3/27/09

MGWCC #043 -- Friday, March 27, 2009 -- "Please, No Calls"


Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 43 of my 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:


It's tough for me to gauge the difficulty level of the meta-puzzles. I had expected about 130-150 correct answers, but the meta turned out to be tougher than that -- when the entry window closed on Tuesday, just 73 correct answers had landed in my mailbox, along with 29 incorrect entries. Most popular guesses among the incorrect answers were SAN DIEGO (7 entries) and LAS VEGAS (5 entries).

Nice towns, but the correct contest answer city was BILLINGS. This week's winner, whose name was selected at random from the 73 correct entries received, is Arnold Reich of Bronxville, N.Y. Arnold has chosen as his prize an autographed copy of Gridlock.

Arnold and 72 others completed the trip to BILLINGS by noticing that the four theme entries (SALES GLINT, OLDEN TEMPI, BACON BITTE, and NOISE LOVER) each consist of two five-letter words. Change one letter in each of those words, and you're left with the name of an American city:

SALES --> SALEM
GLINT --> FLINT
OLDEN --> OGDEN
TEMPI --> TEMPE
BACON --> MACON
BITTE --> BUTTE
NOISE --> BOISE
LOVER --> DOVER

Anagram the eight replaced letters (emboldened above) and you're left with Montana's largest city -- and last week's contest answer word.

Doug Peterson writes:

I grew up in Billings! (I also lived in Butte for
a while, so it was cool to have "Butte" involved in one of the
theme answers.) When I was a kid, it was always a big thrill
to see Billings, or Montana, mentioned in a national setting.
And MGWCC is transhemispheric, so that's even cooler!


While Jill Palmer says:

My ideal puzzle is one which seems impossible so I almost quit, then I go back and look at it again and get it. This was one of those.

That's my ideal when I construct them, too -- hopefully I'll hit that every week. But as I mentioned above, I often can't predict how many people a meta will trip up, so I somewhat sheepishly offer the March 2009 end-of-month MGWCC...

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS
:

This week's contest answer word will be of varying lengths. I must receive your entry by Tuesday at noon ET.

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.

3/20/09

MGWCC #042 -- Friday, March 20, 2009 -- "This Town Has Changed"


Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 42 of my 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:


After chewing on it for a while, 172 solvers figured out last week's contest answer phrase, which was LUNAR ECLIPSE. They'd noticed that each of the four theme entries in the crossword -- CAREFREE LIFE, BIG RED MACHINE, WENT INTO ORBIT and A LITTLE EXTRA -- each contained a brand of chewing gum. LUNAR (at 2-down) and the gum brand ECLIPSE (at 38-across) combined to answer the riddle given in the contest answer instructions. Solution at top left.

This week's winner, whose name was selected at random from the 172 correct entries received, is Joanna Cheng of Canberra, Australia (!--MGWCC goes transhemispheric). Joanna has chosen as her prize an autographed copy of Gridlock.

TWO THINGS:

1) Last week's puzzle was an exercise in theme frustration for me: I was pleased with neither the final theme entries nor the ugly black square pattern in the grid.

I came up with the gum idea and hit upon the trick of referring only to "sticks" in the clues, leaving it up to the solver to figure out what kind of sticks were being referenced. An extra theme entry hidden among two fill words would make a nice contest answer phrase, too -- so on paper, this looked like a winner.

But the letters, these blasted letters -- sometimes they don't want to cooperate. My original theme entries were (the Gordon Lightfoot song) CAREFREE HIGHWAY, BIG RED MACHINE, ORBIT THE EARTH, and EXTRA-something with ten letters to balance the theme entries out.

That would've made for a nice 15-13-13-15 set of theme entries, but one problem -- they all have the gum at the beginning of the phrase, and I couldn't come up with a good contest answer phrase that also began with its gum. LUNAR ECLIPSE ends with the brand name, while the other possibilities (Trident and Stride were the other two main ideas after Eclipse) didn't yield anything useful either.

In the end I wound up with what I thought were one very good phrase (BIG RED MACHINE) but also three not very image-evoking phrases (CAREFREE LIFE, WENT INTO ORBIT -- I'd've preferred LAUNCH INTO ORBIT but the letters don't work out with the rest of the theme -- and A LITTLE EXTRA). The theme lengths were also suboptimal (12-13-13-12) and let to an ugly black square pattern and high black square count (41). As a final kick in the teeth, I needed to add the black squares in the fourth box over in the top row (and its corresponding SE corner black square) since I couldn't fill in what would've been the 4x7 block in the upper left (I did the lower right 4x7 fine, though).

In sum, this one turned out OK but won't be going in The Best of MGWCC, Vol. 1. How I suffer for my art.

2) The Boston Crossword Puzzle Tournament, organized by Joon Pahk, will be held on Sunday, April 5th. See the website for more information, including registration (note that all contestants must register in advance; there'll be no walk-in registration on the day of the tournament.)

http://www.bostoncrosswordtournament.org/


THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:


This week's contest answer word is an American city with eight letters in its name. 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.

3/13/09

MGWCC #041 -- Friday, March 13th, 2009 -- "Stick It!"


Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 41 of my 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:

New record! 197 solvers correctly figured out last week's contest answer phrase, which was TYLER HINMAN, of course. Only received four incorrect entries, the two best of which were PAYNE HEANEY and TYLER HINTON. Solution at top left.

17-across (THAT'S FIVE IN A ROW) nudged solvers towards the right answer (Tyler having now won five ACPTs in succession), while 58-across gave them some wordplay to cement it: BEHEAD THE TOP TWO indicated not only the (figurative!) beheading of runners-up Trip Payne and Francis Heaney, but also what solvers had to do to the two top entries in the grid, STYLER at 1-across and THIN MAN at 7-across. Behead them (i.e., remove their first letter) and you get the contest answer phrase. Bravissimo to Tyler for winning, to three-time champ Trip for yet another finals appearance, and to Francis for his second visit to the finals.

This week's winner, whose name was selected at random from the 197 correct entries received, is E.C. of whereabouts unknown (I only alerted E.C. today that she'd won; when I hear back I'll update with her city/state and book choice).[UPDATE, 3/23 -- the winner is Ellen C. of North Carolina. Ellen has chosen as her prize an autographed copy of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Spanish-English Crossword Puzzles.]

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer phrase is two words and a total of twelve letters long, and is comprised of two fill entries somewhere in the grid. The phrase answers the clue: "Sticks they brought along on the Apollo 11 mission?" 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.

3/6/09

MGWCC #040 -- Friday, March 6, 2009 -- "And Still Champion"


Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 40 of my 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:


145 solvers correctly figured out last week's contest answer word, which was ACPT, of course (you know, that other crossword contest). Each of the five theme entries in the grid (CAT PEOPLE, ACT PROPERLY, PAT CASH, CAPTAIN EO, and PACT OF STEEL) began with some combination of those four letters. Solution grid at top left.

Several solvers gave me mild grief for referring to ACPT as the "contest answer word," but I figured "contest answer initialism" would've been too much of a gimme.

This week's winner, whose name was selected at random from the 145 correct entries received, is Margaret Hoglund of Walla Walla, Washington. Margaret has chosen as her prize an autographed copy of Sip & Solve Hard Crosswords.

AND THE MONTHLY WINNERS ARE...

Ah, but we have some other prizes to award today, don't we? That's right, it's time to distribute to 10 lucky and skillful winners the inaugural MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad sets! These names were randomly selected from the 21 entrants who submitted correct entries for all four of February's puzzles.

The monthly winners are:

Stan Brunner -- Jackson, Tenn.

Ken Crowell -- Halifax, Nova Scotia

Andrew Feist -- Newport News, Va.

Alice MacIsaac -- Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia

Eric Maddy -- Huntington Beach, Calif.

Joon Pahk -- Cambridge, Mass.

Jim Silvestro -- Hasbrouck Heights, N.J.

Scott Weiss -- Walkersville, Md.

Dave White -- Leawood, Kan.

Stephen Williams -- Holbrook, Mass.


Congratulations to our 10 winners! If you're one of them, please e-mail me your address so I can send you your loot. Also, I'd like to update the winners' names with their cities/states of residence -- if you're one of the winners and don't want your city/state listed, please let me know.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer phrase is two words and a total of eleven letters long. 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.