Presidential Puzzling

The New York Times Crossword celebrated 75 years of puzzles back in February, and ever since, they’ve been commemorating that puzzly milestone with a series of established constructors collaborating with celebrity guests to create special monthly puzzles.

It started on February 15th, the 75th anniversary, with a collaboration by Patrick Blindauer and actor Jesse Eisenberg offering some food for thought.

On March 20th, astronomer and affable Pluto slayer Neil deGrasse Tyson joined Andrea Carla Michaels in creating a punny look at the stars.

Classical pianist Emanuel Ax teamed up with Brad Wilber to pen a music-minded puzzler on April 19th.

And for the May installment of this celebrity series, none other than former president Bill Clinton tried his hand at creating a crossword alongside judge and constructor Victor Fleming for the May 12th edition of the puzzle.

The puzzle was offered free online by The New York Times. Although the Friday puzzle is usually themeless, there was a link between three of the main answers, DON’T STOP, THINKING ABOUT, and TOMORROW, which of course spell out the title of his campaign song.

Will Shortz offered further details on the creative process:

In the case of today’s puzzle, Judge Fleming constructed the grid, with some input from Mr. Clinton. The president wrote most of the clues. When the judge proposed tweaks to certain clues, Mr. Clinton objected: “Too easy and boring. Might as well print the answers in the puzzle.”

I found it to be a pretty fair solve, although there were a few outlier answers that were much, much tougher than the rest of the field. (Either that or I need to bone up on my Indonesian geography.)

Shortz also offered a glimpse of the celebrity constructors to come, teasing readers with mentions of “a pop singer with a No. 1 hit, a noted fashion designer, a standup comedian, a venerable TV journalist, a morning TV host, a six-time Emmy-winning actor, and a sitting U.S. senator, among others.”

It’ll be interesting to see which celebrity solvers have accepted the challenge of constructing a puzzle of their own.


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Solving the Rebel Roundup Brain Teaser!

Fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers, we celebrated Star Wars Day (aka May the Fourth Be With You) last week by sharing a puzzly brain teaser.

Today, let’s go through how to solve it!

Rebel Roundup

The Empire came up with a brilliant plan in order to trap various members of the Rebel Alliance: creating a fake Rebel summit. Each Imperial agent involved would invite a Rebel to the summit while posing as one of the Rebels being invited.

It would have worked perfectly, except for the fact that Admiral Ozzel posed as the person that he had invited. OOPS. Courtesy of Ozzel’s bumbling, the Rebels were warned ahead of time and armed themselves, hoping to turn the tables on the Empire.

Thanks to Han Solo’s timely warning, Luke had hidden his lightsaber and a vibroknife with R2-D2 and C-3PO respectively. These extra weapons allowed the seven Rebel agents of them to escape. It also helped that Admiral Ackbar arrived last in his ship, Home One.

Each Rebel arrived in a different spaceship, but two Rebels hitched a ride with fellow agents, so only five spaceships were involved.

Answer these questions:

  • Who traveled with Leia?
  • Who traveled with Luke?
  • What vehicle did each Rebel arrive in?
  • Which Imperial invited which Rebel?
  • Who did each Imperial pose as?
  • What weapon did each Rebel carry?

Here are your clues:

1. Leia, having been warned by Han, carried a concealable Holdout Blaster. She did not arrive in an X-Wing, nor did she fly the Millennium Falcon.

2. Han wouldn’t let anyone fly his baby. Han carried his Heavy Blaster Pistol, ready to shoot the Imperial who invited him while posing as him. This naturally made Han suspicious.

3. When Admiral Ackbar saw who invited him, he put his Force Pike to the Imperial’s throat. He was not invited by Darth Vader, who had posed as R2-D2.

4. C-3PO arrived on the Tantive IV, along with another passenger. This was not the ship Lando used.

5. The Lady Luck was flown by the man invited by Admiral Piett. Its pilot, who traveled alone, carried a Blaster Rifle with him. He gambled a bit, and almost crashed into Luke’s X-Wing. The Imperial who invited him posed as Admiral Ackbar.

6. Grand Moff Tarkin invited Admiral Ackbar. He did not pose as Luke Skywalker, nor did he pose as Leia.

7. General Veers invited R2-D2. Veers posed as R2-D2’s best friend. Captain Needa did not pose as Lando.

8. Leia was led to believe that Luke invited her to the summit. Emperor Palpatine invited Luke while posing as Leia. R2-D2 delivered his weapon to the Rebel so he could keep his father busy long enough for everyone to escape.


Now, the first step is going through the clues and listing all of the options for every variable. This will help us with the second step: building a grid to help us organize information.

  • Rebels: Ackbar, C-3PO, Han, Lando, Leia, Luke, R2-D2
  • Imperials: Needa, Ozzel, Palpatine, Piett, Tarkin, Vader, Veers
  • Ships: Home One, Lady Luck, Millennium Falcon, Tantive IV, X-Wing
  • Weapons: Blaster Rifle, Force Pike, Heavy Blaster Pistol, Holdout Blaster, Lightsaber, Vibroknife

Okay, let’s build our grid. Now, we could list every intersection of information, like a full logic problem grid, but I don’t think that’s necessary here. We can simplify.

Now let’s fill in what we know from the clues. From the introduction, we know that R2-D2 has the Lightsaber and C-3PO has the Vibroknife. We also know that Ackbar arrived on the ship Home One.

We also know that Leia has a Holdout Blaster (clue #1), and that Han has the Heavy Blaster Pistol (clue #2). Clue #2 also tells us that Han arrived in his baby, the Millennium Falcon. Han was also invited by the Imperial who posed as him, and from the introduction, we know that Ozzel mistakenly pretended to be the man he invited, so that means he posed as Han to invite Han.

So far so good. What else?

We know that Ackbar has a Force Pike (clue #3), that C-3PO arrived on the Tantive IV (clue #4), that Ackbar was invited by Tarkin (clue #6), that R2-D2 was invited by Veers and that Veers posed as his best friend, C-3PO (clue #7).

Finally, we know that Leia believed she was invited by Luke, and Palpatine invited Luke while posing as Leia (clue #8).

That’s a lot of information, and we can immediately use it to resolve clue #5. The Lady Luck was flown by the man invited by Admiral Piett. This clue gives us a linked Imperial and Ship pairing, and only Leia and Lando have both of those pieces of information missing. But since the Lady Luck was flown by a man, we can eliminate Leia and determine that clue #5 applies to Lando.

Not only does this allow us to fill Lando’s entire row, but we also learn that Luke piloted an X-Wing.

There’s another pairing that we can fill in from here. In clue #3, we learn that Darth Vader posed as R2-D2, and that information only fits in C-3PO’s row.

By process of elimination, that gives us Captain Needa as the Imperial who invited Leia and Lando as the person Tarkin posed as.

We also know that R2-D2 delivered his weapon — a Lightsaber — to the Rebel so he could keep his father busy long enough for everyone to escape (clue #8). Luke fits this description.

Finally, we know that Leia didn’t arrive in an X-Wing or the Millennium Falcon (clue #1). The Lady Luck is also out, as Lando traveled alone (clue #5). The introduction states that Ackbar arrived last, implying he traveled alone as well, so that only leaves the Tantive IV as Leia’s possible ship. (Clue #4 states that C-3PO arrived with another passenger.)

That leaves us with R2-D2. From our deliberations about Leia, we can remove the Lady Luck, Home One, and the Tantive IV from the list of options, leaving only Luke’s X-Wing and Han’s Millennium Falcon.

Now, one of the questions we need to answer is “Who traveled with Luke?” That implies someone did, which would mean R2-D2, but again, that could be a trick question, and the answer would be “no one.”

There’s also the information in clue #2 that Han wouldn’t let anyone fly his baby. Does that mean he flew alone? It’s not clear.

But we also know that R2-D2 carried Luke’s Lightsaber. If they traveled together, what’s the point of R2 having the Lightsaber? Luke could just carry it himself. That seems to imply they traveled apart.

So how do we resolve this? Look at the patterns of who invited who.

Tarkin invited Ackbar while posing as Lando. Piett invited Lando while posing as Ackbar. Needa invited Leia while posing as Luke, and Vader invited C-3PO while posing as R2-D2, and they traveled together. Meanwhile, Palpatine invited Luke while posing as Leia, and Veers invited R2-D2 while posing as C-3PO. These parallel invitations line up if R2 travels with Luke.

It’s an elegant plan, only screwed up because Ozzel invited Han while posing as Han.

So, to wrap it all up, let’s answer those questions.

Who traveled with Leia? C-3PO. Who traveled with Luke? R2-D2. And the other four questions? We covered them nicely with our completed grid.

So, how did you do? Did you crack the Rebel Roundup puzzle? Let us know in the comments below!


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The Indie 500 Crossword Tournament returns soon!

Two years ago, a new crossword tournament joined the ranks of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament and Lollapuzzoola, immediately carving out its own niche in the puzzle world. The Indie 500 offered topnotch puzzles and a pie-fueled solving experience both live in Washington, D.C., and for solvers at home.

And it’s back! The third edition of The Indie 500 is happening on Saturday, June 3, and this year, the theme is Time.

This year’s tournament follows the same format as previous years: five preliminary puzzles of varying difficulty, plus a finals puzzle for the top three scorers in both divisions.

[There’s also a fair amount of slapstick.]

Registration is open for the tournament, and if you can make it to D.C., it’s only $30 to compete! But don’t worry if you can’t, because solving from home is only $10!

Not only that, but there’s a time-themed meta suite that lets you name your own price, as well as access to the previous tournament bundles for $5 apiece. Those are super-affordable prices for some outstanding puzzles!

Andy Kravis, Erik Agard, and Neville Fogarty all make their third appearance as veteran constructors — understandable, since they’re also event organizers — and they’re joined by Angela Olson Halsted (who constructed last year) and tournament newcomers Tracy Bennett, Paolo Pasco, and Allegra Kuney!

And, of course, there will be pie.

You can click here for the Indie 500 home page, and click here for a rundown of last year’s puzzles!

Will you be competing, or participating from home? Let us know in the comments below!


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May the Fourth Be With You!

Hello fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers! It’s Star Wars Day, and what better way to celebrate than with a puzzly Star Wars brain teaser!

A fellow Star Wars fan found this logic puzzle online and tasked us with solving it. Can you unravel the fiendish Imperial plot? Let’s find out!


Rebel Roundup

The Empire came up with a brilliant plan in order to trap various members of the Rebel Alliance: creating a fake Rebel summit. Each Imperial agent involved would invite a Rebel to the summit while posing as one of the Rebels being invited.

It would have worked perfectly, except for the fact that Admiral Ozzel posed as the person that he had invited. OOPS. Courtesy of Ozzel’s bumbling, the Rebels were warned ahead of time and armed themselves, hoping to turn the tables on the Empire.

Thanks to Han Solo’s timely warning, Luke had hidden his lightsaber and a vibroknife with R2-D2 and C-3PO respectively. These extra weapons allowed the seven Rebel agents of them to escape. It also helped that Admiral Ackbar arrived last in his ship, Home One.

Each Rebel arrived in a different spaceship, but two Rebels hitched a ride with fellow agents, so only five spaceships were involved.

Answer these questions:

  • Who traveled with Leia?
  • Who traveled with Luke?
  • What vehicle did each Rebel arrive in?
  • Which Imperial invited which Rebel?
  • Who did each Imperial pose as?
  • What weapon did each Rebel carry?

Here are your clues:

1. Leia, having been warned by Han, carried a concealable Holdout Blaster. She did not arrive in an X-Wing, nor did she fly the Millennium Falcon.

2. Han wouldn’t let anyone fly his baby. Han carried his Heavy Blaster Pistol, ready to shoot the Imperial who invited him while posing as him. This naturally made Han suspicious.

3. When Admiral Ackbar saw who invited him, he put his Force Pike to the Imperial’s throat. He was not invited by Darth Vader, who had posed as R2-D2.

4. C-3PO arrived on the Tantive IV, along with another passenger. This was not the ship Lando used.

5. The Lady Luck was flown by the man invited by Admiral Piett. Its pilot, who traveled alone, carried a Blaster Rifle with him. He gambled a bit, and almost crashed into Luke’s X-Wing. The Imperial who invited him posed as Admiral Ackbar.

6. Grand Moff Tarkin invited Admiral Ackbar. He did not pose as Luke Skywalker, nor did he pose as Leia.

7. General Veers invited R2-D2. Veers posed as R2-D2’s best friend. Captain Needa did not pose as Lando.

8. Leia was led to believe that Luke invited her to the summit. Emperor Palpatine invited Luke while posing as Leia. R2-D2 delivered his weapon to the Rebel so he could keep his father busy long enough for everyone to escape.

Good luck, fellow puzzlers! Although the puzzle is a bit easier if you’re familiar with the Star Wars Universe, any solver should be able to crack this puzzle with the clues provided!

Let us know if you solved it in the comments below! And May the Fourth Be With You!


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Tabletop Day 2017: PuzzleNation Style!

Saturday, April 29, is the fifth annual International Tabletop Day! Whether you play board games, role-playing games, card games, dice games, puzzles, or logic games, this is the holiday for you, family, and friends to come together and play games

Although the actual holiday is tomorrow — making today Tabletop Day Eve — we celebrated early! The PuzzleNation Crew got together with our friends from Penny Dell Puzzles for a few hours of Tabletop Day fun on Tuesday! Games were played, snacks were consumed, and fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers were introduced to some terrific games.

[The spread of games available for the event. Can you name them all?]

As usual, the event started with people picking out their favorites and introducing new players to the game. Tsuro, a path-laying tile game where each player maneuvers a flying dragon across the board, was immediately snatched up by our first group of players.

While one table was occupied with Tsuro, I introduced several players to the quick-play pattern-matching card game Loonacy, which always lives up to its name. The fast-paced play and constantly changing images to match make for a fun intro game or a palate cleanser between longer-play games.

More hands of Loonacy followed as the Tsuro players moved on to the runaway Kickstarter sensation Exploding Kittens. The players bravely tried to avert and avoid the catastrophes induced by various adorable, oblivious. combustible cats.

But, as you can see from the photo above, everything game-related immediately came to a halt when Tabletop Day Cake arrived!

Shout-out to fellow puzzler Jen Cunningham for delivering a delicious dice-shaped treat fit for experienced tabletoppers and board game newbies alike!

After a much-appreciated cake break, we switched to dice games as several players filled their hands with colorful cubes and played Tenzi.

There’s something very enjoyable about hearing players shaking big handfuls of dice and preparing to roll them all at once. It’s like a drumroll. Great stuff.

As some players returned to work, others filtered in, and we opted to close out our Tabletop Day celebration with a bit of Apples to Apples.

It was a silly, mellow way to wrap up a terrific session of gaming. Another marvelous Tabletop Day success!

[Naturally, people waited with baited breath to see who won our raffle AND this terrific Bananagrams tote bag full of games and goodies!]

So, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers, how are you celebrating International Tabletop Day tomorrow? Let us know in the comment section! We’d love to hear from you! And remember to check out Tuesday’s post for ideas on how to participate in a Tabletop Day event near 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!