7/25/08

MGWCC #008 -- Friday, July 25th, 2008 -- "Y Not"


Ahoy, Fellow Cruciverbalists! Welcome to Week Eight of my crossword contest. If you're new to the contest and would like to enter, please see the site FAQ on the left sidebar for instructions.

LAST WEEK'S RESULTS:

52 solvers found the SILVER COINS hidden in last week's treasure hunt. To locate that phrase, they read the answers at 9-down and 32-down from BOTTOM TO TOP, as 25-down had instructed them, and received the secret hiding spot of a treasure-locating message: FINAL LETTER OF EACH CLUE. When they looked at the last letter of each clue, this message appeared:

To claim the treasure, anagram the two grid entries referenced at three down into a monetary term


The answer to 3-down was TODAY'S DATE, which led solvers (after a little head-scratching, judging from e-mails) to the entries at 7-down (LIVRES) and 18-down (ICONS), which anagram into the monetary term SILVER COINS, which was the correct contest answer phrase. I thought this would be a fairly tough treasure hunt, but maybe not: for the first time in MGWCC's brief but storied history, I didn't receive a single incorrect answer.

As a few solvers noted, the constraint of having a hidden message using the last letter of each clue led to some rather convoluted turns of phrase. CRAKE ("Bird often seen in a meadow") and IRELAND ("Country with regions called 'Gaeltachtai'") were a little weird, but the champion must've been LARAMIE at 7-across. The clue had to end in a C, and the best I could come up with was the horrifying "City you'd find in the Wyoming section of the almanac."

Last week's winner, whose name was chosen randomly from the 52 correct entries, is none other than Al Sanders of Fort Collins, Colo. Al is one of the five solvers featured in the documentary "Wordplay" and an eight-time finalist at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. He has selected as his prize an autographed copy of Sip & Solve Hard Crosswords.

In addition to his book, Al will also receive two SILVER COINS -- this was a real treasure hunt, after all! Al's loot consists of a 1962 quarter and a 1961 dime -- from back when all American dimes and quarters contained 90% silver. Total value of these two coins, according to Coinflation: about five bucks! (And to think, Amy Reynaldo once claimed that "the stakes aren't high" here at MGWCC. This'll show 'er!)

What happened to the value of American currency over the past 40-odd years so that 35 cents from the 1960s is now worth more than ten times as much? It was stolen via inflation by my former neighbors in Washington, D.C., of course. But that's a story for another day!

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:


Two weeks ago I vext and perplext (?!) solvers with a puzzle where one letter of the alphabet was "missing." That was a word intended to deceive, and I felt awful about it...so, by way of atonement, here are this week's instructions, cut and pasted almost verbatim from the puzzle of 7/11/08: This week's crossword is missing one letter of the alphabet. Which one is it? E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by noon ET on Tuesday. Please put this week's contest answer letter (!) in the subject line of your e-mail.

To print the puzzle out, click on the image below and hit "print" on your browser. To solve using Across Lite, join the Google Group here:

http://groups.google.com/group/mgwcc



Solve well, and be not led astray by words intended to deceive.

7/18/08

MGWCC #007 -- Friday, July 18th, 2008 -- "Our Treasure Has Been Stolen"

Ahoy, Fellow Cruciverbalists! Welcome to Week Seven of my crossword contest. If you're new to the contest and would like to enter, please see the site FAQ on the left sidebar for instructions.



LAST WEEK'S RESULTS:

MGWCC #006 was the cruciverbal equivalent of a Magic Eye picture: the contest answer either jumped out at you pretty quick, or you stared at the puzzle for hours and nothing happened. Just 17 solvers correctly returned the missing letter from the grid, which was "A" (see solution grid at left).

An "A" was missing, you ask? Yes, indeed -- put it right in the black square in the center of the grid, turning PANAM and CANAL at 32- and 33-across into PANAMA CANAL (note that both PANAM and PANAMA CANAL fit the clue for 32-across, "It revolutionized 20th-century global transportation"). The down entries SHIPS and CROSS likewise became SHIPS ACROSS, which answers the clue to 17-down ("Transmits, as to the other side of a body of water").

Other hints: the two longest entries in the grid, PACIFICA RADIO and TRANSATLANTIC, were linked by the solver correctly "digging" the canal (see also puzzle title). And a few solvers noticed ERIE and SUEZ at 9-down and 47-down, monitoring wordflow at other chokepoints around the grid.

WHAT ARE THE ODDS?

Six entrants found an interesting alternative solution to last week's puzzle: the contest instructions had alerted solvers that one letter was "missing" from the grid, which led them to believe that the finished puzzle would be pangrammatic minus one letter. I made the grid truly pangrammatic, however, at which point I intended that solvers would sense the dead end and turn their attention to other possibilities.

But -- rather amazingly -- one of the eight letters that appears only one time in the solved grid can be reasonably eliminated: the W at the intersection of 49-down and 52-across. Those two entries are AWE and WOO, clued as "Marvel" and "Coax." But replace the W with a C and you get two defensible entries for those clues, and suddenly we're indeed left without a pangram, which explains the six W entries I got.

One solver wondered if this wasn't a political statement, but no, I must admit I didn't even consider the possibility that the grid could be thus de-pangrammatized. The odds must be near-astronomical -- the chances that a letter in a crossword can be changed to another letter and still satisfy both clues is microscopic (I can only recall ever laying eyes on a small handful of similarly unintentional cases). And then the odds that it would happen in a crossword where that actually mattered to the end result must be even more microscopic. Pile onto those the odds that the replaceable letter would happen to be one of the eight letters in the grid that didn't appear elsewhere in the puzzle, and you have an event that just cannot happen in a rational universe. Except that it did.

As a nod to solvers who found that clever cook, I decided to count "W" as an acceptable alternative answer and added the six W entrants to the 17 A's in the pool of potential winners. But one of the A's emerged victorious anyway...and that winner, chosen randomly from the (17 + 6=) 23 correct entries received, is Len Levine (city and state as yet unascertained). [UPDATE, 7/19: city and state now ascertained! They are New York, NY]. Len has requested as his prize an autographed copy of Sip & Solve Hard Crosswords.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS
: Our national treasure has been stolen, but this week I'm giving a little of it back to one lucky winner. Our contest answer this time is a two-word phrase totaling 11 letters. E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by noon ET on Tuesday. Please put this week's contest answer phrase in the subject line of your e-mail.

Technical difficulties alert: I'm on the road this week and am not able to export pre-formatted printable grid/clue files on this computer. I'll post the regular printable file on Monday morning when I return; if you normally solve the Across Lite version of the puzzle then this won't affect you, as the AL version is available as usual at the Google Group site (you can also print the puzzle out from Across Lite directly). Sorry for the hassle, but be part of the solution -- if anyone has a link to the Across Lite patch that lets you export such files, please e-mail to me and I'll post the regular printable file ASAP.

[UPDATE, 7/21: finally got home and put the printable file up, see below.]


To solve using Across Lite, join the Google Group here:

http://groups.google.com/group/mgwcc


Have fun on the treasure hunt -- solve well, and be not led astray by words intended to deceive.

7/11/08

Friday, July 11th, 2008 -- MGWCC #006 -- "Can You Dig It?"

Ahoy, Fellow Cruciverbalists! Welcome to Week Six of my crossword contest. If you're new to the contest and would like to enter, please see the site FAQ on the left sidebar for instructions.


LAST WEEK'S RESULTS:

47 solvers correctly figured out that my middle name is CLARK, which was last week's contest answer word. They got it from the four long theme entries in the grid: 17-across pointed out that the contest answer word was FIVE LETTERS LONG, 27- and 46-across noted that it consisted of THREE SUCCESSIVE CHEMICAL SYMBOLS, while 61-across revealed the relevance of the word: IT'S MY MIDDLE NAME (see solution at left).

Out came the periodic tables, and the most familiar five-letter sequence showed up at elements 17, 18, and 19 -- Chlorine, Argon, and Potassium -- whose chemical symbols are Cl, Ar, and K, or CLARK. Verification, which quite a few solvers picked up on, came from the three answers on the top row of the grid: BAR, KENT, and GABLE.

Last week's lucky winner, chosen randomly from the 47 correct entries received, is Fay Eastwood of Verona, N.Y. Fay has opted to receive a copy of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Crossword Puzzles & Word Games as her prize (and she clarifies that this is for her husband, not for her!).


THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS: This week's crossword grid is missing one letter of the alphabet. Which one is it? E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by noon ET on Tuesday. Please put this week's contest answer letter (!) in the subject line of your e-mail.

To print the puzzle out, click on the image below and hit "print" on your browser. To solve using Across Lite, join the Google Group here:

http://groups.google.com/group/mgwcc




Solve well, and be not led astray by words intended to deceive.

7/4/08

Friday, July 4th, 2008 -- MGWCC #005 -- "Get It Off the Table"


Ahoy, Fellow Cruciverbalists! Welcome to Week 5 of my crossword contest. If you're new to the contest and would like to enter, please see the site FAQ on the left sidebar for instructions.

LAST WEEK'S RESULTS: George Carlin's stand-up routines were bitingly sarcastic -- in a word, MORDANT, which was last week's contest answer word. To get there, 38 solvers found the septet of grid entries that were one letter off from Carlin's famous "Seven Dirty Words": SHOT, MISS, DUCK, ROCK SUCKER, MOTHER TUCKER, TINS, and AUNT (I won't reprint the dirty words themselves here, but the routine has its own wikipedia entry). Extracting the seven substituted letters from those entries yields, in grid order: O, M, D, R, T, N, and A, which anagram to MORDANT.

Solution grid is at left and also posted on the MGWCC Google Group:

http://groups.google.com/group/mgwcc


Join the Google Group to have the puzzle e-mailed to you right when it's posted each Friday afternoon, or to solve the electronic Across Lite version of the puzzle.

Last week's lucky winner is Leonard Williams of Fort Wayne, Ind., whose name was chosen at random from among the 38 correct entries. Leonard has chosen to receive an autographed copy of Gridlock as his prize.

FROM THE MAILBAG:

Contest winner Leonard Williams writes:

Carlin’s routines were so influential that I often find myself reflecting his concerns in my classes—even without doing so consciously. When I teach about liberal political theory, the ideas of Hobbes and Locke, I often talk about how their theories about people and government are rooted in ideas about getting and keeping property—also known as “stuff.” In fact, my students hear that word so much during those weeks in the semester that they soon start repeating the word as well. When I recently heard a clip from Carlin’s riff on “stuff”—how we’re obsessed with getting it, saving it, keeping it, storing it, etc.—it struck me how obviously and deeply his world view helped shaped mine.

Howard Barkin recalls:

I had the privilege of seeing George Carlin at a small theater show some years ago in NJ...He was trying out some new material and was particularly mordant that day; more angry than sarcastically comical, and I enjoyed every minute of it anyway - the guy certainly spoke his mind. It was especially fun to watch a few people in the crowd who somehow didn't know Mr. Carlin's act, staring in disbelief for a while before eventually walking out about 2/3 through the show. Good times.

Anne Erdmann notes that this puzzle was a:

... tough one for us innocent pure-minded types! :-)


While Jason Feng reminisces, regarding 23-across:

We used to have a steakhouse here in town (Vancouver, BC) called Mother Tucker's. Ah, the memories.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

Send this week's contest answer word to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by noon EDT on Tuesday. (Sorry this week's puzzle doesn't have an Independence Day theme, wasn't feeling the spirit of the thing this year -- but Bastille Day is just around the corner, which is more suiting my mood!). Please put the contest answer word in the subject line of your e-mail. To print the puzzle out, click on the image below and hit "print" on your browser.




Happy 4th, solve well, and be not led astray by words intended to deceive.