7/18/08

MGWCC #007 -- Friday, July 18th, 2008 -- "Our Treasure Has Been Stolen"

Ahoy, Fellow Cruciverbalists! Welcome to Week Seven 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:

MGWCC #006 was the cruciverbal equivalent of a Magic Eye picture: the contest answer either jumped out at you pretty quick, or you stared at the puzzle for hours and nothing happened. Just 17 solvers correctly returned the missing letter from the grid, which was "A" (see solution grid at left).

An "A" was missing, you ask? Yes, indeed -- put it right in the black square in the center of the grid, turning PANAM and CANAL at 32- and 33-across into PANAMA CANAL (note that both PANAM and PANAMA CANAL fit the clue for 32-across, "It revolutionized 20th-century global transportation"). The down entries SHIPS and CROSS likewise became SHIPS ACROSS, which answers the clue to 17-down ("Transmits, as to the other side of a body of water").

Other hints: the two longest entries in the grid, PACIFICA RADIO and TRANSATLANTIC, were linked by the solver correctly "digging" the canal (see also puzzle title). And a few solvers noticed ERIE and SUEZ at 9-down and 47-down, monitoring wordflow at other chokepoints around the grid.

WHAT ARE THE ODDS?

Six entrants found an interesting alternative solution to last week's puzzle: the contest instructions had alerted solvers that one letter was "missing" from the grid, which led them to believe that the finished puzzle would be pangrammatic minus one letter. I made the grid truly pangrammatic, however, at which point I intended that solvers would sense the dead end and turn their attention to other possibilities.

But -- rather amazingly -- one of the eight letters that appears only one time in the solved grid can be reasonably eliminated: the W at the intersection of 49-down and 52-across. Those two entries are AWE and WOO, clued as "Marvel" and "Coax." But replace the W with a C and you get two defensible entries for those clues, and suddenly we're indeed left without a pangram, which explains the six W entries I got.

One solver wondered if this wasn't a political statement, but no, I must admit I didn't even consider the possibility that the grid could be thus de-pangrammatized. The odds must be near-astronomical -- the chances that a letter in a crossword can be changed to another letter and still satisfy both clues is microscopic (I can only recall ever laying eyes on a small handful of similarly unintentional cases). And then the odds that it would happen in a crossword where that actually mattered to the end result must be even more microscopic. Pile onto those the odds that the replaceable letter would happen to be one of the eight letters in the grid that didn't appear elsewhere in the puzzle, and you have an event that just cannot happen in a rational universe. Except that it did.

As a nod to solvers who found that clever cook, I decided to count "W" as an acceptable alternative answer and added the six W entrants to the 17 A's in the pool of potential winners. But one of the A's emerged victorious anyway...and that winner, chosen randomly from the (17 + 6=) 23 correct entries received, is Len Levine (city and state as yet unascertained). [UPDATE, 7/19: city and state now ascertained! They are New York, NY]. Len has requested as his prize an autographed copy of Sip & Solve Hard Crosswords.

THIS WEEK'S INSTRUCTIONS
: Our national treasure has been stolen, but this week I'm giving a little of it back to one lucky winner. Our contest answer this time is a two-word phrase totaling 11 letters. E-mail it to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by noon ET on Tuesday. Please put this week's contest answer phrase in the subject line of your e-mail.

Technical difficulties alert: I'm on the road this week and am not able to export pre-formatted printable grid/clue files on this computer. I'll post the regular printable file on Monday morning when I return; if you normally solve the Across Lite version of the puzzle then this won't affect you, as the AL version is available as usual at the Google Group site (you can also print the puzzle out from Across Lite directly). Sorry for the hassle, but be part of the solution -- if anyone has a link to the Across Lite patch that lets you export such files, please e-mail to me and I'll post the regular printable file ASAP.

[UPDATE, 7/21: finally got home and put the printable file up, see below.]


To solve using Across Lite, join the Google Group here:

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


Have fun on the treasure hunt -- solve well, and be not led astray by words intended to deceive.