If you like word games as much as you like logic puzzles, or vice versa, Pathwords will lead you to hours of something close to the most fun you’ve ever had doing either, or both.

Everything about the game is ingeniously conceived and executed. First, the puzzles. Yes, you can call them “word searches,” and yes, “word search extreme” is a bit more accurate, but they are not like any word search you’ve ever played before. First, you’re not looking for letters in a straight line, you’re looking for words that fit one of the eight puzzle shapes that comprise the game. Which turns out to be a totally different challenge from anything you’ve ever experienced in anything you would possibly call a word search. Next, you’re not looking for any word that might fit a particular puzzle piece, but the one word that will fit that shape when all the other puzzle pieces are positioned so that each of them also cover a word that will fit their unique shape. So, even though you’ve been clever enough to find a word that fits a shape, you won’t know you’ve found the right word until you’ve found all the other words that fit all the other shapes used in that particular puzzle.

And there are 40 puzzles, ranging in difficulty from easy to excruciating.Major Fun Award

Then there’s the answer booklet, to which, of course, you will find yourself inexorably drawn. I know, I know, you don’t want to see the whole answer, necessarily. Just a hint. And, behold, there are three different kinds of hints for each puzzle: one letter identified by color (each piece being a different color), the orientation of one color piece, and, all right already, one whole word from the puzzle.

Then there are the pieces, transparent, so you can see the letters through them, smooth to the touch and of fondle-worthy heft, with each square section in the piece lens-like, magnifying the letters they cover. Which nestle sweetly, but not too snugly, on the gently curving spaces on the transparent board. Which fits perfectly on to the top of the carrying case, which contains, easily, all the parts of the puzzle: pieces, answer booklet, puzzle booklet. And the puzzle booklet, of course, spiral bound for flat folding, slipping ever so perfectly between the lid and the case, each puzzle writ large enough for shared pondering, should you choose to share.

Invented by Dick Niederman. Recommended for puzzler-solvers 12 and older. Available from ThinkFun. Monumentally major fun.

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