A Crossword Mystery Movie?

It’s 2018, and these days, it seems like crosswords are everywhere. They’re in the paper, on the newsstands, and even in your pocket.

And now, they’re making it onto TV with a Hallmark Channel original movie!

Oh yes, check out this snippet from the recent press release:

Hallmark Movies & Mysteries has greenlit development for new mystery movie, The Crossword Mystery starring Lacey Chabert and Brennan Elliott. The movie is co-created by Will Shortz, crossword editor of The New York Times, puzzle master for NPR’s “Weekend Edition Sunday,” editor of Games magazine and founder and director of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament.

Lacey Chabert and Brennan Elliott are no strangers to Hallmark themselves, having starred in three movies together since 2015: All of My Heart, A Christmas Melody, and All of My Heart: Inn Love.

Now, they’ll reunite for a new puzzly mystery.

Here’s a sneak peek of what you can expect from the film:

A brilliant crossword puzzle editor (Chabert) finds her life turned upside-down when she is pulled into a police investigation after several of the clues in her recent puzzles are linked to unsolved crimes. Proving her innocence means leaving the comfort of her sheltered world and working with a tough police detective (Elliott), puzzling through clues together in order to crack the case, as the two are fish out of water in each other’s worlds.

As far as we know, there’s no airdate scheduled yet for the film, but we’ll keep you posted when we know more.

Perhaps Will himself will have more details for us by the time the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament rolls around in March.

Still, what an unexpected bit of news for puzzlers everywhere. 2018, what other surprises are lurking up your sleeve?

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It’s Follow-Up Friday: Macho Vanquish Fizgig Jukebox 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 have another brief installment of Puzzles in Pop Culture.

Friend of the Blog Eric Berlin passed along this link about some puzzly fun lurking at the theaters last weekend.

Apparently, the top ten box office draws over the weekend formed a pangram!

For the uninitiated, a pangram is a sentence, paragraph, or other written item that contains all 26 letters in the alphabet. Not only do many puzzlesmiths endeavor to make their puzzles pangrams, but there’s a whole subset of puzzlers dedicated to writing short, hilarious, and immensely crafty sentences featuring all 26 letters.

The classic pangrammatic sentence — one many of us remember from typing class — is “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” But that’s got a lot of repeated letters, and true pangram devotees try to repeat as few letters as possible.

(My personal favorite pangram? “Mr. Jock, TV quiz PhD, bags few lynx.”)

But this weekend, thanks to films like The Equalizer, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, we’ve got a box office pangram!

This is the sort of puzzles-in-plain-sight fun that I love, seeing clever people spot patterns most others would miss.

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5 Questions with Schmovie creator Sara Farber!

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 Sara Farber as our latest 5 Questions interviewee!

[Sara, alongside husband and partner Bryan
and their product testing toddler.]

Sara is a writer and content creator who has worked on numerous toys, games, and products for children and adults alike. From fill-in-the-blank story templates to interactive CD-roms and games with educational components, she combines fun content with classic puzzle games to make the most of a child’s playtime.

The debut creation of her company Galactic Sneeze is the movie mashup party game Schmovie, which encourages players to conjure up hilarious movie titles that match different cards drawn at random. (A perfect puzzle-theme generator for crossword fans, to be sure!)

Sara 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 Sara Farber

1.) Many of the products you’ve worked on involve a heavy learning aspect as well as gameplay. What’s the secret to making learning fun, especially for a young audience?

Great question. I aim to create content that engages in a meaningful, enjoyable way. I include silly jokes, rhymes, playful songs, and games. I infuse humor into everything I do… not just for the kids, but for the parents as well. If mom and dad have to hear the same counting song over and over again… it better be a good one!

Sometimes toys will have a character say, “learning is fun” or “I love to learn!” I’d rather have kids discover something is fun on their own, rather than convince them via a Jedi mind trick.

2.) You not only masterminded the creation of Schmovie, but you wrote the questions for Hasbro’s Pointing Fingers Game. What about these sorts of free-form party games appeals to you, instead of more formal board games or other formats?

My favorite projects are ones where I help develop the personality/voice of a brand, especially when it involves a comedic spin. Creating a party game is about packaging fun in a strategic way. It involves devising a clever schtick, coming up with a killer name, creating a simple yet engaging play pattern, and in most cases… infusing it with humor.

I enjoyed working on Pointing Fingers because I was asked to come up with hundreds of wacky scenarios. And Schmovie has been a blast since we’ve essentially provided a platform for players to be creative and funny. The game creates new memories and inside jokes for players, and I love reading the hilarious titles submitted on our Facebook page.

3.) You’ve worked with some pretty well-established characters, including Elmo, Dora the Explorer, and Scooby-Doo. Like many puzzle designers, you have to put a new spin on a recognizable brand. What’s your process for working with established properties while still adding your own touch?

There’s more flexibility with some brands than others. The key is to know the character and the “do’s” and “don’ts” of the property inside and out before diving in. I watch a lot of kids’ TV shows, read episode scripts provided by the licensor, and stay current on what toy and game companies are doing. My goal is to bring a fresh approach to classic play patterns. Rather than including a traditionally sweet preschool-sounding song, I might work with a composer to create a jazzy little number or a funny rap.

Some brands, like Penguins of Madagascar or SpongeBob SquarePants, are awesome to write for since the characters lend themselves to so much humor. Others are less about distinctively funny characters and more about the unique situations they find themselves in. If I’m writing a script for a toy or digital game with a more complex play pattern, I spec out the logic first so I know every single condition I need to write for. Then I go back and write all the character dialogue. And then I’ll go back through and kick it up with humor, sounds, and music to bring it to life.

4.) What’s next for Sara Farber?

My time is split between running Galactic Sneeze, the “fun stuff think tank” I founded with my husband, and taking on consulting/freelance projects for larger toy and game companies. I enjoy the mix. We’re currently working hard to spread the word about Schmovie. It launched in September at select retailers, and recently hit the shelves at Barnes & Noble. (W00T!)

We’re currently focused on inventing rather than publishing, which means we come up with concepts and then pitch them to larger toy and game companies. We have a few new games in the works we’re excited about. We also developed a story for an animated feature film that we’ve been looking for the right home for, as well as a kids’ TV show. The cool thing about running a “fun stuff think tank” is that we’re always working on fun stuff.

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

Always bring a game to a party. Never bring a fruitcake.

Many thanks to Sara for her time. You can check out Sara’s latest projects on her website and the Galactic Sneeze website, and be sure to follow her on Twitter (@SaraFarber) for games, humor, and updates on all her endeavors. I can’t wait to see what she (and Galactic Sneeze) come up with 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!