The Fun Side of Crosswordese

Crossword.

Anyone who solves crosswords is familiar with some aspect of crosswordese, even if they don’t know it by that name. Crosswordese consists of words that appear frequently in puzzles, but not nearly as often in conversation or common use. My favorite variation on that definition is “words that crop up a lot in grids but are otherwise pretty useless.”

Part of becoming a better solver is building a personal lexicon of crosswordese and common crossword words so you’re not getting tripped up by the same obscurities, peculiarities, and cruciverbalist celebrities that so often occupy those black-and-white grids we enjoy.

Some of these words seem destined to remain obscure. ETUI will most likely never become commonplace. Most people don’t fence, and couldn’t tell an EPEE from a foil or a saber.

Oona-Chaplin

[Image courtesy of Celebs.Infoseemedia.com.]

Others are cyclical. OONA was Chaplin’s wife, until her granddaughter of the same name become a featured player in the first few seasons of Game of Thrones. Similarly, both ELSAS Lancaster and the movie feline have Frozen to thank for that name gaining new life in puzzles these days.

(Here’s hoping there’s a crop of Eastern-European actresses that will storm TV and film soon and breathe new life into clues for ONA, UNA, UTA, and OSA.)

But, for the most part, crosswordese evokes negative feelings. It’s easy to come up with a list of the words that irk us — the ones we’ve never encountered in the real world, or the ones that we simply cannot remember, even after filling them into a dozen grids or more.

But today I’d like to focus on the ones I do enjoy, the strange words I’ve learned through crossword solving and construction that have broadened my vocabulary and sent my mind down unexpected tangents and pathways I would’ve never otherwise wandered through.

edsel

[Image courtesy of Driving.ca.]

EDSEL

It’s amazing how a convenient letter pattern can keep an infamous failure in the minds of solvers decades and decades later. It was only manufactured for two years, and that was SIXTY years ago. And yet, whenever I see “Ford flop” or something similar as a clue, I always smile. It’s universal at this point.

NE’ER

There’s a lot of poetic license — see what I did there? — taken with poetry terms in crosswords, and most of them are well-and-truly overused. But for some reason, NEER ne’er bothers me. In fact, I enjoy seeing it. It probably has to do with “ne’er-do-well,” which is an incredibly fun term to throw around. It’s right up there with “deipnosophist” and “raconteur” as far as descriptive terms that need to make a comeback.

iago

[Image courtesy of Digital Spy.]

IAGO

He was first clued as a master manipulator from the works of Shakespeare, then as a conniving Disney sidekick who slowly turns toward the light over the course of the franchise. In either case, he’s a fascinating character whose handy combination of vowels ensures he’ll be a part of crosswords for years to come.

obiwanobi

[Images courtesy of StarWars.com and Polina Couture.]

OBI

As someone who is both a Star Wars fan and deeply interested in Japanese culture, I always enjoy when OBI makes an appearance in a grid. (More for the former reasons than the latter, if I’m being honest.)

In fact, this blog entry inspired me to search XWordInfo to see when OBI started being clued as part of Obi-Wan Kenobi’s name (twice, which is weird yet lyrical) and not just as a Japanese sash.

Although the character debuted in the first Star Wars film in 1977, his name wasn’t used in The New York Times crossword to clue OBI until 1990!

These are just the first common crossword entries that came to mind. There are a few others, not to mention all of the neat animals — mostly bird-related or African in origin — that crop up in crosswords. KEA and ROC, IBEX and ELAND, OKAPI and RATEL, just to name a few.

But now I turn the subject over to you, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers. What are your favorite common crossword words or bits of crosswordese that appear in grids but don’t irk you? Let us know in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you.


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Weird Versions of Monopoly!

When it comes to board games, there’s no game more ubiquitous than Monopoly. Everyone has played it, every household has a copy somewhere, and whether you enjoy the game or not, you still have a favorite game piece.

Not only has Monopoly conquered game shelves around the world, but there are so many specialty versions of the game that you’re guaranteed to find one just for you. From The Golden Girls and Star Wars to Hello Kitty and Littlest Pet Shop, from cat lovers and horse lovers to Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead, there are an insane number of Monopoly variants on the market.

sunmaid

And some of these Monopoly games are just plain weird. (Heinz, Sun-Maid, and Best Buy all have their own versions!)

So today, we thought we’d take you for a stroll down Memory Lane (which was renamed Mediterranean Avenue in the 1950s) to revisit the board game everyone knows, but in forms you might not have seen before.

These are the weirdest, least likely, and most baffling versions of Monopoly I could find. (Oh, and if you’re looking for Cheaters Edition, we’ve already covered that one.)

Enjoy!


First, let’s look at the different ways they’ve tried to update Monopoly over the years.

monopoly electronic banking

Electronic Banking Monopoly

One of the bright spots of playing Monopoly is the colorful money. Whether you’re the banker or one of the players, you can’t resist rifling through stacks of fake cash.

So when Monopoly announced that they’d be updating the game with a calculator, credit cards, and even electronic banking, I couldn’t help but ask, “Why?” No amount of tech, no matter how cool, can duplicate dropping a $500 dollar bill.

monopoly-ultimate

Ultimate Banking Monopoly

Again, this version has cashless gameplay, as well as property values that rise and fall as you play. Although the property value gimmick is an interesting change, losing the money seems to suck a lot of the fun from the experience.

monopoly-revolution

Monopoly Revolution

No, you’re not overthrowing the elites and eating the rich in this version of the famous game. Instead, they just made the classic board round. (Oh, and also added an electronic aspect to track players’ money and add sound effects.)

Several of the branded versions of Monopoly have also used the circular board, many claiming that it helps make the game more compact and portable.

millionaire-monopoly

Monopoly Millionaire

In this greed-fueled version of the game, the first player to reach a million dollars wins. This does strip down the game — eliminating railroads, utilities, and tax spaces — as well as limiting the number of players to 4, but they make up for it by adding upgradable tokens and twists through Fortune Cards and Millionaire Lifestyle spots (instead of Chance and Community Chest).

This boils Monopoly down to its roots, and you feel slightly dirtier just by playing it.

monopoly empire

Monopoly Empire

Similar to Monopoly Millionaire, this isn’t a race to acquire property and muscle out your competitors, it’s a race to fill your tower with billboards representing different companies. And you can up the rent you charge as your tower grows.

Spaces are brands, tokens are brands, brands brands brands.

On the plus side, you can’t go bankrupt in this game. I guess you’re too big to fail.

gold monopoly

Monopoly Luxury Edition

Of course, there are blinged-out versions of Monopoly that are larger, more ornate, and designed more as discussion pieces than games to be played.

But nothing quite compares to this $10,000 edition of the game with 18-karat-gold dice, diamond ornamentation, and actual money. (Oh, except for the FAO Schwarz version with actual currency that costs $100,000. It’s insane.)

monopoly live

That is, except for Monopoly Live, which features an electronic talking tower with motion sensors.

Yeah, the infrared tower runs the game. No dice, no cards, no money. Everything is managed with the tower and a few interactive game pieces on the board.

Have you ever wanted to play board games with Big Brother? Now you can!


Now let’s look at some of the intriguing licenses and branding the game has embraced over the decades.

monopoly tut

Monopoly: Tutankhamun and The Golden Age of the Pharaohs

Go big or go home. Based on the King Tut exhibit that toured the world in the mid-2000s, this game has you building shrines and pyramids instead of houses and hotels, along with gold versions of the classic game pieces. (Bummer, I wanted to be a scarab or the unblinking red eye of Ra!)

Honestly, this is weird, but pretty cool.

monopoly-millennial

Monopoly for Millennials

The most “OK Boomer” of the editions of Monopoly I could find, this one can’t seem to decide if it’s celebrating millennials or mocking them.

On one hand, you’re buying experiences instead of properties: retreats, music festivals, etc. On the other hand, the game box itself says, “Forget real estate. You can’t afford it anyway,” while the game has spaces like “Parents’ Basement” for you to land on.

Hasbro_MonopolyHouseDivided-1-1024x576

Monopoly: House Divided edition

Hey, does regular Monopoly not provoke enough ill will or table-flipping in your household? Why not try a version where each player is a candidate trying to earn votes in different states?

Yeah, in this one, your token indicates party loyalty — red or blue, how lovely — and features everything from fundraising, Executive Power spaces, and a White House token.

monopoly pizza

Monopoly Pizza Game

Pizza and board games have been tag team partners for mellow game nights forever, but this is something else entirely. In Monopoly Pizza edition, you’re trying to collect as many pizza slices as you can.

This is actually a pretty cute idea — and friendlier to kids than the soul-crushing real estate version we all know — but it’s hard not to be jarred by the pizza box packaging and menu-style gameboard.

It makes me hungry instead of angry. I guess that’s a win.

monopoly angry birds

Angry Birds Monopoly

Oh, and speaking of anger, check out this fusion of board games and app games.

In this strange mix of property acquisition and dexterity, you get to pick up characters AND fire tiny figures at cardboard pigs across four different worlds (versions) of Angry Birds.

It’s a very busy game board — Mousetrap-level busyness, to be honest — but makes a valiant attempt to bring both games together.

com-edition-featured-1

.Com Monopoly

Would you like to play a business-inspired game while reminiscing about the delightful highs and lows of the dotcom bubble bursting? This version has got you covered, replacing houses and hotels with households and offices.

With properties like Lycos and Yahoo! on the board — as well as “timely” tokens like a surfboard, a pixelated hand-style cursor, and a virus — this is a nostalgic trip back to the days when modems screeched at you to indicate a successful connection and your dad could ruin a four-hour song download by picking up the phone to call your grandma.

Monopoly-Unicorns-Vs.-Llamas-Board-Game

Monopoly: Unicorns vs. Llamas

If you’re looking for a kid-friendly version of House Divided, there’s always this sugary-sweet version of the game. In this version, players are members of either Team Unicorn or Team Llama, and they’re trying to buy up spaces for their particular animal. But instead of properties, you’re buying yearbook-style awards for your creature like “most huggable.”

Rainbow-splashed and glitter-bombed to the extreme, this game is very weird — was I supposed to know llamas and unicorns have some sort of rivalry? — but also very cute.


And here we go. The weirdest official version of Monopoly I could find.

Are you ready?

Let’s do this.

bass fishing

Monopoly: Bass Fishing edition

Bass Fishing Monopoly.

The outdoorsy version of Monopoly — in that you just sit around until it’s your turn to do something — bass fishing was clearly begging for its own dedicated version of Monopoly. You can stop rubbing that lamp, your wish has been granted.

Yeah, you land on equipment, boats, and places to fish, as well as random spaces for large AND small-mouthed bass.

But that’s not all.

Seriously. It’s not all. If you want to really splash out, there’s an even more specialized version out there dedicated to bass-fishing lakes. All the properties are lakes, though there are still random fish spaces.


Let’s end with a nice one, shall we?

monopoly-glass

Monopoly: Glass edition

Designed with a tempered glass board and translucent game pieces, this game is absolutely beautiful. It feels crisp and clean and delicate. It’s a conversation piece, basically, but one you can play.

It’ll set you back about $80 on Amazon, and it doesn’t inspire the same adrenaline rush as Bass Fishing Monopoly, but it sure is pretty to look at.


There you go, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers. I hope you enjoyed this trip to various Boardwalks, Park Places, and community chests.

Keep in mind, these are just the weird ones actually licensed by Monopoly. Next week, I’ll be covering the weirdest ones made by outside parties!


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The King of the Monsters Rampages Across the World of Board Games!

monopolyvariations

When it comes to licensing and variant titles, no board game comes close to the empire of different versions available that has been amassed by Monopoly.

Not only can you get one tailored to every one of the 50 states, but there’s a version of Monopoly for practically every pop culture phenomenon out there, covering everything from Game of Thrones and Star Wars to Spongebob Squarepants and The Office. There are versions with credit cards instead of cash, and even a cheater’s edition where players can be handcuffed to the board.

Sure, other classic board games are following suit. You can find versions of Clue centered around The Golden Girls or Dungeons & Dragons, and a Nightmare Before Christmas version of Operation out there.

But that’s a drop in the ocean compared to the myriad versions of Monopoly that are available for board game fans.

Even Godzilla is getting in on the fun.

monopolygodzilla

[Image courtesy of Mental Floss.]

Yes, there’s a Godzilla-themed Monopoly game now, complete with renamed properties, monster-influenced money, special game pieces, and rebranded Chance and Community Chest cards.

There are even factories and bases to build instead of houses and hotels.

But I must ask the obvious question. If you’re moving a monster token around the board, why aren’t you smashing houses and hotels instead of building bases and factories? I mean, the only monopoly your average kaiju is looking for is a monopoly on destruction, am I right?

Maybe a few intrepid players will cook up some fun variant rules that encounter the monsters to rampage rather than rebuild.

Of course, if you’re looking for an excuse for destruction, maybe the accompanying Godzilla-themed Jenga will be more up your alley.

godzilla-jenga

[Image courtesy of Bloody Disgusting.]

Yes, it’s just like normal Jenga, except the tower pieces are painted to look like pieces of a building, and Godzilla is slowly marching toward it, his atomic breath glowing as he anticipates the unbridled joy of knocking over yet another skyscraping edifice.

That’s certainly more in keeping with the King of the Monsters and his traditional manner for dealing with massive man-made structures. It won’t be as destructive as, say, Smash City or Terror in Meeple City, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.

And, honestly, if there are two games that could use a little destructive sprucing up, it’s Monopoly and Jenga.


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Kickstarter Roundup!

Oh yes, it’s that time again.

For years now, crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo have been hotbeds of innovative puzzle and game design, and I’m always happy to spread the word about worthy projects that I think will delight and intrigue my fellow PuzzleNationers.

So let’s take a look at some projects that are currently seeking funding and see if any pique your interest!


The first (and puzzliest!) entry in today’s list is a reinvention of something PuzzleNation Blog readers already know: Eric Berlin’s Puzzle Your Kids subscription service.

Eric realized that the clever puzzles he was creating worked for both younger AND older solvers, and has reimagined the subscription service to provide all sorts of quality variety puzzles to solvers.

Now known as Puzzlesnacks, it’s the perfect way to keep the puzzler in your life busy with fun, unique variety puzzles, no matter what their skill level.

With 23 days to go, the project is already funded, so any further funding just means more puzzles and even greater quality going forward!

Our second project is something for the murder mystery fans in the audience: A Note for Murder.

This game plays on classic murder mystery tropes, as players piece together the crime —  identifying the suspect, the murder weapon, and the scene of the murder. The twist? The crime hasn’t happened yet!

Plus you’re competing with your fellow players. Although it takes working together to solve the crime, only one person can get the credit for preventing the crime. Will it be you?

With 23 days to go, the project is one-third funded, but I suspect this intriguing spin on traditional murder mystery board games like Clue will meet its funding goal.

Our third campaign celebrates the history of one of the most unique game companies in the market today: Cheapass Games.

The company originally marketed its games by selling only what you need to play the game, allowing you to save money by scrounging up your own dice, tokens, and more from the games you already have. It was a genius approach that led to dozens of fantastic, unusual gaming experiences.

And now, they’re bringing that history to life with Cheapass Games in Black and White, a book collecting the rules and histories of every game offered by the company during the Black and White era.

The book is already funded, but with 21 days left, this project is still worth your time.

We delve into a peculiar true story from history with our fourth entry: Potemkin Empire.

As Empress Catherine tours the towns and villages in her domain, each player competes to convince her that they have the most prosperous and worthy village. And a bit of chicanery is needed, as everyone is setting up empty building facades to enhance the look of their individual towns.

The game quickly becomes a battle of cons, ruses, bluffs, and betrayal, as players try to expose the fake buildings of others while concealing their own false fronts. This looks like a terrific strategy game with some devious poker elements, built in the same vein as Sheriff of Nottingham and other social games.

There’s less than 36 hours left in the campaign, so contribute now. The game is fully funded and pushing towards some worthwhile stretch goals in the home stretch!

Our fifth and final entry today adds a macabre sense of humor to an iconic storytelling world.

Gloom of Thrones combines the mystique and grandeur of Game of Thrones with the namesake card game’s twisted humor and clever gameplay. As each player takes control of a noble family, they endeavor to make them as miserable as possible to score points, and then kill them off when the time is right.

The transparent cards allow for all sorts of playing combinations as you torment and mistreat the parody characters. And naturally, you can derail the other players by causing nice things to happen to their characters. There’s really nothing quite like playing Gloom.

With 20 days to go, the game is fully funded and pushing onward toward stretch goals, so don’t miss out on this hilariously brutal spin-off.


Have any of these projects hooked you? Let us know which ones you’re supporting in the comments section below! And if there are any campaigns you’re supporting that we missed, let us know!

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You Could Claim the Iron Throne in this Game of Thrones Scavenger Hunt!

The final season of HBO’s hit fantasy series Game of Thrones is fast approaching — the first episode of the 8th season airs April 14th — and HBO has gone all out to promote the end of the epic saga of the Starks, the Lannisters, Daenerys Targaryen, and the numerous other families and factions vying for the Iron Throne.

But as it turns out, they’re not the only ones hunting for the throne. Fans around the world have been puzzling out the locations of replica thrones hidden across the globe over the last week.

As news of this incredible scavenger hunt started to go viral earlier this week, four of the six thrones had already been located. Scattered across Europe were the first four thrones: Björkliden, Sweden; Puzzlewood, England; Atienza, Spain; and Beberibe, Brazil.

The Throne of Ice was yet to be discovered, and there were no hints yet as to the possible location of the sixth and final throne.

But as of yesterday, the Throne of Ice was found.

Tucked away in a small mountain town in the Canadian side of the Rocky Mountains, the Throne of Ice was discovered by Birgit Sharman and her husband Kevin in Tumbler Ridge, British Columbia — the first throne found outside Europe.

From an article on BGR:

HBO is taking the promotion pretty seriously, it seems. Two men wearing fur coats, presumably of the Stark clan, were waiting on the throne to be found and put a crown on Birgit’s head that she was allowed to keep and which she showed off via her Facebook page.

One throne remains to be found. But where? And what surprises await those who find it?

The Game of Thrones Instagram page offers this picture and hint:

Its location is unknown for now, but one thing is for certain: fans won’t soon forget this amazing moment when the show brought a little bit of Westeros to life.


Update: The sixth throne was found!

Located in Fort Totten Park, NY, the Throne of the Crypt will be left in place until April 1st, so if you’re looking for a killer photo opportunity, you’ve got it.

The Game of Thrones Twitter page posted this photo about half an hour ago to indicate the sixth and final throne had been found.


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Come On Down! It’s Prime Time for Puns and Puzzles!

Yes, yes, it’s that time again. It’s hashtag game time!

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 #PennyDellPuzzleTV, mashing up Penny Dell puzzles with television shows, characters, catchphrases, actors, actresses, hosts, and more!

Examples include: I Love Loose Tile, Will Shortz & Grace, and Match Game of Thrones.

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


Puzzle TV Shows!

The Good Places, Please

Mighty Morphin’ Flower Power

Leave It To Weaver Words

Spinwheel of Fortune / Wheels of Fortune

Father You Know the Odds Best

The Addams Family Ties / Modern Family Ties / Family Ties Matters / All in the Family Ties / All Fours in the Family / Railroad Family Ties

All in the Crypto-Family

Mama’s Crypto-Family

Crypto-Family Feud

Tales From The Crypt-o-grams / Tales from the Crypto-Verses / Tales from the Crypto-Family

Bewitched Way Words

Sabrina the Teenage Which Way Words

My Three of a Kind Sons

Starspell Trek

ALF-abet Soup

Alphabet Talk Soup

Charlie’s Try-Angles

My Two at a Time Dads

Perfect Fit Strangers

Brooklyn Nine-Nine of Diamonds

Take it from St. Elsewhere

The Odds and Evens Couple / You Know the Odds Couple

Guess Who’s the Boss / Who’s Calling the Boss?

Trade-Off Spaces

Home Runs Improvement

Rowan & Martin’s Fill-In

Dr. Fill-In

Doctor Guess Who

Doctor Who’s Calling?

Whose End of the Line is it Anyway?

Scoreboardwalk Empire

Scoremaster of None

Late Night with David Letterboxesman

Tosh.O and Turning

America’s Next Top to Bottom Model

Throwbacks Horseman

3rd Rock from the Sunrays

Everybody Loves Sunrays

It’s Always Sunrays in Philadelphia

Square Deal or No Deal

Spider’s Webster

The White Shadow

Kaku-Rizzoli and Loose T-Isles

Rocky and Bull’s Eye Spiral

Dancing with the Starspell

Nine(teen Kids) of Diamonds (and Counting), Add One, Plus Fours, Seven Up…

American Pickers-Upper

Give and Take Two

These Three’s Company

Trading Off Spaces

Sister, Sister: Double Trouble

Little Puzzler on the Prairie

Battleships Galactica

Smallville Change

Simon & Simon Says

Knight Ride-of-Way-r

The Price Is Right of Way

Happy Daisy

Daisy of Our Lives

Match-Upstairs, Downstairs

Match-Up Game

Say That Again to the Dress

Riddle Me This Is Us

One Day at a Rhyme Time

One Day at a Time Machine

First and Last Comic Standing

Three to One-der Years

Unsolved Mystery Movie (or Person or Melody or State)

Heads & Tails of the Class

McHale’s Na-V Words

Wizard Words of Waverly Place


Puzzle TV Miscellany!

“No Alphabet Soup for You!”

“Heeeeeeerrree…. (and There’s) Johnny!”

Benedict CumberBattleships

Sherlock Holmeruns

The Walking Dead Keep on Moving

Simon Says: Curb Your Enthusiasm

Home Reruns

In Living Colors

“I’ll Be (Here and) There for You”

“Those Were the Daisy”


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

On Twitter, the intrepid Screenhog contributed “Tales of the Cryptoquizzes.” Excellent stuff! Keep it coming, Screenhog!


Have you come up with any Penny Dell Puzzle TV 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!