Along the way a new game show from Merv Griffin, named Crosswords, slipped onto the air. I hadn't seen it since here it's on opposite The Price is Right and it took me time to understand the Tivo lets one watch one program while recording another.
The show draws its inspiration from, well, you guessed it. There are two main contestants, with three spoilers in back. The host presents a blank word length and its clue. The contestants ring in, and attempt to answer, giving and then spelling the word, in the order in which they rang. If the prime contestants get the answer wrong, a spoiler can give an answer and take the place of a contestant. Each answer is worth money, deducted for a wrong answer, and there's the occasional Extra in which you can make a Daily Double-type wager. In the concluding, bonus, round, the player with the higher winnings tries to complete a nearly-finished realistic puzzle.
The game is fun, and I think it could develop into a pretty successful one. (It's been renewed for a second season.) It's not a bad adaptation of crossword puzzles to television, though, critically, the literal word-crossing is abandoned except in the bonus round. I don't like the set, which is too cool and electronic. The show's tone calls for a warmer set: it's much more like Wheel of Fortune than like Jeopardy!, despite the speed and money award rules.
What I object to is that clues are not unique, and ``wrong'' answers aren't credited. For example, consider: four letters, ``Maverick of Maverick''. That's a fine clue, the sort that producing a modest grin when you figure it out. But there are at least two legitimate answers: ``Bret'' Maverick, played by James Garner, or ``Bart'' Maverick, played by Jack Kelly, who appeared in about as many episodes of Maverick. (The show needed over a week to film, so they split production between roughly identical lead characters. Note that the names are close enough to make for easy dubbing. Add in contract fights and you have a legendary television show casting muddle.) There was also a ``Beau'' Maverick, played by Roger Moore, but nobody credits Roger Moore with being anybody. Anyway, I'm sure Merv Griffin, had he lived to see it, would agree that they must phrase clues as to have one overwhelmingly credible answer, or credit alternates, or provide seed letters to rule out wrong answers. If they can fix that glitch the show will be much sounder.
Trivia: Crosswords were originally meant to be ``word crosses'' but were renamed by a typographical error. Source: Quiz Craze, Thomas A DeLong.
Currently Reading: Great Fortune: The Epic of Rockefeller Center, Daniel Okrent.