Three ways to TV trivia!

Trivia-based game shows seem to be having a bit of a resurgence these days, between ABC’s 500 Questions, Fox’s BOOM!, and GSN’s The Chase.

Unlike Jeopardy!, television’s longest-running trivia-based game show, which relies mostly on the questions themselves to generate interest, this new class of game shows adds all sorts of gimmicky flair to dress up the trivia, be it pursuit by other players (500 Questions) or an in-house trivia master (The Chase) or the threat of being covered in something slimy (BOOM!).

I thought I’d take a look at each of these shows from the standpoint of a self-confessed trivia fiend.

[Image courtesy of reviewjournal.com.]

In BOOM!, the splatter appeal of shows like Double Dare is mixed with the multiple choice style of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, hoping to ratchet up the tension with a wrong answer resulting in some serious messes.

You’ve got multiple answers to a question, and all but one of them are correct. (For instance, you’ll be given the titles of four movies, and then told 3 out of the 4 have been inspired by books.) Each of those answers is color-coded to a wire on the bomb, and the contestant must cut each wire they think is correct in the time allotted in order to defuse the bomb.

[Image courtesy of fresnobee.com.]

If you cut all the right wires, the money for that question goes into your bank. If you get a wrong answer, the bomb “explodes” and you get splattered (there has been pesto, alfredo sauce, maple syrup, and yellow mustard), your team loses the money for that question, and you’re eliminated.

When every team member is splattered, you’re done. If any member of your team survives the six trivia bombs, you go after the Mega Money bomb, which if defused will multiply your banked money by a factor of 4. A perfect run will yield $500,000 for the team.

The show debuted last week on FOX.

[Image courtesy of abc.go.com.]

In 500 Questions, a contestant tackles ten rounds of 50 questions each. Three consecutive wrong answers will knock a contestant out of the competition (correct answers can erase one or two wrong answers).

Along the way, a challenger dogs the contestant at every turn, hoping to knock the contestant out by choosing tough categories if the contestant has acquired two wrongs in a row. The challenger only has one 50-question round to eliminate the contestant; if the challenger fails, a new challenger emerges for the next round.

[Image courtesy of usmagazine.com.]

For every board of 50 questions completed, the contestant is guaranteed the money earned in that round. However, any wrong answers acquired will follow the contestant into the next round.

It’s worth noting that these rules may only apply during the first 200 questions. Since no one has ever completed the fourth round, there could be alternate rules or new wrinkles awaiting contestants and challengers in round five and above.

The show ran for seven straight weeknights, and it’s unknown at this point if it will return.

[Host Brooke Burns and trivia pro The Beast.
Image courtesy of The Blog is Right.]

In The Chase (which is based on a British game show of the same name), a team of contestants pits their trivia wits against the chaser — known as The Beast — who is waiting to capitalize on any mistakes they make. In the early rounds, each contestant faces off against The Beast one-on-one, answering a certain number of questions in a row in order to lock in their prize money and continue in the game.

Any mistakes made by the contestant create opportunities for The Beast to catch them, preventing them from banking any prize money. If the contestant stays ahead of The Beast by answering more questions correctly, the prize money gets banked and the contestant moves on to the Final Chase.

[Image courtesy of variety.com.]

In the Final Chase, whichever contestants survived their individual chase rounds work together to answer as many questions as possible in two minutes. They move a space ahead on the gameboard for every correct answer. The goal here is to build as big a lead as they can before The Beast takes his turn.

The Beast then answers a different set of questions, with each correct answer bringing him one space closer to catching the contestants. If he answers a question wrong, the Chase is paused and the contestants get a shot at answering that question. A correct answer increases their lead by one space; an incorrect answer simply continues the game.

If the contestants can outpace the Beast, they win, splitting the banked money equally; if the Beast catches them, they go home with nothing.

The show’s fourth season on GSN resumes on July 16.

Now, I must admit, 500 Questions didn’t appeal to me because I don’t enjoy feeling obligated to watch something every single night. I understand it’s meant to be a special event and all that, but oversaturation, even in the short term, tends to leave me disinterested. (Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? committed the same mistake by airing far too frequently for my tastes, and I quickly abandoned the show.)

I quite enjoy The Chase, but less as a viewer and more as a competitor, since I like to test myself against The Beast. Although I tend to do well, he has bested me more than once. He is a worthy foe.

Although only one episode of BOOM! has aired so far, I find myself watching it less for the trivia — which is very common sense and common knowledge, thus far — and more for whether the contestant botches the question and gets splattered. Whether that remains enough to keep me tuning in week after week… only time will tell.

Are you watching any of these newer trivia game shows, fellow PuzzleNationers, or do you stick with the classics? Let me know! I’d love to hear from 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!

It’s Follow-Up Friday: Monopoly’s Birthday 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 revisit the subject of Monopoly.

I recently posted about the 80th anniversary of the game and their real-money promotion in France.

And whether you’re a fan of the game or not, you can’t deny its staggering success or the genuine historical impact it has made.

Yesterday was the official 80th anniversary of the game. March 19, 1935 was the day Parker Brothers acquired the rights from the game from Charles Darrow, who claimed to have invented Monopoly, although the game was actually invented by a woman named Elizabeth J. Magie. (Parker Brothers now owns the rights from both parties.)

And over the course of 80 years, a lot of trivia has accumulated regarding the game. Here are a few of my favorite little nuggets:

  • The character locked behind the bars is called Jake the Jailbird. Officer Edgar Mallory sent him to jail.
  • Escape maps, compasses, and documents were inserted into Monopoly game boards smuggled into POW camps inside Germany during World War II. Real money for escapees was slipped into the packs of Monopoly money.
  • Tokens from the United States Monopoly: Here & Now Edition were flown into space aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis in 2007.

You can check out Hasbro’s full listing of Monopoly history and trivia here!

And now, a few questions: when you play Monopoly, what token do you use? And what’s your favorite variation of the game? Let me know! I’d love to hear from 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!

It’s Follow-Up Friday: Melancholy Mastermind 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’s update is all about the Great Urban Race.

I had the privilege of providing puzzly tech support for my sister as she ran several Great Urban Race events, and it was both a terrific challenge and a marvelously fun experience.

Each race was totally different, designed around the host city, and the questions could involve anything from trivia and cryptography to anagrams and pattern-matching, along with some serious chops when it comes to Googling in a hurry.

[A glimpse at a sample set of challenges from a previous event.]

So I was sad to find out that this year’s competition, which wrapped up with the championship round in Vancouver back in August, will be the last GUR event.

From their website: “After eight fun and action-packed years, Great Urban Race will no longer be touring the country.”

[A team crosses the finish line at a GUR event.]

I reached out to friend of the blog and GUR Senior Manager Jordan Diehl, who had this to share:

The decision to retire Great Urban Race was not an easy one, but ultimately the best move for our company.  We are excited to continue to produce unique and exciting events like Warrior Dash, American Beer Classic, and Firefly Music Festival and will be focusing our efforts on these ventures and others that we will be launching in the future.  

On behalf of GUR and Red Frog Events, we wholeheartedly appreciate the support of our participants over the past eight years and hope to see them at a future Red Frog event! 

While I’m disappointed that the puzzlerific Great Urban Race that we know and love is no more, I’m excited to see what else the creative minds at Red Frog Events come up with. I’ll be sure to update you if anything particularly puzzly arises in the future.

Until then, I wish all the best to the GUR crew, and heartfelt congratulations to all the masterminds who traveled the country accepting the Great Urban Race challenge.

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: That Has a Name?! 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.

And today, I’d like to revisit crosswords for a moment.

We’ve explored crosswords a lot in this blog. From great cluing to the curse of crosswordese, from advice for constructing quality puzzles to tips for solving them, crosswords have been the centerpiece for many PuzzleNation Blog posts.

But friend of the blog Cathy Quinn recently passed along an article with an interesting bit of crossword trivia attached.

Have you encountered a difficult crossing in a crossword that left you baffled? This happens with proper names, archaic terms, and other more difficult grid entries, and when two of them cross, you might find yourself guessing instead of solving.

As it turns out, that difficult crossing, that unfillable square, that unsolvable spot, has a name, and it’s “Natick”.

From the article:

Back in 2008, The New York Times crossword puzzle featured a crossing of NATICK (“Town at the eighth mile of the Boston Marathon”) with N.C.WYETH (“Treasure Island” illustrator, 1911). If you weren’t from ’round these parts and were unfamiliar with the less-well-known Wyeth, it was a tough intersection.

Readers were not happy, and the term “a Natick” became shorthand for what is basically an unsolvable part of the crossword grid. (You can check out constructor Brendan Emmett Quigley’s take on the Natick here!)

So, if you’re ever flummoxed by a challenging crossing or an obscure intersection of terms, at least now you know what to call it.

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 our library of PuzzleNation apps and games!

Pints and Puzzles

If you’re a habitual crossword solver or a puzzle enthusiast in general, odds are you’ve got a good head for trivia.

Many of the puzzlers I know are vast storehouses of information, cobbled together in an incomprehensible mishmash of disorganized, dusty filing cabinets, containing endless wonder and factoids galore. They might not be the tidiest minds, but they’re invariably the most interesting.

And whether you exercise your voluminous knowledge with games like Trivial Pursuit, puzzles like crosswords, or online trivia associations like Learned League, you should know of yet another avenue to explore to satisfy your thirst for random facts and obscurities: the pub quiz.

Pub quizzes and trivia nights have been around for a long time now. While I was on vacation in Alaska, I participated in two nights of pub trivia shenanigans courtesy of Geeks Who Drink, wherein I performed admirably and represented PuzzleNation with honor, dignity, and no small amount of self-congratulatory cheering.

But did you know that puzzles are also quickly becoming prime entertainment options at bars and pubs worldwide?

Oh yes! The folks behind Puzzled Pint are the best known purveyors of pub puzzles these days, offering first a location-based puzzle for solvers to unravel (in order to discover where the next puzzle event will occur), then more puzzles to enjoy when solvers arrive!

Now, puzzles and pubs are hardly strangers to one another. Local blacksmiths often tasked their apprentices with creating mechanical puzzles like the one above (known as disentanglement puzzles) because forging the intricate pieces was excellent practice of various blacksmithing skills. These puzzles often found their way into nearby taverns, becoming popular pub activities and challenges.

As it turns out, you can find puzzles anywhere these days. And there’s nothing trivial about that. =)

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!

Think outside the house…

[A friendly reminder that not everything is available online.
Stickers (and the story of their creation) can be found here.]

Summer’s almost here, and although we all love puzzles (and we’ve been talking about apps a lot lately), I think it’s safe to admit that puzzles have always been something of an indoor activity. So what’s a parent to do when puzzle-loving kids don’t want to go outside?

Why, take the puzzles outside, of course!

Do your kids enjoy shapes? Why not create some large-scale tangram puzzles for them? All you’d need is a sheet or two of posterboard and a pair of scissors. There are numerous designs online that you could recreate (minus the lines that show how the pieces make each shape) and challenge your young solvers to mimic with their pieces!

You could even cut the posterboard into Tetris pieces and play a game of Tetris where each kid takes a turn placing a piece, trying to leave as few open spaces between pieces as possible. (Though you’d have to be a real magician to make complete lines disappear like in the game!)

Do your kids like trivia? Why not grab a few frisbees, a hula hoop or two, and create a mini-game show!

[Frisbee golf provides the perfect model for an easily improvised puzzle game.]

Different hula hoops could be different categories or difficulty levels (either prop them up or let them sit on the ground), and the kids could show off their athleticism AND their trivia knowledge in one fell swoop! (Replace the frisbees with beanbags or softballs or whatever you like. This is a game meant to be cobbled together from whatever’s on hand.)

And of course, there’s always the ultimate fusion of outdoor adventure and puzzly skills:

Scavenger hunts are great, because you can tailor them to your audience. Do your kids love puzzles? Make the clues as puzzly as possible, incorporating riddles and anagrams and wordplay galore. Do your kids like searching more than puzzling? Be creative in crafting the list of items to find.

Since the dawn of the modern era of mobile phone technology, a new variation on the scavenger hunt has emerged: the photo scavenger hunt. Instead of finding numerous items and bringing them back to a predetermined spot, you take pictures of various items (or provide photographic proof that you’ve completed certain activities or accomplished certain tasks) and bring your phone back as evidence.

Some companies, like our friends at The Great Urban Race, offer city-specific scavenger hunts for adults, replete with puzzles, physical challenges, and all kinds of outdoor fun. Their website is a treasure trove of ideas for your own adventures.

Actually, you know what? That sounds great. Forget the kids, I’m gonna go recruit some people and go scavenging!

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!