4/27/12

MGWCC #204 -- Friday, Apr. 27th, 2012 -- "We, the People"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 204 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:

Controversial meta last week at MGWCC, so let's sort it out: at first glance, the solved grid appeared to have no obvious theme answers and no clues or entries that seemed especially odd. Well, maybe a few stuck out: at 54-d, isn't a Toronto ballplayer a "Blue Jay" instead of just a JAY? And how about 23-a, where the drink mentioned repeatedly in "The Shining" is actually "red rum," which reverses to a very Stephen King word, instead of simply RUM?

So the pattern emerged: 12 grid answers work fine with their current clues, but also work with a little color added -- on three black squares! They are:

21-a {Put two and two together} = either INFER or INFER(RED)
23-a {Drink repeatedly mentioned in "The Shining"} = RUM or (RED) RUM
10-d {Word painted on many airplanes} = JET or JET(BLUE)
26-d {Chesapeake Bay creature} = CRAB or (BLUE) CRAB
33-a {Color named for a bird} = CANARY or CANARY (YELLOW)
35-a {Symbol of remembrance or welcome} = RIBBON or (YELLOW) RIBBON
7-d {Put back into the ground} = REINTER or REINTER(RED) (bug or feature, using the ambiguously-tensed "put" to hide RED, both here and at 21-a? I intended it as a feature, and most indeed dug it, but a chunk of solvers found it inelegant)
39-d {"Lady Be Good" actor, 1941} = SKELTON or (RED) SKELTON
50-a {Like the taxi in a Joni Mitchell hit} = BIG or BIG (YELLOW) (the song is titled "Big Yellow Taxi")
51-a {Pool hall 1's} = BALLS or (YELLOW) BALLS (the 1-ball in pool is solid yellow, or the clue could have been interpreted to mean balls in general as scoring one point each, depending on the game)
34-d {Jacket shade} = NAVY or NAVY (BLUE)
54-d {Toronto ballplayer} = JAY or (BLUE) JAY

So the upper-rightmost black square on the main diagonal takes RED across and BLUE down; the center square takes YELLOW across and RED down; and the lower-leftmost square on the diagonal takes YELLOW across and BLUE down. Mix these together, as hinted at by the title (and the placement of the colors themselves), and you get a PURPLE (or VIOLET), ORANGE and GREEN square in the grid. That makes these three shades, or their collective name the SECONDARY COLORS, our contest answer, as submitted by 84 solvers.

Now, the controversy (which spawned a spirited and lengthy discussion here): 142 solvers submitted either PRIMARY COLORS or YELLOW, RED and BLUE as their answer. I don't consider this (and only a handful have argued otherwise) to be as good an answer as SECONDARY COLORS. If each of the three black squares had been a solid primary color, with four YELLOW, RED or BLUE clues converging on it, then PRIMARY COLORS would be the obvious and best answer. But with two different primary colors feeding into each of the three squares, the suggestion to mix the two, when combined with the title nudge, is so strong that SECONDARY COLORS must be considered the superior answer.

The counterargument runs: MGWCC titles usually hint at the meta, but sometimes, especially late in the month, they're just placeholders that don't really move you clearly towards the meta since I don't want to give anything away right off the bat. Also, while SECONDARY COLORS may be the superior answer, PRIMARY COLORS is also a "familiar group of 3," so some solvers quit looking once they had it. As Roy Denham wrote in comments at the Crossword Fiend link above:

I stopped with Primary colors. I saw and noted the “Mix” in title and grid, but that is what one does with the primary colors to make others.

Another issue to be settled: MGWCC metas shouldn't be ambiguous, but 23 solvers who submitted PRIMARY COLORS mentioned in their e-mails that they had also considered the SECONDARY COLORS, but rejected it in favor of the Primaries. This should not happen! While the majority of those who noticed both sent in SECONDARY, the uncertainty of many of those who did, combined with the 23 (or more; see below) who ultimately chose PRIMARY shows that the meta was too ambiguous here; 80% isn't nearly solid enough for a meta. It needs to click a lot harder than that. Why, even Joon Pahk wasn't quite sure, though he did ultimately submit SECONDARY:

when i figured out what was going on, i still wasn’t 100% sure that matt did indeed want the secondary colors and not the primary colors. i sent in secondary, because that was the one that better demonstrated that i understood what was going on in those special squares (and that i hadn’t missed half of the meta), but nothing about the instructions or the puzzle’s title makes it unambiguous that he wanted the trio formed by mixing, rather than the trio being mixed. i suspect most of the people who sent in primary didn’t fully grok the meta, but i don’t really know.

So here's what we'll do moving forward:

***84 solvers submitted SECONDARY COLORS or GREEN, ORANGE and PURPLE (or VIOLET). Those 84 answers are counted as fully correct.

***23 solvers submitted PRIMARY COLORS or RED, YELLOW and BLUE as their answer AND mentioned somewhere in their e-mail that they had also considered the secondary colors. These 23 answers are also counted as fully correct.

***If you submitted PRIMARY COLORS or RED, YELLOW and BLUE as your answer AND did not mention somewhere in your e-mail that you had also considered the secondary colors BUT you did consider them before submitting, your answer will be retroactively counted as fully correct next week. If this is what happened with you, please put the words SECONDARY COLORS somewhere in the body of your e-mail while submitting your answer to this week's puzzle (MGWCC #204). While I could not logistically put you in the drawing for MGWCC #203's weekly prize, you will still be eligible for April's monthly prizes if you've gotten all four metas correct.

***If you submitted PRIMARY COLORS or RED, YELLOW and BLUE as your answer AND did not at any point consider the secondary colors, then your answer is counted as incorrect. I know this will ruffle some feathers and concede that it's not an easy call, but in the end I feel that the placement of the colors in the grid is too suggestive to count the Primaries as 100% correct.

HOWEVER, as a concession to those knocked out of the month by this close call, I'm going to randomly choose five people from this group to be eligible for MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad sets IF they got the right answer to month's other three metas. And then, so as not to penalize the SECONDARY COLORS people, I'm going to give away 15 MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad sets this month instead of the normal 10 (so that's 20 MGWCC stationery sets total this month instead of 10). So there's still everything to play for, no matter what colors you submitted (but note that only those who answered PRIMARY COLORS are eligible for the 5 consolation prizes; those who submitted nothing at all, or something different entirely, cannot win those).

So everyone's happy(ish) now, right? Peter Gordon, who is editing the first book of MGWCC puzzles as we speak, had a clever suggestion if we use this one in the second book:

Have the instructions just ask for "a set of three whose words contain a total of 17 letters."

Now he tells me!

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 107+ correct entries received, is Paul Melamud of Milford, N.J. Paul has selected as his prize an autographed copy of Sit & Solve Commuter Puzzles.


ERRATUM:

If a thunderbolt crashes through my window anytime soon, we'll know it was an angry Thor: seven solvers (Charles Montpetit was first) pointed out that it was he who has Bestla as a grandmother, not ODIN (58-a). I plead for leniency from Valhalla (not to mention the crossword-friendly Aesir).

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer is a country in Africa. 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. NOTE: there are three possible answers to this week's meta, but you only have to submit one of them.

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 (1,705 members now!) here.




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

4/20/12

MGWCC #203 -- Friday, April 20th, 2012 -- "Let's Mix It up a Little"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 203 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:


396 solvers hiked the APPALACHIAN TRAIL last week, locating the fourteen states of that venerable "walk in the woods" along the main SW-NE diagonal. The tricky part: each of those state abbrs. used its first letter in the across entry but the second letter in the down. For instance, the intersecting square of 46-across and 41-down was WV for West Virginia, yielding EWE and RIVIERA.

That gimmick naturally caused a lot of erasures and head-scratching, but eventually a healthy Week 2 number of solvers found the AT, helped along by those two letters in the grid's center square.

As a bonus, the trail's termini were the alpha and omega across answers: Maine's Mt. KATAHDIN at 1-across, the trail's northern terminus, and Georgia's SPRINGER Mountain at 64-across, its southern end.

Straying from the trail: six solvers guessed Route 95, the interstate that stretches from Florida to Maine -- but misses Tennessee, West Virginia and Vermont. And 14 guessed Route 1, which shadows 95 most of the way along the Eastern Seaboard -- and misses those same three states.


Howard Barkin asks:

Hiking up the difficulty, are we?

Nancy Pilla
is going:

Will be walking the trail in southern PA for a few days in June!


Alex Kolker quips:

Until I figured out what was going on in the center square, I thought we'd found the lost State of Atlantis.

David Miller
writes:

Sneaky one, kept messing up on the diagonal over and over again until i realized it was only on the diagonal.

Neal Felsinger:

The Katahdin/Springer entries gave away the meta very early. This may be the result of my being a member of the Appalachian Mountain Club when I lived in CT. Not that I was ever a very strong hiker.

And finally, Katie Proctor knew the AT right away:

Which of course, goes from Katahdin to Springer Mountain. It helps
that Jennifer Pharr Davis, who set the record last year, is a local and I got updates on her progress all last summer.


This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 396 correct entries received, is Sam Ezersky of Fairfax, Va. Sam has selected as his prize an autographed copy of Gridlock. Fitting that the prize this week would go to a Virginian, since that state contains (far) more miles of the AT than any other.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer is a familiar group of three.
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. NOTE: you can submit either the collective name for the group OR just list its members.

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 (1,705 members now!) here.







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

4/13/12

MGWCC #202 -- Friday, April 13th, 2012 -- "Range Rover"

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 202 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 fast-food chain could DAN QUAYLE, DENNIS QUAID, the DELAWARE QUARTER, a DIRECT QUOTE, and the city of DOHA, QATAR possibly point to? 499 solvers saw it: DAIRY QUEEN, well-known by the DQ initials sported by those five theme entries.

Not that the meta was without traps: seven solvers stumbled by sending in the plausible QUIZNO'S, and another two missed with the even more plausible QDOBA, which starts with the relevant two letters (but in the wrong order, and the five theme entries use DQ as their initials, not their starting letters).

Debbie Keller
writes:

My solving time: Damn Quick!


This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 499 correct entries received, is Alex Barnard of New York City, N.Y. Alex has selected as his prize an autographed copy of The Pocket Idiot's Guide to Kaidoku.

APRIL GRYPTICS CONTEST:

You know what to do!


THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer is a famous route. 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 (1,692 members now!) here.





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

4/5/12

MGWCC #201 -- Friday, April 6th, 2012 -- "Chain Letters"


Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 201 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's on first?" was the question last week, just in time for baseball season. The answers to the rebus-style puzzle revealed four famous baseball surnames with suggestive grid placements:



Those players are:

Nolan RYAN (a pitcher) in the center (BRYANT and BIRYANIS)
Jackie ROBINSON (a 2nd baseman) in the NW (ROBINSON CRUSOE and ROBINSON FAMILY)
Mike SCHMIDT (a 3rd baseman) in the SW (ERIC SCHMIDT and SCHMIDT BEER)
Johnny BENCH (a catcher) in the SE (WEIGHT BENCH and CHURCH BENCH)

So tilt the puzzle (or your head) 45 degrees and you see that everyone's in their correct position on the field. The rebus word FIRST is in the NE, where CAME FIRST and indeed FIRST BASE cross.

So who's on first? As the title hinted towards, the four rebus players were all the top vote-getters at their respective positions on Major League Baseball's All-Century Team. By an enormous margin the top pick for 1st base was the Iron Horse himself, LOU GEHRIG, who therefore also served as last week's contest answer.

IT'S SO EASY:


366 solvers got this one (one for each day of 2012), which is of course much higher than you'd expect from a Week 5. I didn't think it'd be a total brainbuster, but I liked the theme idea and felt it had to run this week to coincide with baseball season starting. I certainly didn't expect nearly that many people to knock it out of the park, either.

Many solvers, while generally appreciating the theme concept, felt the difficulty level was much too low for a Week 5. They therefore found the puzzle to be a bit disappointing in that regard, especially since Week 4 had also seen a much higher number of correct entries than normal.

My response to that understandable sentiment consists of two parts: first, I'm pleased that Weeks 4 and 5 have gained such a fierce reputation among solvers here; and second, know that I'll enjoy reading your e-mails of anguish when the last Friday of April rolls around. Let's just say that I'm extremely motivated by some of the e-mails I got...you know how Babe Ruth pointed to center field in the World Series and then hit a home run there on the next pitch? That's what I'm doing now!

Rick Gearardo writes:

Puzzle done by Eric Schmidt's company and me.

Regarding the "Traveling mathematician" at 11-down, Bruce Bundy shares this:

when I was a grad student in math back in the 70s, we had
a special year in Number Theory, and Paul Erdos came and stayed there
for a while, he was incredibly entertaining and quirky, and I remember
his cash prizes ( I did not earn any of them ;-) for several number
theory problems...


And Katahdin Withnall says:

Thanks for including my name in 10-down!

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 366 correct entries received, is Grant Dossetto of Livonia, Mich. Grant has selected as his prize an autographed copy of Gridlock.

MONTHLY PRIZES:

A record 187 solvers submitted the correct contest answer to all five of March's challenges (CUCUMBER, WHEN HARRY MET SALLY..., CANDLE IN THE WIND, THE BRADY BUNCH, LOU GEHRIG). The following twelve (two more than normal, since the total number of entrants was so high) lucky and skillful winners, chosen randomly from that group, will receive a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set:

David Bardolph -- Grand Rapids, Mich.

Bruce Bundy -- Santa Cruz, Calif.

Zach Burns -- Chicago, Ill.

Jeff Gellner -- Westerville, O.

Lenore Jones -- Palo Alto, Calif.

Brian Kulman -- Los Gatos, Calif.

Cory Oldweiler -- Leland, Mich.

Bob Petitto -- Carol Stream, Ill.

Eli Selzer -- North Hollywood, Calif.

Larry Wasser -- Louisville, Ky.

Bob Willoughby -- Spring Green, Wisc.

Matt Zinno -- Sharon, Mass.


Congratulations to our dozen winners, and to everyone who went 5-for-5 in March.

YOUTUBE VIDEO:

My first YouTube video is up! It's titled "Where Should I Start on a Crossword Puzzle?" and you can watch it here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-46m-Hlte5o

I'll be putting another one up this weekend, and every week or two thereafter.

MULLER MONTHLY MUSIC META:


This is exciting: beginning May 1st, Pete Muller will start publishing a monthly music-based meta-crossword at http://pmxwords.com/. You can sign up for it now (I already have) at the site, and there are prizes to win, too. All free.

In addition to being a musician, Pete is also an imaginative crossword constructor -- see this week's Fireball for proof -- so you'll definitely want to bookmark this baby.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:


This week's contest answer is a fast-food chain. 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 (1,687 members now!) here (oops -- sorry, but the links aren't working for these at the moment. Please use last week's for now).





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