1/27/12

MGWCC #191 -- Friday, January 27th, 2012 -- "Depth Squad"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 191 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:


238 solvers got last week's meta, though a big chunk of them also got a little lucky. The five theme entries consisted of two five-letter words forming nonsense phrases:

CAPED TAPES
REZIP SPIRE
PENAL PALIN
SWEAT WAITS
HIKES HAKES

Obviously the two words in each pair look strikingly similar -- all but CAPED TAPES share four letters, and indeed 76 solvers wound up guessing ANTSY ANGST based on that similarity alone.

But there had to be something else going on, since a pair of five-letter words sharing four letters once anagrammed isn't much to hang your hat on, and CAPED TAPES doesn't even follow that pattern. So what was it?

Nudged perhaps by the title "Mix & Match," successful metapuzzlers did a little mixing and realized that those five pairs each anagram to a set of homophones:

PACED PASTE
PRIZE PRIES (or PRISE)
PLANE PLAIN
WASTE WAIST
SHEIK SHAKE

Instructions asked for two entries that would have made an excellent themer, so we're on the lookout for two five-letter pieces of fill that anagram to homophones. And there they are at 21-a and 50-a, WRONG and ORGAN, which anagram to GROWN and GROAN. And I hope you've grown as a person by solving MGWCC, even if you occasionally groan at an answer.

Because no order was specified, I naturally accepted both WRONG ORGAN and ORGAN WRONG as correct, even though the syntax on the second one is a little lacking.

And what did I mean by solvers getting a little lucky? About 25% of those who sent in WRONG ORGAN didn't fully grok the meta. Rather they guessed it using the same logic that ANTSY ANGST guessers did -- a spidey-sense that the general similarity of the letters within each theme pair had to mean something. But luck counts in life, and it certainly counts in MGWCC!

Andrew Greene
finally got the meta this week, but only after a struggle:

I was only looking at the words, not listening to them, so I was solving with my eye, not my ear. You could say I was using the....

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 238 correct entries received, is Neal Hudders of Seattle, Wash. In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set, Neal will also receive a 1-year subscription to Peter Gordon's extremely good Fireball Crosswords. Next week's winner will receive the same.

Incidentally, Patrick Blindauer's Fireball from this week, "Little White Lie," is going to be a strong contender for 2012's puzzle of the year -- so if you're not yet a Fireball subscriber, consider becoming one.

JUDYTH, JUDYTH, JUDYTH:

I blanked last week on a picking a winner, so let's do it now: the winner of MGWCC #189, whose name was chosen at random from the 442 entries received, is Judyth Stavans of Yorktown Heights, N.Y. In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set, Judyth will also receive a copy of Trip Payne's forthcoming Kickstarter puzzle suite, which is still available for 4 more days only (and which has now been funded to the tune of almost $4,200!)

MATT GAFFNEY'S DAILY CROSSWORD:


Today's has an amusing theme. Check it out:

http://mattgaffneydaily.blogspot.com/2012/01/mgdc-0093-friday-jan-27th-2012.html


INDEFINITE ARTICLE:


I have an intriguing little crossword piece at Slate.com this afternoon, but I'm not sure exactly when it's going up. I'll post the link here when it does, or you can just keep refreshing at Slate's site every 30 seconds like I am. UPDATE, 3:10 PM: here she is:

http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2012/01/etta_james_esai_morales_and_erle_stanley_gardner_introducing_a_new_measure_of_crossword_fame.html

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer is a familiar Internet company. E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer company 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 (1,636 members now!) here.





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

1/20/12

MGWCC #190 -- Friday, January 20th, 2012 -- "Mix & Match"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 190 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:

"Did You Finish That Book?" was the question I asked of solvers last week, who were presented with four unfinished book titles. Well, not quite "unfinished," as their last words could be found beneath each of the books in question, though not clued as such:


20-a {Dr. Seuss book about an elephant} HORTON HEARS A (plus WHO at 23-a)
31-a {Book that Jessica Fletcher works on during the intro to the same-name TV series} MURDER, SHE (plus WROTE at 33-a)
44-a {Classic 1878 novel set on the mysterious Egdon Heath} THE RETURN OF THE (plus NATIVE at 53-a}
59-a {Dickens novel about a shipping company owner} DOMBEY AND (plus SON) at 66-a)

Which 20th century American novelist do these clues point to? Notice the trivia question spelled out by the "unfinished" parts of these four books: WHO WROTE NATIVE SON? The answer to that is RICHARD WRIGHT, making him our contest answer as well.

Don Albright
says:

I want to make sure that I get this one, so I am having a Write Wright Right Rite Right after I send this E-mail. Alright?

Alright, Albright!

Jim Curran
got the (W)right answer, but with an amusing addendum:

Alternative answer is SAUL BELLOW, because the book titles are not finished in one answer. Where is the final word... it's all below (final word is always BELOW the beginning of the title).

I know... a bit of a stretch :-)


Many MGWCC solvers participated in the MIT Mystery Hunt last weekend, submitting their entries on Monday or Tuesday with frazzled brains and all. But Gary Levin submitted during the event, which is like stopping in the middle of a marathon to do 100 pushups:

Even during the MIT Mystery Hunt, there is time for your puzzle.


Well thanks, Gary -- and next year I'll add an extra day to the contest deadline on the MIT Hunt weekend, in response to many requests.

BANANA SPLIT REDUX:


Meant to run this last week, but Andrea Blumberg created this visual illustration of our previous contest answer:















This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 442 correct entries received, is Kelly Langan of Somerville, Mass. In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set, Kelly will also receive a copy of Trip Payne's forthcoming Kickstarter puzzle suite, which is still available for 11 more days only! Next week we switch to yet another special prize -- see below. [UPDATE 1/20, 1:10 PM: oops! In response to solver queries, Kelly Langan did NOT win MGWCC twice in a row. I got my winners and weeks mixed up...which means I didn't pick a winner at all this week. D'oh! I'll announce this week's real winner next week. And Kelly will receive an extra mini-prize anyway.]

I must say: it gladdens and amazes me to see all the interesting things crossword constructors are making happen in the Crucisphere these days.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer is the two grid entries which, when combined, would make an excellent sixth theme entry. NOTE: please send the actual grid entries, not their clue numbers. 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 (1,635 members now!) here.

SPECIAL PRIZE THIS WEEK AND NEXT:

In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set, contest winners over the next two weeks will also receive a 1-year subscription to Peter Gordon's outstanding (and popular) Fireball Crosswords.





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

1/13/12

MGWCC #189 -- Friday, January 13th, 2012 -- "Did You Finish That Book?"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 189 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:

A new record: 460 entrants found the BANANA SPLIT as last week's contest answer dessert, demolishing the previous record of 412. The PuzzleSocial effect in action, as that fun new application sent lots of new names our way.

Each of the puzzle's four theme entries split the word BANANA in a different way:

BANAL SUBPOENA
BANNED NIRVANA
BAGHDAD ZENANA
BOLIVIA MANANA

See solution grid at right (with keyword highlighted in banana yellow).

First puzzle of the new month (and indeed year), so Tony Antonakas chides:

You know you're not supposed to start with dessert :)

Maggie Wittlin had no trouble with the 29-d/52-d combination:

I just got my hair cut at an Aveda Spa!

Both of MGWCC's astrophysicist solvers chimed in on NOUN. First, Leo Stein:

As an astrophysicist, I enjoyed your cluing for 50D!

And similarly, Brandon Hensley:

Not sure how "astrophysics" worked its way in as a NOUN, but it made me smile!

This month's first three puzzles (but not the fourth!) are a bit easier than normal since we want to give the PuzzleSocial people a gentle welcome. I mentioned in last week's e-mail that super-skilled solvers can make an early-month meta tougher by simply not looking at the instructions. Naturally many of you took up the gauntlet!

Dan Feyer writes:

Without instructions. Under two minutes on the crossword.


Andy Bouwman tries to top that -- not time-wise, of course, but process-wise:

Solved without instructions OR down clues!

While Jon Delfin boldly tries to top everybody:

Scout's honor, I haven't looked at the puzzle yet. From the title, and
the suggestion to look at the puzzle grid, my unofficial guess is PIE.

[a moment later]

Okay, not PIE. I thought your blocks might be a Greek letter. Now that
I see it, nothing leaps to mind. Excelsior.


This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 460 correct entries received, is Kelly Langan of Somerville, Mass. In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set, Kelly will also receive a copy of Trip Payne's forthcoming Kickstarter puzzle suite, which is still available for 17 more days only! Winner next week will receive the same.

GRYPTICS CONTEST:

Gryptics creator Les Foeldessy announces a new contest featuring his addictive puzzle. Note: this month's contest is tougher than last month's!


THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:


This week's contest answer is a 20th-century American 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 (1,632 members now!) here.





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

1/4/12

MGWCC #188 -- Friday, January 6th, 2012 -- "Just Desserts"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 188 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:

Fifth Friday last week, so it had to be tough. Instructions asked for a famous athlete, but there were no obvious theme entries in the grid. So where and how to begin?

You may have noticed the crossword term CHEATER SQUARES crossing in the middle of the grid. These are black squares that don't add to the word count of a puzzle (they're termed "cheater squares" since they indicate that the constructor couldn't fill the grid without their help).

There aren't any cheater squares in the grid -- but meta solvers noticed that you could add eight black squares around the edge of the grid without affecting their crossing clues. See red squares in the grid at right.

For example, the M at the intersection of HAREM and MADAM can be blacked out while still leaving the viable answers HARE and ADAM for {It's designed for speedy breeding} and {Part of a palindrome in paradise} -- that's the famous "Madam, I'm Adam."

Similarly, moving clockwise:

Black out the A in SENHORA and SOYA and you get SENHOR and SOY {Nice address in Rio de Janeiro} and {___ sauce}

Black out the R in REELS and RANDY and you get EELS and ANDY {They may be found near a fisherman} and {One of Miss Piggy's two nephews}.

Black out the A in RAJA and ALITTLE and you get RAJ and LITTLE for {Erstwhile holder of dominion in India} and {Not much}

Black out the D in HEARD and DRIFT and you get HEAR and RIFT {Put in one's ears, as music} and {Gradual movement apart}

Black out the O in OOHS and OPOSSUM and you get OHS and POSSUM {Utterances often elicited by massage therapists} and {Frequent roadkill victim}

Black out the N in RICAN and MAYAN and you get RICA and MAYA {Costa ___} and {Word before calendar or hieroglyphs}

Black out the A in TAVERNA and AEON and you get TAVERN and EON {Business that may serve ouzo} and {A billion years}

Take those eight blacked-out letters in order, starting from M, and you get one of the very greatest -- perhaps the greatest -- soccer players of all time, Diego MARADONA -- who also, fittingly for our theme, committed one of the most infamous acts of cheating of all time in sports, 1986's infamous "Hand of God" goal. (watch it here; Maradona punches the ball into the net with his hand, leading Argentina past England and eventually to becoming World Cup champions. Watch Maradona explain how he'd scored goals similar to that in Argentina; the interviewer is Gary Lineker, who was on the English World Cup squad that year. Maradona doesn't even really seem to view what he did as cheating!).

Meg Duvall laments, while submitting Troy POLAMALU:

Because Samoa lost a day and he has great hair. Killed again at the end of the month. But it was fun!

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 135 correct entries received, is Christian Parker of Vancouver, B.C. In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set, Christian will also receive a copy of Brendan Quigley's new 21x21 freestyle crossword, still available at the link.

Next week we switch over to a different special prize -- see below.

MONTHLY PRIZES:


67 solvers submitted the correct contest answer to all five of December's challenges (QUITO, DICK VAN DYKE, NEW DELHI or N'DJAMENA, EMANUEL, MARADONA). The following ten lucky and skillful winners, chosen randomly from that group, will receive a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set:

Erik Agard -- Gaithersburg, Md.

Neal Carey -- Maple Glen, Penna.

Paul Coulter -- Glassboro, N.J.

Peter Gwinn -- Brooklyn, N.Y.

Dan Katz -- Greensboro, N. Car.

Alan Neely -- Hermitage, Tenn.

Rich Novo -- Andover, Mass.

Amy Reynaldo -- Chicago, Ill.

David Schooler -- Washington, D.C.

Matt Soule -- Duluth, Minn.

Congratulations to our ten winners, and to everyone who went 5-for-5 in December.

SPECIAL PRIZE THIS WEEK AND NEXT:

In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set, contest winners this week and next will receive a copy of Trip Payne's forthcoming Kickstarter puzzle suite ($20 level). I'm extremely interested in seeing what Trip conjures up for this project -- get your copy at the link for as little as ten bucks.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer is a familiar dessert.
E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer dessert 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 (1,624 members now!) here. To solve with friends at Team Crossword, click here.





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