1/28/11

MGWCC #139 -- Friday, January 28th, 2011 -- "Conjunction Junction"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 139 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:


A red herring in last week's puzzle: solvers were tasked with discovering "the two grid entries which, when combined, would complete this puzzle's theme pattern." The four theme entries were:

17-a SITAR TARTAR
11-d TOKEN KENKEN
51-a SOCHI CHICHI
25-d GABON BONBON

The pattern is clear -- Five-letter words followed by six-letter words that duplicate that last three letters of the first word. Quickly spotting PECAN CANCAN across the center and top of the grid -- prominently placed on purpose -- many solvers tumbled for it right away and sent those two entries in as their answer. What else could it be, after all?

Answer: FEMUR MURMUR, less prominently placed in the grid, but using the same pattern. This couldn't be a coincidence -- but which one to choose, PECAN CANCAN or FEMUR MURMUR? The other four grid entries repeated the vowels A, E, I and O in their answers, meaning only FEMUR MURMUR, with its repeated U's, "completes this puzzle's theme pattern."

For the second week in a row I got some pushback on the meta, though much less than with MGWCC #137. See comments here, but the thrust of the argument was that the A-E-I-O-U link was a bit tenuous. In my view no one proposed a convincing pattern completed by PECAN CANCAN, though -- but judge for yourself at the link. Incidentally, 168 solvers submitted PECAN CANCAN as their answer, compared to 135 who sent in FEMUR MURMUR.

John Farmer writes:

I just want to say that PECAN CANCAN does not rhyme with PE-TEN TENTEN.

Several solvers submitted suggestions for cluing FEMUR MURMUR. Tim Noonan's idea is:

{Casting call?}

Maggie Wittlin's is:

{A rumor that's got legs?}

While Joe Fendel came up with:

{Thigh will be drone}


This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 135 correct entries received, is Mike McCormick of Hockessin, Del. In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set, Mike will also receive a one-year subscription to Peter Gordon's outstanding Fireball Crosswords. Next week we will return to regular book prizes.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:


This week's contest answer is the piece of punctuation you need to use four times to solve this crossword. E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer punctuation 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 either solve on the applet below or download the free software here, then join the Google Group (1,419 members now!) here. This week's puzzle is NOT available in Team Crossword, but next week's will be.





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

1/21/11

MGWCC #138 -- Friday, January 21st, 2011 -- "Three-Piece Suite"


Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 138 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:


162 entrants successfully negotiated last week's rather problematic meta. The contest answer was a number from 1 to 10, and the puzzle's four theme entries -- all related to sports, for no real reason -- contained a total of ten words. They were:

17-a SCORE A RUN (4, 1)
61-a/69-a HEAVEN CAN / WAIT (7, 10, 8)
11-d LINE DRIVE (9, 5)
34-d FREE KICKS (3, 6)

The parenthetical numbers above show that, with the exception of the word "a" in SCORE A RUN, nine of the ten numbers between 1-10 are rhymed by words in the puzzle's theme. The only unrhymed number was 2, which made it last week's contest answer number.

Does TEN rhyme with CAN? I got massive pushback from solvers -- especially those with roots in New England or New York -- who adamantly insisted that they don't rhyme, even with CAN unstressed as in "Can I help you?" or (most importantly) "Heaven Can Wait." Most of these solvers submitted 10 as their answer, finding COUP at 35-a as the rhyme for 2.

There were many arguments on both sides, expressed passionately and intelligently in comments here:

http://www.crosswordfiend.com/blog/2011/01/18/mgwcc-137/


So, what to do as MGWCC referee? On the one hand, it's a bit random to hunt for the 2 rhyme in fill when the other rhymes are all in theme entries. Besides, Merriam-Webster backs me up on the rhyme:

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/can

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ten


On the other hand, WAIT is placed asymmetrically in the grid, which may be construed as a license to look beyond the four longest entries. The "a" in SCORE A RUN was also viewed as weird by solvers; I'd intended it to be the tenth theme entry word unrhymed with "two," but in retrospect it would have been far more elegant if the four theme entries contained just nine words, each with a number rhyme.

Besides, MGWCC metas should click immediately, not be subject to various pros and cons of two competing meta possibilities -- and even many solvers who submitted 2 as their answer said they had a hard time choosing between it and 10.

Since both the meta and the alternative answer 10 each have their issues, I'm going to impose the Solomon-like solution of commenters Mark and Norm C at the above Crossword Fiend link: those who submitted 10 as their answer were not eligible for the weekly prize on MGWCC #137, but remain eligible for January's monthly prizes. And you can also keep intact any personal streaks you had going (several solvers mentioned they didn't want an imperfect meta like this to snap their streaks!).

Chris Shaw writes:

As an actual professional mathlete, it would be really embarrassing if
I got this week wrong. Hopefully all those MIT puzzlers are too busy
this weekend and I'll have better odds for a drawing this week.


David Stein -- and no other solver -- found an Easter Egg in the grid:

So when I started this one, I really wanted the answer to be pi. Then the directions said 1-10 inclusive, so I looked at the letters in squares 1 and 10 and voila! They were P and I. Meta solved, pi it is!

But then I did the puzzle and there was this rhyming issue. Darn, maybe it's not pi...I so want it to be pi, but I sadly submit 2.


This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 162 correct entries received, is Jason Shapiro of New York City, N.Y. In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set, Jason will also receive a one-year subscription to Peter Gordon's outstanding Fireball Crosswords. Next week's winner will receive the same.

THE EXTREMELY HIDDEN SECRET TO DOWNLOADING MGWCC ACROSS LITE FILES:


Guda Venkatesh writes to point out that the Across Lite file for MGWCC puzzles can be downloaded on the AL application below, underneath the grid where it says "Download Crossword for Across Lite." That simple, eh?


NEW MGWCC RULE: ONE ENTRANT, ONE ANSWER


In the past I've been lenient about accepting correct second answers from entrants who've submitted incorrect first answers. This has gotten a little out of hand lately (it's tricky to track, for one), so beginning this week at MGWCC, each entrant is allowed exactly one answer per puzzle. So please think twice before submitting your answer!


THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:


This week's contest answer is the two grid entries which, when combined, would complete this puzzle's theme pattern. E-mail them 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 either solve on the applet below or download the free software here, then join the Google Group (1,412 members now!) here. To solve with friends at Team Crossword, click here.





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

1/14/11

MGWCC #137 -- Friday, January 14th, 2011 -- "Mathletes"


Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 137 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. [UPDATE, 1/14, 2:30 PM: I originally mislabeled this puzzle as MGWCC #173, when in fact it's MGWCC #137. That was only an error, not part of the meta.]

LAST WEEK'S RESULTS:

OTIS is my new cat, whom 348 solvers found curled up in each corner of last week's grid. The puzzle's two longest entries were clued as {How and where some cats sleep}:

27-a --> ALL CURLED UP
49-a --> IN THE CORNER

And there he is indeed, clockwise each time! And with his mouse toy in the picture above.

Annette Otis
wrote me two weeks ago that, as a veterinarian, she felt bad about missing the JACK RUSSELL meta. I told her she'd have a chance to redeem herself the following week, and when she saw it was a cat-related meta she understood what I was talking about...but only in part! In fact, there were two reasons I knew she'd get a kick out of MGWCC #136:

Haha, I thought you were saying I would like this one because it had to do with cats, so I had a very a-ha moment with the meta. I am really flattered you named your cat after me. Or at least gave me a meta shoutout this week.

Tim French has a cat story:

I got a new kitten over the summer. Being a scientist and from Boston, I wanted a name that was either "sciency" or "Bostony". I asked my friends via Facebook and someone came up with "Sam Atoms". Done.

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 348 correct entries received, is Elizabeth Saindon of Takoma Park, Md. In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set, Elizabeth will also receive a one-year subscription to Peter Gordon's outstanding Fireball Crosswords. Winners over the coming two weeks will receive the same.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT OTIS:


1) "But wasn't Milo was the cat in the movie, not Otis?"

Yes, but I wasn't sure of that until I Googled it when we got home.

2) "Did you name him after Otis Redding or the elevator guy?"

Neither! The shelter named him, and it suits his personality, so we're keeping it.

3) "How's he doing?"

Extremely well. Our old cat, Stella (well, she's 15 months) is taking a little more time adjusting to the new reality but we had a breakthrough yesterday. She and Otis chased each other around for 4 hours straight which I guess means they're friends now.

GOOGLE GROUP CHANGES:

Google appears to be phasing out their Google Groups program, so I'll be making some changes over the next couple of weeks in how I deliver the puzzle to you. The main change for now is that I can't upload any new files to the archives, so your solving options will be 1) solve the Across Lite file received via e-mail, 2) print out and solve on paper from the e-mail or website, or 3) solve on the applet at the website.

If you can't open the Across Lite file you receive via e-mail, please let me know and I'll re-send.


THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:


This week's contest answer is a number between 1 and 10 (inclusive of 1 and 10). E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer number 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 either solve on the applet below or download the free software here, then join the Google Group (1,410 members now!) here. To solve with friends at Team Crossword, click here.

[UPDATE, 1/14, 2:30 PM: I originally mislabeled this puzzle as MGWCC #173, when in fact it's MGWCC #137. That was only an error, not part of the meta.]





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

1/7/11

MGWCC #136 -- Friday, January 7th, 2011 -- "Pet Project"


Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 136 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's Mark Halpin's dog Riley in the picture above. Mark was one of 149 solvers who correctly identified the JACK RUSSELL TERRIER as last week's contest answer breed. Probably an easier meta for Mark than for others since, as you can see, he owns one.

Successful metapuzzlers noticed that the four theme entries each consisted of two words, the first of which was the surname of a famous Jack, and the second of which was the first name of a famous Russell:

17-a WHITE JANE (rock star Jack WHITE, actress JANE Russell)
11-d LONDON MARK (writer Jack LONDON, pianist/parodist MARK Russell)
29-d LORD PEE-WEE (actor Jack LORD, jazz musician PEE-WEE Russell)
62-a BLACK BILL (comic actor Jack BLACK, basketball legend BILL Russell)

Which makes Riley's breed last week's contest answer (with or without the TERRIER part).

This was an oblique meta which many solvers had to put aside for a while and ponder. Barbara Hartwell writes:

You won't believe how I got this. I was watching the Rose Bowl Parade and they had a float with dogs on surfboards and the commentator said her favorite was the Jack Russell Terrier, and it hit me!

Stephen Fineman's brain worked on it while he was otherwise preoccupied:

Let's hear it for doing something else and _not_ thinking about the puzzle! Solution popped into my head while I was driving home tonight.

As did Miss Kali's brain, though I prefer her method over Stephen's:

So I'm at work, in a bar. It's so slow (new years day) and my friend and I wanted to do a shot. My choice is jack daniels, my friend's name is jack.... a lingering weird feeling and 30 seconds later my light bulb went off!

The crossword itself was also tough. Joel Alderson took a (clever) misstep right off the bat:

I confidently wrote in bluegrass at 17 across for my first answer!

Finally, Noam Elkies notes a cluing inelegance:

not so nice to define 20A:SET as a "math group" because "group" is also a math term with a much more specific meaning.

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 149 correct entries received, is Jolley Good of Asheville, N.C. In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set, Jolley will also receive a one-year subscription to Peter Gordon's outstanding Fireball Crosswords. Winners over the coming three weeks will receive the same.

MONTHLY PRIZES:

75 solvers submitted the correct contest answer to all five of December's challenges (MERYL STREEP, WINGS, HOWE'S BAYOU, THE LITTLE DRUMMER BOY and JACK RUSSELL). The following ten lucky and skillful winners, chosen randomly from that group, will receive a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set:

Rich Dobkin -- Chatsworth, Calif.

Carolyn Emold -- Glendale, Wisc.

Mike Farabaugh -- Charlottesville, Va.

Clare Farris -- Brooklyn, N.Y.

Patrick Jordan -- Ponca City, Okla.

Jeffrey Krasnick -- Victoria, B.C.

Joon Pahk -- Cambridge, Mass.

Stan Park -- New York City, N.Y.

Jim Sherman -- Falls Church, Va.

Larry Wasser -- Louisville, Ky.


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

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

Last week was dogs, this week it's a cat! This week's contest answer is the name of my new cat, who I'm picking up this afternoon. It's four letters long and is also a familiar man's name. E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer cat 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 either solve on the applet below or download the free software here, then join the Google Group (1,411 members now!) here. To solve with friends at Team Crossword, click here.





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