3/25/11

MGWCC #147 -- Friday, March 25th, 2011 -- "What's In a Phrase?"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 147 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:

Easy meta for Week 3, and 288 solvers were all over it. Six normal phrases were given a bizarre second life with the St. Patrick's Day insertion of an Mc- name prefix. They were:

17-a SPARE MCRIB
20-a PAST MCMASTER
28-a INSIDE MCJOB
40-a PLAY IT MCCOY
52-a WHITE MCQUEEN
55-a EAU DE MCVIE

Scouring the list of ACPT champs, only 1984 winner JOHN McNEILL has the relevant prefix on his surname making him last week's contest answer.

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 288 correct entries received, is Adam Rosenfield of Cambridge, Mass. Adam has selected as his prize an autographed copy of Sip & Solve Hard Crosswords.

ACPT NOTES:

*** Congratulations to Dan Feyer, Tyler Hinman and Anne Erdmann for their 1-2-3 finish in the A finals. Dan has now won two in a row; can he duplicate Tyler's fivepeat, or will Tyler strike back in 2012 (as the Mayan calendar has prophesied)? Anne made her second finals in a row, a fine achievement as well.

*** Congratulations also to tournament director Will Shortz and tournament coordinator Helene Hovanec for yet another successful event.

*** I hadn't been a judge since 2007 and the scoring has changed dramatically for the better since then. Matt Ginsberg deserves special mention for devising the computerized scanning system we use now (and that saves us lots of time). Doug Heller and Nancy Parsons also deserve recognition as the duo in charge of scanning logistics -- they didn't get out of the Judges' Room until midnight on Saturday, even with the new scanning technology!

*** And finally: what a kick to meet so many MGWCC solvers in Brooklyn, so thanks to all of you who found me and introduced yourselves. Whether we had a quick hello or an entire conversation, it adds enormously to my enjoyment of the blog to put people to the names I see in my mailbox each week. Hope to meet many more of you in 2012!

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer is a familiar six-letter surname.
E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer surname 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 (1,473 members now!) here. To solve with friends at Team Crossword, click here.





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

3/17/11

MGWCC #146 -- Thursday, March 17th, 2011 -- "Got Any Irish In Ya?"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 146 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:

302 solvers found a type of PASTA in each of this puzzle's four theme entries:

17-a OPEN NET GOAL -- penne
11-d BORZOI PACK -- orzo
29-d QUARTZITIC -- ziti
54-a PEROTINITIS -- rotini

Nice little theme, eh? Except for one minor problem: it's "peritonitis," not PEROTINITIS. Which means that I have committed the slightly embarrassing act of misspelling a theme entry! Oof.

I rushed to send out an e-mail correction and post updates on the blog lest solvers think the misspelling was part of the meta. How could I make such a mistake? While surveying lists of pasta shapes, I thought that there must be some word that completely contains ROTINI. I couldn't come up with one, so I checked onelook.com to see if it had any suggestions, which it did -- the misspelled PEROTINITIS! Despite looking it up to check its precise meaning, I didn't notice the incorrect spelling until solvers began pointing it out. That the O and first I sounds are the same in "peritonitis" didn't help.

How did solvers react to the mistake? Finn Vigeland tried using the meta's flaw to crack it:

Whew, that meta was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be. Took me about ~7? minutes of just staring at those words. I tried to use your mistake to help me, seeing what would be different about PEROTINITIS if it were spelled PERITONITIS, and why that wouldn't make the meta work, but that wasn't helping. Then I just started looking for 5-letter features about the words, and looked at the first five letters and tried anagramming them. I started off with PENNO (from OPENN) which looked so much like PENNE—then saw the title, and then saw that those five letters were in a row right in front of me. The rest followed. Tough for a second week, methinks!

Nancy Pilla suggested:

Maybe we should get out an EXTRA VIOLIN for the poor guy who can't spell!

Math teacher David Stein was there with me:

You and I are having similar days. Corrections on a test I gave today:

#1. Change "longer" to "shorter"
#4. Change "equal" to " not equal"
#6. Skip, as there is no right answer.

Good thing we're not brain surgeons!


Michael Doran has seen better:

When I was in high school our superintendent sent a letter out to all parents in the district talking about cuts in the pubic school budget. At least your gaffe doesn't produce a mental image like that.

Mitch Smith declares:

I sure loves me some RITONI pasta!

While submitting PASTA, Jim Sherman adds:

In sympathy with your misspelling, I have swapped the vowels in my answer.

Mark Halpin gets the last word:

Indeed, the erratum can be put behind us; after all, it's in the pasta.

So no rotini jokes at the tournament!!

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 302 correct entries received, is Carol Noack of Port Arthur, Tex. Carol has selected as her prize an autographed copy of Sip & Solve Hard Crosswords.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

March Madness begins today, but Munch Madness ends. Thanks to Mark Halpin for the idea to do a month of food puzzles, but I got knocked out in the second round by a couple of schwa sounds.

This week's contest answer is the name of a past winner of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. If you don't have the champs memorized, you can find a list of past winners here (scroll down to "Tournament History"). E-mail this crossword solver to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Wednesday (note extra day) at noon ET. Please put the contest answer solver 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 (1,464 members now!) here. To solve with friends at Team Crossword, click here.





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

3/10/11

MGWCC #145 -- Friday, March 11th, 2011 -- "You'd Better Shape Up"


Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 145 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, 1:35 PM ET -- Whoops! Big blunder! I misspelled the theme entry at 54-across in today's puzzle. Sort of messes up the theme but...see if you can get the meta anyway!]

LAST WEEK'S RESULTS:

A double theme in last week's MGWCC: the first theme was a three-part funny in the three 15-letter entries, where I noted that an EVERYTHING BAGEL, because IT'S SO MESSY TO EAT, should rightly be called an EVERYWHERE BAGEL. The second theme scattered four of an ET bagel's five classic toppings around the grid:

GARLIC at 16-a
ONION at 30-a
POPPY SEEDS at 35-d and 19-a
SESAME SEEDS at 66-a and 19-a

The missing ingredient was SALT, which a record (!? -- see below) 364 solvers found. The toppings used on an ET bagel aren't set in stone, but these five are the most common set. To guard against other answers (such as CARAWAY SEEDS) I put a beta-blocker in the instructions: "Hint: it's the shortest of this food's five classic toppings."

The most popular incorrect answer was LOX, with 17 entries. It's shorter than the others, but 1) it's not an integral part of the bagel like the toppings on an ET, and 2) ET bagels aren't paired with LOX more often or notably than other bagel varieties.

Full credit to my girlfriend, Kristin, for coming up with the quip in this theme. A few months ago I was eating a 17-across and she commented that it should indeed be known as a 63-across. I noticed that both had 15 letters and my theme antennae went crazy.

RECORD OR NO RECORD? RECORD!


The previous MGWCC record was 361 correct entries. This week we had 359 correct entries come in before the deadline, which left me crestfallen (it had looked all weekend like we were gonna break it).

But then five more correct answers came in after the deadline. Though late entries are naturally not eligible to win prizes, I do count them as part of the overall total -- so a record it is!

SOLVER E-MAILS:

Jay Giess:

Just what my unhealed wounds from last week's puzzle need!


Similarly, James Melman:

Missing two in a row really stings. Thanks for pouring salt on the wound!

Frederic J. Gruder
:

I solved it while eating an everything bagel with light veggie cream cheese and a slice of nova.

Also eating the right food for the solve, Steve Tolopka:

True story: I printed off a copy of this week’s puzzle, grabbed my newspaper, and headed down the street to Sunrise Bagels (our neighborhood bagel joint) for breakfast. So I was munching away as this week’s theme emerged. Too bad I was eating sesame with salmon mousse instead of an Everything at the time.

Make your own bagel, says David Moulton:

Yay, you left the salt off! Every Monday morning we have bagels
at work, and I would take the everythings, but they're too salty.
So I have to make my own, starting with an onion bagel, speading
cream cheese, and then sprinkling poppy seeds, sesame seeds,
and garlic that fell off the other bagels in the bag!


Eric Prestemon's solving log is always interesting. Here is this week's:

http://solvingpuzzles.tumblr.com/post/3764128650/mgwcc-144-a-million-little-pieces


This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 359 correct entries received before the contest deadline, is Reynolds Smith of Chama, N. Mex. Reynolds has selected as his prize an autographed copy of Sip & Solve Hard Crosswords.

LITERARY FEBRUARY PRIZES:

Apologies to the 50 winners -- with overlapping puzzle deadlines this week I haven't had time to send your prizes out. But they're all going in the mail this afternoon.

ACPT:

I'll be attending the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in Brooklyn next weekend and am looking forward to meeting MGWCC solvers there. I'll be one of the judges, so please come say hello if you see me around.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

"Munch Madness" continues! This week's contest answer is a five-letter food. E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer food in the subject line of your e-mail. [UPDATE, 1:35 PM ET -- Whoops! Big blunder! I misspelled the theme entry at 54-across in today's puzzle. Sort of messes up the theme but...see if you can get the meta anyway!]

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 (1,462 members now!) here. To solve with friends at Team Crossword, click here.





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

3/3/11

MGWCC #144 -- Friday, March 4th, 2011 -- "A Million Little Pieces"


Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 144 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:

I briefly considered naming last week's puzzle "Torture Devices," since the meta was tough and literary devices took center stage.

Indeed just 82 solvers puzzled out the correct answer, the literary term TMESIS, of which the puzzle's title is an example (apologies for the semi-vulgarity in the title, but such constructions are by far the most common uses of TMESIS in English!).

Successful metapuzzlers noticed that the six theme clues/answers each referenced a literary device:

16-a HATERS GONNA HATE -- tautology
19-a LIFE IS A HIGHWAY -- metaphor
28-a MANY YEARS LATER -- ellipsis
39-a THAT'S JUST GREAT -- sarcasm
51-a DIED THE NEXT DAY -- irony
57-a COOL AS A CUCUMBER -- simile

The first letters of these six literary devices, emboldened above, spell out our contest answer.

I expected most solvers who got this to break through on metaphor, sarcasm, irony and simile and then backsolve the last two. That's pretty much the route people described.

Something completely unexpected was the number of solvers who pegged the probable contest answer as TMESIS right off the bat from the title, and who backsolved from that advanced point! In fact, I thought I was in some trouble after receiving 15 correct answers in the first couple of hours with accompanying e-mail chiding me for giving too much away with the title. I thought I might be sending out 100+ stationery sets! Fortunately for me things settled down a bit.

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 82 correct entries received, is Tom Viscelli of Kabul, Afghanistan. Tom has selected as his prize an autographed copy of Sip & Solve Hard Crosswords.

LITERARY FEBRUARY WINNERS:


50 solvers went 4-for-4 in Literary February, stumped not by Michael CRICHTON, RABBIT ANGSTROM, UNCLE VANYA nor even by the evil TMESIS. Each will receive a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set. They are:

Don Albright -- West Chester, Penna.

Jared Banta -- Superior, Colo.

Lorraine Barg -- Fairfield, Conn.

Ross Beresford -- Kingsley, Penna.

Alex Boisvert -- Los Angeles, Calif.

Ed Brody -- Cambridge, Mass.

Foggy Brume -- Phoenix, Ariz.

Jimmy Dale -- Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y.

Roy Denham -- Grand Junction, Colo.

Noam Elkies -- Cambridge, Mass.

John Farmer -- Woodland Hills, Calif.

Andrew Feist -- Newport News, Va.

Neville Fogarty -- Brooklyn, N.Y.

Nathan Fung -- Brighton, Mass.

Peter Gordon -- Great Neck, N.Y.

Peter Gwinn -- Brooklyn, N.Y.

Mark Halpin -- Cold Spring, Ky.

Charles Hamlett -- Apex, N.C.

Peter Hammond -- Silver Spring, Md.

Jeffrey Harris -- Norwalk, Conn.

Robert Hartford -- Stow, Mass.

Tyler Hinman -- San Francisco, Calif.

Bob Klahn -- Wilmington, Del.

John Lenning -- Irvine, Calif.

Jeff Louie -- Cambridge, Mass.

Timothy Mitchell -- Snohomish, Wash.

Mike Nothnagel -- Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

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

Joon Pahk -- Somerville, Mass.

Jill Palmer -- Leverett, Mass.

Eric Prestemon -- Sunnyvale, Calif.

Marcia Rose -- Delray Beach, Fla.

Jeffrey Schwartz -- New York City, N.Y.

Jed Scott -- Rockford, Mich.

Dan Seidman -- Watertown, Mass.

Jim Sherman -- Falls Church, Va.

Dave Shukan -- San Marino, Calif.

Jim Silvestro -- Hasbrouck Heights, N.J.

Matt Soule -- Duluth, Minn.

David Stein -- Silver Spring, Md.

Dave Sullivan -- Boston, Mass.

Gerry Tansey -- Florissant, Mo.

Mark Taylor -- Seattle, Wash.

Mike Weepie -- Cedar Rapids, Ia.

Kirsten Weiblen -- Yellow Spring, W. Va.

Bill Weinstein -- Belmont, Mass.

Scott Weiss -- Walkersville, Md.

Sue White -- Manhattan Beach, Calif.

David Wild -- Washington, D.C.

John L. Wilson -- Shoreview, Minn.


Congratulations to our winners, and thanks to everyone for playing Literary February! I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

ERRATUM/ERRATA(?):

Regarding 48-across, Peter Gordon writes:

There is no Yahtzee category called ONES. It's called ACES.

Aha -- true, that's the official term on the scoresheet. However, no one playing the game says "I still need aces" or "How many aces do you need to get the bonus?" You normally say "ones."

So is this an error? I'm going to weasel out by saying 1) it's not an error but 2) next time I'll add a "casually" tag to the clue. Q.E.D. (quod erratum demonstrandum...)

Robert Hartford writes re 31-down:

Rau became president of Germany in 1999, not 1994.

No weaseling here, that's just an error. Entschuldigung!

WHY WAIT UNTIL FRIDAY FOR MGWCC ANSWERS?


No need to wait until Friday for crossword and metapuzzle answers -- each Tuesday at noon ET, right as the contest deadline passes, Joon Pahk publishes an entertaining write-up of the puzzle over at Diary of a Crossword Fiend. You can also vent rage regarding/give qualified praise to/deplore the existence of/point out quibbles with/or just plain marvel at that week's MGWCC with other solvers in the comments section. Check it out!

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer is the classic topping missing from 17-across. Hint: it's the shortest of this food's five classic toppings. 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 (1,462 members now!) here. To solve with friends at Team Crossword, click here.





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