Crosswordese: Now with Rhythm!

[Image courtesy of Crosswordese Selfies.]

Crosswordese is the bane of solvers and constructors alike.

For the uninitiated, crosswordese consists of words that appear frequently in puzzles, but not nearly as often in conversation or common use. (My favorite variation on that definition: “words that crop up a lot but are otherwise pretty useless.”)

Not only does crosswordese prevent new solvers from enjoying crosswords to the fullest — by forcing them to learn a weird, esoteric jargon that feels exclusionary — but it hounds constructors who are trying to build solid, engaging grids, tempting them with easy letter combinations and tricky corner resolutions.

Crosswordese is so prevalent in the field that some crossword enthusiasts try to craft stories that include as many examples of crosswordese as possible.

The father of Reddit user Cheedrifin went another way, though, penning a delightful poem full of crosswordese!

We’ve posted it in full below. Enjoy!


THE CRUCIVERBALIST’S BALL

I was stunned, I’ll admit, when I got the call
To go to this year’s cruciverbalist’s ball.
For eons I’d wanted to earn such a bid
To see all the bigwigs who live in the grid.

I should say that I don’t have a poet’s portfolio
Up to describing this fabulous olio,
But I’ve always said “Carpe diem’s my motto.”
I’ll give it a shot with some help from Erato.

The lot of us boarded a sleek SST
And flew over what looked like the dry Aral Sea.
But just where it was held, I can’t properly say.
They swore me to silence at point of epée.

But it might have been Riga, or maybe Oman.
The Rhine? The Rhone? Iraq or Iran?
It could have been Agra—I know it was far—
Or maybe an aerie perched over the Aare.

Wherever it was, they served us some naan,
Aioli and Nehi and roasted eland.
And down at our heels, keeping watch for dropped pasta
Were dogs from the A-list: Ren, Odie, and Asta.

We all settled down at the sound of a raga
Announcing arrivals of sri, shah, and aga.
Still more eastern royals stepped out of the car:
An Arab emir and a ranee and tsar.

The big names could not keep away from this forum.
Mel Ott! Ernie Els! William Inge and Ned Rorem.
And brimming with pride both paternal and filial,
The architects Saarinen: Eero and Eliel.

Sajak was stoked to meet old Ayn Rand.
And Ezio Pinza hailed Elia Kazan.
Malia and Oprah remembered Chicago,
And Amis and Imus examined Iago.

James Agee went on about where he had been
With Ani DiFranco and Anaïs Nin.
We saw Uta Hagen, who didn’t speak German
To Yma and Uma (yeah, Sumac and Thurman).

E. Utne shared new-age convictions with Moby
While Cheri Oteri was tying her obi.
We sampled the ahi (it’s really just tuna)
With dear Mrs. Chaplin, who said “Call me Oona.”

We sang and we danced till they all had to go,
Catching planes to the Urals, or trains to St. Lo.
Now I’m stuck for an ending. Have one I can borrow?
I guess I’ll just wait for the answer tomorrow.


So many of the chronic crosswordese offenders are included! Did the poem miss any of your favorites/least favorites? Let us know in the comments section!

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Puzzle My World

[Image courtesy of Reddit.]

For me, one of the best things about puzzle-solving is the a-ha moment.

You’ve been staring at a clue, or a brain teaser, for what feels like forever. You’ve tackled it from seemingly every angle. And you’ve got nothing. You’re stymied. Flummoxed. You know the answer is within your reach, but you just can’t find it.

And then, the a-ha moment strikes. Wheels turn, pieces fall into place. And when the dust settles, you have your solution, and you can’t help but wonder how you didn’t see it sooner.

When puzzly thinking is taken outside the realm of puzzles and games and applied to the real world, it can make those a-ha moments even more enjoyable.

Now look at that image at the top of the page. Did you immediately realize what it was, or did you stare for a bit before having that a-ha moment?

Yes, it’s a map of the world done in the style of artist Piet Mondrian. How cool is that?

Today I’d like to look at a few maps that visualize our world in a different way and let you experience an a-ha moment or two.

[Image courtesy of Mental Floss. Click here for a larger version.]

This first map of the world has all of the familiar landmasses and borders that you know, but it has swapped around the actual countries so that the country’s population is now equivalent to its size.

It’s truly paradigm-altering to see countries like China, India, and Pakistan in those large landmasses, and on the flip side, the Netherlands taking the islands of the former Japan, while Japan moves to a much larger space in Africa.

Plus, there are a few countries that wouldn’t move in this situation, like the U.S., Brazil, Yemen, and Ireland, which is all the more striking when you see so many countries moving around them.

Just imagining the political landscape in this world is mind-boggling!

[Image courtesy of The Edge.ca.]

This next map says more about our culture than our numbers, but it’s still interesting. Here’s part of a map labeled only with song titles that mention these places.

It’s a very clever concept that not only name-checks many terrific songs, but mixes genres and eras of music in surprising ways. If you were to attempt this, how much of the world could you fill in with song titles?

[Image courtesy of Texas.gov. Click here for a larger version.]

And speaking of puzzly map challenges, I’ve got one for you, fellow puzzlers. Here’s a map of the United States.

I challenge you to print out this map and color it in using only four colors. The trick? No neighboring states can be the same color.

Hopefully, accepting this challenge will provide you with a puzzly a-ha moment of your own. Enjoy!


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A Monopoly Game Unlike Any Other

I’m always on the lookout for great puzzly stories, and a friend of mine passed along this link to a puzzly holiday proposal from last year that totally fits the bill.

This story comes from a reddit user named Justinlebon26, who was looking for a meaningful and unique way to propose to his girlfriend Michal.

Check out what he came up with:

That’s right, he designed a Monopoly board all about their relationship. After all, the two of them enjoyed playing Monopoly so much that their handmade board fell apart. And with that, a plan slowly came together.

He designed new property cards to go along with the new spaces on the board. Some were places they’d gone on vacation, others were the streets where they’d grown up. How they met, their first date — all were immortalized on the board.

New Chance and Community Chest cards would follow, with one special addition to the deck.

With a friend’s help constructing the board, our young romantic’s gift was done. (Complete with the secret lurking beneath the Luxury Tax space)

He waited until Christmas day to unveil his gift, and they celebrated with an inaugural game.

So… how did it all turn out?

This is easily the happiest ending to a Monopoly game in history. Kudos to Michal and Justinlebon26, and here’s hoping they have many happy years of gaming ahead of them.


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It’s Follow-Up Friday: Domino Wonder edition!

Welcome to Follow-Up Friday!

By this time, you know the drill. Follow-Up Friday is a chance for us to revisit the subjects of previous posts and bring the PuzzleNation audience up to speed on all things puzzly.

And today, I’d like to return to the subject of our recent 5 Questions interviewee, Lily Hevesh, aka Hevesh5.

You might have seen the above video from Hevesh5, the amazing triple spiral, which we shared on our Facebook and Twitter accounts.

It’s honestly one of the coolest, most staggering domino creations I’ve ever seen, a 15,000-domino work of kinetic art that took Lily 25 hours to assemble, and I couldn’t resist sharing it with my fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers.

Apparently, I wasn’t alone in that. The spiral got FOUR MILLION views in two days. It got major attention on Reddit, the YouTube front page, CNN, CBS News, and more!

It has amassed over TEN MILLION views in less than a fortnight.

And, as you might expect, Lily was not only humble, but grateful for the support of puzzlers and domino fans like.

Check out this video discussing the video’s success, as well as Lily’s plans for the future:

So great to see such positive attention for her and her work. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer person.


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It’s Follow-Up Friday: Carpet Conundrum edition!

Welcome to Follow-Up Friday!

By this time, you know the drill. Follow-Up Friday is a chance for us to revisit the subjects of previous posts and bring the PuzzleNation audience up to speed on all things puzzly.

And in today’s post, I’d like to return to the subject of visual puzzles.

We’re keeping it simple today. In this photo that’s been making the rounds on Facebook and Reddit, can you find the iPhone?

Let us know if you spotted it! It’s tougher than you might think!

Happy Friday!


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The spooky app no one has solved!

Do Not Believe His Lies.

Sounds ominous, doesn’t it?

It’s the name of an app that has baffled solvers for more than a year with increasingly complex riddles, puzzles, and challenges.

It starts out simply, with the messages “We were expecting you,” “Your journey begins now,” “We await you on the other side,” and “Good luck” in simple white text on an otherwise pitch black screen.

From the very start, it’s an evocative presentation. It sets the mood immediately.

Then the first puzzle starts. You have to find a code word or phrase hidden on the screen (which is easy if your phone or computer’s brightness is turned all the way up.) When you input the code “The first time,” you get the second puzzle, which is in Morse Code and reads “I saw him there.”

The next puzzle was a scrambled grid, similar to the tile-shifting games many puzzlers know. One player inverted the colors, printed out the puzzle, cut it into squares and solved it that way, leading to this solution:

“The first time I saw him there, I was just a child.”

Here’s where the Halloween-appropriate element emerges. Each solution to these puzzles provides part of an ongoing narrative. Later messages include “I have to go now” and “Be careful friend.”

Anagramming, braille, music theory, cryptography, chemistry… as the puzzles increase in difficulty and complexity, they require an ever-growing skill set, challenging users in impressive fashion.

A dedicated community of solvers has come together to tackle the challenge of Do Not Believe His Lies, and they have fought, clawed, collaborated, and ingeniously solved their way to Puzzle #48, which they believe they’ve cracked, but they’re unsure of where to proceed from here.

[Another DNBHL puzzle, apparently a constellation…]

In an update on October 1, one of these diehard solvers posted this:

Welp, as most of you who have stayed logged in to our IRC channel can attest…we are pretty much out of ideas. But I’ll give a quick update for those of you who don’t regularly sign in…

The newest activity we have noticed has been the “Puzzle Solved” counter on the official DNBHL website. It’s not automatically updated, so we know that the Dev has been lurking around still. But whether it’s just a sign of life, or an unintentional “push” to let us know we have everything we need to progress further…none can say.

He goes on to discuss some of the lingering clues they’ve uncovered, as well as the theory that they’ll have to leave “the app and the old puzzles behind,” meaning the game will venture into the real world and involve physical locations!

The general theory going forward seems to be that the next puzzle is somehow time-sensitive, and cannot be solved before December 31. This does support what the app’s designer said in an interview with IO9:

Matablewski says that he does expect people to beat the game…but not anytime soon. “Not this year though, it’s not how it has been designed,” he told me. “If they work together, and only then … they will find the answer and complete the whole riddle someday next year.”

[These wavy words, upon closer inspection, are mathematical formulas. But to what end?]

Although solvers of this diabolical horror-fueled puzzle app are frustrated, they aren’t disheartened. The same diehard solver quoted above concluded his post with this:

So…until we get something a little better to work with, I think we’re all just taking a break…waiting for a Eureka moment to strike. Don’t get too disheartened though…I’m sure all the friends you’ve made on here will jump right back in to the fray as soon as things get busy again.

You can try Do Not Believe His Lies for yourself here. (For other stories on immersive online puzzle experiences, check out my previous posts on Cicada 3301 and the Portal ARG.)


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