Cross Worlds with Crosswords (and Other Puzzles)!

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 #PennyDellPuzzleGeography, mashing up Penny Dell puzzles and countries, cities, landmarks, tourist spots and more!

Examples include Stepping Stonehenge, Sri Linkwords, and Istanbul’s-Eye Spiral!

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


Match-Up Picchu

Warsaw Squares

The Shadow of Liberty

Bricks and Mauritania

Empire State Building Blocks

Around the Block Island

Sutokyo

Leicester Anagram Magic Square / Amazon Magic Square

Fill-Indonesia

TimbukTwo at a Time

Three Sommes

Across and Down Under

Ups and Churchill Downs

Torontop to bottom / Top to Foggy Bottom

Rhyme Times Square / Times Square Deal / Time Squares / Times Squares

Charing Crossroads

Around the Great Bend

Bermuda Triangle Seek / Bermuda Try-Angles

Paris in Rhyme

Build-a-PyraMidland

Arctic Circle Search / Arctic Circle Sums / Arctic Circles in the Square

Hidden Circle in the Squares / Piccadilly circles in the Square

9 of Diamonds Head

MarbleHeadings

Classified Addis Ababa

Grand Tours / Rio Grande Tour / Grand Canyon Tour

Boston Common Bond

In the Middle East

End of the Maginot Line

HidDenali Word Squares

Make the MaConnection / Make the Connecticution

It’s Ural Move / It’s Your Mo-ja-ve

United KingDomino Theory

Quote Niagara Falls / Niagara Quotefalls

Montauk Point the Way / West Point the Way

QuotaGramercy Park

SpinWheeling

Right of Appian Way

Dubl-In and Around

TripLexington

Madriddle Me This

Cancuncellations

Helsinkey Word

Mexicombos

Mount Skill-O-Gram-jaro

Pentagon Match

Missing Sphinx

Word Thames

Crypto-Bolivia

Continent Search

LouisiAnacrostics

Three from Rhine

Middle of the Abbey Road

A-spenwheel

Lake Tahoe Many Squares?

Acropolistics

Egyptograms

Catacombies

Crackerjacksonville

The Appalachian Word Trail

Little Fancy Five Points

Little Rock Puzzler

Mount Places Pleasant / Places, Belize

Eiffel Tower Power / Flowrida-er Sunshine Power

Florida Keywords / Turkeyword

Trafalgar Squares

Minsk Bag / Mixed Baghdad

Dublin Crosser

Amsterdiamond Rings

Birminghome Runs

Madaga-stars and Arrows

Sum-alia Triangles

Alaskan Penin-syllacrostic

Puzzle Der-bai

M_ss_ss_pp_ng V_w_ls

Who’s Whousatonic

Ottawat Is It?

Picture Paris

Chicago Fish

Crypto-Kalamazoo

Pencilvania Pusher

Stockholm Runs

Say That Againsville?

Okefenokeyword Swamp

Angkor What’s Left? / What’s Left Bank?

Finnish the Fours

Battleships Creek

Ken-Kenya

Sierra Leone and Only

Tierra Dell Fuego

Caribbean carnival

Red Rock Challenge


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

One offered a tourism pitch for a puzzly destination: Mount OddsandEverest: Only a HopSkipandJump ToptoBottom

Another offered the following exchange and puzzly directions:

1: “Excuse me, how do you get to these Places, Please? Could you Point the Way?”
2: “Just follow the Word Trails until you get to the Borderline. If you see the Quotefalls, you’ve gone to far. At the Four Corners, Keep On Moving until you reach the Crossroads. Then it’s just a walk Around the Block and you’ll be at the Crypto-Zoo!”

Finally, one offered a quick tour of her favorite puzzle locale:

One of my favorite locations to visit is Anagram Magic Square, where if you take your PLACES, PLEASE, you can ESCAPE A SPELL to anywhere on earth. You can travel to PARIS in PAIRS, or dine on ALPHABET SOUP at an UPBEAT L.A. SHOP. And whether you’d rather see a SLICK DUBLIN BOG or a GLIB LISBON DUCK, you can find it in the BUILDING BLOCKS of this amazing place.


Have you come up with any Penny Dell Puzzle Geography entries of your own? Let us know! We’d love to see them!

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5 Questions for Acrostics Constructor Cynthia Morris

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 Cynthia Morris as our latest 5 Questions interviewee!

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An author, editor, and puzzler, Cynthia is the mastermind behind Acrostics by Cyn, her online acrostic puzzle empire. Her brand is soon expanding to eight puzzle-book titles that mix crossword-esque cluing with intriguing themes and quotation-style content.

Cynthia 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 Cynthia Morris

1. How did you get started with puzzles? What drew you to acrostic puzzles more than other styles, like crosswords, word seeks, or encrypted puzzles?

I got started at a really early age, thanks to my mom. She was a former schoolteacher who knew how important it is to exercise our brains every day, so one year during summer break from school — I think I was 8 years old — she offered to pay me $10 for every book of puzzles I completed, cover-to-cover, without peeking at the answers in the back.

I chose variety puzzle books — I’m pretty sure they were the Dell puzzle magazines that were sold at the grocery stores. I thought they looked like the most fun. I had never even heard of acrostic puzzles at the time, but as soon as I discovered them, I was hooked. 

I had always loved books and also loved to write, so the combination of quotations from books and crossword-style clues was completely irresistible to me. Plus I loved that acrostic puzzles are a bit like solving a mystery, because the clues lead you to a fun or funny quote at the end, instead of just a grid filled with words.

I remember that I would solve the acrostic puzzles in the variety books first, and then race through the rest of the puzzles as quickly as possible so my mom would buy me another volume and I’d have more acrostic puzzles to solve.

We ended the $10-per-book deal when summer was over, but I was totally addicted to acrostics by then, and kept solving. It turned out to be a lifelong addiction.

cyn-acrostics

2. What, in your estimation, makes for a great puzzle? What do you most enjoy — or try hardest to avoid — when constructing your own?

I love themed puzzles — and I especially love when a puzzle is “slyly themed,” so that when you finish the puzzle, you realize that far more clues/answers pertain to the quotation solution than you knew when you were solving it. I love learning something new, whether it’s from the clues and answers, or from the quotation solution.

I love clever or funny clues, as well as those that have a bit of misdirection thrown in.  I love a good quotation solution. And I love punny, groan-worthy puzzle titles — which is something I’ve picked up from my husband, Bryan. I write all of my puzzle titles with him in mind, and if I get a chuckle out of him I know I’m on the right track.

My favorite part of constructing? I don’t think I can answer that one, because I enjoy every aspect of it. I love selecting the quotations, although this often takes way longer than it should because I’ll open a book with the intention of skimming it for a good quote, and end up reading the whole thing! I love deconstructing the quotation solution into a word list, which is just as much fun as solving a puzzle. And I love writing the clues, especially trying to come up with clever clues that will make my solvers laugh.

I avoid dictionary definition clues as much as possible. I include a few in each puzzle as “gimmes,” because otherwise it can be difficult to get a toehold on a puzzle, but they’re not my favorites — I like to be more creative than that when it comes to clues. And I make a conscious effort not to copy any other constructor’s style — I’ve worked hard to develop my own signature style.

3. You have acrostic books for younger solvers and older solvers. What’s more challenging: creating an engaging puzzle for a younger solver or creating a truly difficult but fair puzzle for an established solver?

You’d think my AnimaCrostics series, which are easy, animal-themed puzzles for kids and new acrostic solvers, would be the easiest to construct, but this isn’t the case. They’re just as difficult to create as my challenging puzzles for adults.

Technically, I’m much more limited when it comes to which words I can use as answers, because I have to be sure they’re words that are in children’s vocabularies. Then again, one of my goals is to help kids expand their vocabularies, so I like to include a few words in each puzzle that may be a bit of a stretch for them at first. It’s a difficult balancing act, so I put a great deal of effort into every one of those short, easy puzzles.

Creatively speaking, AnimaCrostics are also a bit of a challenge, but a fun one. When I was first constructing them I had about 75 kids at a local elementary school for testers, and one thing was clear: Kids like gross stuff. They love learning about things like vulture vomit and hippo poop and fish farts. The puzzles with these types of quotation solutions were the biggest hits, and the puzzles that kept the kids coming back for more. So I try to include as many of them as I can in each book, along with other fun animal facts.

I originally called this series Kids’ Krostics, but it turned out that many adults who were new to acrostic puzzles were enjoying them as well, and even snagging the books from their kids when they weren’t in use. So I renamed this series AnimaCrostics to make it clear that these puzzles are fun for everyone, not just kids.

My two other series, American Acrostics and CynAcrostics, are equally difficult to construct, but for different reasons. 

am-acrostics

Each volume of American Acrostics tells a story — the history of the United States (Volume 1), the story of American inventors (Volume 2), tales about our presidents and first ladies (Volume 3), and fun facts about each state (Volume 4, forthcoming). Finding the specific quotations I need for these volumes can be challenging. But I love that sort of challenge, which involves bringing about 80 library books home at a time, because I get to read so many wonderful books while searching for quotations. 

Choosing quotations for CynAcrostics is a bit easier, because I keep a running file of quotes I come across in books I’m reading. For example, I already have all my quotations for CynAcrostics Volume 3: You Don’t Say? selected, and I haven’t even started constructing those puzzles yet! I’m a rabid reader, and I have very eclectic tastes, so the CynAcrostics are a fun way to share quotations from the wide range of books I read. 

Both my American Acrostics and CynAcrostics series include themed puzzles — some volumes more than others. Themed puzzles are more challenging to construct than your average acrostic puzzle, because the goal is to include as many clues/answers related to the theme of the quotation solution as possible, but to clue them in such a way that the theme isn’t too obvious, which would make the puzzle too easy.

Overall, I think finding the right difficulty level — whether the puzzles are geared for adults or kids — is one of the hardest parts of the construction process. I try to include a mix of easy, medium, and difficult puzzles in each volume, but of course a puzzle that’s easy for one person may be difficult for another. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that it’s impossible to please all of the solvers all of the time, so I just focus on constructing the best puzzles I can, and hope my solvers enjoy them.

4. What’s next for Cynthia Morris?

On the puzzle front, I’m finishing up my eighth volume of puzzles, American Acrostics Volume 4: The Puzzling States of the Union. This may be my favorite volume yet.  I’ve managed to find really great, quirky quotation solutions, and because the puzzles are themed, I’ve learned a lot of fun trivia about each state. I’m really looking forward to sharing this volume, and hope to have it available in time for the holidays.

As an author/editor of nonfiction books, I also have exciting news. My book, Micronesian Blues (co-authored with my husband, Bryan Vila) is in development with actor Patrick Dempsey’s production company (Shifting Gears) and Cinemax. A Cinemax original TV series based on the book is in the works, and I hope to have more information about this project to share soon.

micronesian-blues

We’re working with an absolutely fabulous team of folks — in addition to Patrick Dempsey, Emmy-winning director Greg Yaitanes and New York Times bestselling author Jonathan Tropper are on board — so we couldn’t be happier with this project. (Of course, as soon as we signed on with Patrick’s production company, I couldn’t resist constructing a celebratory puzzle based on a quote from his Grey’s Anatomy character, Derek Shepherd. I ended up using it in CynAcrostics Volume 2: Reel-y?)

I also continue to work as an editor, and I have several other books in progress, so I certainly can’t say I’m ever bored.

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

Just one? Yikes!  I’m not known for my brevity. OK, here goes:

I view acrostic puzzle construction as an art, and my goal with each puzzle I construct is to hone my craft. For readers, this may provide some insight into how much of ourselves we constructors put into each acrostic puzzle. For my fellow puzzle writers, I’m sure you can relate to this. For puzzle fans, this means that your feedback is invaluable to me. And for aspiring constructors, this means that no matter how many acrostic puzzles you’ve solved, it takes more time than you might imagine to become good at constructing, so be prepared for that. I’ve been constructing for 11 years now and I’m still learning to be a better constructor all the time, as both my skills and my understanding of what constitutes a good puzzle evolve.


A huge thank you to Cynthia for her time. You can check out all the acrostic offerings from her on her website here, and be sure to follow her on Twitter for the latest updates and puzzles!

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!

Other puzzles you might not know! (Volume 1)

We’re all puzzle fans here, right? And sometimes we need something new, something fresh and engaging to rejuvenate our love of puzzles. We know all the classics — crosswords, fill-ins, logic puzzles, word seeks, Sudoku, cryptograms, and anagram puzzles — but there’s a whole wide world of puzzles out there to explore that you might not even know about!

So, in today’s post, I’m going suggest some puzzles to check out, based on each of those classic solving experiences.


Let’s start with crosswords.

From the New York Times and LA Times crossword puzzles to the Penny Dell Crossword App, there’s no shortage of terrific crosswords of all difficulty ranges awaiting solvers.

But there are also some terrific variant crosswords for you to try out, like Double Trouble.

[Click here or on the grid for a larger version, complete with clues.]

In a Double Trouble crossword, you can put one, two, or three letters into a box, making for a more difficult solve that the standard one-letter one-box crossword.

But if you want to go a little farther afield, you can try something like Marching Bands.

[Image courtesy of Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website.]

A Marching Bands puzzle has two sets of clues. The first set clues the rows reading across, with two clues per line. But the second set is where things get interesting. See those alternating rings of light and dark shading? The second set clues words reading clockwise along those rings, or bands.

So instead of words meshing across and down, as in a standard crossword, you have across clues and band clues interacting to help you fill the grid. It’s a wonderful variation on familiar crossword rules, but one challenging enough to keep you interested. (For a more in-depth look, click here!)

But maybe you like crossword cluing but you’d like an answer more interesting than just a grid filled with words. Fair enough, have you ever tried Crostics?

[Click here or on the grid for a larger version.]

Crostics, also known as Anacrostics (from our friends at Dell Magazines) or Acrostics (as made by friend of the blog Cynthia Morris), feature a series of clues and letter blanks to be filled.

Those letter blanks each have coordinates assigned, so that when you fill the correct letters into those blanks, you’re also filling blanks in a grid below to spell out a bonus message, quotation, or anecdote. (It’s a one-to-one ratio, so each letter blank corresponds to a letter blank in the grid. If there’s one J in the message, you’ll find a J in the answer words.)

Although you don’t have the overlapping entries to help you puzzle out answers like crosswords or Marching Bands do, you can use the grid below as a solving aid. As each word in the message emerges, you can fill in those letters in the blanks above (using those same coordinates).

And for something along the same vein, you’ve got Word Games Puzzles.

[Click here or on the grid for a larger version.]

You still get the message reading out in a grid and the letter blank coordinates like in Crostics, but instead of a bunch of crossword-style clues, you instead get four mini-games to solve. One might be trivia or encryption, another might involve some wordplay, another might offer themed clues, and the fourth might be an anagram game.

Each will challenge you in different ways, and the use of repeated letters — a change from Crostics with their one-to-one letter blank to grid letter ratio — gives you more than one chance to fill in the final message.

Hopefully, one or more of these puzzles will pique your interests and offer a welcome new solving experience!


Next week, I’ll have recommendations for fans of Fill-In puzzles, and in future installments, we’ll tackle word seeks, logic puzzles, Sudoku, and more! If you’ve got recommendations for your fellow puzzlers, please let us know in the comments!

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!

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!