Good News for Alex Trebek?

There have been two major stories in the world of Jeopardy! for the last year. One was the meteoric rise of gambler and champion James Holzhauer, the other was the saga of Alex Trebek’s battle against pancreatic cancer.

Although Holzhauer failed to topple Ken Jennings’ all-time winnings record, we are happy to report that Trebek’s story is on much more of an upswing.

Back when he first announced his diagnosis, Trebek stated, “I plan to beat the low survival rate statistics for this disease,” then joked, “I have to because under the terms of my contract, I have to host Jeopardy! for three more years.”

And in a recent video promoting the 36th season of Jeopardy!, Trebek seems cautiously optimistic:

These stories have been corroborated by producer Harry Friedman, who has worked with Trebek since 1997:

Alex is remarkable in many ways, not the least of which is he’s got an iron will and an unequaled determination to beat this. He underwent several rounds of chemo and that brought his numbers down. They were around 1,000 at one point and now they’re down into the high teens.

According to multiple sources, this is an unlikely and encouraging outcome, given the statistics surrounding the disease. Records from the American Cancer Society indicate that approximately 56,770 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this year, and nearly 80 percent will die from it.

Trebek recently participated in a Purple Stride walk with the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. During the event, Alex discussed hopes that he would see his hundredth birthday:

As you all know, survivorship is measured starting from the date you are diagnosed with cancer. And on that scale, my gosh, I’m a 62-day survivor. Give me a break…But I’m working on it. And I promise you this: That if I become a 22-year survivor, you will all be welcomed at my 100th birthday.

Here’s hoping we’re all around to celebrate that joyous occasion with him.


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PuzzleNation Product Review: Are You a Robot?

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

Whether you’re playing a board game like Clue or a card game like Werewolf or Mafia, you and your fellow players have accepted the challenge of a very different form of puzzle gaming: the social deduction game.

Social deduction games operate under a simple premise — the cards determine the role you play — and from that point forward, you’re trying to determine who is secretly a danger to you and others in the game.

In this particular case, there might a robot lurking among the humans aboard your space station.

You see, in Are You a Robot?, all of the players randomly select a card. There’s always a human card for every person playing the game, plus one robot card. (So, for instance, if five people are playing, you have five human cards and one robot card in the deck.) You shuffle the cards, deal out one to each player, and put the last one aside. Everyone looks at their card (but doesn’t show anyone else) and discovers their role for the game.

Now, at this point, there’s between zero and one robots in the game, and the rest of the players are human. The humans want to suss out if there are any robots disguised as humans, and the robot wants to get the humans to accuse each other and whittle down their numbers so the robots can take over.

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[A whole lot packed into a little envelope.]

This is the social aspect of the game. There are three things players can do in order to figure out who is who: shake hands, shoot a laser gun at another player, or talk. If the players all agree that there are no robots in play, two players can agree to shake hands. If there are no robots in the game after all, the humans win. If a robot is present after all, the humans lose.

Humans can shoot other players, but robots cannot. If a robot is shot, it’s gone from the game and the humans rejoice. If a human is shot, three things happen: the shooter is immediately removed from the game, the human who was shot comes back to life and returns to the game, and there’s a chance another robot slips into the game.

This element of chance involves all of the players closing their eyes, any robots secretly revealing themselves, and all of the remaining players turning in their cards. Those cards are shuffled randomly, a robot card is introduced, and the cards are redistributed to the surviving human players.

It’s possible everyone remains human, and it’s possible one of the humans is now a robot in disguise.

The game now resumes, and the players must once again figure out if there are any robots in their midst. (And your mind immediately begins spiraling out with possibilities. “Did so-and-so not shoot me because he believes that I’m human? Or because he’s a robot and can’t shoot me?”)

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[The set up for a four-person game: instructions, four human cards, and one robot card.]

Play continues until either the humans have eliminated any possible robots (and have shaken hands to confirm this) or the robots have overwhelmed the game and the humans have been whittled down to a single player.

In my estimation, Extended Mode, designed for 5 or more players, is the most interesting version of the game. The core game is for two or three players, consisting of two human cards and one robot card. Adding a second game allows for up to four players, a third game allows for up to six, and so on.

Our Extended Mode testing involved eight players (and four copies of the game), which allowed for multiple rounds of play, the introduction of several possible additional robots, and so on, making for a deeper, more engrossing (and nerve-wracking!) play experience.

And that’s the beauty of Are You a Robot? when compared to similar social detection card games like Mafia and Werewolf. Not only can you have satisfying play experiences with fewer people but the element of randomness that comes into play with more players adds tension to the game. (In Mafia and Werewolf, the number of antagonists is set at the start of the game. In Are You a Robot?, the number might increase, or it might not. It’s a simple change that adds so much.)

An elegant balance of silliness and suspenseful, consequence-loaded gameplay, Are You a Robot? is a winner with any number of players. Bring your laser gun, bring your skepticism, and bring along a couple of sets so everyone can play.

[Are You a Robot? is available (for $2!) from Looney Labs and other participating retailers.]


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Meet the Daily POP Word Search Constructors: Heather Phaneuf

One of the Daily POP Word Search app’s best features is the level of input from topnotch constructors. We’ve assembled one heck of a team when it comes to creating terrific, exciting, fresh, themed word search puzzles.

And over the next few weeks, we’d like to introduce you to some of them. Some names you may know, some you may not, but they’re all doing amazing work on these puzzles and deserve a little time in the limelight.

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For this installment, allow us to introduce you to puzzle constructor, mom, and music aficionado Heather Phaneuf!


How did you get started in puzzles?

I didn’t intend to get started in puzzles. I wanted to pursue a job in my degree: English, so when the opportunity came to be a copy editor, I jumped at it. Little did I know, I’d start off as a photocopy girl around the office, to a proofreader, then to an editor. It’s been a wild ride!

What do you enjoy about working on Daily POP Word Search?

Daily POP Word Search was a bit out of my comfort zone, my realm, but it was something new. As someone who accustomed to creating the same sort of puzzles day in, day out: trying something new was like a breath of fresh air. I love new challenges, they push me in a creative, thoughtful way.

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Is there a particular theme day that appeals to you most or that you enjoy working on?

The music theme appeals to me most. I just love the “vibe” of it, how it brings people together. I grew up in a very musical house, always something playing, and yes, I recall 8-tracks in my dad’s car, but…we all sang together, albeit out of tune. I can sing out loud a modern song just as easily as the Beatles or Jimi; damn hippie parents!

How is working on Daily POP Word Search different from constructing for some other outlet or magazine?

Working on Daily POP Word Search certainly is fun, it’s challenging, and I appreciate that. Anything that makes me open my eyes and experience something new or current: I’m game. Just be open-minded. To me, that’s growth; just be open minded. IT’S NOT THAT HARD! Try new things, live and learn!


A huge thank you to Heather for her time! Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for her puzzles in the Daily POP Word Search app, free to download for both iOS and Android users!

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!

Suggestions from the World of Puzzle Books!

Back in March, we did a round-up of all sorts of puzzle books for solvers looking to return to the simplicity of solving with pencil and paper. We focused on books loaded with puzzles for your enjoyment.

But that’s only a small sampling of the books available to puzzle fans. In addition to straight-forward puzzle books, you can find guides on how to make puzzles and games, books offering historical or social insight on the puzzle-game genre, and even fiction books that incorporate puzzles into the storytelling.

So today, we’re doing another puzzle-book round-up, but we’re expanding the scope a bit to cover some delightful puzzle-themed books you might’ve missed recently.


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If you’re relatively new to solving — or you’d like to introduce someone to the world of puzzles — then Puzzle Snacks by Eric Berlin is a terrific place to start.

Loaded with over 100 puzzles that run the gamut from fill-ins and clued puzzles to brain teasers and wordplay games, Puzzle Snacks fits solvers of any experience level, helping build up your puzzle skills while introducing you to dozens of variations on the puzzles you know.

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For the word seek/word search fans, we’ve previously recommended the word search puzzles of Shawn Marie Simmons, which are geared toward bookworms with themed lists based on literature.

Her latest offering is 25 Word Search Puzzles for MODERN Literature Lovers. With word lists tailored to different iconic authors and works of literature — ranging from the Lord of the Rings and Virginia Woolf to Roald Dahl and Margaret Atwood — you can revisit your favorite reads as you go searching each grid for a bevy of fun and familiar words.

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But maybe you’d like to mix some light puzzling with a touch of adventure-filled storytelling for either you or younger solvers. In that case, the recent Netflix revival of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? might have what you’re looking for.

A series of tie-in books for the show are now on the market, and the best of them is Clue by Clue by Catherine Hapka. Centered around the former thief’s efforts to do good and thwart her former allies, Clue by Clue sets Carmen and the ACME team on a treasure hunt for a prize that’s been missing for centuries.

What makes this book so noteworthy is the decoder wheel built into the cover itself! By rotating the wheel, you can decipher different coded messages throughout the book, cracking the case alongside Carmen and her allies.

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If you’re looking for a little more narrative heft with your puzzling, then the latest addition to The Maze of Games universe is probably up your alley.

Now that The Maze of Games has finally been solved after years of attentive puzzling, a new answer guide is available: The Keymaster’s Tome.

But this isn’t just the perfect walkthrough for the ultimate puzzle novel; this is an in-universe story in its own right, as the characters of Colleen and Samuel Quaice share their thoughts and reactions to the puzzles they encountered through The Maze of Games.

It’s a really fun and clever take on answer guides, and offers some nice character notes from the heroic and determined Quaice siblings.

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Our last offering turns to the world of board games, as the author shares both his own personal experiences with games and how different types of games create different play experiences.

Avidly Reads Board Games by Eric Thurm covers topics like the pluses and minuses of cooperative games, the emergence of legacy games, the infamy of Monopoly, and the curious subgenre of political games (both the intentionally nasty and those that history has judged poorly). Along the way, Thurm offers glimpses into various aspects of modern gaming.

More a series of short essays than one cohesive narrative, Avidly Reads Board Games is one man’s look at a world of games that is constantly evolving, yet remains tied to its earliest successes.

Can you think of any terrific puzzle books we missed? Let us know in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you.


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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!

Hot Puzz(le): The Hashtag Game Returns!

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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 #PennyDellPuzzleQuotes, mashing up Penny Dell puzzles with quotes from famous movies!

Examples include: “Go ahead, make my Daisy” or “You’re a wizard words, Harry!” or “You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your Blips together and blow.”

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


“Son, what we got here is a failure to Make the Connection.” (Cool Hand Luke)

“You’re gonna need a bigger Quotefind.” / “You’re gonna need a bigger Bowl Game.” (Jaws)

“I ate his liver with fava beans and a nice Keyword.” (The Silence of the Lambs)

“Wheels before Zod!” (Superman 2)

“We’ll always have Pairs.” (Casablanca)

“I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do Word-A-Mat.” (2001: A Space Odyssey)

“All work and no Word Play makes Jack a dull boy.” / “All work and no play makes Crackerjacks a dull boy.” (The Shining)

“I’m not gonna hurt ya. I’m just gonna bash your Brain Boosters in.” (The Shining)

“Here and There‘s Johnny!” (The Shining)

“Don’t you worry! Never fear! Robin Hood will soon be Here and There!” (Looney Tunes: Rabbit Hood)

“E.T Text Message home.” (E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial)

“Nobody puts Baby in the Four Corners!” (Dirty Dancing)

“Don’t Kriss Kross the streams” (Ghostbusters)

“You’re a daisy if you do” / “You’re no daisy. No daisy at all.” (Tombstone)

“Crackers and Frameworks! That’s what Penny does!” (Wedding Crashers)

“Whatever. Make me a Blockbuilders, clown.” (Wedding Crashers)

“Frankly, my dear, I don’t Give and Take a damn.” (Gone With the Wind)

“Seek thee out, the Diamond Mine in the rough.” (Aladdin)

“I’m mad as hell, and I’m not gonna Take It from There anymore!” (Network)

“If you Build-a-Quote, he will come.” (Field of Dreams)

“Fredo, you’re my brother and I love you. But don’t ever takes sides with anyone against the Crypto-Family again. Ever.” (The Godfather)

“Leave the gun, take the Chips.” (The Godfather)

“I’m not sure that I agree with you a hundred percent on your Framework there, Lou.” (Fargo)

“Places, Please sir, may I have another?” (Animal House)

“I’m a friend of Sarah Connor. I was told she was here. Could I see her Places, Please?” (The Terminator)

Morpheus believes he is The One and Only. (The Matrix)

Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my One and Only hope. (Star Wars)

“May the Foursomes be with you.” (Star Wars)

“I find your lack of Frameworks disturbing.” (Star Wars)

“I love puzzles.”
“I know.” (The Empire Strikes Back)

“Follow the yellow Brick By Brick road.” (The Wizard of Oz)

“There’s no place like Home Runs, there’s no place like Home Runs.” (The Wizard of Oz)

“Nothing goes over my Headings! My reflexes are too fast, I would catch it.” (Guardians of the Galaxy)

“I am Groot.” (Guardians of the Galaxy)

“‘We gotta do somethin’.’ I don’t know why ‘we’ always has to be me every damn time. We, we, we. What do I look like, an expert in Bookworms?” (Tremors)

“There’s no crying in Bingo.” (A League of Their Own)

“Love means never having to Say That Again?” (Love Story)

“Go Fish, make my day.” (Sudden Impact)

“That’s a lot of Go Fish.” (Godzilla)

“Right Angles turn, Clyde.” (Any Which Way But Loose)

“Me and Jenny was like Places, Please and carrots.” (Forrest Gump)

“One time Abacus said you never really knew a man until you stood in his shoes and walked around in them…” (To Kill a Mockingbird)

“I am big, it’s the Picture Pairs that got small.” (Sunset Boulevard)

“Now, go away, or I shall taunt you a second Halftime!” (Monty Python and the Holy Grail)


Several intrepid puzzlers went above and beyond in their efforts as well!

The first recreated a classic conversation from Monty Python and the Holy Grail:

“Stoplines! Guess Who would Crisscross the Bridge of Death must answer me these questions Three from Nine, ere the other side he see!”
“Ask me the questions, Bridge-Keep On Moving-er. I’m not afraid!”
“What is your By Any Other Name?”
”My Crypto-Name is Sir Lancelot of Camelot!”
”What is your Word Quest?”
”To Triangle Seek the Holy Grail!”
”What is your favorite Color By Numbers?”
“Blue!”
”Fine! Pair Off you go!”

The second contributor went more contemporary, reworking one of Liam Neeson’s most chilling moments from the film Taken:

I don’t know “Who’s Calling.” I don’t know “What’s Next.” If you’re looking for “A Perfect Ten,” I can tell you I don’t have “Buried Treasure” but what I do have are a very particular set of “Split Personalities.” “Split Personalities” I have acquired over a very long career. “Split Personalities” that make me a “Dilemma” for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that will be the “End of the Line.” I will not “Crossblock” you, I will not “Pathfinder” you. But if you don’t, I will “Crossblock” you, I will “Pathfinder” you and I will “Samurai Sudoku” you.


Have you come up with any Penny Dell Puzzle Quotes 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!

Meet the Daily POP Word Search Constructors: Jessica Giannone

One of the Daily POP Word Search app’s best features is the level of input from top-flight constructors. We’ve assembled one heck of a team when it comes to creating terrific, exciting, fresh, themed word search puzzles.

And over the next few weeks, we’d like to introduce you to some of them. Some names you may know, some you may not, but they’re all doing amazing work on these puzzles and deserve a little time in the limelight.

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For this installment, allow us to introduce you to constructor, singer, and doer of charitable works Jessica Giannone!


How did you get started in puzzles?

Since I was a child, I’ve always loved solving various kinds of puzzles, riddles, and word games. I was fascinated by how puzzles were made. As a writer and journalism graduate, an editorial opening at Penny Press was all it took to reel me into the puzzle-making world!

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What do you enjoy about working on Daily POP Word Search?

Getting to work on current topics is a refreshing treat because I don’t need to hold off on any subject that strikes my fancy. Normally, we work on material that won’t be released until the following year, and we tend to shy away from media (films, books, etc.) that is in the works. (For the sake of audience familiarity, we try to wait until a film has been out at least a year or that a TV show has made it to a second season, for instance.)

Working on Daily POP Word Search is also a great excuse to research trends we may not have heard of yet and incorporate fun ideas which appeal to a younger audience.

I enjoy the “Music Boxes” and “Book Smarts” themes the most because I am a lover of music and literature! I enjoy getting to research upcoming projects from various “creatives” everywhere. “Wildcards” also give us a chance to switch things up because we don’t typically cover a lot of pop culture.

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How is working on Daily POP Word Search different from constructing for some other outlet or magazine?

Constructing for Daily POP Word Search allows us to use a wide range of material and be a little less restrictive with our content because our audience is digital/less traditional. We’re also able to include topics that may not be quite mainstream yet. It’s interesting to take an experimental approach to editing, and Daily POP Word Search is the perfect outlet to have some fun with our “puzzly” practice.

In the spirit of trends, I’m also including the name of a fun new cause to promote random acts of kindness everywhere:

Check out #KindnessInspiredByAmara on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to share some love!


Note: Jess is also on the board of the nonprofit organization Riccio Pick-Me-Ups, which provides joy and aid to children and families in need. It was founded by her cousin Amara Riccio, who is fighting a lifelong condition of her own, but champions through to support people everywhere with her unconditional aid and warrior spirit. You can check out the cause here: http://www.ricciopickmeup.org/


A huge thank you to Jessica for her time! Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for her puzzles in the Daily POP Word Search app, free to download for both iOS and Android users!

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!