Hello, detective. You’ll not know my name, but I know you, and I know your impressive reputation as a breaker of codes and solver of crimes. Well, I come offering you both. The FBI has tried to catch me with zero success. Let us see if you can do any better. In these cards I offer you four confessions, as well as the location of the crime that has been committed. Every Moriarty needs his Holmes (though not every Moriarty became that way by choice…) At any rate, let us put your wits and wisdom to test. I wish you luck, my new friend. Truly, I don’t think you know how much I wish you good luck, companion…
–Wish You Were Here
Maybe I’m a little dense. I don’t know who the real culprit is in a murder mystery even after I’ve finished reading it — I only like Sherlock Holmes stories because I can personally relate to a handsome protagonist. Still, I enjoy a good brain teaser, even if I only found out last year that the point of a crossword puzzle isn’t to connect the numbered squares with lines. That’s why I’m having so much fun poring over the puzzles by The Enigma Emporium.
Imagine if Hannibal Lecter started sending Agent Starling post cards after he’d absconded to the Bahamas, in which he hid confessions to his crimes buried under esoteric ciphers, and you get the rough idea behind an Enigma Emporium challenge. (Nothing gross, though: no flambéed flautists.) Each game is split across a set of five beautifully designed post cards that look mundane enough at first glance, but which upon closer inspection reveal several intricate, interconnected riddles. The puzzles are daunting at first, but with enough poking around and experimentation you begin to learn the trick. The people who could dig so deep rabbit hole in so few cards must be brilliant, insane, or both.
I can at least confirm that they are very nice people. The Enigma Emporium is the brain child of Khiara Foss and Logan Giannini, two Minnesotans who have loved puzzles their entire lives. Khiara buried herself in mystery books as a girl, and on more than a few occasions thwarted the best laid plans of Carmen Sandiego herself. Logan spent a hefty chunk of his childhood in constant battle with a competitive older brother over board games, and went on to develop products at a now defunct game store. The two met while working at an escape room business in Minneapolis, and, recognizing their shared interests of creating puzzles and self-employment, joined forces.
“There’s a certain rush you get from solving a problem that no one else could,” said Logan. “We all have this narcissistic compulsion to prove that we’re superior specimens through our wits alone. That said, Khiara’s and my goal isn’t to prove that we’re smart enough to make puzzles that no one else could reasonably solve. That kind of defeats the whole purpose!”
“It used to be that everything you needed to solve a puzzle was self-contained,” added Khiara. “But now that people carry around high-powered computers with access to all the information in the world, we decided to incorporate them in our puzzles. That helps us align with the younger demographic — the kids who don’t know a world without the internet — and better roots our brain-teasers in reality as well. It’s impossible to cheat in an Enigma Emporium puzzle, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still devilishly hard to solve!”
“We create a grander scope of puzzle,” continued Khiara. “You’re looking at anywhere from eight to 15 hours to solve one. It’s the perfect thing to pull out and ponder over for a few minutes here and there, or to tackle with the help of friends. And even though you can’t reuse one of our puzzles after you’ve solved it, at $15 it still provides more entertainment than a movie or most video games ever could.”
“By focusing on high quality but lightweight materials, we’ve managed to attract a global audience,” said Logan. “We ship our puzzles to the United Kingdom, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand — even to China and Japan, in spite of the language barriers. We’ve had success with brick and mortar retailers as well. Our goal is to keep growing this thing to the point where we can expand beyond post cards to include more diverse physical aspects; We have ideas for puzzles themed after lost wallets and cell phones that we’re excited to bring to life one day.”
The Enigma Emporium currently offers four postcard set puzzles: Wish You Were Here, Blowback: Wish You Were Here Pt. II, Parabola: Wish You Were Here Pt. III, and The Copycat Files. They are also developing Carte Rouge, a deck of handsome playing cards which conceals 24 distinct puzzles on its faces. To learn more about The Enigma Emporium and order their fiendish puzzles, please visit theenigmaemporium.com.
By David Scheller