Tag Archives: inventor


Meet the Zingo inventors!

The newest additions to the Zingo! family have arrived: Zingo Word Builder and Zingo! Time-Telling… and the inventors of the original Zingo! game give them a thumbs-up from their home in Israel!


Theo and Ora Coster created the original Zingo! Zinger… did you know they’re also the inventors of the classic game Guess Who?


The man behind the Laser… meet Luke Hooper!

Folks are getting fired up about Laser Maze! Since behind every great game are some equally amazing brains, I thought it would be fun to introduce the inventor, Luke Hooper! Luke also invented the award-winning strategy game Laser Khet 2.0, and he has done a brilliant job translating the fun of laser play to a solo logic game!

Luke & Laser Maze strike a pose at Toy Fair 2013

Luke & Laser Maze strike a pose at Toy Fair 2013

So Luke, what inspired you to create Laser Maze? 

Luke: Anyone who has ever picked up a laser pointer naturally starts to play with it in their own way, regardless of age. Unfortunately, a lot of things in physics and math don’t translate to everyday life in a way that justifies how amazing they are, but with lasers, it’s exactly the opposite. There is a universal coolness to controlling this very focused beam of light.

I was a huge fan of puzzles and single-player puzzle games as a kid and never really outgrew the fascination. When it comes to packaging games with challenges that have a great blend of fun and substance, ThinkFun is the leader in the puzzle game market for a reason. The team worked tirelessly to ensure the final game fit their high standard to satisfy puzzlers of all levels.


What has been the reaction you’ve heard to the game? 

Luke: All very positive thankfully! Anyone who has played Khet or shined a laser pointer off of a mirror has felt the satisfaction and wonder of seeing a laser end up somewhere completely different than the direction in which you originally aimed. Add to that the natural satisfaction of solving a puzzle, and you’ve got double the payoff with Laser Maze.


What was the biggest challenge in creating Laser Maze?

Luke: It is really tough to make a laser-based game in real life because the laser follows real life rules (physics)! This means that everything in the game has to be aligned almost perfectly, with errors smaller than 1/10 of a degree or the game won’t work. Solving these problems goes beyond typical game manufacturing, so a master’s degree in mechanical engineering was a big help!


Are there benefits/skills resulting from game play that you find surprising?

Luke: The unique mechanics involved with splitting beams introduces a new type of logical thinking that draws people into physics, geometry, and reasoning that normally wouldn’t touch a puzzle game!


Haven’t seen Laser Maze yet?! Check out this quick how-to-play video:

Happy Inventor Month: Meet the brains behind WordARound!

May is National Inventors Month! (Incidentally, it also happens to be National Barbecue Month, so fire up the grill and celebrate!)

ThinkFun’s inventors are the creative brains that drive our new products, and we love any chance we get to celebrate them. To kick off the month, I’m thrilled to introduce two new additions to the ThinkFun Inventor club: The Herbert Brothers!


This loveable duo behind the new card game WordARound has been creating clever, quirky – and simple – ways to have fun since they were little boys mixing it up in a family of five kids in Southeast Indiana.

In 2009, Dave and Joe Herbert’s passion for film-making took a life-changing turn when their shoestring production of a Super Bowl ad for a Doritos contest won them $1 million in prize money.   But the acclaim didn’t stop there.  The hilarious 30-second commercial “Free Doritos!” hit #1 on USA Today’s annual consumer ranking of Super Bowl ads, taking Madison Avenue by storm and leaving 51 “big-budget advertisers” in its wake.

Released in February 2013, WordARound is recent evidence of the Brothers’ knack for balancing the offbeat with universal appeal.   The game features words in a circle and players race to call them out.  It’s a quick study but surprisingly tough, fueling laughter, frenzied play, and accolades like “instantaneously fun,” “genius” layout and “streamlined elegance.”  And just like their famous ad, the acclaim doesn’t stop there.  Players build focus, reflexes and vocabulary – fitting perfectly with ThinkFun’s repertoire of addictively fun games that sharpen your mind!

Want more inventors? In this post, I shared several photos of our inventors who stopped by to say hello at Toy Fair 2013, and here are the smiling faces of more inventors in 2012!

Meet the Daily Puzzle Inventors!

Meet Oskar van Deventer and Wei-Hwa Huang, the inventors of Daily Puzzle, ThinkFun’s newest brainteaser!

Oskar van Deventer

Wei-Hwa Huang


Daily Puzzle wan’t born overnight… here Oskar and Wei-Hwa share the story of how they collaboratively developed this innovative puzzle over the course of several years!


Oskar:  In July 1986, I designed a single-digit three-leaf version of this puzzle that could make 0-9. There was no black background. I added a single-digit two-leaf version for making 0-3, again without the need of a black background. Together, the five leaves could make 00-39, enough to make all days of a month.

Wei-Hwa:  Nick Baxter and I were visiting Oskar at his house in the Netherlands (October 2003), and Oskar was telling us about the many puzzle ideas he had.  One of the ideas was this “digital” version of the classic “calendar cubes” puzzle (which, if you haven’t seen, is a set of two cubes that you can use to display the numbers from 01 to 31)… but Oskar couldn’t actually find a working arrangement.  We went to bed that night, and in the morning I had a working arrangement for Oskar.

Oskar:  When Wei-Hwa visited me in October 2003, I showed this puzzle to Wei-Hwa and asked him to improve it. Overnight, he developed a two-digit four-leaf design that took advantage of the black background. This puzzle was shared by Tanya Thompson at the International Puzzle Party (IPP) in 2008 as “Daily Puzzle.”


Wei-Hwa:  At this point I thought — well, the “calendar cubes” puzzle has a lesser known cousin which spells out the first three letters of the month.  Why can’t the same equivalent happen for our puzzle?  One night later I had the basic design for the month names.  The challenge was quite different, of course, because this was about giving the pictures a “look” of a segmented digital display while not actually being a consistent set of segments.

Oskar:  In March 2009, I asked Wei-Hwa to also design a Monthly Puzzle with JAN-DEC which I prototyped.  Wei-Hwa made some detailed improvements on the letter design, rounding and sharpening where needed, and that version became Tanya’s IPP gift for 2009.

During the next two years, ThinkFun worked to find the right form and price for a mass-produced version that combined the two puzzles.  The first deluxe version looked superb, but it was too expensive and it did neither fit in a toy store nor in a stationary store.  Then ThinkFun simplified the design, reducing the cost and achieving the current great looks of the puzzle!

Hooray for teamwork - we are so proud of this final product!

Oskar shared the following message when he received a case of Daily Puzzles last month – love the idea of personalizing the puzzle with a special date for a gift!

I cannot describe how happy it makes me to see this puzzle finally to the public. When I made the original design in July 1986, I was already convinced that it could make an attractive and compelling puzzle to a wide audience. Now, over 26 years later, it is finally happening. Thanks to the additional innovations by Wei-Hwa, theming by George Miller, and some great and subtle industrial design work by ThinkFun, people can now buy it!

Only after receiving the samples, I realized what a great birthday gift this puzzle makes. I can open the package and change the date to a personalized one. Tomorrow, my sister has her 43rd birthday. So I have hers set to SEP-08. I am sure she will like it.

I am thrilled to report that Daily Puzzle is nominated for a People’s Play Award from Time to Play!  Here’s a campaign video Oskar created to help spread the word – please take a moment and VOTE NOW!

Swish Inventor challenges students at an Israeli summer camp!

Last year, I introduced the amazing inventors of Swish in this post.  Zvi and Gali both continue to teach in Israel, and Gali Shimoni recently shared this fantastic story of their experience using Swish at a local summer camp!

I have a very good friend that every summer runs 2 camps for excellent students (each camp is for 7 days and 6 nights). One camp is for students who finished grade 7, and the other is for those who finished grade 8.

A couple of months ago he called me and said, “I want to use the game you and Zvi invented in my camps.”  The interesting thing is that this friend had never played Swish.

He added, “every day I ask my students a daily riddle. The one who solves each riddle gets a prize. This year I want the prize to be Swish.  I think about it as a test for your game – will students put the game away, or will they play it during their spare time?

So, my friend bought 6 games for each camp, and I gave him 2 more just for his counselors.  In the beginning of camp, my friend called and said his counselors were addicted to the game!  On the second day, my friend called and said I must quickly come to see what was happening in his camp.  When I got there, I saw groups of students all over the place sitting and playing the game!

When I looked at the game of one of the groups, I immediately saw 3 cards that made a Swish.  I told the student that I found a Swish, and they said I could show it to them.  When I pointed at the 3 cards, the students told me that they were sorry, but they were looking just for Swishes made of 5 cards or more – as I mentioned, excellent students!

My friend summarized the experience: “Now I know that all what you said about the game you invented is true!”