Qwik-Sane: A Topological Game for Thinkers

This game was developed by James R. O’Neil after he retired from the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Although there is no trademark for QWIK-SANE: A Topological Game for Thinkers, there are patents in O’Neil’s name for other toys and games. QWIK-SANE, which sold from about 1970, is a solitaire game known as a sliding block puzzle. It is described on page 70 of Sliding Piece Puzzles by Edward Hordern (Oxford: Oxford U Press, 1986). The best known sliding block puzzle is the Fifteen Puzzle, first described in the late nineteenth century.
The QWIK-SANE game box consists of a tray and thirteen wooden blocks, eleven of which are cubes. One cube has the number 35 written on it, nine cubes have the letters that spell out THINK HARD, and one cube, referred to as “THINKER,” has an drawing resembling Rodin’s The Thinker on it. The remaining blocks are not cubes and each has a word written on one of its longer faces - QWIK-SANE on one, WFF’N PROOF on the other. Instructions for the game are printed on the cardboard game box, which also includes a leaflet listing “GAMES for THINKERS” that were available from WFF ‘N PROOF and a postcard offering a free one-year subscription to the WFF ‘N PROOF Newsletter.
At the start of the game the blocks are arranged in the two rows of the tray with the top row showing THINK QWIK-SANE 35 and the second row showing “THINKER” WFF’N PROOF HARD. Before starting, the 35 cube block is removed and “THINKER” is moved from its place at the left of the second row to the former place of the 35 cube at the right of first row. The object of the game is to move “THINKER” back to its original position by sliding blocks in exactly 35 moves of any number of blocks shifted simultaneously.
The WFF ‘N PROOF Newsletter was an outgrowth of the ALL (Accelerated Learning of Logic) Project that developed mathematical games under a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The director of ALL was Layman E. Allen of Yale University Law School, who moved to the University of Michigan with a joint appointment in the Law School and the Mental Health Research Institute in 1968. Over the years the name and location of the distributor of the QWIK-SANE changed. Price lists in the WFF ‘N PROOF Newsletters (part of the documentation in accession 317891) indicate that at first the game was distributed by WFF ‘N PROOF in New Haven, Connecticut, and sold for $1.75. In 1971 the game was distributed by WFF ‘N PROOF through Maple Packers in Turtle Creek, Pennsylvania. A firm called Learning Games Associates of Ann Arborlater took over distribution of the game and donated this example to the Smithsonian in 1975. The Accelerated Learning Foundation of Fairfield, Iowa, then became the distributor.
Games For Thinkers Website.
Currently not on view
O'Neil, James R.
Learning Games Associates
place made
United States: Michigan, Ann Arbor
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
paper (overall material)
overall: 2.25 cm x 16.5 cm x 6 cm; 7/8 in x 6 1/2 in x 2 3/8 in
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of Learning Games Associates
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Science & Mathematics
Mathematical Recreations
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center


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