It’s Follow-Up Friday: Cartoons and Crosswords 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 #PennyDellPuzzleCartoons 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’ve been collaborating on puzzle-themed hashtag games with our pals at Penny Dell Puzzles, and this month’s hook was #PennyDellPuzzleCartoons, mashing up Penny Dell puzzles and anything and everything having to do with stand-up comics, film and television comedians, funny movies, funny shows, funny plays…even one-liners or jokes!

Examples include Letter Powerpuff Girls, SpongeBob Four SquarePants, and Betty Blips.

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


Slide-o-Futurama (and therefore Around the Bender)

Aaahh!!! Real Mon-Star Words

The Anagram Magic Square Bus

Who Fiddler’s Framed Roger Rabbit? / Who Frameworked Roger Rabbit?

He-Man and the Masterwords of the Universe

“By the power of GraySkill-O-Grams! I have the power!”

“That’s All Fours, folks!”

“Wonder Twins Flower Power, activate!”

“There’s no need to fear, Underdog is Here & There!”

“I hate meeces to Bits and Pieces!”

“Ups and Downs and at ‘em, Atom Ant!”

“Exit! Stage Right of Way!”

“Zip It Dee-Doo-Dah!”

“Heroes in a Halftime, Turtle Power!”

Teenage Multiplier Ninja Turnabouts

Beavis and Butt-Headings / Beavis and Buttheads and Tails

Crypto-Family Guy

Porky Piggybacks

The Jungle Bookworms

Dr. Joshua Sweet Stuff

Flower (from Bambi) Power

Lotsa Buck Cluck

Looney Rooney Tunes

Dancing Bo-Peep Feet

Top to Bottom Cat

Quick Draw the Line McGraw

Courage the Coming and Going Dog

DartBoard Duck / Bartboard

Dartwing Duck

(Home R)uns Simpson

101 Dial-a-Grams

Blackout-man and Robin

Successorgram-man

Johnny Word Quest

Dudley Do-Right of Way

Scooby Two by Two, Where are you?

Mystery Word Machine

Alvin and the Chips-munks

Patchwork Patrol

“Friendly Neighborhood Spider’s Web”

Wonder Twin Crosswords

“Lolly, Lolly, Lolly Get Your Add Ones Here” / “Lolly, Lolly, Lolly Get Your Codewords Here”

“Three From Nine Is the Anagram Magic Number”

“In A Word Planet Janet”

“Syllability, Syll-a-bility”

“I’m Just a Blips, Yes I’m Only a Blips”

“Connections Junction, What’s Your Function”

AnagraManiacs Magic Squares, with Yakk-odewords, Wakk-o Words and Dot Matrix.

Stepping Flintstones

Miss Piggybacks


A fellow puzzler even cooked up a version of the Steven Universe theme song all about Crypto puzzles!

We are the Crypto-Gems
We’ll always save the day
And if you don’t believe us
We’ll always find a way
That’s why the people of this earth
Believe in
Geo, Zoo, and Verse…
And Steven!


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

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Puzzles in Pop Culture: Square One TV

Puzzles in Pop Culture is all about chronicling those moments in TV, film, literature, art, and elsewhere in which puzzles play a key role. In previous installments, we’ve tackled everything from The West Wing, The Simpsons, and M*A*S*H to MacGyver, Gilmore Girls, and various incarnations of Sherlock Holmes.

And in today’s edition, we’re jumping into the Wayback Machine and looking back at the math-fueled equivalent of Sesame Street: Square One TV!

[The intro to Square One TV, looking more than a little dated these days.]

This PBS show ran from 1987 to 1994 (although reruns took over in 1992), airing five days a week and featuring all sorts of math-themed programming. Armed with a small recurring group of actors, the writers and producers of Square One TV offered many clever (if slightly cheesy) ideas for presenting different mathematical concepts to its intended audience.

Whether they were explaining pie charts and percentages with a game show parody or employing math-related magic tricks with the aid of magician Harry Blackstone, Jr., the sketches were simple enough for younger viewers, but funny enough for older viewers.

In addition to musical parodies performed by the cast, several famous musicians contributed to the show as well. “Weird Al” Yankovic, Bobby McFerrin, The Fat Boys, and Kid ‘n’ Play were among the guests helped explain fractions, tessellations, and other topics.

[One of the many math-themed songs featured on the show.]

Two of the most famous recurring segments on Square One TV were Mathman and Mathcourt. (Sensing a theme here?)

Mathman was a Pac-Man ripoff who would eat his way around an arcade grid until he reached a number or a question mark (depending on this particular segment’s subject).

For instance, if he came to a question mark and it revealed “3 > 2”, he could eat the ratio, because it’s mathematically correct, and then move onward. But if he ate the ratio “3 < 2”, he would be pursued by Mr. Glitch, the tornado antagonist of the game. (The announcer would always introduce Mr. Glitch with an unflattering adjective like contemptible, inconsiderate, devious, reckless, insidious, inflated, ill-tempered, shallow, or surreptitious.)

Mathcourt, on the other hand, gave us a word problem in the form of a court case, leaving the less-than-impressed district attorney and judge to establish whether the accused (usually someone much savvier at math than them) was correct or incorrect. As a sucker for The People’s Court-style shenanigans, this recurring segment was a personal favorite of mine.

But from a puzzle-solving standpoint, MathNet was easily the puzzliest part of the program. Detectives George Frankly and Kate Tuesday would use math to solve baffling crimes. Whether it was a missing house, a parrot theft, or a Broadway performer’s kidnapping, George and Kate could rely on math to help them save the day.

These segments were told in five parts (one per day for a full week), using the Dragnet formula to tackle all sorts of mathematical concepts, from the Fibonacci sequence to calculating angles of reflection and refraction.

These were essentially word problems, logic problems, and other puzzles involving logic or deduction, but with a criminal twist. Think more Law & Order: LCD than Law & Order: SVU.

Granted, given all the robberies and kidnappings the MathNet team faced, these segments weren’t aiming as young or as silly as much of Square One TV‘s usual fare, but they are easily the most fondly remembered aspect of the show for fans and casual viewers alike.

Given the topic of Tuesday’s post — the value of recreational math — it seemed only fitting to use today’s post to discuss one of the best examples of math-made-fun in television history.

Square One TV may not have been nearly as successful or as long-lasting as its Muppet-friendly counterpart, but its legacy lives on in the hearts and memories of many puzzlers these days.


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Hidden in a crossword!

[A grid from BeekeeperLabs.com.]

Everyone loves a little something extra, and that goes double for puzzle fans.

Whether it’s a hidden quote or a secret theme lurking in plain sight, a bonus answer revealed after a tough solve or a final twist that wows you with a constructor’s cleverness and skill, these little surprises are gifts every solver can appreciate.

In Sunday’s New York Times Crossword, what appears at first blush to be a simple themed puzzle — with poet WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS paired with his poem THE LOCUST TREE IN FLOWER — turns out to be much more, as the entire poem is concealed within the grid!

[Image sourced from Amy Reynaldo’s Diary of a Crossword Fiend.]

While this is a particularly ambitious example, this is not an uncommon challenge for a constructor to tackle.

Sometimes, the bonus is announced upfront, as it was in Merl Reagle’s puzzle for the 100th anniversary of the crossword a few years ago. His puzzle was converted into a solvable Google Doodle, and Merl added a crafty word search element by hiding the word FUN multiple times in the grid.

Why “fun,” you ask? Because that was the set word in Arthur Wynne’s original “word-cross” puzzle over one hundred years ago!

[Click here if you haven’t tackled Merl’s marvelous puzzle.]

Our friends at Penny/Dell Puzzles have a recurring crossword variant, Revelation, which conceals a quotation in a standard crossword grid, using the same letters-in-circles technique as Jacob Stulberg did in his poem puzzle.

And, of course, I would be remiss in my duties if I didn’t mention the secret message reading out in both a New York Times crossword and a puzzle featured on The Simpsons, wherein Homer conceals an apology to Lisa inside a crossword with the help of Will Shortz.

[Check out the full puzzle by clicking here.]

So, crossword fans, be vigilant! You never know what hidden treats are lurking inside seemingly innocuous puzzles.

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PuzzleNation wordplay = Now radiant puzzle ploy

[Alternate anagrams include “Puzzle patron, now daily” and “Plow into any rad puzzle.”]

Anagrams are a cornerstone of modern pen-and-paper puzzling.

They make frequent appearances in cryptic (or British-style) crossword clues, and many puzzles and puzzle games — from Anagram Magic Square and Text Twist to Secret Word and Bananagrams — rely heavily on anagrams as an integral part of the solve.

I’ve written about them several times in the past, but for the uninitiated, an anagram is a reordering of the letters in a word to form a new word or phrase. PEALS anagrams into LEAPS, PALES, LAPSE, SEPAL, and PLEAS.

As the old joke goes, “stifle” is an anagram of itself.

But the best anagrams rearrange the letters in a word into something related to that word. Fans of The Simpsons may recall that Alec Guinness anagrams into “genuine class.”

There are numerous examples of great anagrams all over the Internet. Here are a few classics:

  • The eyes = they see
  • Clint Eastwood = Old West action
  • Eleven plus two = Twelve plus one
  • Dormitory = Dirty room
  • A decimal point = I’m a dot in place
  • A gentleman = Elegant man

One of the best online anagram programs out there is hosted by wordsmith.org, and at the top of their page, they remind us that “internet anagram server” anagrams into “I, rearrangement servant.”

You can find some unexpected surprises when you play with anagrams. Did you know that William Shakespeare anagrams into both “I am a weakish speller” and “I’ll make a wise phrase”?

There are entire forums online dedicated to terrific anagrams, some fiendishly clever, others impressively insightful. (Of course, sometimes crafty punctuation makes all the difference.)

Madame Curie becomes “Me? Radium Ace.”

Monty Python’s Flying Circus becomes “Strongly psychotic, I’m funny.”

The possibilities seem endless when you delve into longer phrases. I’m going to close out this tribute to anagrams with two of the most amazing ones I’ve encountered during my time as a puzzler.

The first involves the iconic line as humanity took its first steps onto the surface of the Moon:

Neil Armstrong: That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind

anagrams into…

Thin man ran; makes (a) large stride, left planet, pins flag on moon! On to Mars!

[I’ve included both what Neil said and what was broadcast back to Earth. Hence, the A in parentheses in both versions.]

The second takes one of Shakespeare’s best known lines and offers some engagingly meta commentary on the play itself:

To be or not to be, that is the question, whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune…

anagrams into…

In one of the Bard’s best-thought-of-tragedies, our insistent hero, Hamlet, queries on two fronts about how life turns rotten.

So whether you’re playing Scrabble or tackling David L. Hoyt‘s Jumble, anagramming is a worthwhile tool that belongs in every puzzler’s skillset.

Do you have any favorite anagrams, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers? Let me know! I’d love to see them!

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It’s Follow-Up Friday: The Future! edition

Welcome to Follow-Up Friday!

For those new to PuzzleNation Blog, Follow-Up Friday is a chance for us to revisit the subjects of previous posts and update the PuzzleNation audience on how these projects are doing and what these people have been up to in the meantime.

For today’s Follow-Up Friday post, I thought I’d do a bit of Follow-Ahead Friday by alerting my fellow puzzlers to all the joyous shenanigans afoot this weekend.

The Baffledazzle Kickstarter wraps up this weekend, and Rachel has met her goal of $12,000, thanks in part to the marvelous puzzlers in the PuzzleNation readership! Congratulations, Rachel! I can’t wait to see the final tally and the gorgeous puzzles you’ll be producing soon!

Plus, the Kentucky Derby returns today — if you couldn’t tell from our Wordplay Wednesday post — AND this Saturday is Free Comic Book Day! Check out participating comic book shops near you for more details!

As if that wasn’t enough, Sunday is Star Wars Day! (May the Fourth Be With You!) We’ll be doing some Star Wars Day picture posting across our Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Facebook accounts for the occasion, so keep your eyes peeled!

Finally, for the block-happy puzzlers out there, there’s the Sunday night premiere of The Simpsons’ LEGO Spectacular, an episode dedicated to everyone’s favorite building toy!

So much for puzzle lovers to enjoy this weekend!

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!

Puzzles in Pop Culture: The West Wing

In previous editions of Puzzles in Pop Culture, I’ve recapped classic episodes of M*A*S*H and MacGyver, as well as the numerous puzzly plotlines that’ve been featured on The Simpsons over the years.

But when it comes to erudite, hilarious references to solving crosswords, you’d be hard-pressed to find sharper puzzle-infused dialogue than the moments featured in episodes of Aaron Sorkin’s landmark political drama The West Wing.

Set in the West Wing of the White House, the show focused on the lives of the president and his advisors and staffers as they navigated political situations at home and abroad. To this day it’s a regular feature on most reviewers’ lists of the top television shows of all-time.

And in a show noted for sparkling wit and all kinds of intellectual wordplay, it’s hardly a surprise that the New York Times Crossword was referenced in the very first episode.

In the video below, Chief of Staff Leo McGarry is frustrated with the Times for misspelling the name of Muammar Qaddafi, and his attempts to contact the editor of the Times Crossword and get it corrected are stymied at every turn:

The White House staff’s dubious relationship with crosswords is revisited in the season 3 episode Dead Irish Writers. This time around, as the president’s wife Abbey prepares for both a birthday party and a potential ruling on her medical license, the President busies himself with a crossword in his own inimitable style:

Beyond the spirited humor of both scenes, there’s a marvelous undercurrent of how smart people react when their intellectual superiority is challenged. Leo responds by trying to correct what he sees as an egregious error, while the President bends the rules to suit his own expectations.

In addition to being a wonderful launchpad for the show’s signature rapid-fire banter, it’s a simple and effective way of shedding light on how each character views the world and his role in it. (With writing and direction this layered and engaging, it’s easy to see how The West Wing earned an astounding 26 Emmy Awards!)

Even as subplots in a much-larger narrative, these puzzles added color and personality to scenes that took us inside the minds of these characters. Pretty impressive for crosswords that are only mentioned briefly.

Puzzles… is there anything they can’t do? =)

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