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Merv Griffin's Crosswords on Game and Player

Merv Griffin's Crosswords

Michael Ubaldi  //  January 7, 2009

Similarity wrought bland from bland.


n double posterity comes Merv Griffin's Crosswords, downloadable from Xbox Live Arcade six months after the cancellation of a television program of the same name — the game show itself first broadcast a few weeks after the death of TV's entertainment suzerain.

Racing another word-by-word for the completion of a crossword puzzle is an ambitious spin on contests proceeding across kitchen tables or over cubicle walls, hence Merv Griffin's appropriation. But we should consider that Griffin's touch was as invaluable as his ideas. Merv Griffin's Crosswords is a close adaptation of the short-lived series, Merv Griffin's touch was as invaluable as his ideas.from the insipid opening theme that will send a player straight to the game's music volume adjuster; to the show's austere studio; to a hircine caricature of the tight-lipped host, daytime heartthrob Ty Treadway.

Similarity wought bland from bland, and in learning of an export to the Anglosphere with a New Zealand broadcast of the program, I pondered a studio releasing something with the intellectual requisite of Jeopardy and the verve of the BBC's Top Gear — as yet, nothing in the pipeline. So I play Crosswords.

In the first of four modes, a quartet of players may enter as contestants in a game held according to the rules of the show. Host Treadway offers clues to entries, down or across. Two players, wired to buzzers, must try to answer first and correctly. In a second and third round, any other players, with an AI fifth, begin as "spoilers" — able to supplant one of the primary contestants by picking up a word that one of the first two missed. A final round, as per heritage, is reserved for the winner's chance to fill in the puzzle's blanks, and qualify for cash and travel prizes.

Crossword addicts may find this title another vein to glut. Those who enjoy word games may be put off by the fickleness of clues, especially when trying to leverage their memory by trying one of several trivia themes like movies, television or video games. AI opponents do make mistakes, usually cheaply on the part of developer Pipeworks (they misspell the word, O-G-D DOG, as if it were a jumble), What is the point of playing a kind of simulation whose defining characteristic is artificiality?although sometimes wackily (responding to the clue "an artist," one volunteered PANTHER and another LEOPARD). Still, there remains a challenge — if for however few sittings the word bank lasts.

Whereas atmospherics aren't worth much, personality is the desiderata of game shows, and Merv Griffin's Crosswords wants. Ty Treadway's performance has enough zip, or unction, or whatever. But the host was recorded so economically that where repetition doesn't tire, phrases composed of singly inflected words sound mismatched, lending Treadway the dynamics of a call tree.

And what is the point of playing a kind of simulation whose defining characteristic is artificiality? Incurring more heavily, then, is multiplayer that appears to be a dead channel. Player match, ranked match: no games found. Merv Griffin's Crosswords final plea is a timed single-player mode which, after playing, should beg whether smart money buys a few newspapers a week instead.

Merv Griffin's Crosswords



Pipeworks Software


Microsoft Game Studios

NA Release

December 31, 2008


Play Mode

ESRB Rating

In Favor

  • Puzzles challenge


  • Hard to like
  • Multiplayer radio silence
  • Limited word bank

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