2/23/12

MGWCC #195 -- Friday, February 24th, 2012 -- "Treasure Hunt"


Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 195 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 well-known mountain served as last week's contest answer? Solvers had five theme entries to work with, starred for clarity since there was fill longer than one of the themers:

{He was executed on May 23, 1701*} = CAPTAIN KIDD

{"Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle" actor*} = KAL PENN

{"Gladiator" director*} = RIDLEY SCOTT

{Glamorous comics reporter, 1940-2011*} = BRENDA STARR

{"Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe" author*} = FANNIE FLAGG

The first thing to notice is that each of these five people's surname ends in a double letter. The second thing to notice is that if you remove one of those double letters you're left with a word (kid, pen, Scot, star, flag).

Most solvers got that far, but the third thing to notice was much trickier: four of the five cross one of their own type, minus that double letter. So FANNIE FLAG(G) crosses the UNION JACK, which is a flag; RIDLEY SCOT(T) crosses Alexander Graham BELL, who was a Scot; BRENDA STAR(R) crosses DENEB, which is a star; and CAPTAIN KIDD crosses OLIVER (Twist, on whom the musical is based), who is a kid.

So what's missing? KAL PENN has no pen crossing him, so as joon pahk put it in his Crossword Fiend writeup on Tuesday, "my working hypothesis right now is that there is a well-known mountain whose name is also a kind of pen. the existence of such a thing would, for me, solve the meta."

There is such a pen, as joon Googled his way to: MONT BLANC, which was our contest answer mountain, and which completes the puzzle's theme pattern.

Just 53 solvers sent in the correct answer, which is far lower than I had predicted (my fault, not yours; maybe shoulda made it Week 4 instead of Week 3). I had figured that UNION JACK crossing FLAG(G) and DENEB crossing STAR(R) would jump out for more people than it did; but it was tricky, since none of the four crossing entries interesects the theme entry on the keyword itself (DENEB really crosses BRENDA, for example, and UNION JACK crosses FANNIE).

A few notes on the puzzle and meta:

*** A number of entrants didn't like the title, "Mis Universe," since they felt it implied that the mountain was not located on Earth. I was going for "a universe of words that end in a double letter that becomes a word when you remove one of the double letters." Commenter (and Fiend blogger) pannonica suggested "Snow Cap" in comments here, and I agree that that's an elegant and superior title (playing on the surname Capp, plus describing Mont Blanc itself).

*** The most popular incorrect answer was K2, which 57 entrants submitted using the logic that each of the five themers ends in a double consonant. Most K2 entrants didn't seem convinced that their answer was correct, however.

*** Here are some other guesses solvers submitted:

GRAND TETON -- 16 entries. The five double letters that end the theme entries are GRNDT, which suggest GRAND TETON, though too tenuously to be accepted as an alternate entry.

MONS WOLFF -- 8 entries. This is on the moon. The logic is that it's a mountain ending with a double letter, and the "Universe" part of the title might suggest outer space. But there are lots of mountains that end in a double letter (on Earth, at least) and Mons Wolff isn't really "well-known" (it doesn't have its own Wikipedia page, for example).

Other double letter-ending mountains submitted were Mt. Mitchell (6 entries), the volcano Mt. Pelee (3 entries), and Iceland's famous Eyjafjallajökull (3 entries).

Tom Viscelli writes:

I'm guessing you're not looking for the MATTerhorn.


Alan Neely submitted MONT BLANC and asked:

Is this also the prize for this week?

Sure thing, Alan -- will this one suffice?

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 53 correct entries received, is Ana de Mahomar of Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Ana has selected as her prize an autographed copy of 20 Minute On-the-Road Crossword Puzzles.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:


There is a treasure hidden somewhere nearby, and this puzzle is your map! This week's contest answer is your four-letter treasure, and where you found it.
E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer treasure/location 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 (1,654 members now!) here.





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

2/17/12

MGWCC #194 -- Friday, February 17th, 2012 -- "Mis Universe"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 194 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 Midwest city served as last week's contest answer? Solvers faced that question with the following four theme entries:

17-a {1st is a famous music show, so it must be...} SOUL TRAIN
11-d {2nd is a U.S. state, so it must be...} NORTH DAKOTA
65-a {3rd is a Woody Allen movie, so it must be...} RADIO DAYS
26-d {4th is one of the main solvers profiled in "Wordplay," so it must be...} TYLER HINMAN


Contest instructions stated that the Midwest city is "what the 5th theme entry must be," so what's the pattern? Kind of a "stealthy meta" as one solver put it; another said it was "hiding in plain sight," while a third Facebooked that once he got the meta, he couldn't believe he hadn't seen it right away.

So what's going on? A little boldface will reveal all: If 1st is a famous music show, it must be SOUL TRAIN, since it uses the initials S.T. from 1st. Similarly NORTH DAKOTA must be 2nd if it's a U.S. state, and RADIO DAYS alone among Woody Allen movies has the initials for 3rd. Ellen Ripstein, Trip Payne, Jon Delfin and Al Sanders are all national-class crossword solvers profiled in the movie, but only TYLER HINMAN has the right initials to be 4th.

So what must the 5th entry be? We're looking for a Midwest city with the initials T.H. (from 5th), which leads us to TERRE HAUTE, Indiana (though one wag sent this in, even though he'd found my intended answer as well).

Sean Trowbridge
writes:

It would have been easier if you had a few more theme entries. :-)


Laura Effinger-Dean says:

Funny coincidence! I didn't send in last week's because I was in Terre Haute...

But the burning question was: did 26-down get the meta? He did, but only after a struggle:

This very very nearly turned into unquestionably my most embarrassing meta failure ever.

I e-mailed Tyler back:

You gotta let me reprint this with your name on Friday. So many people have been asking if you got it!

To which he replied:

Now that I've solved it, sure. I was absolutely petrified that the embarrassment of my Week 2 failure was going to be heavily multiplied through public humiliation in this week's write-up.


Bullet dodged, Tyler!

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 254 correct entries received, is Norm Hurlbut of Mamaroneck, N.Y. Norm has selected as his prize an autographed copy of 20 Minute On-the-Road Crossword Puzzles.

NON EST ERRATUM PER SE, SED MALUM EST:

Many solvers -- Paul Melamud was first -- pointed out that the clue for 20-across last week should have read {Clark and Cochran's judge, in a 1995 case} instead of citing "Marcia and Johnnie's judge." Since the answer was Lance ITO, I mixed up my first and last names. I plead guilty and throw myself on the mercy of the court (of cruciverbal public opinion).

mattgaffney.com + YOUTUBE CHANNEL:

My new website is up at mattgaffney.com. Please overlook the minor issues I'm still ironing out (e-mail and YouTube are improperly linked, a little rewriting to do) and check it out!

Note that forthcoming YouTube channel, which will be called "Matt Gaffney On Crosswords." Beginning the first week in March I'll be posting regular videos (every week or two) on all things cruciverbal -- rants/raves, clues/news/views, ideas/trends/events -- if it has to do with the world of crossword puzzles, I'll be talking about it on YouTube soon.

I'm taking suggestions for these videos, so if you've got a crossword topic you'd like me to address then by all means drop me a line! If you send a suggestion in, please put YOUTUBE IDEA in the subject line so I can keep them organized. Thanks in advance, and I'll link to the first video once it goes live in early March.

GRYPTICS APP:

The Gryptics app is now available in the Apple Store! Listen to programmer Brooks Hollar outline the new application he wrote for Les Foeldessy's addictive word game. I'll have more to say about Gryptics in coming weeks.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer is a well-known mountain
. E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer mountain 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 (1,651 members now!) here.





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

2/9/12

MGWCC #193 -- Friday, February 10th, 2012 -- "In Short Order"


Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 193 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:


Slightly flawed meta last week, so let's sort it out: the puzzle's five theme entries were:

HOOP DREAMS
WATUSI TRIBE
WEDNESDAY ADDAMS
WEARING THIN
HOUSEWIVES

Say those five aloud and the first syllables you'll hear are who, what, when, where and how. What's missing is why, and the only one-word breed of dog that starts with that question is the WEIMARANER, making that our contest answer.

293 is low for Week 1, and there were two issues that tripped solvers up:

1) There are two pronunciations of WEIMARANER, as both the initial "why" sound and the original German "vie" (rhymes with pie) are used. I considered making the contest answer something less ambiguous like WYOMING or WHITE HOUSE, but didn't.

Ultimately this didn't wind up throwing many people off -- just three entrants submitted WIREHAIR, for example, which I couldn't take because it's not a breed.

2) This was the more troublesome imperfection: the second syllable of the last entry, HOUSEWIVES, begins with the missing "why" sound. This threw a lot of solvers off; it looks too unlikely to be a coincidence (especially since it's the last theme entry), but it's clearly different from the others, which all begin with the question word.

I didn't notice the "why" in HOUSEWIVES at all, and even though it is different from the others, it's certainly odd enough to ruin the aha moment/click for some (even many WEIMARANER entrants mentioned not being 100% sure about what was going on with that one). And 24 entrants submitted HOUND or BLOODHOUND, having seen the six question words (counting 2 for HOUSEWIVES) and reasoning that a "bloodhound" can mean a detective who asks a lot of questions, while a reporter can "hound" reluctant interviewees with questions.

It doesn't sit right with me to bump so many people out in Week 1 over an imperfect meta, so let's throw some prizes at the problem: for the 293 who got WEIMARANER, you're 1 for 1 and can continue your month's meta rampage uninterrupted.

For everyone who didn't get WEIMARANER, your month starts now: you're not eligible for the regular monthly prizes like the 293 WEIMARANER folks are, but you are eligible for 2 stationery prizes set aside only for those who missed Week 1. And keep in mind that, as ever, anyone can win weekly prizes regardless of their monthly status.

So let's put this glitch behind us and move on: I've already completed the rest of the puzzles for February, and I guarantee that a little ol' Weimaraner is going to be the kindest creature you meet all month here!

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 293 correct entries received, is Dana Hahn of Los Angeles, Calif. Dana has selected as her prize an autographed copy of 20 Minute While You Wait Crossword Puzzles.

STILL FEISTY:

Just three more days to get Andrew Feist's 9-puzzle contest suite at his site! It's for charity, too.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer is a familiar city in the Midwest; it's what the 5th theme entry must be. E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer city 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 (1,651 members now!) here. To solve with friends at Team Crossword, click here.





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

2/2/12

MGWCC #192 -- Friday, February 3rd, 2012 -- "The Question Is..."

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 192 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:

"YAHOO!"
yodeled 239 solvers when they figured out last week's meta, for two reasons: not only is it a satisfying victory yelp, but it was also the correct contest answer.

Solvers were tasked with finding a familiar Internet company, and the 17x17 grid featured seven theme entries: MARTINI GLASS, EIFFEL TOWER, FOUR-POST BED, DINOSAUR EGG, PLANET EARTH and STICK AND BALL were left unexplained, but the 17-letter THE THIRD DIMENSION nudged solvers in the right direction, clued as {What you'll need to think in}.

I'll go ahead and steal joon pahk's images to explain the meta idea:


See what I did there? Each of the six objects described in the theme entries resembles a 3-d letter of the alphabet. So a MARTINI GLASS looks like a 3-d letter Y, the EIFFEL TOWER looks like a 3-d letter A, and so on down to the STICK AND BALL which, properly aligned, can serve as YAHOO!'s famous exclamation point.

I grudgingly accepted !-less entries, since instructions asked for the company's name, and the company is often referenced in the media without its exclam. But some of you owe me an exclamation point, which you can attach to this week's entry.

Narayan Venkatasubramanyan
sent in a similar sestet to joon's above, and noted that:

it is a bit ironic that the above images were found using google

Robert Hartford drew the images himself:



Gene Faba was busy, but still got YAHOO! in on time:

I was concerned that the fourth dimension was going to preclude me getting the third dimensional answer before the deadline.

Andrew Greene gets some serious bragging rights:

So FYI, this week I tried solving the meta without the instructions, and succeeded.


Impressive! Don't try this at home, kids.

Meg Duvall
had a wild meta ride:

You devil!!!!!! More than a few hours spent on simple geometric solids (cone, sphere, prism etc) Another few hours wondering why HIGH, EGG and BALL (grid entries) were also in the clues. A while wondering why TWO, FOUR, FIVE and TEN were grid entries.

Finally started thinking about those Google doodles (weird clue for 28A) and then the pictures came. What a wonderful feeling when the answer is revealed! I'm screaming at my husband in the car "OK, but what's the stick and ball?" He yells back, "It's the exclamation point!"

Now I can do that delightful Cox and Rathvon cryptic I printed out yesterday and haven't even looked at. Might even play Angry Birds.


And finally, Gary Levin writes:

The central clue made this relatively easy. As soon as I read that, I sketched the COCKTAIL GLASS, EIFFEL TOWER, and PLANET EARTH (alas poor Pluto). Y A - - O - . The only hard part was that I had forgotten that "!" was part of the name and I couldn't figure out how I was going to get 6 characters.

This was intentional -- I was aiming to tempt guessers to GOOGLE, AMAZON, or another six-letter company since there were six theme entries. Without knowing about the exclam, a solver can't know that the company's name is only five letters long.

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 239 correct entries received, is Jason Juang of Mountain View, Calif. In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set, Jason will also receive a 1-year subscription to Peter Gordon's extremely good Fireball Crosswords. Next week we return to regular book prizes for the first time in a long time!

MONTHLY PRIZES:


A record 112 solvers submitted the correct contest answer to all four of January's challenges (BANANA SPLIT, RICHARD WRIGHT, WRONG ORGAN, YAHOO!). The following ten lucky and skillful winners, chosen randomly from that group, will receive a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set:

Steve Blumenthal -- San Francisco, Calif.

David Cole -- Wyomissing, Penna.

Anne Erdmann -- Champaign, Ill.

Robert Hartford -- Stow, Mass.

Alex Jeffrey -- Columbia, Md.

Cris Pannullo -- Jackson, N.J.

David Plotkin -- Mississippi State, Miss.

Eric Prestemon -- Woodside, Calif.

Daniel Simoncini -- Worcester, Mass.

Brett Streetman -- Somerville, Mass.


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

FEBRUARY GRYPTICS CONTEST:

You know what to do!

GETTING FEISTY:

Andrew Feist is running a 9-puzzle contest suite at his site. I haven't gotten to it yet myself, but Andrew is a clever fellow so it's going to be fun I'm sure. Deadline is Valentine's Day, so check it out sooner than later if you're gonna!


THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:


This week's contest answer is a one-word breed of dog. E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer doggie 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 (1,646 members now!) here. To solve with friends at Team Crossword, click here.





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