12/25/09

MGWCC #082 -- Friday, December 25th, 2009 -- "Your Secret, Santa?"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 82 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:

2010 is coming up, which is MMX to our Ancient Roman friends -- and movie folk, whose films will soon date themselves thusly in the credits.

203 solvers noticed that each of the four movie-related answers consisted of two words or phrases, each of which contained our new year (and contest answer):

COMMIX MEMOREXES
MIRAMAX LUMMOX
MAD MAX MIMIEUX
FLUMMOX MALCOLM X

John Reid writes:

Embarrassing note: for a minute or two I actually thought that MMX was a new film rating that was being introduced, until I realized that it’s just 2010!

And from Brian Albus:

I was on vacation and had my iPhone, but didn't have a printer, so I solved this one by hand.



Last week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 203 correct entries submitted, is Jim Schooler of Laguna Beach, Calif. In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set, Jim will receive a 50-puzzle subscription to Peter Gordon's new Fireball Crosswords (almost 400 subscribers!)

FOR YOUR HOLIDAY VIEWING PLEASURE:


I'd be remiss if I didn't link to perhaps the greatest of all "South Park" episodes, "A Woodland Critter Christmas." Note: do not watch if you are easily, or even somewhat easily, offended by just about anything! Also, do not read the one-line description of the episode underneath the title, with which the webmasters of this site annoyingly give away one of the episode's secrets.

http://www.southparkstudios.com/episodes/103853


THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer is a two-word phrase.
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 download the free software here, then join the Google Group (1,012 members now!) here.



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

12/17/09

MGWCC #081 -- Friday, December 18th, 2009 -- "Film Complex"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 81 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've been pretty lousy lately about guessing how many solvers will get a meta. I'd aimed for more than the previous week's 140 solvers to get Week 80, but far fewer actually did -- 88 solvers total -- and about half those 88 figured the meta out without fully grokking the puzzle's gimmick! That's something I didn't realize would be possible when writing the puzzle.

Nudged by the long entry PLAY THE BACK NINE, solvers realized that nine clues in the grid not only yielded their grid entries, but also their grid entries' reversals. So we had:

1-a {Dark feeling} --> DOOM (or MOOD)
5-a {Man's name from the Hebrew} --> ARI (or IRA)
8-a {They go in drawers} --> SPOONS (or SNOOPS -- this entry was solvers' favorite, judging by e-mails)
15-a {___ IS MY CO-PILOT (popular bumper sticker)} --> GOD (or DOG)
17-a {Seaweed is a source of it} -- NORI (or IRON)
23-a {Word on the label of some bottles of alcohol} --> LAGER (or REGAL, as in Chivas Regal)
42-a {1940s Agatha Christie title word} -- LIVE (or EVIL -- referencing her 1946 novel Evil Under the Sun and her 1942 autobiography Come, Tell Me How You Live)
52-a {Former head of Latin lands} --> TUPAC (the line of Incan kings, or CAPUT, the Latin word for "head")
70-a {#1, say} --> SPOT (or TOPS)

Take the first letter of those nine reversed words (emboldened above) and you get last week's contest answer word, MISDIRECT.

Last week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 88 correct entries submitted, is Brett Rose of Chicago, Ill. In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set, Brett will receive a 50-puzzle subscription to Peter Gordon's new Fireball Crosswords (over 300 subscribers!)

HOW I CAME UP WITH THE META:

Last week's rather intricate theme and meta took me around four hours to work out (that's excluding constructing the grid and cluing). Here's what happened:

I began with the idea that I wanted the theme to have something to do with reversal. October was Hell Month, November somehow became Geography Month, and December was turning into Backwards Month (since abandoned; this week's puzzle doesn't have anything to do with reversals).

I rejected several theme ideas before hitting on the one I wound up using. One of the rejects was having several clues read backwards (such as having a clue for NORWAY read {Country cold} but I couldn't get enough clues' syntax to make sense reading both ways.

Then I got the notion to have certain answers rather than clues read backwards. Was it possible to have clues that led to not only their answers, but also to their answers' reversals? The first one to pop into my head was the bumper stickers GOD IS MY CO-PILOT and the one riffing off it, DOG IS MY CO-PILOT. Were there enough others, I wondered? And hopefully ones more than three letters long, since too many triads seemed a bit simplistic.

Off the top of my head I made a list of well-known reversible pairs such as STRESSED/DESSERTS, NAMETAG/GATEMAN, and REWARD/DRAWER. Then I fleshed these out by scouring online lists of such words ("anadromes" is the technical term for them, I learned from solvers this week).

After an hour of trial and error I had come up with around two dozen decently doubly-cluable word pairs, including seven of the nine I wound up using in the puzzle. The next step was to look for a decent meta.

The obvious and good idea was to have the first or last letter of each word spell something. But what? There had to be some kicker phrase in the grid nudging solvers towards the answer as well. The phrase PLAY THE BACK NINE made it into my head (15 letters, perfect), so a nine-letter meta sounded good. Nine also seemed like a high-but-doable number of reversible entries to conceal in the grid.

I saw some random nine-letter words formed from the letters I had available, but having something random as the answer (such as AMSTERDAM) seemed unsatisfying; better to make it something relevant. After a couple of dead ends MISDIRECT jumped out. That would be fairly perfect, I reasoned: a familiar nine-letter word that describes the theme gimmickry with precision.

One problem: my list of two dozen candidate pairs contained only one word ending in I (ARI from ARI/IRA) and no C at all. But MISDIRECT fit so well that I figured my cruciverbal brain could will I and C pairs into existence without too much trouble.

Well, it turned out to be a lot of trouble -- another hour's worth -- but in the end I found what I felt were two elegant solutions to the problem. I pored over all kinds of lists of words that end in I, then subjected each one to a pair of tests: 1) does the word reverse into something that passes for another word, and, more problematically, 2) can that reversed word and the original both be clued identically?

I gave up on MISDIRECT several times during this process, resigning myself to the fact that there weren't any decent entries fitting these two criteria that ended in I and C. Then, suddenly, on a list of I-ending words of four letters, I saw NORI.

I've stuffed enough sushi into my cakehole over the years to know that the seaweed they wrap rolls in is called NORI, and my heart skipped a beat when I saw its reversal: didn't I read somewhere that seaweed is a good source of IRON? Please, I said to the crossword gods, let it be so.

And so it was. Per wikipedia:

Nori is a source of vitamin A, B, C1, iodine, protein (1/5 of milk <100ml>, 1/5 of an egg), fiber (31.2mg/100g), and carotene. It also contains a great deal of calcium and iron. For example, 100g of yaki-nori has 4.4g of protein, 280mg of calcium, and 11.4mg of iron.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nori


So there was my second I: {Seaweed is a source of it}. Minorly syntactically challenged, I'll grant you, but definitely keepable.

Now, what about that C? Joon Pahk pointed out in comments to his Tuesday blog post that I could have used CUB and BUC (that's short for a Tampa Bay Buccaneer) and clued it as {Player on a 2003 playoff team}. Didn't notice that one at the time, but I sure would've used it if a) I'd seen it and b) I hadn't lucked into the semi-miraculous TUPAC/CAPUT reversal I wound up with.

I'd been focusing on three and four-letter C words, naturally, but having come up empty (and missed BUC/CUB), I was extremely reluctant to throw in the towel on MISDIRECT. So, not expecting much of it, I expanded my search to look at 5-letter words ending in C.

And, after some more dead ends, there was TUPAC -- not the rapper gunned down in Vegas, but the series of Incan kings he named himself after. Three years in the Walt Whitman High School Latin Club taught me that CAPUT is Latin for head.

Could I unearth a workable clue out of those two? A few minutes' worth of massaging led to {Former head of Latin lands} -- which, again, is a little challenged on the syntax, but I took it.

And so a MGWCC theme was born.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer is three letters you're going to start seeing at the movies soon. 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 download the free software here, then join the Google Group (1,001 members now -- we hit four digits, baby!) here.



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

12/11/09

MGWCC #080 -- Friday, Dec. 11th, 2009 -- "Flip Answer"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 80 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:


We're doing December backwards, so last week's puzzle and meta were the toughest of the month (I think). Ergo I was a little impressed that 140 solvers figured out the fairly subtle theme: each of the four theme entries contained a sequence of four letters in reverse alphabetical order. So we had:

PUTS RIGHT TO WORK
UPON MY WORD
TALK JIVE TO
STUFFED CABBAGES

Entries were in reverse alphabetical order, naturally -- all the way up to the title, CRAZY XWORD, which was itself another example of the theme.

Two solvers sent along related strings:

***Dave White points out that the backwardly sequential MLKJ is the initials of Martin Luther King, Jr....

***...while Peter Gordon mentions a 2006 New York Sun crossword entry in a puzzle written by Alan Olschwang: OVERSTUFFED CHAIR, which contains both a forward 4-letter sequence (RSTU) and a backward one (CDEF).

Last week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 140 correct entries submitted, is Tim Noonan of Delmar, N.Y. In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set, Tim will receive a 50-puzzle subscription to Peter Gordon's new Fireball Crosswords (almost 300 subscribers!)

ERRATUM:

Several solvers (Meg Duvall was the first) pointed out that I botched the name of Virginia's current governor, who is Tim Kaine, not Tom Kaine.

And I live in which state? Virginia...

MINI-PUZZLE RESULTS:

Last week I challenged solvers to figure out the logic by which November's 10 monthly prize winners were listed. Just 14 solvers realized they were arranged in alphabetical order by state capital (or provincial capital, in the case of Ontario).

Since fewer than the 20 people stipulated actually entered (you slackers!) I chose one of the 14 at random to win the coveted MGWCC pen. That winner is Jason Chan of Urbana, Ill.

ONE THING:

Amy Reynaldo's Diary of a Crossword Fiend blog has a whole new look! Go poke around -- maybe try Joon Pahk's recent freestyle 15x15 here, or Rex Parker's latest here.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer is a word whose length is revealed in the entry at 39-across. 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.[UPDATE, 12/11, 3 PM ET: OK, this might turn out to be tougher than last week's -- maybe a lot tougher! An hour after posting, only two correct answers have come in. Yikes!][UPDATE #2, 12/11, 4 PM: two hours after posting and we're still only up to 7 correct entries. No doubt about it, this is a toughie.]

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 (993 members now!) here.



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

12/3/09

MGWCC #079 -- Friday, Dec. 4th, 2009 -- "Crazy Xword"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 79 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 fourth straight week MGWCC featured a geography theme that solvers knocked out of the park. Solution at left.

Yes, the unannounced (and mostly unplanned) motif last month was geography, and last week that meant New England. The previous three weeks' entry totals had diminished progressively as intended (269 the first week, 247 the second, 221 the third), but the pattern stopped this week as 280 correct entries poured into MGWCC headquarters.

Those solvers noticed that the five unhidden theme entries each began with the first four letters of a New England state:

CONNoisseur --> Connecticut
MASSacring --> Massachusetts
VERMicelli --> Vermont
MAINtenance --> Maine
NEWHart --> New Hampshire

Solvers were asked to find the hidden sixth theme entry, and those who noticed the pattern had no trouble locating RHODA at 15-across as the correct contest answer word. Only Rhode Island was missing from the set, and the 1970s sitcom character provided it.

Last week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 280 correct entries submitted, is B. Chandrasekaran of Columbus, O. In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set, B. will receive a 50-puzzle subscription to Peter Gordon's new Fireball Crosswords.

MONTHLY PRIZES:

64 solvers (one for each square on the chessboard) sent in correct contest answers for all four of November's puzzles. The following lucky ten were chosen at random from that group and will receive a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set:

Justin Redd -- Towson, Md.

Barbara Hartwell -- Framingham, Mass.

Greggo Johnson -- Pittsburgh, Penna.

Patrick Jordan -- Ponca City, Okla.

Jim Sherman -- Falls Church, Va.

Jordan Chodorow -- Los Angeles, Calif.

Pete Muller -- Santa Barbara, Calif.

Michael Morowitz -- Chicago, Ill.

Amy Reynaldo -- Chicago, Ill.

Julie Stern -- Ottawa, Ont.


Congratulations to all winners.

MINI-PUZZLE: one MGWCC pen (winner's choice of color) to the 20th solver who e-mails me the logic behind the order in which these ten winners are presented above.

DECEMBER DISORIENTER:

I thought everyone could use an easyish November following Hell Month, but it appears October's wounds have healed right up. I received many e-mails lamenting the not-quite-killer difficulty level of the past two puzzles -- and besides, it doesn't seem right to make the puzzles tougher the deeper we get into the holiday season.

So we're doing December backwards: today's crossword and meta are the toughest of the month, and the one that appears on Christmas Day will be the easiest.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer is a one-sentence explanation of what ties this puzzle's four theme entries together (syntax may vary, but the theme can be easily explained in one sentence). E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put as much of your sentence as possible 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 (985 members now!) here.



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