# Dots Amazing!

You need a real artist to take a simple children’s puzzle, like Connect-the-Dots, and transform it into something worthy of mature, adult-worthy consideration. A real artist.

And that’s just what David Kalvitis is, an artist. And that’s just what he’s accomplished with his many Dot-to-Dot books.

Let me give you a few examples.

Stars puzzles: You start at number 1, as you would expect, and continue connecting dots in order until you come to a star. Then you have to look for the next number, which could be anywhere else in the puzzle, and continue from that number to the next star. And on and on, number-to-number-to-star. Jumping around from place to place on the puzzle, you really have no idea what you’re drawing, sometimes until the very last star.

Arrows: You see this big field of arrows – no dots at all. Just arrows. So there’s absolutely no visual hints about what the puzzle is about. You look for a circled arrow and start there, following where it points until you come to another arrow, and you take off in that direction. Of course, if you make a mistake, just one, small, easily explicable error, you soon find youself wandering realms of graphic chaos. Which is why, despite Kalvatis’ heartfelt recommendations that all his puzzles be done with a marker, we find ourselves frequently recommending a soft pencil with a very good eraser.

Compass: Here, you get nothing but an array of dots with a few symbols sprinkled in hither and yon. You look for a star and, then read the directions printed above the puzzle. And I do mean directions. Like, from the star, go: N (North(, and then Wx2 (two dots west), and then SWx2, and then on and on and on, and if you do it exactly right, you’ll end up at an A. And then, from the A, you start on the next line of instructions….

For an elementary school teacher, the different puzzle types involve skills that are closely tied to the mathematics curriculum. For the rest of us, they are an invitation to return to a deeply satisfying, often remarkably peaceful pastime.

These are but three of the innovative, challenging and inviting variations of connect-the-dots Kalvitis has created for us. And, if you’re a social puzzler, it turns out that many of them can be solved cooperatively – especially the big puzzles, or puzzles like the Star puzzles that you solve in segments.

There are five volumes of the “Greatest Dot-to-Dot” series, so far. The first four are a great introduction to the wide variety of puzzle types. The fifth volume is most appropriately called “Super Challenge,” where you’ll find puzzles that span two pages and hundreds and hundreds of dots. There are also four volumes of Kalvitis’ Newspaper Dot-to-Dot puzzles – smaller, but every bit as innovative.

Each puzzle is a work of art in its own right. When you complete a puzzle, you are rewarded with images that are themselves often surprisingly vivid, sometimes rich in detail, sometimes spare and subtle. Often drawn in perspective. Never stiff. Never blocky. Always surprising.

# Very, Very Big Bubbles

We took this picture during our last Tasting. David and company are on our front lawn, learning to use “beebo Big Bubble Mix” to create what can only be called an XTREME bubble. “Our mission,” say the XTREME Bubble Team “is to manufacture and distribute to all people, the most exciting, amazing and revolutionary bubble solution in the history of the world! We believe that if every person in the world had a chance to play with beeboo Big Bubble Mix, the world would become a better place.” Yes, beebo Big Bubble Mix, the same beeboo Big Bubble Mix used to blow the “ the World’s Largest Free Floating Soap Bubble.”

There was no question at all about the Major FUNness of the XTREME bubble-making experience. I personally have never seen bubbles so large, so ameoba-like in their blobitude, so surprising in their floaty formations. Not having made an exhaustive comparison, I can not attest to the fact that beebo Big Bubble Mix results in the biggest of all possible bubbles. It worked. It was easy to mix, easy to make work. Learning to use the bubble wand was most definitely an integral part of the whole experience. As a connoisseur of all things fun, I can tell you that this stuff is great fun. And I mean great!

At a purported savings of \$6, you’re probably going to want to purchase the entire 1 Bottle of beeboo™ Mix & 1 Bubble Wand starter kit. Then, you’ll probably have to get the 2 bottles of beeboo™ Big Bubble Mix, unless you find yourself ready for the 4 bottles of beeboo™ Big Bubble Mix

# Chew by Numbers

Chew by Numbers. Really. Kind of like paint-by-numbers, as you might have surmised, only with an artistically chosen array of differently colored chewing gum, as you might also have surmised. From the remarkable palette, as it were, of Jamie Marraccini, author of the amazing GumArt website, within which you will find a veritable gallery of chewed-over pictures and sculptures of feats of dental prowess requiring as many as 3177 pieces of gum.

The Chew by Numbers kits are elegant in their simplicity – a blister pack containing a board upon which is printed a chew-by-numbers pattern, and a selection of bubble gum pieces. Perhaps not the kind of gift dentists or even fairly aware parents might purchase for their children, and yet, how can one resist? As the artist himself writes: “I’ve now come to the realization that the gum justifies the art. The fun is in the chewing and the art is an expression of the fun. Just remember, gum is not chewed for health or sustenance. People chew gum for pleasure. It is in that spirit that GumArt exists, and I am a spreader of gum.”

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