Mysterious & Puzzling

It’s truly a puzzler! Katie (and friends) test drove a Sherlock Holmes mystery jigsaw puzzle…deerstalker and pipe not included. Take it away Katie!


The Sherlock Holmes and the Speckled Band mystery jigsaw puzzle is by BePuzzled, a company that touts itself on forcing people to think and solve their games in unconventional ways. The puzzles are classic mysteries with a challenging twist: you read, build, and solve using clues from both the written story and the completed puzzle. I bought mine in a toy shop for $18.95 while on summer vacation in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, but you can find it online for slightly less. The suggested age range is 15 and older.

The short story Sherlock Holmes and the Speckled Band originally appeared in the UK edition of The Strand magazine in February 1892. The story was later included in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes collection, which was published in October 1892.
Inside the box is the 1000-piece unassembled puzzle and a booklet with the mystery to read.

The solution, which is the conclusion of the story, is provided but it is cleverly printed backwards. You read it by simply holding it up to a mirror, which is such a unique way to hide the answer!

I started by building the edges, and this is the point when I realized this puzzle was going to be more difficult than I had originally thought. In keeping with the mysterious nature, the finished image does not match the box cover. An SOS was sent to my library colleagues, inviting them to help.

A few folks answered the call and worked with me on Holmes’s latest case. Interestingly enough, every one of them had a different puzzle approach. One person took pieces that looked similar and lined them up in a row. Another moved pieces into piles and worked specifically on building a small section to later drop in.

One colleague clearly loved puzzles because she slowly and methodically finished around 1/6 of the mystery in just a few hours’ time. She’s the reason I can say I completed the puzzle in just under two weeks!

And yes, dear blog readers, I used some Photoshop magic to blur the puzzle. No spoilers from me!

Despite my (sometimes constant) groaning over not having an image to work from, I thoroughly enjoyed the puzzling challenge. It added an extra layer of intrigue and definitely more excitement when the puzzle was solved. I feel younger children can get involved with the puzzle build, though they may get frustrated since they don’t have any reference to a solution.

Even though I have partnered with Detective Holmes on many Cotsen-related adventures, I have never read Sherlock Holmes and the Speckled Band. I was entirely unaware of who or what was behind the unfortunate events described in the story, so the solution was quite a surprise. For those who may have already read the story and know what happened, this particular puzzle may not be the best option. Thankfully there are several other BePuzzled mysteries to choose from, including one from Alfred Hitchcock, and I assume each has a unique story line.

The mystery puzzles are afoot!

Interested in more Holmes posts? Try our virtual escape room, our live escape room, a review of a snail mail mystery game, and this super fun simple activity with rebus cards from our special collections!

Get a Clue

Always searching for more escape room inspiration, Katie was delighted when her mom sent her a dandy little escape challenge that fit right in the palm of her hand. Though it was small, but packed a mighty punch! Take it away, Katie!


The Cluebox “Escape Room in a Box” is produced by iDventure Machine Factory and retails for around $40 on Amazon. There are three different Clueboxes available for purchase: Captain Nemo’s Nautilus, Davy Jones Locker and Schrödinger’s Cat. The suggested age range is 14+ and the estimated playtime is 60 minutes.

I tackled Schrödinger’s Cat. The wood puzzle box is packaged in a sturdy cardboard box that is covered with images with a funky steampunk motif, including a very cool cat. Inside the packaging is an informational note (in multiple languages) briefly describing the quantum mechanics experiments conducted by Erwin Schrödinger in the 1930s. You are tasked with figuring out how to rescue his cat from inside the wood puzzle box.

The escape room itself is a robust wood box with various gears, interesting sliding tabs, and is covered in hieroglyphics that one would rightly assume will be used to solve the mystery. I took some time to carefully examine the box, looking at all the parts and pieces. It didn’t take long before I found a note on one of the tabs that read “Start,” and it had me follow a series of arrows around the sides of the box to the bottom. There, the arrows stopped near tabs that signaled the start of the room.

The informational note also clearly states that all elements of the box should open smoothly, so you don’t need to force anything and no guessing is required. There is a website link that offers hints if you get stuck and are unable to move on. I always try to solve escape rooms without hints, but I did have to get a bit of assistance with one part (more on that later).

No spoilers, I promise! I methodically worked my way through the puzzles. After about 30 minutes, I got stuck on a brainteaser that I believed involved the strange eye staring from one side of the box. I twisted, tapped, and moved everything around and could not figure out what was going on with the eye. After about 20 minutes without making any progress, I reluctantly visited the hint website to get a tiny bit of help. Turns out I was right about the eye, and after working through the final riddle, I was able to successfully release Schrödinger’s cat. My total time to solve: 72 minutes.

The iDventure’s Clueboxes are a fun addition to the realm of escape rooms. The wood box is beautifully manufactured and the puzzles are a mix of relatively easy to quite difficult. I agree with the suggested age range and feel an adult would need to assist younger children. It is definitely designed for single players, though it could be a fun party game. One aspect I really like is the box can be reset to its initial state after a person finishes the escape room, which allows for others to participate in a future challenge. The solution compartment is also big enough to hold a gift certificate or little note, so you can hide a small present inside as an added bonus for escaping the room.

Cluebox is perfect for an hour or two of individual challenging fun, and it gets my seal of escape room approval!

The Search for Gold: A Treasure Island Virtual Escape Room

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Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Avast mateys! The Dread Pirate Katie has developed a new virtual escape room. It begins with a discovery in the attic, and where does it lead? TREASURE me hearties!

Adventures awaits! Click here!