The New York Times Crossword, Accordion to Weird Al

 In February of 2017, The New York Times celebrated a landmark in the history of puzzles: the 75th anniversary of the NYT crossword.

And ever since, to commemorate that puzzly milestone, top constructors and Times favorites have been pairing up with celebrity fans and puzzle enthusiasts to co-construct puzzles for the Times!

This year, you might’ve encountered some of these collaborations, like news pundit Rachel Maddow’s March 2nd puzzle with constructor Joe DiPietro, or “How I Met Your Mother” star Josh Radner’s meditation-themed puzzler from January 31st with constructor Jeff Chen.

Over the last year, names as diverse as John Lithgow, Elayne Boosler, Joy Behar, Mike Selinker, Lisa Loeb, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Bill Clinton have contributed their puzzly efforts to this marvelous project.

And yesterday, another famous wordsmith and master of punnery made his New York Times debut.

[Image courtesy of Instagram.]

Yes, the immortal “Weird Al” Yankovic teamed up with Puzzle Your Kids mastermind and friend of the blog Eric Berlin for a cheese-themed Wednesday outing that delighted fans and solvers alike.

Al has certainly been keeping busy lately, launching his Ridiculously Self-Indulgent, Ill-Advised Vanity Tour — his words, not mine; I loved the show I attended! — and working with Lin-Manuel Miranda to create The Hamilton Polka, an ambitious and hilarious take on the wildly successful musical.

The puzzle was Eric’s 40th Times puzzle, and Al’s first. Not only did the puzzle feature those signature cinematic cheese puns — like A FEW GOUDA MEN and THE PELICAN BRIE — but there was plenty of nerd culture featured in the fill and cluing.

Tom Lehrer and John Cleese were both name-dropped, as well as Legolas, Wile E. Coyote, WALL-E, Mr. Clean, and Bones from the original Star Trek.

Eric offered some insight into the puzzle’s creation while discussing the puzzle with Wordplay’s Deb Amlen:

My very first attempt at the grid included one of my favorites from his list, QUESOBLANCA. I was under the misapprehension that queso is not just the Spanish word for cheese but also a specific kind of cheese. Whoops, not quite. (This was entirely on me, I should note — Al, not knowing during his brainstorming that the end result would be restricted to specific cheeses, had several cheese-adjacent puns in his list, including FONDUE THE RIGHT THING and CHEESY RIDER.)

And appropriately enough, Al had a bit of fun promoting the puzzle on his Instagram, claiming, “If you’re REALLY good, you don’t NEED the clues!”

For the record, I needed the clues.


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It’s Follow-Up Friday: Hashtag Hilarity 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 #PennyDellPuzzleComedy 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 #PennyDellPuzzleComedy, 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: David Letterboxesman, The Three Anagr-amigos, or “Take a Letter, Please!”

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


Puzzle Comedians!

Rodney Danger-Textfields

George Carlinkwords

“Weird Al”-phagrid Yankovic

Dr. Dementossing and Turning

Fill-In Diller / Phyll-Ins Diller

Kenken Jeong

David Cross Pairs

Lewis Blackout!

Andrew Dice Game

Cryptomedian Adam Scrambler

Rows-anne Garden

Alphabet Soupy Sales

Dan Ayk-wordplay

Gilda-Quote Radner

Rose-anagrams Rose-anagrams Dannagrams


Puzzle Comedy Films!

History of the World, Part One and Only

Happy Fill-in More!

Meet the Frameworks

You Don’t Maze with the Zohan

Austin Flower Powers

April Sillycrostics!

Four Square Weddings and a Funeral

Three from Nine to Five

Roxanne-agrams

Across and Down and Out in Beverly Hills

Alphabet Duck Soup

Animal Crackers House


Puzzle Comedy TV Shows!

A Bits and Pieces of Fry and Laurie

Two for One and a Half Men

Rowan and Martin’s Fill-In

Three of a Kind’s Company

“I Love Loosey Tiles!”

Saturday Night Line ‘Em Up

Sanford and Sunrays

All in the Family Ties

Happy Daisy

Leave It to Weaver Words

The Odds and Evens Couple

[Plus there were a few Seinfeld references in puzzly form:]

“By the way, they’re real, and they’re Sudoku Spectacular!”

“The Bubbles Boy”


Puzzle Jokes and Routines!

“Who’s on first and last?” / “Who’s Calling on first! What’s Left on second!”

Knock, Knock! Who’s Calling?

Why did the chicken cross the Middle of the Road? To get to the other Slide-o-gram!

“Nehh…What’s Left, Doc?”

How do you send a message to a skeleton? By Crypt-O-Gram!

What do you get when you insult a puzzle editor’s work? Cross words!

Have you heard about the most amazing Framework ever constructed? It was a Revelation!

Knock-knock.
Who’s there?
Guess
Guess Who?
Hey, that’s my favorite puzzle!

Knock-knock
Who’s there?
Lotto
Lotto who?
I bet there’s a lotto people entering this hashtag game!

Knock-knock
Who’s there?
The Wizard
The Wizard who?
The Wizard is wise and humorous. Didn’t you read the blurb?

Knock-knock
Who’s there?
Zip It
Zip It who?
Zip it, you! I’ve had enough of your knock-knock jokes


And the PuzzleNation audience got involved as well! @_screenhog tweeted the excellent entries Funny or Diagramless and Patchwords Adams!

Have you come up with any Penny Dell Puzzle Comedy 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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It’s Follow-Up Friday: And a One And a Clue 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 #PennyDellPuzzleBands 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 Penny Dell Puzzle Bands, mashing up Penny Dell puzzles and favorite bands or musicians!

Examples might be The Beat-the-Clock-les, Brick by Brick Astley, or Kris Krossword.

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


The Rolling Stepping Stones / Stepping Stones Temple Pilots / Steppin’ Stones Wolf

Fill-In Collins (singing Su-Su-Sudoku) / Fill-In Sync

Spinwheel Doctors

The Who’s Calling? / The Guess Who’s Calling? / The Who’s Who

Radioheadings

Men at Framework

Kenkenny Rogers (or Loggins or G) / KenKen Chesney

Kenny Chess Words

Paul Simon Says / Simon Le Bon Says / Simon Says Garfunkel

Paul Simon and Art Garfield’s Word Seeks

ZZ Top to Bottom / Top to Soggy Bottom Boys

Zigzag Top / Jay Zig Zag / Zigzag Marley

Missing Persons List / Missing Persons Trios

Cryptogram Parsons / Patchwork QuotaGram Parsons

Letterboxes Zeppelin / Letterboxes to Cleo

Led Zeppelin and Around

Tina Turnabout / Tina Turn a Phrase / Tossing and Tina Turner

U2 of a Kind / U2 by Two / U2 for One

Three Doors Down of a Kind / 3 Doors Ups and Downs

Three Doors Across and Down / Across and Three Doors Down

Big Brother and the Three’s Company

Three from Nine Inch Nails

Third Bull’s-Eye Blind

Never Mind the Bull’s-Eye Spiral…Here Come the Sex Pistols!

The Four-Most Tops / The Four Tops to Bottom

Four Square Blondes / Tears Four Square

Gang of Foursomes

The Crackerjackson 5

The Jackson Fancy Fives / Maroon Fancy Five / The Fancy Dave Clark Fives

Black 47-Up

Seven Mary Three’s Company

The Jesus and Mary Chain Words

Alice in Chain Words

Square North of Nines

Thirteenth Floor Escalators

Mix and Matchbox Twenty / Match-Up Twenty

Talking Heads & Tails / Radioheads and Tails (singing Creepto-Families)

Florida Georgia Line ‘Em Up / End of the Florida Georgia Line

Drop-outs Kick Murphys

NickelThrowbacks

Wall Flower Powers / The Flower Power Kings

ColdWordPlay

ColdPlaces, Please / The Black Eyed Places Please

Jefferson Starspellship / Ringo Starrspell

Ringo Starr Words / Mazzy Star Words

Thompson Twin Crosswords

Pairs in LeAnn Rimes

Eric Clapboard

New Kids on the Blockbuilders / New Kids on the Crossblocks

Around the New Kids on the Block / New Kids Around the Block

ABBAcus (singing Take a Letter Chance On Me and Waterloose Tile)

Bobby Vee-Words

The Partridge Family Ties

Missing Fats Dominoes

Morris Day & the Rhyme Time

Right of Waylon Jennings

KC and the Sum-Doku band / K.C. and the Sunrays Band

Sunrays & Cher-A-Letter

Motley Crueptograms

Janis Joplinkwords

Alphaville Soup / Bowling for Alphabet Soup

The Smashing Pumpkin-Patchwords

Junior Walker & the All Stars and Arrows

Stars and Aerosmith

Sudoku & the Banshees

Sudokool & the Gang / Kool and the Changelings

Mirror Imagine Dragons

Kelly Picker-Upper

Blackout Sabbath

They Might Be Puzzler’s Giants

Sweet Honeycomb in the Rock

Busta Rhyme Time

A to Z Maze featuring Frankie Beverly / A to Jay-Z Maze

Beat the Strawberry Alarm Clock

Foreigner ‘n’ Aft

Metallicancelations

Frank Zip It

Patsy Cline ‘Em Up

Golden Earringmaster

Add One Direction

Jethro Full Circle / Jethro Tiles

The Point the Way Sisters

Santanagrams

Marcy Word Playground

Mariah Carey-Overs / Carry-Overs Underwood

The Black Keywords

Neil Diamond Mine / Nine of Neil Diamonds / Neil Diamond Rings

What’s Left Eye Lopes

Face to Faces / The Small Face to Faces

Split and Splice Girls

Word Player

Quotefall Out Boy

Word Mazey Gray

B-U-S METRO STATION

Simply Grand Funk Railroad!

“C” the Spice Girls and “C” the Beastie Boys

Little Mix at a Time

Anagram Magic! Square

The Associations

Fats Domino Theory

The Washington Jigsaw Squares

Linkwords Park

Stevie Ray Vaughn and Double Occupancy

Scoremaster Flash

ABeeGee’s

John Mayall’s Codebreakers

Nat King Collective Crossword

Dave Match-Up’s Band

Jane’s Letter Addition

Counting Cross Sums

Fleetwood Mac & Logic Problems / Flinkwords Mac

Crostics Stills & Nash

Maxi-Score Priest

Drummerman-heim Steamroller / Drummerman-fred Mann

A Trigons Called Quest

Sir Mixmaster-A-Lot

Weird Al Wacky Words Yankovic

Uncle Crackers

The Marshall Mind Tickler Band

Banana Word-A Rama

Ashford & Simpson Says

The CultureWords Club

Earth Wind and Fill-Ins

The Mamas and the Papas Grand Tour

Ringer’s Eleven

Public Double Trouble Enemy

Guns ‘n’ Rows Garden


Those bands would be sure to win plenty of AnaGrammy and QuotaGrammy Awards!

Our fellow puzzlers on Twitter also offered up some terrific entries themselves!

@EmilBurp was “torn between the obvious ‘A-Dell’ or the semi-obvious ‘Anacro-Styx'” — two very clever entries! And @_PaulSurf offered up several choice entries, including “Panic at the DisCodewords,” “ZZ Top Choice Sudoku,” and “CryptoGraham Parker and the Rumour.”

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

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 Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!

It’s Follow-Up Friday: Word Crimes 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.

Last month, I did a Follow-Up Friday post on music videos that reinforced puzzly devices like Rube Goldberg machines and optical illusions.

But today, I’d like to use a music video to talk about grammar and punctuation, two key elements of proper cluing.

The Internet is a breeding ground for new slang and abbreviations, but it’s also the place where spelling and grammar sometimes goes to die. Everything from “there/their/they’re” confusion to misused apostrophes and beyond can be found in most comment sections and far far too many Facebook posts.

Thankfully, musician / comedian / grammar crusader “Weird Al” Yankovic has taken steps to remedy the situation with a song on his new album “Mandatory Fun.”

“Word Crimes” is a parody of the Robin Thicke song “Blurred Lines,” and it takes multiple spelling and grammar offenders to task in truly hilarious fashion.

Enjoy:

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