1/30/09

MGWCC #035 -- Friday, January 30, 2009 -- "They've Got It All"

Ahoy, Fellow Cruciverbalists! Welcome to Week 35 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:

Last week's puzzle wasn't MORONIC, but that was the contest answer word. The puzzle's three theme entries -- TAUSIG MAZE TAXI, CHIPS? I BET A PIETA! and the hard-to-parse THE T.A. ALP HAM, U NU consisted entirely of thirteen different Greek letters sandwiched together: tau + sigma + zeta + xi, chi + psi + beta + pi + eta, and theta + alpha + mu + nu.

The contest instructions told solvers they'd need to anagram another grid entry to get "one of the eleven you didn't need," and most found MORONIC at 55-across, which is an anagram of omicron. Solution grid at left.

As you might guess from the forced nature of the last theme entry, coming up with reasonable-sounding phrases made entirely of Greek letters isn't easy. In fact, I think it's unlikely this theme was possible before the handily-surnamed Ben Tausig became a known figure to cruciverbalists. I came up with the theme while looking at a list of Greek letters, when there suddenly appeared before me the name Tausig hidden in successive letters (backwards, but still; in an e-mail, Ben mentioned that he'd noticed this himself).

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 108 correct entries received, is Jared Dawson of Santa Barbara, Calif. Jared has selected as his prize an autographed copy of Gridlock.

ONE THING:


Next week I'll begin the new prize system (see last week's post for more details, and next week's post for a full recap), but one thing I'll mention now is that a given month's puzzles will get more difficult as the month progresses, as most newspapers' puzzles get more difficult as the week progresses. So the puzzle that appears on Feb. 6th will be a relative softball, while the puzzle I run on Feb. 27th will make your kidneys hurt.

To get you used to that rhythm, today's puzzle, as a last-of-the-monther, is pretty tough...well, the meta-puzzle might be very tough, so much so that I'm going to give two prizes out for this week: one, a regular book prize given, as normal, to a randomly chosen entrant with the correct contest answer words; and two, the first MGWCC pen/pencil/notepad set to a randomly chosen entrant with the correct contest answer words who did not use Google at any time while solving either the puzzle or the meta-puzzle.

I'm not sure anyone can get the meta without Google so this is my way of finding out! IMPORTANT: if you didn't use Google at all, please put the words DIDN'T GOOGLE in the subject line of your entry. I'll assume you Googled if you don't include these words (and there's no shame in it; Googling is allowed during regular MGWCC solves, and again, I'll be impressed if anyone can get this meta-puz without using it). [UPDATE, 1/30, 5:20 PM ET: Three hours after sending out the Google Group e-mail, I don't have a single answer submitted, correct or not.][UPDATE #2, 1/31, 12:35 AM ET: now have five correct answers, all with Googling.]

The gauntlet having been laid down, I now present...


THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:


This week's contest answer words are the first and last names of three famous people, as indicated in the grid. One person's first and last names total eleven letters, the second person's total twelve letters, and the third person's total thirteen letters. E-mail them to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer words (and DIDN'T GOOGLE, if you didn't) 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.

1/23/09

MGWCC #034 -- Friday, January 23, 2009 -- "Three Thirteen-Letter Phrases"

Ahoy, Fellow Cruciverbalists! Welcome to Week 34 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:

Pain was promised, and pain was delivered! Wounded by accusations that the puzzles and meta-puzzles were getting too easy, I lashed out like a cornered wombat last week, declaring that 50 or fewer correct entries would land in my mailbox. I received a mere 36 right answers, thus restoring my cruciverbal alpha malehood. The human psyche is a delicate and often ridiculous thing.

Last week's puzzle featured no immediately obvious theme -- the only nudges the solver received were three asterisked clues, which yielded the entries MERIDIAN, MINISTER and RIB, plus mention in the instructions that the contest answer phrase was four words long and a total of seventeen letters.

Many solvers noticed that MERIDIAN, MINISTER and RIB total seventeen letters [UPDATE -- no they don't, but it worked anyway! -- see below] and theorized that the answer might be an anagram of them: among the answers submitted along these lines were MISTER, I'M NERD BRAIN; A BAD-BRAINED MASTER; and RIB DINNER MIME STAR. The entrant submitting the last one, having spent several hours on what he assumed had to be an anagram of the asterisked words, appended the following note with his entry:

If this isn't an anagram, I will track you down...

Just try it, buddy! Dude knows karate and isn't afraid to use it.

No, the seventeen letters in the asterisked entries was just a taste of that fish known as red herring, and it never tasted so nice as it did this week as I perused the lamentations of my anagramming solvers [UPDATE: wait a sec, those total 19 letters, or 18 with the crossing of MINISTER and MERIDIAN...what kind of a subpar trap was that, and how did so many of you fall for it?] Those who got past this trap realized that the word prime can precede all three of these asterisked words to make a common phrase...and another common phrase, READY FOR PRIME TIME, which last week's contest answer, conceals itself in the prime numbered grid squares. See solution grid at left (OK, for some reason Blogger isn't letting me upload the solution grid right now -- I'll post it when they do. If you'd like to see it now, it's downloadable at the Google Group page or at Joon Pahk's writeup here:

http://crosswordfiend.blogspot.com/2009/01/mgwcc-33.html

[UPDATE: OK, I figured it out, solution posted above left -- but read Joon's excellent writeup at the above link anyway.)

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 36 correct entries received, is Norm Chafetz of Austin, Tex. Norm has selected as his prize an autographed copy of Sip & Solve Hard Crosswords.

TWO THINGS ABOUT PRIZES:


1) I fell way behind on sending out prize books, but they're all in the mail as of about four hours ago. If your surname is Chafetz, Chodorow, Fineman, Fogarty, Gilbert, Kalustian, Kazmer, McVann, Sassouni or Tebbe, your book is now in the hypercompetent hands of the United States Postal Service.

I'm sorry these took so long -- I know it's annoying to win a prize and then wait up to eight weeks to receive it. I was good during the first six months of the contest in getting books out right when people had won, but then around the holidays things got busy and I kept deprioritizing it with the ol' "it's just one more week" rationale. So apologies to those who've been waiting a long time for their loot -- it's en route as we speak.

2) Having shown myself unable to reliably send out one prize per week, I now announce...NEW PRIZES! That's right -- those of you who wonder why MGWCC prizes aren't more merit-based, wonder no more. Beginning in February, I'll be sending out 10 MGWCC-emblazoned pen, pencil and notepad sets at the end of each month to lucky winners who've correctly deduced every contest answer word in that month's puzzles. Weekly book prizes will continue unaffected by the new loot. More details next week!

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

After last week's hellish solve, Jeffrey Krasnick submitted his answer -- I AM COMPLETELY LOST -- and wrote:

Bring back the easy ones!

OK, OK...

One of the grid entries in this week's puzzle anagrams into one of the eleven you didn't need. This grid entry is this week's contest answer word. E-mail it to me (the actual entry in the grid, not its clue number) at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. 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. 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.

1/16/09

MGWCC #033 -- Friday, January 16, 2009 -- "I Need Your Undivided Attention"

Ahoy, Fellow Cruciverbalists! Welcome to Week 33 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:

Holy guacamole -- shattering all previous MGWCC records, 154 solvers correctly figured out last week's contest answer word, which was EDAM. Only two incorrect answers came in, but for the record: the puzzle's theme consisted of four famous EDs whose first and last names anagram to a verb. These yielded the theme entries ED ASNER ENDEARS, ED KOCH CHOKED, ED AMES SEAMED, and ED BURNS BURDENS. That third entry begins with EDAM, which was hiding at 24-down. Solution grid at left (not that anyone needs it).

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 154 correct entries received, is Jeff McVann of Chicago, Ill. Jeff has selected as his prize an autographed copy of Gridlock.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

Quite a few solvers have e-mailed that the past two MGWCC puzzles were a little on the easy side. 154 correct entries last week bolsters that claim, so this week I made things a little tougher. Let's just say I'd be surprised to get 1/3 that number of correct answers this week. Good luck!

[UPDATE, 1/16/09, 4:25 PM ET: it's been one hour since I sent this week's Google Group e-mail out, and I've received exactly 1 correct entry. An hour after last week's e-mail went out I had 17 right answers.]

This week's contest answer phrase is four words long and a total of seventeen letters. It describes what you, the solver are if you're able to finish this week's crossword and figure out the contest answer phrase. E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer phrase 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.

1/9/09

MGWCC #032 -- Friday, January 9, 2009 -- "Edverbial Phrases"

Ahoy, Fellow Cruciverbalists! Welcome to Week 32 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:


I guess last week's puzzle was easy, since a record 118 entries -- every single one correct -- flooded the cavernous offices of MGWCC. Everyone figured out the four theme entries -- NAAN ANNA, TOOT OTTO, POOP OPPO, and SEES ESSE -- and successfully anagrammed the eight letters found twice in these eight words to get TEASPOON, which was last week's contest answer word.

Got a lot of mail about the clue at 1-across, an answer-specific trap that hooked many solvers. At four letters, {Cusack of "Say Anything," "High Fidelity" and "Grosse Pointe Blank"} was the gimme JOHN, of course...except that his sister JOAN also acted in those movies, and she was the right fit here.


Garrett Hildebrand
writes:

I could not understand what the hell was wrong with 3D.
I had H_AL_N with no idea of Myrdal's name except I had
AL_A and no idea of ___ Pepe but I had TI_. I decided it
must be Alia and Tia so that left me with HIALAN and it
sure did not look right! Later, when I had access to a
computer I googled and got Alva and Tio, and then I had
HVALON.

You know, not only were the Cusacks in those three movies,
but [former MGWCC champ -- MG] Lee Knutson discovered they were in ten! Oh, so wicked.


This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 118 correct entries received, is G.S. of whereabouts unknown. Updated when I hear from him, my fault for the late notification [UPDATE, 1/9/09, 5:05 PM ET: that would be Garo Sassouni of West Hollywood, Calif. Garo has selected as his prize an autographed copy of Sip & Solve Hard Crosswords].

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

The first four letters of one of this puzzle's theme entries also appears as its own entry somewhere in the grid. This four-letter grid entry is this week's contest answer word. E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. 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. 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.

1/2/09

MGWCC #031 -- "The Inversion Version" -- Friday, January 2, 2009

Ahoy, Fellow Cruciverbalists! Welcome to Week 31 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:


Storylines intertwined at MGWCC last week, but 94 solvers nevertheless puzzled out the correct contest answer word, OXTAIL. Judging by the e-mails, about a quarter of all solvers got OXTAIL but weren't quite sure it was correct, or why.

The puzzle's three theme entries consisted of phrases where the letters R-A-T had been replaced by the letters O-X. This was, of course, in reference to the Chinese lunar calendar, where 2008 and 2009 correspond roughly to the Year of the Rat and the Year of the Ox. So "spoiled brat" became SPOILED BOX, "milk crates" morphed to MILK COXES, and "frat brother" turned into FOX BROTHER. Solution grid at left.

Besides the obvious OX part, how precisely did OXTAIL flow from that? Well, switch from China to Germany and check out the puzzle title: the Pied Piper of Hamelin rid that town of rats, and solvers had similarly rid the grid of three of its four RATs via the OX-idized theme entries. "Play the Piper" -- i.e., give the same treatment to the fourth rodent at 11-down, RATTAIL -- and you finally arrive at last week's contest answer word. Phew!

This week's contest winner, whose name will be randomly chosen from the 94 correct entries received thus far plus any I get by noon, will be posted later today [UPDATE, 11:15 AM: Did I really just post the answer to a contest an hour before the entry deadline passed? Eric Maddy informs me that I did...whoops.][UPDATE #2, 1/3/09: This week's winner is Victoria Gilbert of Portland, Ore. Victoria has selected as her prize an autographed copy of Movie Crosswords.]

Scott Clay writes in with his entry:

This answer is coming to you direct from somewhere off the coast of Guatemala. We are on a cruise and coincidentally Oxtail Soup is on the menu!

TWO THINGS:

1) A bevy of solvers wrote in that BORGS at 5-across in last week's puzzle isn't an acceptable pluralization: One of them was Ron Byron, who points out that:

Borg is singular and plural, so you can't refer to them as BORGS.

2) Justin Smith writes to mention that he's got a special "Twelve Days of Puzzles" feature going on at his site. The contest is currently on Day Four, so there's plenty of time for newcomers to catch up:

http://justinspuzzles.com/

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's puzzle revolves around eight letters. Anagram them into a common unit of measurement to get this week's contest answer word. E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. 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. 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.