11/23/11

MGWCC #182 -- Friday, November 25th, 2011 -- "Nation Divination" -- alternate title -- "Country Code" -- SEE UPDATE BELOW

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 182 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, 11/25, 9:20 PM ET: This week's meta might be a little tough, so I'm giving the puzzle an alternate title (a more revealing one): "Country Code". Hope that helps! And no, I won't make a habit of this...

LAST WEEK'S RESULTS:

Five politicians, one three-letter exclamation. They were:

16-a JOHN GLENN (D-OH)
10-d LARRY CRAIG (R-ID)
29-d ORRIN HATCH (R-UT)
63-a MIKE BEEBE (D-AR)
33a/44a EVAN BAYH (D-IN) (whose clue was starred for clarity)

Prompted by the puzzle's title, solvers noted the party affiliation and home state abbreviation of each (see above), as often appear on TV screens and newspaper articles featuring the wise members of our political class.



Four of these five letter combinations appear as entries in the grid: RID at 22-a, RUT at 43-d, DAR at 38-a, and DIN at 1-a. The only one missing is D'OH!, making that famous Homer Simpson utterance our contest answer (apostrophe and exclamation point appreciated but not required).







Peter Gwinn writes:

I had noticed this too -- I used to shout "D'oh!" every time I saw Dennis Kucinich on TV.

Mike McCormick says:

Not an exclamation you like to associate with an astronaut....


(And that's not John Glenn on the right but Buzz Aldrin, who lent his voice to that "Simpsons" episode)






Deirdre Zarrillo had no trouble with 39-across:

Probably the only time my name will ever show up in a crossword!


A number of solvers mentioned thinking DEIRDRE must have some role in the meta, with its central location and plethora of D's and R's (and even an I). It wasn't an intentional red herring, though -- that's just the word that fit.

Joon Pahk points out:

if i'm not mistaken, this is the second time that DOH has been the answer to the MGWCC.

http://crosswordcontest.blogspot.com/2008/06/mgwcc002-friday-june-13th-2008-it.html


that time, it was the answer because it was in the grid; this time, it's the answer because it isn't.

And, after submitting his answer:

in retrospect it would have been cleverer of me to send in my answer this week by replying to the same email (with the same subject line) from june '08.

Finally, the great HH points out in comments at Crossword Fiend that:

a list of politicians would be better suited for 4-letter exclamations.

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 180 correct entries received, is Jeff Louie of Cambridge, Mass. In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set, Jeff will also receive a copy of my new book 20 Minute While-You-Wait Crossword Puzzles. Next week's winner will receive either the same or its companion book, 20 Minute On-the-Road Crossword Puzzles.

SQUARESVILLE AGAIN, THIS TIME WITH META:


Jeffrey Harris's puzzle this fortnight has a meta! I had no trouble figuring it out -- will you?

http://www.janglerspuzzles.com/?p=86

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer is a country on the Eurasian landmass.
E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer country in the subject line of your e-mail. UPDATE, 11/25, 9:20 PM ET: This week's meta might be a little tough, so I'm giving the puzzle an alternate title (a more revealing one): "Country Code". Hope that helps! And no, I won't make a habit of this...


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 (1,610 members now!) here. To solve with friends at Team Crossword, click here.





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

11/18/11

MGWCC #181 -- Friday, Nov. 18th, 2011 -- "Where's the Party?"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 181 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:

341 solvers found Louis PASTEUR as our contest answer scientist last week. The puzzle's theme featured four phrases, each of which began with a chemical element:























20-a [Numismatist's purchases (1,4)] are PLATINUM COINS
27-a [Little Boy was one (6)] is URANIUM BOMB
43-a [Plastic surgeon's tool (5,7)] is an ERBIUM LASER
49-a [With 54-down, 1944 Cary Grant comedy (2,3)] is ARSENIC AND OLD / LACE

Take the chemical symbols of these four elements (Pt, U, Er, As), pop them into the parenthetical numbers in the clues, and you get Monsieur PASTEUR, n'est-ce pas? Naturellement.

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 341 correct entries received, is Bill McCoy of Iowa City, Ia. In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set, Bill will also receive a copy of my new book 20 Minute On-the-Road Crossword Puzzles. Weekly winners throughout November will receive either the same or its companion book 20 Minute While-You-Wait Crossword Puzzles.

SQUARESVILLE:

Nice 19x19 by Jeffrey Harris at his site, where he posts a new puzzle each fortnight. This one took me 12:18, which I bet you can't beat.

http://www.janglerspuzzles.com/?p=82

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer is a familiar three-letter exclamation. E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer exclamation 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 (1,604 members now!) here. To solve with friends at Team Crossword, click here.





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

11/10/11

MGWCC #180 -- Friday, Nov. 11th, 2011 -- "Science Digest"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 180 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:

348 solvers found CARNEGIE MELLON as last week's contest answer school (and indeed, you can't spell CARNEGIE MELLON without C-O-L-L-E-G-E). The puzzle's theme featured four fictional schools:



17-a {College known for its school of performing arts?} = GRIFFITH KAUFMAN
24-a {College known for its school of political science?} = JACKSON JOHNSON
43-a {College known for its school of journalism?} = SULLIVAN ROONEY
57-a {College known for its music school?} = LLOYD WEBBER GIBB

What would all these fictional universities have in common? They're named for two people named ANDREW or ANDY: actor Andy Griffith / comedian Andy Kaufman; presidents Andrew Jackson and Andrew Johnson; journalists Andrew Sullivan and (recently departed) Andy Rooney; and musical greats Andrew Lloyd Webber and Andy Gibb.

So we're looking for a college in the Top 50 list of US News & World Report, and we find it at #23, named for tycoon Andrew Carnegie and banker Andrew Mellon (both of whom also went by "Andy" among friends, incidentally).

Milo Beckman explains:

I did a bit of Googling, andrew the conclusion from there.



Andrew Sullivan
writes:

I like the theme, and especially the answer at 43-across, though I'm
not that person.



Mark Taylor says:

I got a math degree from CMU and on the diploma it says my degree is in MATHEMTAICS. Yes, they spelled math wrong. Great school otherwise!

(click image at right to enlarge)









This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 348 correct entries received, is Bill Spindler of Palmyra, Va. In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set, Bill will also receive a copy of my new book 20 Minute On-the-Road Crossword Puzzles. Weekly winners throughout November will receive either the same or its companion book 20 Minute While-You-Wait Crossword Puzzles.

ERRATUM:


13 solvers (Rick T. was first) pointed out that "And She Was" (referenced at 23-down) is not a Grateful Dead song but rather a Talking Heads song. And It Was.


11/11/11:

I didn't write a special puzzle for 11/11/11, but someone else did and I like it very much.


THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:


This week's contest answer is a famous scientist. E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer scientist 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 (1,595 members now!) here. To solve with friends at Team Crossword, click here.





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

11/3/11

MGWCC #179 -- Friday, Nov. 4th, 2011 -- "College Knowledge"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 179 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 TRIBE (JUST BARELY) SURVIVES:

Just 13 solvers puzzled out the extremely difficult (unfairly so, some claimed -- more below) final challenge in H40, "A Time to Cull." This left us with only seven surviving tribal members for the month, whose names are listed below.

Solvers were given a morbid scenario where the mushroom-eating shaman was supposedly leading the tribe to new hunting grounds. There were no overt hints in the grid, so where to search?

Many solvers noticed a bunch of numbers in the clues (18 in total) and that many of those clues seemed either random or forced. At 47-across, for instance, we had {82 and 87, for octogenarians} cluing AGES. Why those two ages? And at 35-across GIGI was clued as {Winner in '58}. That was indeed the year that film won Best Picture, but why wasn't the full year used in the clue? Several other clues with numbers were similarly stilted, sending red flags up in solvers' minds.

But what to do with those numbers? That was the tough part, especially since there were no hints in the grid about it. Via several subtle nudges plus trial and error, successful tribal members realized that those 18 numbers in the clues refer to words in the contest story posted on Friday. So the "1,2,3,4" in 1-across referred to the words 1-4 in that story, which were THE WISE SHAMAN LEADS. The next two numbers in the clues are at 16-across, where 202 and 212 point to the 202nd and 212th words in the story, which are YOUR and TRIBE.

In full, the 18 numbers in the clues spell out the following message:

THE WISE SHAMAN LEADS YOUR TRIBE TO STARVATION WITH HIS MUSHROOM VISIONS. CRUSH HIS SKULL WITH A ROCK.

Here is the full list of clue numbers and their corresponding words:

1-a {"1,2,3,4 (Sumpin' New)" singer} = THE WISE SHAMAN LEADS
16-a {202 or 212} = YOUR TRIBE
29-a {"227" actress} = TO
35-a {Winner for '58} = STARVATION
47-a {82 and 87, for octogenarians} = WITH HIS
48-a {"101 Dalmatians" voice} = MUSHROOM
54-a {First of 26} = VISIONS
4-d {52} = CRUSH
10-d ('55 Chevy, e.g.} = HIS
25-d {blink-182, e.g.} = SKULL
34-d (144 things} = WITH
54-d (Got 100 on} = A
60-d ("99" group} = ROCK

Was this meta unfairly difficult or at least insufficiently hinted at? Long and heated discussion about that here, but solvers' main complaints with the puzzle and meta were:

1) The weirdness of the numbers in clues may have been obvious, but there were no instructions about what to do with those numbers. Solvers were forced to use trial and error, which some viewed as inelegant. COUNTERARGUMENT: although there were no explicit (or even implicit) instructions there were some subtle hints, which several of the 13 who solved the meta mentioned using: the extremely stilted language of the story, for example, or the numbers themselves (see counterargument to #3).

2) You didn't really even have to solve the puzzle to get the meta, since the meta was hidden in the clues and story only. COUNTERARGUMENT: there was no way to know that before solving the puzzle and meta, so who cares? Besides, there's no rule that the meta must include the grid, though it will 98+% of the time.

3) There were a huge number of things you could do with those numbers, so I should have included a hint. COUNTERARGUMENT: there weren't that many things, and some were ruled out. For example, the numbers couldn't be pointing at squares in the grid, since 227 is the highest number and there are only 225 squares in the grid.

Many more arguments for and against the puzzle and meta at the Crossword Fiend link above. In special months I aim for between 25 and 40 winners; the number of winners of the four special months so far in MGWCC history are 36 (Oct. 2009), 36 (May 2010), 50 (February 2011) and now 7 for October 2011.

So obviously that's low. I'd have preferred a higher number (I estimated 50 people would get MGWCC #179) but that's the way it shook out; perhaps a small hint in the title would have nudged more solvers towards the trick.

I'm torn on whether the meta was "unfair" -- that's about the worst adjective you can apply to a meta in my view, since it implies that solver-constructor trust has been violated. Solvers invest their time and energy into tough metas under the belief that the meta is reasonably gettable.

Since 13 solvers did get this one I don't think it can be argued that it wasn't reasonably gettable (especially since this was not a meta where one could successfully guess from a limited number of possibilities; all 13 fully grokked it). Still, it's a thin line to tread between a challenging meta and an unfair one, and I do regret that some solvers feel I stepped over the line with this one. It's just the second time in 178 metas that I can recall solvers throwing the word "unfair" around, and I certainly got the message.

Are the special prizes this month (details below) penance for overshooting a bit on this last meta? Only the Wise Shaman knows for sure. But thanks for playing the Hunt for Food October -- the tribe did survive, in some form. Perhaps we shall hear from them again in the future.

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 13 correct entries received, is Neville Fogarty of Lexington, Ky. Neville has selected as his prize an autographed copy of TV Crosswords.

REMNANTS OF A TRIBE:

The following seven solvers survived the Hunt for Food October:

Ross Beresford -- Kingsley, Penna.

Todd Etter -- Alexandria, Va.

Jeffrey Harris -- Norwalk, Conn.

Robert Hartford -- Stow, Mass.

Brent Holman -- San Francisco, Calif.

David Sullivan -- Swampscott, Mass.

John L. Wilson -- Shoreview, Minn.

Congratulations to our seven surviving members. The Wise Shaman sends greetings from the Great Beyond.

CLAWSWORD PUZZLE:

Jill Palmer writes:

We're in day 3 of a power outage from the freak October snowstorm. My kitten enjoyed my only hard copy of the puzzle, making it really hard to work on it, let alone by candlelight.























SPECIAL PRIZES FOR THE NEXT FOUR WEEKS:


Over the month of November I'll be awarding two weekly book prizes instead of the regular one. In addition to MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set, weekly winners during this period will win a copy of either of my two new books, 20 Minute On-the-Road Crosswords or 20 Minute While-You-Wait Crosswords.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer is one of the 50 top universities in the country, according to U.S. News & World Report. If you're not familiar with this list, find it here. E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer college 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 (1,590 members now!) here. To solve with friends at Team Crossword, click here.





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