It’s Follow-Up Friday: TableTop Day Eve 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 puzzly holidays!

Saturday, April 30, is the fourth annual International TableTop Day, a day that has been set aside for family and friends to get together and play games. Board games, card games, role-playing games, puzzles…anything that involves gathering in person and having fun around a table fits the bill!

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. This was the case with Just Desserts (a card game all about serving desserts to hungry customers; guaranteed to make you hungry) and Timeline (a card game about history where you don’t need to know what year things happened, just if they happened before or after other important moments).

One attendee opted to tackle the challenge of Puzzometry (a diabolical jigsaw puzzle) while I played a few rounds of Geek Out! and tested the pop culture and trivia knowledge of my fellow puzzlers.

[The conference room is abuzz with TableTop Day energy and fun, players strategizing deeply.]

I started recommending some new games to the players at this point, and the hit of the day was easily Red Flags, a Cards Against Humanity-style game all about building the perfect dates for other players.

The uproarious laughter inspired by the game was constant background noise while I explained the ever-changing rules of Fluxx to some curious players.

[Forgive the lack of further photos. I was so busy explaining games that I neglected to take more pictures. As a small gesture of apology, please accept this picture of me beneath a half-collapsed puzzle fort.]

We then closed out the event with two terrific card games for smaller groups: 12 Days and Loonacy. (12 Days is a lowest-card-wins wagering game based on the 12 Days of Christmas, and it has the most beautiful cards I’ve ever seen; Loonacy is a pattern-matching card game that rewards quick reflexes.)

The day was a total success, and it was a wonderful break in the middle of the day, allowing for a fun way to interact and recharge before returning to a thoroughly puzzly workday.

But that wasn’t all! To include fellow puzzlers who couldn’t attend the event in person, we had our own in-house session of Schmovie running all day.

I gave participants five What? cards (Undercover, Magical, Teenage, Flying, The Last) and five Who? cards (Barista, Chef, Princess, Pro Wrestler, Spy) to combine as they saw fit, and then challenged them to come up with the funniest Schmovie titles for those subjects.

Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Undercover chef: The Tsai Who Loved Me
  • Teenage barista: Latte to Class
  • Magical barista: Starbucks: The Foam Awakens
  • Teenage princess: Medieval Times at Ridgemont High
  • Flying spy: The Airborne Identity
  • Undercover princess: Leia Confidential

Are you celebrating TableTop Day? Let us know your plans in the comments! We’d love to hear about it, see photos, and share in the fun!


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It’s Follow-Up Friday: Star Wars 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, we’re returning to the subject of Star Wars!

Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens hits theaters this week, and I thought I’d offer up a few links and some puzzly fun in the spirit of this much-beloved franchise.

#1: Google

Do yourself a favor and go to Google right now and type “A long time ago in a galaxy far far away” into the search bar. You will not be disappointed.

#2: A Star Wars StearsWords!

Crossword constructor and friend of the blog Robin Stears created this great Star Wars-fueled puzzle last year, and it’s a perfect way to celebrate Star Wars in a puzzly way. The loose grid construction allows for a lot more themed fun to be had!

#3: Holiday Special Trivia!

Our friends at Puzzopallo noted that it’s only appropriate for a new Star Wars film to open during the holidays, since Star Wars has something of a tradition with holiday releases.

They’re referring, of course, to the much-maligned Star Wars Holiday Special from 1978, which infamously featured a Wookiee holiday called Life Day, some hit ’70s musical acts, and some dubious comedy from Harvey Korman.

And they’ve come up with some Holiday Special trivia for ambitious Star Wars fans!

#4: Star Wars Riddles!

Naturally, I couldn’t resist throwing out some Star Wars-themed brain teasers for you to unravel. Can you puzzle out the answers to the four riddles and poem below?

1. Why do doctors make the best Jedi?

2. What do Gungans put things in?

3. What do you call the website Chewbacca started that gives out Imperial secrets?

4. What side of an Ewok has the most hair?

5. (written in Yoda-speak, it appears)

Atop my head, a crown I bear,
Nearby my crown, two guards uphold,
Life I devour, metals I dissect,
When seen I am, all life trembles,
If opposed I am, a thousand spears rain,
When cornered I am, hornets I unleash,
Yet controlled by thousands I am.
What am I?

Hopefully, you’ll enjoy one or all of these puzzly Star Wars treats! May the Force be with you, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers!


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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!

Demystifying Role-Playing Games

When you hear the words “role-playing game,” what comes to mind? A bunch of nerds in a basement, hunched around a table debating weird and esoteric rules? Practitioners of the black arts, thumbing their noses at God and all that is natural? Or nothing at all?

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Some TV shows, like Community and Freaks & Geeks, have displayed role-playing games in a positive light, but for the most part, role-playing games in general, and Dungeons & Dragons in particular, have gotten a bad rap over the last few decades, maligned as (at best) a game for lonely friendless types and (at worst) a tool to corrupt children.

(This might sound ridiculous to many of you, but folks like Pat Robertson continue to talk about role-playing games as if they’re synonymous with demon worship.)

But in reality, role-playing games are simply a way for a group to tell one collaborative story.

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There are two major elements to this storytelling. The first is managed by a single person who oversees that particular game or gaming session. In Dungeons & Dragons, this person is called the Dungeon Master, or DM; in other games, this person is the Game Master, the Storyteller, or bears some other title tied to the game or setting. For the sake of simplicity, from this point on, I’ll refer to this person as the DM.

So, the DM manages the setting and sets up the adventure. In this role, the DM will describe what the player characters (or PCs) see and explain the results of their actions. The DM also plays any characters the players interact with. (These are known as NPCs, or non-player characters.) Essentially, the DM creates the sandbox in which the other players play.

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Which brings us to the second element in role-playing storytelling: the players. Each player assumes a role, a character, and plays that character for the length of the session, or the game, if there are multiple sessions. (Some games last months or years, so these characters evolve and grow; players often become quite attached to their characters.)

The PCs navigate the world created by the DM, but their actions and decisions shape the narrative. No matter how prepared a DM is or how carefully he or she has plotted out a given scene or adventure, the PCs determine much of what happens. They might follow the breadcrumbs exactly as the DM laid them out, or they might head off in an unexpected direction, forcing the DM to think on the fly in order to continue the adventure.

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That’s what makes role-playing games so amazing: you never quite know what you’re going to get. The PCs usually don’t know what the DM has in store, and no DM can predict with perfect clarity what the PCs will do. You’re all crafting a story together and none of you knows what exactly will happen or how it all ends.

For instance, I run a role-playing game for several friends that is set in the universe of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and my PCs routinely come up with solutions to problems and puzzles that I didn’t expect, but that nonetheless would work. They constantly keep me on my toes as a DM, and it’s one of my favorite aspects of the game.

Oftentimes, major events and key moments are determined by dice rolls, adding an element of chance to the story. (In some games, players have replaced dice rolls with a Jenga-style block tower, and they must remove pieces from it to achieve certain goals. That adds a marvelous sense of real-world tension to the narrative tension already present!)

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And while I’ve talked quite a bit about the game aspect, some of you might be wondering where the puzzly aspect comes in.

Some of the best, most satisfying puzzle-solving experiences of my life have come from role-playing games.

These puzzles can be as simple as figuring out how to open a locked door or as complicated as unraveling a villain’s dastardly plot for world domination. It can be a poem to be parsed and understood or a trap to be escaped.

There are riddles of goblins and sphinxes, or the three questions of trolls, or even the brain teasers and logic problems concocted by devious fey hoping to snare me with clever wordplay. I’ve encountered all sorts of puzzles in role-playing games, and some of them were fiendish indeed.

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One time, during a LARP session (Live-Action Role-Playing, meaning you actually act out the adventure and storytelling), I thought I’d unraveled the meaning of a certain bit of scripture (regarding a key that would allow me to escape the room) and acquired a sword as my prize, only to realize much much later that the key I’d spent the entire session searching for was the sword itself, which unlocked the door and released me.

And designing puzzles for my players to unravel is often as much fun as solving the puzzles myself. Especially when they’re tailored to specific storytelling universes or particular player characters.

(Trust me, it doesn’t matter if you’re dealing with a Jedi or a paladin; riddles stop pretty much everybody in their tracks.)

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Whether it’s Dungeons & Dragons or Pathfinder, Legend of the Five Rings or Star Wars, GURPS or Ninja Burger, there’s a role-playing game out there for everyone, if you’re just willing to look.


This post was meant as a brief overview of role-playing games as a whole. If you’d like me to get more in depth on the subject, or if you have specific questions about role-playing games, please let me know! I’d be happy to revisit this topic in the future.

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!

It’s Follow-Up Friday: Movie Quote Puzzle 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’m posting the results of our #PennyDellMovieQuotes hashtag game!

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

For the last few months, we’re been collaborating on puzzle-themed hashtag games with our pals at Penny/Dell Puzzles, and this month’s hook was Penny/Dell Movie Quotes, mashing up Penny/Dell puzzles and favorite quotes from the world of film!

Examples might be “Go ahead, make my Daisy,” or “You’re a wizard words, Harry!” or “You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your Blips together and blow.”

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


“Su-percalifragilisticexpiali-doku!” — Mary Poppins

“Frankly my dear, I don’t give an Anagram.” / “Frameworks, my dear, I don’t give a Cryptogram!” / “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a diagramless.” / “Frankly, my dear, I don’t Give (and Take) a damn!” — Gone With the Wind

“May the Four Squares be with you.” / “May the Cryptograms be with you.” — Star Wars

“Luke, I am your Matchmaker.” — Star Wars

“I find your lack of Face to Face disturbing.” — Star Wars

“These are not the Drop-Outs you are looking for.” — Star Wars

“Are you a good Which Way Words or a bad Which Way Words?” — The Wizard of Oz

“I’ll get you my pretty. And your Little Puzzler, too!” — The Wizard of Oz

“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Cancellations anymore.” — The Wizard of Oz

“Linkwords, and Tie-Ins, and Blips! Oh my!” — The Wizard of Oz

“There’s no Places, Please like home.” — The Wizard of Oz

“Soylent Green is Places, Please!” — Soylent Green

“Release the Kakuro.” — Pirates of the Caribbean 2

“What’s Left ain’t no country I ever heard of. They speak English in What’s Left?” — Pulp Fiction

“Word Play it, Sam.” — Casablanca

“We’ll always have Pair Off.” — Casablanca

“Take your Pair Off me, you damned dirty ape!” — Planet of the Apes

“They’re Here and There!” — Poltergeist

“Wilkommen! Bienvenue! Welcome! Come on In the Middle!” — Blazing Saddles

“Mongo only pawn in Dart Game of life.” — Blazing Saddles

“You’re gonna need a bigger Framequote.” — Jaws

“I’ll find him for Three from Nine. I’ll catch him, and kill him, for ten.” — Jaws

“Bubbles! Bubbles, bubbles, bubbles. My bubbles.” — Finding Nemo

“InconceivaBubbles!” — The Princess Bride

“My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to Dice Game.” — The Princess Bride

“Just when I thought I was Takeouts, they pull me back Fill-In!” — The Godfather, Part III

“My father made him an All Fours he couldn’t refuse.” — The Godfather

“I am big! It’s the Picture Pairs that got small!” — Sunset Blvd.

“There’s no crying in Quotefalls.” — A League of Their Own

“Love means never having to Say That Again.” — Love Story

“Every time a Diamond Rings an angel gets his wings.” — It’s a Wonderful Life

“Shall we play a Bowl Game?” — WarGames

“If you Build-A-Pyramid, he will come.” — Field of Dreams

“Hang onto your turban kid, we’re gonna make you a Stars and Arrows!” — Aladdin

“E.T. phone Home Runs.” — E.T.: The Extraterrestrial

“I’m the king of the Word Games!” — Titanic

“You can’t handle the Try-Angles!” — A Few Good Men

“What… is your By Any Other Name? What… is your Word Quest? What… is your favorite Color By Numbers?” — Monty Python and the Holy Grail

“I coulda had Crostics…. I coulda been a contender…. I coulda been somebody.” — On the Waterfront

“You’ve got to ask yourself one question…. Do you feel Logic Problem? Well do ya punk?” — Sudden Impact

“Houston, we have a Logic Problem!” — Apollo 13

“Win just One and Only for the Gipper!” — Knute Rockne, All American

“Who’s on First and Last?” — The Naughty Nineties

“Life was like a Windowbox of chocolates.” — Forrest Gump

“Cinderella story. Outta nowhere. A former greenskeeper, now, about to become the Masterwords champion.” — Caddyshack


One of our fellow puzzlers even submitted an anecdote:

Little known fact…during the filming of the steamy car scene in Titanic, Leo DiCaprio snuck in a Penny Press puzzle magazine, and was heard passionately shouting to co-star Kate Winslet, “I’m the king of the Word Seek!,” which James Cameron subsequently misquoted for their famous romantic scene on the ship’s deck.

Have you come up with any Penny/Dell Movie Quotes of your own? Let us know! We’d love to see them!

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out the growing library of PuzzleNation apps and games!

It’s Follow-Up Friday: Puzzle Book 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’m posting the results of our #PennyDellPuzzleBooks hashtag game!

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

For the last few months, we’re been collaborating on puzzle-themed hashtag games with our pals at Penny/Dell Puzzles, and this month’s hook was Penny/Dell Broadway Puzzles!

Examples might be The Lord of the Diamond Rings or The Da Vinci Codeword or Alphabet Soup for the Soul.

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


Charlotte’s Spider’s Web

Right Angles and Demons

The Grapes of Word Math

The Scarlet Letterboxes / The Scarlet Letter Logic

The Fault in Our Starspell / The Fault in Our Star Words

Harry Potter and the Halftime Prince

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stepping Stones

Brave New Word Seeks / Brave New Word Games

The Lion, the Witch, and the Word Seek

The Wizard Words of Oz

The “Mystery Person” of Edward Drood

To Kill a Missing Word (List)

The Fountainheads & Tails Word Seek

Around the Block in Eighty Days / Around the Bend in 80 Days

A Tale of Two-Step Cities

The Three of a Kind Musketeers

Oh, the Places, Please You’ll Go!

Peyton’s Places, Please

Anagrams Karenina

Anagram of Green Gables

North & South of Eden

The Swiss Family Robinson Ties

Bowl Game of Thrones

Ender’s Bowl Game

Fahrenheit Two for One / Fahrenheit 451 and Only

Sudoku Road

Cryptograms Wake / Fill-Ins Wake / Figgerits Wake

Kakuro Pioneers!

Little Puzzler on the Prairie

First and Last of the Mohicans

The Picture Sleuth of Dorian Gray / The Picture This of Dorian Gray

Watership Spelldown

Buried Treasure Island

The Countdown of Monte Cristo

Take It from There to Eternity

The Sign of Four Corners / The Big Four Corners

The Doomsday Bookworms

Great Crostictations

A Wrinkle in Time Machine

The Perks of Being a WallFlower Power

Catch-22 for One

The Hotel on the Poet’s Corner of Bitter and Sweet

50 Shades of Grey Shadows

The Joy Luck Crosswords Club

Jurassic Park What’s Left

My What’s Left Foot

Only The Shadow Knows

From Alphabet Soup to Nuts

Match Up Made in Heaven

Beat the Clock-work Orange

A Hive for a Honeycomb

Star Words

The Lost Symbol-lic Logic

Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ringmaster

The Sylla-rillion

The Hunger Word Games

198-Four Square

The Sum Totals Also Rises

And one overachiever…

The “Lion” (‘Em Up), the “Which” (Way Words), and the “Word”robe by C(ircle) S(ums) Lewis


We also received a terrific one from @_Screenhog, Cross Sums of All Fears!

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

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out the growing library of PuzzleNation apps and games!

Listen close! Your ears are playing tricks on you…

I enjoy writing posts about optical illusions because they’re puzzles that engage a solver in very different ways than normal pen-and-paper puzzles do. They rely on perspective trickery, playing on assumptions made by the brain on a level we rarely consider, often causing us to disregard what’s right in front of us.

[Those white circles are the same size…]

But there’s an audio version of this phenomenon as well, the mondegreen.

Mondegreens are misheard lyrics or phrases where homophones or soundalike words get substituted for the actual words. There are a few truly famous ones, like “Excuse me while I kiss this guy” instead of “Excuse me while I kiss the sky” from Jimi Hendrix’s song Purple Haze, or “The girl with colitis goes by” instead of “The girl with kaleidoscope eyes” from The Beatles’ Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.

Now, mondegreens aren’t to be confused with malaprops, which are quite similar. Malaprops are words or phrases mistakenly used when another is intended. Archie Bunker from TV’s All in the Family, for instance, was a master of malaprops, unintentionally garbling the English language with classics like “Buy one of them battery operated transvestite radios.”

The term mondegreen comes from writer Sarah Wright, who misheard the last line of a stanza from a ballad called “The Bonnie Earl o’ Moray.”

[Castle Doune, where the Earl o’ Moray resided…]

The actual stanza reads:

Ye Highlands and ye Lowlands,
Oh, where hae ye been?
They hae slain the Earl o’ Moray,
And laid him on the green.

But Sarah heard:

Ye Highlands and ye Lowlands,
Oh, where hae ye been?
They hae slain the Earl o’ Moray,
And Lady Mondegreen.

My personal favorite mondegreen emerged from a viewing of Star Wars: A New Hope with a friend. In the famous scene where Obi-Wan Kenobi senses the destruction of the planet Alderaan, he utters the words “I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced.”

My friend leaned over to me and whispered, “I’ve always wanted to ask someone this. Why oysters?”

Now, both my friend and I had seen the movie countless times before. We know the original trilogy backwards and forwards. So you can understand how completely baffling I found his question.

“What did you just say?”

“Why oysters?” He paused. “Millions of oysters cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced.”

I figured he was pulling my leg. With dozens of viewings of the film between us, he couldn’t possibly believe Obi-Wan had been saying “oysters” for the last thirty years, right?

But apparently, he had. When I finally broke the silence by replying, “Voices. Voices, not oysters,” a look of realization washed over his face. “Oh, well that makes WAY more sense.”

And therein lies the true charm of the mondegreen: we find ourselves preferring the humor and silliness of the misheard version.

After all, you can’t simply go back to hearing “Hey, where did we go” after a friend enthusiastically belts out “HEY RODRIGO!” when Brown-Eyed Girl comes on the radio, can you?

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out the growing library of PuzzleNation apps and games!