5/29/09

MGWCC #052 -- Friday, May 29, 2009 -- "Signing Bonus"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 52 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:

You like me -- you really, really like me. Or at least you really liked last week's crossword, whose metapuzzle got the best reception of any MGWCC thus far (I received about 15 e-mails from solvers who named this meta their personal favorite).

My guess for number of correct entries was 100, but in the end 128 solvers correctly deduced that the murder of Mr. Boddy was performed by Miss Scarlet, in the library, with the rope, which was last week's contest answer. I accepted as correct any entry that contained those three pieces of information, whether or not the wording was precise (didn't feel it would have been right to reject entries without the exact syntax I was aiming for, since the contest instructions asked only for who, where, and with what). Solution at left.

How was Miss Scarlet's treachery exposed? The puzzle's one theme entry (41-across) told solvers to look for EIGHT THAT END IN 2. Detective-solvers noticed that the eight clues that end in the number 2 each had an alternate answer that spelled out the crime's details. For example, 2-down was clued as {Ark. neighbor} and yielded the answer OKLA; but Arkansas also borders Mississippi, so could have yielded MISS as well. 12-down was clued as {___ fever} and led to the answer RUNS A; but SCARLET might also have worked.

In full, the alternate answers were:

2-down MISS
12-down SCARLET
22-across IN
32-down THE (the very awkward clue here was a big hint for many solvers)
42-down LIBRARY
52-down WITH
62-down THE (that's the French word for "tea")
72-across ROPE

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 128 correct entries received, is Judi O'Brien of Birmingham, Mich. In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set, Judi will receive last week's special prize, an autographed copy of Eric Berlin's new puzzle-based mystery novel The Potato Chip Puzzles.

TWO THINGS:

1) Next week is the one-year anniversary of MGWCC. Prepare yourself!

2) As a last-of-the-monther, today's crossword is...well, it is rather difficult. In months (like the current one) that contain five Fridays, the final puzzle will be extra-tough. I'm estimating 75 correct entries, and for the first time with a MGWCC, I had a test-solver go through the meta to make sure it was gettable. Judging by her reaction, I suspect she'd be surprised if even 50 right answers came in.

Without further ado...

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer is the answer to the five-part riddle contained in the grid. E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer in the subject line of your e-mail.

Note: there are four possible answers to this riddle, and any of the four is acceptable. Once you get one of the four, the other three will quickly follow anyway.[UPDATE, 5/29, 4:45 PM ET: first correct answer has been received!][UPDATE #2, 5/29, 5:10 PM ET: second correct answer has been received!][UPDATE #3, 5/29, 6:00 PM ET: six correct entries have now come in, and solvers have found two additional correct answers to the riddle, meaning there are a total of six possible correct answers.]

To print the puzzle out, click on the image below and hit "print" on your browser. To solve using Across Lite, join the burgeoning Google Group (633 members!) here:

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



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

5/22/09

MGWCC #051 -- Friday, May 22, 2009 -- "Clues Are Clues"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 51 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:

Well, this wasn't supposed to happen! MGWCC puzzles are meant to get tougher as the month progresses, yet 196 solvers submitted the correct contest answer phrase last week, compared to 187 the week prior. This aberration from the natural order has made the puzzle gods very angry with me; to appease them, I am forced to get medieval on you people with the last two puzzles in May, starting with today's. Hope you're happy.

First things first, though: last week's contest answer phrase was JOHN JAY, first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (and governor of New York, among other things). Solvers found him via the puzzle's four theme entries: CRASS CALLS, GINGER GOOD, MOVER'S MANE and SALLY SOUND. Each of these phrases is formed by moving "One Down" (the puzzle's title) from the phrases "brass balls," "finger food," "lovers' lane," and "rally round" (see top left for solution).

Following the instructions, solvers noticed that 22-down (KOHN) and 53-down (KAY) could be moved one letter up the alphabet to get our hero, JOHN JAY.

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 196 correct entries received, is Andrew Hatchell of Raleigh, N.C. Andrew has selected as his prize an autographed copy of Gridlock.

E-MAIL OF THE WEEK:

Eric Maddy writes:

I suspect I'm not the first one to get this right.

I'd dare to speculate that I'm the only one who was wearing a "John Jay College of Criminal Justice Bloodhounds" t-shirt as they solved the puzzle, though.


And he even sent proof! Check out that crime dawg:



ERRATUM:

Forgot to mention this last week, but several solvers pointed out that at 19-across in MGWCC #049, the clue {Like some sins} was incorrect for VENAL. The term I was thinking of was "venial," not VENAL.

This looks like a true eggcorn, since "venial" and "venal" are not etymologically related and it makes sense that a type of sin would be "venal."

Interesting story: over the past month I've been re-watching all the "Sopranos" episodes, and was laughing at a scene where Paulie mentions "venial" sins. I thought it was a malapropism/eggcorn, which the writers of the show famously and frequently put in the characters' mouths. Turns out Paulie had it right!

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest is a murder mystery based on the game Clue. Somebody killed Mr. Boddy -- but whodunit, which room did they do it in, and with what weapon? This week's contest answer is the answer to all three of those questions. If you need a refresher, the list of possible suspects, scenes of the crime, and instruments of death are listed under "The Basics" here. Solve this dastardly crime and e-mail the contest answer to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer 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 burgeoning Google Group (614 members!) here:

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

SPECIAL PRIZE THIS WEEK:

In keeping with the mystery theme, the winner of this week's contest will receive an autographed copy of Eric Berlin's new puzzle-based mystery novel The Potato Chip Puzzles.



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

5/15/09

MGWCC #050 -- Friday, May 15, 2009 -- "One Down"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 50 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:

187 solvers found the BROKEN BONES hidden in last week's theme entries (I'd been hoping for 206 but it was not to be). Solution at top left.

Our ossuary concealed a broken rib, ulna, anvil, and sternum, hidden thusly:

HENRI BECQUEREL
BEAUTIFUL NAME
GERMAN VILLAGE
REGISTER NUMBER

Solvers had been instructed to find a perfect title for the puzzle in two of the grid's entries, and 41-across and 9-across provided it.

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 187 correct entries received, is Ellen Gadow of Pittstown, N.J. Ellen has selected as her prize an autographed copy of Sip & Solve Hard Crosswords.

Jim Sempsrott provides further theme material:

I didn't want to rush into solving your puzzle last week. After making some safe murky progress with the theme entries, I finally got them and I blew it by not e-mailing you the answer! I bet I biased your statistics by not entering. My heart sank, leaving me with dashed hopes of winning a soon-to-be collectible pen/pencil/notepad set....Next on the puzzle vista, pessimism aside, I eagerly await the next crossword in May.

FUNNY STORY:

I've received a number of interesting e-mails over the past year wherein a solver will describe a chance event that finally unlocked a metapuzzle answer in their mind. This may be the best I've received in that category.

At 12:02 PM on Tuesday I got a correct entry from solver W.B., who is a surgeon. I informed him that his answer was right, but it had been sent two minutes too late. His response:

Damn. I usually pull up the puzzle Tuesday morning and think about the meta while seeing my morning patients [!-MG]. My last patient complained of her osteoporosis and how she broke a rib, arm (ulna) and bruised her sternum. I raced to the computer and could hear NPR doing the noon news, fearing it was too late, but the story was too funny not to tell you.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer phrase is a famous person from American history whose first and last names total seven letters. To figure this person's name out, take two grid entries and reverse the gimmick used in the puzzle's theme. E-mail the contest answer phrase 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 burgeoning Google Group here:

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




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

5/8/09

MGWCC #049 -- Friday, May 8, 2009 -- "[To Be Determined]"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 49 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:

As a first-of-the-month puzzle, last week's "Quite Quaint Quintet" was fairly easy, although there was a small (unintentional) trap in the meta. Solution at top left.

216 solvers correctly sent in the contest answer word, which was WATCH. They found it by noticing that each of the five theme entries consisted of three-word phrases wherein each of the three words began with the same letter. They were:

WEE WILLIE WINKIE
AGAIN AND AGAIN
TURNED THE TABLES
CHILI CON CARNE
HUBERT H. HUMPHREY

Take each of those first letters reading downward, and you've got WATCH. The contest instructions indicated that the contest answer word could be found somewhere in that day's blog post, and there it was in the first sentence ("I got to WATCH an...")

Keith Oppenheim writes:

Whew, four words into the blog, and yet I still used the "Find" tool to look for it... Makes me feel kinda dopey.

And then there was that aforementioned little trap in the meta. The great Bob Klahn writes:

Matt, while WATCH certainly ties your five theme entries together, I suppose a much lesser case -- but still a case -- could be made for THREE as well, since the LCD of the five theme entries is that they're all a sequence of three alliterative words.

Indeed, eight entrants did submit THREE as their answer. Occasionally there are reasonable cases to be made for alternative answers to the metapuzzles, though in the 11 months of MGWCC I've only accepted an alternative answer one time (the remarkable confluence of factors that led to a correct alternative answer in MGWCC #006; puzzle is here, explanation of answer here).

In this case I decided I couldn't allow THREE to be counted as correct, since the fact that there are three words in each theme entry isn't the most salient feature of them; the fact that they all start with the same letter is. WATCH speaks to this feature, while THREE doesn't.

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 216 correct entries received, is Jeremy Bronheim of Silver Spring, Md. Jeremy has selected as his prize an autographed copy of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Crossword Puzzles & Word Games.

TWO THINGS:

1) We hit 600 Google Group members this week -- nice! The inexorable march to 1,000,000 members rolls forward. Don't try to stop it.

2) Congratulations to Alex Boisvert, winner of last week's mini-contest, in which I challenged solvers to find a legit 15-letter phrase in which the only vowel used is U. Alex will receive a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set.

Alex's winning entry is the 2007 Paramore song CRUSHCRUSHCRUSH, but it was a close call -- so close that I enlisted the help of three ACPT champs to decide between that and Diane Rhodes' entry, BUCKBRUSH SHRUBS.

The pros and cons for each:

On the plus side, CRUSHCRUSHCRUSH is a legitimate song title by a fairly well-known band (the song reached #54 on the Billboard charts). On the minus side, it repeats words -- and, this shouldn't matter, but it's a horrible song (a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set to anyone who can listen to the entire thing without clawing their own ears off).

BUCKBRUSH SHRUBS gets points for being intuitive even if you haven't heard of it, but a Google search reveals its fatal flaw: "buckbrush" is a common term for the plant, and it is a shrub, but it's only rarely referred to as a "buckbrush shrub." For this reason the three champs (independently of each other) voted 3-0 in favor of CRUSHCRUSHCRUSH. Diane will receive a MGWCC pen, though, for her runner-up effort.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer consists of two entries in the puzzle grid which total eleven letters. Together, they form a phrase which is a perfect title for this week's puzzle. 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 burgeoning Google Group here:

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



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

5/1/09

MGWCC #048 -- Friday, May 1, 2009 -- "Quite Quaint Quintet"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 48 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:

I got to watch an intriguing all's-well-that-ends-well scenario develop with last week's crossword, "Disconsonant Vowels." As a month-ending puzzle it was supposed to be difficult, and it was: just 71 correct entries landed at my laptop's doorstep, fewer than 1/3 of the number submitted for the first puzzle of the month.

Last week's contest answer word was IOWA. Solvers needed first to notice that the 15x15 puzzle grid was divided into five bands, three squares high each, in which only one vowel appeared. The top band, comprising the top three rows in the grid, contained only the vowel A; the next band down, consisting of rows 4, 5 and 6 in the grid, contained only the vowel E; and so on through I, O and, filling the bottom three rows of the grid, U.

There were four exceptions, though, four vowels in the grid that were "disconsonant" (an old word meaning "out of place"). There were the I in AMIS at 1-across; the A in NAE at 31-across; the O in COLUMBUS SUBURBS at 63-across; and the W in HOW'S at 49-down.

This W was the source of controversy. I had thought it was common knowledge that W could be a vowel (maybe because I read this article as a teenager), but to many solvers it was not a familiar concept (even an ACPT champ told me he'd never heard of this). Others noticed that the W was a vowel in HOW'S, but not in the crossing word WOK, and this caused some confusion. Still others noted that W's vowel-hood is disputed by some linguists, and claimed the W in words like HOW'S only serves as half of a diphthong comprised of the O and W, not as a true vowel itself. See comments in Joon Pahk's write-up for more.

But there was a mostly happy ending, fortunately, as it turned out that a non-trivial number of solvers got the contest answer word without even noticing the W -- the disconsonant I, O, and A led them phonetically to IOWA. A few even admitted missing the O in COLUMBUS SUBURBS, arriving at IOWA via its postal abbreviation, IA!

But it wasn't all bad -- many solvers did unravel the meta as I'd intended and had nice things to say about the puzzle. But I do acknowledge that it's a fine line between a home run and a fly ball, and I regret that this meta landed with a thud for some solvers. Fortunately there were many paths to IOWA.

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 71 correct entries received, is Lyle Wiedeman of Irvine, Calif. Lyle has chosen as his prize an autographed copy of Golf Crosswords.

MONTHLY PRIZES:

Time to send a wave of MGWCC stationery across the land! 38 solvers sent in correct answers to all four of April's puzzles (CROSSWORD SOLVER, ROPE, MAJOR ARCANA, and IOWA). The following lucky ten were chosen at random from those 38:

Don Albright -- West Chester, Penna.

Eric Berman -- Indianapolis, Ind.

James Dale -- Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y.

Charles Hamlett -- Apex, N.C.

Matt Kelly -- Des Moines, Ia.

Bob Kerfuffle -- Carlstadt, N.J.

Nancy Schuster -- Pearl River, N.Y.


Jed Scott -- Rockford, Mich.

Ed Sills -- Austin, Tex.

Vega Subramaniam -- Seattle, Wash.

Each of our winners will receive a badass MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set. Congratulations!

THREE THINGS:

1) You may have noticed that COLUMBUS SUBURBS was the only theme entry that featured a disconsonant vowel. Try as I might, I simply couldn't come up with a usable 15-letter entry with no vowel but U. The closest I came was CRUNCH N MUNCH GUY, an infamously obnoxious snack vendor at Boston's FleetCenter. A little obscure, but even so I couldn't use him...because that Y at the end is a vowel, too.

So, mini-contest this week: a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set goes to whoever comes up with the best 15-letter entry using U's as the only vowels. If two or more people send in the same winning entry, whoever's entry was sent in first will receive the prize. Entries must be received by Tuesday at noon ET. [UPDATE, 5/1, 5:40 PM ET: I should clarify that these need to be actual, in the language phrases like the five in last week's puzzle, not made up phrases like SUNUNU HUNTS CURS.]

2) Bumper stickers now available: CROSSWORD LOVERS DO IT EACH MORNING AND ALL DAY SUNDAY, as a puzzle from last month put it -- and now these bumper stickers are available! Week 39 MGWCC winner Margaret Hoglund has posted her design at Bumper Art(search for "crossword"). I'm ordering one as soon as I post today's puzzle -- thanks, Margaret! It should go well with the six Ron Paul stickers already on my car.

3) Intriguing new way to make money at crosswords: Eric Berlin writes to tell about a new website called Kickstarter.com, where artists seek funding for various projects. Once adequate pledges are received, the money is collected and the artist gets to work.

Fascinating funding, and I'm monitoring it closely (and I'll be kicking in $10, right after I order my bumper sticker). Check out Eric's project here:

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ericberlin/crossword-puzzles


THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:


This week's contest answer is a common five-letter word that ties this puzzle's theme entries together -- and appears somewhere in today's blog post. 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.