12/30/11

MGWCC #187 -- Friday, December 30th, 2011 -- "The Edge of Darkness"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 187 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:

What famous U.S. mayor did last week's puzzle point to? Let's take a gander at the theme entries:

17a {How many human civilisations have gained power} = SLAVE LABOR
23a {Person who covers many thousands of kilometres} = WORLD TRAVELER
36a {Defence against root canal pain} = LOCAL ANESTHETIC
46a {It helped fulfil a JFK dream} = APOLLO PROGRAM
58a {"You've been marvellous!"} = THANKS A TON
190 successful metapuzzlers noticed that each of these five theme clues contained a word spelt like Brits do: civilisations, kilometres, Defence, fulfil and marvellous. Surely that couldn't be a coincidence! But what next?

Aha -- each of the theme entries also ends in a word that the British spell differently than Americans. A Londoner would spell our five theme entries:

SLAVE LABOUR
WORLD TRAVELLER
LOCAL ANAESTHETIC
APOLLO PROGRAMME
THANKS A TONNE

The added letters have been emboldened above, and anagram to Chicago mayor Rahm EMANUEL, who was last week's contest answer.

Mark Manuel can't believe he missed the meta:

Combine my last name with the fact that I was in London right before Christmas and you have one embarrassed contestant. Colour me red.

The recently-relocated Eric LeVasseur writes:

For Boxing Day I spent much of the day emptying boxes (the cardboard kind). Relaxing now by filling boxes (the crossword kind).

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 190 correct entries received, is Reid Koss of Seattle, Wash. In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set, Reid will also receive a copy of Brendan Quigley's new 21x21 freestyle crossword. Winner next week will receive the same.

ACROSS LITE FOR iPAD:

Want to solve crosswords on your iPad? Litsoft has just launched a new app that lets you do so. Check it out here:

http://itunes.apple.com/app/across-lite-crosswords/id480513184

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer is the last name of a famous athlete. E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer athlete 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 (1,621 members now!) here. To solve with friends at Team Crossword, click here.





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

12/23/11

MGWCC #186 -- Friday, December 23rd, 2011 -- "English Lesson"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 186 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:

Somewhat oblique meta last week: solvers were asked to find an eight-letter world capital, and the puzzle's theme entries turned out to be:

17-a HEARTLIGHT
22-a ARA PARSEGHIAN (everyone liked seeing his whole name for once)
36-a BOW TO YOUR SENSEI
47-a GIRL DETECTIVE
54-a GRAND FORKS

What do these five have in common? They each point to a prominent two-word phrase whose initials are N.D.: The atrocious 1982 song HEARTLIGHT was sung by Neil Diamond; ARA PARSEGHIAN won two national titles at Notre Dame; BOW TO YOUR SENSEI is a line from "Napoleon Dynamite"; The book series GIRL DETECTIVE is the revamped Nancy Drew; and GRAND FORKS is the third-largest city in North Dakota. Searching for an eight-letter world capital with the initials N.D., 163 solvers came up with NEW DELHI, India's capital and last week's contest answer.

10 solvers submitted an alternate answer that I'm also accepting as correct: Chad's capital is N'DJAMENA, which is eight letters long. True, it doesn't consist of two words whose initials are ND, but the apostrophe muddies things a bit and the city does begin with the letters ND. I was aware of N'Djamena's existence as a possible spoiler here and planned to accept it before posting the puzzle; but really, what are the odds that there are two ND world capitals with eight letters in them?

ERRATUM:

Lee Sammons was the first to point out that the clue for 54-across is incorrect. The clue was {It's downriver from Winnipeg} but GRAND FORKS is actually upriver from Winnipeg. I had assumed that the Red River of the North, which makes up most of the border between Minnesota and North Dakota, flowed south like everything else in the region. But it turns out to be one of the not very many northerly-flowing rivers in North America, meandering into Manitoba before emptying into Lake Winnipeg.

Eric Suess writes:

As a Notre Dame grad, I appreciate the initials. Once years ago at a Mensa party I had a Notre Dame cap on. A gentleman came up to me and, trying to be witty, said "North Dakota?" to which I replied instantly "New Delhi" - that was the first time I'd noticed the similar initials.

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 173 correct entries received, is George Dakis of Chicago, Ill. In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set, George will also receive a copy of Brendan Quigley's new 21x21 freestyle crossword. Winners for the next two will receive the same.

PUZZLESOCIAL:

This could be revolutionary: a new crossword-solving Facebook application called PuzzleSocial. Enter solving contests, win awards, or challenge a friend head-to-head (which is awesome; you're both solving the same crossword on the same grid, and your entries are color-coded so you can see who's beating who where in the puzzle).

MGWCC will be appearing at PuzzleSocial each Friday starting today, and always an hour or two before I post it here (because PuzzleSocial is running them as a speed contest, the puzzle obviously can't appear anywhere else before then). This probably won't affect my posting times here at all; if anything I'll be posting here earlier than usual. More on PuzzleSocial in the coming weeks.

Note that nothing will be substantially different for you here at MGWCC if you're not on Facebook or don't participate in PuzzleSocial. Just keep on solving like normal! Also, please note that you need to click on the "A.V. Club" box at PuzzleSocial to access the MGWCC puzzles.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer is a well-known U.S. mayor, past or present. E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer mayor 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 (1,619 members now!) here. To solve with friends at Team Crossword, click here.





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

12/14/11

MGWCC #185 -- Friday, December 16th, 2011 -- "Nine Down Is Like Five Across"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 185 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:


Happy belated birthday to DICK VAN DYKE, who turned 86 on Tuesday. The venerable comedic actor also served as last week's contest answer, as discovered by 345 solvers.


Contest instructions asked for an actor you might watch on 33-down, which turned out to be DVD. The other theme entries were:

17-a {Chanteuse you can listen to on a CD player} = CELINE DION
23-a {1992 thriller too violent to get a PG rating} = PATRIOT GAMES
39-a {TV show where Whoopi tells it like it is} = THE VIEW
52-a {Classic rock band often heard on FM radio} = FLEETWOOD MAC
63-a {Two-time Booker Prize winner whose novels you can read on Kindle for PC} = PETER CAREY

See the trick? The abbreviation in each clue also serves as the initials of the answer. That means we're looking for a well-known comic actor with the initials DVD. Not Danny DeVito, who's DDV (and whose last name is one word), but the aforementioned DICK VAN DYKE.

Matthew Perez-Stable writes:

funny that i solve this after watching Chitty Chitty Bang Bang with my younger sister this weekend.

Laura Effinger-Dean
speculates:

Perhaps someday I will appear on an LED television!





Peter Gwinn
sends along the photo (click on it to enlarge) at right, with the following explanation:

I wanted to outdo Jeff Schwartz from last week.

I actually got the meta from the clue to 17A, which I figured out just looking at it.
Had to complete 33-down, though, because I couldn't think of any comedians with the initials DVR.





And Chip Prince met the man himself:

While I was in L.A. with the stage version of "Mary Poppins" almost two years ago, Dick Van Dyke appeared on stage in a one-night-only cameo walk-on as a superannuated banker, a role he had played in the movie but is finally actually old enough for. He can still do physical comedy even in his 80s... the audience ate it up!

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 345 correct entries received, is Joel Berghoff of San Rafael, Calif. In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set, Joel will also receive a copy of Patrick Blindauer's Musical Puzzlefest, which went out to subscribers yesterday (I've got all day tomorrow set aside to solve it myself). Next week we return to regular book prizes have yet another series of special prizes! See below.

GRYPTICS CONTEST:

Les Foeldessy is running a Gryptics contest over at his website. Solve the (tough) Gryptic and you might win a copy of his new book Next-Generation Crosswords!


THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:


This week's contest answer is an eight-letter world capital. E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer capital 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 (1,618 members now!) here. To solve with friends at Team Crossword, click here.

SPECIAL PRIZES FOR THE REST OF DECEMBER:


In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set, weekly winners for Dec. 16th, 23rd and 30th will receive a copy of Brendan Emmett Quigley's new freestyle 21x21. Now there's a pleasant way to spend half an hour!





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

12/8/11

MGWCC #184 -- Friday, December 9th, 2011 -- "You've Got to Stand for Something"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 184 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:


Well, that was easy! 409 solvers -- 1 shy of the MGWCC record -- found QUITO as our contest answer capital last week. They got there by speaking the first word of each theme entry aloud:

CUE VIOLINS (Q)
YOU SAID IT (U)
EYE OF THE TIGER (I)
TEA LEAVES (T)
OH NO, MR BILL! (O)

Put 'em all together and you've got that capital city high in the Andes Mountains.

I laughed when I saw Eric Maddy's entry:

— — · — · · — · · — — — —

MGWCC's one Swedish solver, Gunnar Bergvall, missed SWEDEN in last week's tough meta. While submitting QUITO this week, he writes:

It seems to be easier for me to spot a Latin American capital than my own home country...

Jeff Schwartz didn't need much of the puzzle to suss out the meta:

I love the beginning of the month. I saw the "cue" and just knew:























Finally, Leigh Newman had no trouble getting the meta since she and her husband were in Quito just a couple of weeks ago. Here they are on the equator, right outside the city:























This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 409 correct entries received, is Simon McAndrews of New York City, N.Y. In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set, Simon will also receive a copy of Patrick Blindauer's forthcoming Musical Puzzlefest, which drops on Dec. 15th. Next week's winner will receive the same.

MATT GAFFNEY'S DAILY CROSSWORD (MGDC):


For the past couple of months I've been writing a daily 11x13 puzzle. They're free, they go live at 6 AM ET Mondays thru Fridays, have mini-themes, get tougher as the week goes on, and will continue until we've done 10,000 of them (we're on #0058 now).

Here are a couple of the recent ones I like best:

http://mattgaffneydaily.blogspot.com/2011/12/mgdc-0055-tuesday-dec-6-2011.html

http://mattgaffneydaily.blogspot.com/2011/12/mgdc-0056-wednesday-dec-7-2011.html

UPDATE, 12/9, 1:40 PM ET:

Dan Feyer writes:

If I want a little warmup in the morning before solving the rest of the day's offerings, I'll zip through a week of MGDCs (average time, about 60 seconds each).

Wow -- beat that!

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer is a famous actor/comedian you might watch on 33-down. E-mail it to me 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 (1,611 members now!) here. To solve with friends at Team Crossword, click here.





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

12/1/11

MGWCC #183 -- Friday, December 2nd, 2011 -- "See the Trick?"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 183 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:

Which mysterious Eurasian nation did last week's theme entries conceal? Here they are:

17-a fiji dollar ... S
21-a tic-tac-toe .-- W
34-a average joe . E
42-a scots-irish -.. D
52-a juxtapose . E
61-a slack-jawed -. N

No, I'm not channeling e.e. cummings, k.d. lang -- or even joon pahk. I typed this in all-lowercase because the entry at 13-down informed us that this puzzle's theme entries are case-sensitive, indicating something funny going on in that realm.

Indeed, taking the nine dots that appear over i's and j's in the theme entries and then adding the four hyphens as dashes, you get the Morse code for SWEDEN, as illustrated above.

Not a bad meta, if I do say so myself...but with one cringeworthy flaw that semi-ruined my Thanksgiving weekend when a solver pointed it out (let no one say that I don't take MGWCC seriously enough).

The flaw comes at the entries average joe and scots-irish, where the J in joe and the first i in irish would normally be capitalized. Many solvers interpreted the "CASE-sensitive" hint at 13-down to indicate that the six theme entries should be written with letters capitalized where they normally would be in print, meaning those two would read "average Joe" and "Scots-Irish." Needless to say, this throws off the Morse code message a bit.

This isn't a complete meta-killer, since "case-sensitive" could also reasonably be interpreted to mean that all letters should be in lowercase (such as when typing in a Captcha code word). But it's still unnecessarily ugly, and if I'd noticed this other interpretation I certainly would have precluded it by choosing entries which contain only indisputably uncapitalized i's and j's.

Another reason this blot didn't kill the meta: capping the J in average joe leaves that entry with neither dot nor dash, meaning it has no reason for existing. It would also leave the solver with SWNEN, which suggests SWEDEN and would be an easy backsolve.

Still, I'm rather annoyed with myself for overlooking this, as you can probably tell...so let's move on.

Joshua Kosman points out a striking coincidence:

OK, I get that I and J are dots, that's the easy part — but where are the dashes? Backsolving from SWEDEN, which seems to be the only plausible candidate, suggests that C's are dashes. I don't understand why, but I'm content with my answer.

If it's sheer coincidence that C=dash and I/J=dot yields a country on the Eurasian landmass, then you can consider my mind officially blown.


OK, that's probably in the "Top 10 Odd Things in a MGWCC" for the 3.5 years we've been doing this. The four C's (in tic-tac-toe, scots-irish and slack-jawed) can replace the hyphens as Morse code dashes, and the message doesn't change. Also critical here is that none of the other three theme entries contains a C.

What are the odds? Must be tens of thousands to one, but there it is.

Mark Taylor (and 22 others) had a good reason for submitting TURKEY:

Because I just ate some.


You've heard of an answer-specific trap in crosswords, like {Capital of Georgia} when the answer's TBILISI but the evil constructor wants you to put in ATLANTA.

This was an answer-specific meta trap, where I wanted to siphon off as many lucky guessers as I could into the TURKEY aisle (there are only a handful of six-letter countries in Europe, and the "Eurasian" hint and the holiday both point towards Asia Minor).

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 24 correct entries received, is J.T. Williams of Pasadena, Calif. In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set, J.T. will also receive a copy of my new book 20 Minute On-the-Road Crossword Puzzles. Next week we return to normal book prizes we switch to new special prizes! See below.

MONTHLY PRIZES:

19 solvers submitted the correct contest answer to all four of November's challenges (CARNEGIE MELLON, PASTEUR, D'OH!, SWEDEN). 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.

Andy Arizpe -- Austin, Tex.

Joseph DeVincentis -- Salem, Mass.

Richard Kalustian -- Tacoma, Wash.

Joshua Kosman -- San Francisco, Calif.

Joon Pahk -- Somerville, Mass.

Miss Kali -- Brooklyn, N.Y.

Peter Washington -- Oakland, Calif.

David Wild -- Washington, D.C.

J.T. Williams -- Pasadena, Calif.


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

SPECIAL PRIZE THIS WEEK AND NEXT:

In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set, weekly winners this week and next will receive a copy of Patrick Blindauer's new Musical Puzzlefest. Patrick is one of the very best constructors around and this is his 3rd annual puzzle suite. He'll e-mail it out to subscribers on Dec. 15th, and I've set aside that weekend to solve it myself.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer is a world capital. E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer capital 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 (1,610 members now!) here. To solve with friends at Team Crossword, click here.





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