Besides our near-monopoly on all things comic strips, we also handle a majority of the world's puzzles here at Ye Olde Syndicate. I am personally responsible for constructing 80% of the roughly 72 different varieties of Sudoku demanded by air travelers and shut-ins on a weekly basis. To be clear: I don't make up the puzzles, I just make them, through a combination of alchemy and algorithm too awesome to detail here. It's a living.
We also offer crossword puzzles of all shapes and sizes (mostly square, though), word jumbles, other number puzzles with Asian-sounding names and even a Bridge feature, which somehow manages to encapsulate all the action, drama and sensuality of the card game into a single column every week of the year. If you're bored and up for an activity more engaging than watching YouTube videos of cats but not quite as physically demanding as jai alai, boy oh boy, do we have you covered.
What's more, the puzzles we offer aren't just ones that engage the conscious parts of your big ol' brains-- we even have some that go much deeper, upending your usual expectations of reality and plunging you into an abyss where nothing is as it first appears, except for those cases where a thing first appears to be a crazy brain-melting puzzle that threatens to shatter your already tenuous grip on the world and leave you a gibbering wreck of a human being, forever drawing spirals on any available surface in order to scrape what remains of your sanity back together. But y'know, in a fun way you can enjoy over breakfast. Like what? Like Magic Eye!
"Magic Eye" is the proprietary name for autostereograms, which function by subverting the brain's insistence on coordinating focus and viewing angle to gauge things like depth perception as perceived through either eye in order to make the hidden image appear in three dimensions. For those who can't imagine such a thing, think of it like the most constructive outcome of staring at paisley wallpaper. Let your eyes go "soft" and brace yourself, because as we'll learn, there is no possible way of guessing what might be lurking on the other side of the veil.
Another way many people are able to "see" these images is by blatantly lying to whomever is standing next to them. Example: "Oh, there we go. It's a deer or whatever." An important factor in this second type of viewing Magic Eye puzzles is remaining vague enough with your answer (see: "…or whatever") that you can adapt it to a more correct-sounding verdict if challenged. Example: "Ah, right-- I thought it was a deer because I'm able to see an additional visible spectrum, and was actually looking at the ultraviolet result, instead of the more pedestrian one you were talking about. It's totally a rocket ship. On an unrelated note, your house is covered in pollen." [crumples newspaper, runs out of house]
Above: A demonstration of the finite amount of flexibility possible in humans. Want an impossibly bendy spine? Fine, but those pigtails are going to be as rigid as goat horns, sister.
I'd like to continue pretending that I know what I'm talking about, but if you'd actually like to know more about how these things work, you should read the Wikipedia entry for autostereograms, instead of my admittedly impressive summary.
Last week, I was enlisted to dig up an old edition of our syndicated "Magic Eye" feature for someone who needed it to fill a request from one of our international syndication clients. Since I spend quite a bit of time poking around in our archives, I knew where to look. While scrolling through nearly 20 years' worth of them, I noticed a grip of folders near the top of the window appended with the word "Hidden." Obviously, this was an important discovery that required me to look at every single image contained therein. Note to my superiors: I was off-the-clock for this journey, so instead of being irritated at my poor work ethic, opt for pity over how barren my social calendar is during evening hours. See? That's better.
Friends, I'm here to tell you: looking at the collected sum of years and years of images hidden within Magic Eye puzzles was an experience very nearly worth blogging about. Having always subscribed to the second method of enjoying Magic Eye puzzles, I had no idea what sorts of things lurked below the surface of those crazy Pollock patterns. Shown here are some of the highlights from the batch-- a lot of them are visual representations of puns, I suspect, but as they were sorted by date, not theme, most of the cleverness has been stripped away, leaving only these haunting, translucent echolocations to swim up and grab at your ankles.
Above: I'm not saying that's a filed-down version of Bugs Bunny's face, but I'm not not saying that, either.
I'm told that the actual, intended experience of seeing one of these things in their proper context makes them appear wrapped in a given puzzle's pattern, but I'll never, ever know if that's the case. My brain steadfastly refuses to get the puzzles to work properly, which has never been more okay than after viewing hundreds of these types of images in a single sitting. It's always a deer or a rocket ship, as far as I'm concerned.
Above: Jell-o shots with The Lockhorns.
Peeking behind the crazy-quilt curtain was actually pretty neat. Now that I know how these things are supposed to function, the next time I find myself facing the need to either render a hurried guess at the image within a Magic Eye puzzle or having to sit there for twenty minutes while someone tries to teach me the proper way to see it, my options have been expanded. In addition to "It's definitely supposed to be a deer" or setting someone's kitchen on fire, I can now bore them into silence with a detailed explanation of how the puzzles are made! Some lucky lady is going to really regret keeping me around for Sunday brunch. Thanks, Magic Eye [wink]!