Go Go Letter Power Rangers: A Puzzly Theme Song Contest!

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Every month, we play some sort of game with not only our fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers, but with our friends at Penny Dell Puzzles as well.

Often, this takes the form of a hashtag game, mashing up the topic of the month with entries to Penny Press and Dell Magazines puzzles, titles, and so on.

But that’s not always the case. Sometimes, they’re punny costume ideas, or puzzly opening lines for novels, or attractions for a puzzle-fueled zoo!

This time around, we had a different challenge in mind: coming up with a puzzle-infused theme song for Penny Dell Puzzles!

And friends, they certainly did not disappoint.

So, without further ado, check out what these puzzlers came up with!


We start off today’s collection with some punny takes on classic TV theme songs!

I’ll Be Here & There For You

Love Is All Around the Block

Welcome Back, Kakuro

Where Everybody Knows Your Crypto-Names

Keep It Movin’ On Up / Movin’ On Ups and Downs

There’s No Places, Please Like Home

Split & Splice is Painless

Tossing & Turning and Scrambled Up

Three from Nine to Five

We’re the Chipsmunks

Nothing’s Gonna Stoplines Me Now


From this point forward, it’s not just titles, it’s puzzly lyrics as well!

Check out this brief yet delightful entry, to the tune of Britney Spears:

Oops I did it again
I wrote with a pen, got lost in the grid
Oh Penny, Penny
Oops you think I’m so lost
Switched Down with Across
I need a-nother hint


One intrepid puzzler pitched a nostalgic look at the puzzly past. This one is to the tune of “Those Were The Days” from “All In The Family.”

Boy, the way Word Seeks are made
The clever way that Tiles are laid
Solvers like us, we got it made
These are Word Games
And you know Say That Again
Even do ’em with a pen
Cryptograms can be done, even a page of KenKen
You don’t need no calculator
When you solve your Sudoku later
Gee, all our Fill-Ins look greater
These are Word Games!


I’ll let our next contributor handle their own introduction. Take it away, fellow puzzler!

You want a theme song?
Hold onto your wimple, Maria!
I’ve got your theme song right here:

♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪
How do you solve a puzzle like a crossword?
How do you fill a grid, across and down?
What’s a five-letter word that means “an earth tone”?
An ochre? An umber? A camel? A beige? A brown?

Many a thing you know you’d like to write there,
Many a clue you ought to understand.
A book that can make you think:
Use pencil or pen and ink!
How do you choose the best from your newsstand?

Oh, how do know you’ve got the tops in puzzles?
Penny Press made the book that’s in your hand!
♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪


Another marvelous entry was set to the tune of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” and is known simply as… the Solver’s Theme:

And now, the end is near
And so I face the final clue
My friend, I’ll say it clear
I’ll take my prize, of which I’m due
I’ve solved the puzzles full
Fraught with joy and dismay
And more, much more than this
I did it my way

Regrets, I’ve had a few
But then again, too few to mention
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption
I penned each solve complete
Each careful letter along the way
And more, much more than this
I did it my way

Yes, there were times, that Crypto-Zoo
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all, when there was doubt
I ate it up and finished Turnabout
I faced it all, and I stood tall
And did it my way

I’ve circled, I’ve erased and cried
I’ve had my Fill-Ins, Tossing and Turning
And now, as tears subside
I find that I am always learning
To think I did all that
And may I say, not in a shy way
Oh, no, oh, no, not me
I did it my way

For what is a solver, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught
To say he finished Spinwheel
But sought help for Square Deal
The record shows I took the blows
And did it my way

Yes, it was my way


Here’s a toe-tapping puzzly entry submitted to the tune of “867-5309”:

Penny, Penny has puzzles for you
Our magazines have a ton of fun clues
Sudoku, Word Seeks, and Crosswords galore
Your favorite puzzles, oh we’ve got them all!

Penny, you’ve got our number
When you need Three from Nine
Penny, just call our number

Eight, six, six, six, six, eight, eight
Eight, six, six, six, six, eight, eight
Eight, six, six, six, six, eight, eight
Eight, six, six, six, six, eight, eight

Penny, Penny has Puzzle Derby
Fill-Ins and Places, Please will make you so happy
Try out Double Trouble or Blockbuilders
Challenge your imagination with Exploraword

Penny, you’ve got our number
When you need Diamond Mine
Penny, just call our number

Eight, six, six, six, six, eight, eight
Eight, six, six, six, six, eight, eight
Eight, six, six, six, six, eight, eight
Eight, six, six, six, six, eight, eight

We’ve got it (We’ve got it) We’ve got it
Tiles, Place Your Number, and Quotefalls
We’ve got it (We’ve got it) We’ve got it
For a Good Time, for a Good Time call!


As a closer, here’s one the kids can enjoy, as one creative puzzler submitted a piece to the tune of “Old McDonald Had a Farm”:

Penny Pub makes puzzles fun,
oh lets go do one
With a COLORING BOOK here
and a COLORING BOOK there,
here a COLORING BOOK
there a COLORING BOOK
everywhere you see a COLORING BOOK

Penny Pub makes puzzles fun,
oh lets go do one
With a CROSSWORD here
and a CROSSWORD there,
here a CROSSWORD
there a CROSSWORD
everywhere you see a CROSSWORD

Penny Pub makes puzzles fun,
oh lets go do one
With a FILL-IN here
and a FILL-IN there,
here a FILL-IN
there a FILL-IN
everywhere you see a FILL-IN,

Penny Pub makes puzzles fun,
oh lets go do one
With a LOGIC here
and a LOGIC there,
here a LOGIC
there a LOGIC
everywhere you see a LOGIC,

Penny Pub makes puzzles fun,
oh lets go do one
With a VARIETY here
and a VARIETY there,
here a VARIETY
there a VARIETY
everywhere you see a VARIETY,

Penny Pub makes puzzles fun,
oh lets go do one
With a WORD SEEK here
and a WORD SEEK there,
here a WORD SEEK
there a WORD SEEK
everywhere you see a WORD SEEK,

Penny Pub makes puzzles fun,
oh lets go do one
With a WORD SEEK here
and a WORD SEEK there,
here a WORD SEEK
there a WORD SEEK
everywhere you see a WORD SEEK,

a VARIETY here
and a VARIETY there,
here a VARIETY
there a VARIETY
everywhere you see a VARIETY,

a LOGIC here
and a LOGIC there,
here a LOGIC
there a LOGIC
everywhere you see a LOGIC,

a FILL-IN here
and a FILL-IN there,
here a FILL-IN,
there a FILL-IN
everywhere you see a FILL-IN,

a CROSSWORD here
and a CROSSWORD there,
here a CROSSWORD,
there a CROSSWORD
everywhere you see a CROSSWORD,

a COLORING BOOK here
and a COLORING BOOK there,
here a COLORING BOOK
there a COLORING BOOK
everywhere you see a COLORING BOOK …

Penny Pub makes puzzles fun,
oh lets go do one


Did you have a favorite Penny Dell Puzzly Theme Song, fellow puzzlers? Or an idea of your own? Let us know in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you!

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Too Topical? Too Safe? Too Family Friendly? — What Belongs in Crosswords?

Building a great crossword is a balancing act.

Your grid entries need to be interesting, yet accessible. You need to navigate long crossings and tight corners without resorting to too many abbreviations, too much crosswordese, or creating the dreaded Natick, a crossing of two obscure entries. Some solvers don’t like partial phrases, others don’t like proper names or brand names.

Your cluing has to be clever but not impenetrable. How much wordplay is too much? How many fill-in-the-blank clues before your clue section resembles your grid? The cluing must be fresh and vibrant yet timeless and not too of-its-era to make the cut for reprint and collection later.

No matter how you clue it, older solvers may decry newer names, slang, terminology, or pop culture references, while younger solvers will bemoan not just older references they consider passe, but long-established crossword-friendly words they quickly tire of seeing.

And that’s all without considering the difficulty in creating engaging, interesting themes or gimmicks for the puzzle.

Man, it’s amazing crosswords get made at all.

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[Image courtesy of Mike Peters and The Comic Strips.]

That question of fresh entries and cluing vs. older/more familiar fare is a curious one. It raises further questions.

For instance, how much can you talk about what’s going on in the world?

By referring to unpleasant topics, however topical, will you alienate solvers who use the crossword as an escape? Or do you risk the puzzle feeling too sanitized and safe by NOT acknowledging the circumstances of the world at the time of the puzzle’s publication?

There are arguments for both sides. I mean, who wants to see ADOLF in a grid? (But then again, it’s not like IDI AMIN has a hard time finding his way into grid fill.)

farrar

Margaret Farrar believed that crosswords should avoid “death, disease, war and taxes.” Purposely avoiding unpleasant fill and cluing is informally known as the “Sunday Morning Breakfast Test.” (Our friends at Penny Press know plenty about this, as they shy away from unpleasant entries with diligence.)

But on the flip side, to ignore the unpleasantness of the world potentially ignores the people that unpleasantness affects.

As we continue to push for greater representation in crosswords in both editorial staff and constructors, you cannot deny that including the experiences of women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community somewhat necessitates facing those unpleasant aspects of our history and our society.

To exclude them is to exclude potentially thought-provoking and important fill and cluing. (One could easily argue that the vast majority of our own Eyes Open crosswords would not pass the Sunday Morning Breakfast Test.)

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[Image courtesy of Charmy’s Army.]

Not everyone greets adding new cultural fill with open arms, of course. A few years ago, an LA Times crossword solver complained to us (on our holiday gift guide post, of all places) about “ignorant ghetto language” in the crossword. He referred specifically to innocuous entries like “sup,” “did,” and “street cred.”

Thankfully, he is an outlier.

But on the topic of excluding words from crosswords, when Will Shortz was asked about it, he had an interesting response:

If a word or term is used in the columns of The Times, or in cultured society in general, I think it’s probably O.K. for a crossword, even if it’s touchy or slightly unpleasant. I strive to have crosswords reflect real life as much as possible. … I don’t believe in banning words, except for the very worst. And I’d be happy to abolish the term ‘breakfast test’ completely.

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I think this is a topic I’m going to ask crossword solvers about more often. I’d be curious to see where they stand on crossword content and topicality.

I suspect opinions will vary, but I also suspect that most solvers welcome new fill, new entries, and new references in clues. Every crossword is an opportunity to learn and expand one’s knowledge, and add to the mental lexicon of crossword knowledge we each build as we solve.

So where do you stand, fellow puzzlers? Do you prefer your crosswords as an escape or as a puzzly reflection of the world around us? Let us know in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you.


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What Is Good Trivia?

Trivia is an integral part of many forms of puzzling. Crosswords involve a fair amount of trivia, as do many clued puzzles. Themed puzzles — particularly those that don’t give you a word list — also require some solid trivia knowledge. Brain teasers, riddles, escape rooms… all can involve trivia on some level.

But what do we mean when we say trivia? As it turns out, not everyone agrees.

Merriam-Webster defines trivia as “unimportant matters, trivial facts or details,” then acknowledges the secondary meaning “a quizzing game involving obscure facts,” a definition which didn’t come around until the 1960s.

That first definition certainly fits the bill in many trivia books and games. They’ll claim any random fact as trivia, obscure or otherwise.

But I don’t think obscurity defines trivia. After all, plenty of great evenings of bar trivia don’t require obscure topics or the minutiae of various subjects; they simply require a wide swathe of general knowledge and a decent grasp of recent news and pop culture.

[Image courtesy of The New 60 comic.]

The first time I gave serious thought to the question “what is trivia?” occurred years ago when I started working on a movies and television-themed subscription crossword book for the folks at Penny Press. In addition to creating puzzles centered around a central theme for the issue — soap operas, Star Wars, animal movies, etc. — I also created lists of trivia questions to be included in the book.

I would compile a list of 25 or 30 trivia questions — brief enough to read along the bottom of the page, but hopefully interesting enough to be worth the solver’s attention — and sent them off for consideration.

That’s when Editorial Manager Warren Rivers introduced me to his definition of trivia:

What a lot of people call “trivia” strike me as things one should or could have learned in school. Those are things I don’t consider trivia. Trivia to me are the things that I wouldn’t expect a person to know, or better yet includes a “twist” or an element of surprise.

And I think that’s a key element in good trivia: that interesting twist or surprise. It’s not just informational recall. There’s something more there, whether it’s in the answer or the clever construction of the question.

But there are plenty of knowledgeable trivia enthusiasts out there, and I wanted their input as well.

One of the first people I asked was Stella Zawistowski, a crossword constructor, powerlifter, and trivia supplier for Geeks Who Drink, who clearly has one of the coolest resumes in the world.

I think what you are asking me is, “what is GOOD trivia”?

Good trivia accomplishes one of two things: teaches people something they don’t know and will find interesting, or nudges them to realize they know more than they think. This means that what constitutes good trivia is highly audience dependent. The astronomy question that is too easy to be interesting to a group of JPL employees could be fascinating to a general audience. Conversely, a general-audience question about Handel’s “Messiah” could be very boring to a group of classical music experts.

IMO one of the best trivia questions I’ve ever written is “The hand-cut and -sewn lace of this instantly famous wedding gown includes four types of plants: roses, shamrocks, daffodils, and what?”

The reason I think it’s good is that it fits into the “nudge people to realize they know more than they think” category. On its surface, this is a fashion question. How on earth is one supposed to know a detail as tiny as what flowers were embroidered on the lace of somebody’s wedding gown?

But if you think a little more carefully, you’ll see that the bride is marrying a British royal, and if you know that the three plants mentioned in the question — rose, shamrock, and daffodil — represent England, (Northern) Ireland, and Wales, respectively, you then realize: Oh, she’s representing the four UK countries, and the one that’s missing is Scotland. So the answer is the thistle, the national flower of Scotland.

I very carefully chose which one of those I left out, too! If you give shamrock, daffodil, and thistle, rose is incredibly easy, easier than I wanted the question to be. Take out shamrock, and I think it’s a bit harder to realize that the three remaining flowers are national symbols. Take out daffodil, and the solver unfairly has to choose between daffodil and leek, the latter of which is also a botanical national symbol of Wales. I don’t know that anybody ever wanted leeks on her wedding gown, but I didn’t want anyone to get the question wrong simply because they went with the wrong national symbol.

[Image courtesy of AmazingSuperPowers.]

Stella gets into a very important aspect of quality trivia that you don’t immediately consider: the phrasing and construction of the question.

Sure, the answer is the payoff, but the question is how you get there. The question is often the source of the a-ha! moment we so desire.

According to the crew at Geeks Who Drink, “the usual job of the conscientious quiz-writer is to start with a kernel of something you don’t know, and stir in just the right mix of hints and parallels to lead you to the correct answer (yes, no matter what it feels like, we DO want you to get most of them right).”

And that can take time. Thorsten A. Integrity, commissioner of the invite-only Learned League trivia website, can spend up to 30 minutes on each of the six trivia questions featured in a given day of trivia during one of the four seasonal competitions.

He usually starts with an interesting tidbit from a reference book and builds the question out from there. He fact-checks everything and has his questions professionally copyedited.

That effort creates a conversation in the brain. You ask yourself about different aspects. You rule things out, as Stella shows in her example. A good trivia question gives you enough to get you started and JUST enough to eliminate some false paths. (Although there’s nothing wrong with a tricky trivia question that leads you down the incorrect path a little bit.)

On trivia nights, or in trivia games, that conversation can quickly become fun and engrossing. As Ken Jennings once said of trivia, “It can lubricate social interaction. I like to see it as a way to build bridges.”

Are you a trivia fan, fellow puzzlers? Let us know your favorite trivia questions and bits of trivia below. We’d love to hear from you! (We could even compile them into a future blog post!)


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Paint By Number Sleuth: A Puzzly Hashtag Game!

You may be familiar with the board game Schmovie or hashtag games on Twitter.

For years now, we’ve been collaborating on puzzle-themed hashtag games with our pals at Penny Dell Puzzles, and this month’s hook was #PennyDellPuzzleArt. Today’s entries all mash up Penny Dell puzzles with artists, famous pieces, techniques, styles, and more from the world of art!

Examples include: The First and Last Supper, O’Keeffeword, and Rows Avant-Garden.

So, without further ado, check out what the puzzlers at PuzzleNation and Penny Dell Puzzles came up with!


Puzzly Artists!

Vincent On-The-Van Gogh Word Seek

Christo Crosswords

Three-Toulouse-One

Paul Cezanneagrams

Picassudoku

Michel(Try-Angle)o

Eugene DelaCrostic

Henri Word-a-Matisse

Camille PissarRows Garden

Paul Klee-from-nine

Anagram Magritte Squares

Eileen Gray That Again

Paul GaugIn the Middle

Marc ChagAll Fours

Grand Tour Moses

Elizabeth Catlettgories

Thomas EakInsert-a-Word

Piet Mondriagain

Liubov Sergeievna Popoverlay

Alfred StieglIts Your Move

Frank Lloyd Right Angles

Man SunRays

Man Raylroad Ties

CrackerJackson Pollock

Joan Miro Image

Johannes Vermeer-or Image

Wassily KenKendinsky

Louise Burgeois Tiles


“Here I sit so broken hearted…”

You can Fill-In the rest!

#Fitting Description


Famous Puzzly Art Pieces, Styles, and Terminology!

“Still Life with Apples and Pairs in Rhyme” (Paul Cezanne)

“The Two (for One) Fridas” (Frida Kahlo)

Pen and In(k) the Middle

Crisscrosshatch

DADArtboard

RocoCodebreaker

Around the Baroque

Letter DrOP Art


Have you come up with any Penny Dell Puzzle Art entries of your own? Let us know! We’d love to see them!

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I-Got-The Christie’s: A Puzzly Crime Hashtag Game!

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You may be familiar with the board game Schmovie or hashtag games on Twitter.

For years now, we’ve been collaborating on puzzle-themed hashtag games with our pals at Penny Dell Puzzles, and this month’s hook was #PennyDellPuzzleMystery. Today’s entries all mash up Penny Dell puzzles with TV shows, movies, books, characters, concepts, and anything else that fits the mystery genre!

Examples include: Sherlock Home Runs, Two at a Crime, or The Bricks and Mortar of Roger Ackroyd.

So, without further ado, check out what the puzzlers at PuzzleNation and Penny Dell Puzzles came up with!


Agatha Crisscrosstie

Mixed Bagatha

Murder on the Easy Crossword Express

Murder, She Quote / Murder, She Quotefinds

Mary Higgins Clark’s The Shadow of your Smile

Mary Higgins Clark’s On the Stretch Letters Where You Live

Joanne Fluke’s A Cinnamon Roll Recipe Time Murder

Paige Shelton’s The Killer Maze

Perry Mason’s The Case of the Mystery Melody

The Mirror Image Crack’d from Here to There

The Secret Word of the Old Clock

The Purloined Letterboxes

The Glass Keyword

Secret Word Agent

Double Trouble Agent

Word-a-Mata Hari

Nancy Drew and the Hidden Word Squares

Nancy Drew: Double Trouble Shooter

Sorry, Wrong Number Sleuth

D.O.ABC’s

Alfred Hitchcock and the Three of a Kind Investigators

Alphagrid HitchCrackers

PsyCodeword

To Catch a Themewords

Dilemma “M” for MurDittos / Dial-A-Grams for Murder

Rear Windowboxes

The 39 Stepping Stones

John GrishAnagrams

Miss Marbles

Hercule Poirows Garden

Fill-In Marlowe

Crackerjacks Reacher

The Alphabet Soup Murders

Pretty Maids All in a Rows Garden

They Only Kill Their Masterwords

Who’s Calling the Great Chefs of Europe?

Evil Under the Sunrays

Word Trails of the Pink Panther

Against All Odds and Evens

Body Double Trouble

Se7en-Up

Along Came a Spider’s Web

The Da Vinci Codewords

Trixie Belden and the Secret Words of the Mansion

Knives Out of Place

SpyMasterwords

Whopunit

The Dresden Tiles

Arth-Here-and-Thur Conan Double-Trouble-Doyle, Word Seek Mystery Person!

He’s the WatSunrays to your Sherlock Homeruns

The Sign of the Four Corners / The Sign of Foursomes

The Man With the Twisted Blips

221 ABC’s

Alphabet Soup For Two-Twenty-One-B Baker Street

Matchmaker Street Irregulars

“…What’s Left must be the truth.”

The Seven Percent Solution is on Page 178


I’m not very familiar with the mystery genre. I’ve heard of author Sara Pairsetsky and her novels Critical Masterword and Spellbound Game, though.

APPMystery


One intrepid puzzler went above and beyond by submitting the following pun-fueled message:

I have recently begun reading an author by the name of C.J. Boxes, needless to say he writes Mystery Word Seeks and I believe that that the C.J. is short for Crackerjacks.

Boxes is best known for his Joe Picker Upper series of novels and some of my favorites are “Savage Home Runs,” “Blackouts of Range,” “Breaking Point the Way,” and of course “Vicious Circle Sums.”

Recently Boxes’ latest series featuring a pair of Montana private investigators has been picked up by ABC’s television and the show depicts Double Trouble and the detectives come Face to Face with Deduction Problems in stories such as “Pair Off Dice Game Valley” where they ultimately answer the Big Question.

I’m glad to share this with y’all.


Have you come up with any Penny Dell Puzzle Mystery entries of your own? Let us know! We’d love to see them!

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A Bit of Holiday Wordplay Around the Virtual Fireplace!

Long-time readers know that we often host in-house wordplay contests. Not only do we invite our friends at Penny/Dell Puzzles to participate, but our fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers as well!

It’s the holiday season, so we embraced it with this month’s game! Yup, it’s a Penny Pressmas and a Jingle Dell Rock!

Essentially, we challenged our fellow puzzlers to unleash their punny creativity on all things holidays. They could mix and match puzzles with holiday songs, seasonal trappings, and more!

They could create their own puzzly holiday and tell us about the traditions and celebrations! Heck, they could make a puzzly holiday card, if they wished! Anything that struck their fancy, so long as it was puzzle-fueled and holiday flavored.

So, without further ado, let’s see what they came up with!


Some submissions stuck to our traditional holidays:

Here We Come A-Puzzling

Holi-Daisy

It’s the Most Wonderful Timed Framework of the Year

God Bless Us Every One and Only!

Blackout! Friday

The First and Last Noel

Merry Christmas to All Fours, and to All a Good Night!


Others suggested new puzzly holidays:

Saturnabout-nalia

Fest-and-Last-ivus

Boxes Day / Letterboxes Day

All Four Kwanzaa

Yule Know the Odds


“I tried to make a crossword without a certain letter in it… but I couldn’t manage it. Alas, my No-L puzzle will have to be submitted another holiday.” — a participant who wishes to remain anonymous.


One clever puzzler submitted this delightful visual mashup! Do you get it?

Screen Shot 2020-12-10 at 9.40.13 AM


And finally, your humble PN blogger couldn’t resist throwing in his own little bit of puzzly holiday fun for you…

He knows when you’re sleeping
And he knows when you’re awake
Plus he knows if you’ve been BAD or GOOD (based on which answer fits in the available grid squares)
Perhaps be good for goodness’ sake

You might not know his name
So let’s all take time to meet him now
Oh who could this figure be
Let’s all say his name aloud

Volumes of puzzles to deliver each year
In dozens of places, and even right here!
Now you know of the legend, you’ve read all the rhymes
Gotta ask Sylla Claustic to make it on time!


Do you have any punny puzzly holiday ideas? Let us know in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

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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!