As a gift to our readers, Yahoo TV is giving away a free answer for a future New York Times crossword puzzle. The next time you see a nine-letter word clue that reads, “NBC Series That Appeared Here,” the correct response is: Blindspot. Wanna know why? Well, on the April 4 episode of the hit NBC series, reality and fiction collided when a message left for FBI agent Patterson (Ashley Johnson) by her recently deceased boyfriend, David (Joe Dinicol) in a Times crossword puzzle also appeared in that morning’s edition of the actual paper. The message was, “Got One Patterson,” David’s way of informing his grieving girlfriend that he had unlocked the mystery of another tattoo painted on the body of the show’s central character, enigmatic amnesiac, Jane Doe (Jaimie Alexander). Those words also set up the events of this week’s episode, which take Patterson out of her office and into the field for the kind of perilous mission that’s typically part of Jane’s job description.
In the real world, that crossword-embedded message was designed by another David — David Kwong, the renowned puzzle creator and magician, who regularly builds puzzles for the Times when he’s not serving as a consultant on hit movies like Now You See Me. Since Blindspot launched to big ratings in the fall, Kwong has been creator Martin Gero’s go-to guy for designing the intricate tattoo-based mysteries that drive the series. “At the very beginning of the show, I was in the writers’ room a lot brainstorming the puzzles, secret codes, and mysteries with them,” Kwong tells Yahoo TV. “There’s also this overall mythology that’s been planned out from the beginning that I’ve been a part of with the writers. It’s all very collaborative.” The puzzlemaker also confirms that he served as the direct model for Patterson’s puzzle-obsessed onscreen boyfriend. “I came in very early on in the process when Martin was still formulating that character, and he thought it would be fun to have a person interested in games and magic. Of course, Joe plays a much more dashing, charming version of David than I ever hope to be!”
As a regular Times crossword constructor, Kwong served as the go-between connecting Gero to the paper’s celebrated puzzle editor, Will Shortz. “He was thrilled to do this; we all have the same goal — to get as many people solving puzzles as possible — and Will saw it as a way to reach a new audience of young, hip solvers.” It fell to Kwong to come up with the exact message that Patterson (and readers) would find in the April 4 crossword. “I knew I wanted to get ‘Patterson’ into the puzzle,” he explains. “It’s a normal name, but it’s also a word that can be clued.” The specific clue he came up with was, “James Whose Books Have Sold Over 3 Million Copies,” a reference to the bestselling crime novelist, James Patterson. “For the unsuspecting, it was just a James Patterson clue. But for fans, it obviously had a double meaning.”
From there, he came up with the additional clues to complete the message: “Understood” for “Got” and “Result of Dividing Any Non-Zero Number by Itself” for “One.” He also made sure to design the puzzle layout so that those three words would stand out. “They’re all clustered in the upper left-hand corner, so it’s clear that they’re connected and mean something.” According to Kwong, some Blindspot fans dug even deeper into the April 4 puzzle, convinced that other show clues were hidden inside the crossword grid. “That day’s theme was countries that were spelled backwards, and some fans were trying to connect the five countries and figure out where that leads us. That’s the spirit of Blindspot right there! There’s always another level to the puzzle.”
While Ashley Johnson obviously had a heads-up on the fact that her alter ego’s name was going to be immortalized in the Times crossword section, the actress tells us that she was still delighted by the fan response the day the episode and puzzle debuted. “It’s such a cool thing — I’m going to keep that puzzle forever,” she says, adding that, in real life, she’s more into video games than puzzles. “But my all-time favorite game is Portal and that’s the epitome of a puzzle game! Right now, I play some first-person shooters, but I mainly stick to role-playing games. My boyfriend and I have been playing Neverwinter a lot, and I also play Dragon Age: Inquisition. But I’m so behind — I don’t have the time to play that I used to!”
This week’s episode, “Mans Telepathic Loyal Lookouts,” is a particularly demanding hour for Johnson, as Patterson ventures from the streets of Manhattan to the wilds of upstate New York trying to piece together the puzzle that David has left behind for her. “I love being in my lab, but it was fun to be out and about,” Johnson says, teasing that Patterson’s excursions into the great outdoors will continue as Blindspot approaches its freshman season finale. “She goes back out into the field, and crazy stuff happens. Dealing with the tragedy of David, she got to a point where she’s a little more bold and maybe a little more reckless, doing things she wouldn’t ordinarily do.” Only in the wild, wonderful world of Blindspot can solving a New York Times crossword puzzle be the gateway to a reckless adventure.
Blindsport airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on NBC.