We struggle with puzzles. All those little interlocking pieces drive us mad. Mad! Imagine the anxiety attack the Shmuzzle Puzzle -- which features hundreds of identical lizard-shaped pieces -- triggers. The puzzles recently hit local shops, and the man responsible for them -- Sam Savage -- comes to town on Friday to talk about his pet project. "Shmuzzling gives you a new sensation," says the San Francisco-based college professor, who used to race cars, sing folk songs, and fly a glider, among other things. "It's not like sex; it won't change your life. But it is new, and how many new sensations are there in life?"
Savage came up with Shmuzzles 25 years ago, influenced by M.C. Escher's symmetrically screwy graphic designs. After a short run, manufacturing was halted because of production costs. Modern technology now makes them available to irritate folks all over again.
One side of the puzzle features a picture; the other side, with colorful lizards, is capable of linking in a trillion different ways, says Savage. "It translates some weird geometrical theorem," he says. "But it's fun." Savage demonstrates Shmuzzles from 10:30 a.m. to noon at Itz-a-Puzzle in Fairlawn (3265 West Market Street; 330-864-2774) and from 1 to 3 p.m. at Itz-a-Puzzle in Strongsville (500 South Park Center; 440-572-4473). Both are free. -- Michael Gallucci
Pretty Hate Machine
Comely singer rages against an ugly industry.
Folk-rocker Lily Holbrook harpoons America's "plastic Playboy-bunny facade" on her sophomore CD, Everything Was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt. The song "Bleed," she says, is about her "shock and sadness at how many people undergo plastic surgery." And on "Make Them Wonder," the Boston native sings about the porn industry. The twentysomething singer-songwriter wrote the tune after she relocated to L.A. two years ago. "It seemed like there were people trying to convince me to become the next Britney Spears," she says. "The song was written in protest to that conformist mentality." But even she sometimes questions her looks. "On the one hand, I struggle with insecurities," she says. "On the other hand, I feel shallow for caring about such things." Holbrook performs at 8:30 p.m. Thursday at Wilbert's, 812 Huron Road. Admission is $5, available by calling 216-902-4663. -- Cris Glaser
The Art of Abs
Belly dancer wants you to keep your eyes on her tummy.
Leyla Soleil says you should get your mind out of the gutter when you watch her at Friday's Passion of Belly Dance. "Some people tend to think it has something to do with exotic dancing or stripping," she says. "But there's no resemblance." With a dozen other performers, Soleil and her eight-year-old daughter demonstrate the American tribal, Egyptian, and Lebanese styles of belly dancing. "It's like ballet or jazz," says Soleil. "It's something that we do from our hearts and take very seriously. Don't expect anything sleazy or erotic." Dancing is at 8 and 10 p.m. and 12:15 a.m. at the Lime Spider, 207 South Main Street in Akron. Tickets are $7; call 330-762-2350. -- Cris Glaser
Rubbed the Right Way
Dona Hardy can't decide what's more relaxing at Thursday's Beauty Bar: a Skyy 90 martini or a masseuse's hands. "One tastes good, and the other feels good," she says. Most weeks, Hardy takes advantage of the night's specials -- from free massages and manicures to slashed prices on martinis. "They work on stiff shoulders," says Hardy. "I work on stiff drinks." Unwind from 7 to 10 p.m. at Bossa Nova, 26801 Chagrin Boulevard in Woodmere Village. Admission is free; call 216-591-9559. -- Cris Glaser