3/26/10

MGWCC #095 -- Friday, March 26th, 2010 -- "Silence Is Golden"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 95 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:

PUTZ or YUTZ? That was the dilemma facing solvers at 76-across in last week's MGWCC challenge.

The clue was no help -- simply {Moron} from 43-across, which could have been either. How about the crosser? No help there, either -- {Dreidel, e.g.} could have been either TOP or TOY. So how to decide?

Many solvers tossed a coin, or discerned shades of meaning favoring one or the other pair. Others sensed something suspicious going on -- an 82-word grid with no obvious theme entries and some awkward fill set their cruciverbal antennae atwitter.

And rightly so, because 13 words in the grid began and ended with alphabetically sequential pairs: ARAB at 1-across, COD at 5-across, ENGULF at 8-across, and so on. Solution at top left with the relevant baker's dozen shaded.

Which brings us back to the original question: PUTZ or YUTZ? And YUTZ it was, as only it completes the pattern.

Rollicking comments section here detailing solvers' battles with this meta.

Infamous mocker of Kaidoku Amanda Yesnowitz writes, having been told why her entry PUTZ is incorrect:

But my YZ last name qualifies!! Doesn't that count for anything?? I guess Yesnowitz is also a yutz.

If you enjoyed this puzzle's theme, there's a 2006 New York Sun puzzle by Trip Payne you'll like as well. Its Across Lite file is located in the MGWCC archives under the filename "Payne" (and thanks to Peter Gordon for allowing me to host it here).

I can't say more without ruining the theme, but Trip tells me it's one of his favorite puzzles from his own oeuvre. Indeed it sports an extremely clever trick.

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 124 correct entries received, is Dean Scungio of Johnston, R.I. Dean has selected as his prize an autographed copy of Gridlock.

"DEAR SIR OR MADAM: HERE IS MY FIRST CROSSWORD"

I just moved (one apartment up from my old place) and found a piece of my crossword history buried in a box: the cover letter to my first crossword submission, received in the offices of Dell Champion Crossword Puzzles on March 4th, 1986. For years I thought I'd lost this for good, so you can imagine how stoked I am to have stumbled upon it (click image to enlarge).



On page 85 of Gridlock I described this letter (from memory, and slightly inaccurately):

The cover letter couldn't have helped since it was a stylistic monstrosity. Addressed to Wayne Robert Williams, editor of the once-great but now-defunct Dell Champion Crossword Puzzles, it radiated unprofessionalism since I'd typed it on college-rule paper. Picture the blue lines of rule ink bisecting entire lines of poorly-spaced text; not the way to make an impression on an editor.













THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer is a famous character from children's literature. 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 (1,144 members now!) here.



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

3/18/10

MGWCC #094 -- Friday, March 19th, 2010 -- "What Kind of An Idiot...?"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 94 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 obscure Florentine painter ONORIO MARINARI, circus impresario JOHN RINGLING, "The Facts of Life" star LISA WHELCHEL, and Dickens title character SAMUEL PICKWICK have in common? Their eight-letter surnames follow the amusing pattern 1-2-3-4-5-2-3-4.

What famous 20th-century American author's surname fits into this category as well? 162 solvers grokked it -- ROBERT HEINLEIN, who was last week's contest answer word.

Puckishly I had slipped Heinlein's full name into last week's post, at 28-down in the solution for MGWCC #092: {Robert Heinlein-coined word meaning "to understand deeply"}, which was GROK.

Via a database search Seth Grossinger found a name I missed: NFL coach Mike SHANAHAN. Seth explains this very nice find (and Alex Boisvert weighs in with his own extremely thorough search) in comments here.

Tim Tebbe (who also found Mike SHANAHAN) wonders:

Let's see...did Sean Bean ever write a book?

While Christy Meisler writes:

Before I got SOBE for 53-down, I was pondering _O_E. "Pepsi can't possibly have bought Coke! I would've heard!"

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 162 correct entries received, is Nancy Taubenslag of Yonkers, N.Y. Nancy has selected as her prize an autographed copy of The Pocket Idiot's Guide to Brain Games.

ERRATUM:

Several solvers (including, appropriately, Peter Washington) pointed out that WSU (46-down) is in Pullman, Washington, not Walla Walla.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer is the four-letter entry at 76-across. 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: in the past I've been lenient about accepting second answers from solvers who've had a sudden revelation after submitting an incorrect first answer. This week, each solver is strictly permitted only one entry, so make sure you're right before you send yours in!

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 (1,138 members now!) here.



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

3/11/10

MGWCC #093 -- Friday, March 12th, 2010 -- "Namegame"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 93 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:

Two of the 20 actors recently nominated for Oscars sported a partially palindromic name: ANNA KENDRICK and JEREMY RENNER. They joined Oscar role IDI AMIN, many-times Oscar host BOB HOPE, and more tangentially Oscar-related actresses MIRANDA OTTO and DARYL HANNAH as last week's theme entries.

Contest instructions asked (somewhat imprecisely -- see below) for a Best Picture winner that "would have made a good theme entry" in last week's puzzle. 220 solvers came up with 1950's Academy pick, ALL ABOUT EVE, which was last week's contest answer. Like the six theme entries, that film contains a palindromic name in its title.

This week's winners, whose names were chosen at random from the 220 correct entries received, are Jane and Armand Van Nimmen of Vienna, Austria (the first European winners of MGWCC). Jane and Armand have selected as their prize an autographed copy of The Pocket Idiot's Guide to Brain Games.


Would ALL ABOUT EVE really have made a good theme entry in last week's crossword? About two dozen solvers felt not -- "Grouped with the theme entries in your grid, it'd be a flagrant odd man out," one fellow constructor noted.

Which is true. I changed the wording of the contest instructions at the last minute, usually a mistake. Originally I had something like "has something in common with this week's theme entries," but then, just before posting, I thought that gave too much away. So I switched to the phrasing I used, but all six of the theme entries last week were two-word full names, so ALL ABOUT EVE wouldn't have fit precisely with them. I apologize if that wording threw anyone off.

E-MAILS:

Lots of great e-mail this week. Annette Otis writes:

ALL ABOUT EVE...vs. "All About Steve," which should have disqualified Sandra Bullock from winning an Oscar this year.

For those who may not know, Bullock played a crossword constructor last year in "All About Steve," a role for which she won a Worst Actress Razzie (one day before winning her Best Actress Oscar).

I thought I'd scoured the lists pretty well, but Leo Stein found a palindromic Oscar-winner whom I'd never even heard of!

And many solvers (Morris Feibusch was first) found an incorrect but interesting answer in KRAMER VS. KRAMER, which is a word-unit palindrome.

In last week's post I meant to include this hilarious entry from Pete Mitchell. He'd submitted the Risk territory GREENLAND as his contest answer, having found a series of cities hidden in the grid which surrounded that cold island.

What's so hilarious about this? Notice that one of his "cities" isn't a city at all...(click image to enlarge -- and vulgar language alert!)






















Speaking of vulgar language, Chip Van Kirk writes:

I must admit that I fell prey to Rex's Parker's "Natick Principle" when it came to the crosses of 32-Across and 25-Down. I was very relieved to Google Hideo NOMO...

What's she talking about? Noam Elkies clarifies:

Who is Hideo Nofo? ;-)


THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer is one of the most famous American authors of the 20th century. E-mail this author'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.

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 (1,125 members now!) here.



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

3/4/10

MGWCC #092 -- Friday, March 5th, 2010 -- "Draw An Award"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 92 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:


In my Google Group note I stated that last week's meta was both "simple" and "sadistic." The results bore this out -- though the metapuzzle was not terribly complicated for a last of the monther, just 41 entrants found contest answer AFGHANISTAN. Solution at top left.

The puzzle's two long theme entries read:

CITIES SURROUND / THE LAND YOU SEEK

Solvers scoured the grid for cities...but they were hiding in the clues! Five cities in total sat there, as follows:

67-across * Shanghai (China)
22-across * Mumbai (India)
4-down * Mecca (Middle East)
65-across * Moscow (Ukraine)
14-across * Novosibirsk (Ural)

Place those five cities in their proper Risk territories (in parentheses on the above list), and you'll see you have AFGHANISTAN completely surrounded. Red dots represent our five metropolises:



Is Novosibirsk in Ural or Siberia on the Risk board? It's close to the border of the two, and geographical precision is tough on a map that excludes (among other places) Lake Baikal, New Zealand and all the Caribbean islands. But this cool Sporcle quiz goes with Ural, so I went with it as well.

In addition to the 41 AFGHANISTAN entries, other popular answers included:

IRKUTSK -- 29 entries (only landlocked territory, so it might be said that "cities surround" it; see below)
KAMCHATKA -- 12 entries (because Irkutsk and Yakutsk are cities as well as territories, and Kamchatka borders them)
SIBERIA -- 10 entries (same reason as Kamchatka, though one solver who submitted this referred to it as a "lame guess")
ARGENTINA -- 9 entries (because Peru and Brazil are towns in Indiana, and those two semi-surround Argentina)

IRKUTSK: DA OR NYET?

Several solvers who submitted IRKUTSK made the case that I should count it as an alternate answer due to the logic mentioned above. I was disinclined to accept it, since I didn't feel the link between "landlocked" and "cities" was strong enough. But with 29 entrants and a few people energetically arguing for it I decided to send it off for a vote to the panel -- three familiar crossword figures whose identities I'll keep secret for their own protection.

Drum roll, please...and the result of the panel's vote is...3-0 against accepting IRKUTSK as an alternate answer.

In addition to my objection above, two of the three panel members noted (independently of each other) that there aren't many real cities in that part of the world anyway, so it's a stretch to say IRKUTSK is "surrounded" by them. It is a fun word to say, however, as many solvers pointed out (same with YAKUTSK and KAMCHATKA).

YOU CONGO CRAZY SOLVING THESE METAS:


Given the vagueness of last week's meta hints it's not surprising that folks went down some incorrect yet interesting paths. Another one came from H.R., who submitted CONGO while explaining:

Once again I'm not at all sure that I got this right, so I'll illustrate. Reading the hint as "CI" TIES SURROUND THE LAND YOU SEEK. Am I nuts?




This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 41 correct entries received, is Clare Farris of Brooklyn, N.Y. Clare has selected as his prize an autographed copy of Sip & Solve Hard Crosswords.

MONTHLY PRIZES:

The following 10 lucky (and skillful) winners were chosen at random from the 34 entrants who successfully sent in all four of February's contest answers (SEX LIVES, OHNO, BOXING, AFGHANISTAN):

John Aldape -- Boise, Ida.

Neil Bellovin -- Port Jefferson, N.Y.

Russ Cooper -- Phoenix, Ariz.

Linda Graham -- Nipomo, Calif.

Karen Horn -- Centennial, Colo.

Cole Kendall -- Washington, D.C.

Bob Klahn -- Wilmington, Del.

John Lenning -- Irvine, Calif.

Diane Rhodes -- Cliffside Park, N.J.

Michael Yanagisawa -- Woodbridge, Conn.


Congratulations to our winners, and to everyone who went 4-for-4 in February.


THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:


This week's contest answer is a film that won the Best Picture Oscar. This film's title would have made a good theme entry this week. 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 (1,107 members now!) here.



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