5 Questions with Comedian, Animal Activist, and Puzzler Elayne Boosler!

Welcome to 5 Questions, our recurring interview series where we reach out to puzzle constructors, game designers, writers, filmmakers, musicians, artists, and puzzle enthusiasts from all walks of life!

It’s all about exploring the vast and intriguing puzzle community by talking to those who make puzzles and those who enjoy them! (Click here to check out previous editions of 5 Questions!)

And I’m excited to welcome Elayne Boosler as our latest 5 Questions interviewee!

If you haven’t heard of Elayne Boosler from her decades-long stand-up career — including being named one of Comedy Central’s Top 100 Comedians of All Time — you’ve certainly seen her work in radio, television, movies, and print. Elayne is a triple threat — comedian, actress, writer — and the founder of Tails of Joy, a non-profit organization dedicated to rescuing and caring for animals.

She became a quadruple threat last year when she added her first New York Times crossword to her accolades in a collaboration with constructor Patrick Merrell. (Of course, she’s also appeared as an answer in the NYT crossword over 30 times. In her words, “Yes, it’s cool. But one day when I’m really famous, I’m going to be 18 Down, and then 22 Across is going to say, “See 18 Down”.)

Elayne was gracious enough to take some time out to talk to us, so without further ado, let’s get to the interview!


5 Questions for Elayne Boosler

1. How did you first get into puzzles?

I’ve always had a touch of dysgraphia/dyslexia; my cursive writing (as they called it back in the 1800s) was always illegible, and when banks still checked signatures on checks I’d get about five calls a day. “But they are written on the same day, three checks in a row, and the signatures don’t match at all.” I know. I can read and write upside down and backwards. I remember driving in the car with my parents when I was really little, and reading a sign. I said, “Bar. R-A-B. Bar.” I can also sing any song you can throw at me, backwards, which once saved my life when I went to a school to talk to twelve-year-olds. I guess wordplay was the natural next step.

2. Now that you’ve made a New York Times-level crossword of your own, what was the most surprising part of the process for you? What did you enjoy?

I never passed any year of math in my entire life, and basically, making a crossword is math. The gentleman I made the puzzle with, Patrick Merrell, was a saint. If they threw some hyperactive puppy at me who thought she knew how comedy worked and said, “Write comedy together!”, and she emailed useless things to me three times a day, I’d kill her. Patrick was an unbelievably patient, wonderful, and talented teacher.

Though I’ve done crosswords all my life, as a layperson I never got the nuance of just how specific the theme clues have to be. It was mind-boggling. I think I sent Patrick clues and answers for a full month before he finally got to spell “water” in my hand. As an added bonus, Patrick wasn’t just brilliant about the words, he’s a crossword artist. His desire for grid symmetry and beauty was fascinating. I enjoyed all of it. Even the frustration.

Do you ever see yourself collaborating on or constructing another crossword?

I would love to collaborate on another puzzle. As you can imagine, after several months of thinking of nothing but themes, clues, and answers, I could not just turn my “crossword mind” off. So I have a LOT of lists of themes, clues, and answers, and I hope I get another opportunity to use them.

3. Many people know you from your trailblazing stand-up comedy career, or your appearances on shows like Night Court. But these days, you’re more synonymous with your charity work protecting animals. How did you get started with Tails of Joy?

I’ve always loved animals. I always knew I wanted to be a rescuer. Being on the road for forty-six years, I got to meet lots of rescuers in different states, and looked for a way I could have the most impact. What I learned was, three old ladies in Ohio will save more cats and dogs in a year than the entire bloated, overgrown Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) which has $300 million and is NOT a rescue organization! I knew the “little guys” needed someone to keep them from falling through the cracks.

So I founded Tails of Joy twenty years ago, and that’s what we do. We’re a nationwide and beyond, all animal (dogs, cats, birds, reptiles, sea life, wildlife, snakes, bunnies, big cats, primates, elephants, bears, everybody!!) rescue and advocacy group, which provides “Little Guy Grants” to the smallest, neediest rescue groups or individuals all across the country. If you’re reading this and you need help with an animal, contact us! All my money goes there. Every time a dog walks by my husband says, “There goes our beach house.”

4. What’s next for Elayne Boosler?

Thanks for asking. I have a boxed set of four of my specials, plus a new CD — Timeless — coming out on Comedy Dynamics on August 31st. I’m featured in the new season of “CNN’s History of Comedy”, Sunday nights at 10pm, and I’m featured in HBO’s new documentary, “Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind”. I have a new piece up at CNN.com, “Elayne Boosler: Saying ‘Joke’ is no Excuse for Offensive Behavior.” And I spend hours every day doing rescue.

5. If you could give the readers, writers, and puzzle fans in the audience one piece of advice, what would it be?

I’m sure they already know this. When you look at a puzzle and you can’t fill in even one word, and you walk away, you come back later and sit down and fill it all in in five minutes. What does that tell you? The subconscious is always working, it’s always carrying out your directives, conscious or not.

So it’s very important to always try to speak in the positive, because you are actually giving your brain orders. In comedy, I have never said “I killed” or “I died”. I don’t say that. If you want to remember your keys, don’t say “I hope I don’t forget my keys”, because your mind hears “forget my keys”. You have to say, “I hope I remember my keys”. In essence, the subconscious has no sense of humor, so be careful how you program it.


A huge thank you to Elayne for her time. You can follow her on Twitter (or visit her website, Elayneboosler.com) for updates on her many MANY ongoing projects, and be sure to visit Tails of Joy to explore all of the wonderful work she does for animals.

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!

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 Drinks 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!

These Puzzly Puns Will Echo Through Eternity…

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 the Hashtag Wars segment that used to run on @midnight 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 #PennyDellPuzzleHistory, mashing up Penny Dell puzzles with historical figures, historical moments, and historical quotations!

Examples include: Daisy Defeats Truman, V-Words-Day, or “Ask not what your mystery country can do for you…”

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


Penny Dell Puzzle Historical References!

Oregon Word Trails

Monrows Garden Doctrine

Woodstock Flower Power

Right of Wayflower Compact

Christopher Explore-a-word Columbus

Samson says and Dilemma

Lucky Star of Bethlehem

Lincolnwords

Federalist-a-Crostic Papers

Hannibal Crisscrossing the Alps

Washington Cross Pairs the Delaware

Military Sudo-coup

Alan Turing’s Codebreaking and Cryptocrossing during WWII

Fancy Ninety-Five Theses / Ninety-Five of Diamonds

Transcontinental Railroad Ties

Circles in the Tiananmen Square

Enigmatch-up Machines (for making Codewords)

Middle of the Silk Road

Boston Three-D Party

Sum Totals of ’69

Spanners Armada

The Treaty of Versyllability

The Stars-Spangled On Parade Word Search Banner


Penny Dell Puzzle History Quotes!

“Four Letter Score and seven years ago” / “Plus fours scorewords and seven-up years ago…”

“Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the Word Play?

“Read my Blips: No new text messages…”

“The Buck Stoplines Here” / “The Buck Stops Here & There”

“Ich bin ein Berlinkworder…”

Napoleon: “Never interrupt your enemy when he’s making a Give-and-Take.”

Churchill: “The Battleship of Britain is about to begin.”

“Letterboxes them eat cake!”

Bill Parcells: “No matter how much you’ve won, no matter how many games, no matter how many championships, no matter how many Super Bowls, you’re not winning now, so you stink.”

Even Shakespeare can get into the hashtag game! From The Tempest:

ALONSO
And Trinculo is reeling ripe. Where should they
Find this grand liquor that hath gilded ’em?—
How camest thou in a pickle?

TRINCULO
I have been in such a pickle since I saw you last that,
I fear me, will never out of my bones. I shall not fear flyblowing.


There were also several submissions that deserve their own section, as these intrepid puzzlers went above and beyond.

One player offered this historical summation: HubCaptain Smith Who Became More than a Blip When He Ventured Across and Down with His Ship: A Titanic Tradeoff

Another player created his own puzzly Pledge of Allegiance:

“I pledge Accordion Words, to the flag, of the Untied Mystery States of America.
And to the republic, for which it Anagrams, one nation under Guess Who,
in Decisions, with liberty and Jigsaw Puzzles for all.”


Have you come up with any Penny Dell Puzzle History 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!

These Are Some Sweet Puns!

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 the Hashtag Wars segment that used to run on @midnight 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 #PennyDellPuzzleSweets, mashing up Penny Dell puzzles with all sorts of sweets, candy, desserts, and anything else that satisfies your puzzly sweet tooth!

Examples include: Four Candy Corn-ers, Twix and Mingle, and Ice Cream Dell Sundae Crosswords.

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


Kit Kategories

Letter Skor

Middle of the Rocky Road

Tootsie Roll of the Dice / Swiss Roll of the Dice / Rolo of the Dice

Top to Black Bottom Pie

Pineapple Ups and Downs Cake

Petit Foursomes / Finish the Petit Fours / Petit Four Square

Ladyfiggurits

Key Line’ Em Up Pie / Keyword Lime Pie

Point the Milky Way / Right of Milky Way

Little Twizzlers

Everlasting Gobstoplines

Double Fudge Delight

Flan Words

Wacky Nerds

Pecancellations Pie

Animal Crackers

Starspell Burst / Starburst Words / Lucky Starburst

Starbursts and Airheads

Airheads and Tails

LemonHeads & Tails

Jigsaw Lemon Squares / Lemon Squares / Circles in the Lemon Square

Lemon Drop-Ins / Lemon Dropouts

GumDrop-Ins / Gum Drop-Outs

Puzzle Derby Pie

Chess Words Pie

Quotagraham Crackers / Quotagrahams / Graham Crackers

S’more AnaGraham Crackers, please!

S’moremaster

Carry-Turnovers

Tart and Finish

Hub-Sno-Caps

Bottle HubCaps

Family Pies

Parfait Fit

Around the Black Forest Cake

Bit-o-Honeycombs

Bits o’Honey & Reese’s Pieces

Reese’s Piece by Pieces

Pie of Diamonds

Rapid GingerbReader House

100 Grand Tour

Wonka’s Whipple Scrumptious Fudgemallow Double Delight Chocolate

ZigZagNut Candy Bar

Piggybakes Cheesecakes

Three to One Musketeer / Three Musketeers of a Kind

Cannoligrams Plus

Diamond Ringpops / Diamond Ring-Dings

Ring-Dingers / Ring Ding Master

Ring Pop Master

Doublemint Trouble Gum

Neccodewords Wafers

Fancy Give and Take Fives

Chicletterboxes

Cryptic-Tac Crossword

Spellbounty Bar

Puzzle Twin Bing

Banana Split Personalities / Banana Split and Splice

Sudo-Kudos

Make the Confection

Anagram Magic Cookie Squares

Hot Cross Sums

Chunky Mon-Keyword

Double Bubble

Ice Cream Sudoku

Do-Si-Doku

Kakoreo

Ka-churro

Creme BRoulette

Cream Fill-In

Mousse Tile

Frostics

Here & Eclair

Give and Bake

Stepping Scones

Mixed Twixes / Twixed Sixes

Caramelflage

Jell-O-Gram

Tart Game

One and Sconely

Chips Ahoy!

GhirarDELLi Logic Problems

DileM&Ma: Which color to eat first

Dim Sum-doku


Have you come up with any Penny Dell Puzzle Sweets 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!

Hashtag Game Fun with Puzzly Women!

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 #PennyDellPuzzleWomen, mashing up Penny Dell puzzles with famous women both real and fictional!

Examples include: Lana Tossing and Turner, Adele Sunday Crosswords, and Madeleine Albright of Way.

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


Selma Diamond Rings

Fill-Ins Diller

Katie Kakuroic

Mary Kay Places, Please

Cher-a-Letter

Priscyllacrostic Presley

The Maddow

Tie-Indira Gandhi

Midler’s Frame

Victoria’s Secret Words

In Black and Betty White

Gennifer Flowers Power

Stepping Sharon Stones

Classified Cheryl L-Adds

Marcia Crossroads

Ariana Grande Tour

Esther Rolle of the Dice

Tori Spellingdown

Sigourney Weaver Words

Maggie Wheelers

Debra Messing Vowels

Emily Observation Post

Tina Turnerabout

Diamond Ringrid Bergman

Word-a-Matilda

Kate In The Middleton

Evan Rachel Word Seek

Right of Fay Wray

Sylvia Plathboxes

Carly Simon Says

Shirley Temple Blackout

Chess-ica Simpson

Senator Barbara Mathboxer

Jenny “From the Blockletters” Lopez

Jigsaw Squares Eyre

Anne Bowl Gamelyn

Miss Piggybacks

Paris Hilton in Rhyme

Louisa May All Frame

Zsa Zsa Gaborderline

Twiggybacks

Marla Marbles

Mariah Carey-Overs

Kathleen Battleships

Dora the Exploraword

Mrs. Double-take-fire

Glinda the Group Values Witch

Diamond Li’l Rings

Major Margaret “Hot Blips” Houlihan

At Sixes and Seven of Nine

Elphababet Soup

Queen Ellery Elizabeth of Penny Dell

Mary-Kate and Ashley Double Trouble


There was also a submission that deserve its own section, as one of our intrepid puzzlers went above and beyond.

To the Cartoonist: Draw the Lynda Carter character Around the Block from the Double Trouble. We’ll Roll the Diana Prince into Wonder Woman and the Amazing Quote Amazon will take them down Brick by Brick.


And members of the PuzzleNation readership also got in on the fun!

On Facebook, Sandra Halbrook submitted the delightful entry Marcia Cross Sums!

Have you come up with any Penny Dell Puzzle Women 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!

Pun in the Sun! It’s a Summer Wordplay Party!

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

summerpuzzles

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 #PennyDellSummerPuzzles, mashing up Penny Dell puzzles and vacations, the summer months, surf movies, camp, activities… anything and everything you associate with summer!

Examples include Summer Triangles, Beach Blanket Bingo, or Suntan-glewords!

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


Summertime, and the Living is Easy Sudoku

School’s Out of Place for Summer

Camp Tanglewood

Which Way to San Jose Words

Summer lovin’, had me a blips

You’re invited to a neighborhood block party; come at 6’s and 7’s

Cancellations my reservation

Summerdoku

Picknic and Choose

Hopscotch the globe

Middle of the Road Warrior

Sisterhood of the Traveling Spanners

Grand Tourist Trap

The End-of-the-Line-less Summer

Rods & Wheels

Word Maze Runner

Kakuro Vs. the Volcano

A Perfect Hang Ten

Annetagrams Funicello

Fiddler’s Crab Frame

Surfs-Up and Downs

Ups and Dunes

Sun’rays’ burn

Junebox Jumble

Abagust

I Know What You Did First and Last Summer / Insiders Know What You Did Last Summer

Catalina Caperfect Fit

Bit Sand Pieces

Bricks Sand Mortar / Bricks and S’mortar

Surfin’-sert-a-Bird

Take a Letter from Camp

Point the Way Home


There were a few submissions that deserve their own section, as several of our intrepid puzzlers went above and beyond.

-Glossing and Burning in Extreme Sundoku

-Exchange Boardwalks featuring Ice Cream Dots and Dashes

-Have a nice cool “coco nutty crossword” smoothy!

-“Rapid Reader Encounters Bookworms on Word Trails; You Can Take It From There”

And one solver took it to an entirely unexpected rhyming level:

Kellermans we come together, Simon Says as one
We have Shared-a-Letter seasons Takeout, Piggybacks, and fun.
Summer days will soon be Odds & Evens, soonly Autumn starts
And tonight our Mixmaster whispers softly in our Heads & Tails.


Have you come up with any Penny Dell Summer Puzzles 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!