"Five letters, $200... 'A hung plot element'."
Merv Griffin's Crosswords was a Game Show created by that guy who created such hits as Monopoly, which involved host Ty Treadway trying to be interesting while asking two contestants to solve crossword clues on the buzzer. The words were worth various amounts depending on their length (in Round 1, $50 for a 3-letter word, $100 for 4-6 letters, and $150 for 7+ letters).
To make the simple-looking game more confusing, a musical-chairs mechanic involving three "Spoiler" contestants was used for Rounds 2 and 3. The Spoilers could steal questions missed by the two main players and literally switch places with them if successful, cash and all.
Unfortunately, Crosswords didn't live up to the high hopes of Merv Griffin (whose original pilot involved three contestants building a cash jackpot that the day's winner would play for at the end) or his syndicated crown jewels Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune, and wound up being canned after one season. The show continually aired Out of Order due to poor ratings in syndication, and its screwed-up gameplay format and what many felt a lack of charisma in Ty's performance also contributed to its very short run. For better or worse, Merv was unable to see the aftermath of it all, as he died just five weeks before its debut.
Game Show Tropes in use:
- Bonus Round: Here's 90 seconds, now finish the rest of the crossword. If you're successful, you win a trip and...
- First Taped Episodes: ...$100 per word solved.
- First Aired Episodes: ...$2,000.
- Post-Getaway, Pre-Microsoft: ...$5,000.
- Microsoft-Sponsored: ...$5,000 and an Xbox 360 console bundle.
- Bonus Space: The Crossword Extra (basically this show's equivalent of the Daily Double) and the Crossword Getaway (get this right and you won a trip). The latter was removed after the first two months (but returned sporadically during the rest of the run) in favor of a few more Extras.
- Consolation Prize: A Croton watch with the show's logo on it, the plug for which changed a bit in some episodes.
- Double The Dollars: Round 2 doubled the values to $100 (3-letter words)/$200 (4-6 letters)/$300 (7+ letters). Later tapings redoubled the amounts to $200/$400/$600 for Round 3.
- Game Show Winnings Cap: One-and-done which, considering the show's budget, wasn't the best idea. "Undefeated" "champions" ended up "retiring" with huge winnings of less than $1,000 (the minimum guaranteed by Merv's other two games). You know you're in trouble when a "big winner" owes you $250.
- This January 2007 article from Broadcasting & Cable states that the show was, at that stage of development, going to use returning champs. Even the show's synopsis on Program Partners' official website claims to use returning champs!
- Golden Snitch: Since cash and trips stayed at a podium no matter what, a Spoiler could win the main game on the last clue. Several times, the winning Spoiler did absolutely nothing otherwise.
- Home Game: Despite the show's failure, various tie-in products were produced, including branded crossword puzzle books, a video game version, and a board game rendition. Sadly, the video games boast a slightly improved format and much higher payouts than the actual show, with the Bonus Round worth a vacation and $25,000.
- The board game doesn't even try to tie into the show, despite using the logo and Ty's picture on the cover. The box instead describes Crosswords as "the social wordplay game".
- Losing Horns: A type A was used as the time buzzer in the "finish the board" bonus round. How to describe it?... A jet-like "whoosh" sound, along with a wobbly downward sort of sound.
- The Announcer: Edd Hall, formerly of The Tonight Show.
- Game Show Host: Ty Treadway, a bodybuilder and SoapTalk host who also played on One Life to Live from 2001-04. Hosting this, he showed none of those muscles and was way too peppy.
- Studio Audience: None whatsoever, and nobody really knows why, hence the occasional Laugh Track. Producers claimed the studio was too small to have an audience.
- Product Placement: The Croton watches were always there, but for a time (nobody really knows how long), Microsoft sponsored the show to promote the Home Game coming out for Xbox Live Arcade. The Extra was renamed the "Crossword Xbox 360 Extra", and an Xbox 360 console was added to the bonus prize package.
- Rules Spiel: Even that barely changed, and then only to clarify that "some answers may contain two or three words".
This show provides examples of:
- Catchphrase: Pretty much everything Ty said, including his Rules Spiel, since he spoke the exact same way every time.
- "Welcome to Merv Griffin's Crosswords!"
- "Five letters, $200..."
- "Say hello to [y]our Spoilers!"
- "[Name] with a chance to spoil!"
- "You're going home our champion with $[amount]!"
- Crossword Puzzle: Uh, duh?
- Dark Horse Victory: The whole "A Spoiler can win on the final clue despite having done nothing beforehand" bit of the game.
- Epic Fail:
- October 2, 2007: "Banana. B-A-N-A...oh."
- January 30, 2008. Five bad contestants, and the winner entered the Bonus Round with minus $250...and proceeded to lose said bonus round (instead getting the Croton watch).
- Expy: Of The Cross Wits, minus the celebrities, the hostess, and most of the prize budget.
- Laugh Track: The studio was apparently too small to have an actual audience, yet considering the rest of this page it seems a bit more likely that the staff didn't want anybody criticizing their lame format.
- Luck-Based Mission: Performance in the Bonus Round often depended on how much of the puzzle was empty; some days, it was just plain impossible to fill the whole thing in.
- Macguffin Delivery Service: What the show frequently wound up becoming, as noted above at Golden Snitch and Dark Horse Victory.
- Obvious Beta: The first taped episodes (which were not the first to air) used Crossword Extras which weren't part of the puzzle, worth $300 in Round 1 and $600 in Round 2. It also gave Bonus Round winners a trip (offered throughout the run) and $100 per word, the latter typically adding up to less than $2,000 (the amount offered for victory in the first aired episodes).
- Obvious Rule Patch: The ousting of the Crossword Getaway, which removed the two "shelves" from the front-row podiums.
- Rearrange the Song: Even the Title Theme Tune was done on the cheap, it was a re-working of the 1980s Wheel car cue "Buzzword". Yeah, the Jeopardy! sample is still in there.