12/30/08

MGWCC #030 -- Tuesday, December 30, 2008 -- "Time to Play the Piper"

Ahoy, Fellow Cruciverbalists! Welcome to Week 30 of my crossword contest, the last MGWCC of 2008. 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:

Major reindeer games here at MGWCC last week -- to wit, eight of Santa's nine sleigh-cows concealed themselves semi-cleverly in the puzzle grid. The only one missing was DONNER, which was last week's contest answer word. Some entrants also submitted the alternate spellings DONDER and/or DUNDER, which were also counted as correct. Solution grid at left.

So what exactly is this sleigh-cow's real name? For the record, here's how you all broke it down:

DONNER only -- 52 entries
DONDER only -- 21 entries
DUNDER only -- 0 entries
DONNER and DONDER -- 18 entries
DONNER and DUNDER -- 2 entries
DONDER and DUNDER -- 0 entries
DONNER, DONDER and DUNDER -- 11 entries

A hierarchy has emerged among the three choices -- but DONDER gets the last laugh this week, since that name alone was submitted by this week's contest winner, Mary Kazmer of Berkeley, Calif., whose name was chosen randomly from the 104 correct entries received. Mary has selected as her prize an autographed copy of Sip & Solve Hard Crosswords.

And finally, how the sleigh-cows hid themselves: each of the eight words in the four theme entries contained all the letters of one of the reindeer + one extra letter. Ergo Vixen concealed herself in VEXING, Blitzen in BLINTZES, Rudolph in UPHOLDER, Comet in COMETH, Dasher in RASHEED, Dancer in PRANCED (bit of a red herring I threw in there, one sleigh-cow hiding himself in another), Cupid in CUSPID, and the semi-legit-but-certainly-inconsistent Prancer hiding in the two-word REAP CORN (to my surprise, there was no decent eight-letter entry that uses the seven letters in PRANCER).

THREE THINGS:

1) Lots of Donner Party jokes in this week's e-mails -- you people are sick and twisted. I love it! Next time post them in comments so the whole class can see.

2) Speaking of which: reminder that you can post comments about the puzzle at any time. Comments received between Fridays and noon on Tuesdays will be published at noon on Tuesdays; comments received after noon on Tuesdays will be published ASAP after approval (I don't want to have to approve each one but Blogger makes me if I don't want them to appear pre-Tuesday).

3) The winner of last Friday's mini-contest is N.F. of whereabouts unknown (I just informed him a few minutes ago that he won; when he writes me back I'll post his name and book choice) [UPDATE, 12/30, 5:35 PM -- that winner is Neville Fogarty of Lexington, Va., who has chosen as his prize a copy of Gridlock]. The answers to the puzzle were MUSKEGON, Michigan and the TV show GUNSMOKE, which anagram well-mixedly to one another.

I was aiming to be the first human being to notice the MUSKEGON/GUNSMOKE connection (a quick Google Search didn't reveal any anticipators), but Nancy Taubenslag informs me that others got there first:

I once lost a trivia contest because I didn’t get this answer fast enough.

Oh well.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer word is a kind of soup/stew with six letters in its name (well, ten if you include the word "soup" or "stew"). E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET [UPDATE, 1/1/09: Oops, I meant Friday, January 2 by noon ET. Sorry for the late warning, but I have to stick to the 1/2/09 deadline so we're not still off next week]. Please put the contest answer word 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, join the Google Group here:

http://groups.google.com/group/mgwcc





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

12/26/08

MGWCC #030 -- Coming Tuesday -- But We Still Have a Mini-Contest Today!



Ahoy, Fellow Cruciverbalists! I've got good news and bad news. The good news is that next week I'll be posting not one, but two editions of MGWCC. The bad news is that I won't be posting one today. Too much Christmas activity (traveling, buying gifts, watching my two-year-old nephew tear through acres of wrapping paper) and I wasn't able to get this week's puzzle done and up.

So here's the MGWCC holiday schedule: #030 will go up on Tuesday, Dec. 30th, 2008, and, then #031 will go up on Friday, Jan. 2nd, 2009. At which time we'll all be back on the normal schedule and never speak of this lapse again. Results from #029 will also be announced Tuesday (see Joon Pahk's writeup if you want to see the answers before then).

But let no one say I left you completely puzzle-less today. Here's something: anagram one of the fifty largest cities in Michigan (here's a list) to get one of the most popular TV shows of all time. Hint: they're both exactly one word, so you know it's not Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, etc.

What the heck, let's make it a contest: e-mail me the answer at crosswordcontest@gmail.com and one winner chosen at random wins an autographed book. Please put the contest answer words (city + TV show) in the subject line of your e-mail.

Hope everyone had a great holiday season filled with materialistic overconsumption. See you on Tuesday!

12/19/08

MGWCC #029 -- Friday, December 19, 2008 -- "Eight Isn't Enough"

Ahoy, Fellow Cruciverbalists! Welcome to Week 29 of my crossword 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 little word puzzle awaited solvers of last week's crossword -- a hockey stick-toting, grizzly-infested, never-kicked-the-Queen-out little word puzzle involving our friends north of the border and their postal system.

The five longest entries in the grid spelled out the task:

JOIN THREE / CANADIAN POSTAL / ABBREVIATIONS TO / FORM AN NFL STAR'S / FIRST NAME




Everyone (including me) Googled the list of Canada's thirteen postal abbreviations, and even non-sports fans pieced together PEYTON MANNING, who was last week's contest answer phrase. His first name is spelled from the postal abbreviations for Prince Edward Island, Yukon Territory, and Ontario (PE, YT, ON). "Peyton" was the only recognizable six-letter sequence I could get from those thirteen abbrs. Solution grid at left.

This week's winner, whose name was chosen randomly from among the 103 correct answers received, is Jordan Chodorow of Los Angeles, Calif. Jordan has selected as his prize an autographed copy of Sip & Solve Hard Crosswords.

ONE THING:

Due to limitations in Blogger's system, I'm going to have to do comments in kind of an odd way. Comments will be open immediately when a puzzle is posted, but moderated so that they only appear at noon ET on Tuesday, when the entry deadline passes. Any comments posted after Tuesday at noon will appear immediately.

Again, no rules on comments -- anything about the puzzle can be discussed there, including that week's contest answer word. [UPDATE, 12/23, 12:05 PM ET -- Comments section now open! I think I'll go post there myself.]

I lied, there's another thing: due to illness and then sloth, I'm about four weeks behind on sending prize books out. They're going out this weekend, though, so if I owe you book loot, hold on -- it's comin'.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

Somebody is missing from this week's crossword. His (her? not sure) name, which is six letters long, is this week's contest answer word. E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer word 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, join the Google Group here:

http://groups.google.com/group/mgwcc




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

12/12/08

MGWCC #028 -- Friday, December 12, 2008 -- "Mystery Mailman"

Ahoy, Fellow Cruciverbalists! Welcome to Week 28 of my crossword 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:


Last week's puzzle chronicled my themed, exciting, and apocryphal trip around the world. The grid featured eight countries I'd visited and challenged solvers to find the two that I missed: listed were MADAGASCAR, PARAGUAY, NAMIBIA, BOTSWANA, MOZAMBIQUE, ARGENTINA, BRAZIL, and AUSTRALIA. Most solvers noticed the Southern hemispheric clustering, but what precisely was the common thread there?


The big hint showed up with BRAZIL at 10-down, which was the only asymmetrically-placed country in the grid. Look at the clue to its corresponding entry, MILLER at 44-down, and you see the sign: {"Tropic of Capricorn" novelist Henry}. The countries listed were eight of the ten nations that lie on the Tropic of Capricorn; the only two missing were CHILE and SOUTH AFRICA, which were last week's contest answer words. Solution grid at left.

A few solvers thought from the puzzle's title that the combined number of letters in the 10 countries I fake-visited might be 80, but no: the 80 in the puzzle's title just refers to the total number of entries in the grid.

Doug Peterson alertly writes:

As a constructor, I'm curious: did you try to fit Chile into the grid also?

Yes indeed, and thereby hangs a semi-embarrassing tale, which is the best kind: when I began the puzzle, I had CHILE neatly crossing NAMIBIA in the center of the grid, and my intention was to have SOUTH AFRICA alone be the contest answer phrase. But somewhere in the process of trying to squeeze PARAGUAY and BOTSWANA in, I removed CHILE...just temporarily, of course...and then never replaced it.

So last Friday afternoon I'm giving the puzzle one last look-see before posting and suddenly it strikes me: "Hey, where the !@#$% did CHILE go?" After a few panicky moments trying to stuff it back into the center of the grid (didn't work), I took the easy way out and made both CHILE and SOUTH AFRICA the contest answer words.

This week's winner, whose name was chosen randomly from among the 90 correct answers received, is Steve Fineman of Morristown, N.J. Steve has selected as his prize an autographed copy of Sip & Solve Hard Crosswords.

TWO THINGS:

#1: All hail Brendan Quigley's new puzzle site, which is, as one would expect, extremely gangster. New 15x15's by the master himself are posted each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. 51-across in puzzle #1 could be the entry of the year! Bookmark this baby.

#2: Inspired by/envious of the rollicking comments section on BEQ's new site, I've decided to open comments here at 12 noon ET each Tuesday, right as the contest deadline ends. No rules except be nice -- anything and everything about the puzzle may be freely discussed there, including the contest answer word.[UPDATE, 12/15, 3:25 PM ET: I can't figure out how to open the comments section -- I've done everything intuitive on the Blogger "Comments" page but this sucker still won't open. Anyone able to help me out on this?][SECOND UPDATE, 3:50 PM: looks like Blogger doesn't let you open comments on a post after it's posted, so I'll have to open comments on Friday when I post or not at all. I'll get it straightened out -- but for now, check out Joon Pahk's write-ups on the puzzle, which he'll be doing each Tuesday at Amy Reynaldo's blog: http://crosswordfiend.blogspot.com/2008/12/mgwcc-28.html]

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer phrase is a famous person's first and last names, which total thirteen letters. E-mail them to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer phrase 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, join the Google Group here:

http://groups.google.com/group/mgwcc





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

12/5/08

MGWCC #027 -- Friday, Dec. 5, 2008 -- "Around the World in 80 Grid Entries"

Ahoy, Fellow Cruciverbalists! Welcome to Week 27 of my crossword contest. If you're new to the contest and would like to enter, please see the site FAQ on the left sidebar for instructions.

Note: I'm headed out to a doctor's appointment at 3, so I'm only going to post this week's puzzle right now. When I get home later this afternoon I'll post last week's results. Nothing serious...and I think it's even given me a theme for next week. How's that for dedication? My head feels like a cantaloupe wedged in a vise and I'm still thinking of crossword themes.

UPDATE, 4:50 PM: It's not strep, so out the window with my theme idea. Just a virus going around.



LAST WEEK'S RESULTS:


A "poultry" 58 solvers managed to deduce last week's contest answer phrase, YOU'RE WELCOME, appropriate for a Thanksgiving-week puzzle. Solution grid at left.

They got there two ways: by noticing that the puzzle's four theme entries ended with the words/phrases ANYTIME, NOT AT ALL, SURE THING, and YOU BET, all of which stand in frequently for YOU'RE WELCOME. Confirmation came at the puzzle's equator, where the words YORE/WHELK/HAIM steered solvers again, a tad obliquely perhaps, toward the correct phrase.

This week's winner, whose name was chosen randomly from among the 58 correct answers, is Richard Kalustian of Tacoma, Wash. Richard has selected as his prize a copy of Literary Crosswords, and becomes the second two-time winner of MGWCC.

Those solvers who haven't been fortunate enough to win once might be justified in feeling a wee mite miffed at those who've won twice, but help is on the way: now that I'm consistently getting over 100 entries per week, I'll be adding new, non-book prizes early in the new year. Merit-based, too! So bear with me and keep sending those entries in.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

I recently took a trip around the world -- a themed trip, naturally. When I got home, though, I realized I had neglected to travel to two countries on my list. This week's contest answer words are the two countries I forgot to visit. E-mail them to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer words 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, join the Google Group here:

http://groups.google.com/group/mgwcc



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

11/28/08

MGWCC #026 -- Friday, November 28, 2008 -- "My Pleasure"

Ahoy, Fellow Cruciverbalists! Welcome to Week 26 of my crossword contest. If you're new to the contest and would like to enter, please see the site FAQ on the left sidebar for instructions.

Crikey -- have we been doing this for half a year already? Tempus fugit!


LAST WEEK'S RESULTS:


It was 45 years ago last Saturday that a bullet, probably from the gun of this professional assassin, killed president John F. Kennedy (it sure as hell wasn't this guy who did it).


102 solvers correctly deduced my assessment of the Warren Commission's findings, GARBAGE, which was last week's contest answer word. To get there, they changed one letter in the puzzle's seven theme entries to get a phrase from the JFK hit: "Jack Ruby" became JACK RUBE, "lone gunman" became LONG GUNMAN, "magic bullet" became MAGIC BALLET, "grassy knoll" became BRASSY KNOLL, "Dealey Plaza" became DEALER PLAZA, "three tramps" became THREE GRAMPS, and "Howard Hunt" became HOWARD AUNT. See solution grid showcasing my mad Paint skillz at left.

The seven replaced letters from the original phrases yielded, when properly anagrammed, the word GARBAGE.

I thought this puzzle would be more controversial than your e-mails suggested. The vast majority of solvers who voiced an opinion on the Warren Commission agreed with the sentiment of last week's contest answer word, and several offered more colorful terms I might have used instead. Quite a few responses, encouragingly, came from solvers who were adults at the time of the assassination and voiced decades-long doubt at the official story.

Last word on the Kennedys for now: I got two emails expressing some doubt at my contention that LBJ was in on, if not the primary organizer of, JFK's assassination. I offer in response one of the most intriguing videos you'll ever see: a 2001 interview with the late Madeline Duncan Brown, a woman who had a 21-year-long affair with Lyndon Johnson, and who was with him in Dallas on the night of Nov. 21, 1963. She has some very interesting things to say about that evening.

Watch the 5-minute video here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79lOKs0Kr_Y

And if that piques your interest, which it will, watch the whole interview here (81 minutes):

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-6962062879996612313


...and then tell me whether you think 11/22/63 was a lone nut -- or a palace coup.

This week's winner, whose name was chosen randomly from among the 102 correct entries, is T.T. of whereabouts unknown (I only notified T.T. yesterday morning that he was this week's winner and haven't heard back from him yet. Will update with his full name and prize selection when his turkey coma wears off). [UPDATE, 11/29, 5:00 PM ET -- this week's winner is Tim Tebbe of Minneapolis, Minn. Tim has selected as his prize an autographed copy of Gridlock.]

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer phrase is two words that are a total of twelve letters in length. Hint: it also includes an apostrophe. E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer phrase in the subject line of your e-mail.

On the road until tomorrow so I'll put the printable JPEG up then; for now, please solve the Across Lite version at the Google Group here:

http://groups.google.com/group/mgwcc


[UPDATE, 12/01, 1:15 AM ET: Gaaaah! Nick Meyer writes to remind me that I didn't post the printable JPEG yet. Now I have -- damn you, turkey coma!]



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

11/22/08

MGWCC #025 -- Saturday, November 22, 2008 -- "That's Not What Happened"

Ahoy, Fellow Cruciverbalists! Welcome to Week 25 of my crossword 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:

106 solvers realized that last week's puzzle grid was a little off-kilter -- it was ASYMMETRICAL, in fact, which was last week's contest answer word.

A few people noticed the asymmetry right away (the two diagonally-attached pairs of black squares in the center of the grid don't match up with proper 180-degree rotational symmetry), but most discovered the contest answer word through the 4 1/2 theme entries: ASEXUAL DEVIANCE, AMORAL HAZARD, APOLITICAL PARTY, ATYPICAL MALE, and the half-entry ASOCIAL at 23-down. These entries consisted of two-word phrases whose first word becomes an antonym of itself with the addition of an initial A. Along with the final 15-letter entry in the grid, LIKE THIS DIAGRAM, these theme entries pointed most solvers to the ASYMMETRICAL aspect of the grid.

Best incorrect answer of the week goes to a solver whose name I won't print (but if this was you and you want your name printed, let me know). This solver anagrammed ASYMMETRICAL to get the A-bashing phrase ARTICLE MY ASS. Which was not the correct contest answer word (and the anagram is a letter off) but it did make me laugh.

This week's winner, whose name was chosen randomly from among the 106 correct entries, is Rose Nickodemus of Saginaw, Mich. Rose has selected as her prize an autographed copy of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Crossword Puzzles & Word Games.

ONE THING ABOUT LAST WEEK'S PUZZLE:

I noticed only yesterday, though I'm sure some solvers must have noticed it sooner, that I missed an easy opportunity to weed an abbreviation out of the grid last week, namely the suboptimal MTN at 19-across. The obvious fix was to turn RUST at 2-down into RUSE, which makes MTN the much better MEN (or even better, I could have changed 1-down to PRAY, yielding RUSE and YEN instead of PRAM/RUST/MTN).

I have no logical explanation why I didn't do that; when the book comes out, rest assured I'll use the PRAY/YEN/RUSE interlock. Come to think of it, I do in fact have an explanation for how this lapse came about: I spent several hours on the NE and SW corners (I believe each human being's social status in the afterlife will be determined by the number of 5x5 blocks they worked into their crossword grids and live my life accordingly) and was a little tired when I got to that relatively easy corner, so I wasn't mentally alert enough to maximize the possibilities there. Anyway, let us move on.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer word is seven letters in length. It is a fair, reasoned assessment of the findings of the Warren Commission's report on the assassination of John F. Kennedy, a deep event which occurred 45 years ago today. E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET [UPDATE, 11/22/08, 3:40PM ET -- Al Sanders writes to remind me that the deadline for this week's puzzle is Wednesday at noon ET, not Tuesday]. Please put the contest answer word 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, join the Google Group here:

http://groups.google.com/group/mgwcc




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

11/14/08

MGWCC #024 -- Friday, November 14, 2008 -- "A Is for Antonym"

Ahoy, Fellow Cruciverbalists! Welcome to Week 24 of my crossword 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:

Ding ding ding -- we did it, kids! This week we've set a new record for total number of entries received (116) and, for the first time, I received triple-digit correct entries (107, to be precise). Terrific -- now let's aim for four digits!

The five 15-letter grid entries in last week's puzzle contained a riddle:

WHICH WORD IN THIS / DIAGRAM CAN LOSE A / LETTER TO BECOME A / SHORTER WORD WITH / ONE MORE SYLLABLE?

The riddle's answer -- and last week's contest answer word -- was found at 65-across, FINANCE, a two-syllable word which drops its first N to become the three-syllable "fiance." Five entrants submitted "fiance" instead of FINANCE, which was technically incorrect but I decided to count it anyway (they'd clearly solved the riddle as intended). Solution grid is at left.

This week's winner, whose name was chosen randomly from among the 107 correct entries, is Kevin Ashworth of Los Angeles, Calif. Kevin has selected as his prize an autographed copy of Gridlock.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer word is 12 letters in length. E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer word 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, join the Google Group here:

http://groups.google.com/group/mgwcc



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

11/7/08

MGWCC #023-- Friday, November 7, 2008 -- "+/- 1"

Ahoy, Fellow Cruciverbalists! Welcome to Week 23 of my crossword 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:

"I didn't get the theme," solver Andy Blumberg wrote me about last week's puzzle, "until I read the answers out loud to my wife."

Reading them aloud did the trick, since the five theme entries -- LANCING A BLISTER, ROLLIE FINGERS, JUNO MACGUFF, PEER PRESSURED, and CONQUERED NATION -- all begin with a homophone for a U.S. state capital. For the record, those would be Lansing, Raleigh, Juneau, Pierre (betcha didn't know it's correctly pronounced "peer") and Concord (double or nothing you didn't know it's correctly pronounced "conquered" -- do I owe anyone money?). Solution grid is at left.

The band that fits the pattern from the wikipedia list I attached is LINKIN PARK, which was last week's contest answer phrase. But there were some interesting almost-correct alternatives, too: several solvers mentioned (and four submitted as their answer) Boyz II Men, which was on the list I supplied, but whose first word falls one tiny syllable shy of being a true homophone for Idaho's capital (the group's name is pronounced "boys to men," incidentally).

Other semi-close calls solvers mentioned were Rick Springfield, Jefferson Airplane and the Jackson 5, all of which had one or more issues disqualifying them (Springfield and Jackson are actual state capital names, not homophones, for example). A special shout-out to solver Nick Meyer who writes that a good close call is 1990s one-hit wonder Biz Markie, just a syllable away from North Dakota's capital. OK, he's not a band and sure didn't sell "tens of millions of albums" but it's worth a mention.

This week's winner, whose name was chosen randomly from among the 68 correct entries, is Candy Hoff of Aurora, Colo. Candy has selected as her prize an autographed copy of Gridlock.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

Solve the puzzle and you'll know what to do! E-mail this week's contest answer word to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer word 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, join the Google Group here:

http://groups.google.com/group/mgwcc





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

10/31/08

MGWCC #022 -- Friday, October 31, 2008 -- "All Caps"

Ahoy, Fellow Cruciverbalists! Welcome to Week 22 of my crossword 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:


I received a record 111 entries to last week's puzzle, though only 65 of them contained the correct contest answer phrase, NOBLE GASES. The two components of this phrase were found at 47-down and 1-across, and described the five theme entries in the puzzle: ROBIN DUKE, COUNT CHOCULA, SACHA BARON COHEN, MY NAME IS EARL, and the late great TED KNIGHT. Each of these is a funny person/character/TV show -- in other words, a "gas" -- and each contains a rank of nobility.

Two other popular answers were NOBLE PACK (22 entries) and NOBLE ILK (18 entries). Although I did once in the past allow a second answer to be counted correct (see Week 7), I didn't feel it was quite justified here. Though PACK and ILK do describe a group, they didn't capture the fun/funny aspect of GASES and the five theme entries, and neither NOBLE ILK nor NOBLE PACK is a recognizable phrase as NOBLE GASES is.

This week's winner, whose name was chosen randomly from among the 65 correct entries, is Marcia Sander of Port Washington, N.Y. Marcia will receive as her prize a subscription to Peter Gordon's post-Sun crossword service.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer phrase is a band who has sold tens of millions of albums, and who would've made an appropriate sixth theme entry in this puzzle if I'd been able to squeeze them in. Hint: they're listed on this wikipedia page. E-mail this band's name to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer phrase 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, join the Google Group here:

http://groups.google.com/group/mgwcc



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

10/24/08

MGWCC #021 -- Friday, October 24, 2008 -- "[To Be Determined]"

Ahoy, Fellow Cruciverbalists! Welcome to Week 21 of my crossword 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 do web journalist MATT DRUDGE, actresses CHRISTINA APPLEGATE and FRANCES LANGFORD, and entrepreneur MIKE ILITCH have in common? They're all people who've never been in Cliff Clavin's kitchen, true; but they're also four people whose initials double as the postal abbreviation of the state in which they were born (MD, CA, FL, MI -- see solution grid at left).

I found this theme while flipping through the almanac, where I noticed that Christina Applegate was born in CA. My theme antennae (vestigial organs on most mammals, but we crossword writers put them to good use) started going nuts and I began looking for what I expected would be many more famous examples.

Surprisingly there were very few -- in addition to the four I used in the grid and the fifth who served as contest answer phrase, the only others I found were country singer Marty Stuart, NPR "All Things Considered" host Michele Norris, and Confederate generals Albert Rust and George Anderson. If anyone has more I'd be interested in hearing about it (FYI, I already scoured this extremely helpful page in my research for the theme: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:People_by_state_in_the_United_States)

A bitter pill with this theme was that the great Stephen Colbert, though raised in South Carolina, was born elsewhere. Highly aggravating...why don't people plan ahead?

The contest instructions asked for a fifth celebrity, "one of the most famous musicians of the 20th century" who shares this quirk of birth and name. 78 solvers found him -- LOUIS ARMSTRONG, who not only embodied but also was born in New Orleans, LA. The bottom shelf of entries in the grid -- POPS, SATCH, and NOLA -- also pushed solvers in this direction.

This week's winner, whose name was chosen randomly from among the 78 correct entries received, is Steve Rubinstein of Edison, N.J. Steve has chosen as his prize an autographed copy of Movie Crosswords.

(I forgot to award the contest winner a subscription to Peter Gordon's puzzle service instead of a book, as promised last week, so we'll do it this week instead. If you win this week and I ask you to pick a book, remind me that a book ain't the prize this time!)


THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:


Two one-word grid entries in this week's crossword combine to make a perfect title for this week's crossword. This week's contest answer phrase is those two grid entries (a.k.a. this week's puzzle title). E-mail them to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer phrase 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, join the Google Group here:





http://groups.google.com/group/mgwcc



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

10/17/08

MGWCC #020 -- Friday, October 17, 2008 -- "Please State Your Name"

Ahoy, Fellow Cruciverbalists! Welcome to Week 20 of my crossword 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:


I must have done something wrong, because 95 cruciverbalists sent me an e-mail saying I should STUFF IT last week. Tough crowd!

Wait, no -- they weren't insulting me, they were sending in last week's contest answer phrase, which was just that two-word insult. These solvers arrived there by first finding the four bailout-didn't-help-the-market rhymes I used as theme entries: BANKING TANKING, NIKKEI DECAY, NASDAQ BACKTRACK, and BOEING GOING.

The final entry was my sentiment to a member of the one-party kleptocracy that rules us (for now) who pushed hard for the bailout, (Warren) BUFFETT -- STUFF IT! Judging from the "amen" e-mails I got (about 15) to the "bite your tongue" e-mails I received (2 or 3), you folks didn't like the bailout much.

This week's winner, whose name was chosen randomly from among the 95 correct entries received, is Deirdre Zarrillo of Albany, N.Y. Deirdre has selected as her prize an autographed copy of Gridlock.

THREE THINGS:

1) Eric LeVasseur sends along a clever alternate theme entry to last week's stock market puzzle:

All I can say is that I hope we've seen the bottom. The last thing I want to see tomorrow is my...

401(k) MORE LOW MONDAY


2) I can't find the e-mail (if you sent it, re-send it so I can print your name here [UPDATE, 10/18, 11:45 AM -- the e-mail was from Anna Gundlach--fittingly, someone with a palindromic name]), but a solver wrote to remind me that I never ran the answer to Mike Sylvia's alternate theme entry to Week 15's Sarah-Palindrome puzzle. To refresh your memory, it was:

Website for all those recent-nominee's-running-mate-crazy Douala natives?

The answer is "McCainiac.cm," .cm being the country domain code for Douala's nation of Cameroon. Very nice.

3) Reminder that you can subscribe to Peter Gordon's post-Sun crossword here. This week's prize will not be a book of mine, but rather a subscription to Peter's puzzle service.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

The four people who serve as theme entries in this week's puzzle all have something unusual in common, an attribute shared by fewer than 10 famous people by my count. This week's contest answer phrase is one of the most famous musicians of the 20th century, and the most famous celebrity I was able to find who shares this attribute. E-mail this celebrity's name to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer phrase 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, join the Google Group here:

http://groups.google.com/group/mgwcc











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

10/10/08

MGWCC #019 -- Friday, Oct. 10, 2008 -- "Bailout: Fail, Rout"

Ahoy, Fellow Cruciverbalists! Welcome to Week 19 of my crossword 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:

You people must really like last week's contest answer word, PETER GORDON, because a record 91 entrants correctly found his name not very well-hidden in the clues at 48-across and 9-across. I was going for one of those "hidden in plain sight" deals, hoping solvers would focus on the grid entries and not the clues themselves. Instead I got zero incorrect answers against 91 correct ones, and one e-mail that said something like "I did a double-take for a minute before noticing the {Peter ___} and {___ Gordon} clues" against about two dozen that said "Whaddya mean, 'hidden'?"

But no biggie, because the puzzle was primarily meant as a paean to Peter's historic and heroic 6 1/2-year run at the New York Sun, which folded last week. While at the Sun, Peter revolutionized the job of crossword editor -- in maximizing use of computer databases in grid doctoring, involving the constructor in the revision process (far) more than any other editor I'm aware of, and in pushing puzzle writers' fees higher (those of both his and other newspapers). This takes an enormous amount of time, effort, and skill, so hats off and bravo to Roger/Ogden/Peter.

Any news I get on continuation of the Sun crossword I'll pass along on this site. [UPDATE, 10/10, 5:00 PM ET: Amy Reynaldo writes to gently remind me (the subject line of her e-mail was "What, are you living under a rock?") that I didn't mention that the Sun newspaper may be no more, but the crossword itself will remain for at least a few months: "Peter's continuing with at least the puzzles he had in the pipeline, which will take him about 5 1/2 months out. Starting next week, the puzzles will be available only to paying subscribers (about $12). They're hosted at Cruciverb.com. By Februaryish, if he's got 2,000 subscribers, he'll get new puzzles and keep 'em coming."]

(Not that it fooled anyone, but for the record: the puzzle's theme was revealed at 63-across, I'LL FOLLOW THE SUN; the five starred theme entries consisted of a compound word or two-word phrase, each of the two components of which can follow "Sun" to make a new word or phrase: sunbird, sunbath, Sun Devil, sun worshipper, sun dial, sundown, sunroof, sunbeam, sunup, and sunstroke).

This week's winner, whose name was chosen randomly from among the 91 correct entries, is Robert Loy of North Charleston, S.C. Robert has selected as his prize an autographed copy of Sip & Solve Hard Crosswords.

ONE THING:

Angela Halsted
sends along this timely political puzzle she recently co-authored, so give it your eyeballs:

http://rexwordpuzzle.blogspot.com/2008/10/rex-parker-free-puzzles-1-dont-blink.html


THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer phrase is the two-word insult that ends the entry at 61-across. [UPDATE, 5:40 PM ET: Amy Reynaldo (again) writes to mention that I should clarify: the contest answer phrase is simply the last two words in the entry at 61-across, not some other two words you have to provide.] E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer phrase 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, join the Google Group here:

http://groups.google.com/group/mgwcc



Solve well, and be not led astray by words intended to deceive...or politicians intending to thee thieve.

10/3/08

MGWCC #018 -- Friday, Oct. 3, 2008 -- "Shine On (You Crazy Diamond)"

Ahoy, Fellow Cruciverbalists! Welcome to Week 18 of my crossword 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:


75 solvers showed me a sign last week, realizing that the puzzle's four main theme entries -- HYBRID VIGOR, HERBS AND SPICES, BLAIR UNDERWOOD, and RAISE HORSES -- each contained a word that anagrams into a sign of the zodiac (VIGOR/Virgo, SPICES/Pisces, BLAIR/Libra, and RAISE/Aries). The instructions asked them to find the fifth grid entry that followed the theme, which led those 75 entrants to locate the correct contest answer -- OLE MISS at 12-down, whose first word anagrams to Leo.

Note also that the attention of the country just happened to be focused on OLE MISS last Friday, the date of this puzzle's publication, as it hosted the first presidential debate (patting self on back, extremely satisfied with own cleverness).

Our winner, whose name was chosen randomly from among the 75 correct entries, is Lee Knutson of Irvine, Calif. Lee has selected as his prize an autographed copy of Gridlock.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer phrase is the name of a noted cruciverbalist relevant to this puzzle's theme (and whose name is also concealed in two of this puzzle's across clues). E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer phrase 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, join the Google Group here:

http://groups.google.com/group/mgwcc



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

9/26/08

MGWCC #017 -- Friday, September 26, 2008 -- "Show Me a Sign"

Ahoy, Fellow Cruciverbalists! Welcome to Week 17 of my crossword 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:


77 solvers figured out the investment banker slang term TAKE A HAIRCUT, which was last week's contest answer (found at 40-across; solution grid at left). To get there, they removed the first sound in the second word of each member of the quintet until recently known as the "Big Five" American investment banks: Merrill Lynch became MERRILL INCH, Goldman Sachs became GOLDMAN AX, Lehman Brothers became LEHMAN OTHERS, Bear Stearns became BEAR TURNS, and Morgan Stanley became MORGAN TANLY (the runt of the litter here, but #2 out of the five in real life -- for now). As investment bankers are taking a haircut these days, so did these five theme entries.

Our winner, whose name was chosen randomly from among the 77 correct entries, is Jason Feng of Richmond, B.C. (it's good we're getting all the Canadian winners out of the way now because once the US dollar collapses to zero I won't be able to afford out-of-country postage on the books anyway). Jason has selected as his prize an autographed copy of Brain Games.

THREE THINGS:

***Quite a few solvers (including an ACPT champ) couldn't get the ZENANA/ZAPPED (29-a/29-d) crossing in last week's puzzle and thought it was borderline unfair. Duly noted -- I thought ZENANA was a little better known than it really is, and should have given an easier clue at 29-across.

***Justin Smith has a new puzzle website up, so give it a look:

http://justinspuzzles.com/

***And finally, Brendan Quigley's new website isn't up yet, but he has a great pic you gotta see on the placeholder site. If central casting got a request for a crossword constructor, I don't think this is what they'd come up with:

http://brendanemmettquigley.com/



THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's puzzle looks like it only has four theme entries (17-a, 31-a, 37-a, and 58-a). But the crossword elves here at MGWCC work non-stop, 24/7/365 to bring you that extra cruciverbal edge -- which means there's a fifth theme entry hidden somewhere in the grid, which is this week's contest answer word. E-mail that fifth theme entry to me (the actual grid entry, not its clue number) at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer phrase 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, join the Google Group here:

http://groups.google.com/group/mgwcc





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

9/19/08

MGWCC #016 -- Friday, September 19th, 2008 -- "Bankers Away"

Ahoy, Fellow Cruciverbalists! Welcome to Week 16 of my crossword 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:

"WASILLA'S ALL I SAW," declared a palindrome in last week's MGWCC, but 74 solvers saw a lot more than that. Namely, they found three other fully-reversible phrases relating to Alaska Governor Palin: HARASS SARAH, PEEVE VEEP, and TRACK CART. As the contest instructions required, these solvers hyphenated the fifth theme entry to reveal the puzzle's gimmick: PALIN-DROMES, which was last week's contest answer word (found at 62-across). Solution grid at left.

Several solvers e-mailed to ask how this rather nifty theme came about, none more entertainingly than Peter Gordon:

So you come up with the PALINDROME idea, and how far
along are you before you hit on WASILLASALLISAW? Do you
immediately drop to your knees and thank the gods of
crosswords for delivering a perfect 15-letter entry?


That would be the normal procedure, but the story of what really happened is even more bizarre. I often fall asleep thinking of crossword themes, hoping my subsconscious will find something good by morning. It's only worked very rarely -- perhaps once or twice in my life I've dreamt a full theme, but at least it puts me to sleep.

I went to bed thinking vaguely of newsworthy theme ideas, and woke up in the middle of the night with the phrase "Wasilla's all I saw" fully formed in my brain. I lay awake for a few minutes wondering if there were more of that type, and eventually came across "Harass Sarah," after which I realized I might have something here and got up to work out the rest of the idea.

I couldn't find anything with 11 letters to balance HARASS SARAH in the grid, but figured I could just punt with PALINDROMES, which would make, I thought, a decent enough contest answer word. Only after placing it in the grid did I notice -- hey, PALIN is the first five letters of PALINDROMES! Whaddya know?

Hope that doesn't take some of the shine off the theme. Is it still clever if you find it by dumb luck?

This week's winner, whose name was chosen randomly from the 74 correct entries, is Ed Brody of Cambridge, Mass. Ed has selected as his prize an autographed copy of Sip & Solve Hard Crosswords.

FROM THE MAILBAG:

Mike Sylvia sends along this clever alternate theme entry for last week's puzzle:

Website for all those recent-nominee's-running-mate-crazy Douala natives?

Note: the answer has 11 letters and I'll publish it next week (e-mail me if it's really driving you nuts and you can't wait that long).

Anne Erdmann recently took a trip to Central Asia and writes:

I just changed 10 time zones in the last 30 hours so I have no clue. Missed all the Palin-hoopla being out of the country so not even sure this is the answer :-). Looking forward to catching up on the last few weeks of contest xwords even if I can’t enter. (Tried to get to them at one internet cafe in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, but no go.) Saw the ALAI Mountains but not the ARAL Sea.

And finally, this story: Houstonian MGWCC solver Stewart Levine, upon seeing 3-down in last week's puzzle, mentioned that he was hunkering down in anticipation of Hurricane Ike with a case of 3-down (CORONA). I assumed he was joking (about the beer, not the hurricane).

A few days later I sent him an e-mail to see how he'd held up, but didn't hear back for a while. I was starting to get mildly worried when this showed up:

Matt.

I survived Hurricane Ike but I still have no power and I managed to get a tank of gasoline today. I'm running out of Corona Beer. Funny thing, I lost power Friday night in the middle of doing the NYT Saturday Puzzle. I borrowed a neighbor's DSL (she has a generator) to get this out. I hope power comes on for your next puzzle. Did I win the last one?

Stew


This photo was attached, showing that Stewart not only survived Ike, but indeed did so with a case of 3-down. Now you know how to weather a Gulf of Mexico storm in style! And I'm definitely sending him a book for his troubles.


















THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

Real simple this week: the 12-letter entry at 40-across is this week's contest answer phrase. E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer phrase 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, join the Google Group here:

http://groups.google.com/group/mgwcc




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

9/12/08

MGWCC #015 -- Friday, September 12, 2008 -- "Return to Alaska"

Ahoy, Fellow Cruciverbalists! Welcome to Week 15 of my crossword 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:

Hey, we broke 60! That's how many solvers realized that last week's six theme entries -- MULTIPLIERS, BARROOM BRAWL, KENNESAW, MANDRILL, SHEVARDNADZE, and LILLEHAMMER -- all had something in common. What is it? They all end in the names of TOOLS, which was last week's contest answer word (located at 68-across; see solution at left).

Several solvers asked if SHEVARDNADZE had ever been used in a crossword before. I don't know, but Bob Klahn would -- if you're reading this, Bob, tell us! [UPDATE, 9/12, 4:50 PM ET -- Bob Klahn writes: "Matt, none of the 32,500-plus published puzzles in my puzzlebase contained the entry SHEVARDNADZE ... until now." Thanks!]

Last week's winner, whose name was chosen randomly from the 60 -- count 'em, 60! -- correct entries, is Jayne Boisvert of Latham, N.Y. Jayne has selected as her prize an autographed copy of Gridlock.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:


One of this week's theme entries could really use a hyphen to get this puzzle's gimmick across. That theme entry, properly hyphenated, is this week's contest answer word. E-mail it to me (the actual entry in the grid, not the clue number) at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer word 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, join the Google Group here:

http://groups.google.com/group/mgwcc




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

9/5/08

MGWCC #014 -- Friday, September 5th, 2008 -- "Finally Getting the Job Done"


Ahoy, Fellow Cruciverbalists! Welcome to Week 14 of my crossword 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 MGWCC record 56 solvers decoded last week's riddle, hidden among the five longest entries in the grid: WHAT FAMOUS / ATHLETE RECENTLY / ACQUIRED FOUR NEW / AU PAIRS YET HASN'T / GOT ANY KIDS?. Heads were scratched, but eventually everyone (literally -- I received zero incorrect answers) came up with pool hero MICHAEL PHELPS, which was last week's contest answer word. AU = gold, and PAIRS = sets of two, so Phelps's eight gold medals in Beijing might be labeled by a suitably cryptic mind as "four au pairs."

Last week's winner, whose name was randomly chosen from among the 56 correct entries, is Doug Peterson of Pasadena, Calif. Doug has selected as his prize an autographed copy of my book TV Crosswords. Which leads me to a rant/story.

If you click through the above link, you'll see that my TV Crosswords book has a mediocre Amazon rating of 2 1/2 stars out of five. This rating is based on two reviewers, one of whom gave the book four stars and the other of whom awarded it the lowest rating of one star.

That one-star review, entitled "Very Disappointed," begins with the sentence "This book is to (sic) hard for me." I clicked through to the other two books that reader had reviewed, both of which received the maximum five stars from her. One of them was the autobiography of Tori Spelling, which the reviewer described thusly: "Could not put the book down. This is the first book I actually made time to read in 10 years."

Rant officially over -- so let's move on to this week's contest crossword.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer is the entry in the puzzle grid that explains this week's theme. E-mail it to me (the actual entry in the grid, not the clue number) at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer word 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, join the Google Group here:

http://groups.google.com/group/mgwcc



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

8/29/08

MGWCC #013 -- Friday, August 29, 2008 -- "Stroker Ace"

Ahoy, Fellow Cruciverbalists! Welcome to Week 13 of my crossword 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:

Last week's results were covered in the previous post -- scroll down to "Special Report" and read some fine poetry.

Since we have a little extra space this week, let me use it to thank all of you for solving MGWCC during the first three months of what I hope will be a very long run. I've been publishing crosswords for 22 years and this site is the most fun I've had in my entire career, most of that fun due to my interactions with all of you.

I'd also like to especially thank those solvers who've helped promote the site on blogs, by e-mailing it to friends and family, and otherwise generally spreading the word. The number of hits and visitors I'm getting here has increased every week, often substantially between weeks, and that's in large part to the efforts of many of you. For me, this site is a labor of love and I'd like as many people as possible to enjoy it, so please feel free to keep letting others know about its existence.

Nice guy face off; evil guy face back on -- let's get to this week's contest crossword!

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest answer is a two-word phrase with seven letters in its first word and six letters in its second. E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. To print the puzzle out, click on the image below and hit "print" on your browser. To solve using Across Lite, join the Google Group here:

http://groups.google.com/group/mgwcc




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

8/26/08

SPECIAL REPORT -- The Ron Rosenbaum Limerick Competition Results Are In!

Welcome to this MGWCC SPECIAL REPORT -- the results of the Ron Rosenbaum Limerick Competition are in!

To recap: lacking anything better to do, a writer named Ron Rosenbaum decided to publish an unintentionally hilarious three-page screed against people who enjoy solving crossword puzzles last week in Slate. You can read the piece here, or just look over these highlights:

Need I suggest that those who spend time doing crossword puzzles...—uselessly filling empty boxes (a metaphor for some emptiness in their lives?)—could be doing something else that involves words and letters? It's called reading.

But somehow crossword types think that their addiction to this sad form of mental self-abuse somehow makes them "literary." Sorry: Doing puzzles reflects not an elevated literary sensibility but a degraded letter-ary sensibility, one that demonstrates an inability to find pleasure in reading. Otherwise, why choose the wan, sterile satisfactions of crosswords over the far more robust full-blooded pleasures of books?

What are some of the other defenses of the puzzle people? "It trains the mind." No, sorry; it only trains the mind to think in a tragically limited and reductive fill-in-the boxes way. I'd say that instead it drains the mind. Drains it of creativity and imagination while fostering rat-in-a-maze skills.

Isn't it a tragedy, then, a criminal shame, that all their amazing brainpower gets wasted on word games? If they're as smart as they think they are and there were some way to channel their alleged brainpower to something other than word games, we could cure cancer in a month!

And those selections of Ron's stellar prose are all chosen from merely the first page of the piece. It gets better from there, especially when he starts making fun of people in his local Starbucks, located near a hospital, who have recently lost or are in fear of losing a loved one. Ron labels this establishment, where he spies on crossword solvers, the "Starbucks of Tears."



In short: Ron needs a good, hard, verbal punch to the kidneys, so last week I gave it to him on this site. Last week's puzzle (solution at left) was all about Mr. Rosenbaum (in fact, his name was the answer to 22-across). 1-across, for example, was KEA, which was clued as {Mauna ___}, in tribute to Ron's dazzlingly uninformed mockery of a man in the "Starbucks of Tears" who hadn't yet filled in the answer to a three-letter entry thus clued ("this guy's brow was furrowed with concern over such challenging clues as '18 Across: Mauna _ _ _.' Whew, tough one, dude."). Ron assumed the answer had to be LOA and mocked the man for supposedly not knowing it, yet it was Ron who didn't realize that that clue famously has two well-known answers.

Asshat and dipshit; quite a combination!

Other entries in the grid laid out this week's MGWCC: write a limerick mocking Ron Rosenbaum and his easily-mocked article. I received 31 limericks, and they're hilarious. Yo, Ron: if you were going to pick a battle of words with a group of people, crossword folk was not your best option.

And now, the winners! There were so many nice shots here that I decided to, in honor of the recently-ended Olympic Games, choose gold, silver, and bronze medalists rather than limiting it to one winner. Each of the medalists will receive a roll of toilet paper on the first sheet of which I have forged Ron Rosenbaum's signature (I am really doing this). The gold medalist will also receive the usual MGWCC prize (autographed copy of any book I've written -- try not to get these two prizes confused).

Our Bronze Medalist is Hugh Murphy of Wilmington, Del., who wrote:

There once was an Eli Phi Bete
Whose mind was so splendidly great
Ron could sure find the answer
For conquering all cancer
So how come he's scribbling for Slate?


The Silver Medal goes to Patrick Jordan of Ponca City, Okla., whose limerick inspired this week's prize:

Our pastime Ron thought he was harmin',
Yet his ignorance is truly alarmin'.
His article's sloppy,
But I'm keeping a copy
To use when I run out of Charmin.


And the Gold Medal, for daring to delve into the dark realm of human psychology, goes to Tyler Hinman of San Francisco, Calif.:

Puzzling women and men will
Despise what comes out of Ron's pen. Still,
What he tries to sell us
Tells me that he's jealous
And sore re the length of his pencil.


These results should not affect the medal count from Beijing, but I'm betting we won't see many more anti-cruciverb articles from Mr. Rosenbaum anytime soon.

Next puzzle goes up Friday afternoon as usual. Have fun and be careful out there, fellow cruciverbalists!

8/22/08

MGWCC #012 -- Friday, August 22, 2008 -- "Another Nine-Letter Word for a Stupid Waste of Time"

Ahoy, Fellow Cruciverbalists! Welcome to Week 12 of my crossword 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:


37 solvers bravely tackled the crossword variant called "kaidoku" last week. The contest answer word, comprised of six letters whose numbers were given in the contest instructions, was CIPHER.

A milestone's been reached this week: our first non-American winner of MGWCC. We're international, baby! That winner is Simon Brault of Ottawa, Ont., whose name was randomly chosen from those 37 correct entries. Simon has selected as his prize an autographed copy of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Crossword Puzzles & Word Games (which he clarifies is for his wife, not for him -- the second time, intriguingly, that a MGWCC winner has chosen this book and given it to their spouse).




Last week's kaidoku contained a nasty trap, which about half of all solvers appear to have fallen into: the letter patterns of the words at 1-across and 1-down were 3-9-16-16-2 and 3-9-16-16-2-16-16. That down entry was pure wordbait, a highly unusual complex of letters -- the 3rd, 4th, 6th and 7th letters are the same -- which many solvers quickly theorized might be POSSESS. They tested their theory with 1-across, whose five letters are identical to the first five letters of 1-down, and saw that POSSE works there, too, which meant both words almost certainly had to be correct. Right?

Wrong -- and the trap sprang shut! PIZZAZZ and PIZZA work too, it turns out. And just look at all them Z's.

Like Genghis Khan did, I revel in the screams of my victims -- so let's survey their lamentations:

Howard Barkin writes:

I won't kid you on this one - this puzzle beat the living kaidoku out of me. Spent an hour at the beach this weekend at it, a little bit of my lunch break today, and another hour on and off while paying the bills and watching the Olympics tonight stubbornly writing and erasing. Finally, a satisfying breakthrough. Lesson learned - never be too certain of an answer (Just because POSSESS/POSSE fits a nice encryption doesn't mean it's the only solution - At least the P was right).

Amy Reynaldo says:

You know, I suppose, that POSSE/POSSESS looks much more plausible in that corner. And that the average person's list of likely doubled letters excludes WW and KK. Sneaky bastard!

While Tyler Hinman asks:

So am I the only [humorous expletive deleted] who wouldn't let go of POSSESS/POSSE?

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

Before solving this week's crossword, make sure you've read this recent piece from Slate Magazine, which appeared on the front page under the headline "A Nine-Letter Word for a Stupid Waste of Time":

http://www.slate.com/id/2198171/

There is no contest answer word this week. Instead, this week's contest winner will be the entrant who composes the best 59-across about 22-across. Send your entry to me at crosswordcontest@gmail by Tuesday at noon ET. Tone and content are up to you -- but I suggest you take your lead from 22-across's own example. Multiple entries both permitted and encouraged.

To print the puzzle out, click on the image below and hit "print" on your browser. To solve using Across Lite, join the Google Group here:

http://groups.google.com/group/mgwcc



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

8/15/08

MGWCC #011 -- Friday, August 15th, 2008 -- "Watashi-wa Kaidokusha"


Ahoy, Fellow Cruciverbalists! Welcome to Week 11 of my crossword 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:


45 solvers correctly took five Olympic events from the formerly used Wade-Giles transliteration of China's capital city (Peking) to the modern Pinyin version (Beijing). This meant changing a "P" sound to a "B" or a "K" sound to a "J," so "field hockey" became FIELD HAJI, "triple jump" became TRIBBLE JUMP, "pole vault" became BOWL VAULT, "water polo" became WATER BOLO, and "basketball" became the rather fishy BASS JET BALL.

[UPDATE, 8/17 -- Jon Delfin writes to remind me that it might be nice to mention what last week's contest answer word was. D'oh! The contest instructions asked for the only grid entry that contained all four consonants relevant to the theme, which were, as explained above, P, B, K, and J. The only grid entry containing all four of those was PUB JOKE at 1-down, which was last week's contest answer.]

Last week's lucky winner, chosen randomly from the 45 correct entries received, is Jan O'-- just kidding. The winner is Jeffrey Harris of Nashville, Tenn. Jeffrey has opted to receive a copy of Golf Crosswords as his prize.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest is a crossword variant. Hey, get back here!

The variant is called "kaidoku," which is a word I made up (well, not quite; see here for entertaining backstory). You may also know these as "alphacodes" or "coded crosswords" and they work like this: each letter of the alphabet is represented by a number in this grid. Use letter frequency, pattern recognition, and whatever other codebreaking tools you can conjure up to fill the grid with uncapitalized, non-hyphenated (!) dictionary words. You won't find anything like LONG-LOST or STOCKHOLM in here, but note that you might find something like AFGHAN or JOEY, since those words have uncapitalized dictionary meanings in addition to their use as proper nouns.

I wrote a book of these in 2006 (test-solved by some kid whose name I forget). Thus far, not a single winner of MGWCC has chosen this mighty tome as their prize. I won't force next week's winner to choose the Kaidoku book, but...come on, do me a solid!

Anyway, this week's contest answer is a six-letter word comprised of the letters represented by 3, 9, 11, 18 ,19, and 24 in this week's Kaidoku. E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET to win your prize!

To print the puzzle out, click on the image below and hit "print" on your browser. No Across Lite this week b/c it doesn't support this format.



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

8/8/08

MGWCC #010 -- Friday, August 8, 2008 -- "No Peking!"


Ni hao ma, Fellow Cruciverbalists! Welcome to Week Ten of my crossword 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:

34 solvers turned the tables on the apostrophe with MGWCC #009, "The Replacements." The puzzle's theme entries consisted of five songs/albums with an apostrophe in their titles -- Dean Martin's "WHAM! BAM! THANK YOU MA'AM"; Ace of Base's "DON'T TURN AROUND"; Supertramp's "IT'S RAINING AGAIN"; The Who's "LOVE REIGN O'ER ME"; and Bobby Vinton's "EV'RY DAY OF MY LIFE." Replacing the five letters elbowed out by the apostrophes yields D, O, I, V, and E, which anagram to VIDEO, which was last week's contest answer word.

I caught flak from quite a few solvers (including my sister, who's a musician) for describing VIDEO as a "musical term." For example, Jim Sempsrott wrote:

Every long musical answer in the puzzle contains a contraction. If the letters are written down for what the apostrophe replaces, you get DOIVE, which can be anagrammed into VOIDE - the French word for empty and also a musical group from Sweden. (You can also spell VIDEO, OVIDE, and E-VOID, but I really don't know where you were heading with this).

In retrospect, I should have used a phrasing more like "a term often heard in the music world." The wording I used made it sound like the contest answer word was a technical term (such as lento). Sorry for the confusion this caused; one thing I strive for in these puzzles is that when the solver figures out the correct answer word, they're 100% sure it's correct. Imprecise phrasing like this didn't help here.

Since I desire to live in a just universe, I counted as correct any entry that mentioned the word VIDEO in the solving process, like Jim's e-mail above. Also: optimally I'd have preferred a grid where the five de-apostrophized entries spelled VIDEO in order, without anagramming, but the 14-letter song LOVE REIGN O'ER ME made that more or less undoable.

So who won last week's contest? Some time ago, a previous lucky winner asked me if there was a rule against winning MGWCC two weeks in a row. I told him there is no such rule, and this week it happened: this week's contest winner is also last week's contest winner, Jan O'Sullivan of Killingworth, Conn. Last week Jan defied 13-to-1 odds to win, and this week she gets another crossword book for defying 33-to-1 odds. Jan has chosen as her prize an autographed copy of Golf Crosswords. She will also be available to manage your stock portfolio, choose lottery numbers, and serve in an advisory role on trips to Vegas or Atlantic City.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS:

This week's contest crossword revolves around four consonants. This week's contest answer is the only grid entry that contains all four of those consonants. Email it to me (the actual entry in the grid, not the clue number) at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET.

To print the puzzle out, click on the image below and hit "print" on your browser. To solve using Across Lite, join the Google Group here:

http://groups.google.com/group/mgwcc



Enjoy the Games, solve well, and be not led astray by words intended to deceive.