2/23/11

MGWCC #143 -- Friday, February 25th, 2011 -- LITERARY FEBRUARY PUZZLE #4 -- "Un-freaking-believable!"


Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 143 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:

113 solvers said "uncle" last week....well, they actually said Anton Chekhov's UNCLE VANYA, the classic play that served as our contest answer. These solvers noticed a pattern among the puzzle's four ten-letter theme entries:

17-a AUDIO BOOKS
32-a EDNA FERBER
50-a INIGO JONES
64-a ORAL POETRY

See it? The first word of each theme entry begins with a vowel, and the second word begins with the letter following that vowel. After A, E, I and O, then, we must be looking for a "well-known literary work" with the initials U.V. Only UNCLE VANYA fits that bill, though Malcolm Lowry's Under the Volcano, submitted by four solvers, comes close. Leslie Wagner was one of those four, and mentions another possibility:

We liked Odds Isee and Isle Ladd for odyssey & Iliad!

Indeed there were several intriguing (and unintentional) red herring patterns in this grid. Dan Seidman mentions another one:

I thought it was Moby Dick when the initials of the first six across answers spelled out "Call me", but I couldn't find Ishmael anywhere.

Armand Van Nimmen
spotted one as well:

I know that I goofed with the “One thousand and one nights”...I wanted to point out, however, the three hints that led me to the wrong conclusion. I recognized, indeed the three main characters out of Arabian Nights in your puzzle:

1. Alibaba, of course was a first hint. This by itself was a bit too obvious.

2. The “Ladd” smack in the middle, combined with the “A” from Alibaba and the “In” from “Inigo Jones”, together with the “Lamp” and the “Light” made me recognize Aladdin. Things began to solidify, but I was not convinced yet.

3. What finally made me sure to have found the answer was that in reading “miracle” backwards I recognized “El Carim”, the famous antagonist of Sinbad!!


On another note, Barbara Friedman envisioned this production of Uncle Vanya starring me and my cat:





















And finally, the great Jon Delfin claims an exotic relative:

My Uncle Vanya used to live in Upper Volta....

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 113 correct entries received, is Ed Sills of Austin, Tex. Ed has selected as his prize an autographed copy of Gridlock.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

78 solvers are still alive in Literary February! That's a lot of stationery, so this meta might be tough...

This week's contest answer is a six-letter literary term. E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer title 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 (1,458 members now!) here. To solve with friends at Team Crossword, click here.





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

2/18/11

MGWCC #142 -- Friday, February 18th, 2011 -- LITERARY FEBRUARY PUZZLE #3 -- "Light Reading"



Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 142 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:

202 solvers identified Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom as LitFeb Week 2's "well-known character from American literature." The puzzle's four (literary) theme entries were:

17a -- INITIAL PRINT RUN
26a -- PHINEAS REDUX
40a -- ADRIENNE RICH
51a -- DON'T READ THE REST

Successful metapuzzlers noticed that the R-words at the end of each entry also serve as the last word of each novel in John Updike's Rabbit tetrology -- Rabbit, Run, Rabbit Redux, Rabbit Is Rich, and Rabbit at Rest -- making that great antihero last week's contest answer.

Besides "Harry 'Rabbit' Angstrom," acceptable entries also included "Harry Angstrom," "Angstrom," "Rabbit Angstrom," or simply "Rabbit."

Many solvers mentioned needing a while to get the title, or not getting it at all. David Schooler explains:

Ah, initials. An a-HA moment.

My original title had been "Dear John," but I felt that gave too much away and decided to change it at the last minute.

Rachel Park noticed that the meta was:

To celebrate the year of the Rabbit!

Huge number of fascinating e-mails this week describing solvers' paths to getting the meta (or, frequently, to not getting the meta). Here are six:

Lorraine Barg:

I was going nowhere fast looking for clues to Huck Finn, Jay Gatsby, Hester Prynne, etc. Thank God REDUX is such an odd, and infrequently-used, word. My eyes kept coming back to it again and again, until finally RICH intruded and the juxtaposition of both screamed "Rabbit, you idiot!"

Hugh Murphy
:

Originally, I had tried to fit HESTER PRYNNE in as the meta with HAwthorne, but it was just not a neat enough fit. Thought of, and quickly discarded, CAPTAIN AHAB, too. Then I put it down and went to bed.

Woke up during the night with the Updike character firmly in my mind. I think it was the Redux that sold me. It's funny how the subconscious mind works.

Quite true, as Adam Rosenfield can testify:

It took me a lot of pondering, but the solution finally came to me last night in my sleep -- I realize all of the last words
of the theme answers started with R's (I wanted to throw them into Google, but that had to wait until I woke up, since I've not yet perfected the art of googling in my sleep).


Karen Horn:

After I filled in most of the puzzle, I had "Don't read the last" for the fourth theme entry, which I took as an instruction. That really screwed me up on the meta, since it was the last word of each entry that turned out to be the key. Once I fixed that one, with "redux" subconsciously reminding me of something, I stared at the word "run" and Rabbit sprang to mind.

Simon McAndrews took a roundabout route to meta nirvana:

I got this by accident - I interpreted "Initial Print Run" to mean the character had the initials PR. So I thought of Peter Rabbit, and then it suddenly clicked.

While Joel Alderson caught a fortuitous break that made the meta easy:

I was on a ski vacation until last night. The book I took along? Rabbit, Run.


And finally: check out this photo from Garrett Hildebrand, who did not get the meta, but certainly not for lack of effort! This is one of my favorite solver pics in MGWCC history (click on image to enlarge):



This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 202 correct entries received, is Neal Felsinger of Akron, O. Neal has, appropriately for the month, selected as his prize an autographed copy of Literary Crosswords.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer is the title of a well-known literary work. E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer title 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 (1,451 members now!) here. To solve with friends at Team Crossword, click here.







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

2/10/11

MGWCC #141 -- Friday, February 11th, 2011 -- LITERARY FEBRUARY PUZZLE #2 -- "HA-HA-HA-HA!"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 141 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:


"There's More to This Tale..." read last week's puzzle title, and indeed there was. The puzzle's four theme entries each consisted of two five-letter words comprised of TALE + one other letter:

17a -- LEANT LATER
11d -- OLETA ECLAT
29d -- CLEAT LATHE
62a -- EILAT LATTE

314 solvers noticed that the extra letters, emboldened above, anagram to the surname of the late Michael CRICHTON, who was last week's contest answer.

This was a slightly tricky meta for a month opener, and several very solid veteran metapuzzlers missed it. Due to Literary February announcement links from Rex and Amy, this was the heaviest traffic week by far in MGWCC history; with a slightly gentler meta I think we would have broken the record for correct entries (361). But with only four weeks in a theme month I had to start tough(ish)!

The two most popular incorrect answers were Nathaniel HAWTHORNE with 8 entries and Charles DICKENS with 5. The former entrants were aiming at the Twice-Told Tales angle, while the latter noticed cities at 1-a and 69-a, and figured this might be A Tale of Two Cities.

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 314 correct entries received, is Parker Lewis of Kirkland, Wash. Parker has selected as his prize an autographed copy of Sip and Solve Hard Crosswords.

MONTHLY PRIZES:


61 solvers submitted the correct contest answer to all four of January's challenges (OTIS, 2/10, FEMUR MURMUR, SLASH). The following twelve lucky and skillful winners, chosen randomly from that group, will receive a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set:

Erik Agard -- Gaithersburg, Md.

Noam Elkies -- Cambridge, Mass.

Nancy Fay -- Garden City, N.Y.

Pam Fowler -- Rough and Ready, Calif.

Ben Hassenger -- Lansing, Mich.

David Hirschhorn -- Mt. Pleasant, S.C.

James Layland -- Blue Springs, Mo.

Matt Matera -- New Haven, Conn.

Charles Montpetit -- Montreal, Que.

Dunn Miller -- Oakland, Calif.

Ann Reneris -- Sunderland, Mass.

Maggie Wittlin -- New Haven, Conn.


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

LITERARY FEBRUARY RULE REMINDER:


I didn't mention this in last week's rules for the month, but since it's now black-letter MGWCC law let me remind everyone: just one answer per week per solver, please! If you submit more than one answer your first answer will be the one that counts.

Now it's time for Round 2...good luck!

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer is a well-known character from American literature. E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer character 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 (1,445 members now!) here. To solve with friends at Team Crossword, click here.






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

2/4/11

MGWCC #140 -- Friday, February 4th, 2011 -- LITERARY FEBRUARY PUZZLE #1 -- "There's More to This Tale..."


Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 140 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:


Brutal crossword, easy meta last week: 257 solvers found a SLASH as the quadruply-missing piece of punctuation. They noticed that the rebus theme required four squares in the grid to be filled with the letters ANDOR, as such:

18-a PORTL(AND OR)EGON
9-d GR(AND OR)IENTS
28-a B (AND O R)AILROAD
2-d EARL V(AN DOR)N
48-a FRESHM(AN DOR)MS
44-d P(ANDOR)A'S BOX
58-a COMM(ANDO R)OLLED
36-d WITH C(ANDOR)

Since the conjunction pair AND/OR are always seen with a slash, successful entrants realized that that had to be the contest answer punctuation. I accepted as correct either the symbol /, or the word SLASH, or its variant FORWARD SLASH, or the technical term VIRGULE, and even the term SOLIDUS, although that is more often used to describe the slash between the numerator and denominator of a fraction. Those who submitted the entire phrase AND/OR also had their entries counted as correct, since the right punctuation mark is there in the answer.

Since it was the fourth week of the month and the meta was pretty straightforward I decided to make the puzzle itself extremely tough to solve. How tough? It took 2010 ACPT champion Dan Feyer 16:35 to finish the grid! To provide some context, here are Dan's times for the five most recent New York Times Saturday puzzles:

4:28
4:23
7:51
5:14
6:56

http://dandoesnotblog.blogspot.com/search/label/Saturday


So don't feel bad if you struggled with it!

While submitting SLASH, Rocky Schwarz explains:

To be clear, that's my answer, not what I wanted to do to this puzzle numerous times during the solving process.

Jason Feng had an interesting false start:

The sick part of this puzzle was I knew where Matt Groening was born but I put PORTLANDOR and went nowhere for days.

While the great Al Sanders broke into the puzzle quickly:

We're big Elf fans at our house, plus Alvar Aalto designed a dorm at MIT, so believe it or not ICEFLOE/AALTO was my entry into the puzzle. (Eero Saarinen and I. M. Pei had buildings there too, completing the crossword architect trifecta).

Walt Blue
commemorated his solve with some Ogden Nash-style poetry:

Again my entry's surely rash:
I think it is the forward slash.
And I can note with no compunction
That it's a true conjunction junction!!
I hope this is no sleight of hand/or
Trick fobbed off with less than candor!


This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 257 correct entries received, is Cindy Follick of Piedmont, Calif. Cindy has selected as her prize an autographed copy of Gridlock.

HOWE'S BAYOU? PRETTY GOOD:


Ben Henri informed us in December that, though he'd never eaten there, he lives two minutes from MGWCC #133 contest answer HOWE'S BAYOU. Update from Ben:

Finally went to Howe's Bayou last Friday night. Food was amazing, and if I'd stayed a little later, I probably would have been treated to some excellent blues. The band was loading in just as I was leaving.

MONTHLY PRIZES:


Whoops, I spaced this week on picking monthly prize winners for January. My apologies -- I'll have them next week, and will pick 12 winners instead of the usual 10 to atone for the delay.

LITERARY FEBRUARY:

It's cold out there, so what else to do but read books? Well, I could write some crosswords about books, and you could solve them...so let's do it. In the grand tradition of Hell Month and May-hem, we here at MGWCC hereby announce Literary February!

Here are the rules:

1) Every solver who submits the correct answer to all four puzzles during Literary February will receive a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set.

2) You may use references to help you solve the crosswords, but no discussing the metas with any other solver! No nudges or winks, no dropped hints or "you might wanna..."-s or anything of the sort. As with Hell Month and May-hem, the only correct response to appeals for meta assistance during Literary February is:

"I'm sorry [awful cheater's name here], but that's against the rules, and I won't be a party to this!"

And away we go...

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer is the last name of a well-known novelist. E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer novelist 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 (1,417 members now!) here. To solve with friends at Team Crossword, click here.





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