Weird Versions of Monopoly, Part 2!

Last week, we ventured on a deep dive into the expansive world of Monopoly. Yes, that most ubiquitous of games that everybody knows. That quintessential board game that comes in many different flavors, but only one texture.

In last week’s post, we strolled up and down the game’s historical timeline, covering curious updates, odd revamps, and truly baffling licensing deals that made for a cavalcade of dice-rolling piece-moving strangeness.

But we restricted ourselves to official releases authorized by either Hasbro or Winning Moves UK. That still leaves a world of unofficial, unauthorized, and third-party variations on Monopoly out there to be covered.

andy mangold monopoly

[Check out this incredibly classy repackaging of Monopoly
by designer and artist Andy Mangold.]

So in part two of this trip down a Marvin Gardens path of peculiarity, we’re casting a wider net and seeing what we catch.

These are the weirdest, least likely, and most envelope-pushing versions of Monopoly I could find. (Oh, and I’m excluding purposely offensive versions, so versions that mention ethnicity or sexuality have been left out of this post.)

Without further ado, let’s enjoy!


anti-monopoly

Anti-Monopoly

Let’s start with perhaps the most famous unofficial version of Monopoly to ever hit shelves. Anti-Monopoly starts where a traditional game ends — with many properties held by a few wealthy entities — and challenges the players to break up the monopolies. Both a smart inversion of the original and an interesting gameplay experience in itself, Anti-Monopoly kicked off an infamous legal battle.

In fact, after two appeals, the inventor was forced to let Parker Brothers buy him out, rather than go bankrupt himself defending his creation. That is the saddest sort of irony.

web-lovers-monopoly

Web Lovers Monopoly

A game that plays like Monopoly but bends some of its classic elements to fit the gimmick, Web Lovers Monopoly replaces properties with websites, including swapping Boardwalk for Yahoo and placing Facebook, Google, and YouTube fairly early on in the board, which makes me wonder when this game was produced.

Also, free parking is now free wireless and jail has been replaced with the real world. Other than mentioning websites and lightly ribbing internet users, I’m not really sure what the point of this game is. If it’s a satire, Monopoly for Millennials had more bite than this.

bibleopoly

BibleOpoly

Using a game representing one of the classic seven deadly sins to teach younger players about the Bible is certainly a curious choice, but hey, we’re not here to judge. (Okay, maybe we are, a little bit.)

In BibleOpoly (a name that does NOT flow off the tongue), players travel through Biblical cities in order to earn the bricks and steeple necessary to build a church. Instead of selfish or greed-fueled acts, you succeed by helping fellow players, making offerings, and doing Community Service (their version of Community Chest), which is nice.

But the less said about The Abyss being listed as a place alongside spots like Nazareth and Bethlehem, the better. Yikes.

photo-opoly

Photo-opoly

Yup, it’s a DIY Monopoly board where you select 22 photos to incorporate into the game. This is actually a cool idea — once you get past the whole “Here, I bought you this, now YOU make it” aspect of the game.

Of course, it makes one wonder about the consequences of making a family version of this game, then having another child, and then that child discovering they’re not included in the family Monopoly game. Or who gets the game in the divorce.

Let’s move on, shall we?

medical monopoly

Medical Monopoly

Yup. The for-profit medical industry in Monopoly form. The first player (er, doctor) to fill their hospital with patients wins.

I feel gross just writing about this game. And that was before I read the instructions:

The object of the game is to introduce and inform young people to the cause and treatment of common physical problems that have a solution known as First Aid. Office Visits to a doctor are also explained for both common and serious problems, giving a better understanding to the patient.

Yeah, they try to pass off this soulless cash-grabbery as a learning experience. ICK.

communist-monopoly

Queue

Now let’s look at a strange version of Monopoly that actually is educational. Queue, the creation of Karol Madj, is set in communist Poland and designed to educate folks on daily life at the time.

Yes, it’s Communist Monopoly. Which is interesting, since Fidel Castro ordered the nationwide destruction of Monopoly games upon taking power in Cuba.

Anyway, the goal of Queue is to line up in an orderly fashion to buy goods and services, including bread. It’s a sobering take on the traditionally cash-flashy game, and one that really immerses you in a different cultural experience.

And like many educational games, it is boring as all get out.

onopo

Onopo

Let’s close out today’s post with a visually fascinating variation of the famous game.

This is Onopo, the minimalist’s approach to Monopoly. An art project by creator Matthew Hollet, Onopo was designed to boil Monopoly down to basics in a visual sense, stripping away the traditional design elements but leaving behind a playable result.

onopo-4-460x460

There’s no geography and virtually no text in the game, but even a cursory glance at the gameboard and the cards reveal just how effective the minimalist approach can be. After a few seconds of confusion, you figure it all out.

onopo-3-460x460

Although Onopo was never commercially released, it’s worth including both for its ambitious design and the statement it makes about branding. In a game that increasingly remains relevant by draping itself in other popular trappings and logos, it becomes less interesting than this bare-bones version of itself.


We hope you enjoyed this two-week trip down the many avenues (and occasional places) that Monopoly has traveled.

Is there a strange or noteworthy version of the game that we missed? Let us know in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you.

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The Crossword From Hell

This is an innocuous looking grid. A smattering of black squares. Classic diagonal symmetry. At first glance, this could be any crossword.

But this isn’t any crossword. This is The Crossword From Hell.

A brilliantly tongue-in-cheek takedown of obscure cluing and other frustrating puzzle conventions, The Crossword From Hell challenges you to come up with, among other things:

–The opposite of “forty”
–Person who did not speak quote
–Color I am thinking of
–Color I will be thinking of for tomorrow’s puzzle
–He batted .219 in 1953
–“… a ______” (Keats)

I have to confess, I love this puzzle. The mix of fill-in-the-blank clues that could be ANYTHING and the incredibly obscure, yet specific, requests for trivial minutiae delightfully skewer the worst crossword constructing practices, particularly crosswordese.

This parody puzzle is the creation of Dr. Karl M. Petruso, an anthropology professor at the University of Texas at Arlington. I reached out to Dr. Petruso regarding his hilariously snarky rejoinder to the puzzle community, and here’s what he had to say about the puzzle:

Yes, that puzzle is my only foray into crossword composition (well, fake composition, truth be told. I did field at least one email from somebody who said he had solved all the clues but one, and he believed that I cheated on that word. I suspected he was pulling my leg…).

Since my grad school days in the ’70s I have been a snooty puzzle solver: only the NYT puzzle, and even then, nothing earlier than Thursday, always in ink. I was able to solve maybe a third of the Saturday puzzles, but it took me well into the next week to do it. I love the clever themes and wordplay in the Sunday puzzles, and could often complete them, but by no means every time.

I decided to take my frustrations out on clues that were at once obscure and too much trouble for someone as lazy as me to remember the words for. Creating that puzzle was very satisfying, kind of like an exorcism or something. I don’t know. I have always thought the web is the perfect place to post snark and work out dark impulses.

Perhaps the funniest thing about this exaggerated crossword is that, to many who struggle with tougher crosswords, it probably doesn’t seem exaggerated at all.

Great crossword puzzles manage to be clever and challenging while sidestepping many of the pitfalls featured in The Crossword From Hell. But this is a wonderfully funny reminder of what you should strive NOT to do.

A huge thank you to Dr. Petruso for his time AND his creative efforts on behalf of puzzlers everywhere.


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Puzzle Culture: Tone-Deaf Cluing?

The latest comic on Hayley Gold’s wonderful webpage Across and Down brought an article on Slate to my attention, and I wanted to share my thoughts on the subject.

The article by Ruth Graham was entitled “Why Is the New York Times Crossword So Clueless About Race and Gender?” and the centerpiece of the article was last week’s Tuesday puzzle, particularly the 31-Down clue “Decidedly non-feminist women’s group” for HAREM.

Ick.

HAREM is a troublesome word to clue as it is, one of those filler words that makes crosswords feel so behind-the-times, like PAGAN (which is always clued like “heathen” instead of as someone non-aligned with the bigger religions).

[A crossword that looks as old-timey as modern ones sometimes feel…]

Even the clues that pass for innocuous when it comes to HAREM, like “Sultan’s bevy of beauties,” are a little unpleasant, as if some tuxedo-clad goon is describing the contestants for Miss America, another antiquated practice that should go by the wayside.

But I’m getting off track here.

Graham’s point was about women and people of color being poorly treated by insensitive, thoughtless cluing, and she clearly did her homework while commenting on incidents in the past:

“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.

In 2013, a national puzzle syndicate apologized for using the clue “Shylock” for the answer JEW. 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.

[Image courtesy of TheGloss.com.]

I’m surprised she left out the granddaddy of them all when it comes to crossword insensitivity: the June 6, 2008 crossword that featured ETHNIC CLEANSING as 11-Down. (Special thanks to Eric Berlin’s website and Rex Parker’s blog for helping me track down the exact date on that one.)

She went on to discuss the dearth of women and people of color in puzzle constructing — something that is slowly changing, thankfully — as well as the tendency to only bring black culture into crosswords with “homies” and “thugs” in order to clue words like HOOD and GANGSTA, but there was one style of cluing that I feel should also be discussed in the same light.

You’ll see foreign words often clued with the English equivalent, and then some indicator of a foreign place. “One, in Seville” for UNO, or “Sea, in Paris” for MER. That’s all well and good.

[Image courtesy of Tumblr.]

But I’ve always been a little uncomfortable with clues like “June, to Juan” or “Left, to Pablo” that are meant to follow the same format. Picking names that are stereotypically associated with a given culture or ethnicity may not be as overtly hostile as cluing “Gangsta rap characters” as THUGS, but it’s certainly not MUCH better.

And we should do better. Crosswords are a cultural microcosm, representing the commonalities and peculiarities of our language in a given time and place. They represent our trivia, our understanding, our cleverness, our humor, and, yes, sometimes our shortcomings.

But if each crossword is a tiny time capsule, we should try our damnedest to have it represent the best of us.


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