# Joel McHale Hides Puzzles Where You’d Least Expect!

Last year, I was surprised to stumble across a puzzle in the autobiography of comedian, actor, and magician Neil Patrick Harris, Choose Your Own Autobiography. It was a clever Neil-centric cryptic word-cross puzzle that rewarded attentive readers, since all of the answers were about events Neil discussed in the book.

So I guess I shouldn’t have been too surprised to again discover a puzzle in a celebrity autobiography. But this time around, comedian, host, and actor Joel McHale has upped the ante by offering three puzzles in his book Thanks for the Money: How to Use My Life Story to Become the Best Joel McHale You Can Be.

Amidst hilarious anecdotes, bad advice for starting a career in Hollywood, and actual biographical facts, Joel includes a word-cross, a word search, and a matching game, all of which are about him!

The matching game is arguably the toughest of the three, since you have to match the image of him to the name of the character he portrayed.

The word-cross, though, is not far behind when it comes to difficulty, since the limited crossings offer fewer helpful letters to assist in solving. Not to mention that more straightforward clues like 1 Down — Second word in title of ninth chapter — are few and far between. More often, you encounter something like 14 Across — Anagram for synonym of puzzle.

Plus, there’s no clue at all for 33 Down, making the grid even tougher.

Although I was able to solve most of the grid, some of the entries eluded me.

Still, I have to give style points to 29 Across: “Police Academy” star, if his name had one less “T” and he invented movable type for printing presses.

The word search, which is branded a “Wrod Jembul” (since Joel is dyslexic), is both the most creative and the most solvable of the three puzzles.

In this puzzle, you’re given thirteen clues for various products Joel has done advertisements for, and you need to find them in the grid. Except every entry is jumbled up, complicating things greatly.

Although the puzzle is not perfect — FITBIT can be found in two ways, as can IHOP, and KLONDIKE BAR is the only entry spelled out for some reason — it’s great fun and a very fair solve.

Thanks for the Money is a very fun read, outrageous and engaging in equal measure. But finding a few puzzles inside? That’s the cherry on top.

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# Neil Patrick Harris: Actor, Magician, Puzzler?

I’m a puzzle guy, so naturally I’m always on the lookout for new puzzles, whether it’s in the newspaper, the bookstore, the Internet, or anywhere else I happen to be browsing.

But sometimes, you stumble upon a puzzle in the unlikeliest of places. Like a celebrity’s autobiography.

I recently got around to reading the autobiography of comedian, actor, magician, award-show host extraordinaire, and all-around champion of entertainment Neil Patrick Harris, and, as you’d expect from someone as creative as him, it was no ordinary affair. It’s written in the style of a Choose Your Own Adventure book, where you can make life decisions (as he did) and see where they lead!

Some lead to hilarious fake deaths, while others lead to genuine poignant moments from his life. We learn about his career, his discovery of magic, the peaks and valleys of his acting career, and his search for love, and it’s a great story. But he also includes messages from friends, drink recipes, and other hidden gems in the book, one of which was an unexpected cryptic crossword puzzle!

Now, I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m hardly the strongest cryptic solver around, but I couldn’t resist tackling a surprise Neil Patrick Harris-themed puzzle. (Thankfully, I was able to call in a friend who’s really good with cryptics for the clues that stumped me.)

To Neil’s credit, there are some very clever clues here, in addition to more traditional cryptic clues like “Let show (4)” for RENT and “Symmetries halved and reversed produce a ceremony (5)” for EMMYS. And, as you’d expect, most or all of them apply to events in his life, so you have to read the book to have any chance of solving this one.

Let’s look at a few of my favorites:

• Sounds like an assortment of taxis in which you were the MC (7): An assortment of taxis is a CAB ARRAY, which sounds like CABARET, a show in which he played an emcee.
• Costar a large, fake amount of money? (7): Actor Nathan FILLION costarred in Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog with Neil, and FILLION certainly sounds like a large, fake amount of money.
• He was against you, and it sounds like he’s against everything (4): There’s a terrific story in the book where Neil is accosted by actor Scott CAAN, whose name sounds like CON.
• Lothario! Unhinge 90 bras, boy!: This one takes a little work. “Unhinge” indicates this is an anagram clue, so if you anagram “ninety bras,” you get BARNEY STIN. Add “SON” as a synonym of “boy,” and you get BARNEY STINSON, the lothario he played in How I Met Your Mother.

Once you have your 24 answer words, it’s time to fill in the words Framework-style. Quite helpfully, there are several places in the grid where only one word fits, due to word length, which offers the solver several points of access.

However, only 23 of those words will fit in the grid, allowing for an alternate solve for the answers RENT and PENN. But there’s only one way to place the other answers so that the shaded squares spell out a ten-letter word that has a special meaning for clever and attentive readers, a code word Neil suggests as a sign of kinship with the reader.

I debated whether to share the word here, but I don’t want to deprive others of the joy of solving a surprisingly tough and enjoyable puzzle lurking inside an already fun read.

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