Scrabble Removes 400 Offensive Words (and Tournament Players Are Freaking Out)

Pretty much everyone has at least one Scrabble friend. You know, that person who just destroys all comers by placing unlikely words and unexpected additions, snagging every last available point each turn.

I have two such friends, and their rivalry was so legendary that, during one particularly high-stakes game, the loser would have to write and perform a song celebrating the Scrabble supremacy of the victor.

And those are just Scrabble fans. Scrabble tournament players are another breed entirely.

Let me give you one example. In 2015, a guy from New Zealand won the French Scrabble Championship. Without speaking a word of French.

Yes, this guy memorized every word in the French Scrabble Dictionary and won the championship.

That is next level.

Which makes today’s news story slightly more understandable… even if it is still incredibly stupid and sad.

Mattel, the company who owns the rights to Scrabble outside North America, has come under fire for removing 400 words from the official accepted list of Scrabble words for being offensive or derogatory.

From an article published by UK outlet The Daily Star:

The company has refused to publish the list but the official word checker shows that the banned terms include epithets against black, Pakistani and Irish people as they believe the terms have no place in a family game.

The change follows a similar move by the American rights owner Hasbro and affects competition-level Scrabble, which is played by thousands of people at international tournaments.

And some competitive players claim this is overreaching by Hasbro and Mattel. In fact, three “prominent” members of WESPA, the World English-Language Scrabble Players Association, have supposedly quit competing in protest.

For the record, the Official Scrabble Dictionary, Fourth Edition contains 100,000 words. And for tournament play, the approved list of words reportedly runs as high as 278,000 words.

And these goofs are complaining about 400 offensive and derogatory words that, apparently, they simply cannot compete fairly without using.

Oh, and their argument against removing the words is equally stupid.

“Words listed in dictionaries and Scrabble lists are not slurs. They only become slurs when used with a derogatory purpose or intent, or used with a particular tone and in a particular context.” That’s according to Darryl Francis.

Who is Darryl Francis, you ask? Well, according to the Daily Star, he is “a British author who has overseen official Scrabble word lists since the 1980s.” Cool.

Well, good news for you, Darryl, that’s 400 fewer words to oversee.

According to Darryl, using the word on a Scrabble board is not offensive. Personally, I think puzzle constructor and author Eric Berlin summed up the issue perfectly in a similar discussion regarding entries like “Go OK” or “CHINK” (as in chink in one’s armor) when they appear in crossword grids:

Perhaps a good rule for this sort of thing is, if you were looking *only at the completed crossword grid* and not at the clues, what would CHINK or GOOK call to mind first?

That’s what I thought, and that’s why I would never dream of using either word in a puzzle.

The same rule should also apply to a Scrabble board. If someone strolls by and sees one of those 400 words, that reflects poorly on the game, the players, and the entire event.

And when you consider that competitive Scrabble in general has come under fire in recent years for a perceived gender bias against women, you’d think they might want to avoid further social dust-ups.

I mean, I don’t recall these same doofuses complaining when LGBTQIA+ terminology was added to the dictionary as part of a 2800-word addition to the approved list. Was that “misguided social manipulation” then? Was that bowing to political correctness?

No. It was just a chance for more points.

Guess what, folks? The Scrabble overlords giveth, and the Scrabble overlords taketh away. Such is life.

drawingroomscrabble

Oh, I nearly forgot. The other argument that has been made about removing these words from the accepted list regards the offensive words they DIDN’T remove.

Yup, Karen Richards, another member of WESPA — who helped to run the World Youth Scrabble Championship for 15 years — claims that these changes won’t make the game more family-friendly.

Why not?

Because children could still play other offensive words.

This is also a dumb argument.

That’s true. But they can’t play these offensive words, so there are fewer opportunities for these apparently slur-happy children to offend other people through the medium of Scrabble.

I wonder if she doesn’t bother to tell her children not to say the F-word, because they can just use another swear instead? I suspect not.

And I know, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers, I know. This is a very minor, very stupid thing. So why are we talking about it?

I have a few reasons:

  • One, it’s puzzly and in the news, and that’s my wheelhouse.
  • Two, I cannot resist pointing out what gets “anti-PC” people all in a huff. I mean, I’m supposed to be the snowflake here, right? So why are they freaking out?
  • And three, it amazes me that in a world where there are big, important, actual problems, some folks go nuts over .4% of their potential Scrabble words going away. (That’s out of 100,000. When we go with 400 out of 278,000, it drops to .14%)

Seriously, tournament Scrabble players, get a grip. If you can’t win without these words, you probably wouldn’t win anyway.


Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!

 

I-Got-The Christie’s: A Puzzly Crime Hashtag Game!

170831526_4007871395926244_6804303427308015657_n

You may be familiar with the board game Schmovie or hashtag games on Twitter.

For years now, we’ve been collaborating on puzzle-themed hashtag games with our pals at Penny Dell Puzzles, and this month’s hook was #PennyDellPuzzleMystery. Today’s entries all mash up Penny Dell puzzles with TV shows, movies, books, characters, concepts, and anything else that fits the mystery genre!

Examples include: Sherlock Home Runs, Two at a Crime, or The Bricks and Mortar of Roger Ackroyd.

So, without further ado, check out what the puzzlers at PuzzleNation and Penny Dell Puzzles came up with!


Agatha Crisscrosstie

Mixed Bagatha

Murder on the Easy Crossword Express

Murder, She Quote / Murder, She Quotefinds

Mary Higgins Clark’s The Shadow of your Smile

Mary Higgins Clark’s On the Stretch Letters Where You Live

Joanne Fluke’s A Cinnamon Roll Recipe Time Murder

Paige Shelton’s The Killer Maze

Perry Mason’s The Case of the Mystery Melody

The Mirror Image Crack’d from Here to There

The Secret Word of the Old Clock

The Purloined Letterboxes

The Glass Keyword

Secret Word Agent

Double Trouble Agent

Word-a-Mata Hari

Nancy Drew and the Hidden Word Squares

Nancy Drew: Double Trouble Shooter

Sorry, Wrong Number Sleuth

D.O.ABC’s

Alfred Hitchcock and the Three of a Kind Investigators

Alphagrid HitchCrackers

PsyCodeword

To Catch a Themewords

Dilemma “M” for MurDittos / Dial-A-Grams for Murder

Rear Windowboxes

The 39 Stepping Stones

John GrishAnagrams

Miss Marbles

Hercule Poirows Garden

Fill-In Marlowe

Crackerjacks Reacher

The Alphabet Soup Murders

Pretty Maids All in a Rows Garden

They Only Kill Their Masterwords

Who’s Calling the Great Chefs of Europe?

Evil Under the Sunrays

Word Trails of the Pink Panther

Against All Odds and Evens

Body Double Trouble

Se7en-Up

Along Came a Spider’s Web

The Da Vinci Codewords

Trixie Belden and the Secret Words of the Mansion

Knives Out of Place

SpyMasterwords

Whopunit

The Dresden Tiles

Arth-Here-and-Thur Conan Double-Trouble-Doyle, Word Seek Mystery Person!

He’s the WatSunrays to your Sherlock Homeruns

The Sign of the Four Corners / The Sign of Foursomes

The Man With the Twisted Blips

221 ABC’s

Alphabet Soup For Two-Twenty-One-B Baker Street

Matchmaker Street Irregulars

“…What’s Left must be the truth.”

The Seven Percent Solution is on Page 178


I’m not very familiar with the mystery genre. I’ve heard of author Sara Pairsetsky and her novels Critical Masterword and Spellbound Game, though.

APPMystery


One intrepid puzzler went above and beyond by submitting the following pun-fueled message:

I have recently begun reading an author by the name of C.J. Boxes, needless to say he writes Mystery Word Seeks and I believe that that the C.J. is short for Crackerjacks.

Boxes is best known for his Joe Picker Upper series of novels and some of my favorites are “Savage Home Runs,” “Blackouts of Range,” “Breaking Point the Way,” and of course “Vicious Circle Sums.”

Recently Boxes’ latest series featuring a pair of Montana private investigators has been picked up by ABC’s television and the show depicts Double Trouble and the detectives come Face to Face with Deduction Problems in stories such as “Pair Off Dice Game Valley” where they ultimately answer the Big Question.

I’m glad to share this with y’all.


Have you come up with any Penny Dell Puzzle Mystery entries of your own? Let us know! We’d love to see them!

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!

Squirreling Away Puzzle-Solving Skills?

squirrel puzzle wood

[Image courtesy of Southern Highland Guild.]

It was less than two months ago that we discussed whether the problem-solving puzzly skills of pigs were enough to grant them membership in the puzzle-solving creatures club, alongside catsdogscrowscockatoosoctopuses, and bees.

As it turns out, scientists have been studying “can animal x solve puzzles?” for longer than I thought. One academic paper, entitled “How to stay perfect: the role of memory and behavioural traits in an experienced problem and a similar problem,” was published back in July of 2017.

And they concluded that squirrels might be a worthy addition to the pantheon of puzzle solvers.

img_2511

According to the scientists involved:

A neophobia test in the generalisation task suggested squirrels perceived the different apparatus as a different problem, but they quickly came to apply the same effective tactics as before to solve the task… Squirrels remembered and emitted task-effective tactics more than ineffective tactics. As a result, they consistently changed from ineffective to effective behaviours after failed attempts at problem-solving.

They went on to cite previous studies involving creatures as varied as monitor lizards, Atlantic cod, spotted hyenas, lions, and goats:

With regard to returning to previously experienced task, selectivity appears to be an important factor in the success of captive lions, Panthera leo, in solving a suspended puzzle box up to 7 months after experiencing it (Borrego and Dowling 2016), in the success of goats, Capra hircus, in solving a two-step food box challenge 10 months after first experiencing it (Briefer et al. 2014)

squirrel 2

One of the main questions they were trying to answer was what role memory was playing in this puzzle-solving. Were they remembering their previous puzzly experience OR re-learning the same tactics a second time, separate from the first test? These were the parameters:

Here, we examined how memory, alongside behavioural traits, contributes to enhance problem-solving efficiency by giving five grey squirrels, firstly a previously experienced task 22 months after they had last experienced it (hereafter, the ‘recall task’), and secondly a task requiring a previously successful action to be performed in a physically different apparatus (hereafter, the ‘generalisation task’).

Nearly two years between the initial solve and the secondary test! That’s a huge chunk of time. As Dan said in the Room Escape Artist article about this study, “22 months! I could probably replay an entire escape room after 22 months and not even notice.”

But that length of time was intentional, given the test subjects involved:

Grey squirrels are also known to have good long-term memory, at least in the spatial domain: they are scatter hoarders that cache thousands of nuts during the autumn (Thompson and Thompson 1980), and they are able to relocate their own caches (Jacobs and Liman 1991) and artificial caches (Macdonald 1997) after long intervals of time.

squirrel puzzle

So, what did they find when they tested Arnold, Leonard, Sarah, Simon, and Suzy in the lab?

In our case, squirrels may pay attention to cues such as the levers that contain hazelnuts to locate which lever to solve. But unlike what has been found in tool-use studies, the use of cues did not develop with increased experience during problem-solving. Squirrels showed an immediate strong preference to contact functional levers rather than non-functional levers, both when they first encountered this puzzle box 22 months prior to this study (Chow et al. 2016) and in the first trial of the recall task. These results imply that squirrels quickly focused their attention on the reward and reward-related components of the apparatus (levers) from their first encounter with the puzzle box.

In short, applying previously learned knowledge makes them far more effective problem-solvers!

Sounds like it’s time to add squirrels to the list.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to start researching lions, hyenas, cod, monitor lizards, and any other animal studies cited in the footnotes. Clearly I have catching up to do!


Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!

PN Review: Crossword Mysteries: Riddle Me Dead

Almost two years ago, the first Crossword Mysteries movie debuted. A Puzzle to Die For introduced the puzzle world (and the mystery world) to crossword editor Tess Harper and NYPD detective Logan O’Connor, as the unlikely duo unraveled the murder of an art dealer with a crossword puzzle in his pocket.

With four follow-ups in the can (including Sunday night’s offering), it’s fair to say that Logan and Tess have carved their own little niche in the mysteries market for fans.

So, without further ado, let’s get to the latest installment in the series: Riddle Me Dead.

riddle me dead header

But first, a heads-up. I’ll recap the story below, and then give my thoughts on the whole endeavor. If you’d like to read my conclusions but skip the full recap, scroll down to the next solid black line.

Ready? Okay, let’s dig in!


FILM RECAP

rmt1

Crossword editor Tess Harper is doing video intros for Riddle Me This, a game show featuring riddles and brain teasers on a Jeopardy!-style board. Her ex-fiance Hunter, who works on the show, chats with Tess about old times during a break from shooting.

riddle me dead 5

As they stroll around outside the set, they bump into producer Dana, who checks in on them before heading to the dressing room of Riddle Me This host Aidan. But instead of Aidan, she stumbles upon the body of security guard Ian on the floor.

rmt2

Cue a very brief intro with the Crossword Mysteries logo, but none of the usual main character introductions or trappings. We get right down to business.

As Ian is helped to his feet, he says someone with brown hair attacked him from behind. But it happened so fast, there could have been two guys for all he knows. Hunter and Tess ponder the attack, and Hunter mentions it might be an obsessed Riddler. (Riddlers are what fans of the show call themselves.)

We meet more staffers for the show, including editor (and Dana’s husband) Graham. Tess hears from police detective Logan, and regretfully cancels dinner plans with him to finish filming. He’s very cute about the whole thing.

rmt3

He gets teased about it by fellow detective Amrita, and police chief Chauncey (also Logan’s father, if you’re new to the series) forcefeeds Logan some Italian food, a nice callback to the cooking classes from the last movie. He also makes the partnership between Amrita and Logan official.

Back at the Sentinel newspaper offices, Tess is talking about working on a series of crosswords with “unified themes,” and she and her assistant Sonia mention random seasonal ideas for themes. I do not know if Tess understands what a theme is.

riddle me dead 14

The conversation soon turns to Riddle Me This, and Sonia confesses that she’s a Riddler and psyched about Tess doing the show. Crime desk reporter Frank (who shares a workspace with Tess) also chimes in. Flowers arrive from Hunter, along with a riddle: A measure of time not found on a clock, but in your heart. Tess ponders the riddle.

Later, Candace and Tess are waiting in line to attend a taping of Riddle Me This. The studio is bustling with activity as a security guard ensures that all guests are on a pre-approved list.

We also see a Riddler bringing a homemade scarf for host Aiden, concerned that Aiden needed something to keep him warm. Security guard Ian accepts it, and greets Candace and Tess. Hunter shows up to take them to their seats, and Candace mentions that Hunter is the head riddle writer for the show. He asks Tess about the riddle he sent, and mentions he has a surprise for her after the show.

riddle me dead 4

Before the show starts, Tess notices host Aiden arguing with someone. Hunter introduces Aiden, who walks away from the argument and right into his hosting duties. Welcome to Riddle Me This! The crowd says the title along with the host, selling how popular the show is.

Mathew Nasr, their returning champion, has 36 wins in a row. He’s shooting for the record of 41. We get to see Tess’s video introduction from earlier as the show begins.

Mathew chooses a question, and gets one of Tess’s video puzzles: “How do you make the number seven even without addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division?” Mathew quickly buzzes in. You drop the S.

rmt5

We get a montage of Matthew stomping the competition. Some of the riddles are traditional wordplay format, like “What goes up but doesn’t come down?” Mathew answers “A person’s age.” And some of the riddles are short logical brain teasers, more akin to detective riddles. We see one last riddle from Tess: “In 1990 a person is 15 years old. In 1995, that same person is 10 years old. How can this be?” The person was born in BC and the years are counting down backwards.

riddle me dead 6

Mathew wins again today, earning $44,600. His 37-day win streak earnings total $2,252,600. The show has clearly been doing well during Mathew’s reign, as ratings are up. It’s a pleasant homage to James Holzhauer’s triumphant run on Jeopardy! in 2019.

After the show, Tess, Hunter, and Candace chat, and Marlon Freeman walks up (the man Aiden was arguing with before the show). He introduces himself as the man who writes the checks for “all this.” He compliments Tess and offers his card. Candace and Hunter fawn over this, talking about Tess having found a potential new career.

rmt6

Hunter walks them to Aiden’s dressing room, and the door is ajar, so everyone can hear Aiden being a jerk to Sally the staffer and firing her. Hunter reassures Sally as she walks away in tears. When he meets Candace and Tess, Aiden is pleasant, but curt, and cuts Candace off before leaving with Hunter, inviting them to hang out in his dressing room. They acknowledge that he’s a phony clod, far from the genial host facade he presents in public.

Logan arrives with flowers for Tess. The security guard radios to Ian to ask Dana for approval, but Ian instead finds Aiden down on the floor of the stage. Logan runs in to investigate, and we see that Aidan appears to have been choked with the scarf from the Riddler.

rmt7

Freeman, Sally the staffer, Hunter, Tess, Candace, Dana, and Graham all arrive, and Logan tells them the set is an active crime scene. Aiden is dead.

COMMERCIAL BREAK!

As CSIs document the scene, Chauncey confirms Aiden was strangled to death. They mention that the leverage required — and the amount of time it takes to asphyxiate someone — indicates the suspect is probably male.

Logan talks to Ian about the break-in the day before and finding Aiden’s body. We cut back and forth between that interview and Chauncey talking to Mathew, who claims he was alone, prepping for the next taping. Ian mentions the staff ID tags allow access everywhere, but their usage is logged in the system. Logan requests a list of staff and audience members in attendance for the show. Mathew mentions his only interactions with Aiden were on-camera, because game show standards and practices forbid contact between the contestant and crew to avoid any chance of cheating.

rmt4

Logan talks to Dana about the scarf, and Dana says Aiden had thrown it in the trash can near where his body was found. When asked about her whereabouts during the murder, Dana claims she was alone in her office going over tapes, and then with her husband in editing.

Now we finally get the pairing we’ve been waiting to see, as Logan talks to Hunter about being the last person to see Aiden alive. Hunter replies, “Except the killer, you mean.” Hunter mentions that Aiden gave him his big break, and he owes his career to Aiden. Hunter’s dismay at being considered a suspect is quite evident.

In Aiden’s dressing room, Logan asks Tess about Hunter, and she’s sure he didn’t do it. She mentions “we used to date,” slyly omitting their engagement. There’s no way this information will be revealed in an awkward manner later, no sirree.

Amrita talks to the Sally the staffer, who says she was in the alley getting some air after being fired, and she saw someone leave the studio, a tall blond. She leaves to pack her things.

riddle me dead 13

Chauncey, Amrita, and Logan sum up what they have: a tall blond spotted, a brown-haired guy who attacked Ian the day before, and the security camera system is down for an upgrade, so no footage.

Later, Tess comforts a teary-eyed Hunter, who hugs her. Logan sees all of this. Tess mentions that Logan was really quick to respond to the call of Aidan’s death, and he says he was in the area. Awww, you poor slob. Tell her about the flowers already.

The next day, Tess and Sonia talk about a fan forum for Riddle Me This. Most of the fans are devastated by Aiden’s death, but one poster repeatedly mentions how pompous Aiden is. Sonia mentions she’s friends with one of the forum moderators, and will press for more details about the aggressive poster.

Glad they’re surfing the internet rather than working on her crosswords. WHAT OF THE UNIFIED THEMES, TESS?!

COMMERCIAL BREAK!

rmt8

We see Sally the staffer walking through an alley, and she’s stopped by Amrita and Logan. There’s no evidence on street cameras nearby of a guy leaving the studio. She claims she was wrong and he went the other way. They’re suspicious of her. Back at the station, they can’t confirm her story, because of a lack of cameras on the street in that direction.

Also, sharp-eyed viewers catch a cameo of Officer Will Shortz in photo form on the wall!

Logan looks at the ID tag records for the studio and finds one for thirty minutes before Aiden’s death, but with no name attached. They head to the studio to investigate.

rmt9

At the studio, we see Hunter and Graham working in the editing room, and Tess arrives with treats. Tess bonds with Graham over his baseball memorabilia. She brought cookies because Hunter used to crave chocolate when he was stressed. He’s touched she remembered. They chat about the show’s questionable future now that Aiden is gone.

Hunter mentions that a few months before, a former contestant claimed the show was conspiring with Mathew Nasr to keep his win streak alive. But an investigation by Standards and Practices found no evidence to support the accusation.

riddle me dead 2

Logan and Amrita arrive, and awkwardness ensues! When Hunter offers a cookie, Logan says he’s allergic to chocolate, and Tess says she didn’t know that. Hunter drops that he and Tess used to be engaged. Amrita, like many of us, is totally here for the drama. Amrita and Logan exit, looking for Dana’s office, and Tess follows to try to mitigate the awkwardness, leaving Hunter with his cookies.

But even though they were only a few feet ahead of her, we don’t see her again for a while. Weird.

rmt10

Logan asks producer Dana about the ID tag usage, and she suggests they ask Ian. All four meet outside, and Ian confesses he made an ID at Aiden’s request about a week ago, but he doesn’t know who Aiden wanted it for. Dana is pissed. When Ian leaves, she explains to the detectives how erratic Aiden had been over the last few weeks, including walking in with a bruised eye at one point.

She also happens to mention that the only person close to Aiden was Hunter, and that they often had dinner together, and even traveled to Vegas together the year prior. Chauncey calls with further exposition; he pulled Aiden’s financials, and the host was flat broke.

COMMERCIAL BREAK!

rmt11

We see Candace and Chauncey at their latest cooking class. He’s looking forward to the next set of classes, but Candace says she’ll have to bow out due to her work schedule as a therapist. Chauncey is clearly sad, but understands, because John Kapelos is the best.

rmt12

[That’s a lot of clues for a half-filled grid.]

Tess is working on a baseball-themed puzzle — though the theme doesn’t seem very unified if you ask me — when Sonia offers her a stack of printouts with comments from the aggressive Riddle Me This forum poster, TheKid324.

riddle me dead 17

They have the poster’s IP address and Frank tracks it to Williamsburg. Tess says that’s where the Riddle Me This studio is located.

At the police station, Chauncey, Logan, and Amrita discuss Aiden spending lots of time in Atlantic City and Vegas. Tess arrives with the posts, and Amrita, being a pal, greets her by name to warn an unsuspecting Logan. She and Chauncey then make themselves scarce so Logan and Tess can chat.

She mentions that TheKid324 is a baseball reference, which points to Graham Miller, the editor. Logan thanks her for the info, but is clearly cold with her.

rmt13

Tess apologizes for not mentioning her engagement to Hunter, but is displeased when Logan says he thinks Hunter is hiding something. Tess calls him the most cynical person she’s ever met.

Tess, you have met killers and failed magicians. That cannot possibly be true.

Back at the Sentinel, Tess is reading up on the contestant who accused the show of cheating, Thomas Sprows. Tess decides to pretend to be writing an article about the cheating accusations for the paper, so she can finagle time with Sprows to see his reaction to Aiden’s death.

At the studio, Logan and Hunter talk about Aiden’s financials, and Hunter mentions a regular poker game Aiden attended with a five-figure buy-in.

rmt14

Logan startles editor Graham, who always seems to be watching Tess’s footage. Logan confronts him with the posts from TheKid324, and Graham claims it was just him venting about Aiden, upset that fans thought he was great when in reality, he was a petty, cruel jerk. When asked why he continued to work for Aiden, he claims he only stayed to spend time with Dana, because otherwise, he’d never see her. Aiden works her like a dog.

Logan wants a copy of his hard drive to confirm he was working at the time of Aiden’s murder, and then he gets a call, because it’s time for him to randomly cross paths with Tess again.

rmt15

Cut to Sonia and Tess, playing reporter with Thomas Sprows. He claimed that Mathew Nasr got ten Double Up Dilemmas (Riddle Me This’s version of a Daily Double) for every other contestant’s one opportunity, implying that Nasr knew where they were hidden on the board. He suggests there was some code to tell him where they were, but he couldn’t find it.

Logan arrives, and as soon as he tries to talk to Sprows, Sprows bolts.

rmt16

Logan gives chase. Sprows hilariously tries to dissuade Logan’s pursuit by throwing down trash cans and garbage that Logan easily avoids. Another cop quickly nabs him, and we find out he’s Sally the staffer’s boyfriend.

COMMERCIAL BREAK!

In interrogation, Sprows admits to searching Aiden’s dressing room for evidence that he was colluding with Mathew Nasr, and that he was the one who attacked the security guard. But he denies murdering Aiden. Sally talks to Amrita, and she confesses to lying about the tall blond because she couldn’t be sure that Thomas didn’t come back the next day to hurt Aiden. But she claims Aiden has an alibi for the murder, so her lie was unnecessary.

rmt17

In the hopes of cooperating to help her boyfriend, she also tells Amrita she overheard Aiden saying on the phone, “when I leave the table, he’ll be the one owing me $75,000.” Aiden was massively in debt to someone at his poker game.

Logan and Tess are walking and talking — with no sign of the earlier engagement revelation awkwardness — and Logan mentions that Sprows’s alibi checks out. Also, Sally wasn’t tall enough to be the one who strangled Aiden. Whoever did it was taller than him.

Tess and Logan then chat about famous game show scandals, and whether Nasr and Aiden were colluding. When Logan mentions that Hunter could be involved, Tess again defends him.

rmt18

Later, Dana hands Tess a thumbdrive with every episode Nasr competed on, and Tess confesses looking into Sprows’s allegations. Dana is understandably defensive about this, making the common sense argument that Nasr finds more Double Up Dilemmas because he answers more questions. She adds that Aiden didn’t know where the “DDs” were located until they were revealed during tapings.

Dana then gives Tess directions out of the building, which weirdly include crossing the show’s set. Tess is on set when the lights suddenly come on, and then one plummets toward her. She dives out of the way, and it crashes to the stage floor.

rmt19

Should I pun here? Okay. It was almost lights out for Tess!

COMMERCIAL BREAK!

Logan and Amrita talk to an undercover cop about possible high-end poker games Aiden could be involved with, then he gets a call about the attack on Tess.

When he arrives, Tess mentions there was someone in the control booth, so it wasn’t an accident. Hunter and Logan both offer to take her home, but then Aunt Candace arrives to do so. Logan presses Hunter about security on set during the attack, but with the show shut down, they’ve cut back on staff. The only people around were Dana, some assistants, Graham, and Nasr.

rmt20

Logan and Amrita discuss that, with Tess investigating the cheating allegations, the person with the most to lose is Mathew Nasr. So they talk to the arrogant game show contestant. Nasr mentions he intends to go home to Oklahoma since the show is dark, and they press him about everything he’d lose if the cheating accusations were true.

He counters by pointing them toward Dana, claiming Aiden torpedoed a job offer for her. She wanted to take a job in LA, and Aiden threatened to nuke her career with “a few phone calls.”

Apparently, Dana leaving would be enough proof that Aiden’s poor behavior was a problem, and it would jeopardize Aiden’s contract negotiations. Nasr then smugly shoulder-checks Logan, and I was really hoping they’d pin him to the floor for assaulting an officer. Alas, they did not.

rmt21

We also spot a poster in the background for the fake program SHORTZ ON SPORTS, our second Will Shortz photo cameo of the episode.

rmt22

Tess visits with Aunt Candace, who confesses that she called off cooking classes with Chauncey because she feels guilty about enjoying things without her late husband. Tess advises her to be honest with Chauncey, and the conversation shifts to the subject of her, Hunter, and Logan.

Tess confesses she knows how she feels about Logan, but doesn’t know where she stands with Logan. (And I can hear the shippers cheering across the Internet, rooting for Logan and Tess.) Aunt Candace doubles down, telling her niece maybe Logan is waiting for a sign from Tess.

Later, Tess is watching the thumbdrive shows on fast forward when Hunter arrives with food. During dinner, he mentions that Tess breaking off their engagement was a good thing, helping him find perspective. He again asks about the riddle with the flowers, and she thinks the answer is “a second chance.” He doesn’t press her for more, and they continue eating dinner.

rmt23

(For the record, if that IS Hunter’s intended solution for the riddle, it’s a terrible one. It’s not a measure of time at all.)

At the police station, Chauncey, Logan, and Amrita discuss fingerprints found around the control room, and it turns out Nasr’s fingerprints were there. They find him preparing to leave, and take him in.

COMMERCIAL BREAK!

In interrogation, Nasr smugly mentions that he’s been around the set for weeks, so it’s reasonable for his prints to be there. Logan counters that producer Dana says there’s absolutely no reason for him to have been anywhere near the control room. Nasr claims he was taking pictures to show the school AV club he mentors back in Oklahoma.

rmt24

Chauncey argues with Logan that they can’t hold Nasr, despite Logan’s suspicions. Logan is clearly heated because of the attempt on Tess’s life. They mention there was a 10-minute window where Graham was away from his computer, but that it isn’t enough time to get from the edit suite, kill Aiden, and get back.

Amrita interrupts their shouting to tell them they found Aiden’s poker game, but they need a known high-roller or someone with name value to get in. Chauncey suggests Tess, which Logan is strongly against. Amrita asks him to suggest someone else. (What about officer Will Shortz?)

Tess is still watching Riddle Me This on fast forward, and complains she can’t spot anything. DUDE, IT’S ON FAST FORWARD. HOW THE HELL ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO NOTICE ANYTHING?

riddle me dead 15

Logan arrives, and we find out Tess has a monthly Texas Hold ‘Em Game “with the girls.” WHAT? Tess’s random hobbies and their connections to crimes are getting a little ridiculous here.

Logan explains the plan to Tess, mentioning that she’s in six million papers worldwide, and she could be their recognizable high-roller. She accepts.

Cut to the seedy warehouse where the game takes place, and Tess arriving in a white van with Logan and Amrita. Not suspicious at all. Tess wears a hidden earpiece so she can hear Logan, and they mention her bracelet, another callback to a previous episode. She gets $20,000 from them as her buy-in for the game.

rmt25

The warehouse has a weird nightclub feel with purple lighting, and Tess hands over the money. Big crossword money. You know how it is.

rmt26

Tess walks up to the table with various suited and serious-looking gentlemen, and sits down. She looks at her cards, holding them way too high. Rookie move, Tess. Come on, guard your hand a little. She throws away pocket aces, then throws away King, Queen suited, in order to prolong her time at the table When poked by one of players, she raises $5k on a Jack-2 off-suit. WHAT?

rmt27

The guy doubles her raise, and she goes all-in, bluffing him out of the hand. Risky, but not a terrible play early on. She then shows him the bluff, which mildly impresses him. He starts talking.

She then immediately overplays her social game by mentioning Aiden being in debt. He pushes her for information, bluffing about playing cards with Aiden in a different game. The guy pushes, saying if Aiden was playing anywhere else, he would know, since Aiden owed him money. Their security guy holds Tess in her seat. Logan and Amrita keep getting static, so they head for the building. Will they get there in time?

COMMERCIAL BREAK!

Tess tries to flee, but the thug holds her. (IMDb lists his character name as The Mountain, which is hilarious.)

rmt28

Amrita and Logan arrive with guns drawn, and they bring in Joseph Cheever, the guy who threatened Tess. Back in interrogation, Cheever mentions that Aiden couldn’t place a bet anywhere else, so he let him into his poker games. The ID Aiden requested was for him, so he could come to Aiden whenever needed to take his bets.

He mentions Aiden had some plan to make good on his debt, something about the game show and his new contract. It turns out Aiden signed over his car to Cheever as collateral for his latest bet.

The next day, Tess meets with Marlon Freeman and asks about the argument she saw before the show. He says that he told Aiden that he could be replaced. And it turns out, Hunter went to him a week before Aiden’s death and suggested himself as a possible replacement for Aiden. After a “respectful” period off-air, the show will return with Hunter as host, since Mathew Nasr is still going for the record.

riddle me dead 7

Chauncey and Candace meet up, and she admits to lying to him about her work schedule. They commiserate over previous opportunities lost, and both admit how much fun they’ve been having lately. In short, Chauncey is great about the whole, and she suggests salsa dancing as their next activity, since the cooking class is full. He counters with bowling, and she accepts. Because John Kapelos is THE BEST.

Logan talks with Tess, and she says she couldn’t find anything in the episodes that shows Aiden and Nasr cheating. SHOCKER. As they chat, they eliminate Graham, Nasr, and Cheever as suspects, leaving Dana and Hunter on the table.

rmt29

She mentions Hunter angling for Aiden’s job, then spots two people talking in sign language, and one of them repeatedly doing a knocking motion. She bolts on Logan, having a eureka moment in progress.

rmt30

She goes back to the footage of the show, and sees Aiden tapping his cards on the podium a few times. Tess shows Dana footage where Aiden holds out a number of fingers, then taps the cards, indicating where the Double Up Dilemmas are located on the board. And Hunter is the only one who knows where the DDs are located.

Hunter is in the doorway for this revelation, and says “I can explain.”

rmt31

FINAL COMMERCIAL BREAK!

Hunter claims it was Aiden’s plan, stating that Nasr was smart enough to go for the record. Hunter felt he owed it to Aiden. And the ratings of the show increased as Nasr’s streak went on. But he says he didn’t kill Aiden.

Hunter promises the show will be on the level when he’s in charge, but Tess leaves, saying she’ll do what Hunter should have done all along. Tess calls Logan as Hunter looks on.

Cut to interrogation with Hunter and Logan. Hunter claims Graham saw him going into Nasr’s dressing room to give him the next set of DD locations, and that’s why he couldn’t have killed Aiden. Chauncey and Amrita ask why Graham would protect Nasr and Hunter’s secrets, and Logan concludes it’s because it helps him conceal a bigger secret: Graham killed Aiden.

But Tess hasn’t wandered into enough hornet’s nests on this show yet, so we find her returning the thumbdrive to Graham and mentioning that Nasr and Aiden were cheating. She looks away at the worst possible moment as Graham shuts the door and locks it.

rmt32

Realizing she’s in danger, she tells him the cops already know, trying to dissuade him from attacking with the scissors in his hand. But he doesn’t believe her, and he lunges. She dodges and flees, and he follows after clumsily stabbing his desk chair. Tess runs to the set, and has the wherewithal to push “record” on the tech director’s control board before hiding.

rmt33

Graham smugly walks out onto set, talking about Aiden threatening Dana’s career. He recalls seeing Cheever take Aiden’s car. Aiden threatens to implicate Dana in the cheating plot, and Graham chokes him with the scarf. Tess tries to escape the set, and narrowly avoids a slashing by Graham.

rmt34

She flees into the hall, and Graham is stopped at gunpoint by Amrita and Logan.

The four protagonists gather as Graham is loaded into a squad car, and Amrita mentions Graham confessed to dropping the light, trying to scare Tess off. They also mention that Dana knew nothing of the cheating scandal.

riddle me dead 16

Later at the Sentinel, Sonia laments that Riddle Me This has been cancelled. Tess says that Hunter has been banned from working on game shows, but has gotten a book deal to write the Riddle Me This tell-all. She seems disgusted by the whole thing.

Later still, Logan shows up at Tess’s place with food. They are cutesy-cozy while eating on the couch, a very different visual from her sitting at the table earlier in the film with Hunter. He tells her he’s sorry that Hunter disappointed her, and says that Tess interfering with his murder case was the best thing that ever happened to him.

And she kisses him. (And the Internet rejoices!)

He confesses that he doesn’t want to let her down. She says he won’t. And they cuddle up.

rmt35

The End.


CONCLUSION

Honestly, I think this was one of their best outings yet. The murder was nicely set up, with LOTS of potential characters and a properly hateable victim. Playing games with the audience by introducing the threat of Hunter was a little cruel, but also a nice narrative catalyst to finally bring Logan and Tess together after five installments in the series.

It would have been nice to push the riddle thing a bit more as a unifying theme to the mystery. Not something as hokey as the killer taunting them with clues, but maybe Tess alluding to famous riddles like The Lady or The Tiger as connective tissue.

Plus they never really closed the loop on Hunter’s riddle. “A measure of time not found on a clock, but in your heart.” “Heartbeat” as an answer sounds right to me, and would have been a nice wrap-up, particularly with Tess resting her head on Logan’s chest at the end of the episode.

But still, the plot moved briskly, there were some enjoyably silly moments (like Tess playing spy in the poker game), and nothing ever felt too contrived.

As always, there are some holes. (Like there being no way to remotely drop a light on someone from the control room of a studio.) The big one is the ten minutes that precluded Graham from committing the murder. I wonder if something was cut for time, because it feels like they got the killer wrong on this one.

Graham somehow had time to see Hunter AND Mathew’s secret, then stumble upon Aiden and Cheever’s deal, talk to Aiden, murder him, AND get back to the edit suite, all in the ten minute window the cops said wasn’t long enough for him to simply kill Aiden and get back to work?

Sounds to me like Graham took the fall for Dana. She was tall enough to kill Aiden (whereas Graham appeared too short, according to forensics), never had an alibi, and sent Tess to the set where Graham tried to drop a light on her. Plus Graham stupidly continued posting ugly comments online about Aiden even after his death. It sure seems like someone both protecting his wife and acting to draw suspicion on himself.

And it looks like it worked.

But enough armchair theorizing.

All in all, I thought this was a very quick, enjoyable watch, with some nice moments for the entire cast. With two Shortz cameos and lots of quality John Kapelos time, this one was a win.


What is the future of the Crossword Mysteries series?

Well, IMDb does have a listing for a sixth Crossword Mysteries outing, but no details are listed yet, so I guess we’ll have to wait.

But after finally getting a Logan/Tess kiss, I suspect fans will be clamoring for more.

As for me, I’m still clamoring for the all-Will-Shortz version I pitched.

In either case, do not fret, puzzle fans. There’s more of Tess and Logan to come.


Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!

A Crossword Roundup: 10,000 Days of Shortz, The Crossword Mysteries, and ACPT!

Hello crossword fans! In today’s post I just wanted to offer a quick little roundup of crossword-related items and stories, so I’ve got three for you today.

shortzoffice

Firstly, I’d like to congratulate Will Shortz on editing his 10,000th crossword! (Approximately. It’s actually his 10,000th day as editor, which is still a very impressive number!)

Friend of the blog Deb Amlen interviewed Will to mark the occasion, and it offers a nice little snapshot of Will’s career as editor of The New York Times crossword, as well as some insight into the man behind the puzzle.

There are also some intriguing stats included in the interview. This one caught my eye:

The Times is publishing more teen constructors than ever before. In the whole history of the Times Crossword up to me, only six teenagers are known to have had crosswords in the paper. I’ve published 46 teens so far, with two more coming up this month.

46 teens! That’s amazing.

Problem-solving-crossword

Of course, the part that’s getting a lot of traction online is this quote: “I read all but one of the daily crossword blogs”

Now, I hesitate to bring this part up, because there’s virtually no way to discuss it without sounding like I’m picking a side. It’s not hard to deduce what daily blog Will is referring to here — plenty of others have made the connection already — and the presumed writer of that blog responded to the comment in typically salty fashion, as did his many fans and readers.

I choose not to wade into that particularly turbulent Internet space, which is why I’m not naming names or providing links. If you are that interested, it’s not hard to find them.

But I DO want to say that there are plenty of terrific crossword blogs out there, big and small, that all add to the daily crossword discussion in important ways. Some are more critical than others. Some are acerbic to the point of being fairly unpleasant to read regularly. But there’s definitely a blog out there about the Times daily crossword for you.

In any case, congratulations to Will Shortz on 10,000 days as the most recognizable name in crosswords. Other than Brian Eno, Yoko Ono, Bobby Orr, Mel Ott, Rip Torn, Oona Chaplin…

Anyway, congrats on being A recognizable name in crosswords. =)

Speaking of recognizable names and crosswords, the fifth Crossword Mysteries movie will be premiering Sunday night, April 11th, at 8 PM Eastern! It is entitled Riddle Me Dead, and here’s the plot synopsis:

Tess gets invited to be part of a popular game show, but when the host is unexpectedly murdered, she and Detective Logan O’Connor try to discover who was behind it all.

Not only that, but Hallmark Movies & Mysteries is running a Crossword Mysteries marathon all day, starting at noon, so you can catch up on all things Tess Harper and Logan O’Connor before the newest entry in the series debuts that night!

Of course, you could also just read the four posts about the movies that I’ve written for the blog here, here, here, and here. Just saying.

acptlogo

Finally, I’ll cap off this trifecta of crossword-related notes by reminding you that registration is open for this year’s American Crossword Puzzle Tournament! The tournament is running from April 23rd through the 25th, complete with all sorts of events!

The tournament has gone virtual this year, so if you’ve ever thought about entering the tournament and testing your puzzly skills, this is the perfect opportunity for you. The deadline to register is Friday, April 23rd, noon Eastern.

There are sample puzzles to try out as well!

Will you be attending ACPT this year, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers? Or tuning in for the latest Crossword Mysteries film? What do you think of 10,000 days of Will Shortz-edited NYT crosswords? Let us know in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you.


Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!

How Outdated Is Too Outdated in Crosswords?

One of the biggest complaints levied at crosswords in general involves the vocabulary often employed to fill the grid.

Whether you call it crosswordese, obscure trivia, outdated vocabulary, or intentional gatekeeping through language, it’s a problem some solvers never overcome, contributing to a negative, exclusionary reputation for crosswords.

Let’s talk about the two extremes first. I genuinely believe that there’s no intentional gatekeeping in crosswords. There are ongoing efforts to include more women, more voices of color, and more LGBTQIA+ creators in construction, and even constructing equipment is becoming more affordable through efforts like Crossworthy Construct.

But not knowing common crossword parlance is a barrier to enjoying crosswords.

There is work to put in for new solvers to get up to speed in crosswords. Those common crossword words and names that we take for granted — ETUI, ALEE, OLIO, ARIA, ICER, and more — represent the combined breadth and history of grid construction in crosswords. Those are the words you learn as part of your process to become a better solver, building a personal lexicon of crosswordese.

So where is the line? When does something pass from “charmingly difficult crosswordese” to “off-putting irrelevancy”?

In essence, how obscure is too obscure? How long can an old clue/entry linger without feeling outdated or exclusionary to new solvers?

It’s a good question, one that’s not not so easy to answer.

How long do we refer to “vamp” THEDA BARA, when her heyday was farther and farther back with every passing day?

How long do we continue to reference the Aral Sea, considering that there practically is no Aral Sea anymore? It’s mostly the Aralkum Desert now.

When it becomes part of history, is it acceptable? After all, calling Tokyo “Edo” or referring to Iran as “Persia, once” happens all the time.

Obviously, outdated terminology or obscure words aren’t as big an issue in crosswords as genuinely exclusionary and offensive entries, but it’s still a topic worth discussing, because it prevents the community from growing.

New entries, fresh entries, entries that speak to other members of the population… they have incredible value. Seeing yourself and your culture, your heroes, your history, your slang represented in crosswords builds a bond between you and the art of puzzling itself.

I’m sure outdated references and obscurities will never truly go away. Some of those letter combinations are just too valuable to constructors.

But it will be interesting to see how crosswordese and those potentially gatekeeping words change and evolve as we press forward.

Maybe in 30 or 40 years, “crosswordese” as a whole will feel more inclusive. One can only hope.


Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!