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Cross Words for Crosswords
September 21

I hold out fervent hope that if Merv Griffin had not succumbed to cancer earlier in the year, he would have had a heavier hand in the creation of the game show bearing his name. The show gives the impression of an unfinished project; many aspects should have been ironed out during testing and others should have been tossed completely.

The most prominent problem is that the player with the most money "in their podium" at the end of the game is the winner. I know, what else are you going to do, right? Almost all game shows work like that. The problem is that on at least two occasions, a "Spoiler" (Three other players who are competing for a front row position) have won the game by solving the last clue of the game and inheriting the leader's podium.

I have heard three people tell me that this is a great mechanic, that it provides excitement in that anyone can win at any time. I say baloney. I want the best player to win, or to have the best chance to win. The Spoiler Snipe completely sucks that away, because money won stays at the podium where it was earned. The easy fix would be to have all five players with a score, and only those with the front row spot can win.

The "money going to a podium" mechanic sounds all the more absurd when a "Crossword Extra" is "discovered" by one of the players (and that's another thing: the bonus clues aren't discovered at all, they are assigned to pre-planned clues in the game.). For the "Extra," the player bets any or the entire total in that podium on a sight-unseen clue. So, in effect, it's a Daily Double without having the category knowledge beforehand. But why bet a bundle of cash when anyone can swoop in on the next clue to steal the prime position.

Having sat through a handful of episodes, there are more things wrong with Crosswords than there are good things. The players don't pick the next clue; they are led down the path by host Ty Treadway. The "Crossword Getaway" bonus seems slapped on in order to earn a bit of extra money for copy reading. The game is a muddled mess, with spoilers having to wait until the down front players have a chance to play. The host, the aforementioned Treadway, has an uneven cadence that makes him difficult to listen to on a good day.

There are few bright spots; sometimes the clues are interesting, and the bonus round (the winner tries to fill in all remaining clues in the puzzle) provides a bit of tension. But by and large, Crosswords gets too many things wrong to be worth your time.

Twelve letters, $300; he has a Gmail account where you can drop him a line if you disagree. (Travis Eberle).