How Tweet It Is!

Crosswords occupy a curious niche in popular culture.

They’re a part of everyday life, appearing in newspapers, apps, puzzle books, mysteries, and more. That simple patterning of black and white squares, no matter where it appears, brings them to mind.

And yet, despite their ubiquity, they’re not always viewed as something for the everyman. Some consider them off-putting or intimidating, steeped in obscure cluing and peculiar verbiage intended to keep casual solvers out.

That mix of familiarity and unfamiliarity makes crosswords the perfect fodder for comedians. The crew at HuffPost proved this by compiling a list of humorous tweets focusing on crosswords.

Some of them referenced the odd letter combinations you encounter in grids…

Or the difficulty some clues offer…

Or just the general difficulty of the puzzle…

But other tweets had fun with specific puzzles…

Or with the act of solving itself…

And, given how often wordplay finds its way into crosswords, it’s only appropriate to close out with a pun…

(That last one wasn’t in the HuffPost article. There’s plenty more puzzle humor out there, I just happened to stumbled across it yesterday before writing this post.)

Have you encountered any funny crossword-themed tweets recently? Let us know in the comments section below! (And be sure to follow us on Twitter, where we share little gems like these whenever we can.)

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5 Questions with Puzzler/Artist Hayley Gold!

Welcome to another edition of PuzzleNation Blog’s interview feature, 5 Questions!

We’re reaching out to puzzle constructors, video game writers and designers, board game creators, writers, filmmakers, musicians, and puzzle enthusiasts from all walks of life, talking to people who make puzzles and people who enjoy them in the hopes of exploring the puzzle community as a whole. (Click here to check out previous editions of 5 Questions!)

And I’m excited to have Hayley Gold as our latest 5 Questions interviewee!

An enthusiastic puzzle solver as well as an accomplished artist, Hayley combines her interests with Across and Down, a weekly webcomic devoted to The New York Times crossword.

She combines humor and the keen eye of a long-time solver to not only entertain, but offer worthwhile insight into crosswords as a whole and individual puzzles in particular. Whether she’s punning on themed entries or proving her pop culture savvy with references galore, each Across and Down comic brings something unique to the table.

Hayley 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 Hayley Gold

1. Which came first for you: puzzles or art? How did you discover puzzles?

Well, I think art is rather intuitive. As soon as a child gets hold of a crayon their artistic career begins. A lot of people are miffed when artists comment that they’ve been drawing all their life, but I actually did more drawing in my youth than in my maturity, when pressure became attached to it.

That being said, I find doing puzzles much more relaxing and more natural for me. So, though one may have preceded the other doesn’t mean that it’s the dominant hobby.

2. When did you launch Across and Down, and has it evolved from your original vision?

I started the site in January 2014 as a project for my web comics class. The whole operation was rather hasty. We were told we needed to come up with a comic that’s updated weekly, the teacher said the content was completely up to us, though her web comic followed a linear narrative, as did the comics of most of the other students.

I needed something I could do without too much time lost, as the class was only an elective and I had other comics to complete, and something that focused on writing more than visuals as that has always been my strong suit. And of course I wanted it to be fun, and something that I cared about.

I never imagined it would become what it has. Okay, let me rephrase that. I have wild fantasies about it being much MORE than it is, what I never imagined is how much I would NEED it. I experience withdrawal if I go too long without making one.

[Strategy, a wonderful crayon-and-pencil piece, as featured on her portfolio site.]

3. Your comics offer a wonderful mix of humor, tongue-in-cheek wordplay, and savvy commentary from a clearly experienced solver. How have the constructors reacted to your comics? Do you think couching your critiques in this format allows you to say more than a straightforward review or blog post?

In general, I get a good response from constructors. I certainly never got any flak from anyone. Many have reached out to thank me actually, which is a very rewarding gesture. And I’ve never attempting real blogging to compare the reactions side by side, but I would guess that giving everything a lighthearted air does assuage some of the severity of critique.

But, at the same time, I am rarely totally critical and try to be balanced. And though I often address the constructor directly, I try not to make any serious personal attacks if I thoroughly rip something apart, though, by and large, I don’t do comics on puzzles that are completely horrendous. Partly because I don’t wish to be horribly cruel to anyone, and partly because I don’t think it’s very entertaining. At least in a comic, I think nitpicking about the usual crossword faux pas gets repetitive.

[A sample of one of her most recent webcomics.]

4. What’s next for Hayley Gold?

I’m working on a graphic novel, but no ETA on that. And for anyone who’s a fan of my site, I’ll warn you that it’s totally different, both graphically and narratively, so no guarantees that you’ll like it. I also need a job. Hey, anyone out there, hire me! Would love to do some custom crossword comics!

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

Er, I’m not really good with this. God knows, my life is a mess. But let’s try to narrow it down a bit. How about advice pertaining to webcomics? Make it about something you’re passionate about. Most of my peers quit their webcomic after the class finished. Now, my stick-to-it-iveness may be due to my uptight nature, but also because it really meant something to me.

Also, keep at it even if you think no one is reading. I hope to get more eyeballs as I go along, though my site still reaches relatively few readers. People may look over it once and then never come back instead of subscribing, or just never come across it even though they are ardent puzzle solvers.

When I go to comics events, so many people come up to me to tell me what a “great idea” my site is — but they personally don’t do the puzzle so it’s not for them. I’ve experienced a very small overlap in the fanbases. The way comics are promoted, as one big giant blob of content, is rather weird — as if readers would be attracted to all of it simply because of the medium, rather than it being placed into subcategories — but I digress.

Choose something you like, stick with it.

Many thanks to Hayley for her time. Check out for her comics and links to her other works, and to keep up on all things Hayley, follow her Across and Down Facebook page, her Twitter (@HayleyRabbit), and her Etsy page! I can’t wait to see what she has in store for us next.

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!

It’s Follow-Up Friday: Riddled and Tippled 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’d like to return to the subject of riddles and brain teasers!

We’ve featured plenty of them on the blog over the years, from this Parking Lot puzzler to Lewis Carroll’s most infamous riddle. But it never occurred to us to test our riddle-solving and brain-teasing skills under the influence of a few glasses of wine.

Thankfully, Sudoku enthusiast and YouTuber Hannah Hart (of My Drunk Kitchen fame) took it upon herself to ask her fans to submit riddles for her to unravel while tipsy.

Did you figure them out faster than Hannah? Do you think a glass of wine would help your puzzling? (Or perhaps I should ask “do puzzles drive you to drink?” *laughs*)

Since people were submitting more riddles for her to solve, I couldn’t resist tossing in one of my own:

Four jolly men sat down to play,
And played all night till break of day.
They played for cash and not for fun,
With a separate score for every one.
When it came time to square accounts,
they all had made quite fair amounts.
Now, not one has lost and all have gained –
Tell me now, this can you explain?

A little something to keep you busy on this lovely Friday. Enjoy.

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PuzzleNation Product Review: Schmovie

Galactic Sneeze is a relative newcomer to the puzzle/board game scene — they describe themselves as a “fun stuff think tank,” rather than a company — but if their game Schmovie is any example, they definitely live up to that name.

Schmovie is the brainchild of Galactic Sneeze co-founders Bryan Wilson and Sara Farber. (Check out Sara’s session of 5 Questions here!) Schmovie challenges players to conjure up the funniest movie title for a given scenario, based on a roll of the die (to determine the genre of the film) and a card from each of two decks, the “who” deck and the “what” deck.

[So, in this case, we need a drama about a hypersensitive granny.
Can you come up with a better title than “Irritable Mrs. Howell Syndrome”?
My friend suggests “The Slow and the Furious.”]

Each round, one player is the Schmovie Producer. This person rolls the die and flips over the Who and What cards. Every other player writes down their movie titles on their erasable boards, and then turns them in to the Schmovie Producer face down. The Producer shuffles the boards to keep the players anonymous, then reads each title aloud. The Producer then chooses a favorite, and that player earns a Schquid Trophy.

The first player (or team) to earn 5 Schquids wins the game.

This is a terrific game for puzzlers, because creativity and wordplay are such a key component. (Considering how many crossword puzzle clues are puns or plays on words, a facility with groaners is something most puzzlers already have in their skill sets.)

You can write anything as your film title, whether it’s your own creation or a pun based on an established film — whatever gets a bigger laugh or best shows off your cleverness.

And you can even try out Schmovie from the comfort of your own phone or computer. There are frequent rounds of Schmovie played on Twitter and Facebook by the game’s creators, complete with electronic Schquid trophies!

With plenty of replayability and enough cards to keep your wordplay muscles in fighting trim for a long time to come, Schmovie is punderful fun for all.

[Glenn’s note: For anyone who has noticed the similarity between Schmovie’s play mechanic and the @midnight television show’s game #HashtagWars, it seems to be a happy accident that both emerged on the pop culture scene in late 2013. @midnight debuted in October, weeks after Schmovie started hitting stores.]

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!