Watch Celebrities Tackle an Escape Room for Charity!

I know the last few months have been hard for a lot of people. But it’s also been inspiring to see communities rally and work together, even while social distancing, to take care of each other. And loads of creative folks out there have been raising money for charity in clever and entertaining ways.

In the last few weeks alone, we’ve seen examples like the cast of the TV show Community reuniting on behalf of World Central Kitchen and Frontline Foods, Twitch streamer Rachel Howie supporting St. Jude through gaming, and a puzzle bouquet to support safe maternity care worldwide, masterminded by Andrew Chaikin (with puzzles by Kid Beyond, Alison Muratore, and Sandor Weisz).

One of the biggest annual fundraisers is Red Nose Day, a yearly international event dedicated to eradicating child poverty. There are often special TV events tied into the Red Nose Day, and this year was no exception.

NBC employed a more puzzly route than most participating networks, as they presented an hour-long show dedicated to a celebrity-filled escape room.

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[Image courtesy of EOnline.]

Musician and actor Jack Black hosted, serving as the exuberant and maniacal gamemaster for the event. Ben Stiller, Adam Scott, Courteney Cox, and Lisa Kudrow were the celebrity players, and they had one hour to escape Jack’s series of rooms. For each puzzle they successfully solved, they would earn $15,000 in charitable donations from the event’s sponsor, M&Ms.

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[Image courtesy of]

Jack explained the rules, and then informed them that they were allowed three hints to help them solve the puzzles. Each hint was represented by a red clown nose, the official symbol of Red Nose Day.

You can watch the entire special video below, or continue reading for a recap of the show and a breakdown of each puzzle:


The celebs were escorted into an elevator and sent on their way. The team immediately started trying to figure out how to escape.

But the elevator wasn’t a puzzle room. Jack was just messing with them, sending the elevator up and down before opening it.

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The group’s first actual challenge was an 80’s themed room, which contained not only numerous references to the decade (posters, movies, decor, etc.), but references to each actor’s career to serve as a distraction. Jack Black informed the audience of two key locations to pay attention to — a photo wall and the table with pizza on it — but didn’t explain the actual puzzles.

Courteney Cox stumbled upon a clue — a recorded message from Jennifer Lopez — that sent the celebs to their yearbooks on one of the shelves. Inside, they each found a different variation of a picture of people sitting on a couch, each one with more people in it.

Ben Stiller not only realized that they needed to be placed somewhere in order, but spotted where to do so.

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The photo wall was a 3×4 grid, with 8 photos already placed and 4 open spaces. My first instinct would have been to place the photos in order of the rows (as if reading the photos in storyboard order from left to right, row to row).

But the photos had to be placed in column order from left to right, ignoring the rows. Courteney figured this out, and a couch folded out from the wall. Having successfully completed a puzzle, $15,000 was added to the team’s charity total.

By all sitting on the couch, they activated the TV, which aired a commercial for Rubik’s Cubes. Ben realized the pizza and tablecloth in the center of the room were covering a giant Rubik’s Cube. (Instead of being rotated and twisted, this one had removable magnetic blocks, which made solving it easier.)

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[Image courtesy of WhatsNew2Day.]

By completing the puzzle (and earning another $15,000), the room’s window opened onto a school hallway set.

Jack directed the audience’s attention toward a clue on the floor, a mascot head in the trophy case, and to the lockers along the corridor.

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[Image courtesy of WhatsNew2Day.]

The celebs immediately started checking the lockers, but they were all locked. While searching for their next puzzle, the celebs misinterpreted a banner that said “Let’s get loud” and started screaming.

It’s silly, but hey, in an escape room, sometimes you’ll try anything.

Ben spotted the clue on the floor, and Courteney realized that some of the floor tiles could be pulled up, revealing a picture puzzle to be assembled. They solved the puzzle — a picture of Jack in a mascot costume — and it opened the trophy case. That made their charity total rise to $45,000.

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When Adam put the mascot head on, the lights dimmed, and he began looking for the next clue. Three of the celebs tried the mascot head on, but they couldn’t find anything. So they used one of their red noses and asked for a hint.

Jack intervened and told them to direct the mascot head’s vision toward the lockers. On certain lockers, the mascot’s head revealed in invisible ink the birthdays of the four players. After some difficulty, Adam realized they should open the lockers in birthday order, which caused all four to open. (Four puzzles completed, $60,000 earned.)

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As the other players removed letterman jackets from the lockers, Courteney stepped into her locker (which was larger inside than the others) and Jack shut it behind her, seemingly locking her in. While trying to figure out how to free Courteney, they all decided to put their jackets on.

Jack directed the audience to pay attention to the janitor’s closet, the trophy case, and the cubby area for the next puzzle.

Courteney discovered her locker secretly led into the locked janitor’s closet. Meanwhile, the other players found prom tickets in their jackets.

The Red Nose Day Special - Season 2020

[Image courtesy of TV Insider.]

Unable to free Courteney (the inside door handle came off in her hand), the celebs were flummoxed again, even trying to play rock-paper-scissors to open the door. (Bafflingly, Ben doesn’t know how to play.) They decided to ask for their second Red Nose hint. Jack pointed them toward the janitor’s to-do list, which has four tasks on it, three completed.

The unfinished task referenced the water fountain, and upon investigating it, Adam found the door handle for the janitor’s closet, freeing Courteney (and earning another $15,000).

Doing so activated the TV in the trophy case, and special guest “Principal” Kelly Clarkson provided a year-in-review that recounted the trophy won by each celeb, and suggested they hang up their jackets on the Wall of Fame (the cubby area).

The celebs missed the trophy clue and just hung their jackets up (not realizing that the trophies — first place, second place, third place, and fourth place — indicated the order of the jackets).

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They tried birthday order again, then headed back to the trophy case, realized their mistake, and put the jackets in the correct order, earning another $15,000 for charity.

Part of the locker wall then opened up to reveal a room decorated for prom, complete with balloons and a space for couple/group photos. Jack directed viewers to pay attention to the clock on the wall, the photos of couples on the wall, and the photography setup.

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Relying on the clue “it’s almost time for crown the king and queen,” they puzzled out that there are clocks on all of the photos, but it reads 9 PM for the crowned couple.

Courteney eventually realized there was a stepladder that would allow her to reach the clock, and rotated it until it read 9 PM. (Their charity total was now $105,000!)

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Completing the puzzle activated the lights in the photo area. They posed for their picture, and when they snapped it, the balloon wall burst, revealing a gym decorated for prom. (It also scared the daylights out of them, which made for a great prom photo.)

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Jack then fully explained the next puzzle to the audience, as the celebs had to match the images on their prom tickets to certain champagne bottles (filled with M&Ms) on the refreshments table, which would then point them to particular light-up squares on the electronic dance floor.

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The celebs immediately zeroed in on the symbols on the champagne bottles, but didn’t know what to do with them. Jack taunted them, hoping to goad them into using their third and final hint, until Courteney spotted the matching symbol on her prom ticket.

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Now finally pairing up bottles of M&M champagne, Courteney again figured out that the colors of each pair of bottles should combine to match the color of the podium they’re placed on. It’s a pretty impressive bit of puzzling, I must admit.

Each time they placed a pair of bottles correctly, part of the dance floor lit up.

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Unfortunately, they confused the colors required to make pink with the colors needed to make orange, which slowed them down. Fixing their mistake and completing the puzzle, they ran to the dance floor with another $15,000 for charity.

The dance floor was a 4×4 grid, with each player standing in a different colored square in the bottom row. As the dance floor lit up in a sequential pattern of lights, the team realized they were playing a Simon-style game where they had to step forward in a certain order to match the pattern of colored lights displayed on the floor.

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There were three rounds of the game. The first (and simplest) required a single step each onto the second row. The second required two steps (meaning eight total moves in order), and third required three steps (meaning a more complicated twelve-step order).

Once they sorted out their timing issues in the first round, they flew through the second and third rounds, solving the puzzle and earning another $15,000.

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Jack then instructed the group to go onstage and sing their way out of the room as their final challenge. He noted they only had 9 and a half minutes left to escape.

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A video wall across the room activated, and Adam and Mike, the two remaining Beastie Boys, wished them luck. When Jack started playing guitar over the intercom, Ben recognized the song as “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (to Party),” which they’d have to sing karaoke-style to escape.

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But Lisa didn’t know the song, and she consistently botched the rhythm on each of her turns. Thankfully, that didn’t hinder the group too much, and after being startled one last time (with victory confetti), they escaped the prom with a total $150,000 for charity, and a little over 6 minutes to spare.

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Honestly, as a fan of escape rooms, I really enjoyed this. It’s a great — if highly budgeted — example of this puzzle genre, and a strong introduction for anyone who has never tried them.

The puzzles ranged from simple to moderately hard, but for the most part were fairly intuitive. Also, while it’s embarrassing in the moment to try silly things and draw dumb conclusions while trying to solve puzzles, it’s also very entertaining to watch someone else do the same.

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[Image courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter.]

All in all, it was a fun event hosted for a great cause, and the four celebrity players (plus gamemaster Jack) made an engaging cast of characters. The little interviews interspersed throughout also added a lot. (Plus, at the end, we found out Courteney loves escape rooms, which explains her mad puzzle skills.)

If you’d like to contribute to the fine charity work Red Nose Day represents, please click here for more details.

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It’s Follow-Up Friday: And a One And a Clue 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 #PennyDellPuzzleBands hashtag game!

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’ve been collaborating on puzzle-themed hashtag games with our pals at Penny Dell Puzzles, and this month’s hook was Penny Dell Puzzle Bands, mashing up Penny Dell puzzles and favorite bands or musicians!

Examples might be The Beat-the-Clock-les, Brick by Brick Astley, or Kris Krossword.

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

The Rolling Stepping Stones / Stepping Stones Temple Pilots / Steppin’ Stones Wolf

Fill-In Collins (singing Su-Su-Sudoku) / Fill-In Sync

Spinwheel Doctors

The Who’s Calling? / The Guess Who’s Calling? / The Who’s Who


Men at Framework

Kenkenny Rogers (or Loggins or G) / KenKen Chesney

Kenny Chess Words

Paul Simon Says / Simon Le Bon Says / Simon Says Garfunkel

Paul Simon and Art Garfield’s Word Seeks

ZZ Top to Bottom / Top to Soggy Bottom Boys

Zigzag Top / Jay Zig Zag / Zigzag Marley

Missing Persons List / Missing Persons Trios

Cryptogram Parsons / Patchwork QuotaGram Parsons

Letterboxes Zeppelin / Letterboxes to Cleo

Led Zeppelin and Around

Tina Turnabout / Tina Turn a Phrase / Tossing and Tina Turner

U2 of a Kind / U2 by Two / U2 for One

Three Doors Down of a Kind / 3 Doors Ups and Downs

Three Doors Across and Down / Across and Three Doors Down

Big Brother and the Three’s Company

Three from Nine Inch Nails

Third Bull’s-Eye Blind

Never Mind the Bull’s-Eye Spiral…Here Come the Sex Pistols!

The Four-Most Tops / The Four Tops to Bottom

Four Square Blondes / Tears Four Square

Gang of Foursomes

The Crackerjackson 5

The Jackson Fancy Fives / Maroon Fancy Five / The Fancy Dave Clark Fives

Black 47-Up

Seven Mary Three’s Company

The Jesus and Mary Chain Words

Alice in Chain Words

Square North of Nines

Thirteenth Floor Escalators

Mix and Matchbox Twenty / Match-Up Twenty

Talking Heads & Tails / Radioheads and Tails (singing Creepto-Families)

Florida Georgia Line ‘Em Up / End of the Florida Georgia Line

Drop-outs Kick Murphys


Wall Flower Powers / The Flower Power Kings


ColdPlaces, Please / The Black Eyed Places Please

Jefferson Starspellship / Ringo Starrspell

Ringo Starr Words / Mazzy Star Words

Thompson Twin Crosswords

Pairs in LeAnn Rimes

Eric Clapboard

New Kids on the Blockbuilders / New Kids on the Crossblocks

Around the New Kids on the Block / New Kids Around the Block

ABBAcus (singing Take a Letter Chance On Me and Waterloose Tile)

Bobby Vee-Words

The Partridge Family Ties

Missing Fats Dominoes

Morris Day & the Rhyme Time

Right of Waylon Jennings

KC and the Sum-Doku band / K.C. and the Sunrays Band

Sunrays & Cher-A-Letter

Motley Crueptograms

Janis Joplinkwords

Alphaville Soup / Bowling for Alphabet Soup

The Smashing Pumpkin-Patchwords

Junior Walker & the All Stars and Arrows

Stars and Aerosmith

Sudoku & the Banshees

Sudokool & the Gang / Kool and the Changelings

Mirror Imagine Dragons

Kelly Picker-Upper

Blackout Sabbath

They Might Be Puzzler’s Giants

Sweet Honeycomb in the Rock

Busta Rhyme Time

A to Z Maze featuring Frankie Beverly / A to Jay-Z Maze

Beat the Strawberry Alarm Clock

Foreigner ‘n’ Aft


Frank Zip It

Patsy Cline ‘Em Up

Golden Earringmaster

Add One Direction

Jethro Full Circle / Jethro Tiles

The Point the Way Sisters


Marcy Word Playground

Mariah Carey-Overs / Carry-Overs Underwood

The Black Keywords

Neil Diamond Mine / Nine of Neil Diamonds / Neil Diamond Rings

What’s Left Eye Lopes

Face to Faces / The Small Face to Faces

Split and Splice Girls

Word Player

Quotefall Out Boy

Word Mazey Gray


Simply Grand Funk Railroad!

“C” the Spice Girls and “C” the Beastie Boys

Little Mix at a Time

Anagram Magic! Square

The Associations

Fats Domino Theory

The Washington Jigsaw Squares

Linkwords Park

Stevie Ray Vaughn and Double Occupancy

Scoremaster Flash


John Mayall’s Codebreakers

Nat King Collective Crossword

Dave Match-Up’s Band

Jane’s Letter Addition

Counting Cross Sums

Fleetwood Mac & Logic Problems / Flinkwords Mac

Crostics Stills & Nash

Maxi-Score Priest

Drummerman-heim Steamroller / Drummerman-fred Mann

A Trigons Called Quest

Sir Mixmaster-A-Lot

Weird Al Wacky Words Yankovic

Uncle Crackers

The Marshall Mind Tickler Band

Banana Word-A Rama

Ashford & Simpson Says

The CultureWords Club

Earth Wind and Fill-Ins

The Mamas and the Papas Grand Tour

Ringer’s Eleven

Public Double Trouble Enemy

Guns ‘n’ Rows Garden

Those bands would be sure to win plenty of AnaGrammy and QuotaGrammy Awards!

Our fellow puzzlers on Twitter also offered up some terrific entries themselves!

@EmilBurp was “torn between the obvious ‘A-Dell’ or the semi-obvious ‘Anacro-Styx'” — two very clever entries! And @_PaulSurf offered up several choice entries, including “Panic at the DisCodewords,” “ZZ Top Choice Sudoku,” and “CryptoGraham Parker and the Rumour.”

Have you come up with any Penny Dell Puzzle Bands 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 Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!