PuzzleNation Looks Back at 2016!

The year is quickly coming to a close, and as I look back on an eventful year in the world of puzzles and games, I’m unbelievably proud of the contributions both PuzzleNation Blog and PuzzleNation made to the puzzle community as a whole.

Over the last year, we explored board games and card games, strategy games and trivia games, dice games and tile games, do-it-yourself puzzlers and pen-and-paper classics. We met designers, constructors, authors, artists who work in LEGOs and dominos, and creative types of all kinds.

We unraveled math puzzles and used statistics to play Hangman and Guess Who smarter. We accepted the challenge of diabolical puzzles, optical illusions, Internet memes, and more.

We delved into puzzle history with posts about Bletchley Park, puzzle graffiti from ancient Greece, Viking board games, and modern mysteries like the Kryptos Sculpture and the Voynich Manuscript. We separated fact from fiction when it comes to puzzles and brain health, avoiding highfalutin promises and sticking to solid science.

We spread the word about numerous worthwhile Kickstarters and Indiegogo campaigns, watching as the puzzle/game renaissance continued to amaze and surprise us with innovative new ways to play and solve. We shared amazing projects and worthy causes like Humble Bundles and puzzle/game donation programs for schools that allowed puzzle lovers to help others.

We celebrated International TableTop Day, built a puzzle fort in honor of International Puzzle Day, attended the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament and the Connecticut Festival of Indie Games, and dove deep into puzzle events like the Indie 500, the UK Sudoku Championship, the 2016 UK Puzzle Championship, and Lollapuzzoola. We even celebrated a puzzly wedding proposal, and we were happy to share so many remarkable puzzly landmark moments with you.

It’s been both a pleasure and a privilege to explore the world of puzzles and games with you, my fellow puzzle lovers and PuzzleNationers. We marked four years of PuzzleNation Blog this year, I’m approaching my 650th blog post, and I’m more excited to write for you now than I was when I started.

And honestly, that’s just the blog. PuzzleNation’s good fortune, hard work, and accomplishments in 2016 went well beyond that.

In April, we launched Penny Dell Crosswords Jumbo 3 for iOS users, and in May, we followed that with Penny Dell Crosswords Jumbo for Android. In November, we launched our new Penny Dell Sudoku app on both Android and iOS.

But the standout showpiece of our puzzle app library remains the Penny Dell Crossword App. Every month, we release puzzle sets like our Dell Collection sets or the themed Deluxe sets for both Android and iOS users, and I’m proud to say that every single puzzle represents our high standards of quality puzzle content for solvers and PuzzleNationers.

We even revamped our ongoing Crossword Clue Challenge to feature a clue from each day’s Free Daily Puzzle in the Crossword app, all to ensure that more puzzle lovers than ever have access to the best mobile crossword app on the market today.

And your response has been fantastic! The blog is closing in on 2000 followers, and with our audience on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other platforms continuing to grow, the enthusiasm of the PuzzleNation readership is both humbling and very encouraging.

2016 was our most ambitious, most exciting, and most creatively fulfilling year to date, and the coming year promises to be even brighter.

Thank you for your support, your interest, and your feedback, PuzzleNationers. Have a marvelous New Year. We’ll see you in 2017!


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 Looks Back at 2015!

The year is quickly coming to a close, and as I look back on an eventful year in the world of puzzles and games, I’m immensely proud of the contributions both PuzzleNation Blog and PuzzleNation made to the puzzle community as a whole.

Over the last year, we explored dice games and tile games, apps and pen-and-paper puzzles. We met designers, constructors, and creative types of all kinds. We cracked brain teasers and tackled mind-bending riddles.

We explored the history of puzzles, broadened our understanding of how puzzles and games contribute to brain health, and celebrated the lives of puzzle greats Bernice Gordon, Henry Hook, Merl Reagle, and Leslie Billig, who were taken from us too soon.

We spread the word about numerous worthwhile Kickstarters and Indiegogo campaigns, watching with glee as a puzzle/game renaissance continued to amaze and surprise us with innovative new ways to play and puzzle.

We celebrated International TableTop Day, the debut of The Indie 500 crossword tournament, a new Star Wars movie, the 80th anniversary of Monopoly, new world records set by Rubik’s Cube solvers, and a puzzly wedding proposal, and we were happy to share so many remarkable puzzly landmark moments with you. Heck, we even solved the mystery of The Dress!

It’s been both a pleasure and a privilege to explore the world of puzzles and games with you, my fellow puzzle lovers and PuzzleNationers. I recently posted my 450th blog post, and I’m even more excited to write for you now than I was when I started.

And that’s just the blog. PuzzleNation’s good fortune and accomplishments in 2015 went well beyond that.

In January, we launched the Penny Dell Bible Word Search for iPad, and in March we started our monthly hashtag games. In May, we added Penny Dell Jumbo Crosswords 2 for iOS devices, and July saw the debut of our Crossword Clue Challenge every weekday on Twitter and Facebook.

But the standout showpiece of our puzzle app library has been the Penny Dell Crossword App. With our Dell Collection puzzle sets, our monthly Deluxe puzzle sets, and the 2015 Deluxe Combo (not to mention our various value packs and supreme bundles), we maintained a steady stream of quality puzzle content for solvers and PuzzleNationers.

We added a free daily puzzle feature for all users, and just before Christmas, we launched the Penny Dell Crossword App for Android devices, ensuring that more puzzle lovers than ever have access to the best mobile crossword app on the market today.

[Fred, our Director of Digital Games, shows off the Penny Dell Crossword App
at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in March.]

And your response has been terrific! We amassed over 1500 followers for the blog and we’re closing in on 1700 followers of the PuzzleNation Facebook page, numbers that are both humbling and very encouraging.

2015 was our most productive, most exciting, and most creatively fulfilling year to date, and 2016 promises to be even brighter.

Thank you for your enthusiasm, your support, and your feedback, PuzzleNationers. Have a fantastic New Year. We’ll see you in 2016!


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!

View a Clue: Common Crossword Words!

Welcome to a brand-new feature on PuzzleNation Blog: the View a Clue game!

I talk about crosswords a lot here, and rightfully so. Crosswords are the most famous pen-and-paper puzzles in the world, and here at PuzzleNation, you can always find terrific, fresh puzzle content for our Penny Dell Crosswords App!

And although I love running our daily Crossword Clue Challenge on Facebook and Twitter, I wanted to try something different today.

I’ve selected ten words that commonly show up in crossword grids — some crosswordese, some not — and I want to see if the PuzzleNation readership can identify them from pictures. It’s a visual puzzle I call View a Clue!

Let’s give it a shot!


#1 (4 letters)

#2 (4 letters)

#3 (4 letters)

#4 (4 letters)

#5 (4 letters)

#6 (4 letters)

#7 (3 letters)

#8 (4 letters)

#9 (4 letters)

#10 (4 letters)


How many did you get? Let me know in the comments below! And if you’d like to see another View a Clue game (maybe about common names in crosswords or crosswordy animals!), tell us below!

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!

A Guide to Crossword Clues

[Image courtesy of npr.org.]

For someone who has never solved a crossword before — or has solved them before with less-than-stellar results — the field of clues that accompanies the grid is a daunting sight.

But if you take those clues one at a time, you’ll quickly find that there are different kinds of crossword clues, each with their own flavor and level of difficulty.

Now, I’m referring to American-style crosswords here. Cryptic or British-style crosswords have a completely different language when it comes to cluing. (Let me know if you’d like me to do a post on cryptic cluing!)

By far the most common style of crossword cluing is the synonym clue. The default form of cluing is simply offering a synonym or definition of the word. You practically can’t have a crossword puzzle without at least one.

Some recent examples of synonym clues from our Crossword Clue Challenge every weekday on Facebook and Twitter include “Before sunrise” for PREDAWN, “Ample” for ENOUGH, and “Talent” for KNACK. Simple and straightforward.

Another common cluing form is the fill-in-the-blank clue.

These clues can vary wildly in difficulty depending on how much information is offered. For instance, “Quentin Tarantino’s ____ Fiction” is a super-easy clue, whereas “____ Sea” would be pretty tough, even knowing how many letters are in the answer.

Along the same lines are the see-also clues. These are clues that reference other clues in the same puzzle, often by spreading a multiple-word answer across several entries.

For instance, you look at 3 Across, and it says “See 9 Down.” And when you look at 9 Down, it says, “With 3 Across, popular song by The Verve.” But you might need help from the crossings to get BITTER SWEET SYMPHONY reading across several spaces in the grid.

[Wait, wrong Clue…]

Some clues offer more information than you expect, if you’re observant. For instance, it’s common in many crosswords to signal a variant spelling, a foreign word, or an abbreviated word as an answer within the clue.

For instance, if the answer is AMEER (instead of EMIR), you might clue it as “Moslem chief” instead of “Muslim chief” to indicate the variant spelling. For REP, a standard clue would be “D.C. fig.” For SRA — short for SENORA — you might get “Mrs., in Madrid”.

(You can also employ wordplay with entries like these. For a French-fueled clue, how about “Nice, in Nice” for BIEN?)

And that serves as a marvelous segue into our final crossword cluing style: wordplay clues!

[Image courtesy of Rocky Smith Files.]

Wordplay clues employ some sort of pun or linguistic trickery to take them a step beyond the average clue. Often, these clues are marked with a question mark, indicating that there’s something going on beyond the surface meaning of the clue.

As you’d expect, wordplay clues are a favorite of mine, and they’ve been featured several times in our weekday Crossword Clue Challenge. Some previous examples include “Tot rod?” for TRICYCLE, “Tread the boards?” for WALK THE PLANK, “Star trek?” for SPACEWALK, and “Take the honey and run?” for ELOPE.

If you’ve never solved a crossword before — or never had much luck with them in the past — hopefully you’ll find some helpful tools here to guide you toward crossword-solving success.

And hey, if you need more practice, you can always check out the Crossword Clue Challenge every day at 2 PM EST on Facebook and Twitter!

Good luck!


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!