REPOD S6E8: The Puzzling Adventures of Master Word Nerd Eric Berlin

“An escape room crossword puzzle” 

In Season 6, episode 8, we talk to the charming crossword constructor Eric Berlin. Eric is the creator of Puzzlesnacks, one of our favorite puzzle books, and he authored the Winston Breen trilogy, a series of puzzling novels for kids. Eric was also captain of Team Palindrome, one of the largest MIT Mystery Hunt teams, which won in 2021. 

Eric has a long and illustrious career crafting creative crossword puzzles. From brazening his way into Games Magazine board game nights to convincing Weird Al Yankovic to star in a cameo congratulating the winners of the MIT Mystery Hunt, Eric has great stories about being a passionate life-long word nerd.

hero image for REPOD season 6 episode 8 titled "The Puzzling Adventures of Master Word Nerd Eric Berlin" older man with white hair and glasses, smiling wearing a plaid blue button down shirt

This conversation with Eric Berlin opened my eyes to a whole new world of crossword puzzles. I had no idea that they were heavily themed or could masquerade as magic shows and escape rooms. It’s always wonderful to interview guests who are enthusiastic about their craft. It’s delightful to see that Eric has maintained a lifelong love for puzzles.

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We are immensely grateful to our sponsors this season: Morty App, Buzzshot, and COGS. We truly appreciate your support of our mission to promote and improve the immersive gaming community.


Morty is a free app for discovering, planning, tracking, and reviewing your escape rooms and other immersive social outings.

Morty News:

  • Morty now features haunt attractions!
  • Morty for Android is here and in public beta.

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Buzzshot is Escape Room Software, Powering Business Growth, Player Marketing, and improving the Customer Experience. They offer an assortment of pre and post game features including robust waiver management, branded team photos, and streamlined review management for Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google Reviews, and Morty. Buzzshot now has integration with the other REPOD sponsors: Morty and COGS.

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COGS by Clockwork Dog is an easy to use software/ hardware platform for running interactive events, including escape rooms, and other immersive experiences. They have plug & play hardware that seamlessly integrates with their software so you can create a show with lighting and sound cues without having to write a single line of code. Map all kinds of inputs to outputs by building up simple logic steps which determine what you want to happen and when.

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REPOD listeners can get the COGS Starter Set for only $130 + free shipping to the USA. This bundle is usually valued at $257. You can learn more and purchase your Starter Set at Use code REPOD at checkout.

Topics Discussed in this Episode

  • [2:19] We talk about how often Puzzle Snacks is recommended as a gift item or a starter puzzle book. Eric’s newest Puzzle Snacks books are featured in the REA Holiday Gift Guide.
  • [4:20] Eric tells us about how he got started in his career as a crossword puzzle designer after getting laid off as a video game designer.
  • [8:53] Eric talks about his love of Games Magazine and how that led to him brazening his way into the offices of Games Magazine and meeting luminaries in the puzzling world through board games night.
  • [11:12] Eric tells us about the escape room in a crossword puzzle he designed for the New York Times.
  • [14:30] Eric talks about different types of crossword puzzles, including meta puzzles that have another puzzle hidden inside.
  • [18:40] Eric gives advice for budding crossword constructors, including joining constructor communities and using tools like crossword compiler.
  • [21:27] Eric talks about how his popular variety puzzle book Puzzlesnacks came about.
  • [23:57] Eric describes some of the types of variety puzzles in Puzzlesnacks.
  • [28:51] Eric talks about his newest variety puzzle books, Carnival and Bonanza, which are self-published on Amazon.
  • [31:10] Eric tells us about being captain of Palindrome, one of the largest MIT Mystery Hunt teams, which won in 2021. He talks about getting Weird Al Yankovic to make a cameo appearance for the MIT Mystery Hunt.
  • [39:10] Eric talks about some tips and lessons learned from running a top MIT Mystery Hunt team.
  • [42:06] Eric tells a story about running a puzzle hunt at a local high school. His story illustrates the importance of organization and preparation when it comes to solving puzzle hunts quickly.
  • [43:40] Eric tells us about his children’s puzzle novel, The Puzzling World of Winston Breen, and how it was inspired by The Westing Game.
  • [48:29] Eric talks about moderating his puzzle books to be accessible to all ages of puzzlers.
  • [49:31] Eric tells us about what he values in an escape room, including elegant puzzles and memorable moments.
  • [50:23] Eric tells us about the puzzle game “Spaghetti” where he gives teams five random words and they have to find a “solution” that ties them all together.
    • We’ve come up with our own Spaghetti! Let us know if you see a pattern in the following words:
      • FLOOR
      • SHYLY
      • WRACK
      • CLOCK
      • SLUMP
  • [56:40] Eric tells us about NPL (National Puzzler’s League) and the story behind his “nom.”
  • [1:01:53] Eric tells us a bonus story about a horrible, terrible, no-good puzzle he encountered at an escape room.

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Resources Mentioned in this Episode

About Eric Berlin

older man with white hair and glasses, smiling wearing a plaid blue button down shirt in a garden.

Puzzlesnacks on Tiktok / Instagram / Facebook

Eric Berlin has had dozens of crosswords and other puzzles published in The New York Times, and he is the author of “The Puzzling World of Winston Breen,” a trilogy of puzzle-filled mysteries for kids. He creates live puzzle events for schools, museums, and organizations — among other places, his work has been seen at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, New York City’s Museum of Mathematics, and most recently, the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Eric is the constructor behind Puzzlesnacks, and collections of his puzzles can be found on Amazon.

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