Brand New! Starter Sets for the Penny Dell Crosswords App!

Hello, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers!

That’s right, we’ve got a bonus Friday post for you, because we just couldn’t wait until the weekend to announce the latest addition to the Penny Dell Crosswords App lineup!

Say hello to our new Starter Sets!

These bite-size bundles of puzzly delight are the perfect appetizer for any solver. Each set consists of 5 puzzles: 2 easy, 2 medium, and 1 hard, so it’s a great introductory set for solvers of any experience level!

They’re available for both Android and iOS users right now!

And best of all, they’re only 99 cents!

With razor-sharp clues and the world-class construction you’ve come to expect from PuzzleNation, you can’t go wrong with this fantastic deal!

We’re dedicated to bringing you the best puzzle-solving experience available, right in your pocket, ready to go at a moment’s notice! That’s the PuzzleNation guarantee.

Happy solving everyone!


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Publish More Women!

That was the message received loud and clear by attendees at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament last year if they saw Erik Agard’s t-shirt. The future ACPT champion was amplifying a call that has resonated throughout the puzzle community for years now.

And yet, puzzles are often still regarded as a boys’ club.

Despite the fact that Margaret Farrar got the ball rolling. Despite the fact that Maura Jacobson contributed a puzzle to each of the first 34 ACPT tournaments and created over 1400 puzzles for New York Magazine. Despite a grand tradition of female innovators, tournament champions, and topnotch constructors that continues to this very day.

This topic once again took center stage recently when Will Shortz, gatekeeper for The New York Times crossword, posted his thoughts on the subject online:

Periodically I get asked, “Why aren’t more female constructors published in the New York Times?” And I always think, “Well, we don’t get a lot of submissions from women.” But until now I’ve never counted.

So this afternoon I counted. I looked through 260 recent submissions … and counted 33 by female constructors. That’s a little under 13%.

This figure is in line with the percentage of female constructors we publish. Last year, according to the stats at XwordInfo, 13% of the crosswords published in the Times were by women. So far this year the figure is slightly better — 15%.

Why this number is still so low, I don’t know.

In positive news, the number of new female constructors is significantly higher. In 2016, 31% of the 26 contributors who made their Times debut were female. In 2017, 19% were female. So far this year 27% have been female. XwordInfo lists all the names.

Our goal is to be inclusive. We want the Times crossword to reflect the lives, culture, and vocabulary of the people who do it, and having more female-made puzzles would provide better balance.

Still for us to publish more women constructors, we need to receive more puzzles by women. That’s the bottom line.

Our policy is open submissions. If you’re a woman who’d like to get into crossword constructing, we’d welcome your contributions, and we’ll be happy to work with you to get you published.

Reactions across the puzzle community have been mixed, but a number of people found Will’s response lacking. They asked what actual steps would be taken in order to encourage women and other underrepresented groups. Would there be additional support from the NYT for these sought-after constructors? Or would the status quo remain precisely that?

Those are questions worth asking. After all, the Times has been celebrating its 75th anniversary for the last year and a half with celebrity guest constructors. But how many of those celebrity collaborations have been with female constructors?

Three. That’s a project with huge visibility and mainstream media crossover potential, and the number is three.

And speaking of media crossover, it wasn’t that long ago — less than two years, actually — that the divisive clue “Decidedly non-feminist women’s group” for HAREM appeared in the NYT. Ruth Gordon wrote a brilliant piece in Slate highlighting how cluing standards at the Times could be exclusionary:

“Hateful” and “awful” may seem a bit harsh for what reads like a lame attempt at cheekiness. But the clue is certainly tone-deaf. And it’s not the first time a puzzle’s un-PC cluelessness has annoyed people. In 2012, the answer ILLEGAL was clued with: “One caught by the border patrol.” The offensive use of illegal as a noun set off a brouhaha that made its way to Univision.

And in November, Shortz issued a mea culpa for the clue “Exasperated comment from a feminist.” Answer: MEN — presumably with an invisible exclamation point and flying sweat out of a Cathy comic.

So, how has the NYT crossword been doing over the last two years?

We can turn again to the insightful Erik Agard for context. While guest-posting on Rex Parker’s puzzle blog, Erik took a moment to celebrate and spread the word about Women of Letters, the marvelous 18-puzzle charity project we also discussed a few weeks ago:

It’s also a lot of women! In fact, there are more woman-constructed crosswords in this collection than there have been published by the New York Times so far this year. Those who fail to see the urgency in closing the gender gaps in crossword constructing and editing often posit that ‘you can’t tell the difference between a crossword written by a woman and one written by a man’ (ergo, whether women are equally represented has little bearing on the end product, so why should we care).

The puzzles in Women of Letters disprove that thesis in a big way, through the dizzying array of less-traveled roads explored by themes, grids, and clues alike. From the juiciest marquee answers in the themelesses to the simplest choice of referencing a legendary actress by her accolades and not just [Bond girl], the collection never ceases to be a breath of fresh, inimitable air. (As the young people say: “Your fave could never.”)

That comment was posted on April 29th, and yes, as of April 29th, the New York Times crossword had published 17 puzzles from female constructors (including male/female collabs). That’s 17 out of 119 puzzles for the year, or 14.3%.

Erik helpfully provided some other statistics for the sake of comparison:

  • Crosswords With Friends: 33/119 = 27.7%
  • The Los Angeles Times: 31/119 = 26.1%
  • American Values Club Crossword: 3/18 = 16.7%
  • Chronicle for Higher Education: 2/16 = 12.5%
  • Wall Street Journal: 9/99 = 9.1%
  • Fireball Crosswords: 0/19 = 0%

It’s also worth pointing out that, as of April 29th, our Daily POP Crosswords app stood at 87/119, or 73.1%.

If you update the listings up through May 15th, Daily Pop Crosswords published 95 puzzles by women over 135 days. March alone featured 21 puzzles by women across 31 days. Heck, in February, only two puzzles the entire month were constructed by men. (Er, man, to be more specific. The same chap constructed both.)

But those aren’t the only numbers worth celebrating. Our friends at Penny/Dell Puzzles maintain an impressive publication rate for The Crosswords Club subscription service. They publish six puzzles a month, so from January to May, that’s 30 puzzles, and 16 were constructed by women (including three collabs). The January issue was all female constructors.

That’s no surprise, honestly, given the company. At Penny/Dell Puzzles, women constitute the majority of not only puzzle editors, but upper management as well.

So, forgive me if I come off as flippant, but when Will Shortz asks, “Why this number is still so low?”, I have to ask why as well.

Because the constructors are out there, right now, doing tremendous work.


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A New Puzzle Set, Just in Time for Spring!

Hello fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers!

Yes, we’re taking a brief break from International Tabletop Day festivities to announce our latest puzzle set for the Penny Dell Crosswords App!

Step outside with us and enjoy a little sun with our Picnic Deluxe puzzle set, available for both iOS and Android users!

This fun, Spring-appropriate bundle highlights the quality solving experience you’ve come to expect from PuzzleNation!

Offering 30 easy, medium, and hard puzzles, plus 5 picnic-themed bonus puzzles to delight solvers of all skill levels, the Picnic Deluxe puzzle set is full of fresh, vibrant crosswords for everyone!

You can’t go wrong with this set! PuzzleNation is dedicated to bringing you the best puzzle-solving experience available, with world-class puzzles right in your pocket, ready to go at a moment’s notice! That’s the PuzzleNation guarantee.

Happy solving everyone! And Happy International Tabletop Day!


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PDP Tabletop Tournament Finals (+Tabletop Day Festivities!)

Over the last few weeks, we’ve been chronicling an epic sixteen-person game tournament held by our friends at Penny/Dell Puzzles.

In Round 1, the field was culled from sixteen players to eight after well-contested battles of On the Dot and Bananagrams.

In Round 2, it was halved again as this group of elite puzzlers went to war in games of Timeline and Qwirkle.

In Round 3, two more contenders said goodbye as an intense game of Sheriff of Nottingham determined the finalists.

Only two competitors remained — #TeamNikki and #TeamGordon — and with only one more round standing between them and the title of PDP Tabletop Champion, spirits were high and anticipation reached a fever pitch.

What awaited them in the finals? Let’s find out, shall we?

Unlike the previous rounds, this was a head-to-head match-up, winner-take-all. So, naturally, we made posters to hype the event like a prizefight.

The game for the finals? Linkee.

Linkee is a trivia game that requires both general knowledge and associative thinking. Each trivia card has a letter on the back, and the traditional goal of the game is to acquire enough letter cards to spell “LINKEE.” (But for the purposes of the tournament, the first person to collect six cards would be the winner.)

One person acts as the Question Master, while the other players each grab a pencil and pad. The Question Master reads each of the four questions on the card. The players write down the answers and try to figure out what theme links the four answers.

The first player to shout out “LINKEE!” and identify the link gets the letter card. You can shout out “LINKEE!” at any point, but if you’re wrong, you’re out until the next card is played. So confidence and boldness has to be tempered with strategy.

That’s what makes the game more intriguing than your average trivia game. It’s not just knowing the answers to individual trivia questions; it’s figuring out the link between them, and doing so before your opponents.

[The room was packed with enthusiastic fans and interested parties,
including many of the competitors from the tournament.]

Gordon had an inauspicious start to the game, as he figured out the link between the first card’s questions, but neglected to yell out “LINKEE!” first, disqualifying himself from scoring the point.

Nikki, seizing the advantage after scoring that first point, quickly followed up, cracking the links for the next four cards, leaping out to a commanding lead. It seemed like a shut-out was imminent and Nikki would be crowned the winner in commanding fashion.

But no, Gordon would not go away quietly. As Nikki puzzled over the possible links for the game point, Gordon yelled out “LINKEE!” and scored his first point.

It was now Nikki’s LINKE to Gordon’s L. This would not be the clean sweep many expected after the opening flurry of action.

Gordon scored a second point (for the I), and then a third for the N. It was now LINKE to LIN. There was a change in the air, a buzz of excitement among the spectators, a frisson of uncertainty. It would appear we had a Comeback Kid on our hands.

On the next card, both players yelled “LINKEE!” simultaneously, and the judges couldn’t decide who was first, so that card was discarded.

Astonishingly, Gordon followed that up by going on to score two more points back-to-back, tying Nikki LINKE to LINKE. Hollywood could not have scripted it any better…

The next point scored would determine the winner of the entire tournament.

Our Question Master delivered the next four trivia questions, and Gordon shouted “LINKEE!” and answered that “Italian names ending with i” was the link. There was a gasp from the crowd! Had he pulled off the comeback of the century?

Unfortunately, no. The correct answer was “Italians.” By being so specific, he made his guess incorrect. (Versace, one of the trivia question answers, doesn’t end in i.)

That card was ignored, and a new one selected. For now, the finals would continue.

But not for long, as Nikki would secure the game-winning point with one final cry of “LINKEE!”, earning her sixth and final point.

At the 38 minute mark, the finals were over, and a new champion was crowned. #TeamNikki had triumphed!

After congratulations were offered to both competitors for a worthy battle, Nikki was awarded not only her Game Night Prize Pack (consisting of popcorn, candy, and two games: Forbidden Island and Exquisite Beast), but the championship crown and scepter!

She was even crowned by last year’s winner in a marvelous little passing-of-the-torch ceremony.

With the tournament concluded, our Tabletop Day festivities had begun, and audience members became players as games of Loonacy, Slapzi, and Timeline quickly formed while participants grabbed snacks, including some amazing D20-frosted cookies:

We had a full spread of games available for visitors to enjoy, and regular readers of the blog would no doubt recognize several of the games on display, including Tak, Qwirkle, Tsuro, and Fluxx.

And, as it turns out, Nikki wasn’t quite finished with her winning ways, as she proved victorious in every round of Loonacy she played after the finals.

All in all, it was a marvelously successful day to cap off an incredible tournament, full of spirited competition, tabletop fun, and puzzly displays of skill. Sure, we celebrated International Tabletop Day a few days early, but we did it in style.


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!

Musical Wordplay to Soothe the Savage Puzzler…

Oh yes, it’s that time again! It’s time to unleash our puzzly and punny imaginations and engage in a bit of sparkling wordplay!

You may be familiar with the board game Schmovie, hashtag games on Twitter, or @midnight’s Hashtag Wars segment on Comedy Central.

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 #PennyDellPuzzleLyrics, mashing up Penny Dell puzzles with lyrics from songs of any and all genres!

Examples include: “Lucy in the sky with Nine of Diamonds“, “If I leave Here and There tomorrow, would you still remember me?”, and “’cause the times they are a-Changaword.”

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


Let’s start with some Puzzly Lyrics!

“Woah, Black Betty, Anagrams.” (Black Betty, Ram Jam)

“I’m still Jenny from the Blockbuilders” / “I’m still Jenny from Around the Block” (Jenny from the Block, Jennifer Lopez)

Abacus think this song is about you. Don’t you? Don’t you?” (You’re So Vain, Carly Simon)

ABC’s, it’s easy as one These Three, or simple as A to Z Maze, ABC’s, one These Three, baby you’re a solver!” (ABC, The Jackson Five)

“I put a Spelldown on you because you’re fine” / “I put a Starspell on you” (I Put a Spell on You, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins)

Give and Take another little Bits and Pieces of my heart now, baby.” / “A Little Piece-by-Piece of My Heart” (Piece of My Heart, Janis Joplin)

“It’s hip to be Circles in the Square.” (Hip to Be Square, Huey Lewis and the News)

“Tea for Two for One and Two at a Time for tea.” (Tea for Two, Doris Day)

“I have become comfortably Number Square.” (Comfortably Numb, Pink Floyd)

“All in all you’re just another Brick by Brick in the wall.” (Another Brick in the Wall Part 2, Pink Floyd)

“When you’re thick as a Brick by Brick” (Thick as a Brick, Jethro Tull)

“Plenty of room at the Hotel Cancellations” (Hotel California, Eagles)

“Growing up leads to growing old and then to Tie-In, Ooo, and Tie-In to me don’t sound like all that much fun.” (Authority Song, John Mellencamp)

One and Only is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do” (One Is The Loneliest Number, Three(somes) Dog Night)

Chain Reaction of Fools” (Chain of Fools, Aretha Franklin)

“Animal Crackers in my Alphabet Soup” / “Animal Crackers in my Alphabet Soup for Two” (Animal Crackers in my Soup, Shirley Temple)

“‘Cause I knew you were Double Trouble when you walked in, So shame on me now” (I Knew You Were Trouble, Taylor Swift)

“The Anagram Magical Mystery Word Grand Tour” (The Magical Mystery Tour, The Beatles)

“Domo Arigato, Mr. Sudoku” (Mr. Roboto, Styx)

Diamond Rings are a Girl’s Best Friend” (Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend, Carol Channing/Marilyn Monroe)

Diamond Mine-Eyes Adored You” (My Eyes Adored You, Frankie Valli)

“Ricky don’t lose that Number Seek, it’s the only one you own” (Ricky Don’t Lose That Number, Steely Dan)

“Jenny I got your Number Seek.” (867-5309/Jenny, Tommy Tutone)

“She’s a Brick by Brick House” (Brick House, Lionel Ritchie & The Commodores)

“Love in an Escalators, living it Ups & Downs” (Love in an Elevator, Aerosmith)

“I Go to Extreme Sudoku” (I Go to Extremes, Billy Joel)

“It’s a Family Ties Affair” (It’s a Family Affair, Sly & the Family Stone)

“Living in the Shadowbox of Love” (Standing in the Shadow of Love, The Four Tops)

“Jump in the Line ‘Em Up Rock Your Body in Time” (Jump in the Line, Harry Belafonte)

“Don’t Get Around the Block Much Anymore” (Don’t Get Around Much Anymore, Duke Ellington)

“You spin me Right Angles round, baby, Right Angles round, like a record baby” (You Spin Me Round, Dead or Alive)

“Beauty school Drop-Outs, no graduation day for you…” / “Beauty school Drop-Outs… Go back to Shuffle” (Beauty School Drop Out, Frankie Avalon)

“Cold iron shackles, ball and Chain Words” (Tennessee Jed, The Grateful Dead)

“Here I come Red-dy or not, Here I come Red-dy I go” (Ready Or Not, Lou Gramm)

“Quaint little villages Here and There, You’re sure to fall in love with Old Cape Cod” (Old Cape Cod, Bette Midler)

“…Gotta Lip Service, get it while you can, Hot, sweat ‘n’ nervous love on demand” (Rock! Rock! Til you drop, Def Leppard)

“We’re goin’ up Around the Bend” (Up Around the Bend, Credence Clearwater Revival)

“I wanna live where the Good Deal grows, watch my Combos pop up in Rounders” (Where the Green Grass Grows, Tim McGraw)

“I wanna swing from the Consonant Search, from the Consonant Search” (Chandelier, Sia)

“I’ve got 1, Two by Two, 3, 4, 5, senses working overtime” (Senses Working Overtime, XTC)

“It takes Two at a Time, baby, it takes Two at a Time, baby, just me and you” (It Takes Two, Marvin Gaye & Kim Weston)

Say That you, Say That me, Say That for always” (Say You Say Me, Lionel Richie)

“I’m back in Blackout! I hit the stack.” (Back in Black, ACDC)

“I see a red door and I want to paint my Blackout!” (Paint it Black, The Rolling Stones)

“You go back to words, and I go back to Blackout” (Back to Black, Amy Winehouse)

“There’s a man In the Funny Papers we all know (Alley Oop, oop, oop-oop)” (Alley Oop, the Hollywood Argyles)

Hare we go again on my own, going down the only road I’ve ever know… like a drifter I was born to walk alone” (Here I go again, Whitesnake)

Movin’ On Over… Rockin on over… move over little dog the big old dog is movin in” (Move It On Over, George Thorogood)

“The fire’s in their eyes and their words are really clear, So beat it. Just Beat the Clock” (Beat It, Michael Jackson)

“It doesn’t matter what they solve. In the letter games people play. Our Blips are sealed” (Our Lips are Sealed, The Go-Go’s)

“Can, my darling, can you Picture This?” (When Doves Cry, The artist formerly known as ‘The Artist Formerly Known As Prince’)

“It’s time to Scramble on Across” (Ramble On, Led Zeppelin)

Combos number five. Look Across and Down and move them all around” (Mambo Number 5, Lou Bega)

“Will we ever leave the maze again? It’s the final Countdown” (The Final Countdown, Europe)

“Hit the road Crackerjacks” (Hit the Road Jack, Ray Charles)

“Can you Fill-In above and right? It is where they are” (Can You Feel the Love Tonight?, Elton John)

“It’s the Circle Cross of Life, it’s the Wheels of fortune” (Circle of Life, Elton John)

“Another All Four One bites the dust” (Another One Bites the Dust, Queen)

“No time for Loose Tiles cause we are the Champions… of the Domino Theory!” (We Are the Champions, Queen)

“It takes Two at a Time to make a thing go right” (It Takes Two, Robe Base/DJ E-Z Rock)

Three From Nine, damn she fine!” (Get Low, Lil Jon)

“If Rhyme Time was a drug I’d sell it by the gram” (Ice Ice Baby, Vanilla Ice)

“I just can’t get you out of my Headings. Boy your letters are all that I think about” (Can’t Get You Out of My Head, Kylie Minogue)

Line ‘Em Up up up, I’m on fire” (My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark, Fall Out Boy)

“I Walk the End of the Line” (I Walk the Line, Johnny Cash)

“Will the Circles in the Square be Unbroken” (Will the Circle Be Unbroken, Johnny Cash)

And of course Johnny Cash had the immortal, “A Boy Named Sue-doku,” with the line “Life ain’t easy for a boy named Sudoku.”

Simon Says: “the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls.” (The Sound of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel)

Simon Says: “you’re so vain, you probably think this song is about you.” (You’re so Vain by Carly Simon)


Some players were a bit more ambitious, so we’ll call this section Puzzly Verses!

“She’s so lucky… a Lucky Star but she try try tries in her only chart thinkin’ if there’s nothin’ missing to the right then why don’t these terms come out right” (Lucky, Britney Spears)

I heard there was a Secret Word, that David played and it pleased the nerd
But you don’t really care for puzzles, do ya?
Well it goes like this the Foursomes, the Fitting Description, the minor Quotefall, the major List-a-Crostic
The Battleships composing Hidden Word Squares
(Hallelujah, Leonard Cohen)

He says, “Bill, I believe this is killing me.”
As a smile ran away from his face
“Well, I’m sure that I could be a movie star
If I could get out of this Places, Please.”
(Piano Man, Billy Joel)

For five long years
I thought you were my man
But I found out
I’m just a link in your Chain Words
(Chain of Fools, Aretha Franklin)

Cellophane flowers of yellow and green
Towering over your head
Look for the girl with the Sunrays in her eyes
And she’s gone
(The Beatles, Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds)

Hey now, you’re an all-star, get your Bowl Game on, go Word Play
Hey now, you’re a rock Guest Star, get the show on, get paid
And all that glitters is gold
Only shooting stars break the mold
(Smash Mouth, All-Star)

Carry on my Right of Wayward son
For there’ll be Piece by Piece when you are done
Lay your weary Headings to rest
Don’t you cry no more
(Kansas, Carry On Wayward Son)

You wouldn’t even know a Diamond Rings
If you held it in your hand
The things you think are precious
I can’t understand
(Steely Dan, Reelin’ In the Years)

You’re the First and Last One
When things Turnabout bad
You Know The Odds I’ll never be lonely
You’re my only One and Only
And I love the things
I really love the things that you do
You’re my best friend
(Queen, You’re My Best Friend)

Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper book.
They slither wildly as they slip away Across and Down the universe…
Nothing’s going to change my word…
(The Beatles, Across the Universe)

Every breath you Give and Take
Every It’s Your Move you make
Every Common Bond you break
Every Step by Step you take
I’ll be watching you.
(The Police, Every Breath You Take)

Oh you know, you know, You know the Odds
I’d never ask you to Changaword
If Perfect Fit‘s what you’re Circle Searching for
Then just stay the same
(Bruno Mars, Just the Way You Are)

We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look
Behind from where we came
And go round and round and Around the Bend
In the Circle Sums game
(Joni Mitchell, The Circle Game)

In a world that keeps on pushin’ me Around the Bend
But I’ll stand my ground and I won’t back down
Hey baby there ain’t no easy Word Ways out
Hey I will stand my ground
(Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, I Won’t Back Down)


Pete Seeger wrote “Little Boxes,” about about a range of variety puzzles with a chorus imploring puzzlemakers to create digest-sized Boxes Word Seeks… here’s a sample:

Window Boxes on the hillside
Letterboxes made of ticky tacky
Little Boxes
Little Boxes
Shadowboxes all the same…


The Puzzles of Your Mind

(Puzzle in the) Round,
Like a circling Bull’s-Eye Spiral,
Like the Wheels within Spinwheel,
Never ending or beginning like a Flower Power feels,
Like a snowball down some Word Trails or a Dart Game done too soon,
Carousels Tossing and Turning, running Ringers ’round the moon,
Beat the Clock who’s hands are sweeping past the minutes of its face,
And Star Words is like an apple whirling silently in space,
Like Full Circles that you find in the puzzles of your mind.

(The Windmills of Your Mind by Michel Legrand with English lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman, winner of the Academy Award for Best Original Song, as sung by Noel Harrison in the movie The Thomas Crown Affair)


Here is the first verse of Bob Dylan’s classic “Tanglewords in Blue,” although known to some as “Tangled up in Blue.”

Early one mornin’ the Sunrays shinin’
I was layin’ in bed
Wonderin’ if she’d Changaword
If her hair was still red
Here and There folks said our lives together
Sure was gonna be rough
They never did like mama’s Home Runs dress
Papa’s Bookworms wasn’t big enough
And I was standing on the side of the Crossroads
Quotefalls on my shoes
Heads & Tails for the east coast
Lord knows of paid some dues
Getting through
Tanglewords in blue


Two intrepid puzzlers went above and beyond, conjuring up entire Puzzly Songs!

Nice Nice Puzzles
(Performed in the Style of Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby”)

Word to your mother.

Yo! PDP! Let’s kick it!

Nice nice puzzles
Nice nice puzzles
All right stop
Grab your pencils and hear it
Penny/Dell’s here with some puzzly spirit

Hold on to your magazines tightly
Solvin’ some word seeks daily and nightly

Will I ever stop?
Yo, I don’t know.
My love of words is something I just can’t let go

To the extreme I rock crosswords like a boss
Hang on a sec while I write in three across

When on the go…
Gotta download Daily Pop
Or pick up some Logic at the airport gift shop

Sorry, were you talking to me?
Didn’t hear a thing ‘cuz I’m on a solving spree

Puzzles? I love them.
I do ’em all day
From the time the sun rises until I hit the hay

Crostics, Tiles, and Fill-Ins
Sudoku, Piece by Piece
With each new type I try
My solving skills increase

Nice nice puzzles to solve…to solve
Nice nice puzzles to solve…to solve


Ode to the Casino
(Fool’s Paradise by Buddy Holly)

You took me up to heaven
When you sounded that sweet alarm
I was dazzled by your Diamond Rings
Blinded by your charms
I was lost, in a Roll of the Dice
Good and lost, in a Roll of the Dice

When you told me that you loved me
I gave my coins to you
And I wondered if there could be
Any cherries in my view
I was lost, in a Roll of the Dice
Good and lost, in a Roll of the Dice

The whole world was my Circle Sums
And I love the Ups and Downs
Then I saw you glance at a new romance
And my love tumbled Across and Down

Though you treat me kind-a coolish
And may never let me know
That you think I’m being foolish
Because I love you so
I’ll still get lost, in a Roll of the Dice
Lost with you, in a Roll of the Dice

Though you treat me kind-a coolish
And may never let me know
That you think I’m being foo-oo-oo-lish
Because I love you so
I’ll still get lost, in a Roll of the Dice
Lost with you, in a Roll of the Dice
Lost with you, in a Roll of the Dice


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PDP Tabletop Tournament: Round 3

Two weeks ago, 15 intrepid members of the Penny/Dell Puzzles crew (as well as yours truly, your friendly neighborhood PuzzleNation blogger) embarked on the first stage of a four-week journey: The PDP Tabletop Tournament.

In Round 1, the field was culled from sixteen competitors to eight after tense battles of On the Dot and Bananagrams.

In Round 2, it was halved again as this group of elite puzzlers went to war in games of Timeline and Qwirkle.

We’re down to just four competitors, each inspiring their own hashtags: #TeamNikki, #TeamRick, #TeamGordon, and #TeamJenn.

What awaited them in Round 3? Let’s find out, shall we?

Unlike Rounds 1 and 2, there wouldn’t be two games to play. Instead, all four competitors would play a single game, and the top two scorers would go on to the championship finals next week.

The game for Round 3? Sheriff of Nottingham.

Sheriff of Nottingham is a card game that mixes strategy, resource management, and bluffing. The players collect cards with different goods to take to market — apples, chickens, bread, and cheese — as well as cards of contraband items (like spices, mead, and weapons). Each of these cards is worth points, and the contraband goods are worth more than the legal goods. Of course, the contraband goods are illegal, so if you’re caught bringing them to market, there’s a penalty.

And, unfortunately, in order to get your goods (legal or otherwise) to market, you have to get past the Sheriff.

For example, in a four-player game, let’s say the first player is the Sheriff. The other three players will each place up to five cards in their bag, then snap it shut, and declare what’s inside to the Sheriff. A player may be telling the truth about the contents of her bag, or she may be lying. The Sheriff can choose to either let a bag pass through unchecked or open and inspect the contents of any bag.

Anything that gets through the Sheriff goes into your market stand and is worth points at the end of the game. If the Sheriff chooses to check your bag, one of two things happens. If you were honest about what’s in the bag, the Sheriff pays you the value of those items. If you lied about the contents of your bag and the Sheriff catches you, you must pay him a penalty, and any contraband goods in the bag are seized.

[Nikki places a kindly offering of cheese from a fellow player
into her marketplace during her turn as the Sheriff.]

Of course, you can always negotiate with the Sheriff before the bag is opened. Bribes (of coin, product, or favors) can be offer, and deals can be made.

Once the Sheriff has either let the players’ bags through or finished the inspections, everyone settles their goods in the marketplace, the next player takes over as Sheriff, and the cycle starts again.

The game ends after every player has been the Sheriff twice. Then the players count up the value of everything they’ve brought to market — including any contraband they’ve snuck through — as well as their coin piles. (Plus, there are bonus points to be gained if you brought the most of any product to market. For instance, the person who brought the most apples is King of Apples, and the person who brought the second-most is Queen of Apples. Both titles are worth points.)

This game is obviously more complex and involved than the games played in Rounds 1 and 2, so there was a practice game last Thursday to allow players to familiarize themselves with the rules and the gameplay.

Once starting coins and cards were allotted to each player (plus a few coins extra to encourage wheeling-and-dealing/bribery), the game commenced. In the end, only two of the four players at the table would be moving on to the finals. What combination of Nikki, Rick, Gordon, or Jenn would face off for the championship?

As it turns out, there was already a wrinkle there. Jenn unfortunately couldn’t make it to the tournament this week, but she was allowed to choose a player to sub in for her: JP. Although she didn’t know what game would played in Round 3 when she picked him, as it turns out, she chose well. JP not only won the practice round last week, but he’d won a previous game played a month or two ago.

JP started off as the Sheriff, and surprisingly, he let the other players off easy, choosing not to inspect any of their bags for contraband (perhaps hoping such kindness would be reciprocated when he brought goods to market in turns to come).

[As Sheriff, Gordon inspects the contents of Nikki’s bag, looking for contraband.
He’ll be disappointed, and end up paying her for the inconvenience.]

As Gordon, Nikki, and Rick each took a turn guarding the path to market, this first go-around proceeded quickly. There were only a few attempts to sneak contraband through. There was also a touch of bribery, but hey, that’s part of the game. In fact, Rick rejected a bribe from Gordon at one point and chose to inspect his products anyway, which was a surprise.

All in all, only ten minutes passed before the role of Sheriff returned to JP.

The tension picked up as the second go-around began, and game play slowed down considerably. People were being more deliberate in both choosing the items for their bag and in their deliberations as Sheriff.

[Rick watches intently as Gordon chooses what to take to market.]

One of the things that makes Sheriff of Nottingham so engaging is that you can’t ever really know who is winning. Whenever someone sneaks contraband through (or pays off the Sheriff to look the other way), you have no idea how many points they scored. All you know is that they got something of higher value to market. Unless you make a concentrated effort to keep track of the goods people are focusing on — particularly if they’re hoping to score those bonus points as King or Queen of a product — it can be tough to know exactly where you stand, points-wise, compared to the others.

Nerves began to fray as more goods flooded the marketplace. Sheriffs looking for “contributions” drove harder bargains, adding both coins and goods to their coffers. Apples became quite a valuable foodstuff for bribes, particularly when Nikki was Sheriff.

Rick’s second turn as the Sheriff coincided with the last turn, and he ominously declared, “This is going to be a very expensive round.” Everyone laughed, but given how strongly Rick had been playing, they also knew he’d be driving a hard bargain for anyone trying to score last-minute points by sneaking contraband through.

This second go-around lasted nearly twice as long as the previous one, and emotions were running high as Rick’s turn as Sheriff ended and the gameplay concluded.

We then counted up the legal goods everyone brought to market, and determined who would be scoring bonus points. Everyone did well here, racking up some valuable eleventh-hour coinage.

  • JP was King of Cheese.
  • Rick was King of Chickens and Queen of Cheese.
  • Gordon was King of Bread and Queen of Apples.
  • Nikki was King of Apples (thanks in part to those marvelous bribes), Queen of Bread, AND Queen of Chickens.

The judges then swooped in to count everyone’s haul, and the players stepped away from the table to enjoy some marvelous cookies and treats provided by the judges… and await their fate.

In the end, it was a very close game. Only fourteen points separated the top scorer and the third place finisher. (Less than 30 points separated the entire field.)

Gordon secured a spot in the finals with top score (165), followed closely by Nikki (159) and Rick (151), with JP closing things out (137).

So it would be Nikki and Gordon proceeding to the finals! Congratulations to both of them, as well as kudos to Rick and JP for their impressively strong performances throughout the game.

The finals will held as part of our annual International Tabletop Day event next week!

And, of course, a crown, scepter, and Game Night Gift Pack await the eventual champion.

To be concluded…

[You can check in on the next round of the tournament live on Tuesday on our Instagram account!]


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!