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!

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It’s Follow-Up Friday: Kickstarter Round-up 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 in today’s post, I’m returning to the subject of puzzly crowdfunding campaigns!

I’ve covered various campaigns for board games, card games, and puzzle projects across the Kickstarter and Indiegogo crowdfunding platforms over the years, and today I’d like to share three more that could use your attention.

The first is Peter Gordon’s Fireball Newsflash Crosswords.

Culturally timely clues and entries are a hallmark of this marvelous variation on his long-running Fireball Crosswords brand, and Gordon has a knack for melding flowing grid design with sharp, topical entry words.

He’s in the home stretch (only hours left in the campaign!) and Gordon’s history of topnotch puzzles is all the incentive you need to contribute.

But he’s not the only puzzler going straight to the puzzle audience with a new collection.

Constructor Brendan Emmett Quigley has a new collection of Marching Bands puzzles, and he’s offering a great deal! Twenty-six Marching Bands puzzles. Talk about value!

The last Kickstarter I want to highlight today comes from the board game end of the spectrum.

The folks at Calliope Games — responsible for Tsuro, one of my new favorites from the last year — have masterminded a three-year, nine-game program with some of the top names in the field, and they want your help bringing the Titan Series to fruition.


These are three intriguing and very worthy projects, and I hope you contribute to one or more of them. As someone who has become a regular donor to various Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns, I am proud to have funded some marvelous new ideas and watched them take shape over the months that followed.

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!

5 Questions with Constructor Brendan Emmett Quigley

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.

And I’m overjoyed to have Brendan Emmett Quigley as our latest 5 Questions interviewee!

A professional puzzle constructor for almost 20 years, Brendan is one of the top names when it comes to crosswords with strong craftsmanship and clever cluing. One of the most prolific contributors to The New York Times Crossword in the modern era, his puzzles have appeared everywhere from GAMES Magazine and The Los Angeles Times to Wired.com and The Crosswords Club.

In addition to the two puzzles he constructs every week for his website, he’s created many puzzle books of his own, and contributed puzzles to an American Red Cross fundraiser for Hurricane Sandy victims. (He also masterminded Puzzle #5 at this year’s American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, the puzzle only a few dozen solvers managed to conquer in the time allotted.)

Brendan 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 Brendan Emmett Quigley

1.) How did you get started with puzzles?

I started making puzzles at a very early age. In Kindergarten art class, specifically. We were given 11×17 sheets of paper and told we could draw anything. I drew mazes. Shortly after that, I realized I could make the puzzles more complicated if I eschewed crayons and used finely sharpened pencils. When I discovered GAMES Magazine, sometime in second grade, I was hooked and became a puzzler for life.

I didn’t get into crosswords until much later. It was a way to while away the hours at a miserable summer job in 1995. After a whole summer of dutifully attempting (and not necessarily succeeding) at solving the Times crossword, I was determined to make and sell one. Which I did by January of 1996. I haven’t stopped since.

2.) What, in your estimation, makes for a great puzzle? (Other than your signature knack for stacking long entries.) 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?

A good original and hopefully funny theme is all you need to make a great puzzle.

The most common pitfall for newbies is unoriginal themes, or ones that don’t employ enough wordplay. The English language is full of nuances, we should exploit them.

[Check out Brendan’s latest collection, Sit & Solve® Marching Bands!
For more information on marching band puzzles, click here!]

3.) Will Shortz has credited you with bringing some hipness to the New York Times Crossword with your cluing and entry-word choices. Do you have any favorite clues or entries that have appeared there, either in your puzzles or puzzles by other constructors?

Mike Shenk once wrote the clue “Strips in a club” for BACON, and well, that’s a classic.

4.) What’s next for Brendan Emmett Quigley?

I think I’m going to have a beer.

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

Don’t do drugs. Be drugs.


Many thanks to Brendan for his time. Check out his website for twice-weekly puzzles, and be sure to follow him on Twitter (@fleetwoodwack) for updates on all things Quigley. I look forward to solving whatever he cooks up 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!