1/29/10

MGWCC #087 -- Friday, January 29, 2010 -- "Gimme Your Digits"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 87 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:

178 solvers noticed a pattern in last week's seven theme entries:

BE BRAVE
AT AGINCOURT
BY BUGGY
IN ISOLATION
GO GONZO
ON OCCASION
EL ESCORIAL

What's the common thread? Each entry consists of a two-letter word followed by a word that starts and ends with those same two letters (XY X...Y is another way several solvers expressed it).

Hunt the two lists of game show hosts provided and you'll find none other than TY TREADWAY, host of "Merv Griffin's Crosswords" during its 2007-2009 run. Also famous for being this week's contest answer.



Eric Maddy writes:

This shouldn't have taken me as long as it did -- I was on the show, I oughta be freaking familiar with the guy...

Other answers submitted:

HOWIE MANDEL -- 32 entries (this was a "blatant red herring," according to one solver, and I plead guilty. The parenthetical part of 33-across's clue explains the popularity of this answer, though it can't be counted as correct since it doesn't address the theme entries)

BOB BARKER -- 5 entries (these solvers noticed the alliteration, but not the full XY X...Y pattern)

ART LINKLETTER -- 4 entries ("a wild guess because of so many 'linked' letters," as one entrant put it)

BEN BAILEY -- 4 entries (entrant: "Not sure about this one, but I could imagine you watching 'Cash Cab'")

Plus a couple of ED MCMAHONs, then one each of PAT SAJAK, CHUCK WOOLERY and BOB GOEN.

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 178 correct entries received, is Tom McCormick of Richmond, B.C. Tom has chosen as his prize an autographed copy of Sip & Solve Hard Crosswords.

GIFT CARD PRIZES:

The following five winners, selected randomly from the 178 correct entries received, win $10 iTunes gift cards:

Foggy Brume -- Phoenix, Ariz.

Russ Cooper -- Phoenix, Ariz.

Lee Knutson -- Irvine, Calif.

Jonathan Porat -- Gainesville, Fla.

Joe Sampson -- New Hampton, N.H.


Congratulations to all winners!

DOUBTING THOMAS:

I stated last week that no solver had mentioned the slight asymmetry in MGWCC #085. But Thomas Brendel had indeed e-mailed me the week before:

It wasn't until after I'd finished the puzzle that I noticed you cheated the symmetry of the black squares.

CHINA VS. GOOGLE HEATS UP!


A traveling Jack Gaede writes:

China is blocking your website...I'd love to try this week's crossword contest, but I can't get to your site to download the file.

Withholding a traveling solver's access to crosswords? Not cool.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This puzzle's two 15-letter entries will hint at what you need to send in as this week's contest answer. E-mail your 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.

SPECIAL PRIZES (AGAIN!) THIS WEEK:

One more time! Five randomly selected solvers this week will win $10 gift cards from the iTunes store. These prizes are sponsored by Stand Alone, creators of Crosswords for iPhone.

As I mentioned last week, I'm working with Stand Alone on a very cool project that I'll write more about in the near future.

[Note: as with last week, a normal book prize will also be awarded to a randomly-chosen solver this week, unaffected by the gift card prizes.]

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 (1,053 members now!) here.



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

1/22/10

MGWCC #086 -- Friday, January 22, 2010 -- "My Metapsychology"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 86 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's puzzle contained five two-word theme entries, each of which exhibited a peculiar feature:

RUHR RIVER
EVERYONE ELSE
DERIVED DEMAND
GREG GRUNBERG
ANA ALICIA

See it? 240 solvers did (solution, top left). They noticed that each of two words in these phrases both starts and ends with the same letter. A scan on clues for a sympatico pair led them to 1-across {"Success!} and 24-down {Stories}, which merge to form last week's contest answer, SUCCESS STORIES.

This week's success story, whose name was chosen at random from the 240 correct entries received, is Judy Pozar of Leverett, Mass. In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set, Judy will receive a 50-puzzle subscription to Peter Gordon's new Fireball Crosswords.

Also: nobody mentioned the grid's asymmetry!

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer is a familiar game show host. If you're not up on your game show hosts, this person's name is found on one of these two lists. E-mail this host's name to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer in the subject line of your e-mail.

SPECIAL PRIZES THIS WEEK:

Five randomly selected solvers this week will win $10 gift cards from the iTunes store. These prizes are sponsored by Stand Alone, creators of Crosswords for iPhone.

I'm working with Stand Alone on a very cool project that I'll write more about in the near future.

[Note: a normal book prize will also be awarded to a randomly-chosen solver this week, unaffected by the gift card prizes.]

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 (1,048 members now!) here.



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

1/15/10

MGWCC #085 -- Friday, January 15th, 2010 -- "Aenigma Alphabetica"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 85 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:

Which well-known body of water hides in the phrases NORA MARCONI, BALE PARODIST, SPRUCY LIPITOR, ERECT SAMISEN and ACUTE HORDES? The Mediterranean Sea, naturally, which was last week's contest answer.

Well, maybe not so naturally -- after 283 correct entries came in the first week of January, a mere quarter of that -- 71 total -- arrived for week 2. That's not supposed to happen, which means I severely underestimated the difficulty of this meta (which left quite a few solvers unhappy with the sudden incline). Solution at top left.

Those who did find The Med noticed that each of the five theme entries consisted of one anagrammed city on the Mediterranean plus one anagrammed island in it:

NORA MARCONI --> Oran + Minorca
BALE PARODIST --> Elba + Port Said
ERECT SAMISEN --> Crete + Messina
SPRUCY LIPITOR --> Cyprus + Tripoli
ACUTE HORDES --> Ceuta + Rhodes

My logic in assigning this second-week difficulty was: solvers only had to notice one of the easier anagrams (like ERECT/Crete or BALE/Elba) to get a toehold into the theme, and didn't need to get all 10 to know they were right (many solvers mentioned missing Port Said and/or Minorca, for example, but they still knew they had the right body of water). I didn't fully appreciate how tough it was to spot the initial pattern, though.

Laura Dove found this tiny (population 43!) alternative solution to Port Said, while commenter cybergoober at Diary of a Crossword Fiend writes:

Nobody posted a comment yet about how these are THE_MED entries? Hmm?

Last week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 71 correct entries received, is Jose Chardiet of New Haven, Conn. In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set, Jose will receive a 50-puzzle subscription to Peter Gordon's new Fireball Crosswords (over 500 subscribers!).

Note: Fireball Crosswords finally debuted last week, so we'll return this week to the normal book prizes.

LINKS YOU'LL LIKE:


Patrick Berry
has a new website up, featuring info on his books and puzzle gigs. But definitely start by looking at this photo of the cool house he lives in.

John Farmer has a new cinema/puzzle website called MAD About Movies. January features a three-crossword contest you can enter here. I solved the first one and it was a lot of fun.


THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:


This week's contest answer is the two clues (note: clues, not grid entries!) in this puzzle that, when combined, would have made an excellent sixth theme entry. E-mail these two clues to me (the clues themselves, not their clue numbers) 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 (1,041 members now!) here.



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

1/8/10

MGWCC #084 -- Friday, Jan. 8, 2010 -- "Water You Looking For?"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 84 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:

Not much of a meta, but one helluva constructor: the great MERL REAGLE was last week's contest answer, as we celebrated his 60th birthday with a 21x21 full of Merl-centric puns (a la the master himself).

Dan White writes:

My [all-time] favorite grid entry of Merl's was the wine FETZER EAGLE PEAK MERLOT, which has his name embedded inside.

Wonderful -- I hadn't seen that entry, but it captures delightfully Merl's skill in spotting the wordplay hidden in everyday language.

Happy birthday, Merl!

Last week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 283 correct entries submitted, is Scot Lockman of Atlanta, Ga. In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set, Scot will receive a 50-puzzle subscription to Peter Gordon's new Fireball Crosswords (almost 500 subscribers!).

Note: Fireball Crosswords finally debuts next week, so we'll do one more week of subscription prizes to it, after which we'll return to the normal book prizes.


REMEMBER, REMEMBER THE TWELVE OF DECEMBER:

The following dozen solvers were selected randomly from the 29 who submitted the correct contest answer for each of December's four puzzles. Each lucky winner will receive a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set.

Toby Berla -- Durham, N.C.

Eric Berman -- Indianapolis, Ind.

Stan Brunner -- Jackson, Tenn.

Jon Delfin -- New York City, N.Y.

Neville Fogarty -- Lexington, Va.

Richard Kalustian -- Tacoma, Wash.

Nick Meyer

David Moulton -- Princeton, N.J.

Jill Palmer -- Leverett, Mass.

Jed Scott -- Rockford, Mich.

Justin Smith -- Germantown, Md.

David Stein -- Silver Spring, Md.


Congratulations to all winners!

XAN IS DA MAN:


If you haven't checked out Xan Vongsathorn's New York Times crossword from yesterday (Thu. 1/7/10), do so. It's one of the cleverest crossword themes you'll see in 2010.

Another of the cleverest themes you'll see all year is this companion puzzle Xan wrote -- which was (mystifyingly!) rejected by both the Times and at least one other outlet.

He also keeps a fascinating and wide-ranging blog, from where I take the following visual puzzle:



Take a look at the photograph of Xan above, and come up with three guesses as to how the effect was achieved. Then go here to see the surprising explanation.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

Geography time! This week's contest answer is a well-known body of water. 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.[UPDATE, 1/8/10, 3 PM ET: Todd Dashoff points out that I meant "Star Trek" in the clue to 16-across, not "Star Wars." Oops...Trekkies, set phasers on KILL!]

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 (1,035 members now!) here.



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

1/1/10

MGWCC #083 -- Friday, Jan. 1, 2010 -- "Merlin' the Wizard"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 83 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 didn't think Santa did all that present-wrapping himself, did you? Don't be so naive...of course he has help. 149 solvers uncovered Santa's secret (and last week's contest phrase) by spotting the five ELFs hidden backwards in grid entries:

FLEAMS
FLEM
RIFLERY
REFLECT
FLESH

The first theme entry had nudged readers toward the Elfish presence (GERMAN FOR ELEVEN was the grid entry, and the German number eleven is "elf"). The second theme entry told them how many to look for (FIVE ARE HIDDEN), while the last told them what to do to find the two-word contest answer phrase (USE HIDING PLACES).

Take the 14 non-ELF letters in those five words and you get AMSMRIRYRECTSH, which anagrams to last week's contest answer phrase: MERRY CHRISTMAS. An obvious choice of phrase, I'll grant you -- but pitchers have to float the occasional cantaloupe right over the middle of the plate, just so the counterintuitive doesn't become intuitive.

Last week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 149 correct entries submitted, is Joe Gori of Oxford, Conn. In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set, Joe will receive a 50-puzzle subscription to Peter Gordon's new Fireball Crosswords (almost 400 subscribers!)

WHOOPS!

Busy week here and I blanked on choosing and notifying monthly prize winners. I'll announce them next week -- and to make up for the lapse I'll award 12 stationery sets for December instead of the normal 10.


THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:


A 21x21 this week! If you're going to stylistically imitate an artist, better use his preferred canvas.

This week's contest answer is ten letters long, the first and last name of this puzzle's honoree. 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 (1,019 members now!) here.



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