7/27/12

MGWCC #217 -- Friday, July 27th, 2012 -- GUEST CONSTRUCTOR MONTH PUZZLE #4 -- "The Operative Words Being..." by Erik Agard

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 217 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.

GUEST CONSTRUCTOR MONTH -- THE FINAL PUZZLE:

Oh, so you were expecting some big-name constructor for Week 4? Well, don't be surprised if this week's (18-year-old) constructor becomes a big name soon enough. More below.

LAST WEEK'S RESULTS:

Everybody liked Patrick Blindauer's meta last week: he asked solvers to answer a trivia question, and left them with three jibberish-looking 15-letter downs clued as simply [Reel #1], [Reel #2] and [Reel #3]:

FCN
ENE
OHT
AIF
IHH
WIO
THH
TML
BFM
TEH
ATE
ORA
HTS
ASE
ETR

Well, that doesn't look like much. But the title "One-Armed Bandit" and the reel references nudged solvers towards spinning these reels like a slot machine. Use a little trial and error to line them up like this...

WHA
TIS
THE
BIR
THN
AME
OFT
HEF
ATH
ERO
FTH
ESL
OTM
ACH
INE

...and reading across we've got our trivia question: What is the birth name of the father of the slot machine? A quick Google reveals the answer to be one AUGUST FEY, a Bavarian who came to the U.S. in 1885 at age 23, and later invented the one-armed bandit out in San Francisco. More importantly, he's last week's contest answer.

170 solvers submitted AUGUST FEY as their answer, while 68 sent in CHARLES FEY, the name he took upon moving to America. I'm counting these entries as correct; although the question specifically asks for Fey's birth name, many sites don't mention that he was born "August," and Patrick only used "birth name" in the question to arrive at 45 letters exactly, not to set a trivia trap.

So there might be some understandable grumbling at the laxity of this decision (as with last week's), but let's view Guest Constructor Month as more exhibition than competition. Don't worry, we'll tighten things up around here in August (a.k.a Charles).

Jon Delfin says:

Not just a crossword, but an arts and crafts project!


Which was true -- just check out the makeshift slot machine Kayli and Tony Rife created (click image to enlarge):


Dan Feyer submitted CHARLES FEY, and added:

But I'm Feyer than he is!

And Joe Fendel points out:

Nice touch that the hidden message starts at the Wynn!

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 238 correct entries received, is Ben Jones of Stamford, Conn.

THE NEVILLE YOU KNOW:

Today's Fogarty took me 9:08. Beat that!


THIS WEEK'S GUEST CONSTRUCTOR:



What was true of Week 2's constructor is also true of Week 4's: without Erik Agard, Guest Constructor Month wouldn't have happened. Late last year he started showing me metas he'd been writing, and I liked them so much that I decided to run one here.

Erik attended the ACPT for the first time this year and finished in 17th place overall (!), earning himself a spot in the B finals (where the above picture was taken). He's also just recently started his own crossword site called Anoa Place (and I dig that artwork!).

Week 4 awaits; en garde for Agard...


THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:


This week's contest answer is a two-word phrase. 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 (1,824 members now!) here.




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



7/20/12

MGWCC #216 -- Friday, July 20th, 2012 -- GUEST CONSTRUCTOR MONTH PUZZLE #3 -- "One-Armed Bandit" by Patrick Blindauer

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 216 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.

GUEST CONSTRUCTOR MONTH ROLLS ON:


This week's guest constructor is the Tim Burton of crosswords -- relentlessly creative, always interesting, and full of ideas I'm not sure anyone else could have come up with. I certainly wasn't going to let Guest Constructor Month pass without seeing what he had to say; more below.

LAST WEEK'S RESULTS:


201 solvers found HORSESHOES as the answer to Pete Muller's meta last week. They'd noticed that the first word of each of the six (!) theme entries could precede "horse" to form a familiar phrase, while the second word of each preceded "shoes" to form the same:

17-a. RACE SADDLE (racehorse, saddle shoes)
23-a. HIGH PLATFORM (high horse, platform shoes)
31-a. WILD OVER (wild horse, overshoes)
45-a. WAR COURT (warhorse, court shoes)
52-a. TROJAN TENNIS (Trojan horse, tennis shoes)
63-a. WORK SAFETY (workhorse, safety shoes)

A straightforward and uncontroversial meta, perfect for week 2 and my month off, right? Except not: 80 solvers sent in the basketball variant H-O-R-S-E as their answer. It's certainly a well-known game (I played it 100s of times during childhood), but is it good enough an answer to count as correct?

After consulting with some wise people I've decided to fall back on a Solomon-like tactic we've used before for very-close-but-maybe-not-quite alternative answers: those who submitted H-O-R-S-E this week were not eligible for the weekly prize, but will remain eligible for the monthly prizes.

The general feeling is that, while HORSESHOES is the better answer, H-O-R-S-E satisfies all the requirements of the meta (is a well-known game, comes from each theme entry, doesn't leave the title unexplained) well enough that it was reasonable to stop looking after you found it, which is what seemed to happen in most of these 80 cases.

These borderline decisions usually ruffle some feathers, but one last thing to consider: close only counts in two cases, and horseshoes is one of them.

Jim Curran says:

Looks like this Muller guy is a real ringer...

And Bob Klahn adds:

I saw this one right away, as should be the case this time of the month. Didn't even have to mull 'er over.

Quit sending me these lousy puns, OK? I mean, for Pete's sake...

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 201 correct entries received, is Carol S. Glasser of Mahopac Falls, N.Y. Carol has selected as her prize an autographed copy of Gridlock.

SPEAK OF THE NEVILLE:

The Crucisphere is exploding these days, is it not? It feels like we're witnessing something novel and exciting being born every month or two.

The latest exciting addition debuted this morning: Neville Fogarty has a new blog up at http://nevillefogarty.wordpress.com/. He'll be posting a new puzzle there every Friday, the first of which, entitled "First Things First...and Second," took me 7:18 in Across Lite.

I'm stingy with bookmarks but I'm bookmarking this. Go Neville!

THIS WEEK'S GUEST CONSTRUCTOR:


Speaking of the exploding Crucisphere, this week's guest constructor is one of its very brightest stars. Patrick Blindauer has been posting monthly puzzles at his site since 2010, the best of which are transcendent: try April 2011's puzzle ("Campfire Meeting") here to see what I mean (scroll down a bit; archive of puzzles is on the right-hand side).

For me personally, Patrick has the highest "I really wish I'd thought of that theme" quotient of any constructor. His Fireball puzzle from January 26th of this year, "Little White Lie," is the crossword I've most had this sentiment towards in recent memory (Can't link since it's subscription only, but the writeup -- with spoilers, take note -- is here).

Now, let's see what he does with a meta. Good luck...you might need it!

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer is the answer to a trivia question. 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 (1,818 members now!) here.




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


7/13/12

MGWCC #215 -- Friday, July 13th, 2012 -- GUEST CONSTRUCTOR MONTH, PUZZLE #2 -- "Got Game?" by Pete Muller

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 215 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.

GUEST CONSTRUCTOR MONTH CONTINUES:

Week 2's puzzle is by the guy who was the impetus for Guest Constructor Month. How meta is that? More below.

LAST WEEK'S RESULTS:


Joon Pahk led off Guest Constructor Month with a bang last week. He asked solvers to find a pair of symmetric entries that would have made a good fifth theme answer, the four given themers being:

20-a [He played John Connor in "Terminator 2"] = EDWARD FURLONG
34-a [Collection of young swingers?] = LITTLE LEAGUE
41-a [Inspector Lestrade's employer, in Sherlock Holmes books] = SCOTLAND YARD
56-a [Emperor Zurg's archenemy, in film] = BUZZ LIGHTYEAR

FURLONG, LEAGUE, YARD and LIGHTYEAR are all units of distance, which means we're looking for symmetrically-placed grid entries that form a two-word phrase wherein the second word is a unit of distance.

And there it is at 16- and 64-across: LEAD FOOT, which was submitted by 467 entrants.

Don Lloyd
writes:

I fathomed it.

Leo Stein submitted LEAD FOOT:

Or "Pb ft" as I like to call it.


And Adam Rosenfield notes:

If 28A had been PAR instead of TRE, it could have combined with 48A to make PARSEC (about 3.26 light-years), but that would only make it half a theme entry.


This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 467 correct entries received, is Kevin Bloom of Tallahassee, Fla. Kevin has selected as his prize an autographed copy of Sip & Solve Hard Crosswords.

TRAFFIC PATTERN:


Forgot to mention this last week, but June 2012 was the highest traffic month in MGWCC history. w00t w00t!!

JULY GRYPTICS CONTEST IS UP:


You know what to do!


LOLLAPUZZOOLA 5:

I wrote a puzzle for Lollapuzzoola 5, and will be attending to watch solvers suffer through it. It'll be Saturday, August 4th in New York City. Details here; see you there!

THIS WEEK'S GUEST CONSTRUCTOR:


Without Pete Muller, Guest Constructor Month wouldn't have happened: late last year he showed me a series of meta-crosswords he'd just written, which were so enjoyable that I decided we should publish one here.

He didn't wait for July to roll around, though: in May he launched his Muller Monthly Music Meta, a music-themed meta-crossword published the first week of each month. It's already become very popular, which isn't surprising since it combines two of Pete's passions, as does this.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer is a well-known game.
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 (1,816 members now!) here.




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


7/6/12

MGWCC #214 -- Friday, July 6th, 2012 -- GUEST CONSTRUCTOR MONTH, PUZZLE #1 -- "Distance Learning" by Joon Pahk

Good afternoon, crossword fans -- welcome to Week 214 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.

GUEST CONSTRUCTOR MONTH:

This month MGWCC showcases metas by four guest constructors. And who better to start with than the guy who's been blogging the puzzle for the past four years? More below.

LAST WEEK'S RESULTS:

Painfully flawed meta last week: I asked solvers to find an event, my intended answer being THE OLYMPIC GAMES. Nudged by the grid's only theme answer (PRESENT THE RINGS), 194 solvers noticed that the only five O's in the puzzle were situated like the five rings on the Olympic flag, and that each crossed at two relevantly-colored words:

OCEAN + FLOE = blue
OIL + EBONY = black
ORANG + ROSE = red
ODIE + LEMON = yellow
OKRA + HOLLY = green


Put those clues together and your meta answer is THE OLYMPIC GAMES. I accepted anything with "Olympic(s)" in it as correct (Olympics, Olympic Games, Olympic Torch, Special Olympics, etc.).

So why was this meta flawed? Let me count the ways:

1) At 29-d, the clue [American gold medalist at the 1996 Olympics] for Kerri STRUG unnecessarily and confusingly contains the word "Olympics." The presence of this clue convinced a certain number of solvers that the answer could not simply be OLYMPICS, because then the meta answer would have been in a clue. Gross oversight on my part.

2) This was a Week 5 puzzle, so solvers were naturally expecting a very tough meta. Instructions asked for an "event," which is a word that certainly describes the Olympic Games themselves; unfortunately, it's also the exact word used for the sporting competitions held at the Olympics (shot put, javelin, etc.), so many solvers who'd found the rings wasted a lot of time looking for a specific Olympic event in the grid that simply wasn't there. This kind of thing should never happen, and I apologize to solvers who spent lots of time down this garden path -- you didn't overthink the meta, I underthought it.

3) A couple of the colored entries were slightly off: ice FLOE is more white than blue, though it tends to be blue-tinted. And while an ORANG certainly has a reddish hue to it, they're not the reddest things in the world. The other eight entries are uncontroversial, and these two didn't steer anyone completely off-course, but I was still surprised at how difficult it was to 1) come up with something blue in the letter pattern ??O? (note that POOL doesn't work since there can only be the five Olympic O's in the grid) and 2) to find something red that starts with O. Although now that I look at the above-linked images of ice floe and orangs I don't feel quite as bad about this point.

4) The meta was just too easy for a Week 5. I knew this going in, but liked the colored rings idea enough to take a Week 5 Toughness credibility hit (I couldn't run it late in July because of Guest Constructor Month; that's right, I'm blaming the Guest Constructors! Just kidding...). What I hadn't realized was that it wouldn't just be a credibility hit; in conjunction with 2) above, the expectation of a killer meta would also send some solvers off on a wild goose chase, which, again, should never happen in this way.

OK, not the end of the world, so let's move onward and upward...but this meta's flaws will still rankle for a while, since they ruined a nice concept!

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 194 correct entries received, is Rindy Cruise of Edgewater, N.J. Rindy has selected as her prize an autographed copy of Gridlock.

MONTHLY PRIZES:

36 solvers submitted the correct contest answer to all five of June's challenges (any Greek god/goddess, 141, PINKIE, BEAGLE, OLYMPICS). The following ten lucky and skillful winners, chosen randomly from that group, will receive a MGWCC pen, pencil and notepad set:

Neil Bellovin -- Port Jefferson, N.Y.

Tyler Hinman -- San Francisco, Calif.

Jeremy Horwitz -- San Francisco, Calif.

Julian Lim -- Singapore, Singapore

Jeff Louie -- Cambridge, Mass.

Ned Robert -- Los Gatos, Calif.

Dan Seidman -- Watertown, Mass.

David Stein -- Silver Spring, Md.

Scott Weiss -- Walkersville, Md.

Steve Williams -- Holbrook, Mass.


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


MULLER MONTHLY MUSIC META #3:


The third edition of Pete Muller's Monthly Music Meta is up here. Highly recommended and already very popular; note that the deadline to enter is this Sunday, so get to it if you're gonna.

THIS WEEK'S GUEST CONSTRUCTOR:



Joon Pahk hardly needs an introduction here, but let's do it anyway: he's been blogging MGWCC on Crossword Fiend since 2008, and his weekly write-ups have become an integral part of the puzzle itself. Joon's also well-known for his exciting run on "Jeopardy!" last year, and runs a fun daily game called "Guess My Word" here.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer is a pair of symmetric entries that would form a good 5th theme answer. 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 (1,814 members now!) here.




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