11/26/09

MGWCC #078 --Friday, November 27th, 2009 -- "Regional Variation"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 78 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:


For the third straight week MGWCC featured a geography theme that solvers knocked out of the park. Solution at left.

221 solvers noticed that each of last week's four theme phrases consisted of the letters OF embedded in the name of a country:

GERM OF ANY --> Germany
SOFA MOA --> Samoa
CHO FILE --> Chile
ROOF MANIA --> Romania

The contest instructions told solvers they were looking for a "familiar Thanksgiving food," and two entries across the middle of the grid told them how to find it: STUFF A NATIONAL / BIRD THE SAME WAY.

"National bird" was not meant literally as the national bird of a country, but rather as an echo of the four theme entries: a nation that's also a bird. That could only be Turkey, and, appropriately for Thanksgiving, solvers stuffed Turkey (with OF, same as the other four countries) to come up with last week's contest answer, the incredibly delicious food product known as TOFURKEY.

Sounds complicated when I write it out like that, but 221 correct entries is high for a third-week puzzle, so not all that many were successfully tricked.

Last week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 221 correct entries submitted, is Geoff Greene of Knoxville, Tenn. In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set, Geoff will receive a 50-puzzle subscription to Peter Gordon's new Fireball Crosswords (which already has almost 200 subscribers!).

ONE THING:

I have an article in Slate today about anticipated crossword themes:

http://www.slate.com/id/2236024/

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's puzzle looks like it only has five theme entries -- starred for your solving convenience -- but a sixth theme entry lurks within the grid. This week's contest answer is that hidden sixth theme entry. E-mail it to me (the actual grid entry itself, not its clue number) at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Wednesday at noon ET (note the extra day this week, given due to the long holiday weekend). 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 Google Group (970 members now!) here.



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

11/20/09

MGWCC #077 -- Friday, November 20th, 2009 -- "Middle of Somewhere"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 77 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:

For the second straight week MGWCC featured a geography theme that solvers knocked out of the park.

The puzzle's five theme entries featured two-word geographical references turned into nonsense phrases by a pair of "earmuff" letters:

Ellis Island -- (H)ELLIS(H) ISLAND
Port Jefferson -- (O)PORT(O) JEFFERSON
St. Helena -- (E)ST(E) HELENA
Ada, Oklahoma -- (M)ADA(M) OKLAHOMA
Lake Erie -- LAKE (S)ERIE(S)

Guided by parenthetical numbers in the clues (which many solvers felt unnecessary) 247 entrants put together the mnemonic device those earmuffs formed --HOMES, which was last week's contest answer. That word is also a "LAKE SERIES," since it helps you never forget Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior.

Brian Albus writes:

This theme came to me rather easily, as I am from Michigan, the Great Lakes State. I remember when they tried to add Lake Champlain to the list, which would've totally messed up the HOMES acronym (SCHMOE?)

Last week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 247 correct entries submitted, is Shari Guida of Peoria, Ariz. Shari has selected as her prize an autographed copy of Sip & Solve Hard Crosswords.


THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:


This week's contest answer is a familiar Thanksgiving food.
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 Google Group (959 members now!) here.

SPECIAL PRIZE FOR THE NEXT FOUR WEEKS:

Instead of receiving a book written by me, MGWCC winners over the next four weeks will receive a 50-puzzle subscription to Peter Gordon's new Fireball Crosswords. This is the rubric under which Peter has brought back his New York Sun crosswords, which ceased production last year when its host newspaper folded.

It's a minor injustice that America's most innovative crossword puzzle editor no longer has a newspaper to call home, so I'm very pleased to support and publicize Peter's new endeavor.



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

11/13/09

MGWCC #076 -- Friday, November 13th, 2009 -- "On the Strait Where You Live"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 76 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:

That wasn't very hellish, was it? 269 solvers found the right direction last week, correctly submitting EAST as the contest answer word.

The top three theme entries were famous people to whose first name you can add a direction (or two) to make a U.S. state: CAROLINA HERRERA (South/North), VIRGINIA WOOLF (West), and DAKOTA FANNING (South/North). The last theme entry, HAVE NO DIRECTION, nudges the solver in the same -- well, in the same direction. Only one missing is EAST.

Many solvers (first was Chip Van Kirk) noticed how clever it was of me to have the contest answer word also be the first word in the clue to 1-across. Truly clever or simply serendipitous? I'd rather not say.

Last week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 269 correct entries submitted, is Frank Colangelo of Murrysville, Penna. Frank has selected as his prize an autographed copy of Sit & Solve Commuter Crosswords.

THREE THINGS:

1) DON'T WAIT UNTIL FRIDAY:

Did you know? You don't have to wait until Friday to find out the answer to MGWCC. Every Tuesday at noon ET -- right as the contest deadline arrives -- Joon Pahk does a write-up of MGWCC which reveals the previous week's solution. You can find Joon's commentary at the Crossword Fiend website, which is here:

http://crosswordfiend.blogspot.com/

2) DELAY OF GAME (PRIZES):

Slight delay in sending out Hell Month prizes -- they're all going out on Monday. That box of MGWCC notepads wasn't as full as it looked and I had to order more.

3) ANOTHER PALIN PUZZLE:

No Palin-dromes in this crossword, but still funny.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer is five letters long. 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 Google Group (952 members now!) here.



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

11/6/09

MGWCC #075 -- Friday, November 6, 2009 -- "Ain't No Way"



We prevailed at last against our final challenge, a monstrous (though somehow comical) green ogre. Yet our victory was a Pyrrhic one -- in the final tally, just 36 members of our cruciverbal band survived the month.

We rejoice in the ultimate success of our undertaking while mourning the loss of 291 brave brothers and sisters. We rest assured, however, in the knowledge that we shall fight at their side again, for the seers tell us this:

the whimsical gods have decreed that a similar challenge shall present itself to us in springtime of the coming year...and this challenge will surpass October's in testing the minds and strength of us all...


LAST WEEK'S RESULTS:

68 solvers located the five-letter Halloween costume hidden in last week's grid -- or, more precisely, in the grids of all five Hell Month puzzles.

Last week's four nine-letter theme entries were variations on the previous four Hell Month meta solutions: EDGAR A. POE, BLACK CATS, NOSFERATU, and ZAGNUT BAR. This nudged solvers towards the idea that the previous puzzles might be useful in solving the meta (solution at left).



A fifth theme entry across the middle of the grid was the big hint: UNLUCKY ALL MONTH. There's not much unluckier than the number 13, which prompted solvers to look back at the letter in the grid square marked "13" in each of Hell Month's five puzzles (such as the K in KINDS at 13-down last week).

These five 13-squares, read in chronological order, yieleded that lovable movie ogre (and popular Halloween costume) SHREK, who was last week's contest answer word.

The puzzle's title ("65 to Stay Alive") helped several of the math teachers among MGWCC solvers find the meta quickly, since they instantly noticed that 65 divided by Hell Month's five puzzles equals unlucky #13.

Last week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 68 correct entries submitted, is Emily O'Neill of Vancouver, B.C. Emily has selected as her prize an autographed copy of Gridlock.

And so Hell Month '09 draws to a close. Congratulations to the following 36 survivors, each of whom submitted the correct contest answer to each of October's five puzzles -- and each of whom will receive a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set:

Joel Alderson -- Andover, Kan.

Scott Atkinson -- Springfield, Mo.

Thomas Brendel -- Atlanta, Ga.

Jonathon Brown -- Louisville, Ky.

Marcie Bunnell -- Dover, Del.

Joe Cabrera -- Boston, Mass.

Mark Diehl -- San Jose, Calif.

Laura Dove -- Longmeadow, Mass.

Meg Duvall -- St. Petersburg, Fla.

Dan Feyer -- New York City, N.Y.

Elissa Grossman -- Santa Monica, Calif.

Jeffrey Harris -- Nashville, Tenn.

Barbara Hartwell -- Framingham, Mass.

Benjamin Henri -- Royal Oak, Mich.

Richard Kalustian -- Tacoma, Wash.

Eric LeVasseur -- Tustin, Calif.

Julian Lim -- Philadelphia, Penna.

Tyler McLemore -- Louisville, Ky.

Pete Mitchell -- Bow, N.H.

Tim Mitchell -- Snohomish, Wash.

Jonathan Olsen -- New York City, N.Y.

Joon Pahk -- Somerville, Mass.

Trip Payne -- Boca Raton, Fla.

Brendan Emmett Quigley -- Cambridge, Mass.

Al Sanders -- Fort Collins, Colo.

Jed Scott -- Rockford, Mich.

Justin Smith -- Germantown, Md.

Steve Smith -- Winchester, Mass.

Rebecca Soble -- Istanbul, Turkey

David Stein -- Silver Spring, Md.

Karen von Haam -- Mashpee, Mass.

Mike Weepie -- Cedar Rapids, Ia.

Scott Weiss -- Walkersville, Md.

David Wild -- Washington, D.C.

Stephen Williams -- Holbrook, Mass.

John L. Wilson -- Shoreview, Minn.


With eight winners from the Bay State, we might say the prizes I'm sending out will constitute a "Mass mailing."


ANOTHER SPOOKY SUITE OF PUZZLES:


Ready for more spooky autumn puzzles? Pick up the Nov. 15 issue (on sale now) of Wine Spectator magazine, where I have a seven-puzzle whodunit entitled "Murder by Malbec."

It's available online to subscribers only, but I'd suggest getting a hard copy of the magazine anyway -- the artwork is beautiful and the large size of the magazine makes playing winery detective even more fun. One of the coolest projects I've ever gotten to work on in my puzzle career.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

There are three points you need for this week's MGWCC. This week's contest answer is the fourth point, the one you don't need. 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 Google Group (942 members now!) here.



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