Meet the Daily POP Crosswords Constructors: Angela Halsted

One of the Daily POP Crosswords app’s best features is the level of involvement from topnotch constructors. We’ve assembled one heck of a team when it comes to creating terrific, exciting, fresh themed crosswords.

And over the next few weeks, we’ll be introducing you to some of them. Some names you may know, some you may not, but they’re all doing amazing work on these puzzles and deserve a little time in the limelight.

In this installment, allow us to introduce you to constructor Angela Halsted!

How did you get started in crosswords?

I solved crosswords off and on when I was a kid but it wasn’t until 2006 that I got obsessed with them. I don’t even remember what puzzle I was doing, but I was Googling for an answer and came upon the Rex Parker blog. I loved the blog and I loved all the commentary, and that made me want to solve puzzles every day so I could participate.

The first time I decided to comment on the blog, I was required to have a username. I wasn’t very creative and I just felt like I was in a hurry to share my thoughts, so I typed in “PuzzleGirl.” Pretty boring. But it’s stuck all these years!

I submitted my first puzzle to The New York Times in December 2008. It was… terrible. But I knew it was something I could be good at if I kept trying. My first published puzzle was a collaboration with Michael Sharp in The Los Angeles Times in January 2011. Since then, I have had puzzles published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The AV Club, The Wall Street Journal, and other venues. Most of those are collaborations with Doug Peterson, though I’ve also collaborated with Jeff Chen and Erik Agard.

The part I have the most trouble with when constructing is coming up with the theme. I think that’s why I collaborate so much. For me, it’s a lot easier (and more fun) to brainstorm and hone a theme with a partner.

What do you enjoy about working on Daily POP Crosswords?

Oh, speaking of themes, one reason I like writing puzzles for Daily POP Crosswords so much is that the themes can be very simple, which I can handle! Also, I feel like I’m getting a lot of practice generating themes so maybe I’ll get better at it with puzzles for other venues too.

But the best thing about writing for Daily POP Crosswords is working with Patti Varol. She is a phenomenal editor. She is so smart, so efficient, and so motivated. I have a blast talking with her about puzzles and I’m learning a LOT from her.

I also really love being a part of this project because the puzzles are accessible to new solvers. That’s who these puzzles target and I hope they appeal to people who might be really interested in trying crosswords but are intimidated by harder puzzles.

When I had my first Friday themeless published in The New York Times earlier this year, I couldn’t really distribute it to my co-workers, you know? It was hard and probably would have just made them feel bad about themselves. But I’m constantly telling people about Daily POP Crosswords because I know the puzzles are accessible to new solvers and there’s a possibility they’ll get hooked!

I guess the last thing I want to mention is that Patti has assembled a great group of constructors that includes many women. She is also very open to themes about women. And I like that because crossword publishing and construction are generally male-dominated.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Some of my best friends are male crossword constructors. But it’s nice to see someone branching out a little. I hope Daily POP Crosswords will inspire women solvers to take up constructing. That would be amazing.


A huge thank you to Angela for her time! Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for her puzzles in the Daily POP Crosswords app, free to download for both iOS and Android users!

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5 Questions for Artist and Game Designer Jennifer Hrabota Lesser

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 Jennifer Hrabota Lesser as our latest 5 Questions interviewee!

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Jennifer Hrabota Lesser is an artist. Whether it’s commissioned artwork, passion projects of her own, or design work for board games and video games, she adds a personal touch to every piece she works on.

Initially getting into the game industry as a way to pay off student loans, she has since gone on to build a small board game company, Wild Power Games, with her husband. She also teaches a summer class on game design at the Rhode Island School of Design.

Jennifer 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 Jennifer Hrabota Lesser

1.) How did you first get into puzzles and games?

I’ve always loved puzzles and games. I think that I’ve always found them to be very calming. As a kid, puzzle books were a great way to get through long car rides. (Back in the days before iPhones!) These days, they are a way to unwind and calm down.

I am definitely a gamer, I adore board games and table top games. I also find Sudoku very soothing and meditative.

2.) I had the pleasure of scrolling through the art on your website, and there’s a really wonderful trend of reaching out that seems to suffuse many of your works. People holding each other, or finding themselves enveloped by things like flowers. Is that an intentional theme, either for your site or for your art in general, or just something I pulled from this sampling of your work?

Connection is an ongoing theme in my work, both connection with other people and connection with nature. I try to portray my subjects in transitional moments, where they may be at a point of finding a deeper connection with someone, or they may feel as if something has just been lost — the moments of feeling untethered. I believe understanding our connection with those around us is important to our health and happiness as individuals and as a society.

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3.) How does your art inform your work in games, and vice versa?

My work is strongly influenced by mythology and fables, and the games I work on are often character-centered. I really enjoy working on games that have a story, and I think the same applies to my artwork. There is often an implied narrative in the work I’m doing.

I often like to portray strong female characters, finding their power. Years ago I got to design some great female characters for Guitar Hero 2, which was a blast because I love playing guitar and women tend to be underrepresented in rock. More recently I was able to design some of my favorite goddesses for our tabletop game High Heavens. I particularly loved painting Nut and Isis from the Egyptian pantheon. Illustrating The Mother of Dragons for a recent Game of Thrones expansion was also pretty great.

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4.) What’s next for Jennifer Hrabota Lesser?

I am working on a poker deck that will be featuring my artwork, which is going to be an intense undertaking, but one that I am excited about!

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

Whatever your creative path is, find time to do it every day. Create when you are inspired, but create when you are uninspired, push through the times when you aren’t feeling it, to get into the habit of working. I love the quote by Pablo Picasso: “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”

We work and work, and sometimes when we least expect it, something amazing happens. It won’t happen if you aren’t doing the work in the first place.


A huge thank you to Jennifer for her time. Be sure to check out her website for the latest updates on all her marvelous endeavors!

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It’s Follow-Up Friday: 2016 Countdown edition!

It’s the final Follow-Up Friday of the year, so what do you say we revisit all of 2016 with a countdown of my ten favorite blog posts from the past year!


#10 Doomsday Prep

One of the big surprises for me this year was discovering that crosswords and puzzle books were hot-ticket items for doomsday preppers. The idea that crosswords belong next to necessities like food, water, shelter, and knowledge was a revealing one, something that gave me great hope for the future, whether we need those caches or not.

#9 Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide

Every year, one of my favorite activities is putting together our Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide. I get to include the best products sent to me for review by top puzzle and game companies, mix in some of my own favorites, and draw attention to terrific constructors, game designers, and friends of the blog, all in the hopes of introducing solvers (and families of solvers) to quality puzzles and games.

#8 A Puzzly Proposal

Our friends at Penny Dell Puzzles once again pulled off a heck of a puzzly coup when an intrepid fellow puzzler asked them for help proposing to his girlfriend with a special Simon Says puzzle.

I reached out to the lucky fiancé and got his permission to share the story with the PuzzleNation readership, and as I learned more about who was involved and how they’d managed to make it happen, I enjoyed the story more and more. Here’s hoping for many happy puzzly years ahead for the young couple!

#7 Puzzle Fort

For International Puzzle Day, I built a fort out of puzzle books.

It was awesome. Definitely one of my favorite puzzly moments of the year.

#6 The End of Sudoku?

The Sudoku boom may be over, but Sudoku remains one of the most popular puzzles in the world, and I got to thinking… when would we run out? I mean, eventually, statistically speaking, every single Sudoku puzzle permutation would get used at some point, so when would that happen?

So, I crunched the numbers, and it turns out, we’ve got centuries before that happens. Still, it was a fun mental puzzle to unravel.

#5 Murder Mystery

At some point this year, I let slip to my fellow puzzlers that I’d written and staged murder mystery dinners in the past, but it had been a while since I’d done anything like that. Naturally, they volunteered to be participants, urging me to stage something in the office.

Eventually, I accepted their challenge, pitting myself against a half-dozen or so of my fellow puzzlers, allowing some of them to investigate while others played a part in the mystery. It was an enormous undertaking and an absolute blast that lasted three days, and it was definitely a highlight of the year for me.

#4 Puzzle Plagiarism

There was probably no bigger story in crosswords all year than the accusations of plagiarism leveled against Timothy Parker. The editor of puzzles for USA Today and Universal UClick. After numerous examples of very suspicious repetitions between grids were discovered in a crossword database compiled by programmer Saul Pwanson and constructor Ben Tausig, Parker “temporarily stepped back from any editorial role” with their puzzles.

Eventually, Parker was removed from any editorial influence on USA Today’s puzzles, but it remains unknown if he’s still serving in a puzzle-related capacity for Universal Uclick. But the real story here was about integrity in puzzles, as many puzzle and game companies rallied to defend their rights as creators. That’s a cause we can all get behind.

#3 Interviewing the PuzzleNation Team

Our recurring interview feature 5 Questions returned this year, but what made it truly special to me was being able to turn the spotlight on some of my fellow puzzlers here at PuzzleNation as part of celebrating 4 years of PuzzleNation Blog. Introducing readers to our programmer Mike, our Director of Digital Games Fred, and yes, even myself, was a really fun way to celebrate this milestone.

#2 ACPT, CT FIG, and Other Puzzly Events

There are few things better than spending time with fellow puzzlers and gamers, and we got to do a lot of that this year. Whether it was supporting local creators at the Connecticut Festival of Indie Games or cheering on my fellow puzzlers at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, getting out and talking shop with other creators is invigorating and encouraging. It really helps solidify the spirit of community that comes with being puzzly.

#1 Penny Dell Sudoku and Android Expansion

Those were our two biggest app releases this year, and I just couldn’t choose one over the other. This has been a terrific year for us as puzzle creators, because not only did we beef up our library of Android-available puzzle sets to match our terrific iOS library, but we launched our new Penny Dell Sudoku app across both platforms, broadening the scope of what sort of puzzle apps you can expect from PuzzleNation.

It may sound self-serving or schlocky to talk about our flagship products as #1 in the countdown, but it’s something that we’re all extremely proud of, something that we’re constantly working to improve, because we want to make our apps the absolute best they can be for the PuzzleNation audience. That’s what you deserve.

Thanks for spending 2016 with us, through puzzle scandals and proposals, through forts and festivities, through doomsday prepping and daily delights. We’ll see you in 2017.


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5 Questions for Constructor Doug Peterson

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 Doug Peterson as our latest 5 Questions interviewee!

Crossword gentleman and constructor Doug Peterson is a regular in the Los Angeles Times and many other outlets, offering topnotch grids and brilliantly fun, pop-culture-savvy cluing. Doug was also one of the constructors in this year’s Lollapuzzoola crossword tournament and a winner at this year’s American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. Anytime you encounter one of his puzzles, you’re guaranteed a great solve.

Doug 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 Doug Peterson

1. How did you get started with puzzles?

Like many others, I caught the puzzle bug from older family members, specifically my dad and maternal grandmother. I’d spend summers at my grandparents’ house, and my grandma always had a stack of Dell puzzle books on hand. My favorite thing was to tackle one of the huge 21×21 crosswords, which would literally take me days to finish. And that was great, because I had a lot of long, boring days to get through.

2. What, in your estimation, makes for a great puzzle? What do you most enjoy — or most commonly avoid — when constructing your own? What do you think is the most common pitfall of constructors just starting out?

I think the most important element in a puzzle is craftsmanship, meaning that significant effort has gone into making that puzzle as enjoyable as possible. I realize that’s a little vague, but it’s like the old line about pornography: “I know it when I see it.” Basically, the theme, fill, and clues should all demonstrate care and a personal touch.

I’m not the best at coming up with themes, so I strive to make my fill and clues pick up the slack, so to speak. There’s plenty I avoid in my grids, and I’m getting pickier all time. For the record, I’ve never used ÉTÉ in a grid. I don’t trust three-letter words with two accent marks. Also on my “banned list” are IDI, AMIN, and ULEE. I’m not going there. I hate brutal dictators, and bees kinda scare me.

The most common pitfall I’ve found among newbies is trying to do too much right out of the gate. My advice is to get a few 15×15’s under your belt before trying to construct that 21×21 triple rebus with five meta-answers and a tribute to your favorite band hidden diagonally. My first published puzzles are embarrassing to look at now. I used PATLY in my debut puzzle. PATLY? That barely resembles a word that a human would use. But I got better, and by the time I was ready to tackle something truly challenging, I had some constructing chops.

Teaser: I’ll give my best advice to newbies (and all constructors) in my answer to Question 5.

[Two of Doug’s books currently available on Amazon: Sit & Solve© Brain-Straining Crosswords and Sit & Solve© Lickety-Split Crosswords.]

3. Do you have any favorite crossword themes or clues, either your own or those crafted by others?

We’re living in a golden age of crosswords, and there are so many superb themes and clues out there, and of course I can’t think of anything specific off the top of my head right now… I solve a crapload of puzzles, more than 20 per week, so honestly it’s hard to single out themes or clues that made me say “Oooh!”

Constructors whose themes I admire include Brendan Emmett Quigley, Andrew Ries, and Erik Agard. They’re at the top of my “why the hell didn’t I think of that?” list. BEQ publishes two free high-quality puzzles a week, which boggles my mind. And he used to do three a week! Just recently, he posted puzzle #900. I would have burned out years ago. BEQ’s puzzles are a blast to solve, and they’re hip without being eye-rolly.

Andrew Ries publishes a weekly crossword (www.ariesxword.com) that’ll run you $12 bucks a year (a steal!) and consistently features fresh themes and clues. It’s often my favorite puzzle of the week. And then there’s Erik Agard over at gluttonforpun. Mind-bending, multi-level themes and clues that make me laugh out loud. This dude is the next wave of crossword puzzles.

The best venue for stand-out themes by a variety of constructors is Fireball Crosswords, edited and sometimes constructed by Peter Gordon. Shameless plug: I constructed the first Fireball puzzle of 2017, which will hit solvers’ in-boxes in January. It’s a theme that’d been bouncing around in my brain for over two years, and I finally got off my lazy butt and made the puzzle.

Cool entries do tend to stick in my head, and a couple recent entries I loved (and wish I’d thought to use myself) were BEER O’CLOCK and DC UNIVERSE. Both were in puzzles by another of my favorite constructors, C.C. Burnikel. She turns out quality puzzles on a regular basis. In fact, on a more-than-regular basis. C.C. is remarkably prolific. Nary a week goes by that I don’t solve a well-crafted Burnikel puzzle in one of the major outlets.

4. What’s next for Doug Peterson?

On the constructing front, I’d like to branch out a little and create more non-American style crossword puzzles. I love constructing cryptic crosswords. I had a couple published in the New York Times ages ago, and then I drifted away from them. I got my start writing cryptic clues back in the Dark Ages in the rec.puzzles.crosswords Usenet group. (Psst, constructors. No one remembers USENET anymore, so stop putting it in your grids. SYSOP, too.) And maybe I’ll try my hand at constructing a Rows Garden or a Marching Bands puzzle. Something outside my comfort zone.

[A. A familiar Sudoku grid; B. A Kakuro (or Cross Sums) grid; C. A Nurikabe
grid, a variation on Minesweeper-style solving; D. A Hashiwokakero grid,
which readers might remember from this year’s UK Puzzle Championship.]

Speaking of comfort zones, on the solving front, I want to get much better at solving logic puzzles. And by “get much better at,” I mean “actually be able to solve.” I’m talking about Sudoku, Kakuro, Nurikabe, Hashiwokakero (yes, that’s an actual puzzle type I just found on Google), all the puzzles with Japanese names and little lines and boxes and circles. I’ve solved maybe ten Sudoku puzzles in my life, and it would be cool to stretch my brain in another direction or many other directions.

And hey, it will open up a whole new world of puzzles that I can print out and never quite get around to solving!

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

To aspiring constructors, my best advice is: Solve puzzles! I cringe when I hear a constructor say that they don’t solve puzzles or “can’t” solve puzzles. Just looking at answer grids or reading reviews of puzzles isn’t enough. To me, solving is the only way to figure out what sorts of things make a puzzle enjoyable. There’s a reason I don’t use ULEE in my grids, aside from my slight apiphobia. It’s because it bugs me when I see it in a puzzle I’m solving.

Create the kinds of puzzles that you enjoy solving, and you can’t go wrong. (Unless you like solving really crappy puzzles for some reason.) And if you’re interested in being published and getting paid a few bucks for your hard work, it’s essential to solve puzzles from the venue you’re submitting to.

OK, I’ve rambled on long enough. Look for my été-free puzzles in all the usual places. Thanks for reading. Peterson out.


A huge thank you to Doug for his time. Be sure to follow him on Twitter for the latest updates on all his puzzly creations!

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!

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.

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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. 

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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.

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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!

5 Questions for Domino Artist and YouTuber Hevesh5!

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 continue this series with Lily Hevesh (aka Hevesh5) as our latest 5 Questions interviewee!

[Image courtesy of Eagle Tribune.com.]

Lily Hevesh, better known as Hevesh5 on YouTube, is a professional domino artist, a Rube Goldberg machine master, and an advertising whiz who uses skill, patience, and creativity to design wonderfully transfixing works of kinetic art.

She has appeared on The Today Show (auditioning for America’s Got Talent), helped set Guinness World Records — setting up 200,000 dominoes in group displays, as well as 22,000 dominoes on her own for certain projects — and her videos have accumulated over 200 million views on YouTube.

Hevesh5 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 Hevesh5

1. What is your process when creating one of these ambitious works of kinetic art? How much planning goes into them before the first domino is laid? How do you know if you’re heading in the right direction or if you need to stop, reassess, and try something else?

Planning time varies a lot depending on the type of project. Sometimes I do absolutely zero planning and just start building and see where things go. I think of ideas while building which keeps me going. Other times (especially for live events) I have to plan out the whole setup by digitally drawing out the domino path from start to finish.

[A video thank you posted when Lily reached 2,000,000 views on YouTube.]

First I have to decide what I am going to build — whether that be a logo, an image of something, some sort of text, etc. Then I have to figure out the best way to build this as a domino trick. Dominoes can be built in many ways: lines, domino fields, walls, 3D structures, and other creative tricks, so I have to decide which technique is best for each individual project. Then it’s a matter of connecting every trick with domino lines and figuring out the position on the floor.

If I’m heading in the wrong direction, I’ll usually realize something is wrong — maybe it doesn’t look like what I envisioned, the structure looks risky or is becoming too difficult to build, it looks sloppy, etc. In those cases, I will make the best of the situation and try to correct the mistakes, sometimes even knocking it down and starting over if I feel like it doesn’t live up to what I’m picturing.

[Lily and several other domino artists craft a 30,000 domino masterpiece at the
Brattleboro Museum and Art Center for the 9th annual Domino Toppling Extravaganza!]

2. On your YouTube page, you answer the question “How did I get into dominoes?” with “I searched ‘dominoes’ on YouTube.” Was that the spark of all of your kinetic art (like your Rube Goldberg devices) or were you into mechanical puzzles before that?

The reason I searched dominoes was because I loved to play with the classic dotted dominoes and set them up for fun. I was intrigued by the knock down and wanted to find out if there were others who set up dominoes like I did as a kid. Searching dominoes certainly fueled my love for kinetic art an extraordinary amount though.

3. You have helped set world records and amassed over 200 million views on YouTube. Amongst all those awesome, mind-blowing projects, which are some of your favorites? And what’s the best part of collaborating with fellow domino artists and kinetic sculptors?

Amongst all the projects I’ve been involved with, 2 stand out: “The Incredible Science Machine” (new American domino record with 250,000 dominoes and world record for most dominoes in a circle field) and working on a domino segment for the upcoming feature film Collateral Beauty starring Will Smith.

The best part about collaborating with other domino artists is finally being able to talk to someone who understands your “domino language”. Meeting new people is always exciting, but it’s even more exciting when they share the same passion for such a unique art form. It’s always fun learning from other builders and seeing different styles of building.

[A stick-bomb chain reaction.]

4. What’s next for Hevesh5?

Right now I am just starting my gap year to do dominoes and YouTube full time. I plan to make as many domino videos as possible and create an inventory so that I can post them periodically when I go to college (I won’t have time to make videos in college, so I’m making a lot now to save up for the future).

I plan to post a video on my channel (YouTube.com/hevesh5) every week while also doing side projects for companies, ad agencies, and others who may need domino art.

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

Don’t give up on what you love. Patience and perseverance are key, even in the most challenging times.


A huge thank you to Hevesh5 for her time. Be sure to visit her YouTube page for new videos and updates on her latest projects. I cannot wait to see what she has in store for us next!

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