It’s Follow-Up Friday: Hashtag Hilarity 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 #PennyDellPuzzleComedy 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 #PennyDellPuzzleComedy, mashing up Penny Dell puzzles and anything and everything having to do with stand-up comics, film and television comedians, funny movies, funny shows, funny plays… even one-liners or jokes!

Examples include: David Letterboxesman, The Three Anagr-amigos, or “Take a Letter, Please!”

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

Puzzle Comedians!

Rodney Danger-Textfields

George Carlinkwords

“Weird Al”-phagrid Yankovic

Dr. Dementossing and Turning

Fill-In Diller / Phyll-Ins Diller

Kenken Jeong

David Cross Pairs

Lewis Blackout!

Andrew Dice Game

Cryptomedian Adam Scrambler

Rows-anne Garden

Alphabet Soupy Sales

Dan Ayk-wordplay

Gilda-Quote Radner

Rose-anagrams Rose-anagrams Dannagrams

Puzzle Comedy Films!

History of the World, Part One and Only

Happy Fill-in More!

Meet the Frameworks

You Don’t Maze with the Zohan

Austin Flower Powers

April Sillycrostics!

Four Square Weddings and a Funeral

Three from Nine to Five


Across and Down and Out in Beverly Hills

Alphabet Duck Soup

Animal Crackers House

Puzzle Comedy TV Shows!

A Bits and Pieces of Fry and Laurie

Two for One and a Half Men

Rowan and Martin’s Fill-In

Three of a Kind’s Company

“I Love Loosey Tiles!”

Saturday Night Line ‘Em Up

Sanford and Sunrays

All in the Family Ties

Happy Daisy

Leave It to Weaver Words

The Odds and Evens Couple

[Plus there were a few Seinfeld references in puzzly form:]

“By the way, they’re real, and they’re Sudoku Spectacular!”

“The Bubbles Boy”

Puzzle Jokes and Routines!

“Who’s on first and last?” / “Who’s Calling on first! What’s Left on second!”

Knock, Knock! Who’s Calling?

Why did the chicken cross the Middle of the Road? To get to the other Slide-o-gram!

“Nehh…What’s Left, Doc?”

How do you send a message to a skeleton? By Crypt-O-Gram!

What do you get when you insult a puzzle editor’s work? Cross words!

Have you heard about the most amazing Framework ever constructed? It was a Revelation!

Who’s there?
Guess Who?
Hey, that’s my favorite puzzle!

Who’s there?
Lotto who?
I bet there’s a lotto people entering this hashtag game!

Who’s there?
The Wizard
The Wizard who?
The Wizard is wise and humorous. Didn’t you read the blurb?

Who’s there?
Zip It
Zip It who?
Zip it, you! I’ve had enough of your knock-knock jokes

And the PuzzleNation audience got involved as well! @_screenhog tweeted the excellent entries Funny or Diagramless and Patchwords Adams!

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

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Follow-Up Friday: Other puzzles you might not know! (Volume 2)

Welcome to Follow-Up Friday!

Follow-Up Friday is an opportunity to look back on past posts and puzzly topics. Whether we’re updating you with new developments, providing answers to a previously-posted brain teaser or puzzle, or simply revisiting a subject with a fresh perspective, Follow-Up Friday lets us look back and look forward.

In today’s edition, now that we’ve presented some new puzzles for crossword devotees to try out, let’s turn our attention to Fill-In puzzle fans.

Fill-Ins feature the same grid-filling solving as crosswords, but instead of coming up with the answers to clues, you’re given all of the words in advance, organized by length, and it’s up to you to deduce which words fit the across boxes and which fit the down boxes.

Fill-Ins don’t demand the same level of recall and vocabulary as crosswords, but the deduction aspect more than makes up for it. And if you’re a Fill-In fan, but looking for something different, there are plenty of options out there for you.

Like Frameworks, for instance.

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

A Framework puzzle is like a Fill-In, but without the rigid crossword-style grid. Instead, the grid is looser, allowing for longer words and interesting themes to be incorporated into the puzzle. The trade-off here is that, with fewer letters crossing, you have fewer hints for placing words in the grid. You’ll have to rely on knowing word lengths and counting boxes to complete these grids.

But for something a little less familiar, how about Places, Please?

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

Places, Please gives you all of the words to place in the grid, just as Fill-Ins do, but there are no black squares to help guide you. Instead, you’re told where the first letter of each word will be placed, and you have to figure out in which direction each word will read.

You’ll want to start with the longest words first, seeing which directions will allow them to be placed. As you place each word, those letters offer clues for placing other words. Eventually, you’ll fill the entire grid! (It’s like a word seek in reverse!)

And if that’s a bit too open-ended for you, let’s talk Stretch Letters.

[You get the idea.]

Stretch Letters puzzles offer the same word-list format as Fill-Ins (organized by word length), but you’ll only enter them reading across. The wrinkle here is that some of the words above and below each row will share those letters, stretching the boxes (and the letters themselves).

It’s a visually striking take on word-placement puzzles, and the stretched letters make for a fun and interactive grid. One S could provide S’s for a half-dozen words or more!

Of course, if you enjoy the deductive side of Fill-Ins — figuring out word placement in the grid — you should also consider trying traditional Logic Puzzles.


Now, I know these grids can seem a little daunting to new solvers, but they’re simply a way of organizing information. As you work your way through the different clues in the Logic Puzzle, you exclude possibilities in the grid by putting an X in the box where those two options cross.

For instance, in the above Logic Problem, based on clue 7, you’d place an X in the box where Esther (listed under First Name) crosses Tyson (listed under Last Name), eliminating it as a possibility.

The more boxes you fill with X’s, the greater the amount of information you garner from the grid, and eventually, you’ll know their full names, ages, and instrument of choice based on those seven clues. Pretty impressive deduction there.

Next week, we’ll take a break from these puzzle recommendations posts, but if you’ve got puzzle recs for your fellow puzzlers in the meantime, please let us know in the comments!

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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!

Neil Patrick Harris: Actor, Magician, Puzzler?

I’m a puzzle guy, so naturally I’m always on the lookout for new puzzles, whether it’s in the newspaper, the bookstore, the Internet, or anywhere else I happen to be browsing.

But sometimes, you stumble upon a puzzle in the unlikeliest of places. Like a celebrity’s autobiography.


I recently got around to reading the autobiography of comedian, actor, magician, award-show host extraordinaire, and all-around champion of entertainment Neil Patrick Harris, and, as you’d expect from someone as creative as him, it was no ordinary affair. It’s written in the style of a Choose Your Own Adventure book, where you can make life decisions (as he did) and see where they lead!

Some lead to hilarious fake deaths, while others lead to genuine poignant moments from his life. We learn about his career, his discovery of magic, the peaks and valleys of his acting career, and his search for love, and it’s a great story. But he also includes messages from friends, drink recipes, and other hidden gems in the book, one of which was an unexpected cryptic crossword puzzle!



Now, I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m hardly the strongest cryptic solver around, but I couldn’t resist tackling a surprise Neil Patrick Harris-themed puzzle. (Thankfully, I was able to call in a friend who’s really good with cryptics for the clues that stumped me.)

To Neil’s credit, there are some very clever clues here, in addition to more traditional cryptic clues like “Let show (4)” for RENT and “Symmetries halved and reversed produce a ceremony (5)” for EMMYS. And, as you’d expect, most or all of them apply to events in his life, so you have to read the book to have any chance of solving this one.

Let’s look at a few of my favorites:

  • Sounds like an assortment of taxis in which you were the MC (7): An assortment of taxis is a CAB ARRAY, which sounds like CABARET, a show in which he played an emcee.
  • Costar a large, fake amount of money? (7): Actor Nathan FILLION costarred in Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog with Neil, and FILLION certainly sounds like a large, fake amount of money.
  • He was against you, and it sounds like he’s against everything (4): There’s a terrific story in the book where Neil is accosted by actor Scott CAAN, whose name sounds like CON.
  • Lothario! Unhinge 90 bras, boy!: This one takes a little work. “Unhinge” indicates this is an anagram clue, so if you anagram “ninety bras,” you get BARNEY STIN. Add “SON” as a synonym of “boy,” and you get BARNEY STINSON, the lothario he played in How I Met Your Mother.

Once you have your 24 answer words, it’s time to fill in the words Framework-style. Quite helpfully, there are several places in the grid where only one word fits, due to word length, which offers the solver several points of access.

However, only 23 of those words will fit in the grid, allowing for an alternate solve for the answers RENT and PENN. But there’s only one way to place the other answers so that the shaded squares spell out a ten-letter word that has a special meaning for clever and attentive readers, a code word Neil suggests as a sign of kinship with the reader.

I debated whether to share the word here, but I don’t want to deprive others of the joy of solving a surprisingly tough and enjoyable puzzle lurking inside an already fun read.

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Valentine’s Day is fast approaching…


Valentine’s Day is this Saturday, and it can be tough to find something appropriate for your significant other that’s sincere and interesting and heartfelt. This is as true for puzzle lovers as it is for everyone else.

So, in the spirit of romance, love, affection, and all things Valentine’s Day, I’ve compiled a few puzzly suggestions for what to give your significant other.


Now, you can always start with something simple, like a subscription to a puzzle service like The Uptown Puzzle Club, The American Values Club Crossword, or Matt Gaffney’s Weekly Crossword Contest. New puzzles every week or every month are a great gift. (Especially the Valentine’s Deluxe Set for the Penny Dell Crosswords app on PuzzleNation! *wink*)

If they’re more into mechanical puzzles, our friends at Tavern Puzzles offer several brain teasers that incorporate a heart shape.


But if you’re looking for something more personalized, why not make a crossword for them yourself?

(Yes, you can also commission a top puzzler to do one for you — Brendan Emmett Quigley for one — but you’d usually want to get the ball rolling on something like that well before Valentine’s Day.)

Now, to be fair, crosswords can be tough and time-intensive to make, so if that feels a little daunting, why not try a Framework puzzle instead? It involves the same crossing style, but doesn’t require you to use every letter.


[This grid is presented fill-in style, in case you
don’t want to use crossword-style numbering.
Check out the original here.]

It allows you to maintain a terrific word list all about you and your significant other without all the effort of filling in every square crossword-style.

Some themed entries could include where you first met, favorite meals, favorite movie… heck, if you’ve been together a long time, the names of your kids, or your favorite vacation spots.

Or you could write the object of your affection a coded love letter! All throughout history, people have employed different tricks and techniques to keep their private messages away from prying eyes, and you could do the same! Whether it’s a simple letter-shifting cipher or something more complex, make sure your message is worth reading. =)

If that’s not your cup of tea, maybe do a scavenger hunt! You could leave clues around leading to a gift, or a romantic dinner, or some other grand finale. Maybe a rose with each clue.


Or you could hide jigsaw pieces around the house that, when put together, spell out a Valentine’s message or a picture of the two of you.

Put your own spin on the idea. A little bit of effort can go a long way, plus it doesn’t cost anything.

You could even make a game of it! Play Valentine’s Day Bingo.


[I found this blank template on]

Maybe go for a walk or take your loved one out to dinner, and see if they can get bingo by observing different things. A couple holding hands as they walk, a Valentine’s Day proposal, outrageously priced flowers…

The possibilities are endless when you put your mind to it.

A friend of mine did something puzzly and romantic for his girlfriend, creating cryptic crossword clues she had to solve in order to receive each birthday gift he’d gotten her. When all of the clues were solved, they spelled out a special message. (You can check out the story here.)

And let me know if you or your significant other have ever shared any puzzly romantic moments!

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!