my album of the year isn’t even a proper album and some of the tracks are years old. But to my tastes, out of this bonanza of material you could get at least two full albums that would wipe the floor with anything else from this year. It’s a collection of cold, sexy, sweet and surprising electro that at its best makes me think of Janet Jackson singing her way through Britney’s Blackout. But don’t take my word for it – it’s free!

If you want solutions to the puzzles, they’re here. And if you want a soundtrack to working them out, my songs of the year are in a playlist in the previous post. Happy New Year x

TV Pitches: Muse

Will Muse’s rock career be alright after billions of people around the world have heard their official 2012 Olympics song Survival? I mean, it’s awful, isn’t it. It’s ridiculous. (Yes, it’s both those things but I love it.) Here are some TV pitch ideas for the lads in case they have to step back from music after this.

Muscle Museum

The concept: Horrific documentary in which the boys investigate body parts left behind by serial killers.

Dom: That’s a nice peroneus longus you’ve got there Chris.

Chris: Yes it’s in very good condition isn’t it. Shame they couldn’t salvage the mucous sheath after this poor fella got flayed.

Matt: I can’t find my guitar. What’s happening?

Sunburn

The concept: Ill-considered revival of the mediocre Michelle Collins vehicle. Nicki and the gang are back from the Med and working on the pier in Muse’s home town of Teignmouth. Matt and the boys play amusement arcade attendants who get into all sort of hilarious scrapes.

Chris: If we don’t find that bag of 5p coins before Brian Conley gets here Nicki’ll have our guts for garters!

Michelle Collins: I heard that! Go and clean out the Penny Falls machine with a toothbrush.

Chris: (muttering) At least no-one’d ever make a shitty tv show out of Penny Falls.

Plug In Baby

The concept: The boys get their own shopping channel segment selling electric baby substitutes to the lonely and/or barren.

Matt: And THIS one will crucify your enemies!

Dom: No, Matt! That’s the gentle tears and real nappy action model.

Matt: (flipping baby roughly over) Aha! I’ve exposed your lies, baby! The underneath is no big surprise! Now it’s time for changing! And cleansing everything!

Dom: (sigh)

Time Is Running Out

The concept: Sapphire and Steel spin-off in which the boys chase the physical embodiment of Time through a building and try to stop it “running out”.

Matt: Bury it! Why can’t we bury it?!

Chris: We tried that Matt. It regressed us all to toddlers and made us dig it up again.

Matt: Murder it then. Why don’t we murder it? Or smother it! Or–

Dom: I wish we could take time back to before the Olympics.

Supermassive Black Hole

The concept: Science exploration show in which the boys join forces with Professor Brian Cox for some fun with astrophysics.

Matt: Oh baby, don’t you know I suffer?

Chris: That’s because the Schwarzschild radius is directly proportional to mass, while density is inversely proportional to the volume. Since the volume of a spherical object (such as the event horizon of a non-rotating black hole) is directly proportional to the cube of the radius, the density of a black hole is inversely proportional to the square of the mass, and thus higher mass black holes have lower than average density.

Dom: You got that off Wikipedia.

Professor Brian Cox: Hey you do all realise this song sounds exactly like Do Something by Britney Spears, don’t you.

Monsters at Home: The Cenobites

They’re explorers in the further regions of experience!  Demons to some, but angels to others! Or, as Wikipedia puts it a little less poetically, they’re ‘extradimensional sadomasochists’. But how do Hellraiser‘s scourges pass the time when they’re not reaping souls and refashioning flesh?

Not shown: Choc ices

WHAT DO THEY EAT When the Cenobites first appear in the novella The Hellbound Heart, we’re told that they smell of vanilla. So I tend to imagine they’ve just been scoffing a box of Asda choc ices. At 8 for £1 (at time of writing) they’re not exactly a luxury treat, so it’s the perfect conflicted experience for beings who like to blur the line between pain and pleasure. Butterball, the fat Cenobite, probably gets taunted and comes off worst. Like most fat characters in films he’s portrayed as always hungry, as we can see from his gaping stomach wound and constant lip-licking. I bet the others just give him the stick to sniff once they’ve eaten.

HOW DO THEY SOCIALISE With those costumes that evoke the S&M scene AND the priesthood AND butchers’ leather aprons, we can say with some confidence that the Cenobites spend quite a lot of time shopping for clothing and grooming products. So Saturdays find them ambling through the retail district of Hell’s labyrinth, stopping in at their own versions of Debenhams for some underwear (“We Have Such Tights To Show You!”) and Timpson’s to get their boots repaired (“We’ll Tear Your Sole Apart!”).

WHAT DO THEY DRINK The Female Cenobite (yes I know, sorry, that’s how she’s credited) unfortunately has the front of her throat held open by wires so it’s unlikely she gets to enjoy any drinks very much at all past an initial taste. And with Chatterer’s teeth clattering away constantly he doesn’t get much down his gullet either. Still it means there’s always someone to get Pinhead and Butterball home safely after they’ve got slaughtered on cocktails with Leviathan.

WHAT DO THEY WATCH ON TELLY As two of the Cenobites seem to be effectively both blind and deaf, this is probably something of a sore point. But still, the others have found themselves drawn to ITV1 on Saturday nights where hapless humans attempt to solve the challenges of a mysterious Cube which acts as a gateway to pain or pleasure. “Tears are a waste of good suffering!” barks Pinhead at the screen as a hapless estate agent from Billericay slumps defeated amidst a pile of brightly coloured ping-pong balls.

WHAT DO THEY DO FOR FUN We know that they can only reach our world through the solving of puzzles (and not just the Lament Configuration box – we learn from the book that origami can be used to summon them) and so they keep a close eye on new mental and physical challenges. The Sudoku fad left them unimpressed but they’ve had a great time recently sketching hooked chains and bloody foetuses on Draw Something.

HOW DO THEY REPRODUCE Well the dull answer is that they convert other people into Cenobites. It seems they retain some memory of their human pasts though, enough for a confused recollection that intimate fun can involve the insertion of appendages into orifices. But as we can see in this picture of Chatterer and Kirsty, this leads to all sorts of hilarious misunderstandings. Better luck next time!

Adverts explained: Philadelphia

Philadelphia have lost it! Everyone knows you can’t make a Thai green curry with cream cheese. Plus, it looks disgusting. But can they convince us otherwise?

Don't be frightened! It's NOT Cthulhu. It's simply a Thai green curry. Apparently.

In the 90s, Philadelphia’s ads featured Sara Crowe and Ann Bryson in a series of hilarious cheese-related escapades. The campaign ran for the best part of ten years, before viewers were shocked to see the ditsy, dairy-loving pair ripped apart by wild dogs in a blood-soaked finale being phased out. It was the snack (and lighter meal option!) of choice for everyone struggling to escape the crushing horror of office life with broad humour and a dollop of cheesy goo.

But in 2012 Philadelphia is more, much more than that. It’s the magical meal ingredient that can bind any dish – and any family! – together. “My biggest challenge is trying to find something easy that everyone enjoys eating,” says Mum, and we hear from the kids that one of them doesn’t like vegetables and one of them doesn’t like curry. Mum’s deliciously cruel solution to this conundrum is to serve a CURRY full of VEGETABLES. You have to applaud her ingenuity.

Of course, we’re led to believe that Philadelphia will make this concoction creamy and appetising, but if you’ve made it past the terrifying picture at the top of this post you’ve seen the truth of that for yourself. So what makes this family so perverse? The artfully messy room is supposed to make them seem normal and approachable but look at that pile of board games. I grew up in a board game family myself and there’s a particular frame of mind that goes with it: you learn to be sociable and competitive, but hanging over it all is a crushing awareness of the cruelty of fate. The dice roll and we find that in games, as in life, most of us end up losers.

And they’re playing Cluedo. Cluedo! The most evil, laborious, badly-structured and mind-numbing game of all time. And they’re all moving their pieces at the same time! It’s like they want to punish themselves.

I have to conclude that this family has got everything it deserves. Including their disgusting curry. If Philadelphia was once the condiment of choice for comedy secretaries, it’s now the magic ingredient for the white family who’re happy to have a jar of green Thai paste in the house but who’d find buying and opening a tin of coconut milk just that little bit too ethnic.

TV Pitches: Pet Shop Boys

On the sad day when Pet Shop Boys finally call their music career to an end, what will they do next? I investigate some of the options.

OPPORTUNITIES (LET’S MAKE LOTS OF HONEY)

The concept: Neil and Chris compete in the beekeeping industry.

Chris: How are you doing Neil?

Neil: Well I’ve been putting a lot of thought into it.

Chris: How about your beehive?

Neil: I’m afraid it doesn’t work.

IT COULDN’T HAPPEN HERE

The concept: Neil and Chris solve murders by a process of elimination, in yet another attempt to revive the Cluedo format.

Neil: But of course! There are no windows in the library so the murderer wouldn’t have been able to throw the revolver into the garden!

Chris: What are you saying Neil?

Neil: I’m saying that it couldn’t happen here!

Chris: That’s another room off the list! And this case almost seemed impossible. Congratulations!

SOW HARD

The concept: Chris and Neil take on the challenge of seeding crop fields, only to find that — yes — it’s not as easy as it sounds.

Neil: Why the furrowed brow, Chris?

Chris: I’ve had it with this, Neil. It’s just too difficult.

Neil: Well why don’t you try?

Chris: Fucking hell. Pass me that seed drill.

I DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU WANT BUT I CAN’T GIVE IT ANY MORE

The concept: Oblique gameshow in which Neil and Chris, blindfolded, must try to fail shopping tasks in a supermarket without actually being told the rules. Presented by Davina McCall.

Chris: Okay, one more try. Have you got… the third item on my shopping list?

Neil: (chuckling) I think we must be out of stock. Davina – I don’t know what he wants but I can’t give it any more!

Davina: Oh Neil, you were so close. Actually the third item on Chris’s list is freeze-dried fish food – and you’ve got that in your pocket.

Neil: It’s lucky you can’t see my face.

DID YOU SEE ME COMING?

The concept: There’s an unexpected twist to the audition process as Neil and Chris seek to protect their legacy by finding “the next Cicero”.

Neil: What did you think of Barry from Bolton?

Chris: Messy.