6/29/11

MGWCC #161 -- Friday, July 1st, 2011-- "Greece Is the Word"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 161 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:

"Hardest month ever, I think," a veteran MGWCC solver wrote me this week. He may be right -- just 91 correct entries for Week 3, and a hard-to-beat 73 right answers for Week 4.

Nudged by a few subtle hints -- the word "plot" in the title and two prominent references to the game Battleship in the grid -- those solvers figured out the key to the meta: six clues contained an alphanumeric sequence referencing a square in the puzzle grid. They were:

{A.1. targets} at 1-down, which was STEAKS
{Excellent source of vitamin B12} at 10-down, which was LIVER
{Exercise with an F-15, say} at 13-down, which was WAR GAME
{Part of the G7} at 33-down, which was ITALY
{City that I-10 runs through} at 26-down, which was MOBILE
{K2's superior} at 40-down, which was EVEREST



The emboldened letters above mark the points on the grid denoted in the clues (see solution graphic at left, stolen from Joon Pahk's writeup, with letters and numbers along the grid edge). Reading from top to bottom they spell SIMILE, which was last week's contest answer word. Also note that each of the six points falls within the answer to the clue in which it appears, e.g. the M in WAR GAME appears in box F-15, the coordinate given in WAR GAME's clue.

Since the instructions asked for a six-letter literary term, Dan Seidman writes:

If I hadn't figured it out I would have submitted TMESIS for old times' sake.

While Kate Washington got the right answer, but only after many literary dead ends:

Two literature PhDs in my household, and it turns out all that dissertation-writing time would have been better spent playing Battleship. (Lots of red herrings in your plot...)

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 73 correct entries received, is Joe Fendel of Berkeley, Calif. In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set, Joe will also receive a copy of Brendan Quigley's entertaining new 21x21 freestyle. Next week's winner will receive the same.

MONTHLY PRIZES:

35 solvers submitted the correct contest answer to all four of June's challenges (THE B-52'S, JACK, DAY, SIMILE). 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.

Noam Elkies -- Cambridge, Mass.

Jeffrey Harris -- Norwalk, Conn.

Brent Holman -- San Francisco, Calif.

Peggy Johnson -- Granada Hills, Calif.

Dan Katz -- Greensboro, N. Car.

Hugh Murphy -- Wilmington, Del.

Dan Seidman -- Watertown, Mass.

Michael Sylvia -- Seattle, Wash.

Kate Washington -- Sacramento, Calif.

Congratulations to our ten winners, and to everyone who went 4-for-4 in June.
It wasn't easy to do!

UPCOMING SCHEDULE:

Due to my vacation schedule, MGWCC #162 will be published on Monday, July 11th at 2:00 PM ET. I know, it's gotten a little confusing around here lately...but we'll go back to Fridays only after that.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer is a letter in the Greek alphabet. E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer word 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 (1,528 members now!) here. To solve with friends at Team Crossword, click here.





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

6/25/11

MGWCC #160 -- Saturday, June 25th, 2011 -- "Plot Device"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 160 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:


Difficult month of metas here at MGWCC: in Week 3 just 91 solvers found DAY as the contest answer word. Let's have Bob Klahn explain:

This one took a while, Matt! I was going, I was stopping, I was going, I was stopping ... I must've put this aside a dozen times.

Then it dawned on me! So to speak.

NICE MEAN: L -> N
SWEET BITTER: U -> I
TAKE GIVE: F -> G
HERE THERE: W -> H
SHORT TALL: B -> T

Now it's time for a nightcap!




See what he did there? Bob noticed that he could change one letter in a word in each theme entry to leave himself with a pair of antonyms. Guided by the parenthetical numbers appended to the theme clues you spell out NIGHT, whose opposite DAY was last week's contest answer.

Michael Sylvia writes:

That meta was definitely the hard sort.

A BEAUTIFUL FIND:

For the second week in a row a solver significantly improved the meta with a flash of inspiration. Although the crossword was well received at Crossword Fiend with 4.71 stars out of 5, solvers did pick a couple of (legitimate) nits with one theme entry, WE'RE THERE at 16-across. The complaints were: 1) you change a letter in the first word of this theme entry to get the opposite pair, while it's the second word changed in the other four; and 2) the apostrophe in WE'RE is slightly odd, since you drop it when changing to HERE.

My attitude in comments was essentially "I follow you, but tough noogies," since a replacement phrase was extremely unlikely to exist. You'd need it to be a) exactly 9 letters long, b) with no apostrophe as in WE'RE, c) the replacing letter would need to be an H, and d) the second word would need to be changed instead of the first.

Since I'd only been able to come up with about 15 candidate phrases for the entire theme, it was naturally impossible for a phrase I'd missed to satisfy all four constraints. That's when Peter Abide uncorked GUEST POST in comments, which amazingly does just that! You can GUEST POST on a blog, and a GUEST and HOST are indeed opposite functions. Wow.

If I use this one in the next book I'll do some surgery in the NW, and maybe sneak ABIDE in the grid as a tribute.

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 91 correct entries received, is Sean Trowbridge of Redmond, Wash. Sean has selected as his prize an autographed copy of Sports Crosswords.


SPECIAL PRIZES OVER THE NEXT TWO WEEKS:


In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set, weekly prizewinners this week and next will receive a copy of Brendan Quigley's new 21x21 freestyle crossword. I'm solving it myself this afternoon and I'll post my time here once I'm done. [UPDATE, 6/25, 8:45 PM ET: I finished BEQ's freestyle in 17:43. Very fun -- buy it at the link above.]

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer is a six-letter literary term.
E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Wednesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer word 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 (1,528 members now!) here. To solve with friends at Team Crossword, click here.





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

6/24/11

MGWCC #160 will be posted SATURDAY, June 25th at 2:00 PM ET.

Apologies, folks -- life has intervened and, for the second time in 3+ years, I'm not going to be able to post the contest crossword on its normal Friday. MGWCC #160 will go up tomorrow (Saturday 6/25) at 2 PM Eastern time.

For the solution to last week's puzzle, click here:

http://www.crosswordfiend.com/blog/2011/06/21/mgwcc-159/


I'll post a full write-up like normal tomorrow and I'll naturally move the deadline back to Wednesday next week. Again, sorry for the delay -- travel + book deadline + intricate Week 4 meta have conspired to thwart our regular Friday afternoon plans. But we'll be back on track very soon.

Until tomorrow,
Matt

6/17/11

MGWCC #159 -- Friday, June 17th, 2011 -- "Going Shopping"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 159 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:

Toughish and somewhat inelegant Week 2 meta: 198 solvers found the contest answer, which is on the low end of normal for a second week, but about a quarter of those guessed well or didn't fully grok what was going on.

The five theme entries consisted of four playing card spoonerisms, plus one nudge towards the meta. The spoonerisms were:

SPACE OF AIDES A♠
HEN OF TARTS 10♥
DEVON OF SIMONS 7♦
CLICKS OF SUBS 6♣

The first meta nudge came at 44-a: {Magician's secret, or what you need to find in the grid} yielded HIDDEN CARD.

Two more nudges in the clues told solvers that they didn't need the hidden card's SUIT (55-d) and that an ACE should count as 13 for the meta (59-d). Solvers were then supposed to take the four card values used in the theme answers (6,7,10 and 13 for the ace, as instructed), then find those four numbered boxes on the top row -- and lo, they indeed spell out the contest answer, JACK. And, it should be said, the large majority of solvers who submitted JACK did just this.

But here's where the meta inelegance enters the picture: why, many solvers wondered, was an ace to be counted as 13? In games where the ace has a numeric value it's usually 1 or an 11, as in blackjack, or 15 (as in gin rummy). If you count from 10, then a jack would be 11, a queen 12, a king 13, and an ace 14. There's no well-known game (that I'm aware of) where an ace is 13. This oddity threw some solvers off, like Joel Alderson:

Why not just count the ace as 11, like blackjack?


This is an especially easy solution since there already happens to be a K at the 11 square (the first K in HICKOK).

So how did that happen? Truth is, I just miscounted. I play a lot of cards but while making this puzzle the number 13 was in my mind for an ace and I never challenged it. A solver pointed out that I must have been thinking that there are 13 cards in a suit and the ace is the highest, therefore A=13.

So I could have fixed the entire meta by simply having the clue at 59-d reference 11 instead of 13, but Jay Giess found something even better -- an extremely clever idea I wish I had thought of:

Matt, Did you consider KITSCH for 1-down, FRAPPE for 2-down, and CPAS for 23-across? Granted it would mean CSO (Chicago Symphony Orchestra ?) for 21-down, but then the ace could be 1,11, or 13!

Beautiful! Kicking myself for not noticing this possibility, especially since the grid fix would have been so simple.

The one saving grace of this inelegance is that it didn't really affect the play of the meta, just left those solvers who noticed it scratching their heads a bit and unsure that JACK was correct. But considering both the ace=13 problem and missing Jay's lovely meta improvement, I'm glad this puzzle escaped with a 4-star rating at Crossword Fiend!

Joel Horn noted a coincidence:

Cute to follow the B-52s puzzle with a cards puzzle. What's next--a puzzle about weeks in a year?

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 198 correct entries received, is Larry Spencer of Ocala, Fla. Larry has selected as his prize an autographed copy of Sip & Solve Hard Crosswords.


TIP JAR HAUL:


The MGWCC tip jar overflowed last week as 184 solvers chipped in $5,386.84. That's almost double last year's total ($2,875), a trend I can certainly live with. Big thanks to all who contributed -- you paid for Portugal with quite a few euros left over!

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:


This week's contest answer is the opposite of the five-letter word referenced by the theme entries. E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer word 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 (1,523 members now!) here. To solve with friends at Team Crossword, click here.





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

6/8/11

MGWCC #158 -- Friday, June 10th, 2011 -- "Cut the Deck"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 158 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.

***THE MGWCC TIP JAR CLOSES AT MIDNIGHT TONIGHT!***

Record-setting tip jar week! With eleven hours left our total stands at $4,728.34, dwarfing last year's haul ($2,875). The jar closes at midnight tonight, not to open again until summer of 2012. Chip in via PayPal or a credit card by clicking the "donate" button:

[UPDATE, 6/11, 10:10 AM ET: Tip jar now closed for 355 days! Thanks, everyone.]


LAST WEEK'S RESULTS:


291 people solved it till they had their fill, just like a pneumatic drill. They noticed the ridiculous number of B's in last week's puzzle grid, then counted them, as prompted by the puzzle's title. 52 of said letter could only mean The B-52's, the second-greatest band to emerge from the 1970s music scene in Athens, Georgia...and last week's contest answer group.



ABBA was a popular answer as well, as the A's and B's swirling around the grid (and the groups's very appearance at 19-across) proved irresistible to 32 solvers. One of which was MGWCC's only Swedish solver; I didn't have the heart to tell him his answer was wrong (sorry, G.B.!). But G.B. will receive an overseas shipment of one blue (Swedish flag color) MGWCC pen to ease the sting.

Julie Stern writes:

I had completed the grid late Sunday night but was too tired to bother with the meta. The following a.m. I was awakened by a phone call from my mother's doctor's office (I look after her), telling me that she should start taking vitamin B12. I wrote this down in a sleepy haze on the bottom of my puzzle printout. Later while drinking my a.m. coffee and getting on to the meta, I knew it had to do with "B's". Looking at the title again "Be Counted", the B12 at the bottom of the page gave me my Aha moment. It's funny how often serendipity (one of my favourite words) comes into play when working on puzzles.

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 291 correct entries, is Dan Feyer of New York City, N.Y. Dan has selected as his prize an autographed copy of Literary Crosswords.



THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer is a four-letter word.
E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer word 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 (1,517 members now!) here. To solve with friends at Team Crossword, click here.





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

6/2/11

MGWCC #157 -- Friday, June 3rd, 2011 -- "Be Counted"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 157 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.

THE MGWCC TIP JAR IS NOW OPEN -- THIS WEEK ONLY!


Tip jar open! Friday at midnight it closes again, not to re-open until summer 2012. Click the "donate" button to tip, or scroll down for more info.










LAST WEEK'S RESULTS:

172 solvers found TABLETOP as last week's contest answer. Contest instructions asked only for an eight-letter word, and two of the puzzle's three theme entries told them that it was a PERFECT PLACE TO / PLAY BOARD GAMES. The third theme entry, left unexplained beyond its clue, was a Scrabble board's TRIPLE WORD SCORE.

Did you ever notice that a Scrabble board, like a daily crossword grid, is 15x15 letters in size? That was the key to unlocking this meta: mentally overlay the solved crossword onto a Scrabble board, and the eight squares on Triple Word Score spaces spell out TABLETOP (beginning at the T in Triple and proceeding clockwise).

This was a real "magic eye" meta, where you either saw it quickly or only after great effort (or not at all). Not a whole lot of middle ground.



Searching for an eight-letter place to play board games, Jared Dashoff writes:

You mean it isn't FACEBOOK?


Simon McAndrews had a typical "magic eye" solving experience:

I was stumped the whole weekend and finally decided to take one last look at it tonight - and suddenly saw it in 30 seconds!

Lance Nathan did the math:

This week's answer is worth 78,732 points, of course--12 points for TABLETOP, times eight triple-word scores.

And finally, Toby Berla made this puzzle a family event:

With due credit to my father, Mike Berla, and my son, Julian Berla. We collaborated on the meta -- 3 generations of puzzle solvers on one couch!

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 172 correct entries received, is Arnold Reich of Bronxville, N.Y. Arnold has selected as his prize an autographed copy of The Pocket Idiot's Guide to Super Sudoku.

MAY WAS A WILD RIDE:

I aim for a smooth, downward progession of correct entries throughout the month, but May was a wild ride for solvers: 341 right answers the first week, a plunge to 140 the second week, back up to 224 for the third week, and down again to 172 for week four.

Many solvers commented on this, but none more entertainingly than Matthew Grieco, who submitted this as his answer last week (click image to enlarge):

















MONTHLY PRIZES:


56 solvers submitted the correct contest answer to all four of May's challenges (MAURA JACOBSON, ST. LOUIS, BESTSELLER, TABLETOP). The following ten lucky and skillful winners, chosen randomly from that group, will receive a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set:

Peter Abide -- Biloxi, Miss.

Eugene Faba -- New York City, N.Y.

Pancho Harrison -- Denver, Colo.

Andy Kravis -- New York City, N.Y.

Tom Lincoln -- Seattle, Wash.

Karen Paxton -- Burlington, Ky.

Joe Sampson -- New Hampton, N.H.

Jim Sempsrott -- Raleigh, N.C.

Jason Shapiro -- New York City, N.Y.

Mark Taylor -- Seattle, Wash.


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

MGWCC TIP JAR OPEN -- THIS WEEK ONLY!

My website turns three years old this week -- congratulations, Matt! At this time each year I open the tip jar for eight magical days, after which the lid goes back on the jar for another four seasons.

Chip in via PayPal below, or e-mail me if you'd prefer to send a check. Note that you *don't* need a PayPal account to donate via PayPal; you can send a tip with a credit card by clicking the "donate" button below (e-mail me if you're having trouble making that option work).









THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:


This week's contest answer is a well-known musical group.
E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer group 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 (1,514 members now!) here. To solve with friends at Team Crossword, click here.





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