3/28/12

MGWCC #200 -- Friday, March 30th, 2012 -- "Game of the Century"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 200 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.

THESE ARE FUN, LET'S DO 800 MORE:

We're at #200 already, eh? That was quick. MGWCC will terminate with puzzle #1000 on Friday, August 6th, 2027, which means that if these 19 years were a five-Friday month we'd be done with the first meta as of today. Still early!

A big, sincere thanks from me to you, my fellow word nerds, for participating in the contest and making it the cornerstone of my crossword life; if you keep doing what you're doing, I'll keep doing what I'm doing. And a special mention of thanks to Joon Pahk for blogging the puzzle with extreme competence every week at Crossword Fiend.

So, let's do 800 more. Whaddya say?

LAST WEEK'S RESULTS:


OK, let's be honest: last week's meta won't make any "Best of MGWCC" books. In fact, solvers gave it the second-lowest Crossword Fiend rating (3.00) of any MGWCC since the ratings system was instituted! Only the infamous "magic mushrooms" meta from last October scored lower (2.79).

Solvers faulted the puzzle on two points: first, it was deemed too easy for a Week 4 (out of 5) meta, a belief supported by the 321 correct entries submitted, very high for a Week 4 out of 5 (I'd been aiming for more like 175). Second, many solvers found the connections between the parenthetical TV shows and the referenced celebrities to be inconsistent and somewhat confusing.



First, let's look at the meta answer. I'll let one of the Brady kid namesakes,
Peter Washington, explain the theme:

PETER Pan; CINDY Crawford; MARCIA Clark; JAN Hooks; BOBBY Brown; GREG Norman.

In other words, one of the six "Brady Bunch" kids can be placed before each theme answer to form the name of a celebrity suggested by the parenthetical TV show. In full:

PAN AM GAMES = Peter Pan, suggested by "Boy Meets World"
CRAWFORD RULE = Cindy Crawford, suggested by "America's Next Top Model"
CLARK BARS = Marcia Clark, suggested by "L.A. Law"
HOOKS UP TO = Jan Hooks, suggested by "Saturday Night Live"
BROWN MUSTARD = Bobby Brown, suggested by "Solid Gold"
NORMAN LEAR = Greg Norman, suggested by "Anything on the Golf Channel"

Which, of course, makes THE BRADY BUNCH last week's contest answer.

I was intending simply that the shows would hint at the relevant celebrity in some way, whether concretely (e.g., Jan Hooks was a cast member on "Saturday Night Live") or more conceptually (e.g., Marcia Clark is a lawyer in Los Angeles) in order to heighten the click of the aha moment. Unfortunately, the presence of those shows had the opposite effect on many solvers, who scratched their heads and Googled whether Bobby Brown had ever been on "Solid Gold" or Cindy Crawford had ever been on "America's Next Top Model" (no and no, as far as I know).[UPDATE, 3/30, 2:30 PM ET: Marcia Rose informs me that Bobby Brown did appear on "Solid Gold" as a member of New Edition back in the 80s.]

I toyed with not including the TV shows at all, which would obviously have made the meta much more difficult. In the end I thought excluding them would make the meta prohibitively and unsatisfyingly difficult for some, since not all of the names (e.g. Jan Hooks) are exactly household.

Cindy Follick says:

I always found Cindy so annoying that I block out the fact that I share her name.

Jan O'Sullivan writes:

Yay! I think I got it! Of course it helps to be a Jan!

Marcia Rose reveals:

Before passwords and hackers became so sophisticated, I used to use "MarciaMarciaMarcia" as my password.

Robert (closest we had to a Bobby) Hutchinson writes:

I feel a little guilty for submitting this answer while I'm still
struggling with the upper right corner of the grid. But only a little.


You shouldn't feel guilty, Robert, but you know who should? The 2 or 3 MGWCC solvers named Greg, none of whom sent in the right answer. If one of you Gregs had come thru we woulda had a full set! As it is, the girls beat the boys 3-2.

Ed Brody recalls:

I used to get teased in junior high with "The Brody Bunch" jokes. And don't mention Mr. Ed.

Colin Brown, currently living in Holland, sends this:

I started this puzzle on the train back from Hamburg so I quite enjoyed 68-across.

Paul Stynsberg runs my kind of tournament:

For a guy who plays backgammon every day, I really appreciated CRAWFORD RULE. Every December we have a Christmas tournament in which, of course, the Crawford Rule is in effect. And then the winner is presented with the coveted Crawford Cup:



And finally, John Stant writes:

Matt, my wife and I did the puzzle on our honeymoon. That is how geeky we are.

Congratulations, John! You're my kind of geeks.

ERRATUM:

If you had to guess, who would you say the one solver was who noticed that I had both ARE and WHO ARE YOU in MGWCC #199?

Unsurprising answer here.

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 321 correct entries received, is Becky Baer of Palo Alto, Calif. Becky has selected as her prize an autographed copy of Literary Crosswords.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:


This week's contest answer is the answer to the question "Who's on first?". 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 (1,683 members now!) here.





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

3/22/12

MGWCC #199 -- Friday, March 23rd, 2012 -- "All My Children"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 199 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:

Geography and Sir Reginald Dwight combined in last week's puzzle: solvers were asked to find a well-known song by Dwight, a.k.a. Elton John. The theme entries were:



17-a {Request for an update} = ANY WORD YET?
26-a {Where Ostende, Antwerp and Ghent are located} = IN FLANDERS. Not really a legit crossword entry, so something meta-related must be up.
38-a {Cold quintet} = NORDIC COUNTRIES
50-a {Once a week, sometimes} = WEDNESDAYS
63-a {Bill to foil bank robbers} = MARKED NOTE

So what's going on? Kind of a tricky set, since one of the five encompasses the others: the grid-spanning NORDIC COUNTRIES is the key, as four of those five, when rearranged, begin the other four: Norway is the first six letters of ANY WORD YET, Finland starts IN FLANDERS (there's nothing better for Finland, hence the awkward entry), Sweden starts WEDNESDAYS (the seed entry for this theme), and Denmark begins MARKED NOTE.

The missing Nordic country is Iceland, so we're looking for an Elton John song that begins with those seven letters, and it's perhaps his most famous song: the Marilyn Monroe tribute CANDLE IN THE WIND, submitted by 285 solvers.

Peter Gordon sent in the right answer, but then added:

(or, I guess, "Candle in the Wind 1997")


That's the remake John did after Princess Diana's death. Also acceptable as an answer, though no one submitted it without a wink.

Eric LeVasseur
writes:

There were two near misses: "Daniel" and "Island Girl", but of course only "Candle in the Wind" starts with an anagram of ICELAND. (BTW, "Iceland" in German is actually spelled "Island".)

Indeed 19 solvers sent in DANIEL, which comes within a letter of working. I have to admit I didn't even look for alternate answers, since I figured it was vanishingly unlikely that another EJ song would start with those seven. I was right, but not by much!

Alan Neely sent this in on Saturday:

Considering that I'm going to see him in concert tonight in Richmond, I better get this right!

Scott Clay got the right song, and notes that:

Iceland is the missing country ... and I have been to all five of them!

You've got me beat, Scott -- I've been to 3.5 of them (Finland once but it was for a month; Sweden twice; and Denmark four times. The .5 is 2 hours spent in the Reykjavik airport...ok, so maybe I've only been to 3.01 of them).

And finally, Walt Blue says:

Glad I got it solved early. Now I CAN IDLE about for the rest of the week.

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 285 correct entries received, is Wayne Mesard of Belmont, Mass. In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set, Wayne will also receive a copy of Ben Tausig's new anti-establishment book Crosswords From the Underground. Next week we return to normal book prizes.

WHEN MATT FORGOT HARRY AND SALLY...

Speed-blogged last week and forgot to run two nice e-mails on the "When Harry Met Sally..." meta -- but they both happen to fit nicely this week, oddly enough! The first, because we're talking about Nordic countries: Gunnar Bergvall writes from Stockholm:



... or, in Swedish: "När Harry Mötte Sally" (I didn't dare to put the Swedish title in the subject line ...)














And we mentioned that Elton John played Richmond last Saturday night (how much you wanna bet he played "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting"?), so this e-mail from David Cole is even more appropriate now:



I was in Richmond at a soccer tournament, could not print the puzzle at the business center, so I improvised!













ACPT RESULTS:

Here's what I wrote on this blog after last year's ACPT:

*** Congratulations to Dan Feyer, Tyler Hinman and Anne Erdmann for their 1-2-3 finish in the A finals. Dan has now won two in a row; can he duplicate Tyler's fivepeat, or will Tyler strike back in 2012 (as the Mayan calendar has prophesied)? Anne made her second finals in a row, a fine achievement as well.

*** Congratulations also to tournament director Will Shortz and tournament coordinator Helene Hovanec for yet another successful event.


Same finalists this year, same order of finish! Who can break the Feyer-Hinman-Erdmann hegemony? Congratulations to the three of them again, with special mention of Dan's impressive comeback victory in the final round and Anne's extremely gracious conduct in self-reporting an error she'd made that hadn't been caught (or, more precisely, that was so borderline that it hadn't been judged as an error -- except by Anne herself).

And our beloved joon came in 8th! Also very nice. I missed this year but I'll be at Lollapuzzoola this summer and at the ACPT in 2013.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:


This week's contest answer is a well-known TV show. E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer show 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 (1,678 members now!) here.





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

3/14/12

MGWCC #198 -- Friday, March 16th, 2012 -- "National Assembly"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 198 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:

We'd just set a Week 1 record (514 right answers), and now we follow up with a Week 2 record: 468 entrants found "WHEN HARRY MET SALLY..." as last week's contest answer movie. They'd seen that the first word of each theme answer was the surname of one of that charming movie's four main stars:



RYAN GOSLING (Meg Ryan; bit of a misdirect there, using one actor to point at another)
CRYSTAL CLEAR (Billy Crystal, recent Oscars host)
KIRBY PUCKETT (Bruno Kirby, R.I.P.)
FISHER PRICE (Carrie Fisher, a.k.a. Princess Leia Organa)






Answers with or without the ellipsis were naturally counted as correct, though commenter Scott at Crossword Fiend wondered how many people included it, so I counted: just 59 of the 468 correct entrants included it. No big deal, though...

Cole Kendall notes that the movie was:

Filmed partially at U of Chicago, where they leave campus through a gate not opened to auto traffic and drive north (toward Wisconsin) on their way to NY.

Mike Lewis shared his meta solve:

A peek into the solving process:

Ryan's Hope? Was that a movie, or just a TV show?
Dark Crystal? That was the 80s!
Fisher King? Was that the 80s?
What about Carrie Fisher? She was in lots of stuff in the 80s; hey, so was Billy Crystal! Gasp! Meg Ryan!
Was Carrie Fisher in When Harry Met Sally? (tap-tap-tap) She was, and so was Bruno Kirby! Wow, I forgot Bruno Kirby existed!


While submitting WHMS..., Sally Maisel added:

...or: When Harry Met Me

Chris McCoy riffs:

Or, for this puzzle: 'When Harry Meta Sally'


Patrick Lipawen says:

I once wrote a paper about Sally's OCD tendencies. She would be good at these puzzles.

Michael Marcus
has a pleasant WHMS... association:

I got this instantly - my wife and I watch this movie every year on New Year's Eve.

While Myron Meyer has an unpleasant WHMS... association:

The answer to this week's contest is the movie that was the correct response to the Daily Double that cost me the lead (which I never recovered) when I was on Jeopardy.

10 years. You'd think I'd be over it. ;)


Jason Juang found an unintentional but extremely plausible red herring. Be glad you didn't notice it:



I got way off track for a while after finding that if you write a 'B' into the black square between 20- and 21-Across, you can read "BEYONCE" down the main diagonal. Half an hour later, I was forced to admit that "Star Search" didn't mean that this was a word search.















Seth Grossinger sends this cringeworthy pic (he took it, but that's a friend of Seth's in the photo) at Target Field (click image to enlarge, and keep looking until you see the cringe):


















Like I can talk, though -- Jim Cassidy (and no one else!) noticed that I have an extra R in Forest Whitaker's name in 8-down. Definitely an "errror."

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 468 correct entries received, is Deb Carstens of Seattle, Wash. In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set, Deb will also receive a copy of Ben Tausig's new anti-establishment book Crosswords From the Underground. Next week's winner will receive the same.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer is a familiar Elton John song.
E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by WEDNESDAY at noon ET [NOTE: you have an extra day to enter this week because of the ACPT, and good luck to those who are competing!]. Please put the contest answer song 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 (1,675 members now!) here.






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

3/7/12

MGWCC #197 -- Friday, March 9th, 2012 -- "Star Search"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 197 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, look at that -- a record 514 entrants submitted CUCUMBER as their contest answer vegetable (fruit? see below) last week, obliterating the previous high of 460. Easy puzzle or the Puzzle Social Effect? Probably both.

Just about everyone noticed that the four theme entries began with a CvCv pattern, where the v's progressed alphabetically through the grid:

CACAO BEANS
CECE WINANS
CICI'S PIZZA
CO-COMPOSER

What vegetable completes the pattern? Why the humble CUCUMBER, of course, with its cuckoo-looking CUCU start -- or should that be "geococcyx-looking"?

Elaine Walizer thought the meta was:

Very cucute.

Bob Johnson says:

All that's missing is Cy the Cynic from Frank Stewart's bridge column.

Andy Arizpe stumbled briefly:

Nice and easy, although I did spend a few seconds trying to figure out who Coco M Poser was :)

Mike Sylvia
felt the effect of that brutal February:

I can tell I've been solving too many tougher puzzles of this kind lately - my first instinct after "CACAO BEANS" was to notice they were the same length, superimpose one on the other, and look what overlapped with the Cs. BA was a promising start!

...And then the rest of the crossword happened, and I said to myself, "Oh, right. Week 1."


Debbie Keller felt it as well:

After February's beet-down, this gal's "spin-aching" for some easier puzzles to turnip in March!!

And Mike Utkus noted the difference between Week 4 and Week 1:

Ahhhh .... I get my weekend back!!


I mentioned a while ago how you can toughen up an early-month meta. Nancy Hart did just that:

Answered this one without the instructions--as you said, easy.

You can try going instructionsless with Week 2, too -- it's tough but possible with only the title.

Walt Blue wryly notes an alternate answer:

Hey, Matt! There's also cucurbita, gourd in Latin. (You didn't specify a language for the vegetable.)

Susan Keefer
anticipated a meta-reaction:

you know 500 people are going to write and tell you that it's really a fruit, right?

And they did, Susan! But that technicality didn't throw anyone off -- and besides, according to (recent law school graduate) Maggie Wittlin, I'm on solid legal ground:

If you get any "that's not a vegetable!" complaints this week, please refer them to the esteemed Supreme Court case of Nix v. Hedden, 149 U.S. 304 (1893):

"Botanically speaking, tomatoes are the fruit of a vine, just as are cucumbers, squashes, beans, and peas. But in the common language of the people, whether sellers or consumers of provisions, all these are vegetables which are grown in kitchen gardens, and which, whether eaten cooked or raw, are, like potatoes, carrots, parsnips, turnips, beets, cauliflower, cabbage, celery, and lettuce, usually served at dinner in, with, or after the soup, fish, or meats which constitute the principal part of the repast, and not, like fruits generally, as dessert."

And finally, Brian Gubin asks if this puzzle was...

...Much easier than the last two weeks? Si, si.


This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 514 correct entries received, is Amy Paepke of Saint Louis Park, Minn. Amy has selected as her prize an autographed copy of 20-Minute On the Road Crossword Puzzles.

TALK OF THE NATION:

Joshua Kosman and Henri Picciotto, co-constructors of The Nation's venerable cryptic crossword, have a brand-new blog up at that magazine's website. They'll be discussing all things cruciverbal, with a special focus on their own work and on cryptics in general. A very welcome addition to the Crucisphere.

TWO THINGS:


1) I won't be at the ACPT this year due to a prior commitment, but I am aiming for Lollapuzzoola 5 this summer.

2) Don't think I've mentioned it here yet, but I'm on Facebook now -- so if you're at least a semi-regular solver here, friend me.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer is a well-known movie of the 1980s.
E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer movie 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 (1,672 members now!) here.

SPECIAL PRIZE THIS WEEK AND NEXT:


In addition to a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set, contest winners this week and next will receive an autographed copy of Ben Tausig's new book Crosswords from the Underground. These edgy puzzles are taken from Ben's excellent Ink Well feature, which syndicates to alternative newsweeklies throughout the country.






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

3/1/12

MGWCC #196 -- Friday, March 2nd, 2012 -- "See? See?"



Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 196 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:

Who doesn't love a treasure hunt? Solvers strapped on their eyepatches and played pirate last week, searching for a four-letter treasure buried somewhere in the puzzle.

And what a puzzling thing it was -- no theme entries at all, and just one strange hint to go on: At 24-across, the clue read {HINT: Number of the letter you must write twice into this grid; CLUE: Video game company of the 1980s}.

The answer was COLECO, which takes care of the "clue" part of that clue, so the "hint" had to be a meta hint. What's letter number 24? Why it's X, of course, but there's only one X in the grid, sitting in the upper right corner at the BMX/XLS cross. So where's the other one?

The extreme symmetry of the grid (180-degree rotational + top-bottom + left-right) suggests that the center of the grid might be a good place for it; does that lead us anywhere? There aren't any white squares bordering the central X, but the diagonals start to take intriguing forms once you plunk that X down. Reading inward from each corner we get:

EOCOCCYX
XECUTRIX
ULTIPLEX
HADOWBOX

Those look suspiciously word-like -- and indeed, slap one letter beyond each grid corner and you get GEOCOCCYX (that's the roadrunner bird), EXECUTRIX, MULTIPLEX and SHADOWBOX -- and you also reveal the hidden GEMS as your contest answer treasure! Thanks to Charles Montpetit for this nice illustration of the theme:



Contest instructions asked not only for the treasure, but also its location. I accepted as correct anything along the lines of either "outside the grid, at the corners" or "in the middle of the grid, where the X is." Either interpretation of the treasure's location was plausible; I just included that stipulation to exclude wild guesses of GEMS, since there are only so many plausible four-letter treasures. So rest assured if you got GEMS that your answer was counted as correct as long as you even implied that you'd grokked the diagonal-words-leading-to-X idea (in fact, now that I think of it, everyone who submitted GEMS had their entry counted as correct, since no one guessed it out of the blue).

Bob Klahn writes:

Hey Matt, I just about went cuckoo over this one! But then a roadrunner showed me the way.


(Coccyx is the Latin for the cuckoo bird -- the human bone is so named because it resembles a cuckoo's bill.)

Giovanni Pagano
wasn't fooled:

I had an inkling an extra X would play into the grid somewhere after seeing there was only one in BMX. I guess I caught that HADOWBO in the lower left kind of sounded like SHADOWBOX, and I could fill in the rest from there.

Parker Lewis saw some icky fill and knew the meta was lurking nearby:

The bottom right square gave it away for me. An N (or D or P or T) would have made much better words so that alerted me to the necessity of the U. The m of multiplex came instantly to me because I'm a juggler and multiplex is a type of juggling move where you throw two or more objects at the same time from one hand. Had to google those roadrunners though!

Russ Cooper
noticed an amusing coincidence:

Across Lite printed the 'G' in 'Gaffney' in a very opportune spot!
















While Jed and Mandy Scott solved the meta under special circumstances, having had their third child a few months ago. Jed writes:

Mandy and I actually solved the meta together on Saturday night over our first dinner out in about six months. Our niece and nephew gave us dinner and a movie plus babysitting for Christmas; picture us sitting on the same side of a booth, poring over your puzzle...

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 98 correct entries received, is Jason Shapiro of New York City, N.Y. Jason has selected as his prize an autographed copy of The Pocket Idiot's Guide to Brain Games.

MONTHLY PRIZES:

February was brutal, as just 26 solvers submitted the correct contest answer to all four of last month's challenges (WEIMARANER, TERRE HAUTE, MONT BLANC, GEMS). The following ten lucky and skillful winners, chosen randomly from that group, will receive a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set:

Brian Biggs -- Wilmington, Del.

Joanna Cheng -- Sydney, Australia

Todd Etter -- Alexandria, Va.

Nathan Fung -- Brighton, Mass.

Jeremy Horwitz -- San Francisco, Calif.

Alan Neely -- Hermitage, Tenn.

Brendan Emmett Quigley -- Cambridge, Mass.

Dan Sadoff -- St. Paul, Minn.

John Stant -- Wilmington, Del.

Paul David Wadler -- Chicago, Ill.


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



TRAFFIC JAM:


Just ended the heaviest week (and month, too) of traffic here at MGWCC in the almost 4 years we've been doing this. w00t!!

TWO NICE CROSSWORDS YOU MAY HAVE MISSED:

If you missed Ian Livengood's L.A. Times puzzle last Friday, check it out here (click on the calendar icon in the lower-right, then select February 24th).

And if you missed Patrick Blindauer's February website puzzle, try it here (scroll down a bit and click on "February 2012 -- I Love U" on the right-hand sidebar). When you're done with this one, see if you can spot what makes the grid so impressive -- e-mail me if you can't figure it out.

Incidentally, I'll be blogging Patrick's monthly website puzzles at Crossword Fiend starting today and tomorrow (I'm blogging the February puzzle linked above today, and the March puzzle, which went up last night, tomorrow afternoon. The March puzzle is also available at the above link).


GRYPTICS APP AND CONTEST:


The March Gryptics contest is up at Les Foeldessy's site here, and the new Gryptics app is out here. The app is free and it's iPad only for now, so if you've got that tablet then give it a shot! Programmed by a friend of mine, A. Brooks Hollar, so I'm biased when I say that it looks awesome (but it does).

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer is a vegetable. E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer vegetable 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 (1,664 members now!) here.





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