Crossword puzzle creator Merl Reagle and The New York Times Crossword Puzzle editor Will Shortz make guest voice appearances in the all-new Homer and Lisa Exchange Cross Words episode of The Simpsons airing Sunday, Nov. 16 (8:00-8:30 PM ET/PT) on FOX.
Reagle and Shortz collaborated with The Simpsons executive producer Tim Long to create a hidden Simpsons-related message - integral to that night's episode - that will appear in The New York Times Sunday Crossword Puzzle on Nov. 16.
In the episode, after Lisa discovers her amazing talent for solving crossword puzzles, she becomes an expert cruciverbalist and enters a citywide crossword puzzle tournament. Homer, short on cash, gets involved in an underground betting ring at the tournament, and in the ultimate betrayal, profits from betting against Lisa. When Homer and Lisa exchange cross words, Homer enlists the help of Shortz and Reagle to spell out his love for Lisa.
"One of the great things about working on The Simpsons is that when we do a show on a particular subject - be it politics, sports or music - we do it right," Long notes. "In this case, we hired master constructor Merl Reagle (who guest-voices as himself) to design every single crossword puzzle visible throughout the episode. Conscientious or obsessive-compulsive? You be the judge!"
Long credits the documentary Wordplay, which chronicles the national crossword puzzle championships, as his inspiration for the episode. "The world it depicts is just so vivid and real, and Will Shortz has such an understated charisma about him. I understand that when Will makes public appearances, women throw their No. 2 pencils at him."
The Simpsons is a Gracie Films Production in association with 20th Century Fox Television. James L. Brooks, Matt Groening and Al Jean are the executive producers. Film Roman is the animation house.