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 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.


#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 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:


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