8/28/09

MGWCC #065 -- Friday, August 28, 2009 -- "Dancing With the Stars"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 65 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:


What do the Egyptian god THOTH, the city of MIAMI, the surnames of crossword writer Harvey ESTES and actress Anne HECHE, and the car make VOLVO all have in common?

None of them have ever been in Cliff Clavin's kitchen, true -- but each is also a five-letter word featuring the letter pattern 1-2-3-1-2. Other theme words in this category were SALSA, VERVE, UNFUN, TONTO, SENSE, ONION, and EDGED.

Solvers were asked to find a famous author whose surname fits this pattern -- as well as the surname of one of that author's characters, which also fits. 179 entrants found the pair and the contest answer phrase: KAFKA SAMSA, referring to Prague-born Franz Kafka and his semi-autobiographical character Gregor Samsa (from The Metamorphosis). Solution at top left.

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 179 correct entries submitted, is Tony Antonakas of Ellicott City, Md. Tony has selected as his prize an autographed copy of Sip & Solve Hard Crosswords.

E-MAIL OF THE WEEK:

Anne Erdmann writes:

Ever do one of those crosswords where it seems like every entry is about you? This one was kind of like that for me. I’ve been to the Stans, geol. is my earth sci. career, I’m hoping my next trip is to Ethiopia where I can see the Blue Nile falls, I’ve spent the night in Lome, and a guy I dated briefly in college was a student of Ahmed Zewail’s (who let me tell you I NEVER thought I would see in a crossword!, and which was my first answer in this one).

TWO THINGS:

1) Looks like my Daily Beast 21x21 will be a weekly feature running on Friday mornings. Here is this week's puzzle:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2009-08-27/the-weekend-crossword-tennis-everyone/?cid=hp:beastoriginalsC2

2) I'll also be posting a current events-based word puzzle series every Thursday at the Faster Times. Here is the debut puzzle from yesterday:

http://thefastertimes.com/puzzles/2009/08/27/puzzle-1-can-ub-serious/

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:


Last puzzle of the month -- and I can't tell how tough the meta is. So far in August we've had 245, 202 and 179 correct entries, and anything between 75 and 150 wouldn't shock me this week. So let's see...

The five theme entries in this week's puzzle are not in their correct order. This week's contest answer is their correct sequence.

Note that I have labeled each theme entry with a number from 1-5 based on its position in the grid. So if, for example, you think theme entry #4 should be first, #3 should be second, #5 should be third, #1 should be fourth and #2 should be fifth, you would submit as your entry 4-3-5-1-2.

Please separate the numbers in your entry with hyphens as I did in this example. E-mail your entry to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com 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 download the free software here, then join the Google Group (823 members now!) here.



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

8/21/09

MGWCC #064 -- Friday, August 21, 2009 -- "Almost A Murmur"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 64 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:

Taken out of context, the letters A-E-S-O-P look more like a random handful of Scrabble tiles than anything else. But a second look confirms that they're actually AESOP, the Greek slave who's credited with some of the most famous stories in the world.

He was also last week's contest answer word, as all four of that puzzle's theme entries -- LION'S SHARE, CRYING WOLF, GOLDEN EGGS, and SOUR GRAPES -- are taken from his oeuvre. 202 solvers found him hidden at 27-down, where the awkward partial POSEA reverses to AESOP. Solution at top left.

Many solvers mentioned missing the name completely on the first run-through of entry reversals. Wholly understandable, since it features an odd pattern of letters for English speakers and I semi-deviously placed POSEA as a down entry in order to trick solver eyes a little more (mentally reversing an across entry is somewhat easier). Four entrants even sent in the almost-plausible DOG'S YALP as their answer, overlooking AESOP completely.

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 202 correct entries submitted, is Marie Nadeau of Hampden, Me. Marie has selected as her prize an autographed copy of Sip & Solve Hard Crosswords.


LETTERS OF THE WEEK:


One fascinating aspect of running this contest has been the personal stories of where, when and how solvers tackle my puzzles. Les and Sam Wagner write:

[We] may now possibly hold the Matt Gaffney Crossword Contest land speed record. We solved this puzzle while traveling approximately 150 mph on a bullet train somewhere between Barcelona and Madrid.

While Finn Vigeland explains:

I've attached a photo to show you the lengths I went to solve this puzzle. I was in a car ride the whole day with nothing to do, en route to a location without Internet for my computer, just the edge network for my phone. So I found the only piece of paper in the entire car and did my best to re-create the grid as I went along.



















Now that's dedication!

ONE THING:

I have a 21x21 crossword up at The Daily Beast today.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer phrase consists of the surname of a famous author AND the surname of one of his characters. Taken together, they would've made an excellent theme entry this week. E-mail them 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 download the free software here, then join the Google Group (810 members now!) here.



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

8/14/09

Friday, August 14, 2009 -- MGWCC #063 -- "Moral Hazard"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 63 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:

Last week, Brendan Quigley and I asked Rex Parker for a random phrase that we each then worked into a crossword theme published on our respective sites. Full write-up on that below, but first let's take a look at the MGWCC results.

245 entrants deduced that HATCHET MAN was last week's contest answer, as it was the only theme entry appearing in both my and Brendan's puzzles. Solution at top left.

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 245 correct entries submitted, is Bruce Schechter of Brooklyn, N.Y. Bruce has selected as his prize an autographed copy of Sip & Solve Hard Crosswords.

Re how easy this puzzle was compared to the previous two, Pam Fowler writes:

TGIFF...

[the first F stands for "first"]


CROSSWORD CONTEST CONFIDENTIAL:


Brendan and I asked Rex for a random 10-, 11- or 15-letter phrase, specifying those lengths because they're the least awkward to fit into a 15x15 grid. Rex's phrase was HATCHET MAN, which, had this been a Rorschach Test instead of a crossword entry, would've caused me some alarm.

I went to work, and came up with absolutely nothing. Nada. Zippo. Several dead ends included:

*** political phrases that start with the surname of a politician
*** phrases that end with the anagrammed five-letter name of an artist (MANET)
*** TOMAHAWK CHOP, HATCHET MAN, and AXE BODY SPRAY (in addition to the obvious symmetry problems, I thought this idea was too obvious to use, although another constructor subsequently made it work elegantly -- see below)

So, with only three days left before deadline, I IM'ed Brendan with an offer to bury the hatchet idea and pretend the contest never happened. Only problem was, Brendan had come up in the meantime with a HATCHET MAN theme idea he liked. Here's our instant message exchange, edited to remove an irrelevant side conversation we had (also, SPOILER ALERT: Brendan didn't wind up using the theme we discuss below in our contest, but he did post a puzzle using that theme today on his site. So if you plan to solve that puzzle, be warned I'm about to give away its theme here):

Matt: hey
Brendan: what's up
Matt: have you come up with anything decent for HATCHET MAN?
Brendan: half decent
Matt: I've got nothing but lameo ideas
I was going to offer you that we bail on the idea
I will accept the shame to Rex
Brendan: well
4:08 PM as luck would have it
This Friday marks the 13th anniversary of my first-ever published puzzle
Matt: so you'd rather do that instead?
Brendan: no
I am going to mention it tho
4:09 PM so if you want to shitcan the idea, I do have something to talk about
Matt: oh ok -- if you have a semi-decent idea let's go ahead -- my ideas are sort of lame, publoishable but lame
Brendan: well
do you want to share the ideas or keep them under wraps?
Matt: I think the point has been made (to my satisfaction anyway) that you can't just pick a random phrase and build a crossword about it
4:10 PM well I guess it's cheating but my idea is HATCHET MAN, AXE BODY WASH, TOMAHAWK CHOP
*AXE BODY SPRAY
Brendan: oh
mine's called "Swingers Party"
Matt: I also thought of phrases that start with a senator's name
4:11 PM Brendan: answers are going to be HATCHET MAN, TARZAN THE APEMAN, ALBER PUJOLS
etc.
(maybe not Tarzan)
Matt: oh that's awesome!
Brendan: PITFALL HARRY
Matt: brilliant!
Brendan: let's go with it
Matt: yes, let's -- I'll try to come up with something more clever


So I'm thinking how clever that BEQ is, and what a fool I was for only seeing the words in HATCHET MAN and not the phrase's meaning. What else do people do but swing hatchets? They chop with them -- and so my AMERICAN CHOPPER theme was born. So in a sense we can give Brendan credit for three themes from the original phrase -- the concept behind mine, plus the Superheroes and Swingers' Party themes he published on his site (in a minor piece of redemption, however, I gave Brendan the "Unlikely to save the day" subtitle to his Superheroes theme).

But wait a second -- does Brendan's wife Liz get the credit for one of these themes? Read all about it here!

And you didn't think you were getting away with only three HATCHET MAN puzzles, did you? Of course not. Alex Boisvert and Mark Diehl have each taken a whack at the idea as well. Their puzzles are here:

http://www.crosswordfiend.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=283


ERRATUM:

Eric Maddy points out that at 45-down in last week's puzzle, the Mexican food brand is "Old El Paso," not simply "El Paso." Eso es un error, si.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer is formed by reversing one of the grid entries in today's puzzle. 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.

To print the puzzle out, click on the image below and hit "print" on your browser. To solve using Across Lite download the free software here, then join the burgeoning Google Group (802 members -- big week, thanks Rex!) here.



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

8/7/09

MGWCC #062 -- Friday, August 7, 2009 -- "Give It a Whack"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 62 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:


Dontcha hate it when people give away the ending? In last week's puzzle, the (clue) ending itself gave away the answer in eleven cases.

Solvers plowed through a very difficult crossword to come up with the following riddle spread among the theme entries:

ENDINGS OF ELEVEN / REVEAL TOO / MUCH SO USE / THEIR BEGINNINGS

Solvers then noticed that eleven of the clues in the grid ended with their answers. They were:

1-A {Rammed, as with one's truck}
7-A {Effortlessly fooled}
10-A {No longer interested in, as a former lover}
25-A {Animal found on prairie land}
55-A {Sign you may be a touch ill}
70-A {Light watercraft}
71-A {Water, pour Cousteau}
75-A {If your boat's facing west, it's eastern}
3-D {Apparently angered}
12-D {Fours and sixes, but not sevens}
23-D {Not here}

Take the first letter of each ending-revealing clue (emboldened above), anagram them, and you've got July's final answer: FINAL ANSWER? -- which we've all heard Regis asking nervous contestants on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?"

The anagram itself stumped (or caused stumbles for, at least) many solvers, who naturally went looking for WHO / WHAT / WHY / WHERE / WHEN / HOW in that H-less mix and got a little perplexed not to find any of those natural question words.

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 104 correct entries submitted, is Julian Lim of Philadelphia, Penna. Julian has selected as his prize an autographed copy of Gridlock.

MONTHLY PRIZES:

Tough month of puzzles here at MGWCC -- from the 232 solvers who got the first puzzle of the month, only 25 wound up also getting all of the next four. The following lucky ten were chosen at random from that group and will receive a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set. Congratulations!

Martin Allen -- New London, Conn.

Thomas Brendel -- Atlanta, Ga.

Joanna Cheng -- Canberra, Australia

Jeremy Horwitz -- San Francisco, Calif.

Randie Lipkin -- New York City, N.Y.


Pete Mitchell -- Bow, N.H.

Tim Mitchell -- Snohomish, Wash.


Matthew Perez-Stable -- Fairview Park, O.

Spencer Thomas
-- Ann Arbor, Mich.

John L. Wilson -- Shoreview, Minn.



THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

Brendan Quigley
and I are running an amusing cruciverbal experiment on our sites today. I was wondering a few weeks ago whether a crossword constructor could use any random phrase as a theme entry, coming up with the theme itself only after settling on a phrase.

Brendan thought that was an interesting question, so he and I asked Rex Parker to seed us a phrase, and we both built a theme around it. Solve both Brendan's and my puzzle today and you'll see what the phrase was! I intended this to be a friendly competition between BEQ and me, but in the end my worthy "opponent" gave me a major assist on my theme so it wound up as more of a co-optition. I'll post a full write-up about that next week so future crossword historians don't have to guess.

This week's contest answer is the theme entry Rex Parker gave Brendan and me to use in our puzzles today. 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.

To print the puzzle out, click on the image below and hit "print" on your browser. To solve using Across Lite download the free software here, then join the burgeoning Google Group (734 members!) here.



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