11/26/10

MGWCC #130 -- Friday, Nov. 26th, 2010 -- "Linkin' Continental"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 130 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:

Five true enemies -- well, five true rivals at least -- revealed themselves to 166 solvers in last week's grid. That group noticed that the second word of the puzzle's theme phrases concealed an enemy/rival of the first word. Our cobra-mongoose pairings were:

17-a KGB MUSICIAN
29-a HARVARD VEGEMITE
48-a FRAZIER LOYALIST
64-a VHS TIBETANS

Where was the fifth? At 19-across and 38-down, namely IBM SNAPPLES, where the second word reveals the ancient though waning IBM-APPLE rivalry. I naturally also accepted as correct the two entries that read SNAPPLES IBM, since no particular order was indicated.

[Mini-puzzle: one theme answer I couldn't fit was the 15-letter {What Greeks put in their coffee?}. Answer at the bottom of today's post.]

Lots of sneaky in last week's puzzle: it was gratifying to hear how many people fell into the NUT (20-a) and ENAMEL (22-a) traps, which were intentional. But I was also kicking myself for not even noticing the WAPNER trap at 1-d, especially since it fits so well with NUT.

While submitting his correct answer, Andrew Ries adds:

Cuz I didn’t find CONAN NEEDLENOSE anywhere in the grid

Laura Dove took an intriguing path:

I'd just about given up. I was sure it had to do with (15A) ANAkin (65D)SKYwalker and (60D)OBIt(62A)WAN but there was no making that work. Then I looked at (54A)IPO and thought of iPod and was searching the grid for an entry that started with D and included ZUNE. That's when I noticed APPLE. Devilish!

Meanwhile, Scott Weiss caught a break that led him right to the meta:

I got it quickly mainly because your cluing was very hard. I had lots of holes in the grid until the bottom theme entry which looked basically like VHS--BETA--. So it was pretty clear to me early what was happening.

Justin Redd found another solution, valid except for one point:

This one is too many letters, but could fit as well:

ATARI WIRINESS


I hadn't noticed the ATARI-NES connection, but I had speculated that there might be other reasonable answers lurking in the grid besides IBM SNAPPLES. Ergo I threw in the "beta-blocking" stipulation that the answer must be exactly eleven letters long -- fortunately, it worked!

And finally: regarding 1-down, Jim Sherman wrote:

I was so distraught over the news of Ed Koch's death that I couldn't concentrate on the meta this week!

When I first read this e-mail I assumed that the ex-mayor of New York had passed away since last Friday's publication. Then I re-read the clue to 1-down and figured it out. Hint: Koch is alive and well.

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 166 correct entries received, is Steve M. of Highland, Ill. In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set, Steve will also receive an autographed copy of my book Sip & Solve Hard Crosswords.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:


This week's contest answer is one of the seven continents.
E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer continent 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 (1,374 members now!) here.



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

Mini-puzzle answer: ATHENS ASPARTAME

11/19/10

MGWCC #129 -- Friday, Nov. 19th, 2010 -- "Our True Enemy Has Yet to Reveal Himself"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 129 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:

Another toughish meta: just 148 solvers found the missing TOFU in last week's grid, very low for a Week 2 puzzle. They'd noticed that the six theme entries consisted of three-word phrases with two-letter second words. Keeping those two-letter words intact but adding the first initial of words 1 and 3 led to the relevant four-letter words. Sounds complicated when I write it out like that, but here they are:

17-a HANG IN THERE --> hint
21-a TERMS OF USE --> tofu
33-a COME ON EILEEN --> cone
42-a TRICK OR TREAT --> tort
53-a LENDS AN EAR --> lane
61-a ALL MY LOVING --> amyl

Five of those four-letter words can be found in the fill. The missing one is TOFU, which made it our four-letter contest answer food.

Jeff Louie pays me a qualified compliment:

You are masterful, at times.

One entrant this week shed some light on a cruciverbal mystery for me. I'd received three e-mails from solvers during the week who, while submitting TOFU, suggested it should have been located at 15-across in place of UTAH:

Is it special tofu from Utah?

In fact, UTAH should be TOFU!

It would be even neater if putting TOFU in for UTAH made
checks that were words.

I figured there had to be some logic to this since three solvers had independently mentioned it, but the light bulb didn't go off until John Reid wrote in explaining:

TOFU should be at 15A in the grid to keep the symmetry of all the theme answers.

Aha! It may seem hard to believe at first, but that near-symmetrical pattern of those five four-letter words was not only unintentional but went completely unnoticed by me until John pointed it out. Maybe it's less hard to believe, though, when you consider how natural the placements of the LANE/HINT and AMYL/CONE pairs are; when you're trying to sneak five four-letter words into a grid with six theme entries in it, it's intuitive to stash them in those relatively unburdened corner areas.

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 148 correct entries received, is Steve Smith of Winchester, Mass. In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set, Steve will also receive a copy of Patrick Blindauer's new Puzzlefest.

WEEK 123 WORDPLAY:

I meant to publish this in October, but better late than never: remember the LOUIE ANDERSON puzzle, where theme entries contained all five vowels in consecutive spaces? Charles Montpetit sends in this clever amuse-bouche:

What two crosswordese triads would do this theme one better AND are synonyms of each other?

There are two valid solutions, both given at the end of today's post.


THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:


This week's contest answer is an eleven-letter phrase comprised of two fill entries in this grid. When combined they make an excellent fifth theme entry. E-mail these two grid entries to me (the actual entries in the grid, 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 (1,366 members now!) here.



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

WEEK 123 WORDPLAY ANSWER: the words are OUI and YEA (or AYE), which comprise all five main vowels plus Y -- and which are synonyms of each other (no one said they had to be in the same language!)

11/12/10

MGWCC #128 -- Friday, Nov. 12th, 2010 -- "The Abridged Version"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 128 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:


Simple, right? The eight nouns comprising last week's theme are derived from ARABIC, which made that language our contest answer. Yet just 236 solvers submitted a correct entry, a rather low total for the month's first puzzle, so maybe not so simple.

Those answers were:

ALGEBRA MAGAZINE
GHOUL ADMIRAL
CIPHER ELIXIR
SHERBET ASSASSIN

Paul David Wadler writes:

Thanks for the puzzle; it made a great sofa safari on a Friday afternoon.

While Marie desJardins says:

This week's puzzle was of high caliber. As I solved, though, the answers seemed garbled, and I had zero idea as to the solution. I was at the nadir of my solving, crimson with frustration, when suddenly kismet shone upon me, and I hazarded a guess that perhaps the language of origin was the answer. Quickly I soared to the zenith of success, recognizing the Arabic origin of "algebra" and verifying the origin of the other words.

Checkmate!


Why ARABIC? It turns out that almost every other language possesses a quality rendering it unsuitable for this meta: too few words contributed to English (most languages), or far too many (Latin, Greek, French, et al.), or the language itself is so distinctive looking and the origin of its loan words so recognizable that the meta would be blindingly obvious (a grid filled with theme entries like RIGATONI AGITATO or SAMURAI SUSHI wouldn't stump anyone).

That Arabic is written in a non-Roman alphabet also helped, its loan words having been transliterated into unrecognizability in most cases.

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 236 correct entries received, is Nancy Domm of Tallahassee, Fla.. In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set, Nancy will also receive a copy of Patrick Blindauer's new Puzzlefest.

THE NEW YORK TIMES CROSSWORD...CONTEST:

Congratulations to Mike Nothnagel on writing the first New York Times Crossword Contest. It's over now, but I sure wish I'd thought of that meta! Read about it here:

http://wordplay.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/11/11/contest-results/#more-48121

ERRATUM:

Seven solvers pointed out that at 31-across last week, you don't LOSE A day traveling eastward over the International Date Line, you gain one. Hope I didn't mess up anyone's travel plans there.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer is a four-letter food that should be in this crossword grid, but isn't. E-mail this food 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 (1,361 members now!) here.



SPECIAL PRIZE THIS WEEK:

One last time: in addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set, next week's winner will receive a copy of Patrick Blindauer's new Puzzlefest. I look forward to solving it this weekend myself!

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

11/5/10

MGWCC #127 -- Friday, Nov. 5th, 2010 -- "Language Barrier"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 127 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:

Who crashed your Halloween party last week, and how did you get rid of him? DRACULA, of course, whom you expunged with a STAKE THROUGH THE HEART -- a bit of an overreaction on your part, perhaps. A simple "would you please leave?" might have sufficed, after all. Or some garlic.


113 successful solvers began with the instructions at 7-down and 47-down, TURN TM / INTO LU. The only other TM sequence in the grid is ATM CARD at 25-down; making the suggested change leads to ALUCARD, which reverses upwardly (see hint at 1-across!) to reveal the identity of our unwanted guest (solution at left, once again showcasing my unreal Paint skills).

Now, how to get rid of him? 27-down was THE MIST, clued as {2007 Stephen King movie -- or what you must remove to rid yourself of the sinister creature}. Removing the MI from MISTAKE at 29-down leaves you with an anti-vampire STAKE, while taking the S and T from the ends of THE ARTS (43-across) reveals Dracula's HEART, the target for your party host wrath.

I accepted any answer that had DRACULA, STAKE and HEART in it, no matter the syntax chosen ("DRACULA/STAKE/HEART," "Drive a stake thru Dracula's heart," etc.). 29 solvers submitted answers that included only DRACULA and STAKE, without mentioning the vampire's HEART. These I was unable to count as correct since the HEART part was such an integral part of the meta.

Eight solvers surprised me by finding the STAKE and the HEART, but identifying ALUCARD as the unwanted vampire. I was unfamiliar with this particular bloodsucker, but enjoyed this typical Wikipedia sentence: "Due to his human mother, Lisa, Alucard is a dhampir, a half-human, half-vampire." (Also check out the bottom of the page for another Wiki classic: "See also: list of fictional dhampirs.")

Since he's not a full vampire, though, I didn't count seven of those eight ALUCARD entries as correct (one of those eight did mention DRACULA in his e-mail, so I counted that one).

Joel McElvain
asks:

Was it intentional that your clue mentioned "sinister" and the answer came on the left side?

I won't say!

The last few minutes before Tuesday noon often bring a flurry of wild guesses, especially on a difficult puzzle. At 11:59 AM this past Tuesday, Seth Grossinger uncorked this classic stab:

The gorilla. With a howitzer.


This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 113 correct entries received, is Bernie Cosell of Pearisburg, Va. In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set, Bernie will also receive a copy of Patrick Blindauer's new Puzzlefest.

MONTHLY PRIZES:

80 solvers submitted the correct contest answer to all five of October's puzzles (REDD FOXX, LOUIE ANDERSON, ABABA, GUILLOTINE, and DRACULA/STAKE THROUGH THE HEART). The following ten lucky and skillful winners, chosen randomly from that group, will receive a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set:

Louis Ah -- Cupertino, Calif.

Anne Erdmann -- Champaign, Ill.

Jay Giess -- Rochester, N.Y.

Joe Gori -- Oxford, Conn.

Lee Knutson -- Irvine, Calif.

Michael Marcus -- New Haven, Conn.

Erica Pannen

Tim Platt -- South Berwick, Me.

Pete Rimkus -- Ashford, Conn.

David Rosenberg -- Sherman Oaks, Calif.


Congratulations to our ten winners, and to everyone who went 5-for-5 in October.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer is the name of a language.
E-mail this language 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 (1,351 members now!) here.




SPECIAL PRIZE THIS WEEK:


Let's do it again: in addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set, next week's winner will receive a copy of Patrick Blindauer's new Puzzlefest.

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