Site Update in Progress

Forgive the interruption, folks. We’re working on an upgrade to the blog, so you may notice broken photo links and other irregularities while reading posts. Worry not! All is in good hands.

We’ll keep you posted on when you can expect the blog to be back up and running in full. Thank you for your patience.

An Excluded Solver Strikes Back!

sculpture

Many people find crossword puzzles daunting.

For some, it’s the crosswordese, those obscure or curious words that you only encounter in crossword grids. Whether it’s European rivers or needlecases, these entries never make casual conversational appearances.

For others, it’s the pop culture that often feels dusty and out-of-touch. It’s not like many silent movie stars are household names these days.

Thankfully, many current outlets and constructors have moved away from this stodgy approach to grid construction and cluing, working hard to keep cultural references fresh and up-to-date, and striving for fluid grid-filling entries that remain both accessible and interesting.

Unfortunately, the reputation of crosswords as behind-the-times is still prevalent in many circles, including among younger solvers.

But I was amused to find one younger solver who sought to balance the scales a bit by taking matters into her own hands.

Tumblr user Greater-than-the-Sword created and shared her own crossword. (Well, technically a criss-cross to puzzle aficionados like ourselves, but the average person would call this a crossword.)

In her own words:

Tired of your parents always doing better than you at crossword puzzles just because they’re old and get the ancient pop culture references? I made this Millennial’s Crossword Puzzle™. Guaranteed to make your parents feel old and less smug.

Sample clues included “is either white and gold or blue and black” for DRESS (referencing the optical illusion that took over the Internet for a day or two) and “Popular Youtuber” for PEWDIEPIE.

Although the puzzle didn’t make me feel old or less smug, it did make me laugh, since I found several of the entries completely baffling and impenetrable. It also reminded me of how amazingly fast cultural references emerge and vanish in the age of the Internet. I got about half of the reference in the puzzle, many of which applied to memes and pop culture from the last few years.

(Though I must confess that it took me an embarrassingly long time to realize the clue “bendy cabbage patch” meant BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH.)

I was unable to reach Greater-than-the-Sword to ask her what sort of feedback she received on the puzzle — either from millennials or from older solvers who accepted the challenge — but I found it to be a delightful response to lazy crossword construction.

You’re welcome to try your luck against the puzzle here.


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!

PuzzleNation Product Review: The Oregon Trail Card Game

For gamers and puzzlers of a certain age, there are many fond memories of a certain historical journey that tested your wits, your luck, your tactical skills, and your endurance. I’m speaking, of course, of The Oregon Trail, a computer-game classic that not only taught millions of young minds about the perilous journey, but probably introduced most of them to the concept of death by dysentery.

Ick.

For those not in the know, The Oregon Trail was a computer game designed to explore 19th-century pioneer life on the long journey between Independence, Missouri, and Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Players would manage food, supplies, and the pace of the trek in their covered wagon, occasionally dealing with dangers like disease, thieves, broken equipment, accidents, and treacherous rivers to cross.

A classic in the eyes of many, this beloved game has made the jump from the digital realm to the analog one with a card-game variation released this year by Pressman Toys.

Pressman Toys have outdone themselves with this nostalgia-fueled adaptation. The trail cards themselves evoke the classic black-and-green screen of old-school computers, while the supply and calamity cards are pixelated in a style more akin to 8-bit video games.

I daresay, though, that the card game is harder than the computer game. I don’t know that I’ve ever encountered a game that stacks the deck against the player quite so brutally.

To make the journey to Oregon successfully, players must traverse 50 trail cards, avoiding illness and unpleasant twists of fate along the way (represented by the calamity cards that come up all too often), managing meager supplies, and testing their luck against river crossings (where a roll of the die determines your fate).

This quickly becomes a strategic battle of resource management, trying to hold onto fort and town cards for as long as possible (since they provide some of the rare opportunities to gain new supplies), playing trail cards (which must link up in a continuous line), and deciding whether it’s better to spend medicine and clean water supplies on saving fellow players stricken by illness or letting players die and hoarding supplies for the survivors.

I’ve played the game a few times now — each session has lasted about 30 minutes, with the team failing to reach Oregon both times (though we made it more than halfway on the second try) — and it remains an engaging, enjoyable play experience. Yes, it can be disheartening to see a player die early on (as I did by rattlesnake bite in my very first turn one game), but the group play experience — pitting all of you against the game itself — is only enhanced by the difficulty.

There are some aspects of the computer game — hunting, for instance — missing from the card-game experience, but I suspect the development of simple house rules (like spending a bullet card and letting a handful of dice rolls determine your success hunting, to more closely recreate the computer game’s hunting mechanic, for instance) would enrich the gameplay.

Whether you’re a fan of the classic computer game or a newcomer to the franchise, I suspect The Oregon Trail will delight you (and challenge you!) like few card games ever have.

[The Oregon Trail Card Game is available at Target stores and through online outlets.]


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!

Check out the Lone Shark Games’ Humble Bundle!

humble bundle

Want to put your puzzly funds to good, charitable use AND receive some terrific puzzles in return?

Check out Lone Shark Games’s Humble Bundle!

From the website:

In case that’s a new thing for you, a Humble Bundle is a pay-what-you-want collection of games or books that you will never, ever, ever get for that price again. Like, you could only pay a dollar if you want. No, really, it’s an insane deal, and it only lasts two weeks. But that’s not the only cool part. A whole bunch of each person’s contribution goes to charity. So that’s your incentive to pay more than a dollar. Maybe a lot more.

They’ve put together a monster team of talent — Thomas Snyder, Francis Heaney, Brendan Emmett Quigley, Patrick Berry, and Patrick Blindauer among them — and honestly, it’s an incredible offer at any price, even without including The Maze of Games and the incentive of a new hint book!

So if you’d like to do some good for some wonderful causes, click this link!

The toughest puzzles the UK has to offer!

[A sample of the puzzle types awaiting you in the UK Puzzle Championship packet.]

I talk about crossword tournaments a lot in this blog, because crosswords are such a predominant part of the puzzle world. ACPT is a huge deal every year, the Indie 500 had its first (hopefully annual!) event last month, the Minnesota Crossword Tournament was last weekend, and Lollapuzzoola is gearing up for its 8th year of puzzle goodness this August!

But hey, maybe you’re not a crossword fan. (Though, with killer crossword apps like this one, why WOULDN’T you be?)

Don’t worry, there are still plenty of events that will allow you to indulge your puzzle fix without testing your crossword-solving mettle.

For instance, this Friday, the UK Puzzle Championship 2015 kicks off!

The championship consists of 28 puzzles, each with differing point values, potentially adding up to a maximum score of 650 points. Although the championship runs from Friday through Monday, those are only the hours available for competitors to download their puzzle packets. (You can download the instruction booklet, complete with example puzzles, here.)

As soon as you receive your password and download the packet, you’ll have only two and a half hours to solve all of the puzzles and input your answers onto the Answer Submission Page.

Now, unless you are a resident of the UK, you will only be able to participate in the contest as a guest. (The top UK participant will be the 2015 UK Puzzle Champion, and the top two UK participants become eligible to join the UK Team for the World Puzzle Championship in October.) But even if only UK residents can win, just attempting the packet is a puzzly challenge worthy of any ambitious solver!

So, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers, will you be throwing your puzzle-solving hat in the ring and joining me in this UK puzzly Thunderdome? Let me know! I’d love to see how you do!

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out the growing library of PuzzleNation apps and games!

It’s Follow-Up Friday: Broadway Puzzles edition!

Welcome to Follow-Up Friday!

By this time, you know the drill. Follow-Up Friday is a chance for us to revisit the subjects of previous posts and bring the PuzzleNation audience up to speed on all things puzzly.

And today, I’m posting the results of our #PennyDellBroadwayPuzzles hashtag game!

[Sir Ian McKellen, exhausted from coming up with puns all night.]

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

For the last few months, we’re been collaborating on puzzle-themed hashtag games with our pals at Penny/Dell Puzzles, and this month’s hook was Penny/Dell Broadway Puzzles!

Examples of shows might be “Oooooooooooooklahoma Runs!” and examples of songs might be “(I Am) Sixteen Going on Seven-Ups” or “Give and Take My Regards to Broadway.”

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


Shows!

Figgerits on the Roof / Fiddler’s Frame on the Roof (featuring the smash song Matchmaker)

Keep On Movin’ Out

Les MiséraBubbles

The Bookworms of Mormon / The Book of Bricks and Mortar

La Cage aux Fill-Ins

Lucky Starlight Express

Jesus Christ Superstarspell / Jesus Christ Superscore

The Mystery Word of Edwin Drood / The Mystery Person of Edwin Drood

A Chorus Line ‘em Up / Draw the Chorus Line / End of the Chorus Line / A Crostic Line

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Foursomes / Four(-um) Corners / Four Square

How to Succeed in Boxes Without Really Trying

A Little Puzzler Night Music

The Fan Words of the Opera / The Shadow of the Opera

Sunrays Boulevard

Oh! (Quote) Cal-cu(la)ta!

Hair-A-Letter

The Best Little Scoreboard in Texas / The Best Little “Score”house in T(ripl)ex-as

Annie-gram

Annie-gram Get Your Gun

Fill-Into the Woods / Drop-In to the Woods

Avenue (Q)uotagrams

Kiss Me, Kate-gories

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Timed Framework

Godspell(down) / Godspellbound / God Spell it out

Can-Can Cancellations

Les Miz(sing Vowels)

The WIZard Words

Wizard Words of Oz, featuring the song “Follow the Yellow Brick By Brick Road”

Bowl Mame

The Pajama Bowl Game

Cactus Flower Power

The 25th Annual Putnam County Starspelling Bee

Odds and Evens Couple by Neil Simon Says

The Merry Window Boxes

A Balancing Act of God

Kiss of the Spider’s Web

Drummerman of La Mancha


Songs!

“Ya Got Double Trouble” (The Music Man)

“Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Quick Quote” (Guys and Dolls)

“There’s a Places, Please for Us” (West Side Story)

“The Circle Sums of Life” (The Lion King)

“Dance: Ten, Looks: Three from Nine” / “Dance a Perfect Ten, Looks Three of a Kind” (A Chorus Line)

“I Don’t Need Anything But You Know the Odds” (Annie)

“Scoremaster of the House” (Les Miserables)

“Getting to Know You Know the Odds” (The King & I)

Mamma Mia needs some Alphabet Soup!!” (Mamma Mia)

“Surrey with the Fringe On Top to Bottom” (Oklahoma!)

“Ease on Down the Crossroads” (The Wiz)

“Cell Blockbuilders Tango” (Chicago)

“I Don’t Know How To Solve This” (and I’ve solved so many puzzles before…) (Jesus Christ Superstar)

“No Places, Please Like London” (Sweeney Todd)

“No Good Deal” (Wicked)

“Grease Is the Codeword” (Grease)

“A Whole New Word Trails” (Aladdin)

“I’m Still Here & There” (Follies)


Some of our Twitter followers also got in on the fun, with @MicMcCracken tweeting “Les Misery Loves Company!”

And, naturally, it wouldn’t be a PuzzleNation game unless someone went above and beyond the call of duty. This time around, fellow PuzzleNationer Debra created a puzzly version of the opening stanza of “My Favorite Things”!

Crosswords and Word Seeks and Sudoku
Fill-Ins and Ken-Kens and Logic Problems too
Codewords and Crostics and Diamond Rings
These are a few of my favorite things!


All in all, the game was great fun!

Have you come up with any Penny/Dell Broadway Puzzles of your own? Let us know! We’d love to see them!

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out the growing library of PuzzleNation apps and games!