Pun for the Road: Puzzle Drinks!

Oh yes, it’s that time again! It’s time to unleash our puzzly and punny imaginations and engage in a bit of sparkling wordplay!

You may be familiar with the board game Schmovie, hashtag games on Twitter, or @midnight’s Hashtag Wars segment on Comedy Central.

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 #PennyDellPuzzleDrinks, mashing up Penny Dell puzzles with beverages, drinks, thirst-quenchers, and aperitifs, both alcoholic and nonalcoholic!

Examples include: HopScotch, Mojito-at-a-Time, and Sunrays-D.

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


All Mixed Up Drinks!

ZinfanDell

Crossword App-letini

Lemon Drop-Ins

Beer and There WS

Mixed Drinks: Sixes on the Beach

Hex(agrams) on the Beach

Word Seeks on the Beach

Long Island Roll of the Diced Tea

WhisKeyword

Sloe Gin Fill-Ins / Fill-Gin

Crypto Lime Rickey

Angostura Bits & Pieces

Mud Slide-o-gram / Mudslide-O-Rama / Mudslide Rule

Perfect Fit Schnapps

Schnapps-lines

Capri Sunrays

Tequila Sunrays

Tequilabyrinth

Pine Cone-lada

7 & 7-UP

Mezcalators

Mai Tie-In / Mai Tai-In

Family Mai Tais

Gimlet-terboxes / Take a Gimletter

Blue cura-countdowns

Anagram-aretto

Vodkakuro

HeinekenKen

Camouflager

JigSake Puzzle

Give and Sake

A to Zima-ze

Quilting Zombee

Bar-Tiles & Jaymes

Blackout! Russian

Blackout and Tan

Black and Tanglewords

Cosmopolitanglewords

Highball Scorer

Five Alive Twists

Apple InCiders

Bubbles Tea

Punch Bowl Game

V-8 Words

Red Bull’s Eye Spiral

Grand Pour

SyllaBubbles

Letter Powerade

Half and Halftime

Crosswords Club soda


Two Puzzly Drinks for the Price of One!

Sam Add-One Boston Longer Division

Crypto-Lime Rickeyword

Drummerman and Cokakuro

Lucky Score-pion Bowl Game


L’Drinkwords!

Baristar Words

Fair Trade-Off

Wine Connoisseur

Mixed Drink Bag

Mixer Master

Hey bartender, Fill ‘Er Up!

Five Twists of Lime

Name Blended Whiskeys

Top Shelf to Bottoms Up

Are we going to get Scorecarded for ordering any of these drinks?

Candy is dandy, but liquor is Quicker Quotes.

It’s Your Move
Puzzler
Add One


There was also a submission that deserves its own section, as one of our intrepid puzzlers went above and beyond by reimagining a classic tippler’s tune:

99 Bubbles of beer on Quotefalls, 99 Bubbles of beer, you take 1 Down, pass it In and Around, 98 Bubbles of beer on Quotefalls . . .


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

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Streets of Steel: An Early Look at a Kickstarter Campaign to Follow!

We’ve covered many interesting and ambitious Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns over the years, each with their puzzly goals and aspirations. Some reinvent an old classic, while others forge a new path by creating a unique solving experience.

The subject of today’s post is doing a little of both. Enjoy as we delve into the world of Streets of Steel!

Streets of Steel endeavors to capture the spirit of ’80s 8-bit Nintendo fighting classics like Streets of Rage or River City Ransom, all while creating an engrossing play experience built around cooperative combat.

As a huge fan of games like this (particularly the Double Dragon franchise, which has a similar gameplay style), I was immediately intrigued by the idea of translating the side-scrolling video game experience to the tabletop realm.

Check out this intro from the Kickstarter page for the game:

Steel City has fallen into disarray. You and your crew must clean up the streets in this 1-4 player SideScrollin Co-Op boardgame

A generation ago, Steel City was a shining beacon of cooperation, peace and prosperity. Neighbors cleaned up after their dogs. Graffiti rarely used offensive language. PTA meeting attendance was high. Then, the Disaster struck. Now, Steel City is a mere shadow of its former glory. Roving bands of thugs terrorize honest citizens. Evil corporations dump toxic waste in the street. PTA meeting attendance is low.

Tired and fed up, a few brave Steel City heroes have banded together to stem the tide of carnage. YOU are one of those heroes. YOU will clean up these STREETS OF STEEL.

The campaign has already reached its funding goal, and now supporters continue pushing the total higher, reaching several stretch goals that increase the quality of game pieces and add new mechanics to the gameplay itself. (And there’s still time to become a backer!)

I reached out to creator Ryan Lesser, and he was kind enough to answer a few questions about the early development days of Streets of Steel.

When asked about how Streets of Steel came to be:

I was thinking of other ways, besides my first board game High Heavens, to bring a combat-heavy tabletop game experience to non-hardcore gamers. Randomness and dice rolling are both pretty much non existent in High Heavens, so I figured I would go heavy on that.

I also wanted to make a cooperative game, where High Heavens is competitive. Those two goals had my mind crunching, looking for cool gameplay that could support that. Pretty quickly, I thought to bring the beat ’em up video game genre to the tabletop.

When asked how the development process (both in game design and Kickstarter launch) was different from his previous game, the thoroughly enjoyable mythology-fueled player-vs-player game, High Heavens:

In a lot of ways the dev was similar, but specifically, the co-op play was very different. Instead of creating a tight but expandable experience that pits players against each other, every decision that I made for SOS was to bring them together as a team. Every single new idea, move, power, etc that was generated, had to serve the purpose of team play.

I also designed this one, not alone, but with a partner-in-crime. Matt Moore and I have been working together since about 2006, when I hired him as an Artist at Harmonix. Since then, he has become an Art Director himself at other companies but all the while we have both played, and jammed on ideas for board games. This time I formalized things and he came on board to help me finish the game. He spent a large amount of his time on SOS crafting the Baddie Behavior Deck… our AI system that tells the game what to do against the players.

Another big difference is that instead of leaning heavily on ancient mythology, as in High Heavens, I wanted to invent my own, new IP based on all of the inputs I had during the 80s. It was sort of my Weird Science, but instead of trying to make a human, I wanted to make a board game. In SOS, you can see not only my own inventions, but lots of influences from movies, TV, music, comics and of course, video games.

He definitely nailed that aesthetic. Each player controls a different hero, each one a pastiche of fighting game characters and ’80s movie tropes. Average Joe, for instance, definitely wouldn’t have looked out of place as a member of Cobra Kai, or among the Warriors as they battled their way across town. And yet, for video game fans, there’s no denying the resemblance to Ken from Street Fighter.

Mayor Van Dammage, on the other hand, is every cop-movie authority figure joke simultaneously. He’s the exasperated police chief, the partner with one day until retirement, and the cigar-chomping rogue cop on a mission, all at once. And with a name strongly reminiscent of one of the hokiest tough guys in film history, every player will find something recognizable with him.

Plus the bad guys are topnotch. Check out this quick Instagram clip of Ryan getting the Boss Mutie’s expression just right (in a ghastly way, of course):

As a co-op game, players must work together, combining their skills, wits, and items acquired in the game in order to stop the bad guys and save Steel City. All co-op games rely on strong problem-solving, strategic thinking, and careful resource-management, which just happen to be three skills that puzzlers have in spades.

And I suspect this game will give puzzlers and fighters a challenge well worth their time.

I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse behind the curtain for Streets of Steel. There’s still time to back it on Kickstarter and contribute to the game’s production and success! Click here for all the details!

And be sure to check out their Kickstarter Live broadcast on Friday around 11am EST!

Thank you to Ryan Lesser for not only taking the time out to talk to us, but for opening up the archives to show us some of the development process for the game! Here’s hoping Streets of Steel reaches even greater heights of success before the campaign is through!


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A Secret Code Lurking in the Library Stacks!

[Image courtesy of Wonderopolis.]

The best thing about secret codes is that they can hide in plain sight. In the past, we’ve referenced all sorts of ciphers and codes that were employed to pass secret messages across open channels.

But, as it turns out, clandestine communication isn’t the only end to which secret codes can be applied.

Recently, I stumbled upon a series of Tweets that detailed a mystery at a library involving a secret code.

[Image courtesy of Princeton.edu.]

Take it away, Georgia:

So there was a MYSTERY at the library today.

A wee old women came in and said “I’ve a question. Why does page 7 in all the books I take out have the 7 underlined in pen? It seems odd.”

“What?” I say, thinking she might be a bit off her rocker. She showed me, and they did.

I asked if she was doing it, she said she wasn’t and showed me the new book she was getting out that she hadn’t even had yet. It also had the 7 underlined! “I don’t know, maybe someone really likes page 7?” I said, assuming of course that there is a serial killer in the library.

I checked some other books. Most didn’t have it, but a lot in this genre did – they’re “wee old women” books (romances set in wartime Britain etc). Lots of underlined 7s. The woman who pointed it out shrugged and went on her way, “just thought you should know”.

[Image courtesy of MovieSteve.com.]

What could it mean? Was there a secret message spelled out somehow across the seventh page of all these books? Perhaps the seventh word? What could the message be? A warning? A threat? A great universal truth? A clue to a hidden treasure? The start of a symbol-laden journey across European with sinister forces hot on your heels?

Well, no. Calm down.

As it turns out, there wasn’t a secret message or a hunt across Europe or a threat from a diabolical library-obsessed serial killer on the loose. There was simply an elderly client with her own unique code.

Apparently, she was underlining page 7 in every book she read, in order to keep track of which books she’d already read, in case she comes across it on the shelf again.

And she’s far from the only one! Upon further research, the librarian uncovered a number of different tracking systems, many of them pre-dating the use of computers to keep library records!

Whether there’s a little star on the last page, or an F on the title page, or a page 7 underlined, each code reveals a different, dedicated reader with their own system.

When she posted this story on Twitter, other library employees and former employees piped up to share their own encounters with secret library codes that patrons employed!

I think it’s fascinating that systems like this seem to have been around as long as libraries, probably discovered (and re-discovered) periodically as different patrons and librarians alike notice them.

Better living through secret codes. Who knew?


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Brand New! Starter Sets for the Penny Dell Crosswords App!

Hello, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers!

That’s right, we’ve got a bonus Friday post for you, because we just couldn’t wait until the weekend to announce the latest addition to the Penny Dell Crosswords App lineup!

Say hello to our new Starter Sets!

These bite-size bundles of puzzly delight are the perfect appetizer for any solver. Each set consists of 5 puzzles: 2 easy, 2 medium, and 1 hard, so it’s a great introductory set for solvers of any experience level!

They’re available for both Android and iOS users right now!

And best of all, they’re only 99 cents!

With razor-sharp clues and the world-class construction you’ve come to expect from PuzzleNation, you can’t go wrong with this fantastic deal!

We’re dedicated to bringing you the best puzzle-solving experience available, right in your pocket, ready to go at a moment’s notice! That’s the PuzzleNation guarantee.

Happy solving everyone!


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Publish More Women!

That was the message received loud and clear by attendees at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament last year if they saw Erik Agard’s t-shirt. The future ACPT champion was amplifying a call that has resonated throughout the puzzle community for years now.

And yet, puzzles are often still regarded as a boys’ club.

Despite the fact that Margaret Farrar got the ball rolling. Despite the fact that Maura Jacobson contributed a puzzle to each of the first 34 ACPT tournaments and created over 1400 puzzles for New York Magazine. Despite a grand tradition of female innovators, tournament champions, and topnotch constructors that continues to this very day.

This topic once again took center stage recently when Will Shortz, gatekeeper for The New York Times crossword, posted his thoughts on the subject online:

Periodically I get asked, “Why aren’t more female constructors published in the New York Times?” And I always think, “Well, we don’t get a lot of submissions from women.” But until now I’ve never counted.

So this afternoon I counted. I looked through 260 recent submissions … and counted 33 by female constructors. That’s a little under 13%.

This figure is in line with the percentage of female constructors we publish. Last year, according to the stats at XwordInfo, 13% of the crosswords published in the Times were by women. So far this year the figure is slightly better — 15%.

Why this number is still so low, I don’t know.

In positive news, the number of new female constructors is significantly higher. In 2016, 31% of the 26 contributors who made their Times debut were female. In 2017, 19% were female. So far this year 27% have been female. XwordInfo lists all the names.

Our goal is to be inclusive. We want the Times crossword to reflect the lives, culture, and vocabulary of the people who do it, and having more female-made puzzles would provide better balance.

Still for us to publish more women constructors, we need to receive more puzzles by women. That’s the bottom line.

Our policy is open submissions. If you’re a woman who’d like to get into crossword constructing, we’d welcome your contributions, and we’ll be happy to work with you to get you published.

Reactions across the puzzle community have been mixed, but a number of people found Will’s response lacking. They asked what actual steps would be taken in order to encourage women and other underrepresented groups. Would there be additional support from the NYT for these sought-after constructors? Or would the status quo remain precisely that?

Those are questions worth asking. After all, the Times has been celebrating its 75th anniversary for the last year and a half with celebrity guest constructors. But how many of those celebrity collaborations have been with female constructors?

Three. That’s a project with huge visibility and mainstream media crossover potential, and the number is three.

And speaking of media crossover, it wasn’t that long ago — less than two years, actually — that the divisive clue “Decidedly non-feminist women’s group” for HAREM appeared in the NYT. Ruth Gordon wrote a brilliant piece in Slate highlighting how cluing standards at the Times could be exclusionary:

“Hateful” and “awful” may seem a bit harsh for what reads like a lame attempt at cheekiness. But the clue is certainly tone-deaf. And it’s not the first time a puzzle’s un-PC cluelessness has annoyed people. In 2012, the answer ILLEGAL was clued with: “One caught by the border patrol.” The offensive use of illegal as a noun set off a brouhaha that made its way to Univision.

And in November, Shortz issued a mea culpa for the clue “Exasperated comment from a feminist.” Answer: MEN — presumably with an invisible exclamation point and flying sweat out of a Cathy comic.

So, how has the NYT crossword been doing over the last two years?

We can turn again to the insightful Erik Agard for context. While guest-posting on Rex Parker’s puzzle blog, Erik took a moment to celebrate and spread the word about Women of Letters, the marvelous 18-puzzle charity project we also discussed a few weeks ago:

It’s also a lot of women! In fact, there are more woman-constructed crosswords in this collection than there have been published by the New York Times so far this year. Those who fail to see the urgency in closing the gender gaps in crossword constructing and editing often posit that ‘you can’t tell the difference between a crossword written by a woman and one written by a man’ (ergo, whether women are equally represented has little bearing on the end product, so why should we care).

The puzzles in Women of Letters disprove that thesis in a big way, through the dizzying array of less-traveled roads explored by themes, grids, and clues alike. From the juiciest marquee answers in the themelesses to the simplest choice of referencing a legendary actress by her accolades and not just [Bond girl], the collection never ceases to be a breath of fresh, inimitable air. (As the young people say: “Your fave could never.”)

That comment was posted on April 29th, and yes, as of April 29th, the New York Times crossword had published 17 puzzles from female constructors (including male/female collabs). That’s 17 out of 119 puzzles for the year, or 14.3%.

Erik helpfully provided some other statistics for the sake of comparison:

  • Crosswords With Friends: 33/119 = 27.7%
  • The Los Angeles Times: 31/119 = 26.1%
  • American Values Club Crossword: 3/18 = 16.7%
  • Chronicle for Higher Education: 2/16 = 12.5%
  • Wall Street Journal: 9/99 = 9.1%
  • Fireball Crosswords: 0/19 = 0%

It’s also worth pointing out that, as of April 29th, our Daily POP Crosswords app stood at 87/119, or 73.1%.

If you update the listings up through May 15th, Daily Pop Crosswords published 95 puzzles by women over 135 days. March alone featured 21 puzzles by women across 31 days. Heck, in February, only two puzzles the entire month were constructed by men. (Er, man, to be more specific. The same chap constructed both.)

But those aren’t the only numbers worth celebrating. Our friends at Penny/Dell Puzzles maintain an impressive publication rate for The Crosswords Club subscription service. They publish six puzzles a month, so from January to May, that’s 30 puzzles, and 16 were constructed by women (including three collabs). The January issue was all female constructors.

That’s no surprise, honestly, given the company. At Penny/Dell Puzzles, women constitute the majority of not only puzzle editors, but upper management as well.

So, forgive me if I come off as flippant, but when Will Shortz asks, “Why this number is still so low?”, I have to ask why as well.

Because the constructors are out there, right now, doing tremendous work.


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PuzzleNation Product Review: Anatomy Fluxx

[Note: I received a free copy of this game in exchange for a fair, unbiased review. Due diligence, full disclosure, and all that.]

When compared to the staggering number of pure-entertainment games out there, the number of educational games — that are still lots of fun — is pretty small. But it is growing steadily, and the team at Looney Labs is at the forefront of that endeavor with a series of education versions of their classic card game, Fluxx.

With Math and Chemistry covered by previous editions, the Looney Labs crew looked inward for inspiration for the next edition in the series, Anatomy Fluxx, and they’ve struck gold.

For the uninitiated, Fluxx is a straightforward card game. You collect keeper cards and put them into play. Different combinations of keeper cards complete different goals, and each player has the chance to put different keeper cards and goal cards into play in order to win. So you might find yourself working toward completing the goal at hand when suddenly somebody plays a new goal, and the object of the game changes.

Along the way, players affect how the game is played by utilizing action cards and new rule cards which alter what players can and can’t do. Suddenly, you’ll have to trade your hand with another player, or start drawing three cards each turn instead of one.

So here, you’re combining different organs and body parts (your keeper cards) to form different bodily systems (your goals). But creating Anatomy Fluxx wasn’t simply a matter of swapping out keepers and goals with biology references.

In addition to the usual rule change cards regarding how many cards to draw, how many play, hand limits, and so, they’ve introduced rules to make use of bonus educational information at the bottom of each keeper card.

These rules offer bonus card draws if:

  • you can name an organ after hearing the facts about it
  • you can recite the facts for a given organ
  • you can offer an alternative, true fact about a given organ

There’s even a meta rule you can use to ensure that at least one educational card is in play at all times, if you really want to reinforce the trivia provided!

And the innovations don’t stop there. They’ve built upon the concept of creeper cards — detrimental keeper cards that can prevent you from winning — by introducing ungoals: goal cards where all players LOSE when the wrong combination of creeper cards are played.

Not only do the ungoals offer additional stakes to the game, but they serve an educational purpose as well; the ungoals highlight actual medical dangers. If you have the Mutation creeper, alongside either the Lungs keeper or Prostate keeper, the Cancer ungoal is met and everyone loses. (The poignant fact at the bottom of the Cancer ungoal states “Breast cancer is most common, followed by lung and prostate.” Sobering, but true.)

But that’s not to say that all of the new features of the game are dour. Take, for instance, the Heartbeat rule card: if someone has the Heart in play, and they perform a heartbeat sound during the other players’ turns, they’ll earn bonus cards. That’s the sort of silliness that makes Fluxx great fun.

All in all, I was impressed by the depth of creativity that went into the latest offering from Looney Labs. This is a game that lives up to the chaotic, replayable spirit of Fluxx, but with new tactics, solid educational information, and some important messages to take away from the game as well. Their educational Fluxx series continues to impress.

Anatomy Fluxx is available now from Looney Labs!


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