Citizen Shoutout: Escape 101 Edition!

Welcome to the latest installment of our newest monthly feature on the blog, Citizen Shoutout!

Each edition of Citizen Shoutout is an opportunity to say thank you. It allows us to put the spotlight on folks in the PuzzleNation community who contribute to the world of puzzles and games in a meaningful way.

And in today’s edition, I’d like to highlight a local escape room that is delivering some marvelous puzzly experiences, Escape 101!

Located just off the highway and right by the Danbury Fair Mall in Danbury, Connecticut, Escape 101 offers some of the best, most immersive escape rooms I’ve ever had the pleasure of trying out. Every time the door is shut and the timer starts, you’re guaranteed a fun, challenging, wholly unique solving experience.

You can call or email Escape 101 to reserve a room, or book a room through their website. (It’s always best to do so at least a few days out from your desired date and time, just to give them the best chance to meet your expectations.)

You know you’re in for a quality challenge right away, as your Game Master gives you an opportunity to familiarize yourself with all of the different locks you’ll encounter in your chosen Escape Room. From combination locks and key locks to directional locks, and even a cryptex, they’ve got all sorts of diabolical tricks and challenges awaiting you, so make good use of your time before the room opens.

There’s a quick instructional video, and then you and your group of solvers will decide how many clues you want for your Escape Room.

There are three options:

  • Original: You get three clues and three clues only. Once they’re gone, they’re gone, and you’re on your own.
  • Meet Me Halfway: You get more than three clues, giving you additional chances (at your request) to get past frustrating or confusing stumbling blocks while still giving you a fair chance to escape.
  • Finish the Game: Your Game Master delivers unlimited clues and hints, maximizing your chances of escaping the room within the one hour time limit.

Personally, I like “Meet Me Halfway,” because you can still set the goal of using no more than three clues, but you still have the opportunity to ask for more if you need them. It’s the best of both worlds.

But what about the escape rooms themselves, you ask? Well, I’ve only tackled two of them so far, but I thoroughly enjoyed both experiences.

The easier of the two was The Ice Cream Truck room, wherein you and your group find yourselves in a local park with a simple goal: collect enough money for all of you to hit the ice cream truck before it leaves!

You’ll have to explore your environment, accomplish tasks, and help fellow parkgoers to accomplish your mission.

If you’ve never done an escape room before, I think this is the perfect introductory room. The puzzles are fun and challenging without being overwhelming, and the very environment is soothing, which counteracts the pressure of knowing you’ve only got one hour to escape.

[No pictures of the room, because I didn’t want to spoil any of the surprises for you.]

Of course, if you’re looking for something more challenging, Escape 101 has you covered there as well… with the Doomsday Room.

The Doomsday Room is a combination office/laboratory for the mysterious Dr. Apocalypse. You and your group have snuck into his workspace in the hopes of escaping with a very important bit of information: the date of the end of the world.

But Dr. Apocalypse won’t make it easy. You’ll need to explore the entire space, conduct experiments, show off your observational skills, and more in order to escape in the time allotted. It’s a genuine challenge, but a spectacularly fun one, even if you don’t manage to escape in time.

And if that’s not enough to entice you to visit and test your mettle against one of their escape rooms, we’ve got something special just for local PuzzleNation solvers.

Yes, for the entire month of October, if you make a reservation for a room at Escape 101 and you have one of the PuzzleNation puzzle apps on your phone, you can show it to them at the door and they’ll give you a 10% discount on the entire booking!

That’s right, whether it’s Daily POP Crosswords, Penny Dell Crosswords, Penny Dell Sudoku, or Penny Dell Crosswords Jumbo 1, 2, or 3, being a PuzzleNation solver will give you a discount on a terrific solving experience.

How cool is that?

Be sure to take advantage of this amazing offer, and let us know if you do! We’d love to hear from you!

Thank you for reading our latest Citizen Shoutout. Writing this month’s edition has been great fun.

But what about next month? I’m glad you asked.

As always, I am happy to take suggestions from my fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers for individuals, groups, and businesses to highlight in each month’s post.

So, if there’s a puzzler or designer who inspires you, a constructor who challenged you or surprised you with a puzzle, or someone who did something kind in a puzzly way, let us know!

Maybe you have a favorite local game shop / hobby shop where you meet other puzzlers, or that introduced you to a favorite game. Maybe your local library held an event that piqued your puzzly interest.

Maybe you’d like to give a shoutout to an escape room you think others would enjoy (like I did today), or to a puzzly event, like a scavenger hunt, a tournament, or a how-to solve event.

Or maybe, you’d like to put the spotlight on someone who went above and beyond to make a puzzly experience truly memorable.

You can submit your suggestions for the next Citizen Shoutout on Facebook, on Twitter, or in the comments section 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!

New Puzzle Sets for PDCW App and Daily POP Crosswords!

Hello puzzlers and PuzzleNationers! Happy Friday!

We’re excited to announce new puzzle sets for both of our marvelous crossword puzzle apps! Yes, whether you’re a fan of our Penny Dell Crosswords App or our Daily POP Crosswords app, we’ve got something special for you!

First off, we have the Cheers! Deluxe Set for the Penny Dell Crosswords App!

With special themed puzzles and plenty of great puzzles at all difficulty levels for you to enjoy, it’s the perfect way to cap off the end of summer, the start of the school year, or just a pleasant Friday at home!

And for the Daily POP Crosswords users, we have our latest featured set, Out of This World!

Consisting of ten puzzles, all with space-related themes, this puzzle set offers the fresh, pop culture-savvy cluing you’ve come to expect from PuzzleNation, all in ten terrific puzzles collected for your convenience and enjoyment!

Both are available now for in-app purchase, so don’t miss out on these terrific new puzzle bundles!

Happy puzzling, everybody!


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A 5-Letter Word Related to Crossword Skills? Try “Music”

A few years ago, I wrote a post discussing the curious intersection of music and puzzles. It centered around several studies about the effects both listening to music and performing music can have on individuals taking tests or solving puzzles.

There were two intriguing takeaways from these studies:

  • Both adults and children perform better on tests, puzzles, and problem-solving exercises when music is involved (ex.: if they listen to music before or during the test).
  • Children who are given music lessons often achieve greater heights in other subjects, including math and sports.

But it didn’t occur to me until much later that the connection between music and crosswords in particular has been in evidence for quite some time.

There are two 7-time champions in the history of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament: Dan Feyer and Jon Delfin. Think about that. Fourteen out of forty-one ACPT tournaments have been won by one of these men. Practically one out of every three!

And both of them have a musical background as pianists and music directors.

But they’re not the only ones. Constructor Patrick Blindauer, puzzler and actress Whitney Avalon, Lollapuzzoola co-founder Brian Cimmet, and even our own Director of Digital Games Fred Galpern are all musicians.

So what’s the connection between music and crossword puzzles?

No one can say for sure, but there are theories.

In the crossword documentary Wordplay (and quoted from the article linked below), former New York Times Public Editor Daniel Okrent mentioned why he felt that musicians and mathematicians were good fits as crossword solvers:

Their ability to assimilate a lot of coded information instantly. In other words, a piano player like John Delfin, the greatest crossword player of our time, he sits down and he sees three staffs of music and he can instantly play it. He’s taken all those notes and absorbs what they mean, instantaneously. If you have that kind of mind, and you add it to it a wide range of information, and you can spell, you’d be a really great crossword puzzler.

Crossword constructor and psychology professor Arthur Schulman — known for a series of seminars entitled “The Mind of the Puzzler” at the University of Virginia — would agree with that statement. He posited a correlation between word puzzles, math, and music, in that they all involve a quick and intuitive understanding of symbols. It’s about “finding meaning in structure.”

In an interview with the New York Times, Dan Feyer built on this idea, stating that music, math, and puzzles all have pattern recognition in common, quickly recognizing combinations of blanks and spaces and mentally filling in possible answer words, even before reading the clues.

Now, clearly, musical skill and proficiency isn’t required to be a good crossword solver — I’d classify myself as a pretty good solver and I have an almost magical lack of musical talent — but it’s intriguing to ponder how puzzling could easily be wrapped up with a musical bow.

Do you know any other puzzlers with a musical background, or are you a lyrical solver yourself? Let us know in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you!


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Putting the “Daily” Into “Daily POP Crosswords”

One of my favorite features built into the Daily POP Crosswords app is the ability to keep track of the puzzles you’ve solved. The Calendar screen is always a treat, with a special, unique icon appearing on the calendar for every puzzle you’ve completed.

But in addition to those daily icons, there’s also a Streak counter that details both the number of days in a row you’ve solved the daily puzzle and the date your solving streak began.

You can see your streak on the Home screen in the lower left corner (next to your coin total), as well as on the Calendar screen in the upper right corner, on your Profile screen beside your Solver ID, and on your Scores screen at the top of the page.

The app keeps track of your streak even if you haven’t linked it to your Facebook account, just as it keeps track of your daily icons on the Calendar page. (Of course, if you link your FB account to the app, you get bonus coins with which to solve additional puzzles. Hint hint.)

Naturally, watching my own Streak counter rise, only to reset when I accidentally miss a day, makes me wonder… What’s the longest streak amongst Daily POP Crosswords solvers?

I took to social media to ask the PuzzleNation readership, and the top Streak counts that solvers reported hovered between the 50 and 60 day mark. Which is quite impressive! That’s nearly two months without missing a single day!

But, as it turns out, I didn’t have to go far to find the highest Streak count I’ve encountered thus far in my search. How high was the Streak count, you ask?

152!

Yes, one hundred fifty-two days in a row! Nearly five months of solving without missing a day!

This total was amassed by friend of the blog and fellow puzzler Lori, who revealed her impressive puzzly feat to me around the 90-something day mark, and has been dutifully solving ever since!

She sheepishly admitted to me this week that it had slipped her mind to solve on Monday, and she was devastated to have broken her Streak, as she’d been hoping to go a full 365 days.

What do you think about that, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers? Do you have a Daily POP Crosswords Streak that rivals super-solver Lori’s? Let us know where your Streak stands in the comment section below!


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Delving into the 2018 BosWords Puzzles!

I finally had a chance to sit down and take a crack at the puzzles from the BosWords Crossword Tournament last month. Given the talent involved amongst the organizers, I had high expectations, and I was not disappointed.

So let’s put those puzzles under the microscope and see what’s what!


Comedy Central by Andrew Kingsley

This unscored opening puzzle is a nice warm-up, getting everyone into the puzzly spirit and ready to solve. The revealer (INSIDE JOKE) explains the simple hook — words and phrases containing synonyms for “joke,” a la ACU”PUN”CTURE — and the easily-accessible fill entries make this puzzle a breeze.

Interesting grid entries included ZINN, YUAN, THE OC, and FAMOUS AMOS, and my favorite clues were “Ocean liner?” for SHORE and “Ending with ‘buck’ or ‘stink’” for AROO.

Puzzle 1: Cold Open by Laura Braunstein

For the second year in a row, Laura Braunstein constructed the opening puzzle of the tournament, and once again, she delivers a picture perfect appetizer for a day of solving. The cluing feels fresh and relevant, and the theme — phrases with a chilly starter, like ICY RECEPTION — is instantly gettable without feeling hackneyed or overdone. The grid fill is fun with hardly any crosswordese. A terrific start for the event.

Interesting grid entries included AIR GUITAR, TACO TRUCK, LISZT, and DOODAD, and my favorite clues were “Medieval peasant (no, not ESNE!)” for SERF — a nice reference to common crosswordese there — and the pairing of “Much ____ About Nothing” for ADO and “‘Much ____ About Nothing’ (1996 ‘The Simpsons’ episode)” for APU.

Puzzle 2: Not Ready for “Prime” Time Players by Andrew Kingsley and John Lieb

This puzzle puts an interesting spin on the classic moniker for Saturday Night Live cast members by casting athletes from Boston-based teams whose jersey numbers are not prime numbers. (For instance, BOBBY ORR is “Bruins #4 who is an NHL and crossword legend.”) Although you need to know your Beantown sports figures for this one, the accessible fill makes it easy to cobble the names of the athletes together if sports isn’t your strong suit.

Interesting grid entries included BALL PIT, MASTER YODA, OPIUM, and BLUE MAN, and my favorite clues were “What this is” for PRONOUN, “What this entry isn’t” for ACROSS [this was a down clue], and “‘The Fast and the Furious’ films, e.g.” for OCTET.

Puzzle 3: Musical Guests by Brendan Emmett Quigley

Although Puzzle 3 was the toughest puzzle in last year’s BosWords tournament, this year’s contribution by Quigley didn’t have the most difficult theme of the day, but it did have the most challenging fill. (The crossing of VAPED and VSIX was particularly vexing.)

But the theme entries were very clever, concealing famous musicals within mashup entries — TRENTON OF BRICKS, which is TON OF BRICKS with RENT inside, for instance — all of which spanned the entire grid as 15-letter answers. Another topnotch grid and concept from one of the best.

Interesting grid entries included CUT BAIT, AFLAC, MINSK, and K-SWISS, and my favorite clue was “Like the main characters in ‘Scooby-Doo’” for NOSY.

Puzzle 4: Deep Thoughts by Joon Pahk and Lena Webb

This year’s toughest tournament puzzle — other than the actual championship themeless — Puzzle 4 had two tricks up its sleeve. First, the answer words in the bottom half of the grid extended beyond the grid itself, as the missing last letters in those Down answers spelled the word IDEA three times underneath the grid. (For instance, DALI, PACED, WEATHER VANE, and ONEIDA appeared in the grid as DAL, PACE, WEATHERVAN, and ONEID, and it was up to the solver to realize what was happening.)

But those missing IDEAs — the “deep thoughts” of the title — were also missing from the theme entries, so EUCLIDEAN GEOMETRY had to be written into the grid as EUCLNGEOMETRY. It was diabolical, and a masterful example of gridplay at work.

Interesting grid entries included BANTU, MAJORCA, ADONAI, MY BABY, and ROPE RUG, and my favorite clues were “Buster’s target?” for MYTH and “HAL 9000 adversary” for DAVE.

Puzzle 5: Celebrity Jeopardy! by Finn Vigeland

The tournament concluded with a fun, punny hook, as Vigeland paired six celebrity guest hosts with descriptors to create common phrases like VOLCANIC (Chris) ROCK and BURNED (Jeff) BRIDGES. After the challenge of Puzzle 4, this was a pleasant solve that still made you work for some of the obscure fill entries.

Interesting grid entries included TIMESUCK, FBI AGENT, EBATES, and I GOTTA GO, and my favorite clues were “The Great Wall of China is visible from space, e.g.” for MYTH and “Deal breakers?” for NARCS.

Space Walks by John Lieb and Andrea Yanes

This well-constructed tiebreaker puzzle abandoned the SNL theme for a sci-fi twist, and the resulting puzzle was very smooth, combining a good hook — eight phrases consisting of two B words — with a clever revealer: beloved Star Wars rolling droid BB-8. Although not strictly part of the tournament puzzles in either point value or style, this was a fun puzzle all around.

Interesting grid entries included MR. DARCY, OPEN BAR, BOO BERRY, and ACADIA, and my favorite clue was “Like inside-the-park home runs” for RARE.

Championship Themeless by David Quarfoot

The grand finale of the tournament was this fairly tough puzzle with lots of long entries crossing and some difficult cluing. Although well-constructed — particularly the corners with intersecting 8- and 9-letter entries — the inclusion of answers like H-TILE and ECON EXAM felt like a little bit of a cop-out, compared to the otherwise tight grid construction by the usually impeccable David Quarfoot.

Still, this outdid Puzzle 4 for toughest overall solve for the tournament. I don’t think I would have completed it in the time allotted, let alone fast enough to do well against fellow solvers.

Interesting grid entries included CHEMTRAIL, BOSOX, ARIOSO, TRAVEL BAN, and NEVERLAND, and my favorite clues were “Fitting position?” for TAILOR and “Pill-dropping alternative to Tetris” for DR. MARIO.


Overall, I would call this year’s array of tournament puzzles a rousing success. They clearly had fun with the Saturday Night Live-inspired hooks, and the puzzles were challenging and creative in their fill without being intimidating or getting too esoteric.

BosWords is probably the most new-solver-friendly tournament out there in terms of puzzle difficulty — not nearly as challenging or as experimental as those at Lollapuzzoola or The Indie 500 — while still remaining engaging.

It’s the right mix of challenge and creativity for solvers accustomed to NYT-style solving, and I think the constructors and organizers did one heck of a job putting together the tournament.

Can’t wait to see what they cook up for us next year.


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!

Answers to Our 6th Anniversary Instagram Brain Teasers!

Last week, we celebrated six years of PuzzleNation Blog by announcing a week-long puzzly social media blitz.

Facebook and Twitter saw twice-daily alerts for the puzzle of the day for both Daily POP Crosswords and Penny Dell Crosswords App, cuing solvers to contact us with the answers to particular across and down clues.

Instagram solvers were encouraged to tackle a series of brain teasers, and today, we’ve got all the answers for you! Let’s jump right in.


We started off on Tuesday with this relatively straightforward brain teaser: How can you add eight 4s together so that the total adds up to 500?

We got the most responses to this one, and it’s no surprise, as we have some very crafty followers on Instagram. The trick here is number placement. By grouping 4s, you create larger numbers that make it easier to add to your total.

Solution: 444 + 44 + 4 + 4 + 4 = 500


Wednesday’s puzzle involved placing the numbers 1 through 8 into the grid above. Consecutive numbers cannot appear in an adjacent or diagonal box.

This puzzle was actually created and submitted by a PuzzleNationer named Sanjana, so kudos to you, Sanjana, as you made one heck of a brain teaser!

Here’s the solution. (Using the same numbers in reverse or flipped layout creates four different variations on the same solution.)


Thursday’s brain teaser put your Scrabble and Upwords skills to the test, as we played a round of Quad-Doku! The goal is to play each tile, one at a time, onto the board, forming a new common word (or words) each time. Do this with all 8 tiles in any order. By the end, all four corners will have changed.

This is a nice chain-solving puzzle, and here’s the solution we came up with:

F makes FOUR/FIND, S makes FINS/SEEM, A makes SEAM, B makes FIBS, C makes SCAM, W makes SWAM, L makes FOUL/LOOM, and P makes LOOP/SWAP.


On Friday, we posted a riddle to test your puzzly skills. Once I am 24, twice I am 20, three times I am unclean. What am I?

Solution: The answer is X. It’s the 24th letter of the alphabet, two X’s makes 20 in Roman numerals, and three X’s marks something as inappropriate for some viewers.


Monday brought us our final brain teaser, a matchstick puzzle (or, in this case, a toothpick puzzle). Can you move four toothpicks in order to change the zigzag path into 2 squares? The two squares do not have to be equal in size.

In the image above, we’ve circled the four toothpicks to move.

And here is the completed puzzle, with two squares of unequal size.


How did you do, intrepid solvers? Well, based on the responses we received, pretty darn well! We’ll be reaching out to contest winners later this week!

But in the meantime, we’d like to thank everyone who participated in our PN Blog 6th Anniversary event. You help make this the best puzzle community on the planet, and we are forever grateful.


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!