The Allure of Puzzlement: Pretty Much Pop #34 w/ Adal Rifai on Escape Rooms and Other Puzzling Pastimes

The com­ic and the trag­ic are well-estab­lished modes with­in enter­tain­ment, but what about the puz­zling? Rid­dles may have been a chief pas­time in days of yore (well, they’re fea­tured in Oedi­pus and The Hob­bit, any­way), but does this way of being enter­tained have a place in today’s age of mass media?

Impro­vis­er and pod­cast­er Adal Rifai joins Mark Lin­sen­may­er, Eri­ca Spyres, and Bri­an Hirt to dis­cuss his love of escape rooms, rid­dles, and oth­er oppor­tu­ni­ties for puz­zle­ment. We dis­cuss lat­er­al vs. algo­rith­mic think­ing, group dynam­ics, com­par­isons to impro­vi­sa­tion and triv­ia, rid­dle types, video games, and more. Some puz­zle-rel­e­vant films we touch on include Escape Room, Cube, The Game, and Mid­night Mad­ness.

Some resources we used to pre­pare include:

Adal’s two oth­er pod­casts are Hel­lo From the Mag­ic Tav­ern and Sib­lings Pec­u­lar. Fol­low him @adalrifai. He per­forms reg­u­lar­ly on Whirled News Tonight at Chicago’s IO The­ater.

Every Pret­ty Much Pop episode includes bonus, post-episode dis­cus­sion, and this time Adal stayed around for a lit­tle more on escape rooms (can they engage all five sens­es?) and quite a bit more on pod­cast­ing, includ­ing the paraso­cial rela­tion­ships that lis­ten­ers may have with pod­cast hosts. This was suf­fi­cient­ly fun that we’d like to share it with all of you, in hopes that you might then want to hear this for all our our episodes by sup­port­ing us at

This pod­cast is part of the Par­tial­ly Exam­ined Life pod­cast net­work.

Pret­ty Much Pop: A Cul­ture Pod­cast ( is curat­ed by Open Cul­ture. Browse all Pret­ty Much Pop posts or start with the first episode.

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.