Puzzles that are just a tad toy-like are, understandably, our favorite. They give us something to play with, while they, in turn, play with us – driving us to, for example, distraction.

This toy-like kind of puzzle is the veritable métier of a company called “ThinkFun,” and Turnstile is one of their newest contributions to mental fitness – the theory being that what doesn’t make you crazy, makes you smarter.

The puzzle board contains nine circular depressions which accommodate up to nine different hour-glass-shaped pieces. Four of these pieces are grey. The rest are each a different color. There are four posts separating the holes. There are also nine barriers of 5 different shapes that fit snugly on the posts. Once placed on a post, these barriers can be turned clockwise, or counter-, however the rules specify that they can only be moved when pushed by an adjacent piece – very much as if it were pushing a revolving door, or, more appropriately (and hence the name of the game) a turnstile. And herein lies the toyetic joys of the puzzle. Pushing those turnstiles around, figuring out which can in fact turn and which is locked into position by an adjacent turnstile or piece, is oddly fun, and often deeply satisfying.

A deck of 40 cards provides 40 different puzzles. The object of each is to get each piece of a different color to its appropriate corner (there are four different corners, each with a color that corresponds to one of the pieces). Depending on which turnstiles are used, and their placement, and how many grey pieces are on the board, solving  a puzzle can require increasingly more moves, and become in like manner increasingly more difficult. A solution is on the back of each card, but there is nothing that says you have to follow that solution precisely. There is apparently no penalty for taking more moves than you absolutely have to. And hence there is an implied permission to explore, push things around, see what happens, and, eventually, with enough patience, discover that you have, in fact, solved the thing. All of which makes playing with the puzzle that much more inviting, and fun.

The board, pieces and deck cards can all be stored in a handy cloth bag, upon which is printed an equally handy inventory of all the various of pieces and turnstiles. Designed by Steve Hayton, Turnstiles is another invitation to major fun.

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