MGWCC #37 -- Friday, February 13th, 2009 -- "Three for Dinner"

Ahoy, Fellow Cruciverbalists! Welcome to Week 37 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.

Award new prizes, and they will come! 181 entrants successfully puzzled out last week's contest answer word, which was MAPS. This tally smashes the previous MGWCC record of 154 correct entries.

Only four incorrect answers came in, so this one was pretty easy. A five-part riddle in the grid posed the question:


Solvers quickly went to "go ogle" Google for a list of their services, where they noticed that Google MAPS reverses to SPAM, something most Google users do try to limit their intake of (the e-mails, not the incredibly delicious food product). Answer grid at top left.

Nine solvers submitted SPAM alone as the contest answer word instead of MAPS. I counted SPAM as correct this week since they'd clearly solved the riddle -- but there are limits to my beneficence! So be sure to read the riddles and contest instructions carefully.

Dave White cleverly points out that most Google users probably want to avoid this, too.

This week's winner, whose name was chosen at random from the 181 correct entries received, is Mike Nash of Rockville, Md. Mike has selected as his prize an autographed copy of Sip & Solve Hard Crosswords.


Several solvers took up my challenge from last week of finding a trio of famous names that use all the letters of the alphabet and comprise fewer than the 36 letters I used with FELIX POTVIN, DWIGHT YOAKAM and JACQUES BARZUN (the invocation of those names just now probably raised the blood pressure of some of you...).

Nobody beat 36, but here is a survey of attempts:

Martin Allen writes:

I wasted a lot of yesterday on the pangrammatic challenge. Never got down below 36 letters. Kept starting with ROD BLAGOJEVICH. He has the nice feature that he uses 13 letters up in a 14 letter name, which I think is close to the upper bound on what's possible. To check, I devised a wholly specious formula for "Efficient Name Coverage" (ENC), which privileges total coverage while respecting efficiency (so 100% efficient names like BJORK don't count as much, since they cover so little of the alphabet):

ENC = (# unique letters in name) * (# unique letters in name / # letters in name),

We get 13 * (13/14), for an ENC of 12.07, which I think might be pretty near the upper range. Then spent a lot of time calculating ENC for other people, and just couldn't top Blago's score.


CHLOE SEVIGNY = 11 * (11/12) = 10.08
ALEX RODRIGUEZ = 11 * (11/13) = 9.31
MAX VON SYDOW = 10 * (10/11) = 9.09

For the original list:

DWIGHT YOAKAM = 11 * (11/12) = 10.08
JACQUES BARZUN = 11 * (11/13) = 9.31
FELIX POTVIN = 10 * (10/11) = 9.09

Told you I wasted a lot of time on this.

Alex Boisvert wrote a program and used a database to find a 38-letter pangrammatic trio:


[UPDATE -- also check out the comments section for Alex's addendum to Martin Allen's e-mail.]

And Mike Weepie got down to 34 letters, though his names aren't quite legit:


Queen Beatrix I can't count because that's not her actual name, Doug Levy is not really famous enough (a former food reporter for USA Today) and Jim Schwarzkopf is definitely not famous enough -- he is, as Mike notes, the owner of DelRisk LLC, which is an insurance firm in Toledo, Ohio.

Mike also sends along this interesting note:

BTW, the record for a real person's name with no repeated letters is DEBORAH GLUPCZYNSKI, a doctor from western Massachusetts.

18 letters with no repeats? That's gotta be unbeatable -- and a likely candidate for pangrammatrimony! What would her husband's name be?


This week's contest answer phrases are three related palindromes, each of which is two words long and nine letters total. E-mail them to me at crosswordcontest@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon ET. Please put the contest answer phrases (six words / 27 letters total) 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.


Alex said...

Martin's comment intrigued me, so I ran the names in my database to find the top ENC scores. Bradley McIntosh gets a score of 15, but he's not all that well known. Football fans will know D'Brickashaw Ferguson who scores 14.45. "Point Break" director Kathryn Bigelow scores a 14 even, and that's it for scores of 14 or above (at least among people in my database).

Martin Allen said...

D'Brickashaw Ferguson! That is genius, pure and simple, Alex.

Alex said...

Oops -- D'Brickashaw's score is actually below 14. My program was counting his apostrophe as a separate letter.

I'm sure you were all on the edge of your seats waiting for this addendum.