Bewilderingly – Escape the Grid [Hivemind Review]

Escape the Grid is a set of crossword puzzles with individual metapuzzles and a final metapuzzle created by Bewilderingly.

A crossword grid. Some squares have unusual circles in them.

Format

Style of Play: 10-crossword puzzle suite, each with a metapuzzle leading to the next crossword puzzle

Required Equipment: computer with internet connection and either a printer, pen, and paper, or digital crossword software

These are PDFs designed for print solving, but you can also solve on screen. There is a .puz file included for use in digital crossword software. Across Lite worked well.

Recommended Team Size: 1-2

Play Time: There is no game clock. It took anywhere from 3-6 hours total to solve everything.

Price: pay what you want

Booking: buy and play at your leisure

Description

Although this is called Escape the Grid, it is not an escape room; it is a series of crossword puzzles, presented with light storytelling and gating that is influenced by escape rooms. Players will solve a crossword puzzle, and then use that solved crossword to solve a metapuzzle that extracts the 4-letter word that will unlock the next crossword puzzle. There are 10 total crosswords with metapuzzles. These all culminate in a final metapuzzle.

Hivemind Review Scale

REA's hivemind review scale - 3 is recommended anytime, 2 recommended in quarantine, 1 is not recommended.

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The Lone Puzzler’s Reaction

Rating: 2 out of 3.

This one is tough to review. It is not an escape game at all. It is a series of crossword puzzles with a hidden password/code in each puzzle. I would recommend this to puzzlers; I would not recommend it for casual escape game players looking for a one-hour immersive experience. The crossword puzzles are of moderate difficulty – with Google, probably solvable for most puzzlers. The hidden codes get harder and harder and exceed the difficulty of most escape room puzzles by about puzzle 3 or 4 (out of 10). The puzzle set comes with hints and solutions – so you will have the opportunity to move forward as you see fit if you get stuck. There is no time limit, so you can work at your own pace. My playthrough of the set included use of hints for probably half of the codes or metas. The end of the set was an “escape” puzzle which tied things together well, but was not an escape room-like experience. If you enjoy paper puzzle challenges, this is a good set of puzzles to play – otherwise you might be disappointed since despite the title, it isn’t really a home “escape” game.

Brett Kuehner’s Reaction

Rating: 2 out of 3.
  • + Crossword difficulty starts lower and ramps up, which is good for novices (like me)
  • +/- Crossword quality was somewhat uneven – cluing was generally ok but most puzzles had a few clues that could be improved
  • + Puzzle 5 had a particularly impressive metapuzzle construction, with good internal confirmation of the steps
  • – Additional metapuzzle cluing would be beneficial – several metapuzzles required logic leaps I would never have made without hints
  • +/- Several crosswords had variations that were just plain hard for me (looking at you, puzzle 7), but my crossword-expert wife solved them without much difficulty
  • + Multi-step hinting is provided, so you can take hints or full solutions on the metas if needed (and on several I definitely needed this)
  • + Pay what you want pricing gives good value if you enjoy crosswords
  • ? There were oddly recurring clues/answers across the puzzle set. Either there is a hidden meta I didn’t find, or better editing was needed.
  • +/- These are for crossword lovers first and foremost. How much you enjoy them will probably be closely correlated to your crossword skill.

Andrew Reynolds’ Reaction

Rating: 1 out of 3.

Escape the Grid is a game played in two parts: first, complete a more or less standard crossword puzzle. Then, use the solved crossword to solve a metapuzzle. The solution to the metapuzzle is the password to the next crossword; repeat the process for a total of ten crosswords. The crosswords were the easy part; as mentioned already, most of them were standard, even on the easier side – definitely not Sunday New York Times material. Most of the metapuzzles, on the other hand, ranged in difficulty from “there’s another step‽” to “why would anyone do that?” Some required a measure of obscure knowledge, and many could use some additional cluing. Thankfully, Escape the Grid comes with a very helpful hint and solution guide if – when? – you need a push.

Theresa Piazza’s Reaction

Rating: 3 out of 3.

Let me preface this review with 2 facts: 1) I solve the New York Times crossword every weekday with a group of friends. 2) My favorite crossword puzzles have robust themes or puzzles and are filled with puns. Now that that’s out of the way, I loved Escape the Grid. It’s a set of crossword puzzles, each enhanced with an additional extraction, and light escape room theming. I solved Escape the Grid over about 2 weeks, solving one crossword per evening, and that’s how I’d recommend others solve as well. I got roughly 6 hours of play out of this – crazy value considering it is pay what you want!

Overall, the crosswords are constructed well. A few sections in a couple of puzzles had some obscure name crossed with another obscure item, but nothing a quick google couldn’t solve once I’d admitted to myself I would never know either answer. The majority of the extractions were fun and varied in style. When I found one particularly tedious, the hints were structured in such a way that the first few validated I was on the right track, and didn’t give the whole answer away at once. There’s an opportunity to tidy up the ending of this experience. Up until the final solve, every answer is inputted into a password-protected pdf, which validates whether your answer is correct or incorrect…except for the last puzzle, which requires you to check the solutions guide to know if you’ve solved the entire experience. (An easy way to fix this would be to add one more password-protected pdf. Opening it would reveal “you escaped!”) All in all, if you’re into crosswords, buying and playing Escape the Grid is a no-brainer.

Theresa W’s Reaction

Rating: 2 out of 3.

I need to preface this review: I don’t like crosswords, but really like escape rooms and metapuzzles. I thought I’d give this one a shot as a weird perspective and I’m glad I did. Escape the Grid had 10 standard crosswords of varying difficulty that were found scattered throughout a text-based escape room. Each crossword gave a description of the surrounding area along with a starting place for each meta puzzle. Most of the metas I could not solve without a nudge in the right direction. They were slightly ambiguous. By the end, I was actually enjoying solving crosswords and having a puzzle to look forward to, as the puzzles all had interesting solves. This also worked really well over Zoom with my grandparents, who even got invested in the metapuzzles. If the puzzles had slightly more cluing, this would be a great excuse for non-crossword solvers to actually sit down with a crossword!

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